THE EGYPTIAN MILITARY AND THE ELITE HAVE HITCHED ITS HORSE ONTO THE “ISLAMOPHOBIC WAGON” AND WILL RIDE IT INTO POWER, WEALTH AND DESTRUCTION.
by Syarif Hidayat
“I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam.” – Muhammad Abduh, Mufti of Egypt, 1899 – 1905. Although over 100 years old, this quote still applies to Egypt and the other Middle East countries as well as most of the Muslim world in general today.
The Egyptian army called Muhammad Morsi’s supporters “terrorists and fools”. “What has happened to Egypt?” asked a Middle East expert, Robert Fisk. The dead are being called “terrorists”, the word the Israelis use of their enemies. The word the Americans use. The Egyptian press talks of “clashes”, as if armed Muslim Brothers fought the police.
While Islamophobia is prevailing strongly in the western world with their regimes on going ‘Wars on Terror’ that have been making the people in many Muslim countries are suffering, the Egyptian military and the elite also seems to have hitched its horse onto the Islamophobic wagon and will ride it into power, wealth and destruction.
Islamophobia is prejudice against, hatred towards, irrational fear of, or racism towards Muslims. In 1997, the British Runnymede Trust defined Islamophobia as the “dread or hatred of Islam and therefore, [the] fear and dislike of all Muslims,” stating that it also refers to the practice of discriminating against Muslims by excluding them from the economic, social, and public life of the nation.
The concept also encompasses the opinions that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion.
Islamophobia was recognized as a form of intolerance alongside xenophobia and antisemitism at the “Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance”.
The conference, attended by then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, the OSCE Secretary General Ján Kubis and representatives of the European Union and Council of Europe, adopted a declaration to combat “genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, and to combat all forms of racial discrimination and intolerance related to it.” Some scholars of the social sciences consider it a form of racism, although this is debated.
A perceived trend of increasing Islamophobia and Islamophobic incidents during the 2000s has been attributed by commentators to the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, while others associate it with the increased presence of Muslims in the Western world.
In May 2002, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), a European Union watchdog, released a report entitled “Summary report on Islamophobia in the EU after 11 September 2001”, which described an increase in Islamophobia-related incidents in European member states post-9/11.
Although the term is widely recognized and used, both the term and the underlying concept have been criticized.[by who?] Professor in History of Religion, Anne Sophie Roald, states that Islamophobia was recognized as a form of intolerance alongside xenophobia and antisemitism at the “Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance”.
The Zionists’ attempt to dominate the world
Iran’s top military commander says the US spy agency, CIA, and Britain’s MI6 are controlled by Mossad, warning against the Zionists’ attempt to dominate the world. “Today all spying and intelligence services of the enemies of Islam are acting in unison, and evidence indicates that Mossad, as the intelligence agency for the [Israeli] Zionists, has taken control of CIA in the US and MI6 in Britain,” IRNA quoted the Iranian Armed Forces Chiefs of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi as saying.
Egypt, the ‘war on terrorism’ and Islamophobia
Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in Uni versiy of California (UC) Berkeley, in his article titled “Egypt, the ‘war on terrorism’ and Islamophobia” published in http://www.aljazeera.com writes In an interview with Der Speigel , Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy offered his German audience a history “lesson” reminding them of “their experiences with a democratically elected politician who then behaved in an undemocratic manner”, thus asserting that the removal of Morsi is in reality a preemptive action undertaken to protect democracy itself.
Fahmy comparing Morsi to Hitler followed a strategy centred at the demonisation of the ousted president and his many followers across Egypt since their protests began on July 3.
The interview came after General el-Sisi’s call for Egyptians to grant him authority to fight terrorism in the country, a very subtle reference to a changing strategy in confronting a persistent opposition to the military coup and the suspension of the constitution.
At the beginning, the military and its supporters were confident that the opposition would only last a few days, considering the cast of characters assembled to support the removal of Morsi, but the response and the continued mobilization created a counter balance and disrupted their “well-developed” and laid-out plans.
Seeking legitimacy through Islamophobia
Three weeks into the military coup that ousted the first democratically elected president in Egypt, the planners made a deliberate shift and methodically constructed a “war on terror” campgain directed at those standing in opposition to the removal and suspension of the constitution.
The “war on terror” public “debate” was stage-managed and crafted in a way to redefine opposition to the coup and in particular the Brotherhood in terms of a national security threat if left unattended will undermine Egypt, as a state.
Not wanting to debate its illegal actions against the only elected president in the history of the country, disbanding the Assembly and the suspension of the constitution, the military and the old hands at the Interior Ministry moved swiftly to redefine the opposition and in the process establish legitimacy by means of brute force and power utilized in “defending” the nation.
To accomplish this task, the military unleashed a deliberate “Othering” campaign against the Brotherhood and its supporters that was highly Islamophobic, deploying a barrage of anti-Muslim tropes to achieve the desired outcome.
The state and the privately-owned press worked to magnify and project this otherisation message, and in a short period the protesters in the encampments were no longer Egyptians protesting the military’s undemocratic actions but “a terrorist breeding ground” threatening Egyptian national security.
The MB encampments, according to the military and the Interior Ministry, were “sufficiently” documented sites witnessing torture, violence, and hostage-taking, and if left unaddressed would further disrupt national harmony and prevent the return to democracy.
Furthermore, the argument or the charge levelled against the Brotherhood that they are the real force behind all the “terrorist” attacks in the Sinai made it possible to provide images and evidence for the daily news cycle.
Speaking from an American political lens, the Brotherhood and its supporters experienced a “Swift Boating” moment, and in a short period were redefined in the consciousness of many Egyptians. Indeed, time will tell whether they will recover from it, considering the level of state violence unleashed in the past few days and the existing societal split being cemented with a river of blood.
More importantly, the military, official state religious leadership and the “liberal secular” forces used Islamophobia to defend their collective actions against those elected while casting themselves as the defenders of “liberal” values or true religious tolerance that was undermined by the president and his supporters.
In essence, those constituting the political elite believe that the Egyptians can’t be trusted to make their own decisions through the ballot box, but are in constant need of a paternalistic custodial power to correct their clear error or ignorance, for they are unable to think for themselves.
Islamophobia and Egyptians’ political agency
Those participating in the encampment were denied agency, and it was asserted that either they were forced by the cunning Brotherhood leadership or paid to participate, thus demonstrating a lack of real political consciousness to take action on their own.
It was reported that the leaders of the encampment tortured those refusing to stay and participate in the sit-ins while a more outlandish charge of killing followers and keeping their corpuses in a garage under the plaza made the rounds in press coverage, including in Al-Ahram .
Also, in order to legitimise the use of violence against protesters, it was claimed that weapons were being stacked in various places around the encampment to be used against security forces.
The intended public campaign was to demonise on the one hand the leaders of the encampment, and on the other remove political purpose or agency for the followers.
Taken together, this would legitimise the military and security intervention to remove the evil Muslim Brothers and rescue the infant Egyptian “ignorant” subjects ill-equipped to make the right decisions on their own.
The campaign created a demonised outlier and at the same time threatened its existence. Essentially, the Muslim Brotherhood and those supporting their call became outsiders and irrational sub-humans for refusing to accept the higher “liberal” and “civilization” purpose behind the removal of President Morsi and suspension of the constitution.
The utilization of Islamophobic and “war on terror” tropes in Egypt are reflective of the global post-colonial epistemological trend that problematise Islam, as a religion, and Muslims, when seeking political agency grounded in a living tradition in the “modern” nation-state.
What started as a coup against an elected president was successfully trans-configured by the military and the elite into a “war on terror” against a sub-human group that no longer belongs to the Egyptian body politic. Added to this is the charge of external support or militant conspiracy from Hamas in Gaza and, by extension, Iran as well.
Adding more fuel to the fire is the systematic stoking of religious tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians with emphasis on assigning responsibility to the Brotherhood for fomenting attacks on some 30 churches across Egypt.
The attacks on Coptic churches are an old Interior Ministry strategy intended to divide the communities, develop mistrust on the ground level and increase the feeling of insecurity that then can be harnessed to consolidate power by means of extracting cooperation through intimidation.
Furthermore, the attacks on churches serve a more strategic purpose of magnifying the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood and through it prevent any real criticism from the international community since the European and American public will not be moved to action considering attacks on a Christian religious minority.
The same strategy was used by Mubarak on more than one occasion, and it does produce results stoking religious tensions and preventing national unity from developing among the majority Muslim population and the Christian minority.
More critically, the campaign results in fragmenting the national identity resulting in a more conservative and reactionary mode of engagement which becomes the norm.
The divisions between the Muslim and Christian communities will further erode the real possibilities of building a nation-state on the basis of equality, justice and fairness, since each group will seek to consolidate its position in the state by using only a fragmented and threatened religious identity as a basis of constituting political power.
The military and the elite who stoked these sentiments in the first place appear and act as the protectors of civil society, but doing so on the basis of all parties recognizing their undisputed power and surrendering any agency directed at an alternative. Fear and state privilege will be the basis of the re-constituted authoritarian military state with a civilian veneer.
This essay is not a defence of the Brotherhood or their political programme, but an analysis on how a removal of an elected president has been transformed into a “war on terror” with an effective Islamophobic campaign deployed to bring it about.
I do maintain that the Brotherhood-led government failed in developing the needed governing coalition in this critical transitory period. I do fault the deposed President Morsi for his reactionary decision-making style, moving to the political right and away from the centre to respond or placate more conservative Islamic forces, promising more than what can be delivered.
In addition, opting to strike an accommodationist alliance with the military while distancing himself from revolutionary partners and taking a slow gradual approach to change rather than a bold and aggressive political programme and in particular on the economy.
One can add more but all were made worst by the “Deep Mubarak State” and the rich elite that wanted to frustrate the upstart political force that in their view should be either in prison or their servants at country clubs but for sure not residents in the presidential palace or the seats of the assembly.
Bush: “You are either with us, or with the terrorist” deployed into Egypt
Islamophobia discredited Bush’s global “war on terror” with the simplistic line “you are either with us, or with the terrorist,” and has been barrowed and deployed into the Egyptian landscape, the consequences of which will be far reaching.
Needless to say, it will give a great ideological boost for the Islamophobes in many parts of the world and will immediately negate any efforts at remedying Muslim standing and image across the globe. Egypt and the Arab world in general are in the middle of a transformational period, and at the heart of it is the role of Islam in shaping the emerging region and the political order.
By declaring a “war on terror” and stereotyping Muslim political parties in negative ways, this will only complicate and prevent a normative political maturation and resolution of historical and contemporary existing religious contradictions.
In resorting to a structured and forceful exclusion of Muslim religious parties, the outcome would be the development of a siege mentality, the setting-in of protectionist and attitude, and in due time the emergence of violent trends since the door to orderly participatory politics has been shuttered.
Thus, I say the deployment of Islamophobia and excluding Muslim parties from the process is intended to push them toward violence that then can justify the use of unrestrained violence and force against them, which would go a long way in rationalizing the maintaining of the status quo in power distribution. The Egyptian military and the elite have hitched its horse onto the Islamophobic wagon and will ride it into power, wealth and destruction, Hatem Bazian concludes his article.
General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi defends removal of Morsi
Facing fierce pressure from Islamists, Egypt’s top general on Sunday said the decision to remove Islamist Mohamed Morsi from the presidency was made in response to what he called the will of the people.
General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi spoke Sunday (August 18, 2013) on national television, for the first time since Morsi’s July 3 ouster. He said Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, had lost legitimacy because of mass protests by his opponents. But he rejected accusations the removal was religiously motivated.
Morsi has been held at an undisclosed location since his removal, while scores of senior members of his Muslim Brotherhood Party have been taken into custody. Authorities have not charged him with a crime, but say they are investigating a series of complaints against him including spying and wrecking the economy.
The Brotherhood urged its supporters to gather peacefully in Cairo on Monday for the latest in a series of mass protests against the Morsi ouster. Thousands have been rallying for days near a mosque in northeast Cairo to demand the former president’s reinstatement.
In related developments, interim leaders on Sunday swore in prominent liberal Mohamed ElBaradei as vice president and offered the post of foreign minister to a former Egyptian ambassador to the United States.
More ministerial positions are expected to be confirmed in the coming days. ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and former head of the U.N. nuclear agency, led a huge opposition coalition in the protests that prompted Morsi’s removal. Details of his new role were not immediately clear.
In another move, Egyptian judicial sources said the public prosecutor ordered the freezing of assets of 14 prominent Islamists, including Brotherhood supreme leader Mohamed Badie.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns is meeting with authorities in Cairo from Sunday to Tuesday in the first visit by a high-ranking U.S. official since Morsi’s removal. The State Department said Burns will “underscore U.S. support for the Egyptian people, an end to all violence, and a transition leading to an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government.”
Washington also has called on Egypt’s interim leadership to avoid a politically motivated crackdown on the deposed president and his supporters.
An Islamic plea for peace
Ibrahim Negm in his article titled “From Egypt, an Islamic plea for peace” published in http://ali-gomaa.com writes One cannot imagine a sadder day for the nation. The scenes of violence and dead bodies from all around the country are heart-wrenching and devastating in both their scope and severity. The people of this great nation – dear to all our hearts – have turned one against another in the most dangerous possible way.
Egypt is in dire need of the prayers and support of the world, national reconciliation and unity at all costs. These needs are urgent, and we must orient ourselves towards a genuine political resolution to the crisis if we are to avoid further bloodshed.
These events will have far-reaching repercussions on the national fabric of Egyptian society. The Koran says whoever kills a single person unjustly, it is as if he has killed all of humanity. It must be said in no uncertain terms that violence is always regrettable. It will never solve our problems. It will only exacerbate them, and further entrench two already polarized sides. The only thing that will indicate progress is a genuine desire to keep the interests of Egypt, and not of individual interests or ideologies, first and foremost in our minds.
The restoration of law and order cannot be accomplished by resorting to security measures alone. There is an urgent need for national reconciliation among all the country’s orientations and factions that can only be accomplished through transparency and honesty.
There is an urgent need for an inclusive and just solution, which takes all grievances seriously. The Egypt that witnessed scenes of joy and jubilation at images of dead bodies yesterday is not an Egypt to which we should aspire, or with which we should be content.
We must be better than this – as we are. Now is not the time to revive old grudges without due regard for the basic value of life. Now is the time to band together to save our country from further deterioration – whether political, economic or moral. God affirms in the Holy Koran that though humans are capable of all sorts of bloodshed, they are also capable of heights of moral excellence and rectitude.
Among Egypt’s provinces, we also witnessed a disturbing rise in sectarian sentiment. Churches were vandalized and attacked. It is unacceptable that in such trying moments, our minority populations should have to bear a disproportionate amount of the burden.
Egyptians are all in this together, as the nation belongs to all of us, not to members of one religion, sect, party or organization to the exclusion of all others. We all participate in a social contract, a vow before God to put peace and harmony first. In no circumstances, can we allow trying circumstances to transform us into partisan thugs.
These attack by extremist elements on churches as well as the subsequent clashes between Muslims and Copts cannot be the work of anyone who truly cares for religion or nation, and genuinely seeks to abide by their principles. Rather, this is the handiwork of those who put their interests and ideologies above all else.
Legitimate Muslim scholars like the Grand Mufti of Egypt Shawky Allam have spoken out repeatedly and forcefully that the targeting of places of worship is expressly forbidden. This is the case in times of war, let alone at a time when national unity should be our foremost consideration.
Sectarianism is counter to the social harmony that Islam stresses, and anyone inciting sectarian sentiment, or participating in sectarian violence, must understand that he is acting counter to the essence of Islamic teachings. This is the example of the prophet, our greatest model, who was sent as a mercy to all mankind.
It is now upon us to take up this example seriously and refrain from unnecessary division for the sake of our country. Any attempt to sow discord among Egyptian people must be opposed in the strongest terms possible. I have no doubt that forces that seek to divide Egyptians or make them to plunge in civil war will ultimately fail, for Egypt has been a symbol of coexistence for centuries and will continue to be by the grace of God.
Now is the time to fulfill the legitimate aims of all Egyptians for stability, security, dignity, national reconciliation and social justice. Anything less will be a great setback for the nation.
A sad reflection on the state of Muslims today
“I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam.” – Muhammad Abduh, Mufti of Egypt, 1899 – 1905. Although over 100 years old, this quote still applies to Egypt and most of the Muslim world today.
Ahmed Kilani in his article titled “Egypt a sad reflection on the state of Muslims today” published in www.muslimvillage.com writes “My heart is breaking over what is happening in Egypt, and not just because I am of Egyptian background. Unlike the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Burma, sadly etc, this is not sectarian or non Muslims killing Muslims. This is a supposed Sunni Muslim government/military killing Sunni Muslim civilians with a cheer squad giving them support. This is a tragedy beyond words being played out before our very eyes, and hard evidence of how deep the Ummah has sunk.”
It is a sad reflection that for many Muslims today, in Egypt and elsewhere, Islam has manifested into a superficial force devoid of any spiritual or intellectual nourishment and benefit. It has been watered down to the extent that for the majority of Muslims Islam is now only focused on rituals. It is not allowed to extend beyond the four walls of a Mosque or a house and never beyond the heart. It is Islam without substance or purpose beyond the personal realm. It is Islam for a secular world.
This of course is not what Islam is, no matter what the forces that be wish. For the majority of Egyptians – as elsewhere – generations have been slowly brain washed on mass and morally and intellectually corrupted into following a form of Islam that is not allowed to have a public spiritual presence and effect beyond the superficial domain.
If people don’t accept this, it should be remembered that it was not long ago in Egypt that upholding a simple outward Sunnah as the beard was grounds for harassment and expulsion from public buildings.
