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  • A country obsessed with racial and religious conflicts
    Sri Lanka, as a nation has been wasting time debating sensitive racial and religious issues for the past several years, without gaining anything. Only thing the country has been witnessing as a result is communities distancing themselves from each other, while portraying a false unity among them. 
    The situation seems to have come to a head with people of various communities being emotionally charged over these issues subsequent to the attacks on three Christian churches and three major tourist hotels by the Islamic terrorists on April 21, 2019, which was also the Easter Sunday.
    The terrorist attacks which caught the nation off-guard demanded united action by all communities and political parties to handle the immediate situation and to prevent future recurrence of...
  • Burqa ban: Security, human rights and male chauvinism
    A few years ago, on a Turkish beach exclusively for women, a bikini-clad woman offered her prayers. The video clip of the woman going through the postures of the Muslim prayer went viral and created a major debate among the Muslims.  Some censured her for not adhering to the dress code for prayers, but others said what mattered was her piety and not the dress.
    Following the release of the Easter Sunday terror attack commission report, Sri Lanka is mulling whether to ban burqa – the Muslim dress that covers a female body from head to toe – and niqab, which only shows the eyes of the wearer, but the issue needs to be looked at from human rights, security and spiritual angles to come to a right decision.
    If at the one end of the spectrum is public nudity, burqa will...
  • South African Muslim bodies seek intervention over burqa ban in Sri Lanka Foreign Minister of South Africa urged to intervene
    South African Muslim organisations have called on the country’s foreign minister to intervene in the proposed Sri Lankan ban on the burqa and closure of hundreds of Islamic schools. This followed the announcement by Sri Lanka''s minister for public security, Sarath Weerasekera, during the weekend that his country would ban the traditional full-face covering worn by some Muslim women because it posed a threat to national security. This was quickly followed by a statement from the Sri Lankan foreign ministry, which said a decision would only be taken on the proposal after consultations and further discussion. The United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA) has now asked South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor to intervene in the matter. UUCSA had earlier also called for such intervention when...
  • Banning Burqas and Madrasas illegal: Fmr MP
    Former MP M.M .Zuhair said yesterday it would be unlawful to ban Burqas and Madrasas. Issuing a statement, he said some observations and recommendations of the Commission on Easter Sunday attacks are invasive of the absolute protection given to every person under Article 10 of the Sri Lanka Constitution. He said the Commission’s report though good in parts, can be seen as an attempted assault on Islam for the heinous crimes of a dozen suicide bombers. The right to the freedom stated in Article 10 is ‘assured to all religions’ under Article 9. No one, not even Presidential Commissions can invite or promote the State or any limb of the Executive or Judiciary to violate the freedom guaranteed under Article 10.This protection is guaranteed notwithstanding any national security concerns, as the law stands today. In this constitutionally...
  • Pakistan says likely ban on Niqab in SL to serve as injury on Muslims
    The Ambassador of Pakistan to Sri Lanka, Saad Khattak today said the likely ban on Niqab in Sri Lanka will only serve as an injury to the feelings of ordinary Sri Lankan Muslims and Muslims across the globe. In a tweet, the Ambassador said that at today’s economically difficult time due to COVID-19 pandemic and other image related challenges faced by the country at the international fora, such divisive steps in the name of security, besides accentuating economic difficulties, will only serve as fillip to further strengthen wider apprehensions about fundamental human rights of minorities in the country. Minister of Public Security Rear Admiral (Retd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera said today that in addition to banning the burqa, the cabinet proposal would also include banning the niqab which covers the face of the wearer except the eyes. The...
  • යුරෝපයේ රටවල් 8 කින් හිස්බුල්ලාට සහාය
    මානව හිමිකම් වෙනුවෙන් පෙනී සිටින ප්‍රමුඛ නීතිඥවරයකු වන හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා මහතා වැනි මානව හිමිකම් ආරක්ෂා කරන්නන්ට ගරු කරන ලෙස ශ්‍රී ලංකා රජයෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටිමින් යුරෝපීය රටවල් අටක මානව හිමිකම් තානාපතිවරුන් ඒකාබද්ධ නිවේදනයක් නිකුත් කර තිබේ. නෙදර්ලන්තය, ජර්මනිය, එංගලන්තය ස්වීඩනය, එස්ටෝනියාව, ලිතුවේනියාව, ලක්සම්බර්ග් සහ ෆින්ලන්තය...
  • Eight EU HR Ambassadors raise concern over Hejaaz Hizbullah
    In a statement issued today, Eight Human Rights  Ambassadors of Europe including the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden called on the Sri Lankan government to " respect human rights defenders such as Hizbullah". The statement issued by the Ambassadors of the United Kingsdom, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and the Netherlands said that after ten months of Detention, Hejaaz Hizbullah was being accused of speech related offences. Prominent Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department on the 14th of April 2020. He was thereafter accused in the media of various activities related to terrorism. He was thereafter produced on the 18th of February 2021 where the Attorney General informed court that the entire case against Hizbullah was to be based on purported statements made by children. Hizbullah...
  • Circular on burial of COVID-19 victims issued
    The circular containing the guidelines with regard to the burial of COVID-19 victims has been issued, the Health Ministry said. Some key guidelines are as follows, The relatives of the deceased should inform the Director/ Head of the health care institution (Where the death has occurred) of their desire to bury the corpse without delay. The Director of the hospital/ Head of the health care institution should obtain a written request from relatives for burial. The relatives need to provide a coffin in advance. It is the duty of the director/ Head of health care institution to transport the corpse in a coffin provided by the relatives to a designated location in Colombo Institute of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology (office of JMO) / BH Welikanda where the corpse will be received by the designated officer. The vehicle transporting the...
  • Muslims to raise concerns over Iranaithivu burial with global bodies
    A leading Muslim organisation in Sri Lanka will this week send an official letter of concern to the global Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the World Muslim Congress, seeking their intervention to urge the Sri Lankan government to allocate a decent land for the burial of Muslim COVID-19 victims. The Daily Mirror learns that the Sri Lanka Islamic Centre, which is a member of the World Muslim Congress will raise serious concerns with the global bodies and will also send a letter to the World Muslim Congress office in Geneva urging for immediate intervention after the government announced that burials of the COVID-19 dead would take place on the Iranaithivu Island, in the Gulf of Mannar. Senior Muslim officials said they were disappointed at the government’s decision to allocate the Iranaithivu Isle for the burials and instead urged...
  • Hizbullah and Madrasa School Principal further remanded
    Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah and Principal of Madrasa School Mohammed Shakeel were further remanded till March 18 by the Fort Magistrate’s Court today. They were earlier remanded under section 2 (1) (h) of the PTA and section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act. Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.
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What does the Egyptian election portend?

By Latheef Farook

User Rating: / 8

“Will it be the climax of a revolution, or will it tear the country asunder?”

Egypt is an ancient country with a recorded history of more than 7,000 years. Known for its pyramids and the River Nile this Mediterranean country linking the Middle East and Africa with Europe was the centre of a flourishing civilization, while most of the world, including the West, was steeped in darkness.

However, with the rise of European imperial powers and their manipulations, Egypt suffered a great deal, especially since the 15th century. Though an ancient country, Egypt had its first ever free and fair elections last month, to elect a president who would rule for the next four years.

The question is whether the forces which rule the world, such as the United States, Europe, pro Zionists Jews who control the US and Europe, Israel and their Arab stooges installed in power in the Middle East together with the Egyptian armed forces, will ever allow democracy to survive, leave alone flourish.

Egypt is often referred to in Arabic as Ummuth Duniya, ‘Mother of the Earth’ and the Egyptians known for their humour and easy going lifestyle proudly claim that “Anyone who tastes Nile water always returns to drink this water.”

The importance of Egypt

The importance of Egypt in the region throughout history has been such that often it was said “Egypt is Middle East and Middle East is Egypt”. It is Egypt which always remains in the driving seat and decides the course of events in the Middle East. For example without Egypt, there is no war or peace in the entire region. Such is the crucial role of Egypt even in today’s fast changing Middle East.

Thus a free and fair election in Egypt is bound to have its own repercussions in the entire region as demonstrated by the ‘Arab Spring’ sweeping the region, demanding political change. The Arab uprising has reached a stage where all involved need to take into consideration the feelings of the Egyptian people, though they would like to see popular uprisings crushed.

Yielding to popular demand and sacrifice, fifteen months after tyrant Hosni Mubarak was overthrown; the Egyptians went to polls to elect their president on 23 and 24 May 2012.

There was great enthusiasm among the people of all walks of life and the oppressed and brutalized people from Yemen to Morocco were also watching the developments in Egypt with keen interest.

The leading contenders included the former Foreign Minister and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, seen as an experienced diplomat but commonly labelled as fulul, a remnant of the old regime. Ahmed Shafik who once described tyrant Mubarak as a ‘role model’ and carries the stigma of being Mubarak's last Prime Minister and a close associate of several of the people thought to be responsible for the infamous Battle of the Camel. Core supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Dr. Mohamed Mursi clearly seek to establish a genuine democracy and move the country ahead with dignity.

In Egypt, the military does not exert great influence over voter preferences. It cannot back a particular candidate, at least not openly and it does not have the ability to mobilize millions of voters at the polls. However, the military does not want to be excluded from having a say in the choice of the next president, and therefore, it would have a strong incentive for pushing for the concessional model.

In the first round of last week’s election, Dr. Muhammad Mursi, Chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party, the  nominee of the Muslim Brotherhood, polled 24.3% votes, while Ahmed Shafik received 23.3% votes to the shock of the nation. The two will contest a runoff election on 16 and 17 June.  Thus the contest is narrowed down to these two candidates.

The question is how come Ahmed Shafik, nominee of the armed forces of the Mubarak era, received 23.3% of the votes? There is widespread speculation that the election was rigged in favour of Ahmed Shafik. Already Hamdin Sabbahi who came third has demanded a recount, citing many ‘violations’.

The Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood has predicted Egypt would be in danger if Ahmed Shafik, who is backed by the armed forces and other elements, which flourished under Hosni Mubarak’s tyranny, wins the elections. The Egyptian armed forces which even controls the economy and other activities, have been backed by the US, Israel and the corrupt and rotten-to–the-core Arab dictators including Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States.

Thus Ahmed Shafik represents the interest of this group, which is equipped with power, wealth, weapons and all other such factors. For example, as pointed out by a columnist, for decades the US succeeded in turning Arab rulers to the service of its interests and against the interests of their own peoples. These Arab leaders were well rewarded for implementing Washington's policies and for helping to protect Israel, being able to wreak terror at home, plunder the national wealth and fill their personal bank accounts at home and abroad with impunity.

On the other hand the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Dr. Muhammad Mursi, represents the desires and aspirations of people who came in their millions to the streets, made sacrifices to bring about today’s changed political environment, which was just a daydream even a year and a half ago.

Young liberal activists who overthrew Hosni Mubarak asked, "What happened to the revolution?"

They consider defeating Ahmed Shafik as the climax of the Egyptian revolution. However, as it appears, it is not going to be an easy task.

Angered by Ahmed Shafik receiving 23.3% votes, the young revolutionaries set fire to his campaign headquarters after it was confirmed that the former regime figure would face the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood's candidate in the second-round of the election. The young revolutionaries openly warned they would not accept any of Mubarak’s henchmen as their President.

Commenting on the outcome of the first round of elections, columnist Abdullah Iskandar wrote in Dar Al Hayat that the presidential elections in Egypt reached its inevitable end, i.e. with the competition over the presidency during the run-off being limited to the Muslim Brotherhood group and the military. Today, after the competition over the presidency became limited to the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Morsi, and the candidate of the military, Ahmed Shafik, the transitional phase has ended with this political standoff.

The signs of this conclusion surfaced ever since the Islamists in general achieved their great electoral victory during the legislative elections, and after the emergence of the tendency to exploit this victory to control all the other institutions. Indeed, ever since the Islamists won the majority of the seats in Parliament, it has become clear they will try to use that victory, whether in the constituent assembly or in the battle to topple the government of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (ISCAF), and push an Islamist to its premiership. It also appeared that these intentions were not to the liking of the military, which started placing obstacles before this total Islamist domination, and resorted to the administrative judicial authority to hinder the Muslim Brotherhood’s wishes.

This is especially valid since the possibilities of seeing a deal between the group and the military have greatly receded after the Muslim Brotherhood announced its determination to curb this institution’s role through the Constitution. This runs contrary to the army’s aspirations to remain in control over higher national interests, and what this means in terms of the roles it plays on all levels.

The Muslim Brotherhood and those who support it will try to focus on the ties between candidate Shafik, the former regime and the injustices it committed on the domestic arena. They will also warn against the disbanded National Party’s monopolization of power once again, and will carry out mobilization under the slogan of protecting the revolution and its gains.

In other words, outside the Islamic movements, the Muslim Brotherhood might not find clear support in favour of its project, at a time when the military is considered to be a guarantor for the continuation of the previous policy at the level of Arab relations, the relations with the United States and especially the peace treaty with Israel.

Despite the announcement made by the members of the     SCAF regarding their neutrality, the military remains concerned about the fate of its role and the continuation of this role via a president it trusts. On the other hand, this institution remains the main side concerned about the peace process and its protection, and the most influenced by the international positions that are supporting it.

It is certain that in this conflict, the military holds effective tools to guarantee the victory of its candidate (representative) in the presidential race. It is, alongside the Muslim Brotherhood, an organized side with numerous branches within the Egyptian society and capable of carrying out popular mobilization. And while the Egyptian generals are stressing the integrity of the process, the chances of their candidate rely on the ability to provide him with a large bloc of voters that is no less important than those of the Muslim Brotherhood, far away from the blatant rigging seen in the past.

In last week’s election, around fifty million eligible voters went to cast their votes in transparent boxes and then dip their finger in phosphorous in 13,000 polling stations involving 14,500 judges and 65,000 civil servants. Three foreign and 49 local organizations monitored the poll. Numerous independent organizations also monitored the polling to prevent vote rigging or any other malpractices.

Parliamentary elections last November

During the parliamentary elections last November, campaigning continued against regulations, with voters being canvassed as they queued outside polling stations. This time voters are taking matters into their own hands. Al-Ahram Weekly reporters say they have regularly overheard annoyed voters telling interlocutors they need no advice on whom to vote for. Others made sure even candidates had to stand in line to vote. We are all equal citizens, they were told. We do not want pharaohs to rule.

Yet another columnist, Shaden Shehab said “Candidates spent weeks touring Egypt, promising a brighter future and chanting their slogans such as,  Abul-Fotouh's "a stronger Egypt"; Amr Moussa's "We are up to the challenge"; Muhammad Mursi’s "A new renaissance"; Ahmed Shafik's "Actions not words";  and Sabahi's "One of us",  though there have been few if any policy specifics on exactly how they will engineer the promised reversal in Egypt's economic fortunes.

Still many believe that none of the candidates will fulfil the people's aspirations, especially after a revolution in which hundreds died for the cause of a democratic nation. Young, indisputable leadership skills, experience and charisma were traits the masses longed for, but no candidate fits all sizes. Many dreams have boiled down to going back to living a ‘normal’ life of political and economic stability rather than chaos. Now they are relying on the new President to at least get that back.

Whoever emerges as the winner, the new President will be expected to offer a burst of optimism after 15 tumultuous months of military rule which has seen many protesters killed or injured, the economy falter, security remain absent from the streets and a foreign policy lacking definition. A series of military appointed interim governments have failed to address the growing problems. Tourism and foreign investment have collapsed, unemployment is increasing and half of the country's currency reserves have been frittered away.

However, the SCAF has vowed to hand power as soon as a new President is elected but it remains unclear what steps are in place to protect the position of privilege enjoyed by the military for more than 60 years.

Security analyst, Sameh Seif El-Yazal, said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper "Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi will voluntarily give up his powers and will not seek any political position after the election."

As leading political analyst, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal put it, the next President will need a miracle to be able to deal with the multiple challenges facing Egypt. And he must do so in the absence of clearly identified powers. The constituent assembly that is supposed to draft a new constitution hasn't even been formed.  In the event of the armed forces’ nominee being elected president, the sacrifice made by the people to bring about this change will be in vain. Thus there will be further unrest.

Changing political scenario

Dealing with the changing political scenario, one commentator said “The political map of the Arab world has been changing radically as a consequence of the several successful revolutions known collectively as the ‘Arab Spring’. The Tunisian and Yemeni revolutions brought in new Presidents to complete their transitional periods, and Egypt and Libya are following suit.

By the time the fuse of revolution was lit, people had been driven beyond the point of fear by the machinery of murder, plunder and starvation used by the Arab regimes, and the prospect of death was no longer terrifying to them. Instead, it was the rulers who now became alarmed to find that they were mortal, both physically and politically, and they began to retreat, step after step, and declaration after declaration and concession after concession. The balance of power had shifted to the ruled, and the rulers began to scramble for a way to save their skins.

Perhaps the most important common denominator of the Arab revolutions was their appeals for freedom, human dignity, and the elimination of the massive corruption that emanated from the top of the political hierarchy. The incestuous marriages between power and money in the Arab world had given birth to types of regimes that were capable of making one laugh and cry. These regimes could not be pinned down by such labels as ‘tribal fascism’ or ‘provincial fascism’." Instead, they were strange beasts that defied scientific taxonomy, especially following the oil boom of the 1970s when government merged with big business and developed traits such as entrenched social backwardness, cumbersome and parasitic bureaucracies, and systematic repression and violence.

During the last century, the major international powers followed a simple recipe in their policies towards the Middle East: force is the best way to handle the Arabs.

However, eventually the day came when the people rose up against these rulers, toppling their regimes one after the other. There was nothing that the US could do, despite its military might, to protect them, and indeed, it was forced to recognize the legitimacy of the revolutions and the right of the Arab people to choose their own leaders and to bring in genuinely democratic governments answering to the will of these peoples.



This article also appeared in Ceylon Today 04/06/2012



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