ferry cross the Morsi
END OF ISLAMISM
Kandil is the Cambridge University Lecturer in Political Sociology
and Fellow of St. Catharine's College. He is the author of Soldiers,
Spies, and Statesmen: Egypt's Road to Revolt (Verso,
2012), and Inside the Brotherhood (forthcoming), and
has published on revolution, warfare, the sociology of intellectuals,
and Islamism in various academic journals and periodicals.
was born in Egypt in 1928. And it was in Egypt, 85 years later,
that the first successful uprising against an Islamist government
occurred. The overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood is a momentous
event: but to foreign observers, the army’s intervention
overshadowed everything else.
their state of shock and denial, the Brothers would certainly
like to think that their unseating was purely a coup by the
old regime. After an eight-decade cultural war to impose their
unorthodox interpretation of Islam, they believed they had the
hearts and minds of Egyptians safely tucked away in their pockets.
Nothing could persuade them that the people (or so many of them)
would freely reject them. They were not alone in this belief.
Over the years, dozens of news reports and academic studies
have assured us that the politics of piety would be the trump
card in any power contest – at least if it were free.
And once the rebellion unfolded, journalists and scholars found
solace in the conviction that what was happening was no different
from the Algerian, Turkish and Pakistani cases, where anti-Islamist
coups repressed the pious majority.
there is no reason to indulge their fantasy. It is true that
without the support of the military and security forces, the
revolt would have been aborted. And it is true that President
Morsi’s failure to appease either the remnants of the
old regime or the secular opposition threw them together in
a tactical alliance against him. However, none of this can take
away from the fact that 22 million Egyptians signed rebellion
petitions in the last three months, and this week 17 million
of them, according to official figures (33 million according
to the opposition), have marched against the chief representatives
a president who paraded his democratic credentials at every
opportunity, the viciousness of the religious rhetoric he deployed
against his opponents was unnerving: demonstrators were collectively
excommunicated; supporters said that the Archangel Gabriel prayed
at the mosque where they were camped out; images of the Prophet’s
epic battles against infidels, hypocrites and Jews were conjured.
Islamist clerics openly declared jihad against protesters in
front of television cameras, and presented themselves as projects
for martyrdom – so much for the Brotherhood’s advocacy
of freedom and citizenship. And this was only the latest charge
in the barrage of abusive language that Morsi’s supporters,
drunk with power, had unleashed over the months. It all backfired.
Millions of self-proclaimed Muslims refused to be either threatened
or patronized; they refused to endorse the Brotherhood’s
conflation of Islamism and Islam.
the Brothers’ dismal performance in power brought about
their downfall, rather than some elaborate debate on the legitimacy
of Islamism. There was nothing Islamic about the movement’s
policies. On the contrary, the moral image they projected was
quickly comprised by the shabby deals they tried (and failed)
to strike with old regime institutions, and foreign powers they
had previously condemned. Once in power, Morsi praised the Interior
Ministry so highly that he even claimed this most patriotic
of institutions had been an essential partner in the 2011 revolt;
and his aides spared no effort in imploring America to save
his presidency. Egyptians became rapidly disillusioned with
Islamist incompetence, paranoia, double-dealing and, above all,
profound arrogance towards people they regarded as less religious
turns out that Morsi’s tenure was a blessing in disguise.
If he had lost the presidency, Islamism would have remained
the path not taken. But today, millions of Muslims have voted
with their feet against Islamist rule. Those who grieve over
this affront to ballot box democracy forget that Egypt, like
any new democracy, has every right to seek popular consensus
on the basic tenets of its future political system. Revolutionary
France went through five republics before settling into the
present order, and America needed a civil war to adjust its
democratic path. It is not uncommon in the history of revolutions
for coups to pave the way or seal the fate of popular uprisings.
Those who see nothing beyond a military coup are simply blind.
I asked the old, bearded man standing next to me in Tahrir Square
why he joined the protests. ‘They promised us that Islam
is the solution,’ he replied. ‘But under Muslim
Brotherhood rule we saw neither Islam nor a solution.’
The country that invented Islamism may well be on its way to
undoing the spell.