Millennium Post


It barely took three days for a heady cocktail of military overdetermination and popular will springing forth from millions of Egypt’s homegrown secularists, anti-Islamists and others rallying to literally ‘topple’ the one-year old Mohamed Morsi government, as Cairo shocked the world by willingly sacrificing the first democratically-elected state formation in over three decades. The numerical irony aside, the international community couldn’t, hasn’t been able to till date, make up its fragmented mind as to whether it was or was not a ‘coup.’ With the US still undecided, and figments of reports trickling in linking Saudi money to the army intervention, it will take many more days, even months or years, to establish the actual combination of triggers that led to, and the entire import of, the ‘coup that wasn’t.’<br><br>Despite days of high drama on the streets of Egypt, the biggest mass rally and demonstrations in its history, all it took was an eight-minute televised speech (on 3 July) by the former defence minister in the Morsi government and the current head of army, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, to declare that the president has been removed. The sound and feel of the event had echoes from the depositions of monarchs from medieval times, or as in the case of Egypt, its history preceding the 20th century. <br>The ousting of Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party after a year in power looked bloodless and glorious at first, only to spiral down into a frenzied bloodbath with hundreds being killed and thousands injured in fierce and still ongoing cycle of violence, as clashes between pro and anti-Morsi supporters took a hideous and horrific turn.<br>At the time of writing this piece, very few assurances, both factual and political, are available on the ground, other than reports of European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton having had a two-hour meeting with ousted (disgraced?) Morsi at an undisclosed location, thereby indicating that the ex-president is clearly still alive. Nevertheless, the EU’s halting attempt to forge peaceful negotiation between the supporters and detractors of Morsi looks like an exercise in both reluctance and redundancy at best, perhaps because of the fact that the US has shown little will to play a proactive role, other than sounding the television-friendly ‘Obamabytes’. Yet, the global media has been awash with reactions and comments on the coup d’état, and has expressed self-righteous horror, especially at what they have unequivocally termed a ‘ruinous intervention’ into the politics of a country that had breathed the air of democracy for the first time in decades.<br>In a strange twist of fate, the army – that had appeared as if it was willing to recede into the sidelines of democratic politics in Egypt, despite having been at the helm of affairs during the three decades of Hosni Mubarak regime which ended after the first wave of popular protests erupted in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square in February 2011 – looks poised to extract its pound of flesh and firmly reestablish its iron grip on the country’s polity. Notwithstanding Muslim Brotherhood’s excesses while in power, its relentless drive to impose an Islamic imprint on everything and Morsi’s gluttonous tweaking of the constitution to grant himself excessively expanded powers, the world is united in not condoning the army’s sardonic ‘siding’ with the mass uprising against Morsi, in line with other national unrests such as those in Turkey or Brazil. Global theorists such as Slavoj Zizek have observed that the ideological quandary that has been at the vortex of these popular and apparently ‘spontaneous’ protests stems from the fact that despite being democratically elected, the governments of Mohamed Morsi, Recep Erdogan or Dilma Rousseff have failed to deliver their pre-poll promises, to a lesser or greater degree, and the nation-state, the people, therefore, is simply registering its disaffection and disappointment through civil disobedience.<br><br>However, Zizek also warns against seeing them as isolated and disconnected incidents, brought about by their narrow, national and territorial upheavals. He insists that it is a global moment, a continuation of the Arab Spring of 2011, and despite the movement, which redefined the globe’s relations with the Middle East, for a while looked, especially in 2012, to be dissipating, while it appeared that the revolution’s steam is spent, but now, once again, the hydra is raising its many heads at different parts of the world, having congruence with, bafflingly enough, the Occupy movements in America and Europe. Yet, there remains a crucial difference, which is also an important caveat.<br>It must be remembered at this painful juncture that there are several narratives that are woven into the fabric of these massively popular protests on the streets of Cairo. The substitution of Mohamed Morsi with the civilian chief justice of the Egyptian supreme constitutional court Aldy Mansour, and having placed Mohamed Elbaradei, the Nobel Peace Laureate, as the interim vice president, are not without biting political sarcasm, not only because they seem to be unlikely bedfellows, but also because it’s the Egyptian army that has had the last laugh, as of now. For stretching on what now appears to be a temporary military solution to prevent Egypt from tumbling completely into mob anarchy, could actually be the undoing of the fruits of the 2011 uprising. Although al-Sisi has categorically stated that there would be presidential elections within one year, after the constitution is reformulated, and the army is there only to oversee, midwife as it were, the birthing of the next civilian government from the womb of the ballot box, these proclamations must be taken with buckets of salt, especially in the wake of violent crackdowns on Morsi supporters and Brotherhood members. Beyond the secular versus Islamist debate, Egypt must also not forget that its sociocultural texture is not a monochromatic continuation of religious and sectoral sameness, but of diversity along several axes, including faith, language, creed, political and ideological leanings, as well as education, class and gender. The gigantic rallies that called for Morsi to step down didn’t just include disgruntled liberals and secularists, but also hid under its anti-Islamist mask the Salafis, and various other hardliners before whose conservative politics the moderate Islamism of Muslim Brotherhood would appear resplendently modern.  Moreover, the religious minorities of Egypt, such as Coptic Christians, Shia groups and others, as Arundhati Ghose has pointed out, continue to be discriminated against, even though the civil uprising led to the overthrow of the Islamist government. By all means, the move away from sociocultural, political and ideological plurality would continue to rock Egypt at the fundamental levels of operation, and a change, necessary though it is, should have been ideally ushered in through patience and painstaking diligence that are the hallmark of the slow but steady pace at which democracy functions.<br><br>Nevertheless, the many sins of the Muslim Brotherhood while in power must not be discounted as well, since they clearly outraged the millions of Egyptians enough to flood the streets and boulevards of Cairo. The institutions of the state had their roles affected, as Morsi tried to impose a covert Sharia on Egypt. In the end, the coup d’état was engineered to offset the coup de grace that had put Morsi and the Shura over and above judicial inquiry.  That being said, the lawless nadir into which Cairo is heading should be contained, not by the strength of the army tanks and bullets, but by democratic <br>self-realisation. <br>
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