is impossible to exaggerate the significance of the momentous events that have
drawn global attention to Egypt as its people continue to struggle with the
unfolding drama of their revolution.
are two evidently opportunistic events that have come together to signal a
dreadful attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood to claim the entirety of the
Egyptian revolution for themselves, pretty much on the same model that the
Shia clerics hijacked the Iranian revolution of 1977-1979 - with the crucial
difference that Egyptians in their tens of thousands have poured into their
streets and are far more alert and vigilant to protect the totality of their
revolution than Iranians were more than thirty years ago.
first event revolves around President Morsi grabbing (and then rescinding) more
power than he was granted by the free and fair election that - with a narrow
margin - sent him to the presidential palace. The other is the draft
constitution that a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Constitutional Assembly, the
president's own political allies, has hastily drafted and put out for
the devil is in the details. What is it exactly that we are witnessing? A
president that was freely elected suddenly reached for a power grab and placed
himself above the rule of law. Egyptians who deeply care for the future of
democracy in their homeland poured into their streets and opposed this move.
Soon other Egyptians came to their streets too expressing their support and
solidarity with their president and his decision which they insisted was only
temporary and meant to overcome the obstacles that elements of the old regime
were placing on his way to implement the will of the people, the whole point of
the revolution. Clashes have ensued; some Egyptians have died in the protests,
and many more injured. The blood of these Egyptians is entirely on the hands of
Mohamed Morsi, who began this cycle of abuse and mistrust. But the historic
fate of the Egyptian revolution is now far more urgent than engaging in a
President Morsi has now rescinded what he had illegally granted himself is a
good sign and a victory for the Egyptian revolution. However, that he is
proceeding with the referendum on this flawed constitutional draft - flawed so
far as the process and thus the outcome is concerned - is a cause of continued
concerns for the leading oppositional block who are rightfully suspicious of
this half measure. Egyptians thus face Egyptians in a fateful moment in their
history. What is the underlying cause of this unfortunate confrontation that if
remains unresolved would potentially unravel the entire cause of the Egyptian
these factions are Egyptians - both had come together to topple the old regime.
It is constitutionally wrong to demonise one or the other of these two groups
of Egyptians. Much of the US and European news coverage of the events in Egypt
is drawing a demonic picture of Egyptians who support Morsi and a heroic image
of those opposing him. Underlying this binary is the very old fashioned
Islamophobia. The legitimate criticism of President Morsi and the Muslim
Brotherhood and their factionalist power grab must not degenerate into
Islamophobia. This is a nasty and debilitating divide, and Egyptians must not
fall for it and must think beyond this momentary and false binary between
lslamists and secularists.
position of the judiciary is a key question here. But so is the nature of the
constitutional assembly drafting the constitution, which had already been left
by a significant portion of Egyptian representatives. The judges may indeed
have had ulterior motives, for some of them may still harbour a nostalgia for
the old regime. Being as it may, that assembly that drafted the constitution
was not representative of all the revolutionary forces and thus was not
democratic, and in fact illegitimate, and so is the constitution they have now
put out for a referendum.
Muslim Brotherhood, perfectly entitled to their fair share in a common vision
for the future of Egypt, cannot manhandle an entire nation into voting for a
constitution that a politically significant portion of whom have not been part
of in its drafting.
power grab and the draft constitution are being heatedly contested and debated
not just in the streets and squares of Egypt but also by Egyptian journalists,
essayists, legal scholars, constitutional experts, university professors,
public intellectual, in and out of their homeland. Some Egyptians think the
draft constitution fair and balanced and perfectly compatible with a democratic
nation-state, though admit the flawed political process through which it was
drafted, while other Egyptians are taking all sorts of substantive issues with
this draft. One prominent Egyptian, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed
ElBaradei, has already delegated this draft constitution to "garbage
can of history". The fact that ElBaradei is a liberal, or that
the US and EU seem to prefer him to others, do not disqualify him and his
supporters from their fair share of this revolution.
and his supporters say that his grabbing more power than he was granted by the
people was a temporary measure - and only for a few months. But you cannot
abrogate democracy to protect democracy for even a few seconds - no matter how
corrupt the judiciary might be or peopled by the elements from the old regime.
It is the body of the democracy, its formal structure, and its skeletal
vertebrae that must by all means, on this ground zero of Egyptian democratic
history, be protected. But why is this simple fact not seen, and what is the
underlying cause of the mistrust of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood brothers
that underlies all this bloody twist in the Egyptian revolution?
is a Muslim?
battle between some Egyptians and other Egyptians is predicated on a phantom
fear - of one group from the other - "lslamists" from
"secularists", and "secularists" from
"lslamists". This false and falsifying binary must be
Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is a political faction, predicated on a political
ideology, formed in the course of Arab and Muslim encounter with European
colonialism and its domestic extensions, and just happens to have a name that
claims Islam for itself. By calling themselves "secular", the
opposition is in fact granting the MB an exclusive claim on Islam, which they
categorically lack. Islam, Quran, Sharia, al-Azhar, etc are all false flags raised
by the MB to protect their class and ideological interests, thereby
manipulating the inner sanctum of millions of Muslim Egyptians for their
political purposes, the same (almost identically the same) way that Muslim
clergy, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, appropriated the Iranian revolution of
1977-1979 entirely for itself, far beyond their own fair share.
at this historic juncture we must rethink Islamic doctrinal history and
reconceive the notion of what it means to be a Muslim, to which Islamic law and
Muslim jurists have laid a false total claim. Neither Muslim jurists nor
Islamic law (with its own varied schools and normative tropes), and certainly
no nativist Islamist ideology formed in the course of Muslim encounter with
European colonialism, has any prerogative of defining or deciding what it means
to be a Muslim. A Muslim philosopher is also a Muslim, a Muslim mystic is also
a Muslim, though Muslim jurists have had a historic animosity towards those
equally legitimate manners of being a Muslim, or to come to terms with that
fact, particularly over the last two hundred years and under colonial duress
when they have falsely assumed a disproportionate power and authority to define
who is a Muslim and what is Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood today in Egypt is the
final product of that colonial development, as the Shia clericalism was
the beneficiary of the selfsame development in Iran, and now Egyptians have
been given the historic opportunity once and for all to overcome it. By calling
themselves "secular" - and even ever so imperceptivity partaking in
Islamophobia - the opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood are paradoxically
partners in preempting that overcoming.
- the whole 1.3 billion of them scattered around the globe and affected by
their class, gender, or racialised identity, and informed by the juridical,
mystical, or philosophical aspects of their collective faith - decide what is
"Islamic", not Islamic law (let alone any clerical order in Iran or a
Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt - or their kindred souls among the professors of
Islamic Studies on North American or Western European university campuses)
deciding who is a Muslim. In the crisis that we are witnessing in Egypt these
fateful days, we are witness to the dismantling of that misplaced question that
has given the MB the false assumption that they are the only Muslims in town,
because they aren't.
the current bloody battles raging in the streets of Egypt, the false and
falsifying divide between the "secularists" and the
"lslamists" is glossing over the far more critical issue of
citizenship. It is the citizenship rights of Egyptians that are and will have
to be debated, and not whether or not these citizens are Muslim or secular.
Egypt, just like Tunisia, is on the cusp of overcoming this debilitating and
flawed divide between "the secular" and "the religious"
- a colonially manufactured divide that has for the entirety of the
colonial and postcolonial history divided Muslims to rule them better.
begin to think of the right of that prototypical citizen, we should not start
with the misleading distinction between the "seculars" and
"Muslims" but with non-Muslim Egyptians, with Copts, with Jews, and
any other so called "religious minority". That whole notion of
"religious minority" must be categorically dismantled, and in the
drafting of the constitution the rights of citizenship irrespective of
religious affiliation must be written in such solid terms that there is no
telling the difference between a Copt, a Jew, or a Muslim, let alone a
so-called "secular", who is also a Muslim under colonial
false battle between "the seculars" and "the religious" is
disguising the far more critical task of building a free and democratic
republic based on the inalienable rights of non-Muslim Egyptians, followers of
other religions, who must be the defining moment, the building block, the
single most important unit of citizenship right in the new constitution, not
that the rights of the so-called "religious minorities" are "recognised"
by the magnanimity of the majority, but that the whole notion of
majority/minority in religious terms must be categorically dismantled and
the most vulnerable is most emphatically protected by the constitution then all
citizens' rights are protected. This is the real issue that the false battle
between "the seculars" and "the lslamists" is disguising.
The drafting of the constitution must start from the weakest of the weak and
not from the most powerful of the powerful - exactly the reverse of what has
happened in the writing of this draft constitution when the Muslim Brotherhood
has suddenly found itself in position of power. While its presidential
representative suspends judicial oversight and leaps to dictatorship, its rank
and file parliamentary representative seek to smuggle a constitution that is to
their liking and not to the benefit of the most vulnerable Egyptians.
are all Muslims
we turn to Muslims as citizens, Muslims are all Muslims, but not all Muslims
are Muslim Brotherhood, which has a false claim on being the only Muslims in
Egypt, and which seems to forget that it does not even include their own
who consider themselves "secular" must in the name of the Egyptian
revolution go and claim the mosques for the site of the public sphere and not
allow the pubic sphere to be claimed as an extended definition of the mosque as
the MB have claimed it. These mosques belong to all Egyptian Muslims -
liberals, seculars, socialist, feminists, etc. They must go there and redefine
that site, reclaim what belongs to them, and thereby overcome this nasty and
debilitating divide between the figments of imagination "Islamist and
secular" that we have inherited from our nasty and lingering colonial history.
sides of this fictitious and fetishised divide are to blame - equally. No one
died and made the Muslim Brotherhood the custodians of Islam and the right to
define what it means to be a Muslim. There are as many ways to be a Muslim as
there are Muslims. The self-described "secularists" should also
overcome this ghastly colonial construct and realise once and for all that they
too are Muslims - Muslims can be socialists, feminist, nationalist, even
atheists, or agnostics, if they so choose to identify themselves. The history
of Islam is full of Muslim atheists, agnostics, etc. The term
"Muslim" needs to be rescued from the ideologically manufactured, and
politically violent juridicalism that defines the Shia clerics and Sunni
lslamists alike. Egyptian "secularists", like all other "Muslim
seculars", need to recognise and overcome their streak of
in the sanctity of their conscience, in the privacy of their heart and the
publicity of their normative and moral behaviours will collectively decide what
it means to be a Muslim. Egypt, along with the rest of the Arab and Muslim
world, is going through magnificent historic changes - and it is the
collectivity of Muslims who will eventually decide who and what is a Muslim.
This historic eventuality is bound to happen, it is an inevitability, and it is
happening as we live these historic days - but the collective and public
recognition of this fact can spare much hardship and violence now marring the
glory of the Egyptian revolution. Egyptians owe it to themselves, and they owe
it to the rest of the Arab and Muslim world to lead the way in this critical
reasoning, not rocks
only way out of this crisis and this damned bloodshed is dialogue - immediate
and unconditional - and for that dialogue to begin, President Morsi's decision
to rescind the power he had granted himself was a necessary but not sufficient
move. He must also immediately postpone the date of the referendum in order for
the constitutional assembly to reconvene and include all Egyptian factions and
resolve all the pending issues before it is sent to Egyptian people to vote. In
that reconvened assembly, Egyptians who think themselves "secular"
must abandon the false anxiety of that colonial designation and enter into a
dialogue with their own Muslim brothers and sisters.
if Netanyahu and his Zionist supporters in Washington DC think by bombing Gaza
and tickling Morsi towards this power grab they have thrown a monkey wrench at
the Egyptian revolution and the Arab Spring, they have another thing coming.
Egyptians will triumph over this obstacle and will emerge stronger through it,
and bankrupt ideologies - from the militant Islamism of Ayman al-Zawahiri to
the violent Zionism of Binyamin Netanyahu - will not benefit from that triumph.
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