The complicated road to democracy as viewed by an Egyptian living in the US for over 40 years
::::::::Anti Morsi Protest in Down Town Cairo by Gigi Ibrahim
I am a naturalized American Citizen since 1974. I come from Egypt. Although I have lived in this country since 1968, I travel to Egypt frequently (at least annually) to visit with family and friends. I believe that I understand the Egyptians, their motivations and aspirations better than most American commentators. Here is my take of what is happening in Egypt now.
Although most Egyptians are Moslems the majority is not "Islamists". My parents followed Islam, but like most Moslems in Egypt were not very religious. Our friends and neighbors were more or less the same. I remember growing up with the unrelenting recruiting attempts, while studying at the University, for me to join the Moslem Brotherhood. I never did. They presented an attractive alternative to the prevalent government corruption at the time. Believe it or not, at the time, Egypt had a British-style democratic government under King Farouk. We had both a democratic party and a conservative party, general elections, a parliament and a government formed by the party that won the elections. I remember joining demonstrations while in high school against the British occupation screaming slogans like "down with Eden" (the British Foreign Minister at the time) and "down with the occupation" and sometimes for the democratic party (the Wafd party) in closely contested elections.
The Moslem Brotherhood has always strived to take control of the Egyptian government. They continually caused havoc in the political system, even then. In 1948, they assassinated the conservative prime minister at the time (an-Nukrashi). In 1954, they tried to assassinate the widely popular president of Egypt: Gamal Abdel-Nasser during a speech he was giving in the main square of my hometown: Alexandria. I was listening to his speech in the main square when the attempt on his life was made. Nasser reacted strongly and forced the Moslem Brotherhood to go underground. Since the attempt on Nasser's life, the Moslem Brotherhood never enjoyed much popularity. They were considered ignorant, out of date, unreliable and mal-intentioned.
What happened last week in Egypt is not a coup per se. It is an attempt to return the government back to the Egyptian people. Although Mr. Morsi won the presidency in a democratic fashion, the circumstances under which the elections were held were far from normal. The Egyptians were trying to rid themselves of Army control that oppressed them since 1952; any other government would have been acceptable. It mattered less who was in control as long as it was not another army officer. The results of that election did not give the Egyptian people what they really wanted; it just avoided what they did not want. If free elections were carried out today, I would be surprised if the Brotherhood gained even 20% of the vote.
The main problem I see is that in Egypt today, there is no culture of democracy after over 60 years of one-man rule. Although Morsi is US educated (like me, he has a Ph.D. from an American University) he obviously did not understand that in a democracy, minority voices should not only be heard and also considered. He loaded his government with Moslem Brotherhood members in spite of their unsuitability and lack of experience. He ruled as a dictator"again. The Egyptian people had had enough of that. He put together a dysfunctional government that needed to be overthrown. The army stepped in the carry out the will of the people.
I hope that the Egyptian Army Officers that deposed him learned their lesson this time. They should go back to their barracks and return the government to more inclusive civilian control as soon as possible, at most in 6-8 months. If they do that they will be the real heroes of Egypt. I have faith in the Egyptians; they will choose democracy vs. dictatorship anytime. The main problem in Egypt now is education. Although Social media together with borderless communications, television and other means of interaction are helping educate the Egyptians about their life and their role in the world, most are not aware of what is really going on. Sometimes I wonder if the aid the United States gives to Egypt would have gone to help the educational system there rather to the armed forces. The arms that the United States gives and sells to Egypt are apt to be discarded in the desert after useless wars or used to suppress the people. It is of no real value to the life of the Egyptians who are poor and under-educated. What do they need more arms for? In fact, it may be better of the US withheld its arms assistance to Egypt altogether.
Let us face the facts. The United States has no real interest in the lives of the Egyptian people anyway. As has been said many times before, the United States has no friends it only has interests. In the Middle East, the singular interest of the United States is Israel.
Retired Pharmacologist with two masters and a Ph.D.