A few days ago, I watched an interview with the Egyptian tourism minister on a foreign media outlet. He was trying to convince the audience that Egypt is a country that is still hospitable and promised that the government will not interfere in foreign tourists’ affairs; what they drink, what they wear and what they don’t wear.
Suddenly, a surprising decision was made: The president earlier this week assigned a member of the extremist group al-Jamaa al-Islamiya as governor of the most important tourist area, Luxor. Why the contradictory decisions? It is more than likely that no one knows, not even president Mohammed Mursi himself. The contradiction could be the result of a lack of expertise or could be due to the plurality of leaders within the ruling party that refuses to transform and recognize a presidential system and that insists on working as per the Brotherhood’s system, which placed emphasis on its guide, deputy and leadership. In both cases, it’s a strange situation we are confronting as there is a presidential republic, but with many heads. The Muslim Brotherhood leaders proved to be a dangerous opposition, but they are a failed government because they refuse to transform. As time passes by, the gap between them and others widen to the extent that they are threatened by a second revolution - an option that no one thought of when Mursi won the presidential elections.
Their rivals are increasing. First there were the leftists and the revolution’s youths. Now, military men, Salafists, Copts, media figures, intellectuals, the dollar, the stock market and unemployment have joined them. And more will come. If all these come together, they will be capable of burying President Mohammed Mursi’s government, not just toppling it. Instead of communicating with his rivals inside Egypt and reassuring them, Mursi has created new rivals outside Egypt. The West, which the opposition accuses of allying with the Brotherhood, may also turn against the ruling establishment. The Egyptian scene became more complicated when the president assigned a minister from a group that is categorized outside as extremist, to a position of power within the government. The group’s leader, Omar Abdelrahman, is jailed in the U.S. on terrorist charges.
The case for Washington is “why not,” as long as the Brotherhood is willing to co-exist and deal with the international realityAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Many have doubts against the American stance. They think it is one that supports the Brotherhood’s style of governance, despite the latter’s aggressive statements against the West. The case for Washington is “why not,” as long as the Brotherhood is willing to co-exist and deal with the international reality. After attaining power, the Brotherhood did not waste time and began to reassure everyone, including the Israelis, that they will not cause trouble externally. They have done so on several occasions either through Issam al-Irayan, a member of the Brotherhood’s politburo, or via other presidential contacts. What’s more important than statements are the results. Under the Brotherhood’s governance, hundreds of tunnels that connect Gaza’s Hamas with the world were destroyed. The Brotherhood also guarded the borders with Israel and launched a large war on the Sinai using heavy arms against terrorists. All of this maybe a mere political act that aims to reassure the West that they are a government that respects agreements and relations.
The real threat against Mursi and his government is not the opposition or the West, but the Egyptian citizen whose aspirations increased following the promises made after the revolution. The future is bright. There’s no Gamal, no Suzan, no Hussein Salam or other symbols of failure from Mubarak’s era. Mursi’s government failed to fulfill the many promises made despite international loans. Egypt became a hole, widening over time. The president is digging for himself in it by expanding the circle of his rivals who will fight against him. Instead of presenting a cooperation project to define the first presidency following the revolution, he chose to attack state institutions, mainly the judiciary, the media and the army, which are supposed to be independent. As for the result, it’s not difficult for us to imagine it.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 20, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.