Arabs need third way between religious and military regimes

The people should not be forced to choose to live under either military or religious rule.

al-monitor An Egyptian plainclothes policeman detains a student who is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood during a protest against the military and Interior Ministry in Cairo, April 9, 2014.  Photo by REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh.

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religion and state, political opportunism, military rule, military, islamists, government, egypt, abdel fattah al-sisi

Apr 10, 2014

“[We want] power, all the power, or else civil war.” This is the slogan that governs the behavior of Islamists, whether Brotherhood or Salafists, in the Arab world, West and East, especially where these groups and organizations are allowed to raise slogans that exude distorted memories of the past as they progress to hijack the future.

“Try to appear as a victim to gain power,” goes a motto of Islamist origin. And those organizations, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, have applied that motto to the letter. So they agreed to stand in the rear seats so that the regime could claim to be democratic, as happened in Egypt during the Anwar Sadat era and in the latter days of the Hosni Mubarak era.

That lasted until pent-up popular anger erupted. The Brotherhood was confused about what to do, so it decided to lie low, waiting for the right moment to pounce on the revolution and hijack it to seize power, taking advantage of the leadership vacuum in the “square” (i.e., among revolutionaries) and the lack of a comprehensive program.

In Tunisia, the Brotherhood’s leaders were smarter and better. When they realized that they couldn't monopolize power, and after many maneuvers and vigorous attempts that collided with the facts of a solid body of popular rejection against Brotherhood rule, they recognized the participation of political parties whose past could not be eliminated and whose role could not be written off in shaping the future. And the current governance equation was born, awaiting possible developments, the most serious of which are the events in Egypt in the period between the fall of the Brotherhood and the rise of the “new era,” whose features are being formed in the street these days.

Perhaps the most serious difference between the events in Tunisia and those in Egypt is that the army played no role in Tunisia, not in the past or present, and will likely not have a role in the future.

In Egypt, the military wrote the past and is writing the present. It may also write the future, surpassing the serious difficulties it is now facing, in the phase separating two eras, whose facts were written by the “square.”

It is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood has still not accepted that, by rushing to monopolize power, it had lost all the power. It missed an opportunity to govern Egypt in partnership with the forces of the future rather than encircle them with Salafist notions coming from the caliphate era, which never succeeded in uniting the umma (Muslim nation) despite subjecting it to the sword of one sultan.

It is an open struggle for power between the army, whose new leadership changed its position in the square. In the early days of the revolution, the square was shouting “no to military rule.” But the army became the spearhead to overthrow the Brotherhood’s rule.

But the “square” protecting the army, which was led by Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and which took a decisive role in completing the change, seems adamant not to leave the “square” and give the army the chance to monopolize power once again, even though the “square” knows that its various political forces lack a unified program, which increases the concern of the average citizen in Egypt (and beyond) about the future.

In fact, the relationship of the army with the government in many Arab countries, from East to West, is highly controversial. The essence of the controversy is about the militarization of the government and the abolition of political life, political parties, organizations and the new forces that have integrated visions about society and reflect more or less, via their programs, their aspirations, the simplest of which is to live a normal life, not under the shadow of martial law or controlled by soldiers who, by their training, aren’t very fond of politicians, left or right.

The military has ruled most Arab countries — since its defeat facing the Israeli project to occupy Palestine (and Arab will) until almost today — from the area between Yemen and Algeria, almost, with the exception of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries (where there have been coups of another nature in which gold played the decisive role).

There’s no use arguing about the disastrous results of military rule, as evidenced by the popular uprisings that swept almost all Arab lands and whose primary and overriding goal was to get rid of military rule, which transformed the republics into monarchies ruled by a group of incompetent officers.

Those Arab countries have lost talented citizens who escaped to countries that provide them with safety and some dignity. The statistics show that all talents have fled the Arab countries: science, medicine, economics, art, the press and various areas of expression.

In contrast, swarms of hypocrites and opportunists have secured enormous privileges benefiting the foreigner, who hides behind them as a silent partner and doesn’t touch the share of the sultan’s entourage.

The results of the military controlling the decision-making positions in most Arab countries are that they squandered the country’s resources and ruined public education, while foreign education institutions received underserved special privileges. Then, productive resources owned by the public sector were sold to foreigners. The opportunists in the government defamed the institutions that were built by the citizens’ sweat and that provided for future generations. The opportunists drained the wealth of the nation to serve just one of the country’s generations.

Some Arab countries have had scandals: the sale of the means of production to foreign investors under the pretext of liberalizing the economy and adopting the policy of laissez-faire. In one serious scandal, the friends of the sultan were partners and brokers, and they wasted the sacrifices of generations who built the elements of national wealth and the means of production to those who didn’t hide their lack of care for producers and workers who were partners, albeit modestly, in the outcome of what they produce.

The sultan’s military friends, who came from poor or middle-class origins, squandered national resources and ruined public education. They sold productive assets that were built with the poor’s sweat and money to greedy investors who don’t care about the future of the coming generations or about the income level in a country where they can steal its productive resources under the pretext of those countries being backward.

The military, in the East and West, has proved that it is, in general, and with rare exceptions, not eligible to build states that would match the competencies of its people. That’s happening in states with enormous income as a result of their natural resources of oil and gas, such as Iraq, Algeria and Libya, as well as in countries with poor natural resources.

That doesn’t mean that civilians should be exonerated and that only the military is the reason for wasting national wealth and the opportunity to build a strong state.

Most Arab states have been deprived of a fair government that comes by the will of the people, works for the national interests and protects the independence of its will and the efforts of its people to build a better tomorrow.

It is unfair that the people of those countries be given the option of being ruled by either a religious party, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood, or the military, whether or not they are exposed or hidden under civil partisan slogans, which can’t hide the true nature of the party but rather reveals how unable it is to make a decision.

Everybody is looking toward Egypt and is following what’s going on there with concern. There is no doubt that Arabs, generally, do not want the Muslim Brotherhood in power, although they had to accept them as partners, like for other parties with a history of national action.

Arab public opinion in general is no longer enthusiastic about military rule, though it agrees that the military has a national role, at least in the face of the enemy’s military, regardless of how wars end.

The people want military men to guarantee national security, not to be industrialists, traders and owners of investment companies. The eyes of Arabs at home and abroad are looking at the developments in Egypt with great concern.

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More from  Talal Salman

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