Iraq Pulse

Lessons for Iraqi Politicians in Egypt's June 30 Events

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Article Summary
Having less to do with regional sectarian Sunni-Shiite disputes, Iraq’s political players should focus on the failure of political Islam in their analyses of the June 30 events in Egypt.

The June 30 events in Egypt deserve to be carefully and attentively interpreted at all levels, as far as Iraq is concerned.

The rapid political change in Egypt did not take place against the old political leaderships, which had spread like cancer in the Arab countries for decades and required the eruption of the Arab Spring uprisings to be undone. This time, the Egyptian popular movement was against political Islam movements, which were the biggest winners in the Arab revolutions.

Contrary to the tendencies that attempt to describe Egypt’s June 30 events as a “military coup,” in reality it was a popular movement par excellence, before the army intervened in determining its options.

In this regard, it is right to say that isolating the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated former President Mohammed Morsi would not have happened by popular will alone without the army’s intervention. The same is true for former President Hosni Mubarak.

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Based on that, the controversy over the terms “revolution” and “coup” should not prevail over the attempt to interpret the real side of the conflict in Egypt and the region. It precisely falls under the description of the political Islam movements’ experience in governing the peoples of the region, and the significant mistakes that have been committed, especially when monopolizing power, and considering the political right as being divine.

The popular resentment against religious parties in the region cannot be understood separately from the Iraqi experience. Iraq is a vivid example of the experience of both Shiite and Sunni political Islam.

The Iraqi experience’s different developments have shown how the work of these parties evolved, starting from laying the foundations of a deep popular authority that uses mutual sectarian divisions and fears to firmly establish its existence. Then, they engaged in a political struggle over power and governance, before adapting themselves to the popular mood by raising slogans that have nothing to do with “political Islam.”

In fact, the different Iraqi political Islam parties changed the pattern of their work with time and based on the experiences that were not successful in many cases. They replaced the ambition for an “Islamist rule” by demanding a “civil rule.” This change was obviously reflected in altering their parties’ names, programs, rhetoric and alliances.

This change was not smooth. This does not also mean that the traditional religious parties could give up their religious goals. Yet, it also showed a clear pragmatism in adapting to variables, even though these variables were often ostensible and shallow.

As the Arab Spring emerged, Iraq was going through a fierce crisis, the main characters of which are generally the representatives of the Iraqi political Islam parties that have been leading the Iraqi political scene for 10 years.

As far as Iraq is concerned, these revolutions were interpreted differently. Yet, the interpretation remained incomplete, biased and influenced by a sectarian background. Moreover, some of them dealt with the Arab Spring variables as being completely separate from Iraq, isolated from its social and political dynamics.

The fact is, the Iraqi experience actively influenced the variables of the Arab Spring, by which it was strongly affected. Even the Iraqi political struggle — which has been exacerbated in an unprecedented way since 2011 — was not unrelated to the impact of movements around the region. The Iraqi reality has become more dangerous with the outbreak of the Syrian crisis and the expansion of sectarian polarization in the region.

It is strange that the Iraqi parties affiliated with political Islam did not interpret the June 30 events based on the conflict between civil and religious forces in Arab societies. Some of them have even said that the Egyptian change resulted from the Sunni-Shiite conflict. Moreover, they expressed emotional support for change. This interpretation is superficial, not to mention misleading.

For Iraq, the Egyptian movement must be interpreted in its true meaning.  Such an interpretation requires Iraqi religious parties to have concerns for their future. It also requires them to reconsider the series of mistakes that produced Iraqi popular anger, which was partially expressed in the ballot box. It is still unknown whether these ballot boxes can contain popular anger given shrinking turnout.

The Iraqi parties were not concerned, which is a real problem. Relaxing in the face of the distribution of roles produced by the political conflict in Iraq, and feeling the strength of the popular base that believes in these parties, reflects a stagnant understanding of future contexts in Iraq and the region.

The Iraqi popular base was never stable. It is often dynamic and influenced by conflict and fears. Moreover, its reactions are actively affected by the variables of everyday life more partisan ideology.

Defining and recalculating the main issues of Iraqi popular anger is the safest way to protect the Iraqi experience and Iraqi political Islam parties from dangerous pitfalls. Reconsidering the situation is mainly necessary to calm the current political conflict and to achieve a consensus that leads to acceptable levels of security and services.

In contrast, the interpretation of the Iraqi civil and leftist movements that showed enthusiasm for the Egyptian June 30 events, and considered them the beginning of the political Islam project’s collapse in the region, was for its turn limited and incomplete. They should understand the reality on the ground and history, which does not indicate that these parties can be out of the political game in the region in the long run.

It is an opportunity for Iraqis and Arabs to understand the future as a place of coexistence, not of exclusion, which accommodates religious, liberal and secular parties. This is the only loophole that can be implemented, and without it, it will be hard to assume that there will be a future in the first place. 

Mustafa al-Kadhimi is an Iraqi writer specializing in defense of democracy. He has extensive experience in documenting testimony and archiving documentaries associated with repressive practices.

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Found in: sectarianism, sectarian, military, islamists, iraqi politics, iraqi domestic politics, iraq, egyptian muslim brotherhood, egypt

Mustafa al-Kadhimi is a former columnist and editor of the Iraq Pulse for Al-Monitor. His writing specializes in the defense of democracy and human rights. He has extensive experience documenting testimonies and archiving documentaries associated with repressive practices. He has written many books, including "The Iraq Question, Islamic Concerns" and "Ali Ibn Abi Talib: The Imam and the Man". Most notably, his "Humanitarian Concerns" was selected in 2000 by the European Union as the best book written by a political refugee.

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