Huffpost WorldPost
Raghida Dergham Headshot

Egypt Has Restored to the Arab Uprising its Insistence on Reform and Freedom

Posted: Updated:

The Arab Spring took a deep refreshing breath this week, after it had been hijacked by despotism, monopoly of power, and the tendency to monopolize decision-making and identity. Thank you Egypt, for you have restored to the Arab uprising its insistence on reform and freedom, and the rejection of dictates and despotism, in a spirit of rebellion, pride, and perseverance. Reform has returned to the forefront as a serious demand, and the forces of modernization have returned to inform the forces of religious backwardness and the exclusion of others that this is a fateful battle over the constitution and over freedoms. The message is also quite clear in its other aspect, directed at those who hastily embraced the rise of the Islamists to power and the marginalization and dwarfing of secularists, modernists, and advocates of a civil state - including the US administration. Yet this does not represent a victory for the Russians, who opposed political Islam in power, nor does it represent a way out of the crisis for the regime in Damascus, one that would grant it absolution and rehabilitation without being held to account. The age of accountability in the Arab region is still in its early days. The rebellion that succeeded in Egypt is on its way to Tunisia, to regain the reins of change towards modernity and to inform the Ennahda movement that it can no longer be accepted as a despotic ruling party. Indeed, the Arab Spring began in Tunisia and Egypt as a movement of rebellion against autocracy. And here is the second revolution in Egypt attesting a movement of rebellion against theocracy, i.e. religious government. Meanwhile, the sectarian battle rages on in Syria and threatens Lebanon, and it certainly is a battle against radicalism and against the monopoly of a party and a family on ruling the country.

The transitional phase in the Arab region remains both fragile and critical, and it requires the different parties concerned with it, directly or indirectly, to drastically reconsider their contribution to it. The United States is at the forefront of those required to rectify some of their views and contributions, especially through necessary reconciliation with the forces of moderation, who have suffered from being made light of by the US administration and in the various American intellectual and media circles. Most importantly, the US administration and the US Congress should correct their mistaken assumption that the Brotherhood's Egypt becoming dependent on American funds will protect the Camp David Accord and make of the Muslim Brotherhood in power an obedient partner that implements their dictates. A stable and secure Egypt requires an influx of funds into its state institutions in an institutional manner from the United States and Arab Gulf countries alike.

Meanwhile, the military institution in Egypt has reinvented itself - most likely with the help and guidance of the United States, since the start of the January 25 Revolution. The Egyptian army has proven numerous times that it was the people's army. This is an opportunity for the army to shape for itself greater prestige that would be appropriate to the requirements of the current transitional phase, and of the next one. This is also a good opportunity for those who had wagered on "the Turkish model" to reconsider the application of such a model of religious rule in the Arab region. This model has fallen in Egypt, and in fact has begun to fall in Turkey as well over the past few weeks. As for the transfer of power in Qatar, which had funded the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, it has been raising questions, between those who interpret it as the old direction starting to recede, and those who say that it represents a new beginning even more committed to the rise of Islamists to power. What remains, so far, is theocratic rule in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Indeed, the latter is the one that brought religious rule and its despotism to the Middle East. Yet both West and East are going through a process of reconciliation and truce-seeking with the regime of the mullahs - with both Americans and Europeans ignoring all the violations committed by Tehran; and with Russia pretending that the rise of Islamists to power is a purely Sunni matter that does not concern its ally Iran.

Many are the mistakes committed by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who was deposed by a decision from the people and the army this week. He treated the Egyptian people with contempt and considered their protests to be a passing matter, describing them, along with fellow members of the Muslim Brotherhood, in demeaning terms and making light of their capabilities. He and his group hijacked the January 25 Revolution in the wake of hasty elections that were flawed from the start, because parliamentary elections should have been held and an agreement over the constitution reached before presidential elections. This did not happen as a result of local, regional, and international decisions that were taken. Morsi and his group had assumed that they were granted an American pass to act unilaterally and monopolize power, as long as the bargain had been struck not to tamper with the peace agreement with Israel, the Camp David Accords, which represents a priority for the United States.

The Muslim Brotherhood applied itself to taking over every center of power, greedily and arrogantly. It considered the elections to represent democracy's final stop rather than its first. It resolved to take full control of the power structure by completely excluding others. It incited, intimidated, threatened, and became convinced that it was above being held to account. It believed that America would always remain its ally because it was sidelining the secularists and moderates. It claimed its legitimacy to be issued from the popular base with which it had built channels and networks before it came to power, but it quickly started to behave arrogantly with the people and their demands after it took power. And it failed. The Muslim Brotherhood failed, as did its President Morsi, economically as well as politically and socially. It even angered those who had voted for it to spite deposed President Hosni Mubarak, and then rebelled when they felt that what the Muslim brotherhood sought was the same kind of permanent rule against which they had revolted in their revolution against Mubarak. It failed regionally, with the Arab Gulf countries as well as inside Syria. It seemed as if it were supporting armed extremism in Syria for reasons specific to the Brotherhood, not in order to support the Syrian opposition against the regime and against tyranny. Obstinacy, excess, and arrogance were its undoing, and it lost the sense of wisdom and prudent governance. It lost sight of the people.

The second chapter of the Egyptian uprising on July 3, 2013 attested to the Egyptian people's refusal to be marginalized and of their ability to organize and gather millions behind the slogan "leave". The people sought for the president who disappointed and failed them to leave. He refused and wagered on the weakness of both the people and the army. The people told the Muslim Brotherhood that they did not want religious rule, a religious constitution, or religious dictates on all levers of civilian life. The people did not say that they were not religious or were against religion. They said that they insisted on the separation of religion and state. The people triumphed and President Morsi, who behaved as obstinately as Mubarak had done, was deposed. The people said "leave!" They said that they reject all those who thirst for monopoly, unilateralism, and despotism in power. What happened in Egypt will happen in Tunisia, in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq, in Lebanon and in the Arab Gulf states if their rulers opt for tyranny. Egypt's pioneering message to the Arabs is that the people do not want religion imposed on the state. It is a cry for freedom and modernity that will echo across the entire Arab region, because its source is Egypt.

Some will fear division inside Egypt that could lead to a civil war, and such fears are not unjustified. Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood is angry and resolved to regain power, and it may resort to violence and to sowing the seeds of vengeance. Yet Egypt will most likely not fall into the maelstrom of civil war. Tahrir Square was filled with all sorts of people, from veiled young women to the elderly, not just the youth. And that represents a form of immunity. The army would represent the most important form of immunity if it were to persevere in the "road map" it announced after it brought together Al-Azhar, the Coptic Church, and civilian leaders, mobilizing them behind the democratic process - both in terms of the constitution and of elections. The army behaved with determination and seriousness, and did not back down when Morsi challenged it to confront him. The army raised the Egyptian flag as a weapon and as a slogan, as did the protesters in Tahrir Square and all over Egypt, to say: I am the army of the people, not the army of regimes.

None of the military, religious or civilian leaders said that they seek to exclude the Muslim Brotherhood from the democratic process and from the exercise of power through democratic means and with democratic guarantees of a democratic constitution and the separation of religion and state. They all spoke the language of national reconciliation and tolerance. They stressed the necessity for the transitional period, under the sponsorship of the army, to be sound and swift. They asserted that the transitional government should be formed on the basis of competence, bring together different generations, and place Egypt on the path to recovery. If Egypt recovers, so will the Arab region. The Egyptian people have restored a certain amount of respect to the Arab Spring, which had been scattered to the wind when it was seized by the Muslim Brotherhood, with support from various parties. The uprising in Turkey stopped Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his tracks, when he thought he was laying the tracks for the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood over the entire Arab region.

What the Obama administration should do now is completely reform its relationship with Egypt, particularly though an influx of the funds necessary to save its economy. It is not sufficient for Washington to have implicitly approved of or actually supported what the army did in Egypt - having wished or having been forced to do so. Egypt is in need of an extensive process to be set in motion to salvage its economy. Washington has the ability to influence international financial institutions, as well as Arab countries, able to provide such an influx of funds. Any failure to do so will lead to a backlash for everyone.

This is the time to celebrate a people that had once been subjugated by a rule that lasted for thirty years. This is the moment to reflect on the capabilities of a people who toppled their president twice within a year. This is a pivotal point in time in the Arab region, because Egypt is preparing to lead once again. Let them think then, those who believe that the events in Egypt that marked a receding of religious rule represent a testimony that they can continue to rule as tyrants. Indeed, neither autocracy, nor theocracy, nor radicalism will remain. This is the time of rebellion against tyranny, the monopoly of power and unilateral control by excluding others. Let us then rejoice today, because the road ahead is complicated, difficult and long.

RaghidaDergham.Com