x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fierce protest needed to awaken Brotherhood

Whatever happens in Egypt, it is clear that President Mohammed Morsi has failed to save the nation or the Muslim Brotherhood, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics: sectarian warfare and a solution for Syria.

Fierce protests were needed in Egypt to awaken Brotherhood from illusion, commentators say

"We are alarmed and saddened by what is happening these days in Egypt", wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

"Demonstrations reflect deep divisions and mutual hatred in the country, with each camp claiming the righteousness of its position, while ordinary Egyptians will, alone, pick up the broken pieces later," he wrote.

Referring to the mass rallies called by the National Salvation Front, an anti-government alliance, to force President Mohammed Morsi out of office on his first anniversary as head of state, the editor said Egypt's political elite is fighting the wrong battle after "falling into the trap of incitement and drive for revenge".

"This is not the democracy for which the Egyptian people started a revolution, sacrificing over 1,000 martyrs," he wrote in a column titled The Egyptian revolution has taken a turn to the unknown.

"And none of those players now represents the kind of alternative that the Egyptian people were hoping for … to make up for 40 years of corruption, repression, humiliation and gobbling up of the hard work of the poor, the deprived and the guileless."

On the eve of yesterday's protests, clashes between rival groups had already left at least eight people dead.

Egypt's National Salvation Front, led by the likes of Hamdeen Sabahi, a left-leaning presidential candidate in 2011, had earlier this year launched a campaign called "Rebel" to collect 15 million signatures from Egyptians wishing to see President Morsi out.

The 15 million signatures were meant to outnumber the 13.2 million votes that earned Mr Morsi the presidency last year, according to the local media.

Last week, the Rebel campaign organisers said they had beaten that target.

Other commentators, however, view Sunday's rallies as the culmination of national discontent over the Muslim Brotherhood's encroachment on the levers of power in Egypt and failure to effect a change.

Tariq Al Homayed, of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, wrote yesterday that "history will remember that the current president, Dr Mohammed Morsi, failed to save Egypt, himself and his Muslim Brotherhood".

In his first-anniversary address last week, Mr Morsi simply put himself and his party in a worse position. "The president's recent - and lengthy - speech was a political disaster. He further united his opponents and lost those who were still on the fence," the writer said.

"So whatever transpires on Sunday, one thing is certain: that the president has missed a chance to save Egypt, himself and his Brotherhood. He has wasted a whole year, not making any real effort to engage his opponents … or even preserve his alliance with the Salafists."

Middle East descends into religious warfare

They shouted "Oh Hussein" - the name of one of Prophet Mohammed's grandsons and the son of Caliph Ali, one of the most venerated figures in Shiite Islam - when they killed Sunnis in the Syrian town of Qusayr a few weeks ago.

In Giza, Egypt, this month Sunnis cried "God is Great" as they beat to death a group of unarmed, unresisting Shiites.

Palestinian academic Khaled Al Hroub cited these events, in an article in yesterday's edition of the London-based paper Al Hayat. He called the two cases the latest signs of the Middle East's "rather confident entry into the territory of religious warfare".

"All the evidence before us, and in almost every Arab-Islamic nation, proves this increasingly irrefutable, now almost scientific fact: the more religion and sectarian sentiment are injected into politics, the wider the scope of bloodshed and destruction," he wrote.

"We refuse to learn from the lessons of history, from the long decades lost in religious warfare precisely due to the mixing of religion and politics."

Just look at the infighting among Islamists themselves, the writer added. "The Salafists in Tunisia have declared the ruling Ennahda Party Islamists to be infidels; the Salafists in Egypt are antagonising the Muslim Brotherhood … and Hamas fighters laid siege on Jihad Al Islami fighters, chased them and ran them over."

Political resolution in Syria must come soon

There are still shimmers of hope for the Syrian conflict to be resolved politically, but that dim light will eventually fade if the brokers of a negotiated settlement between the rebels and President Bashar Al Assad's regime continue to indulge in their current tactics, the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan said in its editorial yesterday.

For instance, a date for the "Geneva 2" conference, which is really the only existing hope for both sides of the conflict to agree on a political resolution under a US-Russian umbrella, has still not been specified, the paper said.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, affirms that his country is committed to Geneva 2 but that "some countries and groups" are complicating matters by advancing preconditions.

"If we were to ask a US official to comment on this, he would give us a similar response, which is that Russia is setting a precondition, that the prospective negotiations must not involve the question of ousting President Bashar Al Assad," Al Bayan observed.

The more time spent away from the negotiating table, the more bloodshed and destruction there will be, the paper said. One day, neither the regime nor the rebels will want to hear anything about a political settlement, the paper concluded.


* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi