x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Egypt needs internal political reconciliation

The Muslim Brotherhood leaders must realise that their main, if not only, issue is to find solutions for Egyptians' increasing hardships, a commentator says. Other topics: voting and literacy, and Syria.

On Saturday, amid raging protests in the streets of Cairo against president Mohammed Morsi's contested presidential decree, a coalition of Islamist groups held a press conference to remark on the turmoil.

Their message, delivered by the first deputy of the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat Al Shater, was hostile towards internal and external players. It fuelled rumours that Mr Al Shater and the supreme guide, Mohammed Badeea, are the real administrators of the government and President Morsi is nothing more than a façade, opined the columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in the pan-Arab Asharq Al Awsat.

In the press conference, the Islamist groups' coalition accused the activists of causing obstruction, chaos and confusion by attempting to prolong the transitional period. The media too was blamed of serving foreign interests.

"But President Morsi backed down from his unconstitutional presidential decree, thus confirming that he is still in the cockpit and that Mr Badeea's and Mr Al Sharter's offensive rhetoric wields no power over the crisis. It was merely a bad tactic induced by the inability to face the streets," said the writer.

Mr Morsi's backtracking may have been his most significant achievement since he assumed power. It showed him as a wise, reasonable, pragmatic politician who realises that saving the country outweighs saving face.

Mr Morsi is the legitimate president of Egypt. He is expected to uphold the system that brought him to power rather than encroach on it. When he attempted to do so, the people's response was loud and clear. It proved that the Brotherhood are not the people, as their representatives claimed; they are but one category of the population.

"What do the popular demonstrations and their protest against the president's decisions have to do with internal or external conspiracies?" asked the writer. In their stream of condemnations, the supreme guide and his deputy may have been alluding to Gulf states, hence opening up inexistent fronts.

Gulf states have played a crucial role in supporting Egypt's stability since the collapse of the previous regime and up until the present day. It is true that they have concerns over the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood groups to power on grounds of their close alliance with Iran, the Gulf states' main enemy. Nonetheless, they choose to coexist with them in peace as they are the choice of the Egyptian people.

President Morsi's political performance so far is reassuring. The supreme guide and the rest of the Brotherhood leaders must realise that their main, if not only, issue is to find solutions for the population's increasing hardships. This requires reconciliation with the various political factions in Egypt, said the writer in conclusion.

Should referendum be delayed for 20 years?

Some Egyptian intellectuals, including novelist Alae Aswani, have recently advocated the idea of limiting the right to vote to the literate as a way to get rid of illiteracy. "With all due respect, I disagree with that idea," wrote Wael Kandil in the Cairo-based paper Al Shorouk.

"In Egypt, people who cannot read number in the millions. These were, and still are, a major part in the Egyptian revolution," the writer said.

The illiterate took to the streets along with intellectuals, educated and half-educated, chanting for freedom and social justice. They have also been involved in the ongoing uproar over President Morsi's constitutional decree.

Yet no concerns were raised about their inability to read or grasp the unwanted declaration, nor did anyone demand they be expelled from demonstrations under the pretext of being ignorant and unable to understand the demands.

"These people that … we all court during mobilisation for or against this or that issue should not be treated according to the notion of 'invited during sad times, disregarded during joyful ones'," he wrote.

Chants are devised for the illiterate when needed: they are the "salt of the earth and the fuel of the revolution". But it is not right to expel them in other events. Plus, if Egyptians wait until there is no illiteracy, the referendum on the constitution should be delayed for 20 years.

Inaction in Syria only aggravates fallout

The more the international community delays in making a unified decision to end the Syrian tragedy, the worse and more intractable the situation becomes, wrote the UAE-based newspaper Al Bayan in an editorial yesterday.

Syria's infrastructure has suffered extensive destruction that may shortly develop into a cut-off of supplies of power, water, sanitation and telephone networks.

Concerning Syria's food stocks, some reports have pointed out that in most cities there has been a lack of basic food items including flour and heating fuel.

Famine is looming in large cities such as Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Deir Ezzor, Idlib, Rif Dimashq and Daraa. The bread shortages in Aleppo are an alarm bell to the undecided world to end the Syrian crisis, which needs only a unified United Nations resolution, the newspaper noted.

Worst of all, many reports said there were possibilities of using weapons of mass destruction either by the regime, as its opponents said, or by "armed gangs" as the regime claimed.

Such a catastrophic scenario could destroy the country for dozens of years and turn it into "a pile of dead bodies and remains".

The international community, which has intervened in less perilous places, must find a way out of Syria's predicament that threatens the entire country.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk