In a stunning turn of events, Egypt’s government, headed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, has been toppled. More than 20 million people had been demonstrating in the country’s major cities, and on July 3, the military stepped in to remove Morsi, who had refused to step down. He remains under house arrest at a military installation.
On Friday, July 4, the Gulf Arab states recognized the interim government.
Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, assumes power amid uncertainty about when elections will be held. By all indications, Egypt’s military is fully in control, and arrest warrants have been issued for the head of the Muslim Brotherhood and eight of his lieutenants, after several protestors were killed.
Interestingly, Morsi denounced the events as a “full coup” by the military. According to U.S. law, annual aid to Egypt cannot be transferred if a leader is toppled by a coup. President Barack Obama issued a cautious statement Thursday:
“We believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people,” Obama said. “Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian armed forces to remove President Morsi and suspend the Egyptian constitution.”
The continuing turmoil in Egypt, a key player in the Middle East, has caught many experts off-guard, but two who have watched Egypt’s emerging chaos for years see silver linings for the Egyptian people. Raymond Ibrahim, an Egyptian Copt now living in the U.S., recognizes the significance of what’s transpiring in his home country.
“On the whole, what is happening in Egypt is a good thing. Some points to consider: the average Egyptian has tasted a solid year of rule under the Muslim Brotherhood and others with an Islamist agenda — an unprecedented experience for Egyptians — and the majority don’t like it, as evinced by the many millions who took to the streets crying “Go!” to Morsi. Before that, the Brotherhood was banned, sidelined, etc., yet it would always portray itself as the best suited organization to lead Egypt — and that a nation built on Islamic principles would surely prosper. A year ago, such talk was convincing to many; it was also untested. A year later — after the empowering of Morsi, the Brotherhood, and the salafis — Egyptians have now experienced what the Brotherhood is all about. It is highly unlikely that they will make the same mistake again, especially considering that the other Islamists, the Salafis, are even more fanatical than the Brotherhood. In short, Egyptians received a lesson the hard way.”
Ibrahim, whose new book, Crucified Again, details the global persecution of Christians by jihadists, believes vigilance is still important:
“Only time will tell how this saga will unfold. For instance, al-Qaeda in Egypt is threatening a jihad on Egypt, replete with terrorism, bombings, etc. — as they insist that Morsi, a legitimately elected Islamic leader, has been illegally removed — which certainly meets the jihad criteria. The scenarios are many, but, on the whole, sidelining Morsi and other Islamists — even before Morsi, several prominent Islamists were quietly arrested — is a positive development, for Egyptians and the region. One does not expect an overtly Islamist candidate to win a future presidential election.”
Sarah Stern, founder of EMET, a leading think-tank in Washington, has researched the Middle East for more than two decades, and regularly advises members of Congress about developments there. Stern suggests that jihadists use democratic systems to further their goals, which include the establishment of shariah law.
“What is happening right now in Egypt is not a military coup,” said Stern. “It is the military listening to the voice of the people. For those who say that Mohammed Morsi was democratically elected, they do not understand that Hitler also came in through a process of democratic elections, and so did Hamas in Gaza. One election does not a democracy make. A democracy has a free and independent judiciary, religious freedom, a free and independent press, the right of peaceful assemblage, and the right to petition the government. A radical Islamist government is an affront to democracy, just as Communism and Nazism were affronts to democracy in our parents’ generation. An Islamist government, no matter how it comes into power, should never be confused with a democracy.”