Mohammed Morsi died on Monday inside a soundproof glass cage in a courtroom. His death symbolizes the chokehold on democracy in Egypt, which appears to be still under the spell of the Pharoah’s curse.
Democracy what? It smells of blood in Egypt, where governance does not fall even within the weakest definition of democracy. Yet, President Abdel Fateh al-Sisi has all the recognition he requires from Western democracies. This gives the regime a veneer of legitimacy and helps it cover up its sins. In the scramble to endorse Sisi’s sham democracy, the United States, the world’s strongest and largest democracy, is in the lead. France and Britain are not far behind. They all rushed to recognise Sisi’s military coup that ousted Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader in its 7,000-year history. Sisi has now set in motion a constitutional coup to remain as President till 2034.
When US President Donald Trump was asked about the authoritarian regime of Sisi, he said, “I think he’s doing a great job. I don’t know about the effort, I can just tell you he is doing a great job ... great president.”
Emboldened by the West’s support, Trump’s Great President Sisi, the man handpicked by Morsi to be his defence minister, no wonder, pays scant respect to human rights. It is alleged the regime advanced the death of former President Morsi, a diabetic and kidney patient, by denying him basic facilities in prison. He was incarcerated at the dreaded ‘Scorpion’ jail, where, it is alleged, he was tortured in solitary confinement. During his six years behind the bars, his family was allowed only three visits to see him. On Monday, appearing in the court room, he collapsed after making a five-minute statement. He lay motionless for 20 minutes inside the cage before he was removed to a hospital where he was pronounced death upon admission.
The West’s endorsement of the military’s illegal takeover of government through the July 2013 coup turned the 2011 Arab Spring into an Arab winter. It added credence to the claim that the West stands to benefit from Arab dictatorships and, therefore, it sabotages any move towards democracy, especially when it senses the likelihood of Islamists taking hold of state power. A true democracy should protect and promote democracies elsewhere in keeping with the hallowed goal of creating a just and fair world order. But it appears that the biggest miscreants behind the chaos and wars in the world are the frontline western democracies. They justified Sisi’s power grab as a necessary evil to bring stability to the region.
Far from bringing about stability, they pushed the Middle East deeper into instability.
They got rid of the hard-fought democracy by sponsoring the Egyptian deep state’s counter-revolution against Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood-led Freedom and Justice Party. The party was so named in keeping with the spirit of the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that ousted dictator Hosnie Mubarak. The deep state and the bourgeoisie cited economic mismanagement as the reason for their counter revolution. But Morsi was removed because he embraced a non-aligned foreign policy. He looked east towards China, restored ties with Iran and stood up against Israel’s atrocities in occupied Palestine.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s entry into democratic politics should have been seen as a positive development, in that it prevented political Islamists from veering towards violence to achieve their objectives. On the contrary, the West threw its weight behind the unconstitutional power grab of the military, thereby shattering the faith political Islamists had placed in democracy. A similar situation arose in Algeria in 1991 when the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) took the lead in the first round of parliamentary elections. This prompted the military to take over the government and cancel the elections. The move had the support of France, Algeria’s former colonial power, and other Western democracies, including the US. The outcome: Algeria was plunged into a decade of civil war between Jihadists and the military. In this ‘dirty war’, about 100,000 Algerians were killed.
Founded in 1928 following the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate, the Brotherhood movement of Egypt had an intellectual foundation. Its original doctrine as pronounced by its founder Hassan al-Banna shunned violence. But after his death, Syed Qutb promoted Jihadism when he realised his political honeymoon with Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Free Officers Movement – a tie-up that helped oust King Farook in 1952 – was not moving in the direction of the Islamic resurgence he had anticipated. Qutb’s writings exhorting the violent overthrow of West-backed governments of Muslim nations later became a handbook for terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS).
After Qutb was executed in 1966 by the Egyptian regime for his role in a conspiracy to assassinate President Nasser, the Egyptian Brotherhood movement lost its steam. It, however, continued as a social service organisation with thousands of branches across Egypt. This enabled the group to come back to active politics in the 1980s.
The revived Brotherhood shunned violence, condemned terrorism, expressed a willingness to follow Turkey’s Islamic-leaning AK (Justice and Development) Party’s example and espoused modern Salafism, as opposed to the ultraconservative Salafism practised in Saudi Arabia.
Yet the Brotherhood earned the wrath of Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirate rulers, not because the Brotherhood had humanised Salafism, but because the rulers of these powerful Gulf nations saw as a threat the Brotherhood’s adoption of democracy. The Morsi government was sending a signal that Islam and democracy could co-exist and such a holy mix was certainly better than the oppressive monarchical rule. It is no secret that the two Gulf nations teamed up with the United States to oust the democratically elected Morsi government. The two Gulf nations also disliked Morsi government’s special ties with Qatar, which was by then falling out with Saudi Arabia following differences over the civil war in Syria. Then there was Israel, which also wanted Brotherhood government wiped out because, unlike the Mubarak regime, the Morsi administration was committed to the freedom cause of the Palestinian people.
To put it in a nutshell, the reasons behind the overthrow of the democratically elected Morsi government were: Its non-aligned policy, look-China policy, friendship with Qatar, ties with Iran, the fear Saudi Arabia and the UAE had over the spread of democracy in the region and Israel’s worries about Egypt’s direct involvement in support of the oppressed Palestinian people.
The developments in Egypt only make ISIS happy, as Islamists -- denied a political platform within the framework of democracy – will be easy prey for recruitment. No wonder, jihadists, when challenged by peace-loving Muslims, point to Egypt and say they have no faith in democracy. Aren’t democracy killers offering a raison dêtre to ISIS?