x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

People can topple elected leaders

Citizens in a democracy have the right to remove a president who makes mistakes, an Arabic-language writer argues. Other topics: Syria and Sharia.

People have a right to bring down elected rulers early when those rulers make fatal mistakes

The Egyptian situation raises a pivotal question: does winning an election give the ruler total authority to do as he wishes? This question was asked by Mohammed El Sasi in the Moroccan news website Febrayer.

The Tamarrod movement that collected 22 million signatures demanding an end to Mohammed Morsi's rule and early presidential elections was a new, youth-led group, coming from the people, and not part of a score-settling scheme by those who lost the previous elections, the writer observed.

No doubt, the signatories were revolting against acute fuel and food shortages, deteriorating public services, the Brotherhoodisation of the state's institutions and inefficient policies.

Mr Morsi admitted that he had made mistakes when he issued a decree granting himself sweeping presidential powers. Even worse, he failed to honour his electoral promises, acting as if these had no value or binding force, according to the writer.

The events of June 30 were a second revolution, where anti-Morsi protesters outnumbered those who rose up against former leader Hosni Mubarak in 20011.

The Brotherhood and their president dismissed the events as a coup against legitimacy and democracy, arguing that the elected president must finish his term, and whoever wants him down must seek the ballot box, not the street.

This perception is probably part of the fundamentalist thinking that reduces democracy to ballot boxes on the one hand, and a repudiation of the reciprocal compromises required with "minorities" in transition periods on the other.

To Islamists, making concessions to minorities equals ceding democracy.

Certainly, democracy is the ballot box. But it is also basic freedoms and rights, including the freedom of expression and the freedom to protest. Protesters have a right to demand an elected official step down, the writer argued, adding that this is not a coup against legitimacy.

The Egyptian protesters, for example, did not seek to give power to what the street elected; they demanded early elections that might return Mr Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party to office. Protesters did not seek to move from civil to military rule, bring in an unelected president or nullify the electoral system.

Changing elected presidents before their terms end is a constitutionally acceptable and democratically permissible act, the writer said. Hence, the process of withdrawal of confidence laid down in many constitutions.

The right to revolution is a human right. The people can take to the street and peacefully demand their rulers step down when they see that these rulers have not honoured their pledges and made fatal mistakes that no longer allow them to run public affairs.

As rebels lose track, the regime recovers

Radical armed groups roaming rebel-controlled areas in Syria - and trailing with them Al Qaeda's view of the world - are increasingly ganging up against the West-aligned Free Syria Army (FSA), which they accuse of being "secular", while their plan for the region is to establish an Islamic State.

This is a godsend for the regime of President Bashar Al Assad, which has capitalised on western indecision and Russian-Iranian assistance to uncoil from its bases in Damascus and advance on once-secured rebel territories, wrote Abdullah Iskandar, managing editor of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat, in a column published yesterday.

In online videos, members of these radical groups are seen "lashing and killing in the name of 'the authentic rulings of Sharia'; persecuting young boys and women … and destroying heritage sites, ancient masterpieces and historic icons in their 'crackdown on polytheistic practices'," the editor said.

The happy winners are, of course, the Syrian regime and its Iranian and Russian backers.

"The Syrian regime has succeeded in planting this idea in too many minds, especially in the West and the US; the idea that terrorists are seeking to topple him, and that if those terrorists succeed, Syria will become another Afghanistan, at the West's doorstep," the author observed.

The West has dallied for so long that the regime's narrative has gained legs to stand on.

Pew's topical survey on Islamic Sharia

With the Arab Spring rekindling a dormant debate among Muslims about the place of Sharia (Islamic law) in life and legal practice, it is perhaps worth revisiting the findings of an interesting study published earlier this year by the US-based Pew research centre, according to Abdullah El Madani, a Bahraini expert on Asian affairs.

Writing for the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad, the writer said that the study - in which more than 38,000 Muslims from around the world were interviewed - gives us insight into how Muslims feel about Sharia, but also about their sense of tolerance and belief in the freedom of worship.

Among other questions, the respondents were asked whether they wanted Sharia to become the law of the land in their countries.

"Even in the Islamic nations, where there is a strong support and enthusiasm for the application of Sharia rulings, a majority of respondents said they had a preference for citizens to be free to practise their faith and spiritual rites," El Madani wrote.

"For instance, in Pakistan, where 179 million of the country's 183 million are Muslim, 75 per cent of respondents supported this freedom, with 84 per cent of them saying they are in favour of the integration of Sharia into the legal system, and for its application to Muslims only."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae