Seeds of Discontent in a New Constitution
Are Egypt’s current rulers making the same mistake as their Muslim Brotherhood predecessors of pushing through a constitution that will alienate their allies and agitate their opponents? A committee of ten judges and law professors have drafted a document that reflects the priorities of the deep state but offers far less to others.
The generals take on the independent judges
Under former President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians used to say outspoken political dissidents would end up going “behind the sun”—a euphemism that meant you would find yourself in the hands of the State Security Services, and may not find your way back again. A related expression often used during that period was “the walls have ears (that have walls that have ears…)”—it’s the English expression in eternal recurrence. Recently, an Arabic professor in Cairo told me he hadn’t heard either one much in the two and a half years since Mubarak’s ouster.
If there is one underappreciated aspect of the chaos in Egypt, it is the startling amnesia with which the country's majority has greeted this month's coup. Most of the media commentary over the last several weeks has described a battle between Islamists and the military, with the country's secularists embracing the latter. Whether this strategy will actually bring forth the results that the protesters want remains to be seen. But it's nearly impossible to read about the subject without feeling astonished by the history the protesters have chosen to either ignore or repress.
Egypt has recently seen a street-art movement of unprecedented vitality.
Last night, the scene in front of Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo's Nasr City felt like an enormous Islamist block party. A six-lane boulevard had been shut down and was crammed with thousands of bodies supporting President Mohammed Morsi. They waved Egyptian flags with religious slogans like “There is no God but God and Mohammed is his messenger,” while eating popcorn and drinking tea. The pro-government protesters had erected a stage, and when I got there as the sun set, the loudspeakers were blaring.
ON A SULTRY MORNING in late September, I drove for two hours on the traffic-choked roads north of Cairo to Al Adwa, a Nile Delta town of dusty alleyways, mosques, and crumbling red brick houses. This is where Mohamed Morsi, the president of Egypt, was raised. Morsi left nearly four decades ago, but he returns regularly to visit his younger brothers, who still work the family farm, and to celebrate Islamic holidays.
In the run-up to the first round of Egypt’s presidential elections, which concluded on Thursday, the Muslim Brotherhood’s downfall was widely anticipated.
Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Monem Abouel Fotouh was a leading force in the militant Islamist student movements of the 1970s; one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s point men for aiding the mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s; and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Office for twenty-two years.
When Egypt’s Presidential Elections Commission disqualified Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Khairat al-Shater from the upcoming elections last week, the Brotherhood was angered, but not surprised. Egyptian law bans criminal convicts from running for president, and though al-Shater’s 2007 conviction for belonging to an “illegal organization”—namely, the Brotherhood— was highly politicized, the Brotherhood knew that it could sink al-Shater’s candidacy nonetheless.