Is the system rigged?
It appears to be the case. Muslims cannot win. Democracy will have one color. And it won't be Islamic!
Remember Algeria and the carnage that followed upon electoral win by a Muslim party. Next, it was Hamas' turn. The entire population of Gaza made into a pariah after unexpectedly winning elections. Endless cease and mindless killing has been its lot. And now, it's Egypt's turn under all kinds of excuses. Didn't the State Department say early on during Hillary's tutelage that it will support the liberals? Sure, the people and the Army are one hand! "Bah, humbug." For the Muslims, it's either the military or the bureaucrats. There is a lot of pithy in this arrangement. The line of command and control is clear and easy to maintain from without. The ambitions of the domesticated commissaries are guarded as not to disturb the established Power Nexus and the people are crowded and cowed.
So, Muslims seem not to learn to shun democracy upon upending vintage, patronized thuggery. The revolutionary Iran suffered through foreign sponsored savagery for about eight years. Like clockwork, here, too, elements who once sided with the then essential Saddam are nuzzling closer and closer to Sisi's Sissies. Of course, Iran's day of reckoning is waiting. They will not be left alone. War; check! False accusation of managed electoral win; check! Ruthless embargo; check! Another war; about to be checked!
And do you think Turkey has not been forewarned? What do you suppose the two bills passed couple years ago in the US Congress and the French Parliament were about other than threatening to indict her on account of "the Armenian Genocide"? Any more challenges to the established order by Turkey's Muslim-led government, the respective Heads of State would sign the bills into law. Where would Turkey be then? A country condemned for genocide faces a huge vacuum of indemnities.
In Egypt, it is reported, that the Deep State - the Old Guards in vintage term, got to work just as the GOP has been doing all along during Obama's Presidency; slow it down and give the appearance of incompetence and an incapacity and unwillingness to cooperate with other interested parties. The same is reported to have happened in Chicago when a Black mayor, Harold Washington, got elected to office (1983-7) - the bureaucracy went on a slumber party. Yes, in Egypt, since MB's unacceptable ascendancy, a revolution within a revolution got under way. Thus, police patrol, electricity, bus service, food supply, etc. all began to suffer. The people fell for the ruse and Morsi is gone. Thus, people who do not like any revolution and people who do not want MB's role in their revolution have gotten together in an unholy matrimony at the New Las Vegas Marriage Booth at Tahrir Square. It did not matter that MB has been at the lead for over six decades going through numerous sacrifices and persecutions trying to obtain political freedom for its people. They corralled in some people from the street and threw in a few celebrity ushers like Sisi, El Baradei and e-Tayeb. The wedding bells have been going crazy ever since. Let's see how long that lasts. I did not know the Muslims of Egypt loved to gamble so much!
Are the Egyptian people discerning?
The majority is! However, in this event, it's the minority with the military that has effectively ganged up upon the majority. It didn't help the Muslim matter any when the Nour Party lost its bearing, becoming unprincipled despite its vaunted title of being ultra conservatives and anti-Shia (apparently they did not have anything better to do but toot the Saudi horn), and the Al Azhar Persona - Sheikh Ahmed e-Tayeb, (he was bureaucratically appointed, too, by the earlier regime), inexorably aligned himself with Mubarak's bastion of power - the Military. Now, he may go into seclusion and be remorseful, but no amount of Tawba will purify the injustice he has perpetrated and the vulgarity he has endorsed! Again, who is this El Baradei? Is he latter day Egypt's Don Quixote? Actually, he is nothing but an international bureaucrat who does not ascribe to root values of the land! He has not climbed up the international halls of power without liberally compromising his community's cherished values. His Nobel Prize may make him a star, but it's a black hole - a collapsed star that sucks in even the light in its neighborhood. Ambassadorial staff and international bureaucrats from countries like Egypt are notorious for losing their identity very quickly. They are the least bit ambassadors of their country. In fact, by their manifest lifestyle choices they become ambassadors of the west to the east. In fact, these are the little Ataturks' of this generation. They think they will fix their people's lot by becoming "modern". Their shallowness is stupefying. If the Egyptian people make the staffing decision to side with this man, then a serious coursework in Strategic Management, Organizational Behavior, and Staffing, Training and Development is warranted.
Here, I am reminded of "Abasa watawalla". It's the poor citizen who understands and cares. But his disenfranchisement was ceremoniously celebrated at Tahrir Square. Even as the Military prayed ostentatiously on the streets, the poor guy was being discounted as irrelevant even though his vote had repeatedly triumphed earlier.
