BraveNewEgypt

The Case For A King

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Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Egypt and Sudan

The next weeks and months might quite possibly be among the most important in Egypt’s modern history. As plans are unveiled for new constitutional amendments – essentially applying the same rules with regards to presidential terms as those found in America, many are unsatisfied, instead wanting an overrunning of the entire constitution. Many still wait patiently to know just how secular the new constitution will be, an issue which has been kept tightly under wraps so far. Yet more are wondering exactly how the government will be reformed so as to ensure a democracy in which corruption is eradicated and civil liberties are safeguarded.

One idea that is as radical as it is unimaginable, is the restoration of the monarchy in Egypt. The irony of restoring the monarchy in order to ensure democracy is not lost on me, but there is a method to its madness. Many forget that the monarchy was a popular part of Egyptian culture and government, and that it was the lavish life-style of King Farouk and his lack of efficiency as a ruler, as well as the unacceptable result of the 1948 war that triggered the Free Officers Revolt in 1952 and his eventual abdication in 1952.

But what would a monarchy bring to Egypt? A figurehead and representative of Egypt who is not politically associated. An elected president/prime minister would run the nation, forming a government and working alongside the judiciary and an elected Parliament but in this time of great political uncertainty in a country notorious for corruption in politics, a monarch would ensure that legitimacy and accountability would be adhered to and that no single figure would attempt to manipulate current affairs for personal benefit.

A monarch at the head of Egypt while having no real power over the day-to-day running of the country, similarly to the United Kingdom, would ensure that no single political party or figure would establish an overarching domination as in the past, simply because they would not be at the top of the figurative food chain. The resurgence of a monarchy, assuming it was fair and politically neutral, could spell an end to the bitter infighting among Egypt’s political personas that has for too long plagued Egypt’s ability to have a government for the people, by the people, and of the people.

A monarch’s role would be symbolic, but having an apolitical representative in the midst of what is likely to be a heavily-partisan government is reassuring for the general populace.

The military, which has been heralded in the Jan 25 Revolution as a great institution to which the Egyptian people are eternally grateful, is starting to face much dissatisfaction as more and more information surfaces regarding its past actions under Hosni Mubarak and due to its general incompetence in jumpstarting the country after the revolution. For too long the military has played a primary role in governing the country, no doubt due to the fact that the 1952 Revolution was orchestrated by military officials.

If the military swore allegiance to a monarch, a representative of Egypt as a whole, the relationship between the military and politics would be eradicated, ensuring there was no meddling in each other’s affairs and no power struggle between the two. In doing so an Egyptian government, while having to maintain the strength of Egypt’s military, would not have to appease or make concessions to an institution that should have no position in the body politic.

Finally, as the calls continue for a new, secular constitution in Egypt, one should keep in mind that during the rule of the Muhammad Ali dynasty, Egypt was a much more secular country, and the focus on religion was nowhere near as central as it is today. The focus on religion has created rifts in Egypt that should not be there, and hopefully the interfaith sentiment that was discovered during the Revolution can prosper. While that dynasty was Muslim, their lack of fervour towards religion might reflect on the rest of Egypt. A secular constitution and a nonreligious figurehead might just result in a liberal, secular, efficient, constitutional monarchy that would project Egypt forward in the next decade as a major player in Middle Eastern, African, and even world, politics.

 

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Written by BraveNewEgypt

March 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Post-11.02.2011

Words of Caution

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  1. Courtesy of the BBC:
1730: Professor Fawaz Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics, tells BBC 5Live that stability in Egypt is still a long way off. “They should be concerned about what’s going to happen in the next four to eight months, not just 48 hours,” he says.
1732: More words of caution from Fawaz Gerges of the LSE: “Yes, Mubarak is out but the political structure remains in place, the economic structure remains in place, the Mubarak regime remains deeply entrenched in place. You have Vice-President Omar Suleiman, the military commanders, the prime minister, the defence minister. Yes, it’s a giant step, it’s a major, major watershed for Egypt and Egyptians – Mubarak has been in power for 30 years – but the reality is the challenges have just begun.

Written by BraveNewEgypt

February 11, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Post-11.02.2011

11.02.2011

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After last night’s grueling anticipation ended in crushing disappointment, the cries for change only roared louder into the night. This is the moment every Egyptian has yearned for with every fibre of their being.

Today is February 11, 2011.

81 years ago, a king called Farouk was born, and he was similarly forced to relinquish power after the people revolted.

