The Muslim Brotherhood, the Constitution, and Gaza

Revolutionary Egypt: Part 2

In Part 1, B.J. Sabri, observer of Middle East politics, professed skepticism to western portrayals of the Arab “springs.” Sabria said that in the case of Egypt, the “revolution” wound up in a situation where “… the Muslim Brotherhood, and the United States colluded in a massive scheme to derail the revolution and extend the military junta’s rule with the evident intent to give the Egyptian people only one choice.” After the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt one of the major failings, according to supporters of Palestinian human rights, was allowing the Rafah border crossing to remain de facto closed and thereby allow the Israeli siege of Gaza to continue. In Part 2 of the interview, Sabri analyzes the Muslim Brotherhood’s orientation toward Gaza vis-à-vis Israel and the United States.

Kim Petersen: The Muslim Brotherhood has also been repressed in Syria. The Brotherhood’s media has sided with the US against the dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad in Syria, even proffering the disinformation that “Assad’s regime has reportedly resorted to a dramatic escalation in the war against the Syrian people by using chemical weapons.”1 Does this reveal anything about the Brotherhood?

BJ Sabri: Lies, exaggeration, hyperbole, altered facts, deception, propaganda, and similar concepts are traits common to most state powers, political parties, and organizations with precise agenda and specific goals. Only slight grades and minimum shades separate between entities seeking to alter public perception to induce uncritical acceptance of a point, theory, or plot. In this regard, the Muslim Brothers are no different from the United States, Israel, and Zionist media. William Safire claimed, in a New York Times column, if America did not stop Saddam Hussein, the eastern United Stated would be covered with mushroom clouds. And Tony Blair claimed Iraq had the capability to hit Britain with ballistic missiles within 45 minutes.

A few comments are in order on this simplistic piece of propaganda by IkhwanWeb:

IkhwanWeb: “The daily massacres of Syrians by the ruling regime in Damascus, which have so far claimed the lives of more than thirty thousand Martyrs, not to mention tens of thousands of detainees and tortured citizens.”

Comment: First, both armed opponents and Syrian’s regime soldiers are killed in battle, and civilians are killed by both. (latest reports from Syria put the “death toll at around 100,000 …”). The Observatory, an organization allegedly linked to and working with the armed opponents of the Syrian regime states that the opponents lost 18,000 men, the regime lost 40,000 men; we assume then civilian deaths to be around 42,000. Of course, no faction to the fight will disclose its deaths. Bu the point to make is that IkhwanWeb speaks of the regime atrocities while skipping the atrocities committed by the armed opponents.

IkhwanWeb: The Brotherhood also watches with deep sadness the millions of Syrians tragically displaced to neighboring countries, and the devastation and destruction of hundreds of towns and villages; and expresses its deep regret and sorrow and condemnation of these tragedies that surpass the crimes of Hulagu and Nero.

Comment: Yes, it is tragedy that 4 million Syrians are displaced by the conflict. But who is responsible? However, to compare that to destructions by Hulagu and Nero is farfetched to the bones, especially when they put Hulagu and Nero side by side, and comparing them with the atrocities committed by the Assad regime. First, the Mongol hordes led by Genghis Khan, his successors, and his nephew Hulagu devastated, in over a century of invasions, all of Asia Minor, the Middle East, and parts of Europe (and even some Japanese islands) killing, reportedly, over 40 million people of which 8 million killed in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. Nero, in his short rule, reportedly poisoned his mother, killed “a few hundred Christians, and, as for the burning of Rome, this is an anecdotal tale that history never verified although popular imagination and Hollywood perpetuated it. Let us assume that the Syrian regime killed the number of people IkhwanWeb indicated. Now, instead of using faulty comparisons, wouldn’t have been better to compare it to the displaced Iraqis and to the atrocities committed by United States from 1991 until present? Ah! They won’t do that because that would anger their American protectors.

IkhwanWeb: Today, Assad’s regime has reportedly resorted to a dramatic escalation in the war against the Syrian people by using chemical weapons. Evidently, this indicates the failure of the regime to face the revolting Syrian people.

Comment: IkhwanWeb makes its premise and then sealed it as a verified event, as in “reportedly” and “Evidently This indicates”. A premise such as this is equal to telling a lie and then believing in it. First, there is a civil war between a ruling regime (regardless of how we view it) and armed opponents including Syrian nationals as well as — which is the majority — U.S.-Saudi-Qatari financed Wahhabist, Muslim Brothers, and non-Muslim mercenaries from Asia, Europe, South East and central Asia, Saudi Arabia, North Africa and the United States. Second, both warring parties are paying with their lives for their respective cause. As for the use of chemical weapons by this or that — and the theory keeps changing form day to day —; it is a known fact that such types of stories are an Israeli-American fabrication to pave the way for a potential US-NATO-Israeli intervention in Syria without UN mandate. (American hyper-imperialism arrogated to itself the right to intervene based on the presumed use of chemical weapons, as if killing by these is permissible by itself [as when it used white phosphorus against the Taliban in Afghanistan] but not permissible for others, and that killing with active “depleted” uranium and firebombs as the US did in its wars of aggression is acceptable.)

IkhwanWeb: This development threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands of unarmed Syrian citizens. Moreover, it provides an excuse for foreign powers for military intervention in Syria, as happened in Iraq.

Comment: Aside from the super hyperbole, “hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians”, IkhwanWeb lied. First, the United States did not intervene in Iraq — it invaded it. Second, it attacked Iraq in 1991 to end the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait to safeguard its imperialist interests and that of Israel, not because Iraq used chemical weapons. If that was the case, the United States (based on its claims of considering the use of chemical weapons a ”red line that no one can cross”, should have attacked Iraq in 1988 under that pretext when the event was supposed to have happened, a period in which the U.S. was sharing the same field with Saddam Hussein against Iran. Third, the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that Iraq hides weapons of mass destruction implying nuclear weapons, and not because Iraq used any chemical weapons anywhere in that period.

(Note: chemical weapons were used in the Iran-Iraq war, and both Iraq and Iran accused each other for bombing some Kurdish villages with such weapons. However, the U.S. and Kurds exaggerated the event and claimed that Saddam Hussein bombed Kurdish areas with chemical weapons inflicting thousands of deaths. However, Robert Pelletiere, a CIA-connected professor, denies the veracity of the claim. And as a curiosity, if Saddam killed thousands of Kurds with chemical weapons, where are the mass graves unless he [Saddam] cremated their bodies while U.S. satellites were not watching?)

KP: In November 2012, Sharif Abdel Kouddous opened an article in The Nation with: “Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi is walking a political tightrope amidst Israel’s assault on Gaza, balancing the need to appease domestic anger whilst keeping foreign relations with Washington and Tel Aviv on an even keel.”2 It seems to me that one can read a lot into that statement, for one — what is an even keel? An “even keel” points to having things balanced and running smoothly. I wonder on what planet any observer could view the situation in the Middle East as “even” or on an “even keel,” based on the fact that Israel exists through its dispossession of Arabs and occupation of Arab territory. Is keeping the lid on this “domestic anger” by appeasing the occupiers an “even keel”?

BJS: Let me say a few things first. My impression, and to paraphrase Abdel Qouddous, is that by relying on a journalistic style of writing typical of American official journalism, he tried to “walk a journalistic tightrope between superficial reporting and minimal investigative analysis.” In other words, his personal desire to appear seriously informed was not aimed at the informed reader but at certain American journalistic circles, with the unstated purpose to be accepted, since he uses the words of their favorite political lingo.

I’m pointing to his use of the word “militant groups” to describe Palestinians resistance movements where the noun is routinely identified (as per Merriam-Webster and other American online dictionaries) with “Having a combative character; aggressive, especially in the service of a cause: a militant political activist.” However, the trend by American anti-Arab and anti-Muslim means of information is to use the word “militant” as an adjective denoting extremism and irrationality as in Google defining it as “Combative and aggressive in support of a political or social cause” and “militant Islamic fundamentalists”. The point to argue is if one attacks you and your family and seizes your home by force and violence, and you fight to take your home back, are you then a combative and aggressive militant? Who has the right (and guts) to call you so?

Then there’s his use of the word “territory” to name Gaza, and he repeated it twice; meaning, he used it, not inadvertently but consciously. Such use is in line with the American and Zionist circles that are constantly keen to depict Palestinians lands under occupation as “territory” which is an amorphous denomination of a land without the distinct presence of history, cities, and inhabitants.

Further, he commits a glaring inaccuracy as when he called Hamas, an “offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood”. Would he consider a Republican from Iowa as an offshoot of a Republican in Maine? The fact is, while Hamas is a military resistance movement to the Israeli occupation, its ideology is that of the Muslim Brotherhood. That is, they are Muslim Brothers, and not some sort of derivation or spinoff. Is there any problem with that? This is an important distinction: adhering to an ideology does not make of the adherents an offshoot, affiliates, or subjects of a central body that regulates their actions and policies. This is not like the Vatican exercising authority over Catholic dioceses wherever they exist. Pointedly, although the Muslim Brotherhood ideology has followers worldwide, they are not associated or connected in organized manner, and many of their organizations have even differing school of thought and agendas.

Regarding Abdel Qouddous’ statement that “Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi is walking a political tightrope amidst Israel’s assault on Gaza, etc.”, my approach is not to pass judgment before evaluating what he meant to say in the first place.

If he meant that Morsi was trying to calm the Egyptian people without taking serious steps in support of the Palestinians but without angering Washington and Tel Aviv so as not to jeopardize their staunch support of his political power, then we may understand his intent. But he did not say that in direct language. His choice of phraseology seems to have been dictated by his desire to use attractive conceptual semantics without due attention paid to their active meaning which, undoubtedly, indicates something very different thus prompting the reader to interpret it under stringent premises and consequences.

Alternatively, did he mean exactly what he wrote? Meaning, Morsi was actively seeking a balancing act between the anger of Egyptians and the anger of Americans and Israelis if he goes far in his denunciation of the Israeli attack against Gaza and takes serious steps to counter it. Most likely, he meant that. Still he did not say so directly and left for us to catch his intent.

Either way, Abdel Qouddous told his readers that Egypt under the Muslim Brothers’ rule is no different from that under Mubarak. I agree. This proves the viewpoint of countless revolutionaries and progressives in Egypt, the Arab world, and the world of the very narrow thinking of the Muslim Brothers in that they are strenuously striving to delete all references to the revolutionary agenda that brought Mubarak down. Thus far, they kept the Mubarak era political-economic structures largely intact and maintained Mubarak’s ties to Washington, Tel Aviv, and the International monetary Fund.

KP: Fellow Salafists and close Brotherhood allies, Hamas, have been under siege in Gaza with MB’s acquiescence. Did the Brotherhood do anything substantial to aid its brothers in Gaza? Why or why not?

BJS: From the moment the Muslim Brothers came to power in Egypt, Hamas gradually underwent internal changes to accommodate, as they hoped for, new positive changes in their favor from the new MB government. They expected one million nice things to happen. Nothing happened, and it could not have been otherwise.

The Muslim Brothers of Egypt, tied by close relations with the United States that facilitated their access to power, could not dare to antagonize or anger Israel. They did not dare to challenge or modify the Camp David Accords. They did not dare to challenge or break the siege of Gaza. But they dared to flood all tunnels between Gaza and Egypt with sewer water to make them unusable, and when this flooding failed, they bombarded them, and beyond that, they tightened access from and back through the Rafah passage making the lives of besieged Palestinians untenable.

And when Israel attacked blockaded Gaza, they hurried to broker a ceasefire that Hamas agreed upon so as not to anger the Egyptian Brothers. Hamas, under pressure from the MB, went further to ask Europeans and Americans to lift them from the list of “terrorist organizations”, meaning they were planning to convert Hamas into a political organization. This plainly implied that Hamas no longer considers itself a military resistance movement.

Despite all the empty talk about resistance from Khaled Mishaal and Ismael Haniya, Hamas, for all practical reasons, is finished as a resistance movement for now. A few things confirm this statement. Hamas curtailed its relations with Iran (that supplies it with money) and some of its leaders began talking about Shiite Iranian expansionism. Then it curtailed its relation with Hezbollah — its main ally and military trainer. And then it curtailed its relations with Damascus — the supporter of all Arab resistance movements. (All three, despite the situation in Syria and the nature of the Syrian regime, are considered the only remaining sources of resistance against the drive of Israel and the United States to rule the Middle East and the Arab world.)

On top of all that, Hamas sought reconciliation with Mahmoud Abbas, thus in effect, it recognized Israel despite all tough talk by Haniya. The latest sign of Hamas conversion to the Muslim Brothers’ agenda came when Hamas moved its headquarters to no other location than Qatar where Qaradawi resides; Qatar is the linchpin of American and Israeli imperialisms in the Arab world. All this is, possibly, a direct consequence of the rise to power of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt. Most of us who follow the news coming from the Middle East expected something positive from the downfall of Mubarak. Our expectation did not materialize though because the open alliance between the Egyptian military (before the downfall of Morsi), the Muslim Brothers, and the United States made it so that Egypt could not, for the foreseeable future, sway from the line outlined to it by the United States, even after the downfall of Morsi.

Hamas, at the end, paid heavily for allowing their identity as an Islamic resistance movement to become hostage to the tactical needs of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers so they could consolidate their power beyond electoral cycles while conserving relations with the U.S. and Israel. What is going to happen next with the Muslim Brothers kicked out of power in Egypt? No that much, I think. Hamas cannot pretend nothing has happened. This means Mahmood Abbas and Saeb Erakat are winning the game of giving up Palestine to Israel with or without Hamas. Hamas’ opportunism and lack of vision is going to be a stigma that they cannot easily remove.

KP: Mahdi Dariya Nazemroaya wrote an article questioning the legitimacy of the Morsi government and particular the approval of the MB constitution: “… it can categorically be stated on the basis of the referendum’s numbers that Morsi’s constitution does not have the support of the majority of Egyptians.”3

Eric Walberg, an astute journalist who writes for Cairo’s Al-Ahram Weekly responded, in an email disseminated by Israel Shamir, with a defense of president Morsi saying:

Mahdi is jumping the gun on Morsi, like many otherwise ‘progressive’ writers in the West.

>Muslim Brotherhood offices have even been stormed by large groups of angry protester
by remnants of the old regime (thugs), what Egyptians call ‘fulool’. with connivance of police/army.

>Leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood is being perceived more and more by Egyptian society as a corrupt organization.
?! come on. they haven’t had time to be corrupt.
the MB haters i knew in egypt are the most corrupt, spoiled, westernized egyptians. the MBers i knew were brave and uncorrupt. the egyptian left are acting like spoiled brats. enough hearsay!

>Muslim Brotherhood has refused to fully open the borders with Gaza
this is complex. not b/w. hamas can’t control the al-qaeda types in gaza. you want egypt to welcome them with open arms? and sinai is full of libyan arms and bedouin who have their own issues. morsi stared down israel in nov/dec. give him credit where credit is due.

syria and libya are also complex. not b/w. i don’t agree with the MB, but i can understand where they’re coming from.
please don’t fall for the shallow western lefty-secular dismissal of the MB. give them a chance. everyone is against them, much like in mubarak’s days.
the constitution is quite good and the referendum was a success considering the forces against them

eric [italics added to highlight Eric Walberg's comments]

BJS: Ironically, it seems that Walberg is “jumping the gun” on many progressives in the West and charging them, lump sum, with unfairness toward the Muslim Brothers. Aside from condescending phrasing, Walberg clearly implied that he got it right and all others got it wrong. I would understand his frustration had he provided an accurate response — even in one-liners as he did — to Nazemroaya’s article. He couldn’t do that obviously due to the limited nature of an informal chat through email. However, Sarcasm nearing open disdain isn’t the way. On second thought, I’m not sure if divulging that exchange was simply meant to embarrass him since he put on a blistering emotional show to address complex issues requiring a different forum and a strong analytical approach. Considering this, I would give him the benefit of the doubt.

It’s therefore unfair that I or others “jump the gun” on him without knowing first what is his detailed viewpoint on Egypt’s of the Muslim Brothers, and the extent to which he analyzed data using balanced measurements that might lead to a fair debate. Nonetheless, seeing his passionate defense of the Muslim Brothers and considering his frontal attack against all their opponents, I cannot but advance an inquisitive premise dealing with a real conflict of interests.

Walberg has been writing for al-Ahram Weekly for a few years now. But al-Ahram Weekly (and its parent, al-Ahram Daily) is mostly, if not entirely, owned by the Egyptian government. This is very import point to underline since in countless developing countries whenever a despotic government owns and controls certain media, this unavoidably become its voice and disseminator of its ideology and policies. Let me explain:

During the Nasser era (1952-70), al-Ahram Daily’s writers faithfully carried out the Nasser’s agenda. When Sadat took power after Nasser’s death and immediately began dismantling the Nasserite state, those same writers, being employees of the government, jumped to his bandwagon in the blink of an eye. Barely six months after Nasser’s death, the memory and achievements of Nasser had all but disappeared. Leading the campaign to erase Nasser from the public memory were that same government-owned media such as al-Ahram, Al Akhbar, Al Gomhuria, and TV stations that only a few months earlier made of him a myth.

When Mubarak came to power after the assassination of Sadat, that same media became his voice too. And when in the early 1990s the government launched the al-Ahram Weekly in English, it followed the example of its parent company. It also became the mirror to the standing regime, despite the contribution of excellent Egyptian, Arab, and foreign writers who conferred to it an aura of serious professionalism similar to the one achieved by Le Monde Diplomatique.

Now, during the eighteen days that shook Egypt (and the world) that brought to conclusion the first phase of the Egyptian Revolution, al-Ahram Daily, al-Ahram Weekly, and other state-owned media, appeared confused on the road to follow. Their staffs and writers did not have the slightest courage to put the Mubarak regime under trial because of fear that Mubarak might regain control — a prospect not too nice for them to entertain because it could have cost them their jobs. But when Mubarak was forced to step down, a miracle happened: with another lightening blink of an eye, all writers and staff of the state-own media made a U-turn and took the side of the Supreme Military Council.

Finally, when the Muslim Brothers gained control of the Egyptian state, all state-owned printed and visual media became their active voice. Independent and progressive Egyptian newspapers (always existed in Egypt despite repression) are full with comments on the countless writers whose writings changed according to changes in power.

Well, here we go: now that the Morsi regime’s gone after the second phase of revolution of June 30, all state media including the Al-Ahram Daily and Weekly, changed attire again and turned against Morsi.

To wrap this issue, I must mention that in Egypt, as in the rest of the Arab world — possibly with the conditional exception of confessional Lebanon — writers cannot count on continuing to write for the state-owned publications if they ever dare to take on the system and expose its contradictions, dealings, and policies. Having said that, I want to ask a legitimate question: is it possible that Walberg’s sensitivity about the issue of analyzing Egypt under the Brotherhood stems from his realization that if he were to give unbiased account, he might have angered the Morsi establishment, and as a result, he could run the risk of seeing his articles barred from publication?

Now to Nazemroaya; any independent-thinking person, not necessarily western progressive or leftist, who closely follows that situation in Egypt and reads about it — especially in Arab and Egyptian media that are not connected with or accommodating to the Muslim Brothers — would endorse Nazemroaya’s brief but well-researched analysis. In addition to reporting on what was going on Egypt, one of the principal points that Nazemroaya articulated correctly is that voting is not democracy but it’s one of its mechanisms. Yet, Morsi and the Muslim Brothers made every effort possible to make “democracy” and voting one and the same. In his last days in power, Morsi tirelessly made the point that he will not step down because voters elected him in a democratic vote. But if voters elected him and he delivered none of the promises he made before the election, then a new revolutionary creed has it that Demos have the ultimate power to remove Kratos from their seat. And with that, the American scheme to impose American-dependent rulers through elections has failed forever.

Nazemroaya’s title, “Did Morsi Hijack Democracy?” is erroneous though. There was no democracy in Egypt that Morsi came and hijacked. On this account, Morsi is innocent. Beyond that, there was no democracy (as we understand it) during his presidency either. All that happened in Egypt since the revolution of 2011 was an attempt to institute a fair democratic (or similar) system through an election. But the problems that Morsi and the Brothers created for themselves and for others, and the policies they followed had emptied the democratic march from it substantive meaning thus prompting widespread protests and discord that culminated with over 22 million Egyptians signing petitions calling for him to resign and call for a new election. He did not bother to listen, and the rest is a known story. In retrospect, another title might have been more appropriate: “Did Morsi abort the building of democracy?”

At this point, what did Walberg say that is incorrect, and has no resonance in facts?

Walberg: “Mahdi is jumping the gun on Morsi, like many otherwise ‘progressive’ writers in the West.”

Comment: As I said earlier, I don’t think Mahdi and others are “jumping the gun” on Morsi or the Muslim Brothers. The truth is Morsi and his “family, clan, and tribe”, as he himself describes the Muslim Brothers, have earned the principled opposition to their rule and erratic practices and policies. Just a few months ago, during his visit to Sudan, Morsi thundered that he would not hesitate to “launch a second revolution to counter the threats against Egypt”.

Well. Morsi is either a liar or megalomaniac. First, he and his Brothers did not launch the Egyptian Revolution, but the 20-23 million Egyptians who stormed the streets in massive protests never before seen in history launched it and won the removal of Washington and Israel’s man in the Middle East: Hosni Mubarak whom Israel called “Israel’s strategic treasure”. Why did I say a liar? It took the Brotherhood 3-4 days of deliberation to join the masses rising against Mubarak. Why? No need to speculate: (1) to see first whether Mubarak and his army would crack down on the protestors, and (2) to observe what Washington might do in support of its man in Cairo. They even met with Omar Suleiman who offered them political gains in their favor in exchange for supporting Mubarak, and reliable reports from Cairo stated that the Muslim Brothers were seriously considering the offer. When it became evident that the Egyptian tsunami is more powerful than all barracks of Mubarak and more potent than Washington’s capability to intervene, then and only then did the Muslim Brothers mobilize themselves. Therefore, for Morsi to threaten another “revolution” sounds comical especially knowing that MB’s sympathizers could not exceed at best a twenty percent of the population.

But Morsi’s self-serving assumption that the Egyptians who voted for him are all Muslim Brothers was not only mistaken to the root, but also baseless since Tantawi and the United States gave the Egyptian people a Hobson’s choice: either voting the old regime back in power or give this to the Muslim Brothers. While lesser evilism triumphed, the Egyptian people lost.

The problem does not end here for Morsi and the Brothers. Since political demagogy began pervading their rhetoric and public discourse immediately after they won the presidency, Morsi declared that all objectives of the Revolution had been met, and asked the people to go about doing their business as usual. So now Morsi and the Brothers think that with them in power, the revolution has effectively achieved its objectives in Decent Living, Freedom, Social Justice, and independent foreign policy. Since the objectives of the revolution were not even addressed in their elementary essence, since all of Mubarak’s socio-economic structures were (still are) intact, and since the only program they kept fiercely perusing is the reformation of the religious aspects of the state, then declaring they achieved the aims of the revolution is a naked deception.

Still, this isn’t the whole story, and it isn’t about Morsi, but about the Muslim Brothers as a body of organized ideology. Their emerging attitude was that of a new type of despotism in the making. But it wasn’t any despotism; rather, a new philosophy positing that they are the pious Muslims while the rest of a mostly Muslim Egypt lost their Islamic soul. Meaning, only the Muslim Brothers are infallible and only them can bring the lost souls to salvation. (During the recent clashes between the Brothers and their opponents, the cry of Morsi’ supporters was, “Our martyrs will go to paradise, yours will go to hell.” This new type of theological chauvinism made it so that large segments of the Egyptian population, who are traditionally observant of Islamic values and traditions, began to fear of impending Muslim Brother’s inquisition.

Moreover, Morsi, instead of acting as an independent president, he commenced acting as if he is a public agent of the Muslim Brother’s Supreme Guide — Mohammed Badie. For example, whenever he faced problems, he convenes the Muslim Brothers leadership and systematically shuns talking with his opponents unless they discuss the issues on his terms. What damaged Morsi more than anything was his Constitutional Declaration. He, under Badie’s instructions, assumed uncontested dictatorial powers that eclipsed those of Mubarak and with that, it became very evident as to where the Brothers were going with their inebriation of power. But when Morsi faced furious opposition, he cancelled it weeks later but left its consequences standing. Then he infringed on the independence of the judiciary branch by removing judges and nominating new ones known for their sympathies toward the MB. In the meanwhile, he, just like Mubarak before, instead of raising domestic productivity, shackled the Egyptians with money borrowed from the IMF, thus further lowering the standard livings of the masses while bragging about his government negotiation prowess. From those events forward, it was a cascade of political missteps and economic mismanagement that months later powerfully brought his regime to demise.

Soon after they took power, Morsi and the Brothers began a new process: the Ikwanization (from Ikwan: Brothers) of the Egyptian state. This was evidenced by appointing Muslim Brothers to most bureaucratic positions across Egypt (Morsi reportedly appointed 13,000 MB to mayoral positions across Egypt). In just a few months of their rule, the Ikwanization campaign crept to all branches of government, as if the Muslim Brothers were in race with time to complete the assimilation of Egypt into their ideology. If that wasn’t sufficient, here comes, again, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brothers declaring that it was by divine will that the Muslim Brothers hold power, that Morsi has the greatness of Moses and, in another episode, he resembled him to the Hebrew prophet Joseph. The Supreme guide was, apparently, on speed: A few weeks later, he equated the struggle between Morsi and the Egyptians opposing his rule to the struggle between Prophet Mohammad and the pagans of Mecca. Then an influential Muslim Brother decreed that it’s legitimate to kill the political opponents of Morsi. When a vehement denunciation of his statement followed, he replied, “Do not blame me, blame the Prophet [Mohammad], who said so and so” — the prophet never said such a thing in that context, but the reference to the prophet indicates that the MB use Islam as cover for their designs.

Then came the writing of the so-called constitution and the mass protest against it, and afterwards, came Morsi raising his hand and pointing his index finger and threatening to cut the fingers of all those who are opposing the “legality” of his system. Then he came up with the idea of creating an autonomous Suez Canal region with the intent to give its direction to foreign investors (most speculated Qatari control of the canal) while making its overall management the sole responsibility of the presidential palace. Then here came Essam al Arian, who, speaking from Washington while meeting with influential American politicians, including Israeli lobbyists, offered that Israelis of Egyptian origin could return to Egypt whenever they want and spoke of compensation while entirely glossing over the Lavon Affair. (Israel is now seeking billions of dollars in reparations based on El Arian’s statement). Well, was he asking them to be dual nationals or give up their Israeli citizenship, and for what purpose, unless he was seeking the blessing of the American Zionist establishment? Then we came to know of Morsi’s leaked private conference that Egypt might attack Ethiopia for planning to build a dam on the Blue Nile with Israeli money, and the list goes on.

My take is that Morsi never ceased to antagonize and fool the Egyptian people. At the beginning of his presidency, he solemnly declared that $200 billion is on its way in support of the Egyptian economy — no dollar came in the ensuing months, except a puny help from Qatar which has solid ties with the Muslim Brothers. Beyond all that, in the person of Morsi, Egypt was confronting a presidency that issues a decree on one day to void it the next day.

To conclude, the Egyptians did not sacrifice lives just to get rid of Mubarak, but to build a new Egypt. This did not happen since until the new uprising that brought Morsi down, it became obvious that the Muslim Brothers had no plan for Egypt except for them becoming a durable religious-political force while building enough political infrastructures to create the material conditions for a permanent rule.

On Walberg commenting and qualifying Nazemroaya saying that that “Muslim Brotherhood offices have even been stormed by large groups of angry protester.” Walberg inserts himself in the statement and sarcastically adds. “By remnants of the old regime (thugs), what Egyptians call ‘fulool’ with connivance of police/army.”

Comment: There’s no compelling reason for Walberg to adopt the vocabulary of the Muslim Brothers in demonizing their opponents. Most important, he does it without paying any attention to the details of the recent history of Egypt after the first revolution. Making accusations without due investigation annuls any value expected to come out from them while putting the accuser on a useless defensive posture.

First and foremost, the term “fulool” (roughly: dispersed or disbanded yet present) devotees of the Mubarak regime), was created immediately after the downfall of Mubarak to denote not people in their mass presence, but the attempted return by the men of the defunct order (Amr Moussa, Omar Suleiman, Ahmed Shafiq, and others) to power through election or appointment. That the Muslim Brothers recycled it to be used in their propaganda against the tidal waves of protestors to their rule is one count, but for Walberg to use it as if he were a Muslim Brother is another. More intriguing, Walberg brings his crusade against the protestors by calling them, “thugs”. And just like that, by some arcane permutation, Walberg transforms a majority of the Egyptian people into thugs and fulool without logical correlation.

Walberg suggests that the police and army were conniving with these “thugs” or “fulool”. Here he mixes inappropriately between two different terms to describe the antagonists to the Muslim Brothers. While the word thug means what it means, the word fulool, as I said, means something else, unless he means that these two words are exchangeable. Either way, neither applies to the mass protests against Morsi, although not discounting fulool’s infiltration inside them.

One more thing: the Morsi regime hoped to use the army at the service of the Brothers to repress his opponents by giving them, by decree, the power to arrest civilians accused of “conspiring” against the state”. The army refused. Does that make of it a partner with the people that Morsi call “thugs”? The same thing goes for the police whom Morsi gave extraordinary power to arrest anyone without a charge. It did not work either. In essence, with his attempt to bribe the police and army by giving them unprecedented power (not even Mubarak did that) to arrest and detain any citizen perceived as an enemy of the state (read: of the Muslim Brothers), Morsi, before the new revolution stopped him, was rapidly inching the Egyptian state closer to the spheres of absolutist despotism and maybe even fascism.

This raises another legitimate question: what were the stakes for Walberg in all these Egyptian diatribes? If he sought a monkey-trial type of accusations against the opponents of Morsi without providing the minimum rationale for his casus belli, then he succeeded. In this case, his accusations were no more than a product of pro-Brothers zeal, but without us knowing what was driving that zeal. But if he hoped to issue a rational indictment of the anti-Morsi front with his unsubstantiated accusations, then he failed.

On Walberg’s derisive comment, “come on. they haven’t had time to be corrupt, the MB haters I knew in Egypt are the most corrupt, spoiled, westernized Egyptians. the MBers I knew were brave and uncorrupt. the Egyptian left are acting like spoiled brats. enough hearsay!” in reply to Nazemroaya’s statement, “leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood is being perceived more and more by Egyptian society as a corrupt organization.”

Comment: Notwithstanding being an informal chat, the above piece is seriously flawed and it raises eyebrows with regard to content, meaning, and implication. First, although corruption exists in every political state on the globe (in the U.S., they call it scandal), it’s not the primary charge against the Muslim Brothers, but the attempt to swallow the Egyptian state and to monopolize power is. Second, when Walberg says, “They haven’t had time to be corrupt …” does he imply that the corruption concept depends on how long a group has been in power? What is more unsettling, Walberg transmutes the MB critics into MB haters. He even goes further to issue a collective and highly personal judgment calling them corrupt, spoiled, and westernized — this is no way for a viable discussion. Then he attacks the Egyptian Left with open disparagement when he describes them like, “Spoiled brats” and without clarifying why is this so. My view, arguments laced with Ad hominem underpinnings persuade no one.

On Nazemroaya: Muslim Brotherhood has refused to fully open the borders with Gaza

Walberg: “This is complex. not b/w. hamas can’t control the al-qaeda types in gaza. you want egypt to welcome them with open arms? and sinai is full of libyan arms and bedouin who have their own issues. morsi stared down israel in nov/dec. give him credit where credit is due. syria and libya are also complex. not b/w. i don’t agree with the MB, but i can understand where they’re coming from. please don’t fall for the shallow western lefty-secular dismissal of the MB. give them a chance. everyone is against them, much like in mubarak’s days.

Comment: Walberg seems to be justifying Morsi’s Gaza policy. For instance, why is fully opening the borders with Gaza complex? It’s complex because Israel would veto it, and if it does, then the Morsi government would retreat in which case, no matter what the Egyptian people want, their government — old or post-revolutionary — will always cave in to Israel’s pressure. More interesting is Walberg’s paternalistic call that one should give the MB more time and should not fall into the temptation to criticize them. I don’t buy this argument. I don’t buy it because the Arab nations no longer have the patience to try finding who is better at ruling and at reforming. I think the Egyptian revolutions have set the greatest precedent ever that in developing countries, waiting for the regimes to listen to their peoples is no longer an option.

Walberg: the constitution is quite good and the referendum was a success considering the forces against them.

Comment: To paraphrase Karl Marx’ statement, “Religion is the opium of people”, I would say, constitutions are the opium that seated governments give to their people to solemnize a social order serving the system’s interests. As such, I consider any discussion on the role of constitutions in modern societies as a waste of energy. This is because, however a discussion ends, an important question remains unanswered: Given that social relations in each world societies are guided by specific mode of production and administrative infrastructures, would the social organization of those societies then depends — for continuity and functionality — on constitutional guidelines or declaratory principles?

Western-style democracies, semi-democratic, look-alike democracies, communist systems, despotic regimes, etc, all have constitutions. The problem is that constitutions are promulgated not to safeguard the interests of peoples and free institutions but to shield existing or proposed economic-political systems from opposing forces that could destabilize it. In the case of the United States, for example, you can see that purpose so clearly stated in the preamble to the Constitution, “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility…” Insure Domestic tranquility is the keyword to understand the objective of the U.S. constitution. The brutal repression of all issues pertaining to organized labor during the 1920s enters in the logic of domestic tranquility, as it is understood by the system that countered labor issues with charges of communism, terrorism, and instigation to disorder in social life.

Interestingly, in the United States, where the constant reference to the Constitution is meant to imply that the country lives by the principles it declared, the status of this is seriously pitiful that a former president (George W. Bush) contemptuously referred to it as “just a goddammed piece of paper”. At that time, a frustrated Sen. Robert Byrd used go around emphasizing that the letter C in the word “Constitution” should always be capitalized and not written in lowercase as many in the Congress do. Not only that, but he often complained that a great number of senators and House representatives have none or only a sketchy knowledge of the American Constitution.

Does that mean constitutions are useless? No. What I’m saying, the issue of constitution or no constitution is irrelevant on a functional level since in an ideal setting, a nation can still go on with its business based on balanced institutions, fair government practices, decent ethics, and mutual respect between government and people. Consider this: Sweden has a constitution that has been developing since 1810. Now, suppose that Swedes would abolish their constitution in a referendum. Would that lead to the collapse of Sweden as state or stop its civilizational march? Another example, Britain, a constitutional monarchy, has no constitution, but the absolutist monarch of Bahrain calls his authoritarian fiefdom a “constitutional monarchy” and has a constitution where most of its articles remained unrealized because the executive and legislative powers are in the hands of the ruler despite all preppy talk and the luxurious interiors of the National Assembly.

When France gave independence to Lebanon in 1943, it conceived for it a constitution that consecrated, up to present, a confessional model that divided Lebanon in cantons and confessional domains that are still ruled by the same families who accepted and swore by it in that period. The result: a country killed by its French constitution, and a society that is incapable to break free from it.

And when the United States invaded Iraq, dissolved its army, and institutions, it followed the French Model, and hired a New York Zionist lawyer, Noah Feldman, who wrote the so-called Iraqi constitution which divided Iraq into confessional domains. The problem, American-appointed Iraqi rulers swear by their beloved “constitution” and use it to perpetuate their rule as well as the rule of the United over them and the country.

Another example is the Constitution of Kuwait. Article 36 of this constitution declares, “Freedom of opinion and of scientific research is guaranteed. Every person has the right to express and propagate his opinion verbally, in writing, or otherwise, in accordance with the conditions and procedures specified by law.” Well, just the other day, a court in Kuwait gave a 20-month jail sentence to Kuwaiti woman for making a comment on Twitter that the authorities considered derogatory to the Emir of Kuwait. So, now we know what they mean when they say “… In accordance with the conditions and procedures specified by law”, they mean their “laws” — the undeclared laws that protect the system while trampling on the right of the people to express their opinion.

No nation, however, can surpass the United States in their embedded hypocrisy when it comes to so-called constitutional issues. Whenever the system itself encounters contradictions between a written concept and a planned action, it hires lawyers to force the issue. The fact is there are no contradictions since the written concept is clear and offers no equivocation. The problem is that the system wants to do away with the clear announcement of a constitutional article and implement its own interpretation of it. From the foundation of the United States until present, all articles and amendments of the Constitution were written to protect the capitalistic socio-economic system of the United and its future orientation.

As for the constitution issue in Egypt, I compared that of 1971 (under Sadat) with the one passed on December 2012 (under Morsi). To my surprise, I found out that the earlier constitution was more open and promising than the latter. Does this prove anything? It proves that what is composed on paper cannot find resonance in reality. In fact, both Sadat and Mubarak, whose successive dictatorial rule extended from 1970 to 2011, did not observe the Constitution or honor any of its articles in domestic and in foreign policies, national unity, relations with the Coptic community, and Egyptian national and Arab securities. As for Morsi’s Constitution, from reading the draft approved on December 2012, it became apparent that said constitution (which meant to bind people and government and to bring about revolutionary changes from the Mubarak era) was doing more harm than good because it was clearly divisive and allowed the Muslim Brothers to interpret it any way they wanted.

Walberg says that the Egyptian Constitution (Morsi’s constitution) is “quite good”. The problem is when analyzing a constitution, qualifying it as “bad” or “good” is an odd way to test its validity, the issues it addresses, or the issues it ignores. If a constitution is a necessity or desirable guarantee for some, then it should be based on consensus, universal appeal to all segments of society without exclusion, and above all, it should be conceived in such a way to prevent any political faction to fashion its content to serve their purpose, impose their ideology, or perpetuate their grip on power.

To confirm what Nazemroaya stated. A constitution whereby only 33% of eligible voters cast their vote, where only 60% of these said yes, which most of Egypt’s political forces outside the MB domain had boycotted, and where the MB’s consultative council who passed the draft silenced anyone inside their own group who opposed it, cannot be seriously taken as a constitution for all.

Here is a curious fact: opposing, approving, or criticizing certain aspects of Morsi’s constitution became a fad worldwide. Israeli writers and world Zionists constantly point out to the Shari’a law and to the rights of Copts; the Zionist-controlled UN-Humans Rights Watch is dismayed because the constitution made insulting God and the prophets an offense punishable by law; and others point to this and to that. And those who approve of it are doing so because either this does not harm their interests being far away from its application, or simply because they never considered its dialectical implications and future political consequences.

So, what is the problem with Morsi’s constitution?

Well, aside from a pedantic composition, many useless-to-mention Articles such as the one referring to Egypt as a part of the Arab and Islamic nations, the other clarifying its geographic location, or the one affirming the right of citizens to physical exercise, the body of the constitution, from the Preamble to all Chapters, was conceived to enshrine the MB ideology. This planned enshrinement was conceived to act as the stepping-stone for making the Muslim Brothers a permanent power in Egypt. The one example I would give here is that when an article ends with the phrase, “According to the Shari’a and the law”, it means the Shari’a as understood and interpreted only by the Muslim Brothers and no other Islamic school of thought, civilian authority, or tested and accepted fair laws.

Article 219 for example, excludes the Shiite creed and proclaims the Sunni schools of thought and of “Ahal al-Jamaa” as the source of legislation. Seeing that their creed has been excluded summarily from any due consideration, how would the Egyptian Shiites feel toward their new constitution since this makes them religious pariahs? (During its Fatimid Caliphate period during the 10th-12th centuries, Egypt was predominately embracing the Ismaeli-Shiite creed of Islam). How should the Egyptian Shiites react to this discrimination? In addition, which Sunni school of thought do the MB want to adapt since they denigrate all of them except theirs.

One more thing, while the phrase “Ahal Jamaa” (groups [people] of believers), used at the time of the prophet to indicate a wide popular participation to decide Muslim affairs, using it in modern context, as the Brothers did, acquired a diverse political meaning. Since the official name of the Muslim Brothers in Arabic is, “Jamaatt al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin”, the original historical word, “Jamaa” became, artificially, a synonym with the Muslim Brothers’ “Jamaatt” in Morsi’s Constitution. (Jamaa and Jamaatt are the same word. And the added accentuated consonant “tt” at the end of the word denotes changed phonetics depending on the location of the word inside the structure of a sentence. Language metrics and usage impose either vocalization of a letter to connect a word to the next, or silencing of same if it falls at the end of a sentence.)

Still, how could one write a constitution and base most of state laws on Islamic legislation while ignoring the fact that over twelve percent of the population adheres to or identifies itself with Christianity? My question (objection) to Morsi’s constitution, therefore, is elementary: could a modern state build effective institutions based on religious views and ideologically motivated interpretations? My answer is no.

In Part 3 of the interview, BJ Sabri will discuss Morsi and the Egyptian Brotherhood vis-à-vis Syria and the military.

  • B.J. Sabri is an observer of the politics of modern colonialism, imperialism, Zionism, and of contemporary Arab issues. He can be reached at: moc.loanull@irbas.j.b.
    1. See “Egypt Brotherhood Urgently Condemns Assad Use of Deadly Poisonous Gas Against Syrians,” Ikhwanweb, 24 December 2012. []
    2. See Sharif Abdel Kouddous, “Mohamed Morsi in the Middle,” The Nation, 20 November 2012. []
    3. See Mahdi Dariya Nazemroaya, “Egypt’s Constitutional Referendum: Did President Morsi Hijack Democracy?Global Research, 22 January 2013. []

    Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.