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The struggle for freedom and justice will go on

May 5, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Nothing that the National Salvation Front in Egypt can say will ever disguise the fact that its leadership engineered a military coup against the elected president of the country. The overthrow of Egypt’s first elected president was neither bloodless nor legitimate. The fact that President Mohamed Morsi is an Islamist is significant. In more ways than one the subversion of the democratic process was all too familiar. From Algeria to Palestine and now Egypt the primary aim has been to keep the Islamists from government. The consequences of such moves have always been catastrophic. In every instance, Islamist parties were given two options: imprisonment or relegation to the status of second-class citizenship in their respective countries.

Of the two, imprisonment is, by far, the easier to effect. In Egypt, that process has begun with the overthrow of President Morsi. Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are being rounded up not for the theft or embezzlement of public funds, as their predecessors did, but for defending their offices of state. Many were ransacked in the days leading up to the coup. 

Those who overthrew Morsi claimed that he was against the press and freedom of speech. Yet the first thing they did after toppling him was to close all the Islamic TV stations. More despicable has been the decision to close the offices of Al Jazeera satellite TV. Throughout the crisis, it had covered the anti-Morsi protests and hosted their leaders.

Now tipped to become the interim prime minister, Mohamad El-Baradei gloated that the overthrow of Morsi signalled the completion of the January 25 Revolution. The reality, however, suggests the completion of the counter-revolution. With the acquittal of the most notorious of Mubarak’s aides and functionaries, it is only a matter of time before the disgraced ex-president himself is also exonerated by Egypt’s new “revolutionary” rulers.

Constitutional lawyer and former diplomat Abdullah Alashaal criticised the role of the Salvation Front and “Rebel” movement. He berated them for not being a mature opposition force that was prepared to offer advice and assist their democratically-elected president to implement his policies for the national good. Like vultures waiting to prey on the nation’s dead carcass, they plotted from within the “deep state” and with forces outside the country to overthrow the president.
The veteran diplomat said that he had hoped that they would have given Morsi at least a year without obstacles to implement his agenda. However, the demonstrations and protests started from day one and have continued ever since.

Similar views were echoed elsewhere in the region. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faced a similar situation days before the Egyptian crisis, warned US President Barak Obama in a telephone conversation of the dangers of supporting the military coup. He affirmed that when the ballot box cannot be used for the peaceful transfer of power, people in the region will resort to other means.

Not surprisingly, the coup was welcomed in several regional capitals. The unelected rulers who resent democratic rule have historically blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for evil and misfortune in their own countries. Even the embattled Syrian regime welcomed the coup, apparently hoping that it will be rehabilitated by the west for jumping on the band wagon.

Those who plotted, executed and endorsed the coup should not feel too comfortable in their new offices. When the honeymoon period is over and the hubris subsides, the Egyptian people will reassert their demands for social justice, participatory government and the rule of law. They will demand genuine constitutional rule instead of the fickle “revolutionary legitimacy” associated with the National Salvation Front.

One does not have to be a genius to figure out that the exclusion of the Islamist parties will not be in the national interest of any country in the region. Everything taking place in Egypt today reflects a witch-hunt and exclusion campaign. The burning of the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood across Egypt in the presence of the security forces and the detention of its leadership harks back to the dark days of the sixties and seventies when Egyptian jails were filled with the movement’s members.

Whatever criticism may be levelled against them, the Islamist tendency is innate to the region, its culture and history. Those who advocate it are native to the region; they were not foisted upon it as settlers or occupiers. To demonise and dismiss them from their jobs, as in the case of the occupied West Bank after they won elections, only serves the interests of those who seek to delay the region’s development.

For better or worse, the Egyptian coup will reverberate beyond its borders. Others will use it to deny democratic rights and freedoms. Erroneously, they will continue to celebrate thinking that they have won the battle. The fact is that this is only a passing encounter. In the long-term, the struggle for freedom and justice across the region will continue for as long as it takes. Every attempt to exclude the Islamist forces from this process will prove futile and counter-productive. This is not the end of the struggle, but part of the beginning.