The Arab Winter: amateur hour in Cairo
Precis: Egypt’s new constitution is a contradictory mess. Mohamed Morsi has made an autocratic botch of his slim mandate. The Egyptian military council (SCAF) bides its time, appointing regional governors, conducting secret trials, its vast powers still preserved in the new constitution. Morsi’s right-wing Muslim Brotherhood (MB), led by Muhammad Badie has bared its teeth at the crowds now gathering again in Tahrir Square. All the while, Egypt’s fundamental problems continue. The price of food rises, the slums are growing and nobody has answers.
In short, the Arab Spring has given way to a winter of discontent, made full by this bumptious Son of Islamic Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi. But behind Morsi’s throne, SCAF still controls the levers of power. The Muslim Brotherhood is largely irrelevant: they packed the constitutional committee with their own, only to produce the worst constitution ever put to paper. SCAF doesn’t care. The civilian government is a facade. When the elderly Mubarak lost the confidence of the military, SCAF’s leadership simply allowed him to fall into the hands of his enemies. As Egypt lapses again into riots, SCAF will again pick the winners as it always has.
Egyptians have simply stopped believing. Every intelligent Egyptian (there are many) is angered by the proposed new Islamic constitution. Egypt’s substantial Coptic Christian minority greatly fears for its safety. The liberal National Salvation Front, led by ElBaradei, has flatly refused to participate in the constitutional referendum. Egypt’s judges have simply gone home. The economy is a wreck. Only one institution still has the confidence of the Egyptian people. Yes, you guessed it immediately, didn’t you, clever reader? SCAF.
The world press has missed the point, breathlessly reporting on Morsi’s abortive power grab. All these MB leaders did time in Egyptian military prisons. The only reason Morsi the Technocrat is on the stage at all is because the MB couldn’t run any of their own candidates.
Morsi is the protege of a particularly nasty jihaadist imam named Safwat Hegazi, the author of murderous fatwas against Israeli negotiators and Baha’is. Hegazi has been brought to court many times for his attacks on women who don’t wear the niqab. Hegazi campaigned hard for Morsi, saying Morsi would lead Egypt on jihaad to establish a new caliphate centered on Jerusalem.
Morsi will do no such thing. He’s a technocratic puppet. But Morsi has made some interesting noises to appease his Islamist backers, to wit, saying he would attempt to repatriate the Blind Sheikh from federal prison in the USA. But in typical Morsi fashion, his MB spokesmen ate cheeze and said they wouldn’t try to overturn the Blind Sheikh’s criminal conviction.
It’s amateur hour in Egypt. This ridiculous constitutional referendum is irrelevant. The MB has every intention of turning Egypt into an authoritarian Islamist state under their leadership. For eight decades now, the MB slogan has been “Islam is the Answer.” The joke in Egypt goes like this: “If Islam is the answer, what is the question?”
But the Liberals, too stupid to stand upright, most of them, will continue to ape the West, demanding far too much, far too soon. They have no answers to Egypt’s fundamental problems. They can’t even ask the right questions. They have no mandate among the poor. The MB does, though.
All the while, Egypt’s economy cannot possibly turn around in the absence of political stability. What are the Liberals thinking? Where are their plans to fix Egypt’s abysmal slums? Half a million people, mostly Copts, live in Cairo’s Garbage City, the Manshiyat Naser. Thousands of children pick through that garbage for metal and plastic, the zabaleen. Slums constitute about half of metro Cairo and Alexandria, no better. Do not wonder how the Islamists came to power in this election: they have the support of the poor. The MB does the outreach, running the charities, making insane promises, demonising the Jews and the Copts.
Egypt does have a middle class, though, the children of the military officers and the bureaucrats. They have remained firmly entrenched in power and not even the MB can assail them. And it is they who will be the future of Egypt, as they always were.