Friday, 12 July 2013

Tragedy on the Nile

The upheaval in Egypt doesn't seem to have any likely end in sight, even with the military arresting several of the Muslim Brotherhood's key people for inciting unrest and violence. Once again it would seem that the democratic hopes of some will be trodden underfoot in the arguments about which extreme should rule. But, as they say, there is always that spark of hope. The problem on both sides does seem to be a misunderstanding that winning a democratic election does not confer absolute right to do as the winner of the election pleases. In a real democracy, the winner must always take account of the opposition's wishes as well - but that is something it seems has got lost even in western democracy.

The Syrian situation seems to be an even worse mess all round. The death toll among civilians caught in the cross fire has run into the tens of thousands and no one seems to be bothered to count any longer. It is a toss up as to which side is now worse, Assad's military or the rebels, who now include a large number of foreign militants, some of whom have formed their own units and fight for an 'Islamic Republic' even though they are not Syrian. One such unit was recently exposed (by a Christian Aid organisation) for 'executing' a 15 year old Syrian boy for uttering what they deemed to be 'blasphemy'. Apparently they were not familiar with a local colloquialism and misunderstood the expression. The boy was beaten up and then executed with a bullet through the head in front of his friends and family. I'm pretty sure that the establishment of an 'Islamic Republic' ruled by a bunch of Ayatollahs with grandiose plans was not the reason many Syrians originally supported the rebels against the Assad regime. But this is what they may end up with if the slaughter and faction fighting continues to be supported by Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

According to an Egyptian journalist, the problems in Egypt began when Morsi decreed himself 'absolute' powers in order to circumvent the Constitutional Court and appoint a committee of Muslim Brotherhood people to write a new constitution. Even though he backtracked on this as soon as the committee was in place and he had the constitution he wanted, things were already on the slide. There has been silence in the west on the broadcasting of 'hate' speeches and TV shows against Shia Muslims, Christians and Jews. Morsi officially encouraged young men to go to Syria and fight a 'Holy War' there. It came to something of a head when he appointed new governors for every county in Egypt - all from the Association of Muslim Brotherhood. The angry populace had had enough, and protesters prevented them from entering their offices. The heavy handed retaliatory action of Muslim Brotherhood thugs resulted in numerous deaths - and raised the temperature of the protesters even further.

It is reported that when the mothers of dead 'activists' held up signs saying 'Honk if you don't want Morsi' the noise was deafening. In the end the anti-Morsi faction raised a petition for his removal - and got 22 million signatures (total population 83,688,134 of whom 43.4% are urban dwellers(Source: IndexMundi)), just over 25% of the population. Surely that alone tells you there is something going seriously wrong somewhere - but apparently Mr Morsi and his supporters felt they could ignore these 'rebels' which led to a demonstration of anger which is now officially recognised as being a few over 25 million people on the streets of every major town and city. No government can afford to ignore that sort of anger, but the President thought otherwise. That forced the military to act. Now it remains to be seen whether their action restores democratic process, or simply sweeps it aside.

If the former is the outcome, let us hope that the politicians on all sides have learned from Morsi's serious mistake. If not, the Egyptians may have yet to see the worst.


  1. Didymus is not a scholar but thinks that 21st century western Europeans from a Christian background will never be able to understand the mind-set of Muslim Arabs generally. We must look at our own society 4 to 6 hundred years ago to get an inkling of the way these people think and act. No amount of influence, cajoling or bribery will bring them to understand our values any time soon. We must not think ourselves as better than them - just plain different.

  2. You're right, and this is where those who proclaim all cultures are 'equal' make the mistake of thinking that 'equal' means 'the same'. The expectations, practices and underpinning philosophies are often completely different to our own. Does it make them 'inferior' - no, just very different and perhaps not to our liking, but certainly not to be looked down on or despised.

    A spell in Iran a couple of years ago, made me appreciate what living in Cromwell's UK must have been like. It is changing, but it will not become anything like our society or culture, it will evolve into something within their historical and cultural background and it has a very rich heritage to draw on.