Monday, December 10, 2012

Letters from Egypt: The Irony

Less than 3% of the 780,000 Egyptians residing in the US exercised their right to vote in Egypt's presidential elections

This photo was taken via a friend from his office window in Washington DC showing Egyptian Americans taking to the streets in protest over the Muslim Brotherhood and leader/current president Mohamed Morsi.

Do I want to see the Muslim Brotherhood hijack Egypt? Of course not, but I don’t understand why this is a US problem. Some of you might say it’s because the US represents the free world. True, but do you really want the US coming in and trying to implement so-called democracy in your country? I mean, I understand that most people don’t look at history, but uh, hello, Iraq anyone?

And I really don’t understand why Egyptian Americans are protesting. It’s their culture, their home. True. But less than 3% of the 780,000 Egyptian Americans voted in the presidential election, their right to vote for the leader of their culture, their home. So why should the US listen to those located there? Unless you are part of the 27,300 Egyptians that even registered to vote at one of the five precincts, I don’t understand why your voice should matter now. Why didn’t you think it important to voice your concerns in June?

Oh that’s right – you just assumed everyone else would vote for Shafiq so you didn’t feel that your vote would matter. And even those of you living in the US seem to have a problem understanding a democratic process. Ironic.

And because people are unhappy, many Egyptians feel that it’s time for the international community to step in and save the day. Excuse me, when has the international community stepped in, saved the day and the country and its people just lived happily ever after? Everyone wants the easy way out instead of working for it themselves. Okay, then what?

Dear Egyptians:

Have you thought about life after Morsi? It would be nice if you did because it seems like no one thought about life after Mubarak. No one thought about life after the military.

Where do you want to see your country go and how would you like to implement it (step by step plan of action would be great here – don’t just say that you want economic reform)?

Of course very few of you have thought past your daily ritual of protesting. You all focus on your wants, but never how to get them. Or if you do focus on how to get them, it’s usually other people, securing them for you. Like a spoiled child wanting everything handed to you.

You may think that I'm being completely cold-hearted. That couldn't be farther from the truth. I want to encourage Egyptians to fight for their rights on their own - you'd be surprised at the rewards that would come from doing so. When Egypt won its independence from Britain, Egyptians took pride in how THEY did it - not the international community. So as proud Egyptians, stop calling on the international community - handle your business. You'll be much better off in the long-run.

Egyptian Exception

There are those that have been actively thinking about "What next." One Egyptian has started a dialogue encouraging others to join. Here is the start of his blog (click the link):

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Letters from Egypt:Blame the US, Everyone Else Does

Screen capture from Egypt Independent
Some independent Egyptian papers are joining the anti-Morsi fight as part of the planned campaign of civil disobedience, and other industries may join in addition to the ongoing strikes by the judicial members.

And the chatter on FB is really what has me more interested.

As this screen capture was posted, I trolled through the responses.

Mariova El Gammal discussed how although she was not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) she voted for Morsi thinking he would be “democratic and fair.” She continued to say – which I think was a rhetorical statement to Morsi – “I hope that you [Morsi?] know that you are losing credit in one of the biggest and most influential nations in the Arab world and we regard you as a caretaker of terrorists and dictators who steal away our (first amendment) rights. Be sure that we are looking down at you and the US government in disgrace.”

First of all, please let me know when Egypt has a constitution that includes the Bill of Rights – which is what the Gammal discusses when she mentions “our (first amendment) rights.” Funny coming from someone that says the US should be ashamed of itself for allowing this to happen. What amazes me is the blame this person has placed on the US. She continued, “We will not allow another Mubarak to be made and the US should be ashamed that they are allowing this to happen and supporting this too!!!”

Ummm – how did the US allow this to happen? Did everyone else read what I did? This person voted FOR Morsi. She exercised HER RIGHT to VOTE and now is casting blame at the US?

Finally, Gammal said: “Our children will be destroyed. Our future will be IRAN! You want to turn Egypt into another IRAN!!!! Shame on the USA.”

Listen buddy, I think it’s time you re-evaluate your stance. The US didn’t pay you to support Morsi, you did it willingly. YOU VOTED, which was YOUR RIGHT. You don't like the outcome, change it yourself. If you wait around on others to help you, you might be waiting around for a long time - and you should use that piece of advice in all facets of life.

However, Mohamed El Ghareib posted in response to Gammal (as did I) saying: “The US has nothing to do with our current situation. WE as Egyptians should be able to obtain our rights regardless if the US sanctions Morsi and his mob. It’s our fight and our fight alone. We should have what it takes to establish our rights otherwise we will always wait for the US or KSA (Saudi Arabia) to determine the course of our future. Just my two cents.” Very well said.

Again, while there might be strikes and other protests going on, where I am – it’s business-as-usual. Nothing to see here folks, keep it moving.

Gammal's full post:
am an egyptian citizen andI have elected president morsi thinking he will be democratic and fair.. I am not from the muslim brotherhood group who are trying to take over egypt appalled as an egyptian citizen of your support to an dictatorial decree and opression of the egyptian people. I hope you know that you are losing credit in one of the biggest and most influential nations in the arab world.. and that we regard you as a caretaker of terrorists and dictators who steal away our (first amendment) rights.. be sure that we are looking down at you and the USA government in disgrace.. the egyptian people are marching for their freedom and rights alone.. with no support from your government to their real needs.. your government is a disgrace to the USA.. you should support egypt in a way not to be over ruled by a group of militant fanatics!

USA should look to egypt away from the benefit of the muslim brotherhood group who are a group of militant ...fanatics using president morsi to over rule egyptians and robb them of their constitutional rights
Egyptians are appalled by the negative position of the USA concerning the peaceful marches conducted by egyptians everywhere in egypt today to stop the take over of the fanatics to our country.. I am a moderate muslim who is appalled that USA will allow the fanatics to destroy our blood earned democracy after toppling mubarak.. shame on the USA!!

Egyptians are marching tomorrow Tuesday the 4th of december all over egypt to protest the dictatorial authorities taken by our elected president morsii.. we will not allow another mubarak to be made and USA should be ashamed that they are allowing this to happen and supporting this too !!!! Our children will be destroyed.. our future will be IRAN! you want to turn egypt into another IRAN!!!! Shame on the USA
Mariam el gammal .. Egyptian citizen

Disclaimer: I posted the names of the Facebook comments as those were publicly made on a public page.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Letters from Egypt: Difference between Islamist/Muslim

After reading my blog yesterday, a good friend said: “Thank you for pointing out that the majority of Egyptians, though largely Muslim, are not staunch Islamists.” It got me to thinking – before I moved to this region, I didn’t know the difference and I’m sure many of you may not.

So as you watch the continuation of Egypt’s latest protests or just other uprisings in the region, you should be able to distinguish between the two. Islamaphobia is centered on the fear of Islamist organizations which include al-Qaeda, Somalia’s al-Shabab, Algeria’s AQIM, etc. However, there are moderate to liberal Muslims that do not fall into the category of Islamist, like Turkey’s Republican People’s Party and pro-democracy movements in Egypt.

Islamists – mostly associated with a jihad ideology, but even when not violent, center around hard-lined beliefs like refusing to recognize gender equality. Islamists gain more traction by claiming to represent Muslims, but this isn’t true.

The term Islamism was coined to differentiate Islam as modern ideology from Islam as a faith. It became necessary to make this distinction after the Iranian revolution of 1979, which gave rise to the popular use of the term: “Islamic fundamentalism.”

Muslims – Encompass all that believe in the Qaran and Prophet Mohammed, but not every Muslim is an Islamist. It is ignorant to associate every Muslim with Bin Laden, similar to associating every Christian with cult leader David Koresh. We all have different beliefs and not every Muslim is associated with such hard-lined rhetoric. Many believe in recognizing other religions, living in peace and the basic life standards that most strive to live by.

Islamists are a small sect within Islam, but unfortunately, their actions carry the most weight.

The Muslim Brotherhood is considered Islamist, but only composes around 100,000 followers out of 80-million people in Egypt (figures vary). So you might wonder how Islamists, including the post-revolution emergence of the Salafeen (previously, this group did not exist), garnered the majority of the parliamentary seats. One main reason could be that the liberals were split. It’s like the two major parties that rule the US, but voting for a third party candidate only takes away from the GOP or DEM which could cause a loss for one of the two major parties during a close race.

