Originally Published 2013-08-24 13:33:11 Published on Aug 24, 2013
If one thought that the fall of Hosni Mubarak had actually ushered in an era of great freedom to all shades of political and religious ideologies and organisations to emerge in the 'Egyptian Spring of 2011', then their hopes are already in mud, and mixed with a lot of blood too.
Is it the end of Egyptian Spring?
"The recent turn of events in Egypt raise many questions. The most immediate question, however, is whether this is the end of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) or is it also the end of the 'Egyptian Spring'? No, I am not suggesting, even for a moment that the MB is the real heir to the revolution of 25 January 2011, and am fully aware that the revolutionary youth who brought down the regime of Hosni Mubarak deeply feel that the MB hijacked their liberal democratic agenda. But there is increasing unease that the secular progressive forces, in order to overthrow an Islamist regime, have relied, and are relying, on the very force - the Army - that they desperately fought to overthrow in January 2011.

General Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, the erstwhile Defence Minister, now the de-facto ruler, assures us that if the situation worsens, "the Army would grab power". Thanks for the clarification. One naively assumed that the Army actually grabbed power on 3rd July and hence the 'military solution' to the peaceful protests that resulted in the death of almost 1000supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in two major incidents on 14 and 16 August. Now we are, mercifully, reminded that the Army is not actually in control and that there is a civilian government in place. The most respected civilian face of the new government, the well- known Nobel laureate Dr. El-Baradei has resigned in protest against the killing of over 630 persons on 14 August. With that the liberal mask of the government is already slipping, but there is still a civilian President Adly Mansour, who has promptly moved a proposal to ban the MB, a move that is reminiscent of the old Mubarak-regime style of functioning.

One of the clearly stated purposes of the return of Army rule is to 'save Egypt from becoming an Islamic State'. In keeping with this, asuggestion to ban 'all political parties based on religious foundations' has been made by the 10- member Technical Committee appointed to amend the 2012 Constitution drafted and ratified under President Morsi's rule. This would mark a return to Article 5 of 2007's constitutional amendment introduced by the Mubarak regime, which stated that, "it is not permitted to pursue any political activity or establish any political parties within any religious frame of reference (marja'iyya) or on any religious basis or on the basis of gender or origin." Fair enough. The Committee has also suggested deletion of Article 219 of the 2012 constitution which stipulates that "the principles of Islamic sharia include general evidence, the foundational principles of Islamic jurisprudence, the reliable sources from among the Sunni schools of thought." Article 219 caused controversy as many human rights activists deemed it discriminatory against non-Sunni religious minorities, particularly the Shia community.

Interestingly, one of the key supporters of the Army, the more extremist Salafist party - the 'al-Nour' - has condemned the Technical Committee for proposing deletion of article 219, saying that the article was endorsed by Al Azhar itself and not just the Islamist parties. A spokesman for al-Nour warned that deleting this article will make "many feel that what happened on 30 June was a move against the Islamic identity of Egypt, the thing which nobody wants." ...The case of Egypt's Islamic identity is not the cause of a certain party, but it is the cause of the Egyptian people and there is no disagreement regarding it," he said.

The spokesman added that article 219 was an explanatory article to interpret article 2 of the 1971 Constitution. Article 2 of the Constitution says that "Islam is the state's religion, and Arabic is its official language, and the principles of Islamic sharia form the main source of legislation." There are no reports, as of now, as to what the Technical Committee intends to do with Article 2. It is most likely that this Article will remain in the Constitution, as this clause was introduced during President Mubarak's regime.

If one thought that the fall of Hosni Mubarak had actually ushered in an era of great freedom to all shades of political and religious ideologies and organisations to emerge in the 'Egyptian Spring of 2011', then their hopes are already in mud, and mixed with a lot of blood too. The Spring of January 2011 promised great freedom and permitted all shades political viewpoints to come out of closet and one thought that the best antidote to Islamic extremism was truly being tried out in the leading beacon of the Arab world. That experiment has now come to a shattering end.It is not only the MB that is being forced out of political existence, but the liberal and socialist forces too. The complete switch to Army rule, as promised by General Sisi is just a matter of time, may be few more weeks away.

Along with the brutal crushing of the sit-ins of MB protestors and the burning of the Raab-al Adawiya mosque comes the disturbing news of attacks on Coptic Christians. Who is behind these attacks is not clear. Is it the MB cadre or the more dreaded al-Nour party members? Either way, the situation is volatile. The MB supporters are certainly not going to disappear from the scene. Mohammed Morsi was elected President with a clear 51% majority. Even admitting that all the liberal and revolutionary forces had voted for him just to reject a Mubarak nominee, it must be noted that it is the solid vote bank of MB loyalists that caused his victory. Though the psephologists in Cairo had noted that the vote share of the MB had come down sharply from the Parliamentary elections in June 2011 to the Presidential polls in May 2012by about 11%, the vote share of MB loyalists alone was over 10 million in absolute numbers.Now, that is a sizeable number of Opposition for the Army to tackle.

To give the civilian government its due, they really talk as if they are in control and are promising a very tight schedule for amending the Constitution, ratifying it through a referendum, parliamentary and presidential elections, etc., all within a matter of next 6 months or so. But then they seem to envisage democracy for some and dictatorship for others, particularly the 'Islamists'. Marx had envisaged such a political arrangement in his notion of the 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' - that it would herald true democracy for the working class and at the same time be dictatorship for the Capitalists. But in practice, it ended up just being a dictatorship. Probably, Dr. El-Baradei has seen the future and hence, opted out.

(The writer is a Visiting Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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Anjali Birla

Anjali Birla

Anjali Birla is an Indian Civil Services Officer(Batch 2020) working in the Ministry of Railways and has done her graduation in Political Science from Delhi ...

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