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An Unholy Anti-Islamic Alliance
Articles on Egypt before 2013

    Egypt: An Unholy Anti-Islamic Alliance.
    The coup that deposed the first democratically elected president in Egyptian history (the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Morsi) was born out of an opportunistic alliance among all the factions of Egyptian society that resent the Islamic bent of the Muslim Brotherhood: the army, big business, the old Mubarak apparatus, the religious minorities (mainly the Copts), the young westernized crowds, and, let's face it, both the West and Israel.
    The army is largely indifferent to which ideology prevails but expects a stable and competent government. Mubarak was an old-fashioned dictator but had hired competent people to run the economy and Egypt was actually posting good GDP growth. The army, run by generals trained in the USA and armed by the USA, has no intention of going to war against anyone, let alone Israel. Its pressure was probably behind Morsi's moderation in dealing with Israel, which is widely hated by the base of his party, as well as behind betraying the expectations of the Palestinians of Gaza, who were hoping in more help from Morsi, but, unfortunately for them, they are still perceived by the Egyptian military as little more than troublemakers trying to disrupt Egyptian stability. The army also owns a good share of the Egyptian economy. It has become more like a corporation than a fighting structure. If the economy tanks (as it was doing under Morsi), the army loses more money than most people.
    Big business was vocal in its criticism of the elections won by Morsi and never quite accepted their verdict. Big business, by definition, was standing by Mubarak, and many businessmen warned Egyptian society of chaos if Mubarak was deposed. Since that is precisely what happened, they feel vindicated and empowered. They were the ones lifting the Egyptians masses from utter poverty, albeit pocketing most of the wealth. The Muslim Brotherhood and their god Allah could not put bread on the table of millions of families. Big business thinks it can and wants people to realize the difference between superstition and economics.
    The old Mubarak apparatus has largely been silent after Mubarak was deposed, arrested and tried for fear of ending up the same way. They were the pillars of stability. Some of them were guilty of brutal methods (including the arrest and torture of members of the Muslim Brotherhood), but many of them were simply cogs in a system that protected tourism, trade, peace with Israel and minorities. They too feel vindicated: after their boss was jailed, the new boss (Morsi) was incapable of restoring tourism, trade and of protecting minorities.
    The Copts and the Shiites have been terrified by the drop in protection after the fall of Mubarak and by the Islamist turn of Morsi's government. Morsi pretty much defined Egypt as an Islamic country first and foremost. That exclused both the religious minorities and all the Muslims who do not identify themselves first as Muslims and next as Egyptians. Egypt is an old civilization, which, incidentally, was a great power and a rich land before it was converted to Islam, and has never been again as powerful and as rich. Even some Muslims studied history and know this well. Even some Muslims are prouder of the pyramids (erected by pagans) than of the mosques.
    The young westernized crowds are the ones who really started the Arab Spring in the first place. They grew up in the globalized world and, thanks to Mubarak's western vision, were raised on western values. They value secular education, political freedom, white-collar jobs, and high technology. The Egyptian revolution (like all Arab Springs) were mostly about dignity: people wanted an end to corruption, to injustice, to feudalism. The older generation simply grumbled behind closed doors at home, afraid of the secret police. The young people fought the regime branding Internet-connected mobile phones. They are the ones who started the trouble with Morsi when they realized that, from their point of view, things got worse not better: Morsi was not delivering secular education nor white-collar jobs, and his moves seemed a prelude to political freedom, and he was certainly no fan of high technology. Mubarak's cronies at least believed in economic and technological western values, if not in the political ones. Morsi de facto represented a step backwards, not forward.
    The way these young high-tech people rapidly opposed the religious turn of their president Morsi is, of course, reminiscent of the protests that swept Turkey when their president pushed an Islamic agenda. The anti-Islamic alliance might be more wide-spread than anyone expects.
    In Egypt this alliance surprisingly ended up including the extreme Islamists of the Salafist party. But here the reasons are subtler: the Salafists never felt any love for democracy, and, in fact, wanted and want democracy to fail. From their point of view the state should be run by Islamic principles, which are not democratic: they come from Allah, not from majorities of voters. Hence they gladly helped the coup against Morsi, the man who was trying to prove that Islam and democracy can coexist.
    The Arab world specializes in conspiracy theories that have the USA at its center. What the USA does or does not do is insignificant: people will charge the USA with doing and not doing just about everything. In fact, the very same person within the same day might argue that the USA is supporting Morsi and that the USA was behind the coup that deposed Morsi. It is not about having a coherent vision of US politics: it's about centuries of Western domination of Egypt and the obvious fact that the generals are more "American" than Egyptian in the way they think. Had the coup failed, people would blame the USA for standing with Morsi (Obama's ambassador was certainly very supportive of and optimistic about Morsi's policies). But the coup succeeded and therefore the people assume that the USA gave the generals the green light for the coup. Whether this is true or false only historians will determine (i doubt it, since Obama specializes in staying neutral) but certainly after the fact the USA has not done much to restore Morsi in power. Obama's message to the generals was to return power as soon as possible to "an elected president". He did not say "to the elected president". There is a democratically elected president. His approval rating was collapsing, but so is Obama's at 45%: would this be a good excuse for the US generals to stage a coup, depose Obama and return power as soon as possible to "an" elected president? Incidentally, Morsi won not only the presidential elections, but also parliamentary elections (Obama's party lost them), a referendum and the Muslim Brotherhood won several other minor elections. If Morsi is not legitimate, then Obama certainly is not. Asking that the army returns power to "an" elected president hardly constitutes proof of how much the USA cares for the rule of law. Hence de facto the USA joins the "crusade" against the Muslim Brotherhood, and so does the entire Western world.
    Israel is even relieved. The more democracy the Arabs get, the less safe Israel feels. Decades of apartheid in the Palestinian territories, widely publicized by Al Jazeera and social media, have created a strong anti-Israeli sentiment among ordinary Arabs: any free election, in which the will of the majority is respected, will lead to an anti-Israeli government. Israel's best friends in the region are the brutal medieval dictators (who pretend to dislike Israel but in reality prefer Israel over the Palestinians) and the military establishments of most Arab countries (that have been raised on billions of dollars of military aid by the USA, trained in the USA, armed with US weapons). The ones who want to destroy Israel are not the Arab generals but the Arab people. There is no doubt that Israel smiles when the Arab people lose their freedom.
    In concluding, president Morsi had an incredible number of enemies who at some point plotted together and decided that removing him from power was easier than leaving him in power. Some of them probably calculated that leaving him in power for a year was just about the right amount of time to discredit him in front of the Egyptian nation.
    The Egyptian revolution was started by the youth of the rich educated bourgeoisie. At the beginning the Muslim Brotherhood wasn't even present at the demonstrations. That the Muslim Brotherhood ended up with the presidency is a tribute to the naive and incompetent idealists who started the revolution. These middle-class activists failed to reach out to the workers, to the lumperproletariat, to the urban poor and to the rural villages, i.e. to the vast majority of the Egyptian population. Some of them, like the workers, had already staged protests on their own, simply to ask for higher wages (a senior train conductor in Egypt makes about $400 a month). They had no economic vision behind their protests: remove Mubarak and...?
    The business leaders were happy with Mubarak's rule and alarmed by the Arab Spring instead of immediately jumping into the fray and form a secular alliance with the young protesters. They had an economic vision and it was to continue Mubarak's policies.
    Ditto for Christians and other minorities: they were slow in accepting that Mubarak was disappearing and in forming a real coalition with the forces that could have created a stable and trustworthy alternative. Hence all these groups have mainly themselves to blame for how the Muslim Brotherhood hijacked the revolution and for the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in post-Mubarak Egypt.
    Luckily for the losers, the Muslim Brotherhood managed to make an even bigger blunder: its economic vision was that the economy did not matter at all. The Muslim Brotherhood used to be persecuted for several decades by a succession of military regimes, from Nasser to Mubarak. It is no surprise that their strategy is largely based on surviving: that's what they have been good at. They promised a state founded on respect for Islam while creating wealth, something that never happened in history: the Islamic world was rich when it was actually not Muslim at all (see my brief history of Islam) and the only large Islamic country whose economy is doing well is the one in which Islam was thrown out of the state by Ataturk's secular revolution, Turkey. The Muslim Brotherhood still lives in the myth of the original caliphate (the state created by the founder of Islam, Mohammed) as the ideal state, which means that there is a broader regional vision at work but literally no effort to put bread on millions of Egyptian tables.
    Under Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak the same regime was in place, a regime based on repression (to quickly annihilate dissent) and corruption (to gain allies, especially in the military). The Muslim Brotherhood is simply perpetuating that regime under a different banner. Worse: unlike its predecessors (Nasser built dams and railways, Mubarak brought in foreign investment), the Muslim Brotherhood has no interest in economic development. Worse: it doesn't even have much interest in providing security (it is not only Christians who experienced the rise in violence). The fact that, in the meantime, the population starves is irrelevant to a governing party that aims for a revival of the caliphate. Morsi was more interested in supporting the Sunni uprising against Assad in Syria than in finding jobs for millions of unemployed or underemployed Egyptians.
    The Muslim Brotherhood made a pact with the military establishment: all the privileges of the military class were preserved in the new constitution, and no general was prosecuted (let alone sentenced) for the human crimes committed during the revolution. In return the military gladly sacrificed the figurehead who was president of Egypt, Mubarak. However, this contract worked only for as long as there was hope for a speedy economic recovery, otherwise those privileges are worthless. For a while it appeared like the Muslim Brotherhood had been much more effective at infiltrating the military than the military had been at infiltrating the Muslim Brotherhood, but it turned out that Morsi's actions to limit the power of the generals did nothing to change the vested interests and ultimate motivations of the military class was a whole.
    The original revolutionaries did not accept defeat. Now they are joined by a broader coalition, determined to keep the Muslim Brotherhood out of power. The problem, of course, is that now the Muslim Brotherhood is not willing to accept defeat. There is an elected president, and an elected parliament, and a party that won all the elections and referendums so far. There is a precedent: the Islamic party won free elections in Algeria, only to be banned from power by the army. That happened in 1992: the Algerian army canceled national elections won by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and seizeed power. The result was that Islamic radicals of the Arme` Islamique du Salut (AIS), the military wing of the FIS, began a civil war that killed 150,000 people until 1999.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • Articles on Egypt before 2013

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TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.