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Part two: A test of democracy for Egypt or a test of democracy for the west?

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Sinem Tezyapar

Sinem Tezyapar

By Sinem Tezyapar

 

Absence of democratic culture

When Morsi came to power, it was at a time when a long-term dictatorship had just ended; there existed in Egypt no democratic constitution, no democratic culture and no democratic experience whatsoever. Even for countries where democracy is well-rooted, when a new government is formed, it is quite difficult to expect them to make the necessary changes immediately and meet the expectations of one and all. This was the very first attempt for a transition to a democratic political order. Undoubtedly no transition to democracy comes without difficulty so it requires forbearance, resoluteness and collective will. So patience and solidarity was what Egyptians needed, and it still is.

We can talk about ideals like a capable government functioning with a democratic constitution, respectful and heedful of all opinions, and providing the people the ability to be critical without facing coercive pressure, reflecting the will of all Egyptians and providing full rights to minorities, maintaining power through consent and so on. But is it possible to realistically expect from anyone who comes to power in Egypt the ability to accomplish a perfect job? And who is to decide if an elected government is anti-democratic, half-democratic or not? And when? Does anyone have any right to act pre-emptively? Not addressing these questions may well lead to serious instability in Egypt, and could easily pave the way for an authoritarian strongman in the mould of Augusto Pinochet or Francisco Franco. Thus no matter how pressing the problems, a coup d’etat is simply not the answer in a democratic nation.

 

Turkey is still the model for Egypt

Just like Egypt, the military was a powerful political player in Turkey and had been the most trustworthy institution, and their engagement had always found support among many, so the 3 July coup in Egypt is a familiar scene for the Turks. Seeing how similar the rhetoric is, it felt as if Chief of Staff Kenan Evren’s speech was echoing in Egypt: ‘We want to prevent a civil war, and we are only interfering to stop clashes between the left and the right.’

Turkey suffered for a long time by having two heads, civilian and military, in the legal system but has opened the way in firmly establishing civilian jurisdiction over crimes committed by military personnel since 2009. And now Turkey is about to make another step towards democratisation: The Turkish government only a week ago proposed a set of changes to the constitution to eliminate the possibility of the military getting involved in domestic affairs; in other words the threat of a future junta. Since 1934 the Turkish military was responsible for “protecting” the Turkish Republic from threats within and abroad. If the change in Article 35 is approved, the military’s responsibility will be limited strictly to threats from abroad.

Considering four coups since 1950 and what the last bloody 1980 coup had brought (650,000 arrests, 50 executions, 171 deaths by torture, tens of thousands of citizens forced to flee abroad,) Turks have had enough. However, democratisation has neither been an easy nor a quick process but it definitely needed uncompromising resoluteness.

Since divisive language has become dominant, the demonising of the “other” side has become commonplace and since trust has been lost between the political camps in Egypt, a third party—like Turkey—can indeed play a role to facilitate reconciliation. It is not just about Turkey’s experience with coups and democratisation efforts but it is about how an Islamic-based party can have a place as a three-time elected government within the democratic arena. Yes, there are serious demands from the Turkish government for a more inclusive style where everyone feels free to express their demands, and they certainly have their critics and so on; and all of this will hopefully progress. Yet despite the recent protests against the AKP government, the model in Turkey can still be a stepping stone for Muslim majority countries like Egypt. However, since Egypt is going through a historic reform from a dictatorship to democracy, this should be done with a broad-based consultation system made up of all parties, including and reflecting all points of view. Obviously there has to be a compromise from all sides for the sake of harmony and unity of Egypt.

 

Burning the bridges with Muslims?

The Muslim Brotherhood, the region’s oldest and most influential Islamic movement, had a historic moment in entering into the democratic process after a long history of repression. The ongoing crackdown against the Brotherhood, just like in the old days, obviously will have its repercussions both in the streets of Egypt as well as in other Islamic countries. I think people of reason acknowledge the fact that if the discrimination continues, it will only increase the anger of people in the streets, causing them to lose their hope of being represented in the democratic system and it will only arouse more anti-Western feelings, more hatred for Israel and more violence. The various politically motivated Islamic groups would take the message that there is no other way but radicalism; therefore, no one will benefit from sidelining the Brotherhood, and since the military junta will, in all likelihood, not be able to bring solutions to Egyptian’s real problems, the poverty and disorder will continue to increase. Although the criticism that a proper understanding of democratic norms is not dominant among the Brotherhood is true, there was still an attempt to make peace with democracy. Thus to avoid some of the undesirable profound consequences for the future, I urge the Freedom and Justice Party to stay involved in the political process and that the interim Egyptian government sees to it that all of their democratic rights, including winning, are ensured.

 

Lessons for the Brotherhood

The Brotherhood and its political branch, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), however, have many lessons to learn and they indeed have to change themselves a lot. The failure of President Mohamed Morsi was in neglecting very crucial values that have been ignored by almost the whole Muslim world as well. What we have seen in general was a dead, corrupt, bigoted system being espoused and imposed. However their new goal should be to emphasise the importance of modern, extroverted, loving people and embracing a style that advocates art and science. People are invariably happier with cleanliness, with art, with green spaces, and they seek out music, sculpture, painting, aesthetic architecture and beauty.

