Friday Prayers for Egypt: A Call to Purge

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Another protest was assaulted, this time one called for by Islamists. An otherwise peaceful demonstration calling to purge the judiciary was met by violence, when then lasted long into the night.

Not all Islamists participated; some believed such a protest would not help matters. Perhaps others remembered their own earlier criticism that continued demonstrations only serve to destabilize Egypt. This was a Muslim Brotherhood project, and it cost them Morsi’s minister of justice, an independent Islamist, who resigned in a protest of his own.

But if it is their project, what are they developing? What would a purge of the judiciary look like? The complaint is that many judges are of the Mubarak era, corrupt and aligned with the old order. The conspiracy claimed is that they are actively opposing the Islamist project, seeking to keep the nation in limbo by preventing development of democratic institutions on flimsy pretexts.

But the only proposal floated in the media currently is to lower the retirement age for judges, removing a few thousand of the most senior. Is such an across the board move a purge worthy of the name, eliminating corruption? Or does Brotherhood leadership have something else in mind?

God, it all seems clumsy and obvious. Certainly the justice minister thinks so. But in every sector of the old regime there was corruption. Mubarak manipulated the judges to the extent he could, but the judiciary was still relatively independent. He was unable to fully ply his will, and many opposed his policies. Surely there are good men among the senior judges.

Of course, many are also deeply suspicious of the Islamist project, which has shown willingness to step outside the law when circumstances merited. Where is the line between judicial pretext and blind justice? Are they subverting democracy, or catching Islamists when they try to cut corners?

Furthermore, are justices protecting former regime officers tried for the killing of revolutionaries? Or are they courageously issuing verdicts of innocence where insufficient evidence is presented? Someone killed hundreds; why do we still not know who?

No consensus exists for a straightforward purge of the judiciary, God. But to some degree the call is correct. Let the matter be in your hands. From good intention or ill, politicians may force a change. May it be that the sins of the guilty fall on the guilty. Protect the institution of the judiciary. Protect the honest judges. But for those who compromised themselves – no matter the commonness of their failing – may the guardians of Egypt’s law be clean moving forward.

But God, keep the process from being dirty.