Apparently, there are two Egypts! The one that was restored to power upon Morsi's fall is itself made up of two other smaller entities: the Military and the liberal minority. The latter has simply winged it. The glare of media upon them and the fact that they used modern electronic tools has made them unlikely heroes. Now, the PR Director never becomes the President because the latter has the substance that is being actually promoted. Style, however effective, cannot and must not replace substance. Of course, El Baradei is not a PR person and he is slated for the VP slot, with the next step being slotted into becoming the Prez. I wonder why Sheikh e-Tayeb was not tapped for this heady role. Does he not have the imagination to fill the slot?
Does anything stand out in the Arab Spring?
Strangely, in this haze and darkness, I find two things that remind me of the Seerah of the Prophet (pbuh). It is very energizing and also educational. First, according to Noah Feldman of the Harvard University, in Tunisia, Ennahada's spiritual leader, Rachid Ghannouchi refused to incorporate any reference to Shari'ah in the Constitution. He threatened to resign if his take on the matter was not respected. That pivotal choice kept everyone together. Of course, Tunisians did not have to deal with a rich and powerful Military. Now, it is not clear what the MB could have left unwritten in the Constitution that would have kept the Military away. The Military simply did not like the Revolution from the very outset. Why else would it have stood by an octogenarian president who had ruled for 30 years? Anyway, this reminded me of the episode of Hudaibyah in the 6 HE when the Prophet (sm) removed with his own hand any reference to him as "Rasulullah". The other thing that stood out was the reported answer by President Mohammed Morsi to Sisi when he was asked to step down by him: "Over my dead body." Again, in order for the Prophet (pbuh) to relinquish his mission, the elders of the Quraysh offered him wealth, power and women through his uncle Abu Talib. The Prophet (sm)'s reply was an unequivocal no, not even if he was given the Sun in one hand and the Moon in the other.
Perhaps Sheikh Ghannouchi's way is what is needed. Otherwise, in the worst case scenario, we get the marauding Takfiris who are largely after Shia blood. However, with their narrow world view, unless they have already done so in selective cases, turning on the dime on their Sunni counterparts will not be unexpected. Now, none of this blood thirst issues from incorporation of Shari'ah in the Constitution. In fact, the Takfiris don't want election. They want to change the world by force. Foolishly and fiendishly, they serve their Gulf Arab masters well. The Shari'ah was there in the Constitution of Madinah. However, there must be an understanding that no matter whether Shari'ah is in the constitution or not, today's Muslims need to be patiently coached back into Islamic norms, not forced to submission by the government. It's back to the pioneer days of Islam. Today, people may have Muslim names, but many do not know much about Islam and they have been in ghaflah for so long that they need to be treated as if they are ghariban and reintroduced to the Deen in the best way possible. There is no rush. If the likes of the marauding Mongols could be made to understand Islam, then this should be a piece of cake, right? Or is our history all a myth?
However, certain problems may produce reactive heavy handedness. What do you do when there are 700 abortions in a high school as was supposedly the case in Kabul before the advent of the Taliban? Or if in Morocco, as was reported, there were 20,000 illegitimate pregnancies in 2010-11? Or acute alcohol and drug related problems or rampant adultery? And what would one do about businesses that thrive on products and services illegal under the Shari'ah? We may have to think about voluntary treatments, education, providing alternative opportunities, etc. but go light on the punishment because situations such as this suggest either jahiliyah or ghaflah or both. Organizations like the MB have to start from the scratch. Of course, the MB may have had exactly the same notions when it sought and incorporated Shari'ah in to Egypt's post-revolutionary constitution. Fear mongering and other false criticisms led to its premature demise in the hands of counter-revolutionaries.
But is this a Coup, a Putsch?
Usually, three strikes and you are out. In this case, it has been three electoral wins and now you are out! It's a travesty. There are no ifs or buts about it. Whatever pre or post justifications are posted, this change was illegal as well as precipitated. The least the Tamrod could have done was to refuse the Military's assistance and gone the distance using people power. By accepting help, they sold their soul to the Devil unless they were already complicit in the arrangement for the coup. The Revolution died the moment President Morsi was arrested and removed. Of course, the fatal bleeding started with the preposterous nomination of Ahmed Shefik and the large number of confused votes he received.
Now, what will happen when the Egyptians finally get it right? Egypt was never going to go back to the same once Mubarak was decommissioned. So, the Military will never make a full come back. The current reemergence is temporary. Its power will be whittled away. How will West's acquiescence help its interests in the future? The US and Europe should do what is inorganic to them, counterintuitive: support Muslims to their version of Democracy. Trust them to eventually get it right. So, here is a chance to immortalize the west's belief in Democracy by distancing their nations from Sisi's insubordination. Despite all the glorious speeches, does that audacity exist?
