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Egypt: To Coup or Not to Coup

Adil Hossain for BeyondHeadlines

Imagine this scenario. It’s August 2011 and Anna Hazare is sitting on his second fast at Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi to demand the enactment of Jan Lokpal ( anti corruption law drafted by Team Anna). From all the TV channels, newspapers and magazines one could get the sense that millions are on the street supporting this movement and harbouring anti UPA feelings. In such a scenario, if the Army Chief first warn and then depose the democratically elected UPA government, would it be anyway justified? The answer is definitely no, even though there are thousands of jingoist exist around us who would support any Army takeover of a perceptible corrupt government.

Photo Courtesy: GuardianNow take the case of just happened Egyptian coup and we will have to agree that we are at the crossroads of hypocrisy. There is a just and moral question involved over the support of so many people to this coup. Yes, that’s because in general we never think of popular protests changing the defining contours of democracy to this extent. If that was the case, then be it Occupy Wall Street or the massive anti-war protests during Iraq invasion when millions of people came on the streets of London or New York, we should be at ease with the idea of Army takeover. But we never were and we never will in such cases. So what’s special with Egypt this time then? Is it just because, it was supposedly a clash between Secularist versus Islamists there?

To be candid, if given a choice, I would definitely align myself with people who would like to keep religion away from the affairs of the state. I felt strongly against the increasing politicisation of religion by Muslim Brotherhood and its President Morsi. But with the recent coup, there are enough reasons to be concerned also.

The obvious question at this moment is, what after Morsi?Many predicts the emergence of more hardliner Salafist to fill the vacuum. His now ousted National Security Advisor Essam Haddad has blatantly warned about the fallout of this coup by saying, “And the message will resonate throughout the Muslim world loud and clear: democracy is not for Muslims.”  The observations made by Syrian President Basher al-Assad on this issue is far more interesting and needs to be debated vigorously among the academics and policy makers.  He says, ”Whoever brings religion to use in politics or in favour of one group at the expense of another will fall anywhere in the world”. Mired in controversy over allegation of war crimes, but still Assad comments that the events in Egypt mark the end of “what is called political Islam” is bound to resonate with many people.

If we analyse some recent events in the Muslim world, definitely patterns are emerging on the increasing tussle between the groups of Secularists and Islamists. Be it Shahbag movement in Bangladesh, or Taksim Square in Turkey or the present Tahrir square, it has drawn the battle line between people who believe in the idea of ‘political Islam’ and others who does not. In a way, this is quite an optimistic trend in the Muslim world that many want to keep religion away from state affairs but the Egyptian experiment with democracy offered us with a chance which we missed unfortunately. There was an interesting experiment going on the reconciliation between political Islam and modern government which was first of its kind in the contemporary world.

Even after many flaws, Morsi government made some efforts to incorporate the shades of democracy as senior analyst Ed Hussain points out. According to him, this coup will further alienate the supporters of Muslim Brotherhood and risk intense radicalisation which is a valid point raised by him.

But ultimately, the future of Egypt will depend upon the fact that how history would perceive this phase. Simply a military coup or revolution or both? This is quite a mind-boggling question at the moment. We cannot escape the fact that it is not a simple military coup we usually experience in third world countries, where without any popular movement regime changes at the will of some Army officials. This is also fundamentally different from other protests we had witnessed earlier in India or Bangladesh or recently in Brasil where the demand was never of regime change.

Considering these points, we may call it revolution only if the present transitional government supervised by the Egyptian Army pave the way for freely elected civilian government soon. Else history would curse it and this coup would never be debated even as “of the people, by the people and for the people”.

(Adil Hossain is a student of development anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London and intern at Media Standard Trust, London. He can be followed on twitter@adilhossain)


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