Now that this unwanted scenario has happened, the leaders of the Brotherhood should be pioneers for a reform towards a modern understanding of Islam and take a stance against bigotry. They should embrace Jews and Christians in front of cameras; in their speeches they should embrace all people from all walks of life including communists, atheists, etc. They should express the beauties of freedoms, and provide a comfortable atmosphere even for the most vocal critics.

Another crucial emphasis should be for the rights and freedoms of women. They should show their love and respect for women, and bring them to the front, regardless of their style of dress. They should embrace a secular model, as in Turkey, accepting all as equal and first class citizens, and providing religious freedom for all. The Brotherhood being in close coordination with Turkey would be an advantageous way for them to make fast progress.

Finally, the Brotherhood should embrace a policy that will comfort the Israelis and the ones who hold it dear to themselves and they should scrupulously avoid things that could raise tensions. They have to end the anti-Israel rhetoric and show their compassion for Jews and Christians, as a requirement of their belief as well. In point of simple fact, they should not be enemies with anyone, not even with their opponents: This is essential to silence the guns, and to end the division even if it is a one-sided effort. From now on they should focus on solutions.

I am aware that this is far from what the Brotherhood stands for at the moment, but there could be significant developments through intense educational programs via television and social programs designed to change the fanatical mindset in its administration and social structure, and replace it with a far more inclusive approach.

Sinem Tezyapar is a political and religious commentator from Turkey, and an executive producer at a Turkish TV network. Follow her on @SinemTezyapar.

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  • sam enslow

    There needs to be a critical self examination of Egyptian society by Egyptians. The talk of the coffee shops is not reaching the ears of the so called political elites. They all want to tell the people what they want – not actually tak with “them”.
    Watch the drafting of a new constitution. All political forces will want to add “excepts” to personal freedoms, including those agreed to by Egypt in international traties which are to be considered the law of the land.
    The Egyptian government must limit the scope of its activities and the people of Egypt must accept not only the freedoms of democracy but also the responsibilities of freedom.
    Religion is not a concern of government nor is personal morality. “Vice laws” do not stop vice. They fund mafias. Look at what happened in the US with Prohibition. People drank more than ever. The US Mafia got rich meeting the demand. Hash is illegal in Egypt. How long would it take you to buy some? Restrictions on freedom of the press do not protect the people or the government. Without a free press, problems get swept under the rug until it takes a revolution to correct them. A “positive press” allows politicians to believe their own press releases. How long before his fall was it that Mubarak heard anything but good news and how much the people loved him? Religious laws do not bring people to God. They only make feel afraid of punishment, so religion becomes a matter of public face not inner belief. People say what they should say (what is acceptable) rather than what they believe.
    A nation in which the people fear punishment more than they want advancement and accomplishment is a very unhappy and backward nation. A free people serve their country and their God out of love – not fear.

  • MaximusBoomaye

    and when you are done converting the MB into liberals, embracing women. minorities, Jews, etc. you should tells us how to convert right wing, tea party and republican into democrats.
    Also you may want to write part 3, telling us if both sides are of the same religion and the same school of Islam, what advantages does the one who use religion to advance political agenda has, while portraying the other side as heathens.
    Part 4 should start with the a new concept: NO RELIGION IN POLITICS, NO POLITICS IN RELIGION.
    that is the material point, and let see who will get the advantage in the polls.

    • edinlimani

      Maximus; you’ve got a high degree of destructive aura, if you’ve got any problems with the text, or the context please let us know, academically and empirically, not emotionally. Thanks

      • MaximusBoomaye

        That’s hilarious, especially about that emotional part! Thanks for the reply anyway, I didn’t think one man opinion would elicit this confrontational response, or “destruct” anything, you may have been the only man on earth to have read my comment, and I am humbled by the fact you took time to respond, albeit angry sounding.

        But here you go:

        “They should embrace all people from all walks of life including communists, atheists, etc.”

        Sir, they can’t even stand people of the same religion but don’t share their views. so where is the academic, pragmatic, empirical and factual point in either of these 2 articles?

        In my views it is hypothetical, theoretical, and a mere emotional plea. You need a long track record of true reform and tolerance to get such reputation.
        In an Ideal world, the MB would heed the all these words of wisdom, but being who they are, what are the chance of that? I would say slim to none ( and Slim just left for good).
        My opinion is made in good humor, personal and not to offend,
        Peace out!

        • edinlimani

          Hello Max,

          It was not my intention to sound harsh or angry in any way. I was just tired of (no offense) all the destructive responses, not only on this wall, but elsewhere as well. All the responses telling, how utopia-tic and im-possible everything and anything is.

          The writer is giving an expectational description of what is going on, how it should be met, what should be the best solutions, in order for peace to prevail, she continues to give us inputs after thoroughly examinations of all the possible outcomes.

          That I appreciate very much, somebody, is actually caring, somebody is actually finding solutions, peaceful solutions, including all and everybody. Now, that mind sound like lightyears away to achieve, but it is not. When good people act, and act fast, things change.
          Im not sure where you are from, I’m from the Balkans, and too much has happened and way too many people have died, in vain, some would say, for it to be hilarious. Im sorry if Im not laughing, I lost more than 50 family members and thousands of countrymen, and people are dying every day and minute, they are actually being killed, raped, deported or isolated because of their way of thinking, living or acting. And that should not be allowed. One life should not be more of worth than another, just because ….

          So, in order to create something beautiful together, and to help others create beautiful things, one must be careful of the words and actions he chooses.

          We all pray for Egypt and all other places that have been hijacked by bigots, terrorists and/or hypocrites, be they arabs, americans, norwegians or senegalese to be free and live with a free spirit.

          “Let there be no compulsion in religion:”
          Quran 2:256

          • MaximusBoomaye

            Mr. Edilimani,

            Obviously I had no idea the sort of pain you’ve suffered, and from the bottom of my heart, I offer you my condolences.

            The board that allow for posting opinions is merely an avenue for all of us to sound off, just as the writer had her opinion, and I must admit, I am a political junky who loves to read blogs, and once in awhile I come here to read the opinion pages, so when I used the term hilarious, I wasn’t trying to belittle your opinion, rather I was surprise that I got a response in the first place, of course one expression you used “destructive aura” was, to me, over the top, hence it gave me a little chuckle.

            Obviously you are a young man, and so is the writer, and I am much much older so my views will always be different.

            It is hard to argue that religions are behind the world’s strife today and through out history.

            Opposing armies in every war are convinced God is on their side, an insult to God I might add.

            Ruling in the name of God is a theocracy, no matter what spin they put on it. Democracy on the other hand keeps religion were it should be. in churches, mosques and temples. and that my friend is the material point.. once you add the word “Political” to Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or any other belief, it becomes theocracy,

            Theocracy on the other hand (which as you know comes from the Greek language : Rule of God), that right belong to the Creator alone, The Maker of heaven and earth..he is the only one that should be your and my Legislator, Judge and Rewarder/Executioner.

            No man has the right to usurp this authority and claim he has a divine power bestowed upon him, or he has “God backing” of anything.. for that in my opinion is Machiavellian.

            Now take the word “Muslim” from the “brotherhood” and let’s see what political power they have left!
            That was my whole point when I 1st posted my opinion, what is left is a group who hates Christians, Jews, Shiites, Alawites, Kurdish, women, communists, atheists, liberal and socialists, did I forget anybody?
            by the way, that is Sinem’s own words in this article.

            Of course it was well said by you we all have to be careful what we say in order to be able to create something beautiful, nevertheless, It takes a ton of courage to stand to those who claim God speak through them, and expose them as false prophets, I guess by the same token we can create something beautiful when we voice our opinion.

            Your opinion is always well received and appreciated.

  • Yasin Çınar

    I think the writer expressed the most REALISTIC solution to problems in Egypt.

    • ishtiaq

      absolutely right

  • Nasser Gamal Eddin

    “And who is to decide if an elected government is anti-democratic, half-democratic or not? And when?”

    17 million people on the streets out of a nation of 90 million! (and 22 million people signing the Tamarrod petition) why only focus on the the military intervention?!! I guess it makes it easier for you to draw parallels with Turkey’s coups if you disregard the people part of June30.

    “Absence of democratic culture”

    Democracy is basically the rule of the people. And that’s exactly what Egypt is doing in its own way and it doesn’t have to fit in your molds and tabulations.

    “Turkey is still the model for Egypt”

    Overused and has been refuted by June30 AND by the Gezi movement… I’d say Turkey is meant to be a model for Egypt but the attempts to implement the Turkish so called Islamist democracy model has failed miserably in Egypt and it seems that model is also failing in Turkey itself.

    Do you really think amending the Turkish constitution will prevent another coup? because coups are unconstitutional by nature, you know…

    • ishtiaq

      People of Egypt had elected President Morsi for 4 years. what you think if 30 million people would come out for new prseident..would army again remove the new president. Its not a democratic, its dictatorship. If morsi was not going in right direction then people and other political parties have right to protest and could be reach any conclusion. Its absolutely pathetic and disappointed to remove a newly elected Govt. Most interesting thing is in few days of Tamrod and till now there was not even single demand why they want to remove President Morsi. So you can guess your literary statment above where you stand. Too Muslim is only the blame so far on Morsi, did he try to implement Sharia Law? or so

  • Alan Cockayne

    Senem, you are hoping for a Utopia. This will not happen in an Islamic ideology, (where virgin maidens await believers). To be pioneers for a reform towards a modern understanding of Islam and take a stance against bigotry is nigh on impossible for these indoctrinated supremacists..

  • edinlimani

    Please continue the education Ms Sinem, you truly are as sincere as highly intelligent with a sharp awareness of the region and the situation. We can a learn a lot!


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