Archive for November, 2012

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi pledged not to misuse his powers, but many Egyptian remain of skeptical. (AFP)


Prominent columnist, journalist, and former head of news for Egyptian State Television Abdel Latif Fouad el-Menawy, who covered conflicts of different platforms across the globe, has shared his piece of mind in a column he wrote for The Times over the recent developing clashes in Egypt.

In his column, Menawy compared Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi to Ayatollah Khomeini, of Iran, as both leaders lived in the West. When they returned to their countries they transform them into religious dictatorships.

On Thursday, Mursi issued a controversial presidential decree granting himself unlimited powers, with his decisions rendered irrevocable.

“Mohamed Mursi’s new constitutional decree, which gives him total control of the state apparatus, grants him more authority than any Egyptian ruler since the Pharaohs,” Menawy wrote in his article.

“Egyptians had hoped that Mr. Mursi would use power to piece back together a nation torn apart in the uprising that toppled President Mubarak last year. His first statement assured Egyptians that he would rule for every citizen of every sect,” Menawy added.

Although Mursi promised to be just president to all religions and sects, since he’s been in power, he swapped all newspaper editors with members from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Exploiting the Gaza conflict

Menawy explained that achieving the Israel-Gaza truce made Mursi turn into a regional and international “star,” a status he quickly exploited to tighten his grip on power.

Menawy explained that Mursi, with all the failed promises he made, has lost much credibility among Egyptians.

Menawy concluded his article saying “when Ayatollah Khomeini was on the plane taking him from Paris to Tehran after the toppling of the Shah, he told reporters ‘men of religion do not want to rule,’ Indeed.”


By Abdel Latif El Menawy

Morsi is doing the Muslim Brotherhood’s bidding. Now he has the final say on democracy

Recently, in a small room in the House of Lords, a group of Egyptian and British intellectuals and politicians debated events in Egypt.

Almost all the Egyptians were liberals, or considered themselves to be, and all feared for the future since the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood won the presidency. But they were divided. Some said that liberals should give the new president a chance and co-operate with him, especially as the Brothers had never had an opportunity to rule before. Others believed that political Islam would mean the end of the secular state.

Then an Iranian who had lived in Britain since the Islamist revolution in 1979 spoke. He pointed to the room next door and said that in it he had once been part of a similar debate. The only difference was that it had been more than 30 years ago, and between Iranians. Ayatollah Khomeini had just returned to Iran and many liberals believed they could work with these religious men. The dialogue, he said, would have been identical to today’s. “Where are we now? Where is Iran?” he asked.

Mohamed Morsi’s new constitutional decree, which gives him total control of the state apparatus, grants him more authority than any Egyptian ruler since the Pharaohs. Egyptians had hoped that Mr Morsi would use power to piece back together a nation torn apart in the uprising that toppled President Mubarak last year. His first statement assured Egyptians that he would rule for every citizen of every sect. However, the decisions of his first few months in power have merely put into practice decisions made in the Muslim Brotherhood’s offices. For instance, under a process called “Brothering the State” all newspaper editors have been changed, with many replaced by Brotherhood members.

Meanwhile, a number of Christians and secularists have withdrawn from the committee drafting the new constitution, leaving it dominated by Islamists. The committee now has immunity from the law and the judiciary is forbidden even to discuss it.

Using international crises to achieve their aims is a frequent Brotherhood tactic. Egypt’s success in brokering a truce in Gaza has made the President an international star, and he has used that prestige to make decisions that will inevitably lead to the establishment of a new dictatorship potentially tougher than the previous one. He now has unlimited domestic authority and the right to halt any legal challenge to his decisions until a new parliament is elected. God knows when that will be.

Mr Morsi is allowed to issue any decree or take any procedures deemed necessary in the face of “dangers threatening the revolution and national security”. Another law, the “Act to Protect the Revolution”, gives the new Attorney-General the right to jail people for up to six months to “protect the revolution”. And the judiciary is forbidden from dissolving the Constituent Assembly and the Shura Council, the upper house of the Egyptian parliament. It was expected that the constitutional court would do this in December, as it did with the people’s assembly, the lower chamber of parliament, in June.

The Attorney-General has also said that “any incitement by the media against the current regime” is against the new law. Complaints are already being pursued against a number of media and public figures.

Amnesty International has said that these powers undermine the rule of law and threaten a new phase of repression. It pointed out that no one should be above the law, including the President himself, and called on him to repeal his self-granted political immunity against the judiciary.

When the President spoke to a gathering of his supporters organised by the Muslim Brotherhood, he made what seemed like an oath. “I assure you, I will not use this legislation against anyone or to settle accounts with anyone, but when I see the nation put in danger by the old regime I will,” he claimed, adding: “Rest assured, I will not oppress anyone.”

But many did not believe him. On the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, and in the rest of Egypt, the people no longer believe anything from the Brotherhood, which hasn’t lived up to any of the promises it has made since the uprising began in January last year.

The justifications of Mr Morsi’s supporters are reminiscent of language used by the former regime — that exceptional circumstances require exceptional procedures. In other words, Mr Morsi will play the role of dictator only temporarily while it is “a matter of national security”. But the extent to which the political situation remains a matter of national security will, presumably, be determined by the Brotherhood itself.

When Ayatollah Khomeini was on the plane taking him from Paris to Tehran after the toppling of the Shah, he told reporters: “Men of religion do not want to rule.” Indeed.

Abdel Latif El Menawy is a former head of news for Egyptian State Television

This article was published in the Times on the 26th of November

By Abdel Latif El-menawy

The Muslim Brotherhood wouldn’t have been able to assume power without the help of the civil forces.

The civil forces didn’t necessarily support the Muslim Brotherhood directly or voted in their favor, as others did, but the state of division and fragmentation helped.

This wasn’t the only mistake. The civil forces lost the opportunity granted by the military council to the different fighting powers to run the country when the military men expressed their will to get out of the picture during the transitory period.

These forces didn’t seize the opportunity when the army declared that it will refrain from shooting the demonstrators even if they storm the presidential palace. The army was looking for a power support in what can be described as a political romance and it was expecting to see all civil forces gathering around it, but was surprised to see dozens of political parties, and more than 300 youth coalitions, each looking for a leadership role, claiming to be the sole owner of the revolution, refusing to listen to others.

Within this division, fragmentation and fighting, the Muslim Brotherhood with its pragmatism was ready to jump and ride the wave of the revolution. It convinced the military council that it was ready to support it whenever it needed popular backing as it was the most organized and the most competent to run the country.

The civil forces, gathered in Tahrir Square after January 28th and stayed there until February 11th 2011 without agreeing on a unified leader, considered this as a good thing so that nobody could steal the people’s revolution, but as the days went by, the Muslim Brotherhood was more organized.

The mistake committed by the civil forces, to refrain from being unified around one group or one leader, caused harm to them after February 11th.

The French Revolution, which started with clear principles and a set of goals, was unified around specific leaders and was also preceded by a big awareness movement.

In Egypt, there was a clear will for change but without clearness and this was something I wrote about after the parliamentary elections in 2010.

I stressed on the importance of change, saying that change was an action that one either leads with or be led by it. Like the wild horse, it will either freely run or it can be tamed and obedient.

I warned that if we were willing to move forward, we should be the ones to lead the change, and take control instead of finding ourselves dragged behind the concept of change.

But because the former regime didn’t listen, it didn’t react to the demands of people and dealt with the need for change as the antithesis of stability and not a motive to enhance and strengthen it. It was inevitable for the regime to fall, and those, who were most prepared to benefit from the fall to access power, were ready while the civil forces were struggling.

The real problem is not that the governing group stopped listening, but that the civil forces, which can be called as opposition forces, are still insisting on the same mistake they committed on February 11th 2011 and the mistake they committed afterwards at the parliamentary elections towards the end of 2011.

The biggest mistake was committed during the presidential elections held in mid- 2012 when they were divided and fragmented.

It seems that they are still committed to remain divided without learning the lesson and realizing that this will give the governing group the opportunity to further tighten its grip on power.

Egypt is prone to a huge event if the Muslim Brotherhood and hardliners insist on adopting the constitution in its actual anti-freedoms format and biased to a religious instead of a civilian state.

The next referendum will be the real challenge to the civil forces to gather all its power to reject the constitution either by choosing to vote against it or exert pressure to cancel the constituent assembly with clear alliances and demand the establishment of a new constituent assembly more representative of Egyptians.

Community discussions and attempts to attract some of the opposition leaders are nothing but another formula to convince Egyptians that there is a broad acceptance to the constitution, although this is not true. The civil forces should realize that the fate of a new Egyptian constitution is not in the hands of the ruling party, but in the hands of the civil forces, if, and only if, they unify.

By Abdel Latif El-menawy

I have always called for the separation of religion and politics and I have always seen the intervention of religious institutions in politics as a sign of a weak state and a stagnant political scene.

For decades, the state had abandoned several of its basic roles, thus giving the chance for religious powers to gain ground. This explains the growing influence of political Islam as well as the remarkable role played by the church.

In this context, the role of secular Copts, who called for the establishment of a civil state, started receding with some totally withdrawing and others towing the church’s line. The church, thus, because the mouthpiece of Egyptian Copts and the esteem late Pope Shenouda had enjoyed undoubtedly played a major role in making this happen.

Now, Bishop Tawadros has become the pope and it will be very hard to ask him not to be part of the political scene especially in the light of the rise to power of Islamists. And I would not do like a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who asked the new pope to support the application of Islamic laws. I would rather ask him to call upon Copts to take part in the Egyptian political life in order to lay the foundations of the civil state.

We now have Bishop Tawadros at the head of the church on one hand and Islamists at the head of the state on the other hand. We also have a country on the verge of religious confrontation. That is why the new pope could either stand for the creation of a civil state or be part of a conflict between the church and ultra-conservative Islamist powers.

I do realize that the problem does not lie with Bishop Tawadros, yet he seems to be on a patriotic mission: protecting the civil character of the state and protecting the state from a religious conflict. That is why he needs to make sure he is not dragged into insignificant battles with certain factions whose main aim is to sow the seeds of sedition. He also needs to be aware that the Egyptian church is part of the state and has been so since its establishment 2,000 years ago. Throughout most of this time, the church has had peaceful relations with the state and has never been part of the conflict with it.

Egyptian Copts do not need a political leader, but rather a godfather. The role of the church is more than political; it is spiritual and social. The pope also has to start effecting internal reforms in the church and focus on issues like personal status laws, the criteria governing the choice of the pope, and the role of seculars.

On the other hand, civil parties need to make sure Copts do not go back to their isolation like they did before when they were deprived of being active players in the political scene.

The same message should be conveyed to the main Islamic institution in Egypt, al-Azhar and which needs to work hand in hand with the church. Away from formal meetings and publicized speeches, the two religious institutions need to join forces to promote the civil state and defend the country against powers that are trying to thrust it into an unprecedented religious conflict.

If there should be religious institutions that represent the state, then let them be al-Azhar and the church, but also let them stick to their religious roles and which by definition comprises raising awareness. Then let civil and secular parties play their role in politics and counter other powers that raise the banner of religion while doing everything that contradicts it.

By Abdel Latif El-menawy

In a previous article, I talked about the different ways through which Islamist regimes manage to take control and one of those is the constant creation of a crisis-laden atmosphere. In this case, political harassment becomes the means of covering up for failure in running the state. Unfortunately, this has already started happening in Egypt even though it is the last thing we need in the light of the precarious economic situation and its social and political repercussions.

Any regime coming to power under the current circumstances would have grasped one single truth that should be obvious to all regardless of how well-versed they are in politics and state affairs. This truth consists of two parts: the first is the economic crisis that started from the very beginning and is getting more complicated by time and the second is the state of division from which political powers suffered following the elections. It made much sense that any regime that comes to power will address those two problems immediately, of course if national interest is its top priority. But the exact opposite happened. It did not come as a surprise, though, for this is how Islamist regimes act and examples from other countries prove this.

Instead of dealing with the economic crisis through calling upon all national powers to unite and face the imminent danger, the ruling clique tended to its interests and acted in accordance with its own understanding of economy as the means of making fast profit that only benefits a small group of people.

They also took advantage of the economic crisis in order to achieve partisan gains. This was demonstrated during the shortage of butane gas cylinders when senior officials in the Ministry of Petroleum complained that members of the ruling party were getting credit for efforts they have not exerted in solving the problems so that they will appear as the saviors of the people. In order to avoid facing the challenges that lay ahead of them, members of that party started blaming the former regime for bequeathing them a “collapsed economy” and anyone who knows the basics of economy would know that this is not true. But holding accountable an entity that is not available for responding to accusations was the best way of evading responsibility. Then they started deceiving the people into thinking that there is some oversees solution embodied by the money smuggled outside the country at the time of the former regime, thus emotionally manipulating the simple-minded.

Instead of creating a state of stability that would encourage Egyptian, Arab, and foreign investors, they started scaring them away so that they can get the lion’s share of the businesses and the projects they and their supporters want to get hold of. And instead of creating an atmosphere of trust with neighboring countries, they nurtured a state of tension that made those countries apprehensive of playing any role that would boost the collapsing economy.

Then all of a sudden, the president comes out to talk about the opening of what he called a “purging” bank account. He seemed to be blaming his and his party’s failure in dealing with the economic crisis on those who he thinks should be “purged” without actually stating who those people are or how they should be involved in this “purging” process.

On the political front, the new regime did not really attempt to eliminate the rift between different factions, but rather worked on deepening it through employing the “harassment” strategy against the opposition in a way that only creates a distracting ruckus and solves none of the problems on the ground. The ruling party made it harder for other political powers to trust its intentions especially as it persists in this process of political genocide that aims at emptying the political scene of all itsrivals.

The ruling party has, therefore, created a series of crises in order to make sure it would remain in power while never bothering about the unknown future to which it is leading the nation.

Multi-level misery

Posted: November 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Abdel Latif El-menawy

The misery of our country is not only because of those who are governing it, their followers and representatives in different government entities, nor in their policies of exclusion and their grip that is pushing us to unknown phases of the history. The misery can be found as well among their cultural, political and economic elite.

I will start with the economic elite, represented by business men “or most of them,” who really proved the saying that “the capital is coward”. This “capitalist” elite changed the course of its ship 180 degrees, and after spending the past years praising the former regime and its figures, they performed a complete make-over in the past two years to become revolutionaries and corruption fighters, to an extent that one might mistake them for “Che Guevara”.

As soon as the Muslim Brotherhood assumed power, these businessmen became the founding fathers of Islamic economy and its fierce defenders, and some went so far, until he discovered in his genealogy tree, that he had always been, without knowing it, a descendant of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that their teachings were deeply enrooted inside him as well as his family. Another one discovered that he spent all of his life hiding that his name is the name of the brotherhood’s leader, or as he claimed, kept hiding this truth by fear of persecution from the former regime, whom he happened to be one of its eager supporters. They even forgot their former alignment and support to the “future association,” and business men associations headed at these times by the key figures of the former regime. These acrobatic movements of those who seek personal benefits at the expense of public interest, is a disappointing model that provokes everyone to resist this behavior, which contradicts the “real” role of capitalism in raising the nation’s awareness and favoring advancement and progress in the world.

As for the cultural, political and media elites, you can talk freely about some of them, as we all witnessed this transformation, fickleness and acrobatic jumps. We witnessed this and exposed them in the past two years, and I will not stay for long at this station, which was the subject of more comments than it deserved, but I would look into the phenomena of those who supported the political Islamist movement in their endeavor to take control of the country, then discovered after coming out empty handed, that distancing politics from religion will stop bargaining in the name of the latter, and that it is wrong to involve religion in politics. While another apologizes for supporting the Brotherhood and their candidate, as if he has discovered after all these years that it is wrong to put the country at the mercy of the political Islamist groups…these late discoveries, directly related to their personal loss of individual benefits is a crime against the society, regardless of how much they try to hide that reality.

But the biggest catastrophe of all, the biggest suffering of the country, is this division and mutual weakening exerted by the powers who were supposed to join forces in order to preserve the civil state of the government, but they were scattered, unfortunately, on the road of seeking fake leadership or to settle old debts of blood and vengeance.