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Egyptian strongman invokes divine right of kings

Egypt is an important country in the Muslim world. It can be counted among the top five countries and almost in the same league with such leading players as Islamic Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and arguably Saudi Arabia (we will overlook mass poverty and Saudi subservience to imperialism and Zionism for now). Egypt’s ranking is not based on its policies that are quite atrocious, but rather on the fact that it is an important country in its own right.

But how does one explain the fact that Egypt has also had more than its share of dictators and mass murderers as rulers? This is even more shocking because it is home to al-Azhar University, one of the oldest — if not the oldest — Islamic university in the Muslim world. Further, that it was Imam Hasan al-Banna, a schoolteacher who took the lead in establishing al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun (1928) soon after the khilafah was abolished in Turkey in March 1924. Egypt has had other contributions in the intellectual field such as Muhammad Rashid Rida’s tafsir of the noble Qur’an, Tafsir al-Manar or Sayyid Qu†b’s Fi ¸ilal al-Qur’an Rashid Rida was born in al-Qalamun in Syria (present-day Lebanon), which was at the time part of the Ottoman Sultanate. He later settled in Egypt and had a profound influence on the thinking of intellectuals in the Muslim world.

There is also a darker side to Egypt that is too glaring to overlook. Both Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qu†b were martyred, the first gunned down in February 1949 while the second hanged after a kangaroo trial because the Egyptian tyrant Jamal ‘Abd al-Nasir feared his growing popularity and influence among the people.

The Pharaonic mindset, it seems is embedded in the psyche of Egyptian rulers. And the people too have surrendered meekly to such tyranny. The current dictator, General ‘Abd el-Fattah el-Sisi, has surpassed his predecessors in cruelty and barbarism. He came to power not only by overthrowing the popularly elected government of President Mohamed Mursi but also by wading in a sea of blood of the innocents. On two separate occasions he ordered his troops to shoot unarmed peaceful protesters, among them women, girls, and even children whose only crime was that they were maintaining a sit-in at two public squares in Cairo. When some of the protesters sought refuge in a masjid, the mass murderers went after them inside the masjid and shot them dead. These butchers have never had the courage to stand up to the Zionist invaders but they are eager to kill their own people.

And what was the reaction of the Egyptian media, the courts and other influential opinion-makers to the August 2013 carnage? Far from denouncing el-Sisi’s butchery, they applauded the slaughter of innocent people. Many Egyptians, showing extreme cowardice and immorality, also joined the applause.

Extrajudicial executions sanctioned by the state, abductions followed by disappearances of suspected political opponents, and closure of media outlets that have dared to disagree even mildly with el-Sisi’s policies have been rampant during his five years in office. 

Displaying an acute sense of inferiority, el-Sisi’s sycophants have gone overboard. Newspaper columns shamelessly present el-Sisi as the country’s — indeed the world’s — most beloved celebrity. With his face resembling an unpeeled potato, his mug shot peers down from every billboard at every street corner in all major cities.

In their sycophantic rants columnists have described him as the “Redeeming Messiah,” “Savior,” and even “Better than Prophet Muhammad” (nastaghfir-allah). If these columnists had any self-respect or honor, they would not stoop so low to appease a mass murderer. But they have no self-respect; worshipping every rising sun is their fundamental creed.

Egyptian President ‘Abd el-Fattah el-Sisi, right, speaks with Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, in their first-ever public meeting during a so-called effort to revive the Middle East peace process ahead of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, 12-19-2017. Obviously, the one on the left is not interested in any kind of peace with the Palestinians, other than the one that ethnically cleanses all of them — so what are they talking about? Both of them have a common interest in maintaining the security of Israel, which can only be accomplished by maintaining the security of the tyrants who rule over Muslim-majority countries. So what they are discussing has to do with putting down the threats to a geostrategic setup that wants to legitimize the theft of the Holy Land, both north and south.

This is not mere speculation. Mukhtar Issa, an Egyptian poet, proclaimed that “Egyptian women were pregnant with el-Sisi’s star”. If this sounds vulgar, consider the following. Female columnists have begged him to take them as his concubines. Ghada Sharif writing in al-Masry al-Yawm (July 25, 2013) is one such columnist but she is not alone. Interestingly, the court clergy that are quick to declare any protests, however peaceful, against the tyrant as haram have been mum about such public displays of vulgarity by female columnists.

Like dictators elsewhere in the Muslim world — and there is no shortage of these clowns — el-Sisi has claimed that his leadership is divinely inspired. If this sounds familiar, it is. Other clowns have made similar claims with a straight face to the loud applause of sycophantic admirers. He went so far as to claim that he dreamt he would rule Egypt. He obviously thinks he was doing the Egyptian people a huge favor, as Richard Spencer reported in the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph on December 12, 2013.

How many people have had their dreams come true? Did his dream also include wading through a sea of blood of the innocents to grab power? El-Sisi’s rule has increased the misery of the people even if the sycophants have benefitted somewhat. Similarly, the military continues to rake in billions from real estate deals and other business ventures. Why do they even bother to go to the military academy for training; why not open real estate and business offices all over the country?

The sycophantic rants in newspapers and on television notwithstanding, the misery of the people keeps growing. Poverty rates hover at 30%, according to a report by UNICEF released in December 2017. This has left ten million children “multidimensionally poor” leaving them deprived “in key well-being dimensions that have a direct impact on their ability to survive and develop”. Children have been left “stunted, dropping out from school, not having clean drinking water, lacking access to health care, and/or suffering severe corporal violence.”

Unemployment remains very high and prices of basic necessities such as bread have risen by more than 100% since el-Sisi grabbed power in July 2013. Mass poverty and misery are forcing parents to kill their own children and then commit suicide, both practices expressly forbidden in Islam. These practices, however, show the desperation of people. “Fathers do not commit these unjustified crimes without being under a lot of pressure,” Marwa Ali, a specialist in human development and psychological researcher, explained. And there is no relief in sight as inflation hovers above the 30% mark. Official statistics show that inflation hit the 30.2% mark in February 2018, the highest since November 1986 when it had touched 30.6%.

Despite inflicting such misery on the people, el-Sisi does not care. The thug in uniform sits smugly in the presidential palace insisting the masses “adore” him. In presidential elections at the end of March, he drove all opponents from the race and cleared his way to receive 97.08% of the votes cast. Despite a low turnout at a mere 41.5%, it was the percentage he polled (97.08%; how badly can one do without a serious challenger?) that leads to his smugness.

The potato-faced dictator may be digging his own grave and when the lava of resentment explodes, he will be buried under the rubble. It could come none too soon.

Egypt faces abuses to a degree unseen in the Mubarak years since the 2013 coup, analysts say.
Zena Tahhan 

In just over two years, Morsi became the second Egyptian leader to be overthrown [Getty Images]

Five years ago today, Egypt witnessed the overthrow of its first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in a military coup. 

The Muslim Brotherhood member had been in office for just a year when army chief, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced on July 3 Morsi's overthrow on state television, along with the suspension of the constitution and the installment of an interim government.

The military said it was responding to the people, who had poured into the streets by the millions on June 30, 2013, over fears that Morsi was becoming increasingly authoritarian.
In just over two years, Morsi became the second Egyptian leader to be toppled. During a wave of popular uprisings that swept across the Arab world in 2011, the Egyptian people also overthrew the 30-year dictatorship of military leader Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt: Revolution Revisited
The social and political upheaval during those years plunged Egypt into an economic crisis and deeply divided the nation. But Sisi's rise to president in June 2014 was meant to herald a new era of stability.  Sisi, who was recently re-elected, introduced rapid economic reforms, such as slashing fuel subsidies and raising taxes in an effort to ease unemployment and generate long-term revenues. He also initiated several new infrastructure projects, including the expansion of the Suez Canal and the country's farmland area, which he said would make Egypt more self-sufficient and generate jobs. As violence dwindled, tourism revenues increased.

Yet experts say the temporary stability, which has gradually eroded, came at the cost of public freedoms. Dalia Fahmy, a professor of political science at Long Island University in New York, says the "promise of stability through the military has led to further uncertainty,
" pointing to developments such as the imprisonment of 60,000 political prisoners, torture of 830 people in 2016, and the blocking of 434 websites.  "The question is, will the state under Sisi be able to survive the post-coup repression and economic uncertainty?" Fahmy told Al Jazeera. 

In March 2018, it was announced that Sisi won 92 percent of valid votes in the presidential election, after he eliminated any real opposition. At least six other candidates pulled out of the race, were prosecuted or jailed upon announcing their intention to run for elections or during their election campaigns.  Sisi is currently serving his second year term. 

Political expression 
Shortly after Morsi's removal, the military-backed interim government embarked on a crackdown against Muslim Brotherhood supporters, many of whom continued to stage counterprotests and express their support for Morsi. In August 2013, the army and security forces attacked a demonstration in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, killing some 1,000 Morsi supporters. Human Rights Watch described it as "one of the largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history".

And in a widely criticised mass trial, Egypt sentenced hundreds of alleged supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death - "the biggest mass sentence given in modern Egyptian history", according to Amnesty International. The movement, which is Egypt's oldest, most influential Islamist group, was also banned and had its assets seized before being declared a "terrorist organisation" by the government. The final ruling for the trial, involving 739 people facing a death penalty, was recently postponed due to "security concerns". 
Abdullah al-Arian, a professor of history at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar, told Al Jazeera the Egyptian government's actions send "a stark message to all Egyptians that under the resurgent authoritarian rule of the Sisi regime: Dissent will not be tolerated". 

The arrests have extended well beyond Muslim Brotherhood supporters. The Egyptian government has also been systematically targeting journalists, leading activists and any critics of President Sisi. The case of photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan, has caught international attention. Abu Zeid has been in jail since August 2013, after he was arrested while taking pictures as Egyptian security forces violently dispersed the Rabaa sit-in.

"The state of oppression in Egypt has sunk so low that al-Sisi’s forces are arresting well-recognized activists as they sleep, simply for speaking up," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on May 31, 2018. 

'Much more authoritarian' 
A few months into office, Sisi passed a law banning demonstrations without prior police approval, leading the protest movement to practically dry up. Such oppressive measures, analysts say, were bound to tighten the noose on the country and bring in a facade of stability.

"Many Egyptians just wanted economic and political stability; hence, the support for the Sisi coup. Immediately after Sisi took power, Saudi and Gulf money began to flow into Egypt, temporarily stabilising the Egyptian economy and winning for Sisi the support Morsi had squandered," James Gelvin, a professor of Middle East history at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Al Jazeera.

"Egypt is much more authoritarian today than it was under any leader since Gamal Abdel Nasser … Under Sisi, all oppositional activity has been outlawed, the Muslim Brotherhood banned, and political opponents - whether Islamist or secular - killed, imprisoned and tortured."

Under Mubarak, there was not much room for dissent, but there were clear red lines. People could mostly go about their business, as long as they did not criticise Mubarak, Islam or the security forces. Today, no one is safe.
Sarah Yerkes, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Human rights defenders, civil society groups and NGOs have also been targeted, systematically summoned for questioning, banned from travel and having their assets frozen. A law, signed in May 2017, criminalised the work of many NGOs and placed them under the direct surveillance of the country's security bodies. "Under Mubarak, there was not much room for dissent, but there were clear red lines," Sarah Yerkes, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think-tank, said. "People could mostly go about their business, as long as they did not criticise Mubarak, Islam or the security forces. Today, no one is safe. The government is fractured, so there is no clear line of control, and anyone can become a target of the regime at any time," Yerkes told Al Jazeera. 

Despite electing him to power, millions came out against Morsi's moves to grant himself broad legislative and executive authority. Many people, mainly secularists and members of the old guard, feared that the uprising could end badly. The chaos that gripped 
Syria and Libya after the Arab Spring served as a stark warning to the public. "With 30-40 percent of the country living on $2 a day or less, there is very little room for manoeuver for them," Mark Levine, a professor of Middle East history at University of California, told Al Jazeera.
"If the country grinds to a halt with new protests, literally millions of people face financial ruin and even hunger very quickly," Levine added. 

Ongoing challenges
While Sisi's public standing went largely unchallenged during his first two years in power, a series of decisions tested his popularity and grip on the country. In 2016, the government announced a maritime agreement with Saudi Arabia to transfer control over two Red Sea islands, leading thousands to take to the streets in peaceful protests. In response, the government sentenced 71 people to two years in prison.

Cracks in the economy have also resurfaced. In May 2017, Egypt's inflation rose to 30 percent, the highest in three decades. Under a $12bn IMF bailout loan to support Egypt's economic reform plan, the government floated the currency and raised the price of fuel by 55 percent for the second time in months.

The other large domestic threat Egypt is facing is the violence in the Sinai, where armed groups, affiliates of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), launched an open war against the government, security forces and civilians. Despite promises for reform and improvement in the Sinai Peninsula, home to 1.4 million people, the Sinai uprising continues to pose one of the biggest challenges for Sisi's government. Analysts have long criticised Sisi's use of "brute force" in the peninsula rather than finding remedies of the underlying issues heightening the violence there. 

INSIDE STORY: Egyptian election - Democratic transition or return to the past? (25:10)

And while the government claims it has the issue under control, its efforts to contain the violence in the Sinai, which dates back to before 2011, have been largely unsuccessful.
"The government has faced a serious terrorist threat and received some criticism for its handling of it. The country is clearly less secure, but this is also a result of regional trends, especially the rise of ISIS," Issandr el-Amrani, head of the North Africa section at the International Crisis Group, told Al Jazeera.

Though Egypt's position on the international front seems to be strengthening as it forges closer ties with the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, analysts say that domestically, Egypt is on the decline. "Egyptian society is being crushed by the weight of economic disorder, and social and political repression," said Fahmy. 

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GOVERNANCE IN THE MUSLIM WORLD - by moeenyaseen - 05-06-2007, 11:11 AM
RE: AUTHORITARIANISM AND DICTATORSHIP - by globalvision2000administrator - 06-23-2018, 12:34 PM

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