Despite this Islam in its proper sense – a deeply spiritual and complete way of life and governance – still flourishes in the minds and hearts of many. Not only in Egypt, but in the entire Muslim world. In fact it is in the midst of a grand revival everywhere.
With every action there is a reaction and the Islamic revival is being strongly opposed by the forces of Shaitan – Muslim and Non Muslim – on all fronts. It is now open war fare intellectually, socially, spiritually and at times physically as we sadly keep witnessing blood shed in the most savage and inhumane means from one country to the next.
The Islamic movements in Egypt and elsewhere are not perfect and immune from errors, but they are on the march by the will of Allah and this is why we are seeing such a formidable response to halt them.
In Egypt, like elsewhere, this involves much deception and the most devious of means being used where one can become a party to harming one self and others (spiritually and physically) without even having knowledge of what one is doing. Such is the age of fitna we are now witnessing.
This battle of righteousness versus evil – both of which come in many forms and not just a simple Islam v non Islam paradigm – has reached a critical stage as the momentum is swinging back towards the righteous.
Those that are fighting to bring justice and peace to the world on all levels of civil society are being strongly challenged. Whether it is the Bradley Mannings, Occupy Movements and Mohammed Morsis of this world on the global stage or those campaigning against poverty, inequality and injustice in their local neighbourhood, those that challenge the current status quo are under attack.
One of the outcomes of the individualistic, highly superficial, fast paced world we live in today, is that it has become very difficult to identify what is truth from falsehood. However as Muslims, Islam has given us the means to be able to have insight and identify these realities to protect ourselves. But getting the ability to “see” is dependably on following Islam in a deeply spiritual and intellectual means.
Sadly Islam for the majority of the Ummah has become devoid of this. Mainly as a result of traditional Islamic scholars that are out of touch with the people and the petrodollar and satellite TV driven literalist interpretation of Islam that have made this the new “Islam” the defacto religion for many.
Whether Muslims are living in Egypt, Australia or the North Pole, this is now a global phenomenon. The fact the Muslims have now become the biggest oppressors of themselves is evidence that we have lost our way and need to return to an Islam that is a living tool for day to day life. An Islam that promotes good manners and civility in all our dealings with others based on a deep spiritual and intellectual understanding.
An Islam that teaches and breeds love for each other and greater humanity. It is these fundamental attributes that have been missing for decades in Egypt and elsewhere and must be revived.
Only then will individuals and the masses be able to distinguish the real truth from the falsehood in the fast paced superficial world of mass media lies and deception that we live in.
Let’s Pray Together!
May Allah make us those that will uphold and practice Islam in its pure true and exemplary essence.
May Allah enlighten our hearts and minds and make us of those who that can see beyond what our two eyes see.
May Allah make us those of who will use their hearts, minds and bodies to aide the causes of justice and empower goodness in others.
May Allah aid, uplift and protect all those that are suffering – Muslim and non Muslim – from injustice and oppression anywhere in the world.
May Allah make those that are suffering have patience and diminish the sorrow and sadness that they feel.
May Allah unite the hearts and minds of those that are challenging the forces of injustice, inequality and oppression and allow them to confront and defeat them in a manner that does not transgress.
May Allah keep us patient, steadfast and acting in complete conviction that the victory of good against evil has been assured by you Allah, whether we witness it in our lives or not.
May Allah make us of those that will get up in the middle of the night and call upon you, with sincerity in our hearts and tears in our eyes, to uplift the oppression and suffering of those innocents that are in pain.
May Allah protect us and our loved ones from the tyranny of our times and make us to be in the company of those that will revive the Islamic Ummah and the world.
May Allah make these sad days be days we will look back on with fondness in years to come as the time that the Ummah truly woke up from its deep slumber.
May Allah protect us from tribulation/corruption, internal and external, and raise amongst us those that will restore justice and peace to all the world as khulafaa alarad (custodians of the world).
May Allah make us and our progeny be of those who will share their company.
Ameen, Ameen, Ameen!
The world, now more than ever, needs men and women of unshakeable Taqwa (God consciousness) and spiritual strength to defeat the forces of Shaitan that are becoming all encompassing. Each of us should look deeply into our hearts and ask what am I doing to help my Ummah?
The best action is to fix ourselves up individually InshaAllah and work on improving our relationship with Allah. But the time might be approaching – maybe it is here now – when this is not enough.
Allah will ask each and every one of us what we witnessed and what did we do to correct it. According to your own unique situation and capabilities, we will all be held accountable. How are you going to respond?