Mohamed Nekili, Ph.D.
The events unfolding before our eyes in Egypt remind me of what happened in my country, Algeria, before the age of internet, social media and smartphones. Both situations are very similar for these North-African countries and the opponents of the Islamists, involved in calling on the military to take power thru the force of weapons, motivated by the same not-always-convincing arguments.
In my country, it was the Ministry of Interior (not an Islamist) who read the official results of the popular vote during the legislatives of December 1991, declaring the FIS (Islamic Front for Salvation) as the winner of the 1st round with a majority of parliament seats. The then Prime Minister recently publicly acknowledged that the FIS leader visited him after the 1st round and offered to deliberately allow other parties, that received little popular support, to get the remaining seats in order to create a balance of power within the parliament and for the Islamists not be accused of totalitarianism and dominance. They also pledged to offer the new PM seat to an exiled revolutionary who nationally incarnated opposition since the first military coup after the country’s independence. He too was not an Islamist.
Unfortunately, the good will expressed by the Islamist leaders was not enough to deter the military from forcing the President to resign, aborting the political process thus creating a constitutional void that the military filled with their own puppets. There were no millions asking for the President to resign.
The President was not an Islamist against whom you could apply your severe analysis of political performance during his reign or claim that he issued a decree giving himself unlimited power or that he was under the influence of a Supreme Guide (or Murshid). He was one of the high-ranking military and therefore one of theirs. But his only ''mistake'' was to declare publicly that he accepted the results of the 1st round and is ready to share power with the victorious Islamists.
Therefore, if you think the adversaries of Islamists in Egypt needed the Islamists to make any governance mistake to justify a military coup, you may be wrong. Many people, including democrats and liberals and secularists, are unfortunately ready to use all means, be they anti-democratic and even criminal, to prove that the Islamists are unable to govern properly especially in the largest Arab country (Egypt) and in the country that initiated the North-African Spring (Tunisia). Some observers say that the military coup in Egypt was decided as soon as the military-backed old regime fell in January 2011. And their old master Mubarak is now back and free as you can see. The old regime will follow soon.
But unlike Egypt, some regimes in the West and France in particular called for and applauded the military coup in Algeria in order to supposedly fight against the potential ''Green Danger''. French officials even declared that there was no way they could let an Islamist government be established South of the Mediterranean! And they did not let it be.
Nevertheless, the consequences of the military coup in Egypt could be the same. Almost a quarter of a century later, the consequences of aborting the democratic process are dramatic for my people and amount to hundreds of thousands of citizens killed, a million injured, raped or tortured, dozens of thousands disappeared, half a million of highly qualified professionals and intellectuals exiled, millions traumatized for the rest of their life, a full dominance of the military over the country`s economy and corruption has abruptly risen, within only one decade but a ‘’black’’ one, to become a generalized phenomenon in our society. Definitely no pride there for our military to take. Our official TV shows mainly soccer and music parties. No genuine political debate. No long-term social project. No elected Citizen or official body, be it at the municipal, provincial or national level, including our embassies and consulates, is outside the scrutiny, influence or control of our intelligence and military services. And that will last as long as our oil wells are deep enough to continue funding the supporters of military grip over civil society.
That is unfortunately the bill all Egyptians may be forced to pay if, after thousands of killed and injured in the demonstrations, the military take more and more of their leaders, followers and sympathizers from their homes and put them into jails and camps and threaten and harm their families.
As has happened elsewhere in the past, the Egyptian intelligence may simulate and fabricate monsters in their laboratories and unleash them against the general population and minorities in order to commit acts of terror that will turn the public and international opinion against the Islamists.
That is unfortunately the pessimistic message I am getting from these Egyptian military that are openly murdering demonstrators in a style similar to mass killing of contaminated cattle within a controlled perimeter.
That is the message I am also getting from this Coptic priest publicly stating that all mosque imams in his city called for the protection of churches and that he is getting much more cooperation from the Islamists than from the Interior Ministry which is accused of putting fire to churches during the January 25th 2011 revolution.
That is the same message I am getting from these crowds of baltagis (thugs) in fury backed by the police and military in front of anti-coup demonstrators, especially the case of these real-time TV images I myself watched of this mosque in Cairo that was besieged by baltagis and police at the same time, hand in hand.
I have personally never been organically linked to the international Muslim Brotherhood (MB) nor had I any ties with the Algerian FIS but, as an observer, when I see, months after the coup, the MB leaders consistently asking their followers and sympathizers to continue keeping the demonstrations peaceful against the military that is killing them by thousands, jailing and humiliating their leaders, stopping their media, and freezing their assets, I can only wonder what better example of patience and peace and democratic attitude in modern Egypt era these Islamists are setting. They must be angels that are demonized but still ready to die than kill in order for justice and peace to prevail and that is the message everyone can read on the official website of their political wing, which message also circulates in anti-coup and MB circles asking their followers to never fall into violence against the other and never give excuses to the military to crack down on them, which they suffered many times in the past.
But, the military do not need an excuse to act outside the law and eliminate their opponents. They believe to be above the law. And we saw the law transgressed openly while the military where dismantling Rabaa and Nahda demonstration camps although the MB naively brought their women and children to the demonstrations as a sign that the movement is peaceful and probably also hoping that would deter the military from crossing red lines in front of the whole world. The military and their militias will take care of pushing the MB beyond their limits to the point they will indeed defend themselves, which will in turn be used to increase the repression against them. A vicious circle that would inevitably push Egypt into civil war.
Of course, the Egyptian military need to be taught democracy. They need to be taught to defend the democratic institutions freely established by their people. They need to be taught to serve their people and not themselves. They need to be taught to never ever serve ultimatums to the civil society!
Instead of asking the West to stop giving lessons of democracy to the Egyptians supporting the military coup, you should rather ask the West to stop giving lessons of democracy anywhere in the world as their hypocrisy in Algeria and Egypt is obvious except for the blind. No more speeches of Obama in Al-Azhar destined to the Muslim World, please, as they only apparently serve to delay our revolutions while countering them undercover and to put our people under the false impression that the West will theoretically defend democracy while all the West is able to do practically speaking is ask for time to think about it and continuously assess its direct aid to the military while the military continue and progress in shaping the society to their liking after the coup.
If the West wanted to stop the military, they have been feeding with their own hands for decades in order to protect the border with Israel, they could and they should have already done that and saved democracy and further sufferings of the Egyptian people. That is an evidence to meditate against any theory about America backing the MB.
In contrast with the West that has taken months wondering if a coup took place or not on July 3rd, 2013, Africa, this old continent, which is being taught relentlessly to love and practice democracy since the end of western colonialisms, needed only 48 hours to make a clear statement and denounce the coup.
Africa having had its share of military coups since the wave of independences in the middle of the 20th century, the African Union (AU) immediately reacted by freezing Egypt's membership, thus showing more political maturity and more attachment to the democratic values than many western democracies and even the United Nations (UN).
The new Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs has been since then deploying all its diplomatic machine in order to try explaining to the African countries that the military coup was not a coup. But what is really there to explain when the military jails the President and officers in his party, freezes the Constitution and dismisses the Senate, and closes all TV stations that are favorable to the President?
This was indeed a military coup and there is no honor in continuing to deny this fact which will in turn only contribute to social and political instability in Egypt and to the risky possibility of a civil war.
Africa knows too well the heavy price it paid, in tears and blood, due to military coups along with their devastating consequences on the infrastructure of countries, on their political stability in the long run and on the very notion of democracy itself which delays decades further the acquiring of democratic attitudes and traditions.
A military coup definitely remains the worst form of violence that could be inflicted on a people and their free will and I am sad to see you putting your intellect and leadership at the service of a military coup thus setting a precedent suggesting that a president's mandate could be reduced to only 12 months if popular insatisfaction and undiscontinued demonstrations are combined. A precedent that would render Egypt ungovernable.
Speaking of regional and foreign interference in Egypt, each country naturally looks to advance its national interests while taking into account its fears. It is social injustice (and not those opposed to it), committed by our dictators, that pushes the country into political instability and attracts foreign interests.
As a example, some Gulf states delayed billions of dollars as long as Islamists, not under their control, were in power and as soon as the military coup took place, those states started flowing that money to the military authorities. In case the Egyptian people overthrew the military and returned Morsi into power, would those states withdraw their aid from Egypt?
After the military coup, a report released by Israeli intelligence services in July showed that three factors made the Egyptian military coup in the long-term interest of Israel. First, the definite removal of the MB from power thus avoiding long-term risk of questioning the peace treaty between the largest Arab country and Israel. Secondly, the increased limitations of the Palestinian resistance and resources along Egypt`s border by the new military authorities in Egypt. And last, but not least, the guarantee that the military will be now busy, for decades, with keeping the political power they seized instead of investing their time and resources in the defense of Egypt. The Israeli diplomacy has been since then almost secretly lobbying the US and the international bodies in order to reinforce the military coup. And God only knows what role Israel played before the coup for the coup.
I now let you ponder about the course of action of a successful Muslim intellectual and leader who was a fierce adversary of the MB and has supported the military coup in his country. That is Mohamed El-Baradei. He is a democrat and liberal. He lived decades and was educated in the West and achieved a highly successful career there. He could rightfully claim that he knows the Egyptian political system more closely that you do as, probably unlike yourself, he lived permanently in Egypt since the revolution of January 2011 and not only observed the political system from the inside, he was also a major public actor before and during and after the coup. But look at the fate reserved to him by the military after his resignation. Think about the reasons that led to his resignation and what he suffered during his brief service under the military umbrella. This example should be a lesson to meditate for you and everybody who called for the coup or applauded it. As he resigned from his position, so should you from your political view in support of the military coup. Do not let your hands be splashed with the blood of demonstrators putting their lives at risk for the return of democratic institutions into place and against a military coup and do not let you mind be polluted by what the military did not censor. As days pass, no doubt that El-Baradei will regret more and more the combination against Nature of a nobel peace prize with fomenting a military coup. Unfortunately for him, History does not forget. Especially at the age of internet, social media, smartphones and digital memory. Nevertheless, History will still remember that he had the courage of quitting the wrong side of the equation before it was too late.
* For the last quarter of a century, Dr. Nekili assumed several leadership positions within local as well national Muslim organizations in Canada. He also founded, directed and hosted multiple weekly radio shows in Montreal and Halifax, on AM, FM as well as on the Web. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org