x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

An Arab journalist says the 50-member panel charged with revisiting the Egyptian constitution should build on the ideals of the revolution. Other Digest topics include: Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia

The whole fuss about what criteria were applied in choosing the 50-member panel tasked with revisiting the Egyptian constitution is misguided, wrote Mohammed Idris, a contributor to the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram, in a column yesterday.

Equally misleading are questions about what system of government Egypt needs: parliamentary, presidential or semi-presidential. Or those about the limits of the legislative, executive and judicial powers.

“These questions would have had priority in nations that enjoy a level of stability and are only after constitutional reform,” the writer said. In the case of Egypt, however, a country that is living through the convulsions of two revolutions – one that toppled “a corrupt, despotic regime” and another that removed “a fascist regime dressed up in religious clothing” – the priorities will naturally differ.

“The conflict – or, shall we say, the struggle – that is gripping Egypt in the aftermath of these two revolutions is not between the three powers of government,” the author argued. “Remember that the June 25, 2011 revolution had sought to bring down a police-military state that has spawned a corrupt, despotic regime, while the June 30, 2013 revolution wanted to unseat a Muslim Brotherhood-style theocracy – meaning that the goal of both revolutions was to instate a civil, democratic state. Therefore, the real struggle that must be addressed now is between the civil, democratic state in the face of the military or theocratic state.

“In other words, this struggle should be, at the very least, for the establishment of a political system that tips the balance in favour of the civil, democratic state in its confrontation with the ideologies of the military state and the religious state.”

Under the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak and, later, under the regime that was effectively led by the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt has been a “flabby”, “despotic”, “repressive” and “failed” state, the author said. To redress this trajectory, which the country has taken for the past four decades, a whole new constitution must be written, that literally and figuratively turns the page on those years.

“This is where the philosophy of the new constitution must start, and this is where the constitutional declaration that provided for merely ‘amending’ the 2012 constitution reveals itself as a fundamental mistake,” he noted.

“A revolution tears down a system to build a new one, and the constitution is the mirror that must embody the spirit of the revolution as it reaches the stage of institutional rebuilding, whereas the constitution of 2012 was based on a clear philosophy: the state of Sharia.”

The 50-member panel will be well advised to start from here, and then build on the ideals of the revolution, he said.

The Brotherhood was banned by the people

An Egyptian court banned on Monday all activities by the Muslim Brotherhood, its non-government organisation and any affiliated institutions, including its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party.

In a comment, the Saudi Al Watan Online said: “Brotherhood supporters may see this as political liquidation scheme, but the Egyptian judiciary isn’t biased. It has always enjoyed the highest degrees of independence, before and after the revolution.”

“What matters in this case is that the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood as a group, a popular movement or even as a political party has visibly diminished in Egypt.

“It is important to review the causes and the factors that led to the group’s defeat and loss of popularity in Egypt and elsewhere.

“The Muslim Brotherhood didn’t come up with a project to revive Egypt’s economy. They failed to contain internal financial crises, they monopolised authority and ostracised all other political partners.

“The Brotherhood were ousted by popular demand. Upon realising this fact, a number of the group’s members offered public apologies for internal crises they caused in Egypt. This is a positive step that signals that Brotherhood leaderships may be reviewing their past policies and starting a new phase of self-criticism,” the paper noted.

Saudi’s journey to modernity will be long

On Monday the kingdom of Saudi Arabia celebrated on Monday the 81st anniversary of its modern foundation said the Saudi columnist Abdel Rahman Al Rashed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

But statehood first appeared in Saudi in 1744, which raises the obvious question: how is it possible, that after almost three centuries of existence, the country is still struggling for a transition to a civic state?

In this day and age, in Saudi there are those who object to celebrating National Day. There are those who object to women having identity cards with their photographs on them while others oppose scholarships for Saudi students to some of the world’s biggest universities. They succeeded in banning movie theatres and women from driving!

It gets even more confusing when one realises that the kingdom isn’t a closed fort. In fact, it is the biggest user of Internet, social media and mobile phones in the region. It people are well travelled and it is host to over 10 million expatriates from various backgrounds and cultures.

“How can it be so well equipped for openness, yet so closed?” the writer asked.

The state’s strive for social openness is a slowly journey fraught with many conflicts.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk