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Brave new Egypt traverses a minefield

The Brotherhood is at a crossroads — go forward as an equal partner in Egypt’s political future or incite bloody mayhem

Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News
01 Gulf News

The sheer extent of the uprising on June 30 astonished the world. Bird’s-eye footage indicates it was the largest in history. Just as remarkable was the military’s swift intervention ordered by Defence Minister General Abdul Fattah Al Sisi, one of Mohammad Mursi’s trusted appointees, who proved to be a patriot when he took the tough decision to rescue his country from a brewing civil war.

Nobody was more surprised than the former president, who had announced that nobody could make him resign because he enjoyed US backing. Western media outlets were quick to label the ousting “a coup”, which even Egyptians, who were joyous when Mursi sent the military back to its barracks last year, totally reject.

Today, the army and the people, excluding Muslim Brotherhood supporters, are basking in a renewed love fest.

Let’s face it. If a man is hanging over a cliff edge and a hand is stretched out to save him, he’s hardly likely to ponder on whose hand that is. Besides, the military has sworn to effect a swift transition to civilian rule.

Al Sisi has appointed the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court Adly Mansour as interim president, tasked with drafting a new constitution and calling early all-inclusive parliamentary and presidential elections.

His job weighs heavily on his shoulders when the Salafist Al Nour party that had thrown its immense weight behind the transition, has pulled out ostensibly due to the violent clashes outside the Republican Guard H.Q. resulting in fatalities.

However, those celebrating a new dawn, have been angered by the lukewarm, bordering on condemnatory reactions, spewed by western leaderships. The White House has been careful to avoid the word “coup”, which would automatically result in the cessation of $1.5 billion (Dh5.51 billion) annual US aid, but at the same time, President Barack Obama has been far from congratulatory.

CNN, the BBC and Al Jazeera International were initially stressing Mursi’s so-called legitimacy with pundits caught up in semantics — coup or not coup, democracy’s demise or its painful birth pangs.

I opted to strain the boundaries of my Arabic rather than be captive to agenda-led or wilfully blinkered pontificators and leftist, tree-hugging anoraks pronouncing the death of Egypt’s fledgling democracy, instead of recognising a political transition that is a one-off, a hybrid.

Local TV commentators, many of whom risked arrest by championing dissent, and activists from the rebel movement, are now hostile towards the US. Their ire is directed at the US Ambassador to Cairo, Anne Patterson, who, they say, has been hobnobbing with the powers behind Mursi’s former throne, the Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Leader Khairat Al Shater. Patterson incensed demonstrators by criticising June 30 for destroying the economy. Many have told Obama he can keep his aid, Egypt will prosper without it.

Moscow is waiting in the wings to gain a foothold in the most populous Arab country. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait can hardly contain their delight at the Muslim Brotherhood’s ignominious downfall and will likely offer their financial backing. Qatar, which made significant contributions to Mursi’s regime, is coming around offering free deliveries of liquefied natural gas.

I was starting to believe nothing in Egypt could surprise me until the Sandouq Al Khair (literally, goodness fund) campaign was launched by the military and is being promoted by CBC and Cairo Today.

I was flabbergasted as callers from within Egypt and abroad queued up to give, in some cases, massive sums exceeding $10 million. Cairo Today’s host Amr Adeeb was punching the air, saying, “Look! Everyone loves Egypt” as Kuwaitis, Saudis and prominent Emiratis rang to pledge considerable amounts. Donations also flooded in from Egypt’s business leaders, a banker, a senior judge, engineers, housewives and children offering their pocket money. In a matter of hours, the tally exceeded L.E. 75 million (Dh39.19 million).

Most are delighted to see the back of a stubborn, autocratic leader who was driving Egypt towards bankruptcy, polarisation and who took orders from the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Mohammad Badie, out to turn the country into an Islamist state.

However, trepidation exists concerning the Brotherhood’s backlash at having their man whisked away. The Muslim Brotherhood is holding fast to Mursi’s democratically-elected legitimacy, but as a Guardian columnist put it — when a man beats his wife, he breaks his marriage contract.

Since Brotherhood-sympathetic TV stations have been taken off air and arrest warrants issued for hundreds of its leaders, Badie made an inflammatory appearance to instruct his followers to lay down their lives for Mursi, whereupon, armed with clubs and guns, the enraged mob marched towards opposition gatherings in Tahrir Square and Alexandria, looking for a fight. Distressing footage on Youtube shows a Muslim Brotherhood thug holding an Al Qaida black flag, throwing young boys off a water tower onto a roof.

The Brotherhood is at a crossroads — go forward as an equal partner in Egypt’s political future or incite bloody mayhem. It is notable that Al Qaida chief Ayman Al Zawahiri and Somalia’s Islamist Al Shabab militants have announced they will come to the Muslim Brotherhood’s aid.

Mursi’s buddies Obama and David Cameron should take note and side with 33 million Egyptians before their welcome expires along with their regional influence.


Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at