International

Morsi of Egypt is Islamophobes’ Latest Paranoia

The Arab Spring was a totally unexpected development for the Islamophobes in the west. It caught them by surprise. On top of it, the loud and vociferous demand for democracy and democratic culture in a number of Arab countries-from Tunisia to Bahrain-instantly robbed the western Islamophobes of their trump card: that Arabs, in particular, and Muslims, in general, had no compatibility with the western perception of democracy or a democratic culture.

As big a shock as the whiff of freedom in the Arab Spring was its natural corollary: the toppling from power of autocrats and tyrants who had been rendering yeoman's services to their western masters by keeping their societies suffocated and their people's hankering for freedom throttled. These autocrats had been there for decades and delivered to the hilt of expectations as far as the western agenda for the Arab world was concerned.

The biggest shock to the west was the ignominious fall of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's last pharaoh and redoubtable pillar of western interests in the largest of Arab states. They had invested heavily in Mubarak and the tyrannical regime he presided over with such pomp and arrogance for three decades; his political demise was a bitter pill to swallow, but had to because the Egyptian people had taken the wind out of him.

However, the unkindest cut to the bruised western ego was yet to come. It came, nevertheless, in October 2012 when Mohammad Al Morsi became the first-ever popularly elected President of Egypt in an election that not even the worst of Egyptian detractors could find fault with.

Morsi was hard to digest, to the western Islamophobes in particular, because he belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, IkhwanulMuslimeen, which had long been a bone in the western craw. So, as far as the Islamophobes and their agenda of hate for Muslims is concerned, Morsi entered his office with a huge handicap. He was guilty, in their eyes as an Islamist (I've yet to be told by a western intellectual, in spite of having quizzed quite a few on the subject, as to what exactly was the meaning of this novel terminology in his lexicon; the Islamic world hadn't heard of it until Islamophobia overwhelmed the western intelligentsia) and the burden of proving his innocence was on him and none else.

Islamophobia is not a thing of recent provenance in the west. It has been there ever since the Crusades, originating in the 11th century. But Islamophobia has gathered a lot of mass, intensity and ferocity since the cataclysmic 9/11. All Muslims, in its wake, have been cast into the role of villains. They are all, potentially and virtually, if not actually, a violent people prone to terrorism and must be dealt with a stout stick in hand. With the leadership of the western camp, then, being in the hands of a Messianic George W. Bush-who reckoned that he was in communion with God, directly, on matters of war against terrorism-the world Muslims didn't take long to get into the cross-hairs of Islamophobes and their ideological allies and partisans among the neo-conservatives. The invasion of Iraq on fabricated charges of possessing weapons of mass destruction, was the opening gambit in the Islamophobes' still-unfolding agenda to wage a 'long war' against the Muslim world, with the intent of bringing it to heels, eventually.

Incidentally, an almost identical scenario of a rapacious Muslim state contemplating the use of lethal weapons, is now being played out in the western corridors of power-and their readily obliging news media-on both sides of the Atlantic. Last week, Washington, London and Paris chimed in , with a great sync of timing, to howl over indications that the beleaguered regime of Bashr Al-Assad, in Syria, was getting ready to use chemical weapons against the rebels. Intelligence gathered by ace western intelligence outfits was advanced in support of this 'wolf-is-coming' call. Needless to remind the leaders of these bleeding-heart governments that the same intelligence sources had come up with 'strong evidence' of Saddam Husain sitting on top of mountains of 'weapons of mass destruction.'Messers Bush and Blair had used that 'expert intelligence' to unleash terror on Iraq. That same road is being, obviously, revamped to find an alibi to punish Syria.

The Muslim Brotherhood has always been a pariah in the eyes of the Islamophobes, and they were happy that their Egyptian surrogate, Mubarak, had not only branded them illegal but also continually hounded the Brotherhood and its millions of followers. Little did the Islamophobes know that on the heels of Mubarak's decline and fall, they would have to deal with a Brotherhood man ruling the roost in post-Mubarak Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt has nearly the same convoluted perception in western minds as Hezbollah, in Lebanon, or Hamas, in the besieged Gaza, except that the Brotherhood hasn't been declared a terrorist outfit, at least not yet.

But the Muslim Brotherhood is more than just a political party with a religious foundation. It's much more a welfare organisation than a political party. For decades-and especially since the Egyptian autocrats, from Nasser to Mubarak, embarked on its ruthless persecution-the Ikhwan have focused more on dedicating themselves to the cause of alleviating the suffering and penury of Egypt's teeming legions of the poor and exploited masses. In the process they have earned ungrudging approbation from Egypt's neglected majority.

The primacy of social service in the Brotherhood agenda is closest to the ideal of it founding father, Hasan Al-Banna, who subscribed to the philosophy of many a religious reformers of the 20th century Islamic world that political power was a logical goal in pursuit of salvation of the wretched of the earth.

It was Egypt's silent majority-energised, no doubt, by the infusion of a new sense of purpose and direction ushered in by the Arab Spring-that used its electoral strength to catapult Morsi to power last October. That feat was achieved in the face of a stiff backlash from Egypt's well-entrenched 'establishment' or 'the Deep State' in modern journalistic parlance. The deep state is made up of the power-addicted military brass; the well-heeled bureaucracy that wallowed in power and massive corruption under Mubarak; and, not least, a judiciary groomed by the dictator, Mubarak, to serve him at the expense of the Egyptian people's rights and interests.

The deep state didn't relish the idea of power, which had been its monopoly for so long, suddenly slipping out of its hands. Morsi was adroit enough to cut a deal with the military brass, in order to keep its ambitions for political power in check. That made the judiciary and the bureaucracy all the more truculent and intransigent. Both conspired to throw spanners in Mosi's wheels. An unabashed judiciary drew first blood by declaring the election of the Constituent Assembly, tasked to frame a new constitution for the country, illegal and disbanding it. Morsi, however, fought back by reconvening the Assembly in the face of openly conspiratorial conduct of a judiciary that did everything other than dispensing justice.

Even before Morsi's election as president, the prospect of the Brotherhood capturing the highest office in Egypt had set tongues lashing out against an 'Islamist takeover' of the largest Arab state. A well-orchestrated campaign was triggered with intensity to paint the Brotherhood in the vilest colours possible, comparing them, for ease of reference, with the Mullahs of Iran and fearing the loss of hard-fought liberties earned by the Egyptian secularists.

The vile anti-Morsi and anti-Brotherhood media blitz raised howls of protest that the Egyptian people were in imminent danger of being deprived of the fruit of the Arab Spring. All credit for the success of the massive effort to see the back of Mubarak was reserved only for the 'secularists;' the Brotherhood's role in it was callously excised.

There was little reference to it that Morsi wasn't a product of an Islamic Madrassa (dreaded in the west and routinely caricatured) but the holder of a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from California who has always spoken well of his American experience.

For the western Islamophobes, it was plainly anathema to see a Brotherhood man at Egypt's helm; all other aspects of his personality were dispensable. In their paranoia, they suddenly found a champion of secular values in a man like Mohammad Al-Baradie, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who had been hounded out of his UN position because of intense opposition from the Americans, whose wrath he'd incurred because of his refusal to sign on the dotted lines of heavily doctored U.S. reports on Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions. Baradie was a pariah to the Islamophobes as long as he was at the head of IAEA, but he was quite kosher to them in his role as an opponent of the Brotherhood.

The idea of a Brotherhood man, no matter how moderate or mellow as Morsi is, presiding over Egyptian policy , vis-à-vis Israel, was equally unnerving to those western pundits and political leaders whose entire perspective on the Arab world has long been hostage to Israeli lobbies. The Zionists and Islamophobes , together, painted a doomsday scenario of a Brotherhood-led Egypt posing 'another existential threat' to Israel, in addition to the one they think Iran has long posed to Israel's security.

The anti-Brotherhood tirade was reminiscent of the demonizing of Hamas triggered on the heels of its categorical victory at the Palestinian elections in 2006. Hamas was instantly branded a 'terrorist organisation' and the Palestinians electing it were reviled for their 'wrong selection.'

However, when Morsi was tested by Netanyahu and his western partners-in-crime on Gaza, last month, he came out, entirely differently, in the colours of a peace-maker, alongside Turkey, which has been praised as a force of moderation.

So, now, the orchestrated anti-Brotherhood and anti-Morsi western media blitz is focused on his alleged autocratic and anti-democratic ambitions. The chorus being sung says Morsi wants to be a pharaoh in Mubarak's style but wielding the weapon of an 'Islamist' agenda with in-built threats to Egypt's hard-won recent freedoms, especially the rights of the Egyptian women.

Incidentally, the same argument-of the 'Islamists' being inherently anti-democratic-was used , with eminent success, in Algeria, two decades ago, to nip the budding democratic onward march led by the Islamic Salvation Front. Had that conspiracy to deprive the Algerians-and their fellow Arabs-of the fruits of democratic change by peaceful means not been successful, the Arab Spring would've arrived in the Arab world at least a generation earlier.

Morsi's ill-timed and ill-advised grab of absolute power-which he was quick to recant in the face of an orchestrated and stiff backlash from the secularists and their overseas benefactors and mentors-played into the hands of his Islamophobe detractors and gave grist to their propaganda mills against him. On his part, Morsi did have a legitimate motive for it: he feared the self-serving judiciary sending his Constituent Assembly, dominated by the Brotherhood, home before it completed its framing of a new constitution.

So intense and dishonest is the western media tirade against Morsi that it isn't even prepared to give him credit for his victory in the first round of the referendum , last December 16, which gave thumbs-up to the draft constitution framed by the Brotherhood-dominated assembly. The verdict in Morsi's favour was 56 per cent, not an insignificant margin given the fact of deep division among the Egyptians still hobbled by the tyrannical Mubarak era.

The biased western media may have dismissed Morsi's majority approval as a 'wafer-thin' majority (which it was not) and blown out of proportion the schism in the ranks of the Egyptian people. However, it cannot belittle the reality that Morsi came out on top in the first round of the referendum in heavily-populated urban centres, like Cairo and Alexandria, where the so-called liberals and secularists were so well organised and opposition to him enjoyed so much of foreign mentoring. The next round, in rural Egypt, should be a walk-over for Morsi, because that's where the Brotherhood has always been most popular.

Irrespective of how the referendum's chips ultimately fall in place, it couldn't be over-emphasised that stakes are high, not only for Morsi and the disciplined ranks of the Brotherhood, but also for the rest of Egypt.

Egyptians have fought hard for the success of their revolution but their work is not done, yet. In addition to the threat posed by the remnants of the Deep State, Egyptians have the Islamophobes and others of their ilk in the western world to contend with. These die-hard anti-Arab and anti-Muslim forces are out to prove the Egyptian people wrong, in the quest of keeping the wind in their sails that Muslims and democracy can't co-exist. It's a huge responsibility resting on Morsi's shoulders. He must rise to the mega leadership challenge thrown at him, and to prove himself worthy of the trust reposed in him by the Egyptian people.

As these lines were being finished, early results from the second-round of the referendum on Morsi's constitution speak of at least 69 per cent of the people giving it a thumbs up. This clear-cut verdict should put an end to the poisonous campaign that Morsi and the Brotherhood were out to hijack the Egyptian people's revolution.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 January 2013 on page no. 18

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