Another reason fears are heightened over the MB is because many of the most dangerous terrorist organizations have derived from the group which originated in Egypt. Shadi Hamid, a MidEast expert at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center, said: “[The MB] is the mother of all Islamist movements.”

So the major problem within the Egyptian protests right now center on the majority-led Islamists within the Constitutional Assembly – which do not represent the majority of Egypt.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Letters from Egypt: Tomorrow’s Significance

Tomorrow could be Egypt’s Second Revolution, but doubtful. And this is why.

Some of you may be wondering why protests are scheduled for Tuesday. The onset of the revolution that resulted in the ousting of the Mubarak regime took place on National Police Day, Tuesday, January 25, 2011. As international media have grown tired of the regular Friday demonstrations, what better way to get attention all the while hoping for the same results from nearly two years ago?

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) will not convene in Tahrir Square, as stated in yesterday’s blog. Instead the ruling group will meet in Downtown Cairo at Abdeen Square, approximately 1 km from Tahrir, which indicates a stronger position to break away from all that is associated with Tahrir (Liberation).

Yes, protests are taking place over Morsi (or Morsilini as he has been dubbed in reference to the Italian dictator Mussolini) commanding absolute control. Morsi claims that he will only take these powers for two months in order to establish Egypt’s constitution which has seen many delays including the disbandment of Parliament as well as the constitutional council suffering from boycotts like those from the church and other liberal organizations.

Naturally the international community is watching closely as the definition of a dictator is essentially in the decree Morsi made. It is rare within this continent – whether Egypt wants to align itself with Africa or the MidEast – to see any ruler (Mandela being the only one I can recall) relinquish power.

It is reported that the original Constitutional Assembly had agreed on 96% of the constitution, but was unable to come to a mutual decision on four policies that the MB-led assembly refused to negotiate. CNN ran the headline, “Morsy [sic] edict divides Egypt but unifies opponents, observers and critics say,” however, that’s not entirely true. There are some non-Islamists that are questioning if this is really a battle to fight. Someone told me, “We can’t move on without a constitution, why not give Morsi the time that he wants to establish this so that we can finally move forward?” This person is a dual passport holder of the US and Egypt, very liberal and yet fails to understand the repeated delays in the constitution. So the opposition might not be as numerous as some are anticipating – although I didn’t initially believe that January 25, 2011 would have had such numbers.

All non-Islamists parties withdrew from the Constitutional Assembly which was the largest group in Egypt’s constitutional history, coming in at 100 members. The Assembly was composed of 16 members representing the MB’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), eight for the Salafist’s Nour Party, two for Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya’s Building and Development Party and one for the moderate Wasat Party. For more information on the major political parties, please see: How IlliterateEgypt Votes

The problem was that Islamists were representing the majority of the Assembly which would not allow for a majority opposition to thwart the potential of certain threats like sharia (Islamic law) or other actions – although such drastic integrations would probably not have been immediately implemented anyway. The remaining members represent only four parties, three of which are Islamist-oriented: the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), al-Nour Salafi party, the moderate Islamist al-Wasat party and the Civilization party. Previous Parliament speaker Mohamed Saad el-Katatni said, “We finally have a Constitutional Assembly that represents all factions of the Egyptian people.” Just because you throw in a Christian here and there, a liberal for one other seat and a young revolutionist next to that doesn’t mean other views are well represented.

It isn’t about getting the Christians more representation as it is about showing the majority of Egyptians – which are not Islamists. Such seats should be filled with other bright Egyptians including former presidential candidates like Nobel laureate El Baradei, maybe even Amr Moussa, Sabahy, etc.

Will tomorrow be interesting? Meh, I’m on the fence, but perhaps that’s because I, like many, have grown tired of the protest du jour. It isn’t that I don’t think this is actually one of the more valid protests, but as I stated about the AUCans protesting: the argument is negated when going about it in a manner that will undoubtedly consist of more rocks being thrown.