A political analyst says the shock the West experienced when Egypt erupted into revolution shows that peddling dictators and coup d’états is not a long term solution.
Since observing the military coup d’état of the Supreme Military Council (SCAF) in Egypt during the election period that led people’s choice Mohamed Morsi to the presidential post, but with almost all presidential powers usurped from him by SCAF just days before, Press TV, in its program Islam and Life
has conducted an interview with the political analyst, Aly el-Kabbany in London to discuss the issue of the people’s desire for democracy in the Middle East. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Before coming to the question about what can the Western Muslims and Muslims living in the West and even all the people who care about democracy, do for Egypt and in which way they can promote a better future or at least being helpful from here, let us try to understand what is happening.
What is your view on what is happening in Egypt? Because people who had been so happy in Tahrir [Liberation] Sq, celebrating the victory of Morsi, but two days before; the Supreme Council of Armed Forces [SCAF] was just removing all powers, as if he has power without authority or symbolic authority without true power.
What is really happening? What is your take on that?
Since the creation of Adam, humanity could travel two roads: the road to freedom and the road to slavery. And the powers of evil are always bringing people to the road of slavery to help their interests.
So the Egyptian people actually said ‘enough is enough’ and they wanted to reach the humanity level and get rid of the autocratic military dictatorship, which ruled Egypt for 60 years. And they started their uprising on the 25th of January (2011) in this blessed revolution.
This revolution actually came as a surprise to everybody; internationally, regionally and locally. Nobody believed that the Egyptian people will up rise and rebel in such a strong and civilized way and a peaceful way.
So that put all the powers of counter revolution in a state of shock and with my medical background I say they were in a coma. And with the coma you need time for the patient to wake up and reorganize himself again.
When that uprising happened; the military establishment in Egypt stood beside the revolution, so people, in my opinion, were fooled by saying that the people and the army are one hand, but actually this revolution came to satisfy a desire for the Military Council.
They didn’t like the succession system because ...
... Meaning after Mubarak, his son and the whole same people who are taking over the whole system in fact, the whole regime?
Exactly. So they did not want the biological son of Mubarak (Gamal) to succeed his father, they wanted the military’s son to succeed the ousted President Mubarak; like what happened with Nasser, Sadat and lately Mubarak.
So, they really had a problem with Mubarak’s regime because of the succession file and also some of the corrupt parasites around Gamal Mubarak and...
Listening to you, you are saying two things that are striking in a way - What is really happening? Because when you are studying and try to understand the fact over the last one and a half year and even before by the way if you look at some of the facts, it is quite clear that this regime was at the end of the cycle.
Something was going to change, so this was even said by the American administration, the American ambassador in Egypt, writing that something is going to change, that you have political forces that want change. And what you are saying is, at the same time you have the people coming into or taking to the streets, saying we want freedom, we want dignity and it is enough, which is what you said.
On the other side, it is as if from within the military regime, there were tensions and people trying to take over, instead of leaving the system being carried on by the son of the previous dictator.
Now, at the same time, more than one year ago, in fact one and a half year, I was talking to the special advisor, to Sarkozy, [Henri] Guaino, he told me that this is not a revolution in Egypt, it is a military coup d’état - in fact, one side of what you are saying.
So what is really happening? Is it a military coup d’etat? Because at the end just before the election, there is something, which seems to be coup d’etat.
So what is really happening? Is it the people or is it the military?
It is actually the two together. And now we are seeing the challenge and the struggle now is between the actual revolution of the revolutionary youth of Egypt, because as I said, it was a tremendous revolution and a historic revolution and I am not using that term lightly, because really we have not seen even in a civilized world people are going to demonstrate and protest and stand in a queue to go inside.
So it was a popular uprising that is for sure. But at the same time, the military was preparing for a coup d’etat and that uprising came as a golden opportunity for them. So they took their hand off Mubarak’s regime and pretended to be on the side of the revolution.
For a while, until they were able to...?
For a while. And they promised that they will do that for six months and then they would give the power to the civilian-elected government and we saw the six months prolonged to one year and six months, and we are still counting.
And they came with the real coup when they dissolved the elected parliament and with this constitutional addendum, which deprived any elected president from all the powers.
All the powers he should have.
So, let me come to the Islamic parameters here on the reference; because what we have seen with the victory of Morsi, it is still symbolically quite important, even though we are saying that he seems to be a president without true power; he is coming from the Muslim Brotherhood and he is advocating the fact; yes it is a civil state, but the Islamic reference it is important.
And the Islamic reference means that willing it or not, in the Muslim majority countries, Islam is going to play a role in the future; we saw this in Tunisia, everywhere in fact wherever we go, when we have a Muslim-majority country Islam is the reference.
So in which way the Islamic reference could play a positive role in this reform process and this transitory period?
Actually I always tell people in the West, that in Islam we do not have a civil government and a religious government, we have only one government.
But Morsi referred to Dowlat al-Madaniah [Civil government] himself; so he referred to a civil state.
I think he was wrong in that, because when you say for example: an Islamic government, so then if Dr. Morsi failed, is that a failure of Islam? It should not be.
So what I am saying is that in Islam, really, all over the history we have a government, we have a state; we never had Islamic state or Islamic government.
But Muslims always have their morality, their principals dictating all their way of life and the way they govern and the political governing system.
So that is how Islam shows itself. So I do not like the slogan of Islamic science, Islamic medicine, Islamic banking...
To qualify and to specify all this...
Yes, because medicine is medicine, science is science.
So the point here is; we are referring here to principles, so the Islamic principles are going to play a role in the future of Egypt.
That is for sure. And this is what Muslims want because god sent all his prophets and messengers for one thing and according to the Qur’an... Le Yaghoum al-Nas Be al-Ghest, in order that people may apply justice.
So, justice is the main essence, also all people are born free, as Omar ibn Khatab mentioned, so this is what the people are longing for - Justice, so they can enjoy dignity, pride and freedom; and also to be democratic, because some people argue that democracy is against Islam and is a Western concept.
Actually I would argue that and not only me, but also Khalid, Mohammad Khalid, that democracy is the main essence of Islam and Showra [Counseling] is a principle, but democracy is the mechanism, which we can apply Showra [Parliament].
So in order to have a Muslim community, according to the inscription of the Qur’an... Wa Amrahom Showra Bainahum. So if I go and see any group of people, they pray, they pay Zakat [tithe], but if they do not consult in their affairs and they do not apply Showra [Counseling], it is not a Muslim community.
Once they consult, then I would say this is a Muslim society. So when we want a Muslim society, democracy and Showra [Counseling] should be in the heart of it.
So what you are saying, which is quite important without calling it an Islamic state, at the end of the day, for Muslim majority countries should be based on the principals of pluralism, on consultation, on democratic processes and procedures, with some of the principles that are already here in all what we have as the Islamic tradition and that we find also in the democratic societies.
Now, from where we are in the West, dealing with what is happening; what you are trying to do now is to translate this by saying this is - how can we from where we are, help in a way from the West?
These Dynamics that are happening in the Middle East and in Egypt in particular; is it possible to do this? I mean do they have a role to play - The Western Muslims or the Muslims being here? Because very often the perception is, from Reagan it was, ‘Oh it is a polarization between the secularists and the Islamists’ and it is as if the future of Muslim majority countries in Tunisia or in Egypt... add to this the Salafi equation; this is what we have to do.
Do we have to translate the equation in another way? Can we help?
I think we can help tremendously. First by trying... because we live in a democratic country and this is a democratic, free country; so we really have to really be more involved in our society and let our people know that this revolution is a great achievement, but you cannot move a society from a state of dictatorship to a state of democracy with pressing a button or an electric switch.
Which is the reality of the European revolutions and it took time; it is over centuries even and generations.
Yes, French revolution, the Russian revolution. So revolution and democracy is a process, which needs time and we need to build a new generation to be democratic and we need to change the society and create a civil society, in that sense, to be democratic. Because we have to admit that it is not only the head of the regime who is a dictator, Mubarak, but the father at home is a dictator, the teacher at school is a dictator.
Showra starts at home anyway and we have it in the Qur’an anyway.
Exactly! So until we bring up a new generation on the democratic principles and then they feel free and there is no disrespect to disagree with their father and give another opinion, or with their teacher, or with the head of the company, then that takes time until it becomes their behavior. And then the society itself, we have to build establishment of the democratic societies, the political parties, the syndicates, the trade unions and all that.
It takes time to develop this democracy.
Yes, so this is a positive discourse that we have to promote and to articulate from where we are in the West, because we are experiencing life in democratic societies.
Yet we also have to be critical and this where for example Western Muslims could be, in a constructive way, cbe ritical with what is happening in the West. Because at the end of the day;
I remember having heard the special advisor to Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister. He was saying, the question is not if the Muslims can do with democracy, they do not have a problem with this, the true question is, is the West ready for democracy for Muslims? And the critical point is, from where we are if we are serious about democracy.
We also have to be critical about the last, you know, half a century where dictators, Mubarak [of Egypt] and Ben Ali [of Tunisia] and others were supported by the West. So we also have to be self critical from where we are, by saying that, if we are Europeans, if I am a Swiss, you are British or someone is a French or whatever; it is from within our society to play a role by saying, it is not democracy at home, supporting dictatorships outside; it is about consistency.
Can we help on this? And it seems that the Muslims are not enough present in the discussion.
Exactly; and this is a very important point. And I always argued that, actually, democracy in the Middle East is against the interests of the West, so they will never promote it and all their talk about democracy in this area is a lip talk [lip service] and they do not mean it, because they want all these countries to be client-States to the Western interests there.
They have the source of energy, we believe it is theirs, we do not want anyone to touch it, and they think, wrongly, in my opinion that to protect their interest in this area, they have to have client states and puppets who take their dictates and obey their orders.
But they realize now, I think, that the situation cannot stay like that for long; because if we look, after the first world war, 50 percent of the countries of the world were democratic; after the second world war the percentage increased and when the United Nations was established nearly 70 percent of the countries on the world were democratic.
Now all the countries of the world are democratic, except the Arab countries and African countries. So that situation cannot carry on.
It cannot carry on, but still what you are saying is a critical question, because it is exactly what, as your opinion, that the European and the Western Muslims are infusing.
What you are saying is that, the West understands; the United States of America, even Russia, China and we see the tensions between the countries in the specific situation in the Middle East, Syria, Iran and all of... there is a big game here, and then what you are saying is that, it is against the Western interests to promote democracy in the region.
So when we are Western Muslims from within and we advocate democracy in the Middle East; it is as if from within, we are calling for a policy which is against the Western interests. So it is as if we are perceived as alien from insiders so, you know, outsiders inside... so, not loyal to the country.
Yes, it may appear like that, but actually our feelings are shared by the Christian citizens of the West. They want their friendship to be with the people, not with puppets, because they want their interest to be long-term, not like politicians, they want it to be short-term as long as they are in government. So our role is very important in moving the public opinion.
That is a very important point, we are not talking to the governments, we are talking to our fellow citizens and the civil society.
Yes, who are the masters in democracy and the politicians are their servants. Because they appoint them and they can remove them through the ballot box.
So we have to work on the public opinion to show that it is in our long term interest to have friendship with the people of this country to guarantee our interests as Western countries in the long-term.
And you were here in London and I think we met at the time when the rules, a lot of demonstrations in Britain against the UK invasion of Iraq.
Yes, the anti-war movement.
Yes, and here, actually, Western Muslims played a vital role in moving the public opinion in the West to see all these massive demonstrations and people would say that it did not have any result because Britain went to war anyway.
But it was the end of Tony Blair’s career and George W. Bush’s, even; because it exposed them as liars, opportunists and they were not true to the British interests when they went in this war.