By JAMAL KANJ*
LONG before the self-righteous Islamists turned genuine street grievances into violent movements, Egypt was the crown of the Arab Spring and Syria was the second best hope to reap the flowers of the spring.
Today, however, hope and optimism have been hijacked by pretentious religious demagogues and tunneled vision ideologues with a pedantic monopoly on God.
The Muslim Brotherhood – who rode on the January 25 uprising removing one of the oldest Arab dictators – lost a unique opportunity to becoming an important pillar in shaping Egypt’s political life for many generations.
Ex-president Mohamed Mursi and the Brotherhood leadership soon forgot that he won by 25 per cent in the first election’s round; just 1pc more than the person whose credentials were serving as prime minister under the ex-dictator.
In the second and final round he was elected by three percentage points from votes cast against the perceived old regime’s nominee, not a vote of confidence in the Brotherhood candidate.
Mursi failed to appreciate that the close vote was not necessarily in support of the old regime either, but reflected the depth of the public’s mistrust in the Brotherhood’s leadership.
Instead of winning over distrustful voters, Mursi wrought the office of the president into a hive run by supercilious party ideologues. His biggest political blunder was ignoring the power of the street and the political tsunami that toppled Egypt’s dinosaur two years earlier.
Rather than being a president accountable to all Egyptians, Mursi became answerable to the Brotherhood’s consultative leadership leading eventually to the June 30th tidal wave paving the way for his removal by the military.
Despite the above, the military’s role in disrupting the fledgling Egyptian democracy raises serious concerns, especially since this is the same institution that was patient under 30 years of corruption and dictatorship.
Instead of allowing those who took to the streets to play a role, we observed many of Mubarak’s era repackaged pundits back in public life armed with atavist decrees limiting freedom of expression that was tolerated even during the Brotherhood reign. For instance Bassem Yousif’s satirical news programme – a copycat of John Stewart’s daily show – which survived Mursi, was cancelled by the military.
Undeniably the Brotherhood’s self-righteousness represents a major predicament for progress in the Arab world, but it would be equally sanctimoniousness to discount a movement that received close to 25pc in Egypt’s presidential votes. Thrashing political belief leads to absolute dictatorship.
It was this tunnel vision which was responsible for turning the Libyan revolution into an anarchic forest of guns threatening the nation’s stability and the future of the Arab Maghreb.
It was the demagoguery that changed the tide of change forcing the Syrian people to choose between a ruthless dictator or Al Qaeda inspired bearded doctrinaires.
It has undermined democracy in Tunisia and fragmented Palestinian unity leaving people with no option but to pick between dictators and corrupt collaborators or politically inept parties with compulsive obsession over managing individual private life.
Centuries ago Europe sunk in the Dark Age under the tenet of the dogmatic rites of the church, whereas Muslims advanced in medicine, science and astronomy by embracing reason and free intellectual discourse.
In swapping places with old Europe, the Arab world is descending in darkness because professed religionists are consumed with peripheral practices when they should heed Prophet Mohammad’s (saw) command: “The virtue of knowledge is more beloved with Allah than the virtue of worship.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
* Mr Kanj (http://www.jamalkanj.com/) writes weekly newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. This Op-Ed piece can be published with the author’s permission.