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Western Thoughts on an Egyptian Revolution. Or is it a Coup?

July 10, 2013

There seems to be some debate about the ouster of now former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Is it a coup? Is it a revolution?

The feeling from friends of mine in Egypt is that this is not a coup, but a continuation of the revolution. In fact, they are in vehement opposition to the word coup and have great disdain for any mention of the military taking over on any kind of permanent basis.

Having lived in Cairo for close to two years, I was asked my thoughts. So here they are:

Personally, I think a few things come into play here.

First, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) definitely took advantage of a vacuum in leadership when they won the election. Many voted for Morsi as the lesser of two evils, the other candidate being associated with the Mubarak regime. And many abstained from voting as their way of showing their support for someone other than the MB figurehead or a Mubarak man (even if that someone didn’t exist). To give the MB credit, they were already a well established political force prior to Mubarak’s fall, gaining the support of many through their charitable works, offering of assistance to the poor, performing of public works, and really living up to many of the social ideals of Islam. It has been said that they did prey upon the more unfortunate members of the voting public by offering things like cooking oil as an incentive to come out and vote for Morsi. The MB knew how to mobilize the voters and won the election as a result. In a country as unorganized as Egypt, the MB was the shining example of organization and order and moved right in and filled the vacuum. I remember when I was having dinner in Salalah, Oman two years ago, one of the members of the dinner party was an Egyptian that used to fly back and forth between Oman and Cairo for the protests. He commented to me that Mohamed ElBaradei (the newly appointed Vice President in Egypt), who was the hoped-for president of many, came a generation to early. He clarified this by saying that the revolution was happening without a strong leader to stand up and lead it to a productive end. He worried that the MB would seize power and turn Egypt into another Iran. In his mind, ElBaradei was not willing or able to be that leader due to opposition against him. That lack of a revolutionary leader is what allowed the MB to move into power with relative ease.

Second, the MB has the stated goal of creating a worldwide Islamic Republic. Their charter basically (paraphrased) states that Islam starts with the individual, moves to the family, then to the community, then to the country, then to the nation (larger area than just the country), to the new Caliphate, to worldwide Islamic rule. Egypt was supposed to be their charter country and their leadership of Egypt was concerned less with Egyptians (ask any Coptic about this – many of whom have fled including close friends of mine who are struggling to get by in their new Chicago home), and more concerned with the institution of Sharia and Islamic principals. Most of the principals of the revolution, including equality, religious tolerance, women’s right, free speech, the end of unlawful search, seizure, and imprisonment, among others, were pretty well thrown out by the MB. The final straw, I believe, was when the Egyptian equivalent of Jon Stewart from the Daily Show, Bassem Youssef, was arrested for insulting the Egyptian Government, the President, and Islam (according to Morsi and the MB). Imagine Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert being jailed for what they say on their respective shows and you have what happened in Egypt. I think this is what truly showed Egyptians that they were living under the heavy handle of Islamist rule, and moving further and further away from the promise of the revolution.

Third, many Egyptians thought that the overthrow of Mubarak was the end of the revolution, not the beginning of a long and likely bloody march toward democracy. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”  The Egyptian liberty was a sapling with shallow roots, but many thought it was ready to bear fruit and that Cairo would wake up the next morning with all the wealth and opportunity of the West. An Egyptian friend of mine, currently on a very slow recovery from a tragic car accident (insert prayer request here), mentioned that many were basically sitting around after Mubarak’s fall waiting to become rich. And I have no doubt, knowing many in Egypt and their relative ignorance about what life can really be like in the West, that many Egyptians thought that Mubarak was keeping vast sums of money, jobs, benefits, and opportunities behind some secret door. With him gone, all that goodness would flood into the streets and everyone would have a high paying job, expendable cash, a Mercedes, and their own apartment just as soon as the key to that non-existent door was found. What the presidency of Morsi and the MB showed many in Egypt is that the process is in its infancy and will require years, if not decades, of blood, sweat, and tears.

Finally, I might be naive in saying this, but I think the Army actually has the interests of Egypt at heart. I think the speed in which they are moving with their political roadmap, the throwing out much of what the MB put into place as far as processes and constitutions go (that constitution that passed by a 60% majority, but was voted on by something like only 25% of the representatives due to abstaining and disagreement, largely due to the very heavy Islamist/Sharia bent), the appointment of a new Prime Minister and Vice President (finally getting ElBaradei to be approved despite the opposition of the Islamist Noor party), and the (hopefully not empty) promise of bringing all sides to the table of the political process (including the MB) point to this. Serving in the Egyptian Army is non-volunteer requirement of every Egyptian male (excluding, of course, those who are rich or well-connected enough to get out of the requirement). Many in the Army echo the feelings of the revolution and hopefully this carries forward in the promise of the political road map.

As it stands, I think the Army tried to force Morsi’s hand, but truly there was no hand for Morsi to play. For Morsi to have changed and worked with the protestors would’ve meant the Muslim Brotherhood changing. Make no mistake; Morsi was their mouthpiece and figurehead, there to advance the agenda of the MB in their march toward a new caliphate. The MB is not a new or minor party, but an organized, determined, and experienced group of Islamists that sees nothing less than the establishment of worldwide Islam as it’s mission, purpose, and goal. The Egyptian people realized this, and the Army backed the millions of protestors. I don’t know if this is as much a coup then as a military/revolutionary impeachment.

That this ouster of Morsi happened on the dawn of a new Ramadan holiday is hopefully a portend of good things to come. Ramadan is the month of reconciliation, relieving of debts, renewing family ties, and pledging oneself to a new commitment of goodwill and peace. It is the month of coming together to work out problems and differences so that the next period is one of well-being and cooperation. I hope that holds true for Egypt. Because if it doesn’t, I’m afraid that the debate between coup and revolution will get lost in a bloody Civil War and possibly plunge the Middle East into a large scale regional conflict running from Turkey, through Syria, into Lebanon and Jordan, and ending in Egypt. With Israel stuck in the middle…And we all know the one thing that the majority of those countries can agree on  – their dislike/disdain of Israel.

Those are the thoughts off the top of my head.


A Year Really? Living in a Cave Ain’t Everything it’s Cracked Up to Be.

November 15, 2011

What the hell have I been doing you might ask? I’ve been asking myself the same question lately…for those three of you that might be wondering, it is not that I have forgotten about you, or been ignoring you, or died in some spectacular fireballing blaze of glory…it’s just that I’ve been in a cave, and it sucks in there. Life got a little overwhelming, frustrating, lacking fulfillment, and I kind of bunkered down waiting for the light to come to me (and damn well knowing better that that’s not how it works).

I’ve been thinking about my cave predicament lately and what I need to do and here’s what I’ve come up with:

I’m making a new intention – to take an active role in my own life and remove the tendency I have to sit back and allow life to happen.

For so long I have sat back and worked with what life has given me; I’ve never really gone after anything in life (save for the time I decided to live in Egypt). I always thought I was going with the flow, riding the wave, moving along with life’s currents. What I failed to realize (and have failed to realize) is that life is meant to be lived, that our intentions, actions, and determinations create the world we live in.

I am a man of strong spiritual yearnings, a man that has tried so hard to do what God has wanted, to live a life submitted to that Divine Will. Unfortunately, I have not done my part to allow God’s will to flow. I have sat back and waited for inspiration, for a silver spoon, for “It” (whatever it is) to happen, so that I could move forward. But that’s not how it works, and I am beginning to realize that (and if my wife reads this…thank you for your patience, I know you have told this to me before, but as history shows, sometimes it takes awhile for the truth to dawn on me).

What it comes down to is taking responsibility for life, our life. To pick up the proverbial cross and walk with it. Not to sit back and wait for life to fulfill us, but to fulfill life within us by taking an active role, going after it, and intentionally living.

Maybe it’s because I’m inherently lazy, maybe it’s because I get paralyzed in the fear of “what ifs,” maybe its because I would rather focus on giving to others in order to hide some inadequacies that I feel about myself. I think it truly has more to do with the fear than anything.

As I make this intention to take an active role in my own life and live deliberately and intentionally, I see the fear I have lived with and the stress it has put on not only me but my loving and patient wife.

I’m not going to stand on a mountain and scream “No more!” as I know this is a process, but I will make that intention to say “No more fear, sitting back, waiting, etc., etc.” And when that old pattern rears it’s head, I will intentionally and actively face it so that I can stand on the mountain and realize that it is no more.

Here’s to living an active, intentional, and fulfilling life, dedicated to God, and loving my wife and the world.

“Light up, light up, as if you have a choice, even if you cannot hear my voice, I’ll be right beside you dear…” ~ Snow Patrol

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will kill you.” ~ Saying 70, The Gospel of Thomas

Sunday Scripture – God’s on Facebook, too?

October 3, 2010

Quote Of The Week – Remember What You Hoped For

September 29, 2010

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

~ Epicurus (Ancient Greek Philosopher and founder of school of philosophy called Epicureanism)

Sunday Scripture – What Atheists Cry Out During Sex

September 26, 2010


Quote of the Week – Pass Through Misfortune Quickly

September 22, 2010

Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.

~ Voltaire

Sunday Scripture – God on Twitter!

September 19, 2010