On this day 32 years ago the Iranian revolution took place when the Shah’s forces were overwhelmed.

And 21 years ago today Nelson Mandela was freed by the apartheid regime in South Africa.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how many is a video?

Translation: “In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of President of the republic and has commissioned the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country.”

Written by BraveNewEgypt

February 11, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Is Tonight the Night?

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Reuters, AlJazeera, NBC, and the Guardian are all reporting that there will be a change tonight, with many expecting Hosni Mubarak to step down. Will it happen? I guess right now everyone has the same feeling in their hearts: cautious optimism.

Written by BraveNewEgypt

February 10, 2011 at 4:13 pm

AlJazeera News Update

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Written by BraveNewEgypt

February 9, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Wael Ghoneim’s CNN Interview

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“This is no longer the time to negotiate, unfortunately. We went on the streets on the 25th and we wanted to negotiate, we wanted to talk to our government, we were knocking on the door. They decided to negotiate with us at night, with rubber bullets, with police sticks, with water hoses, with tear gas, and with arresting about 500 people. Thanks, we got the message. Now, when we escalated this and it became really big, they started listening to us.” – Wael Ghoneim on CNN

 

 

 

Written by BraveNewEgypt

February 9, 2011 at 10:51 pm

A Letter to You, Mr. Obama

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As Egypt enters its 16th night and 17th day of protests, the US and especially President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still seem baffled by the events. They do not know how to respond, who to support, or in fact who to believe.

This letter was drafted anonymously by ‘AJE writer in Cairo’ and posted in the Opinion section on the AlJazeera English website. Read it, copy it, spread it around. It’s well worth your time.

 

Dear President Obama,

From here at Tahrir Square, it seems clear that you are a very confused person. In your heart, you obviously want Egypt to become a democracy — what rational, ethical person wouldn’t? Yet it seems that you are being fed such a stream of propaganda and dire warnings about a take over of America’s most important Arab ally by Islamists and other anti-American forces that you seem to have decided to sell Egyptians up the river Nile in order to protect US “interests” against this frightening prospect.

I could explain how this is total nonsense, how the Muslim Brothers are not at all the dominant force here, how the movement is divided, especially generationally, and how Tahrir represents an unprecedented co-mingling of old and young, rich and poor, secular and religious, and political persuasions of every type. But surely you’ve been told that in your briefings, or at least read it in the more astute journalistic analyses of events on the ground here.

And yet you still can’t just bring yourself to throw the full weight of your office behind the most important revolution in a generation, your very own Tiananmen Square and Berlin Wall at the same time.

I have a solution for you to break the impasse inside your head; come to Tahrir Square now, before its too late. Spend one afternoon, or better one night, and I can assure you all doubts about which side in this epic struggle to support will be erased. Don’t worry, you will be safe here. Indeed, you will never feel safer.

Mr President, you’ve no doubt heard that this is a “Facebook revolution”. But in fact the real leaders are not Facebookers but five year olds, the majority of them little girls, who from 8am till 1am are carried around the square and lead the people in song, singing newly crafted limericks against Mubarak and his henchmen. In particular Vice President Omar Suleiman, of whom you seem so enamored, are the subjects of anger and scorn. You should know why this is the case, since Suleiman has plied his ugly trade of oppression and torture for the direct benefit of the US government. Do you really want to be denounced in the same sentence as Suleiman and Mubarak? Shouldn’t that give you pause?

You have clearly been convinced that unless the very people responsible for Egypt’s sad state of affairs are given more power to lead the country, it will fall into anarchy. Come and let yourself be swept through a crowd of half a million people or more, moving against each other like powerful ocean currents, which at any moment could explode into a violent stampede. And yet not a single person panics or is harmed.

Listen to the voices of hundreds of people, each one, with her or his own megaphone, shouting out their particular philosophy, ideology or agenda, while tens of thousands of people parade by, stop for a few minutes, and move on to hear the next one. What has been created here is the perfect amalgam of a pre-modern and postmodern public sphere — high-tech tweets meeting the most intimate forms of human communication. It is a glimpse of politics at its purest.

Yes, technology is crucial — it seems everyone here is either on their mobile talking to someone or snapping photos or video with their phones and updating their Facebook pages. But that’s actually incidental to the most important dynamic, which is that people are talking to each other in ways that has rarely if ever happened here (and sadly hasn’t happened in the US in far too long).

Americans could learn a lot from the respect and tolerance people here are showing to one another, never mind the incredible artistic creativity being displayed by long suffering Egyptians as they celebrate their freedoms and attempt to tell other Egyptians, and the world (including you), not to turn their backs on them.

Mr President, maybe you’ve forgotten what the struggle for freedom feels like. Maybe it’s been so long since you were a community organizer. Have you have forgotten your loyalties are supposed to lie not with the forces of order and stability that want to maintain a corrupt system, but rather with the people struggling for dignity and democracy?

Please come and tell the eight-year-old boys chanting until their little voices are hoarse that they have to be sacrificed for the cause of security and order. Tell the mother of Khaled Said, the young man whose tortured death at the hands of police last year helped spark the revolt, and who pulled me close to kiss my head when I told her the American people, if not their government, stand with her son’s memory. I doubt they will understand and I doubt that you will be able to tell them.

Please come and explain to the thousands of people living in tents in the middle of Egypt’s busiest intersection that their interests are served by a slow and orderly transition to something – what precisely you seem unwilling to say – that is not quite democracy but rather reforms that everyone here knows means a continuation of the status quo, albeit with  a window dressing of free and fair elections. Would those be like the free and fair elections in the US, where corporations are equal to people and can openly buy Congressmen? Is that the best example we can offer Egyptians?

You have routinely lauded the bravery of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what of the soldiers of Tahrir, who just yesterday, as I watched in amazement, sent a brigade outside the relatively safe confines of Tahrir to conquer and garrison the Parliament building so that the country’s falsely elected Assembly could not rubber stamp Mubarak’s faux reforms? Don’t they deserve praise and support? How are they any different than the average people who fought against British tyranny and oppression in the American Revolution? How can you betray them without betraying our own history?

Mr President, why is it you and your chief aides can’t just look squarely into the camera and say that Egypt needs democracy now? Not tomorrow, not in 7 months. Now. Sir, you cannot toss the word around like a carrot to be dangled every so often in front of Egyptians only to be pulled away before they can grab it, replaced by the far less nutritious, and indeed toxic meal of reform. People aren’t stupid, you know. They understand that reform means changing things just enough, giving just enough freedom here and there, so that the game can be called and business returned to normal, with the system that Mubarak, aided by tens of billions of American taxpayers’s dollars, has spent 30 years erecting.

Let me ask you, Mr. Obama, if the President of the United States had used the same discourse towards black Americans fighting for their rights half a century ago, what would you have said to him?

Would you accept it if he had supported a dyed-in-the-wool Dixiecrat to take over the country after him?

What would Dr King have said? Would he, or you, sanction the President’s refusal to annul racist laws that enabled the government to arrest, silence , and oppress the people, as Suleiman has so far done with the dreaded emergency decrees, because it might lead the wrong black people (those “radicals” or perhaps just “uppity” ones who don’t know their place) to take power?

Mr President, do you understand what your waffling means on the ground here? Do you really care so little about freedom? Whatever respect you gained in Cairo in 2009 is buried beneath a grave of stones here in Tahrir. The protesters by and large still are happy to see Americans, but with every day of your waffling, the mood grows more suspicious of foreigners inside the square. You say that this revolution must be decided by Egyptians, but let’s be honest, that’s a meaningless statement. You know the US is knee – no, neck deep – in the muck of Egyptian authoritarianism and status quo.

Yes, this is an Egyptian revolution whose fate must and will ultimately be decided by Egyptians. But whether you want to admit it or not, your actions are helping to preserve this system regardless of what ideals or people have to be sacrificed.

Some will say that doing so is a sign of your maturity and acceptance of Kissingerian realpolitik. That’s an insult, sir, not least of which because Kissinger was largely responsible for a war in which his government – the same one you now head – killed upwards of three million Southeast Asians just because some of them didn’t want to live under the right political and economic system. Is that really the political legacy you want to inherit?

I dont know what anyone can say to get you to change your mind, to really stand with the people of Tahrir, Alexandria, Mansoura and all across Egypt who are risking so much for such quintessentially American ideals and dreams. If only you could come here for an hour, you might change your mind, but I guess the sounds and spirit of freedom have no hope of penetrating your Washington bubble. But I can promise you this: If the Egyptian government manages to win the day here and suppress this revolution, the ghosts of Tahrir will haunt you for the rest of your presidency.

Consider that before your next call to Pharaoh.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

 

Written by BraveNewEgypt

February 9, 2011 at 10:38 pm