Political Islam has taken a hit, but the anti-Morsi crowd will not stay united

By Uzi Rabi, July 11, 2013
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Beblawi: New PM (Photo: AP)

Beblawi: New PM (Photo: AP)

Last week, before the bloodshed outside the military base where deposed president Mohamed Morsi was said to be held, millions of Egyptians had gone into the streets to demonstrate against the Muslim Brotherhood.

The mass protest has been dubbed “a second revolution”, following that which toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

After 85 years of opposing Egypt’s ruling regimes, the Brotherhood finally came to power but proved itself inept at, or disinterested in, addressing the challenges facing ordinary Egyptians today.

Over the past year, the Brotherhood’s rule has resulted in a series of controversial political nominations; a constitution that mocked judicial authorities and precedents; and, to top it all, a worsening economy exacerbated by increasing instability and insecurity.

Ignoring the severity of these problems backfired, prompting Egyptians from different opposition groups to come together and demand the removal of Mr Morsi — and the Muslim Brotherhood — from power.

With the fall of the Brotherhood, political Islam has received a blow and, as a result, the political equation in Egypt has shifted. At the moment, we can roughly speak of three main blocs in Egypt: the military bloc, the pro-Morsi bloc, and the secular or liberal bloc that encouraged people to take to the streets.

The secular-liberal grouping rejects the Muslim Brotherhood’s perceived agenda of Islamisation, and criticises Mr Morsi for turning his back on the promises — regarding, for example, job creation and transparent government — that he made to the Egyptian people. Instead, says the secular faction, Mr Morsi worked to consolidate the Brotherhood’s control of government institutions, appointing Islamist colleagues to high-profile positions.

But this liberal-secular bloc is neither “liberal” nor “secular” by Western standards. Egypt constitutes a diverse society and opposition members have various political and economic grievances.

The unity that arose to oust yet another unpopular president should not be taken as a sign of lasting victory for the popular political will. Indeed, it is hard to predict precisely what the people want after Morsi.
In its statement deposing Mr Morsi, the military denied engaging in a coup d’état, indicating that it did not intend to run the government.

The military’s actions appear to reinforce what it sees as its traditional role as the “Guardian of the Republic” in a gesture indicating an attempt to return to “Egyptianism” — a national identity purporting to encompass and unite all fragments of Egyptian society.

Calls for “Egyptianism”, as opposed to Islamism, could be heard throughout the protests.

Professor Uzi Rabi is the director of the Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University

Last updated: 5:45pm, July 11 2013