The changeover happened on July 4, 2013. What a horrible day for the US to support a military coup in an ally nation. I wonder who we are allied with over there.
In the meantime, one must not forget that when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and UAE offer aid to the new regime, as Bashar gloats at the MB saying "I told you so" and when the West remains silent, it sends a clear message to the Syrian Rebels as to who their real friends are and how much the West is a fair weather friend. So, Arab Spring or not and joyous quasi-victory in Libya or not, the West's Johnny come lately to the event was not due to laziness or forgetfulness but due to historically inalienable arrogance and the attitude without compunction that it produces. So, it's unlikely Senator Kerry will be able to successfully ferry the West's best interest in the turbulent waters of Egypt and Syria. This will erase any level of West's ownership in the Arab Spring! That is a great blessing of this Ramadaan.
The west must decide whether it wants Muslims to buy into its Philosophy of Life or its Philosophy of Governance. For Muslims to buy into the former is like asking them to swallow a starfish. Her best chance to sidle up alongside the Muslims is by having them buy the latter frame of reference. But if the West does not trust, promote and stand by its own ware, the west better beware. It appears, in spite of his celebrated verbosity, even a half-Muslim, Black president could not rise to the occasion. So, why would a future Christian or Jewish, White president be any different? As Rudyard Kipling once prophesied: "Oh East is East and West is West and never the twains shall meet!"
No, you are not going to take that turn, are you?
Avoid civil war at all cost. Note, it's the friends without who cause this to happen. Afghanistan was loved for its fight against the USSR. However, all the foreign support generated separate self-sufficient entities that did not need to cooperate and stretch resources. Lacking synergy and mutuality, when the west was out, these disparate entities instead of coming together like the Founding Fathers of the US, they proceeded to reach for each other's jugulars. Their sense of separateness was bred or ignited and coached as well as funded to the point of explosion.
The same will happen in Syria once Bashar is out because no foreign funding is going to happen that wants practicing Muslims, no matter how inclusive, to ascend to power. If it does not happen in Egypt it would be because the MB chose not to pursue that path. However, the west already had an ally in the Egyptian Military and the liberal wings in the country. It does not care if it takes a civil war to stave off the Muslim hordes. However, it is hoping the MB will acquiesce to their loss and, in the worst case scenario the Military will be able to manage the situation. So, for that expedition, wholesale property seizure, debilitating arrests and long-term incarcerations should be commencing soon.
The Egyptian people have lost the favor (ni'mah) of just, peaceful, fulfilling, happy society or are unable to regain these valuable lost elements. I am reminded of Suratul Ra'd (13:11): Verily, God does not change a people's condition unless they change their inner selves;  and when God wills people to suffer evil [in consequence of their own evil deeds], there is none who could avert it: for they have none who could protect them from Him.
Finally, is Islam to blame for Morsi's plight?
Noah Feldman says no in his recent article (Bloomberg, July 5, 2013). My thought is if we don't know the flaw how can we fix it. Muslims generally don't know what's wrong with their society and how to fix them. They try to fix the wrong thing. It gets worse when they listen to those who are unfriendly toward or uncomfortable with Islam. Ataturk did not exactly know what the problem was. Consequently, his concept of modernization was shallow. After all his effort, in 2012, Turkey's neighboring country Greece had a substantially higher per capita income than itself ($22,055 to $10,609). We see that Western Europe and North America became industrialized in 100-150 years starting around 1750 and ending by 1900. Japan did it in 60 years following the Meiji Restoration of 1878. In 1941 it was bombing the Pearl Harbor. Taiwan starting after 1949 and South Korea after 1955, reached self-sufficient industrialization in 30 years between 1985 and 1990. Today's China has done it in 30 years in 2010. So, the time frame for achieving economic emancipation has been shrinking. Democracy is not a necessary ingredient for it. Japan through China was not democratic while they were on this adventure. Transparency, accountability, and opportunity are necessary. Literacy is not sufficient. Taiwan, Sri Lanka and Cuba have had literacy rates in the high 90%. Yet Taiwan and Cuba have equity, Taiwan has economic welfare and Sri Lanka has neither. But all of the successes happened under free market condition with the opportunity for ownership. And none of them was achieved while wealth was centralized. But both of these are guaranteed by the Shari'ah. So, to the extent monarchies and military dictatorships funnel economic reward to a handful, industrial self-sufficiency will not result. Similarly, to the extent oil wealth is centrally owned not by the state but by the monarchy, to that extent concentration of wealth takes place. Governments in such economies can afford to function without tax and survive by subsidizing a large segment of the population.
This also means despite the available capital, industrialization will not take place. Government subsidy raises wages and benefits to such an extent that the industries that could naturally locate in those economies cannot do so because to compensate the workers at their expected level of subsidized standard would leave the companies bankrupt. On the other hand, missing the start-up industries means it is not easy to start the intermediate level industries. Further, subsidized living makes the population unsuited for a regimented 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM work day, five days a week. Thus, even the higher end industries struggle to take root in such economies.
Now, if we look back at Islamic History, we see several global debacles: The Crusades, the Loss of Spain, the Mongol Invasion and the European Colonization. Yet the Muslims survived and bounced back from all of them except the last one. The last one had a qualitative difference. First, the Europeans were powered by industrial revolution to which the agrarian and pastoral Muslim societies had no answer. The advent of Marxism challenged both the western and Islamic world view that divided Muslims' intellectual focus. Later on Stalinism came and the 1950s and beyond it took over Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Algeria and Libya. Also, WWI and WWII's experience seeped into western thoughts in anti-religious ways. Again, Muslim brain-power could not easily decipher that and organize a coherent, cohesive response across all its territories. Earlier, antibiotics and vaccinations reduced the death rate and caused spiraling population explosion in most parts of the world except Western Europe and North America. Why? Over there, with education and economic opportunity, and birth control pills, the birth rate was also reduced. By the time the same pills became available to the Muslims and by the time they were ready to use them the population had literally become the Bull in the China Store. This multiplied the difference between the East and the West year after year for decades. Now, poverty set in. Where once the population was small and the economy buoyant, fuelled by the Qur-an's "Ikra" and the Seerah of Prophet (pbuh) Muslims were literate, now they could not even spell or write their names and they began to know and understand the Qur-an and the Sunnah in clutches. To make matters worse, where there was homogeneity; there arose heterogeneity among the peoples of various regions and countries. Further, with the Iranian Revolution the regional monarchs spurred on a Shia-Sunni divide that had calmed down and sorted out long ago through several hundreds of years of peace and fellowship. This was worse than when they confronted Nasser's Socialist Revolution. It played right into hands of those who find Islam and Muslims threatening.
So, as we consider the elements cited above and more, we need to understand and remember that what Islam provides is different from what an economy provides. So, they are non-competing elements of a society. Islam cannot be blamed for Muslims' civilizational downfall. So, when a western mind discovers or invents something that Muslims cannot, we can benefit from it through many ways: sale of the product, gift of the product, lease to produce, sale of the idea and the means of production, and theft. However, if a Muslim does not drink, gamble, fornicate, use foul language, is nice to parents, neighbors, wayfarers, or the environment, etc. can the non-Muslim get access to any of these things by the five means listed above? No! No wonder there is sex education in school to 4th and 5th grade students and no wonder abortion is rampant and now morning after pills are being made available to 12 year olds, or the vaccination for HPV is everywhere. The west has given up on trying. It is practically Godless! It thinks of itself as God. Hence, it does not have a system of prevention. So, the best it can do is try to limit the damage: transmission of STDs and premature, unwed pregnancies, for example.
Thus, the science, technology and economy the West possesses can be achieved today in mere 30 years. On the other hand, what Islam possesses cannot be accessed even with a millennium of effort. So, which is more precious and which is more important to personal sanity and stability? Thus, Muslims must simply apply themselves in the right way to catch up and they do not have to dig up and render barren their plush and secure values of personal and mutual conduct and essential spirituality. Also, Muslims must remember that some of what the West possesses today was once theirs, but no longer so: personal freedom, equity and justice. This is what lit up the personal spirit and drive among those entering Islam's fold. It was a God-given mandate interpreted and implemented meticulously by the Prophet (sm). For centuries, the popular west struggled and fought to gain this status from its monarchy and aristocracy first, and then protect it from its industrial and financial barons. But unfortunately, Muslims lost this freedom and did not have the sense to protect and preserve it. The West cemented its status by forging popular will, with which comes transparency and accountability, with mass production and mass financing guided by a scientific, innovative mind - breaking nature's secrets and putting it to man's use. The latter, too, was once the province of Muslims. Now, even as colonization ended, either fresh, inorganic monarchies reasserted themselves or corrupt and incompetent military-bureaucracy stepped in resulting in concentration of wealth brought about through concentration of power. The late Egyptian revolution was to remove these two constructs. However, alas, it appears now to be a cause lost.
Today, the world looks forward to a sane person and a put together family. Islam very much can offer that. And we are going to abandon our capacity to serve humanity by cloning ourselves entirely after the West just when it is crying out for help? If the Jews can revive Hebrew after two millennia, we are simply going to cave in upon our values? I say, "More power to the likes of Morsi and Ghannouchi, and MB and Ennahada!""
Dr. Shafi A. Khaled is a freelance writer. He teaches and does research in Business & Economics.