Friday Prayers for Egypt: Party Dynamics

Flag Cross Quran


Two Egyptian granddaddies are going through growing pains. Both predate the modern state, and are striving to remain relevant.

The Muslim Brotherhood is taken over by its youth, who are forcing a revolutionary path. A new statement says resistance is an Islamic obligation, with all means possible to undue the fall of Morsi. There is no mention of peacefulness. A bid by the historic leadership to reassert itself appears to have failed.

The Egyptian Wafd, meanwhile, is also in crisis. Despite the intervention of President Sisi, agreements to reconcile two conflicting factions have fallen apart again. The wing which advocates reform is connected to historical families, while the current president is a prominent businessman – who has won elections. Though the party has a venerable name, its general support on the street is unclear.

God, forgive tepid prayers in others’ business. Where there is virtue, unity is paramount. Where there is discord, sin eats itself. Where there is partisanship, these distinctions are charged. Prayer can offer discernment, but it is dangerous to take sides.

So God, resolve these crises toward the good of Egypt, as you interpret best. Sideline those who prevent positions of virtue. Allow the mutual failures of those who compete in partnership with vice. In both, protect the innocent from all collateral harm.

And protect Egypt, God. Protect her from the spirit of retribution. Protect her from the spirit of subservience. Honor zeal. Reform society. Establish justice. Develop polity. Give stability.

The Brotherhood and Wafd have a long history of rhetoric toward these principles. May the principles outlive the parties.

And may the parties continue only as long as they are faithful stewards of this trust. They are both grandfathers; may their children act with the wisdom of the aged.


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.

Lapido Media Middle East Published Articles

Muslim Brotherhood Launches Development Campaign as Violence Rocks the Nation

MB Helwan Trees

Not all in Egypt is chaotic.

The Muslim Brotherhood are repairing schools, serving the poor and beautifying streets.

While violent protests and political impasse grab the headlines, the Muslim Brotherhood has launched a much quieter campaign to commemorate the two year anniversary of the January 25 revolution.

Hatem Abd al-Akhir is the leader of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in the city of Helwan, to the south of Cairo.

‘We wanted to celebrate the revolution in a different way,’ he told Lapido Media. ‘But other parties are trying to interrupt society and start another revolution.’

The Muslim Brotherhood built its reputation on providing social service to the poor. As the economy declines and their popularity diminishes, they peg the opposition as agents of instability.

Ahmed Kamal is the FJP youth secretary in Helwan. ‘We’re trying to get Egypt into a new stage of building and development,’ he said to LM. ‘This is the message we want to convey both inside and outside Egypt.’

To do so, the Brotherhood is planting one million sapling trees throughout Egypt, one hundred of which are in Helwan. Kamal led teams of youth digging holes in the limited dirt of the urban landscape, boring even into the sidewalk.

Hatem Abd al-Akhir
Hatem Abd al-Akhir

Abd al-Akhir, meanwhile, participated in the effort to provide a million citizens with healthcare. An ophthalmologist, he offered free eye examinations to diabetic patients and at-cost treatment for any operation.

As the manager of the Helwan Eye Center, he assures normal costs for patients are 30 percent below market standard. Yet the centre still makes a small profit, illustrating a mix of business and charity, politics and social good.

‘The Muslim Brotherhood is a logistics service for advertising,’ he said describing the campaign. ‘We want to propagate values in our community which will help keep the peace.

‘When we offer low cost service we oblige others to not raise their prices above what is acceptable.’

But in a time of great social and political upheaval, it is unsurprising some are critical.

Ahmed Ezzalarab is the deputy chairman of the liberal, opposition Wafd Party. ‘They are trying to distract people by giving a different image of development, but it is too late,’ he told Lapido Media. ‘They are being exposed for their secret agenda which the people are rejecting.’

Ezzalarab does not dispute their social work, but recognizes it is necessary to oppose the Brotherhood for their poor record in power. In recent weeks train accidents and building collapses have claimed the lives of dozens of citizens.

‘Governance has never been worse in Egypt’s history,’ he said. ‘They cannot run the country administratively; everything they touch fails.’

But in describing a secret agenda, Ezzalarab appeals to conspiracy.

‘We are completely against the violence, which is working to distract the people from the peaceful nature of the opposition,’ he said. ‘It is being funded by Wahabi and Gulf money, because they are scared to see civil forces come to power.’

Ezzalarab believes the Brotherhood is panicking, fearful the army will step into the violence and unseat them from power. Perhaps he is right.  Brotherhood leaders are clearly propagating the conspiracy theory.

Anas al-Qadi, Brotherhood spokesman said on the official MB website, ‘This is the difference between the Muslim Brotherhood marking the memory of the revolution with greatly appreciated services, and so-called civil forces celebrating the revolution with flagrant acts of arson and violence, spreading chaos and destruction and vandalism.’

The website also accused one of the newly organized vigilante groups, Black Bloc, of being an arm of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Any of the various accusations may be correct, but they are presented without evidence and signal that both social service and social violence are a means to an end.

Ahmed Kamal
Ahmed Kamal

‘If you are trying to apply Islam as you understand it, you have to reach authority by all legal and peaceful means,’ said Kamal. ‘To do this you have to show people why they must support you.’

Kamal was responding to the charge that the Brotherhood is putting good works on display, contrary to Islam.

‘We need to differentiate between being a Muslim and being part of an Islamist program which competes with other parties,’ he said.

‘As a Muslim, you can choose to tell or not tell of your good works, it depends on your intention. If you tell you can be a role model that others will follow, but God will judge you in either case.’

But for now, Egypt is the judge, and the verdict is a cliff-hanger.

This article was first published on Lapido Media.

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