Atlantic Council Middle East Published Articles

Amr Darrag on the Brotherhood’s Mistakes, Sort of

Amr Darrag
Amr Darrag

From my recent article at Egypt Source:

During the lead-up to the June 30 protests demanding early elections through the violent dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins, several Brotherhood members spoke in vague terms of their ‘mistakes.’ It was a conciliatory gesture of sorts, admitting Morsi’s less than stellar performance but arguing this was not enough to undo his democratic legitimacy.

It is a fair enough logic, but it was never accompanied by any details concerning these mistakes. The closest to an admission came from Salah Sultan, who apologized for the Brotherhood’s negotiating with Omar Suleiman, opening channels with the military, not being honest enough about the efforts of corrupt regime figures to sabotage the revolution, and failing to absorb youth and women in their project. His statement was posted on the webpage of the Freedom and Justice Party, but later removed and described as only a ‘personal’ viewpoint.

This has been one of my frustrations in listening to the Brotherhood post-Morsi. They speak of mistakes, but are rarely specific. I understand the political logic, but wish for greater transparency. So I was thankful for an opportunity to press the issue directly:

But Darrag, instead, is put off by the question. “I don’t actually agree on the prescription that there are mistakes that the Brotherhood has to acknowledge and apologize for,” he said. “Of course there are mistakes, I am not saying that we don’t make mistakes. But this has to come through a process that all political forces, if they want to learn from past experiences, acknowledge their mistakes.”

Rather, he anticipates this process eventually coming from those who sided with the removal of Morsi:

“It doesn’t make sense to ask one side to keep apologizing and apologizing and apologizing. I mean, this is not helping.”

Perhaps it is not helping the Brotherhood, but if they tried apologizing even once, it might help the original revolutionary cause. But consistent with his position, Darrag anticipates the reflection coming from the other side. “People think and reconsider,” he said. “I am sure that one day the majority will join us in the same way that happened on January 25th.

“But when, I don’t know.”

Please click here to read the full article on Egypt Source.

Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

George Messiha and the Constitutional Assembly

George Messiha
George Messiha

From my recent article in Arab West Report:

George Messiha is young, an up-and-coming member of the political scene. In an effort to increase the representation of youth and Copts, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces appointed him to serve in the elected parliament. After the dissolution of this body by the Supreme Constitutional Court, Messiha returned to general Wafd Party politics, but also participated in a delegation to the Netherlands arranged by AWR editor-in-chief, Cornelis Hulsman. Members from each political trend participated, including Amr Darrag of the Muslim Brotherhood, who spoke proudly of the good work being done in the Constituent Assembly.

Messiha was already selected as one of fifty alternate members, but listening to Darrag convinced him to play a role once it became clear many non-Islamist figures were resigning in protest over the failure to achieve consensus. On October 16, 2012, he submitted his name for election to the body, and became one of nine replacement members tasked with completing the constitutional draft.

Unfortunately, his own experiences as a non-Islamist liberal did not match the impressions he obtained from the presentations of Darrag in The Netherlands.

The article is somewhat lengthy, but provides a very good overview of each member in the Constituent Assembly which wrote Egypt’s constitution. The point is to determine if the writing of the national charter was ‘dominated’ by Islamists, as it is often portrayed.

According to Messiha, 55% of the original members were Islamist in orientation. Following the mass withdrawal of many non-Islamists near the close of the process, the final count was 75%.

This article is not meant to be the final word. Arab West Report is currently producing a book on the Egyptian constitution; the question of member orientation is being put also to Islamists, both independent and affiliated with their official parties.

Holding judgment until then, here is the conclusion from the discussion with Messiha:

The Egyptian constitution reflects work inclusive of substantial non-Islamist participation. Many of the articles were discussed, argued, and formalized as divergent interests compromised and found agreement. But the charge that this is an ‘Islamist dominated’ constitution is also true. It is the product of a clear super-majority which approved the final text, recommending its presentation to the people in a referendum. Rightly or wrongly, non-Islamists felt themselves marginalized, and abandoned the process.

Whether it could have been otherwise is another story.

Please click here to read the whole article at Arab West Report.