x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Islamists try to manipulate civil government

In Tunisia and Egypt alike, Islamists are showing their true colours about abusing state power for their own purposes, a columnist notes. Also today: nonsense from Damascus and silence from Washington.

Crisis in institutions in Tunisia and Egypt puts the concept of the civil state in jeopardy

It may be a mere coincidence that crises related to state institutions erupted simultaneously in Tunisia and Egypt. But this is a clear indication of the nature of the relationship with state institutions that political Islam is seeking to uphold in both countries, suggested Abdullah Iskandar, managing editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

"In a pluralist and democratic political system - which the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennahda in Tunisia still pretend to hold on to - state agencies operate separately from parties. Their functions don't change with the changing ruling majority," he noted.

State institutions exist to serve the trans-partisan and non-political public interest, and they must be neutral vis-à-vis internal conflicts. Based on this principle, the executive, legislative and judicial powers must be independent in a way that shields them from political exploitation.

"This is the essence of the civil state that the Islamists are striving to change in terms of functionality, since they regard it as 'secular' - an adjective used purposefully to evoke alienation and repugnance towards it," added the writer.

This civil state is exactly the opposite of a totalitarian state where powers and institutions become intertwined and their only purpose becomes to serve the ruler.

This is how the system operated under former presidents Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Revolutions broke out in both countries in an attempt to reclaim the civil state's rights from the regime and the ruling party, and return the civil state to its proper function.

In Tunisia, Rashid Al Ghannouchi, the leader of the Islamic ruling party Ennahda, couldn't bridle his eagerness - which he had managed to conceal until now by claiming to defend democracy and the right to political participation - to clarify his position about the current form of the state in the country.

He described it as "secular" where "radical secularists" still roam free and must be purged gradually. He made sure to address his statements to Salafis in an attempt to woo them before the upcoming elections by telling them what they wanted to hear about the concept of a civil state.

In Egypt, President Mohammed Morsi, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, interfered directly in the judiciary to try to absorb the angry protests that erupted as a reaction to the acquittal of former officials over attacks on protesters in what became known as the "camel incident". The interference proves beyond any doubt that the president is trying to control the constitutionally independent judiciary and reassign it to the service of the ruler.

"However, such plans won't go down as easily as political Islam anticipates, neither in Tunisia nor in Egypt. Civil powers in both countries continue to resist the attempt to dismantle their concept of state," Iskandar said.

Syria's 'imperialism' claims are nonsensical

The Syrian regime's supporters can keep repeating the same tired mantra - that the regime is facing a "global conspiracy" of imperialists and Zionists - but a few simple questions show that such statements make no sense, Syrian journalist Faisal Al Qassem wrote in the Qatari paper Al Sharq.

"Let us, for the sake of argument, assume that the regime's violent clampdown aims only to protect Syria from conspirators. A simple question then springs to mind: How would you face Syria's enemies with a country whose cities, villages … and infrastructure are destroyed?"

The Syrian army has been fighting what it calls "armed gangs" across the country for more 18 months, and has failed so far to eradicate them, the writer noted. Could such an army put up a fight against the armies of Zionism and imperialism?

"It just does not stand to reason that an army which could not repel the enemy at home - they claim that the enemy is now inside Syria - could confront the enemy outside," the writer said.

The Syrian regime has been fighting a ferocious battle against what it call infiltrators, collaborators and terrorists for many months now, but to little avail.

The army aside, can a regime with an exhausted internal front and more than seven million people displaced within Syria, and hundreds of thousands outside it, face foreign plots?

Palestinian cause isn't on the US agenda

As the presidential race heats up between Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the Palestinian cause has found no place on the agenda, opined the UAE-based newspaper Al Bayan in an editorial yesterday.

When President Obama took office in 2009, he made several statements about a new way of tackling issues in the Middle East. Unfortunately, such statements have come to nothing, and there has been no step towards a fair settlement of the Palestinian cause, the editorial observed.

Had Mr Obama helped establish a sovereign and independent Palestine along the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, it would have embodied the shiny slogan of change he promoted in his 2008 electoral campaign.

The newspaper noted that Americans are said to be yearning to change the sentiments of hatred towards them from other parts of the world.

But, when it comes to the Palestinian cause, all US administrations have shown a lack of balance. They initially pledge catchy slogans based on a two-state solution, but due to their bias in favour of one party, none of the pledges has translated into action.

Presidents come and go and the same routine continues, but Palestine's just cause remains unsolved amid "political one-upmanship", the paper said.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk