Egypt: Morsi's Decree Is 'Wake-Up Call'

Tim Marshall, Foreign Affairs Editor
Egypt: Morsi's Decree Is 'Wake-Up Call'

'Mubarak with a beard' - It may be the latest jibe aimed at Egypt's President Morsi, but it does not do justice to the potential magnitude of the coup d'etat which he engineered last week.

President Mubarak was content to simply control Egypt and enjoy the many benefits which came with the role. Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has far bigger ambitions.

Mr Morsi's decree on Thursday, that any decision he makes is immune from challenge, should be a wake-up call for those who so woefully misunderstood what was going on in Egypt when the first Tahrir Square protests broke out in January 2011.

Then, the small scale democratic uprising was quickly dwarfed by the masses who were turned out onto the streets by the MB.

The military, sensing which way the wind was blowing, and wanting rid of Mr Mubarak anyway, used the theatre of the street to remove him.

It was a coup that few in the Western media appeared to understand. Many commentators thought an era of liberal democracy was being ushered in.

One British newspaper even headlined a picture of the Nobel winner Mohamed ElBaradei returning to Egypt with the words: "Is this the next President of Egypt" At the least they had the decency to include a question mark.

Confidently ignoring marginal figures such as Mr ElBaradei, the military quickly came to an agreement with the MB.

"We let you win the election, you leave us alone." The MB kept its side of the bargain until recently when Mr Morsi removed the top generals and solidified his rule.

His timing last week, as previously, was impeccable. The Americans, who arm and fund Egypt, were falling over themselves to praise the architect of the Gaza ceasefire. They could hardly then issue denunciations of him a few hours later.

Some media commentators, unable to grasp the idea that Egypt might be moving towards dictatorship, again even managed to portray Mr Morsi's power grab as a necessary temporary measure to root out judges from the Mubarak era.

This fails to take into account that the only brake on Mr Mubarak had been those very judges who were now trying to prevent Mr Morsi seizing more powers than Mr Mubarak ever had.

Some outside observers of Egypt also fail to take into account that an organisation such as the MB thinks, not in electoral cycles, but in decades, and because many analysts are secular, they fail to understand religion.

The Brotherhood's raison d'etre is to establish Islamic states, and if possible to unite those states. That is why it is in politics. It exists in order to promote an Islamist agenda.

It is not a coincidence that it came into being just six years after the dissolution of the last caliphate - the Ottoman Empire.

It has a brilliant grass roots organisational base which has always helped the poor in a region where generations of leaders have failed to better their subjects' lives.

The Egyptian MB helps the MB in most of the Arab states, it hopes, one day, to be the first among equals as country after country turns towards its version of politics. This is neither devious, nor conspiratorial.

The MB is quite open in its aims and beliefs; it's just that the more naive among us tend not to believe that they believe what they say.

While outside observers saw Tahrir Square as the opportunity to build a liberal democracy, the MB, and even more radical groups in Egypt, saw it as an opportunity to build an Islamic state. If the Iranian fundamentalists could do it in 1979 they asked, why can we not do it here?

They are not in a hurry.  The army can be left alone to run its lucrative business empire.

For the MB, it is more important to ensure that the constitution is written in its image - hence Mr Morsi has given the body drafting the document more time.

The MB also knows it is imperative that the education, religion, and justices ministries are in their hands, if so - society will follow.

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes