x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Egyptian Islamists cultivate image to suit voters

Arabic newspapers say Islamists in Egypt's presidential election cultivate image to suit wide range of voters. Other topics include Yemen's impasse and Lebanon's sectarian crisis.

Islamists in Egypt's presidential elections cultivate image to suit wide range of voters

Does the Arab Spring contribute to the democratisation of Islamists? Would ascension to power lead Islamists to rethink their stance on democracy as a philosophy of governance, not just a mechanism they have found useful to ward off the evils of Arab authoritarianism?

These are the main questions addressed by columnist Taoufik Bouachrine in an article posted on the Moroccan news website Febrayer.

"All lights are cast on Cairo to keep track of the direction the Nile River will be flowing after the presidential elections," the journalist noted.

In Cairo, Mohamed Morsy, the candidate for "the Muslim Brotherhood - a once 80-year-banned movement and now out of the bottle - appeared sporting a short beard and wearing a chic tie." His pictures all over town carried the slogan: "Renaissance is the will of the people"

Far from the capital in the Nile Delta rural governorates, pictures of the same candidate erected among peasants but this time in a completely different fashion with "a longer beard and more piety"

"Politics, like a snake, changes its skin effortlessly," the journalist observed. But the question is: will Islamists' ascension to power lead them to change their take on democracy?

"Democracy is not an inherited trait in the genes of political beings. It is an acquired merit and an obligation imposed on politicians by the force of the constitution, the law and the public opinion".

It is the public, the media, the "eyes of the West", and the political rivals which prompted the largest Islamist organisation in the Arab world, to talk now about the renaissance, the will of the people, and the pros of democracy and plurality. The very movement which used to say that "Islam is the solution to all problems, and the Quran is the constitution of Muslims."

Islamists in our region will become "democrats" when societies recognise the value of democracy and impose it on Islamists as a "red line" in their quest for power. However, if our societies breed extremism and authoritarianism, like the Nile Delta rural governorates, then the "beard of Mohamed Morsy will grow longer, his electoral slogans will don the mantle of religion, and voting for him shall become an individual obligation."

Therein lies the beauty of democracy. It is a "school that admits not only the democratically illiterate, but also its own enemies, and bear with them until they learn the ropes."

"Islamists across the Arab world gained a great deal from being victimised by the Arab dictatorships, but this trump card is burnt," Taoufik said. "And now they have to prove they are the antithesis of the despotism from which they used to complain."


Lebanon teeters 'on the brink of disaster'

"The situation in Lebanon gives one reason to be worried and probably even be scared," stated the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial yesterday.

"It's all too clear that there are forces inside and outside Lebanon intent on stoking a sectarian civil war that can soak the country in a bloodbath - the victims of which will be the sum of the Lebanese people, irrespective of religion or sect."

Reports this week about the abduction of a group of Shiite pilgrims making their way through the Syrian city of Aleppo do not augur well for a country that is deeply divided along sectarian lines. Reprisal, in the form of Lebanese Shiites abducting members of another sect, is likely.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah, Lebanon's Shiite armed and political group, did the right thing when he came on television and urged his followers to exercise restraint, the newspaper said.

Sunni leaders in Lebanon and elsewhere must come out and spread the same message of restraint to nip this insidious drive for sedition at the bud, the paper added.

"This is no time for exchanging accusations or trying to determine who is responsible [for the abduction], although we are absolutely convinced that the most part of that responsibility falls on the Syrian regime's shoulders."

This is the time for minimising potential damages.

Dialogue only solution for Yemen's impasse

Al Qaeda's suicide attack against the military forces in Yemen on Monday was a serious escalation that causes deep sorrow for a country that has yet to shake off the heritage of its corrupt former president, said columnist Yasser Al Zaatra in the Jordanian newspaper Addustour.

Ali Abdullah Saleh and his cohort of "military men and thrives" played an important role in promoting Al Qaeda's threat in an attempt to validate their stay in power. That said, the terrorist organisation couldn't have taken root in the country if it didn't find a popular host environment, especially in the southern part of the country where the communities were growing weary of the regime's negligence.

But the problem with this sort of groups is that they often get out of hand and it becomes hard to control its transmutations.

Al Qaeda justifies its battle against the regime in the latter's cooperation with the US, and Al Zawahiri's call to rebel against the new president gave the organisation a renewed zeal.

"But the organisation is fighting a futile battle that would accomplish nothing but shedding innocent blood. Eventually, [Al Qaeda] can't overpower the army and the Yemenis wouldn't have of it as an outcome for their popular uprising… Dialogue is the only way out for Yemen.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk