Why I cannot rejoice in Morsi’s downfall

How naive we all were when this Spring started with the first fall of an Arab dictator

Share

On Thursday night, I was at an event organised by Islamic Relief, which raises millions of pounds from Muslims to fight global hunger.

Ramadhan starts tomorrow, a month of fasting and giving, a good time for such charities and to reaffirm the best aspects of our faith. But events intervened as always, and instead of tranquillity and goodwill in the room, at many tables people were arguing heatedly about the crisis in Egypt, some supporting the military takeover, others lamenting the quick, callous demolition of a freely elected government.

Three men and a woman were so agitated they almost came to blows. In the toilet one Arab lady was sobbed and said her heart was in pieces. She supported the Muslim Brotherhood because, she told me, her old mother-in-law had been given free medical care by a doctor from the movement. “And now again, the army will torture and kill these good people.” Her fears have been brutally confirmed. By the time I write this, about 50 Morsi supporters have been killed by the army and the leaders of the Brotherhood are in prison or house arrest.

I myself have mixed feelings about the rapid deposal of the Islamic government after only a year in power. The political and moral lines dart about in my head, making crazy patterns, and ethical imperatives seem to be crashing into each other. I unconditionally abhor the deeply conservative, Islamic ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. In Cairo, after the fall of Mubarak, I saw almost no female hair and met some very aggressive men who asked me why I didn’t wear a headscarf. Though most Caireans were still warm and hospitable, they clearly felt under social pressure to conform to and display conspicuous religiosity. This was not the Cairo I had previously visited. Several dejected intellectuals told me the country would soon be like Iran. Morsi’s victory was a blow to them.

His rule, as we know, was pushing the Muslim Brotherhood ideology on to the citizenry; he grabbed control of the courts, manipulated the nascent political reform and rewrote the constitution. Torture, corruption and state thuggery were back and the economy was slowly collapsing. He used democracy but was no democrat. And yet, and yet, I cannot rejoice in Morsi’s downfall, the way his party is now hounded and this abrupt and swift abdication of fundamental democratic principles and practice. Democratic elections won’t always produce the results that true democrats want. That is the price humans pay for this imperfect but most inclusive political arrangement. To expel and exclude a popular Egyptian segment from power is wrong, as wrong as punishing Palestinians for voting in Hamas. The Brotherhood will turn away from the ballot box and Egypt will never be at peace again.

Good Egyptian friends, who have fought long to rid their nation of despotism, are euphoric and support the military coup, which is what it is, though they say it is not. They know their own nation better than I do, of course, and their opinions and feelings matter a good deal more than mine. But still, from a distance, Egypt’s spring seems to be turning dark, losing sight of its ideals, and I am nonplussed and fearful.

I reckon the UK, the US and rest of the world are finding it just as bewildering, though Western leaders preposterously posture and pronounce on the crisis, which they don’t and can’t possibly really understand or interpret. The colonial mindset never really receded; it is alert and ready, routinely invoked in Europe and North America. It may impertinent of me to question the great powers, being, as I am always reminded, an unwanted Muslim immigrant. So read this by Sir Simon Jenkins on our nation’s neo-colonial mentality: “The British craving to set the Muslim world to right is as old as history. It lurks in the genes of British politicians and diplomats, as if the ghost of Lawrence of Arabia still stalked Whitehall.” Only even Lawrence, multilingual, devious and culturally a white Arab, would not presume to summarise or politically interfere with the volatile situation in Egypt today.

How naive we all were when this Spring started with the first amazing fall of an Arab dictator in Tunisia in 2011, followed by uprisings in almost all Middle Eastern and North African Muslim nations. It was a new dawn for those millions who had only ever known oppression. For us spectators, it was the most thrilling show in town, better than any movie. Now Libya, our great “victory”, is divided and bloody; Syria is purgatory with no release in sight as Assad holds on to power, while sectarianism and fanaticism divide the opposition and make them into monsters, some as bad as the regime.

Elsewhere, as in Bahrain, the autocrats who have held on are more ruthless than ever. They are buying bigger and more brutal arms – from us. And the people are cowed, wishing none of this had ever happened, saying better the devils you know than chaos. All the West can and should now do is watch and hope Egypt returns to civilian rule. No other intervention, overt or covert, will help. It’s a mess. Only Egyptians can sort it and make theirs a nation for all its diverse citizens. I trust they will, or how will the world ever believe in progress again?

 

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?