The Islamists’ hijacking of Arab hope

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

By Jamal Kanj

Long before the self-righteous Islamists turned genuine street grievances into violent movements, Egypt was the crown of the Arab Spring and Syria was the second best hope to reap the flowers of the spring.

Today, however, hope and optimism have been hijacked by pretentious religious demagogues and tunnel-visioned ideologues with a pedantic monopoly on God.

The Muslim Brotherhood disaster in Egypt

The Muslim Brotherhood – who rode on the 25 January uprising that removed one of the longest serving Arab dictators – lost a unique opportunity to become an important pillar in shaping Egypt’s political life for many generations.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s ex-President Muhammad Mursi – and the Brotherhood’s leadership – soon forgot that he won by 25 per cent in the first round of the elections, just 1 per cent more than the contender, Ahmad Shafiq, who served as prime minister under the ex-dictator.

In the second and final round he was elected by three percentage points more than the votes cast against the perceived old regime’s nominee – not a vote of confidence in the Brotherhood candidate.

Rather than being a president accountable to all Egyptians, Mursi became answerable to the Brotherhood’s consultative leadership, which eventually led to the tidal wave of 30 June that paved the way for his removal by the military.

Mursi failed to appreciate that the close vote was not necessarily in support of the old regime either, but reflected the depth of the public’s mistrust in the Brotherhood’s leadership.

Instead of winning over distrustful voters, Mursi wrought the office of the president into a hive run by supercilious party ideologues. His biggest political blunder was ignoring the power of the street and the political tsunami that toppled Egypt’s dinosaur two years earlier.

Rather than being a president accountable to all Egyptians, Mursi became answerable to the Brotherhood’s consultative leadership, which eventually led to the tidal wave of 30 June that paved the way for his removal by the military.

Despite the above, the military’s role in disrupting the fledgling Egyptian democracy raises serious concerns, especially since this is the same institution that sat on the sidelines during the 30 years of corruption and dictatorship under Mubarak

Instead of allowing those who took to the streets to play a role, we see many of Mubarak-era pundits repackaged and returned to public life armed with atavistic decrees limiting freedom of expression, which was tolerated even during the Brotherhood’s reign. For instance, Bassem Yousif’s satirical news programme – a copycat of John Stewart’s “Daily Show” – which survived Mursi, was cancelled by the military.

Undeniably, the Muslim Brotherhood’s self-righteousness represents a major obstacle to progress in the Arab world, but it would be equally sanctimonious to discount a movement that received close to 25 per cent of votes in Egypt’s presidential votes. Crushing political beliefs leads to absolute dictatorship.

Islamist demagoguery in Syria, Tunisia and Palestine

It was this tunnel vision which was responsible for turning the Libyan revolution into an anarchic forest of guns threatening the nation’s stability and the future of the Arab Maghreb.

It was the demagoguery that changed the tide of change in Syria, forcing the Syrian people to choose between a ruthless dictator or bearded Al-Qaeda-inspired doctrinaires.

Demagoguery has undermined democracy in Tunisia and fragmented Palestinian unity, leaving people with no option but to choose between dictators and corrupt collaborators or politically inept parties with a compulsive obsession over managing individual private life.

Centuries ago Europe sunk in the Dark Age under the tenet of the dogmatic rites of the church, whereas Muslims advanced in medicine, science and astronomy by embracing reason and free intellectual discourse.

In swapping places with old Europe, the Arab world is descending in darkness because professed religionists are consumed with peripheral practices when they should heed the Prophet Mohammad’s command, which said: “The virtue of knowledge is more beloved with Allah than the virtue of worship.”

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