It is undeniable that Egypt is going through a painful transition period. It is clear what Egypt is “transitioning from”, but it less clear where it is heading. Compounding the problem, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF], which has been governing Egypt since February 11, 2011, seems to have its own agenda.
It is difficult to analyse the actions of others without understanding their motives. Since SCAF is reluctant to show its hand, a number of theories have emerged to explain its actions. Whilst some argue that SCAF’s actions reflect a deep desire to retain power indefinitely, others argue that its ultimate aim is the protection of some elements of the old regime. For a third group, SCAF’s actions could only be understood in light of the alleged “deal” it made with the US. Proponents of this theory believe that the terms of the deal require the US to keep providing the Egyptian army with its annual aid package and in return SCAF guarantees that Egypt would honour its Peace Treaty with Israel.
However, SCAF’s actions may indicate a more sinister motive, namely delivering Egypt, on a golden plate, to the Muslim Brotherhood. A systematic analysis may reveal evidence to support the argument that SCAF is in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is a little known fact that in addition to two hundred army officers, all the members of the Command Council of the coup d’etat of 1952, with the exception of Gamal Salem and Zakaria Mohy El Din, were members of the most violent Group of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Secret Organisation [El Nizam El Sery]. Gamal Abd el Nasser, later the President of Egypt, swore his allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood and full obedience to its General Guide [EL Morshed el A’am] in 1942. Even Khaled Mohy El Din reached the shores of communism through the Secret Organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Throughout its history, the Muslim Brotherhood has rejected the separation of religion and state. According to its founder, Hassan El Banna, Islam is a “religion and state” a “holy book and a sword”. This view also found support from Sayed Qutb, the most cited member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who in Social Justice in Islam made it very clear that Islam does not distinguish between religion and state. As a result, the Muslim Brotherhood was responsible for some of the most hideous crimes in Egyptian politics, including the assassination of Egypt’s Prime Minister, Nokrashy Pasha, in 1948.
Contrary to popular belief, the Egyptian army was never fully secular. It was not only the Muslim Brotherhood that managed to infiltrate the Egyptian army, but also a number of other Islamist groups. It was a group of Islamists army officers, under the leadership of Khaled Islambouli, who assassinated President Anwar Sadat during a military parade in 1981.
Therefore, if history is any indication, it is likely that some influential members of SCAF have strong affiliation with Islamist groups. Since the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organised among all Islamist groups in Egypt, it is unsurprising to be chosen by the Islamist members of SCAF as the chief’s heir apparent.
After the people of Egypt had ousted Mubarak, SCAF immediately suspended the Constitution of 1971. That was mainly to avoid any Constitutional challenges to its authority on the ground that it had no legitimacy to govern. Undoubtedly, the suspension of the Constitution created a legal vacuum.
In order to fill the vacuum and to gain legitimacy, SCAF ordered a constitutional referendum. In the absence of any indication from SCAF on the nature of the proposed referendum, two schools of thought emerged among Egyptians: the “minimalistic” and the “major overhaul”. The “minimalistic” school of thought, which was championed by the Muslim Brotherhood, argued that only small changes to the Constitution were needed. Ostensibly, the Muslim Brotherhood’s call for a quick referendum was to bring Egypt back to normal. In reality, it knew that it was only through a quick referendum that it could restrict the number of issues subject to discussion and ultimately to avoid any meaningful debate on the role of Islam in society. Thus, leaving the notorious Article II, which makes Islamic sharia the source of all legislation, intact.
The “major overhaul” school of thought argued that since the regime which drafted the Constitution had been discredited, then the whole instrument is ipso facto null, and therefore cannot be revived through minimum amendments. Although the “major overhaul” approach was supported by most, if not all, youth groups of the revolution, SCAF endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood view and established a committee to propose minimalistic amendments. The Constitutional Committee ended up proposing the deletion of a single provision, the insertion of a new provision and the amendment of eight provisions.
It seems that the Committee took the view that it would only propose amendments to provisions that were not part of the initial Constitution, as enacted in 1971. Somewhat conveniently, the Committee overlooked that Article II of the Constitution of 1971 made Islamic sharia a source, as opposed to the source of all legislation. Similarly, it seemingly overlooked that the existing wording of Article II was a result of a “unilateral” amendment proposed by President Sadat, few months before his assassination. Leaving Article II intact and therefore avoiding any debate on the role of religion in post-Mubarak Egypt immensely pleased the Muslim Brotherhood and offered a clear indication of things to come.
Notwithstanding the pleas of most revolutionary groups in Egypt, SCAF insisted on holding the Constitutional referendum five weeks after the fall of Mubarak’s regime, on March 19, 2011. It could be argued that holding the referendum so soon after the ousting of Mubarak was only to serve the interest of one group: the Muslim Brotherhood. Whilst all other revolutionary groups were, and still are, in the process of organising themselves, the Muslim Brotherhood was well organised and followed a clear hierarchy. As a result, only the Muslim Brotherhood was able to mobilise its followers and to vote as one bloc.
The SCAF appeared tolerant of sectarian slogans used by the Muslim Brotherhood in the build up to the referendum. One slogan read: “Voting yes, with Allah”. Another slogan read: “Voting no is siding with the Copts”. These type of slogans in a country with 33-38 per cent illiteracy are fatal and a serious blow to secularism. Yet, they were not challenged by SCAF.
Notwithstanding the existence of a number of internationally renowned comparative constitutional law experts in Egypt, SCAF chose a less known former judge of the Conseil d’État to head the Constitutional Committee. The main reason for choosing Tarek El Bishry was to please the Muslim Brotherhood. This is especially so, since he is an “Islamic thinker” and known for his Islamist leanings. As if this was not enough, SCAF appointed
a member of the Muslim Brotherhood to be on the Constitutional Committee. Shamefully, most revolutionary groups were not invited to the Committee.
Under the watchful eyes of SCAF, and in some instances with the collusion of its own armed forces, the Copts have been murdered, burnt, kidnapped and made homeless. Three events, by no means the only ones, will stand to illustrate this trend. On February 23 and 24, 2011 and for no apparent reason, the Egyptian army, which is under the direct control of SCAF, stormed the Coptic Monastery of Saint Bishoy in Wadi El Natroon firing live bullets that injured nineteen Copts. The army did not leave before demolishing the main gate using tanks and simultaneously chanting 'Allahu Akbar!'
On March 5, a mob set ablaze a Coptic church in Soul, Helwan, 30 Kilometres from Cairo. Even after the building was burnt, the mob pounded down the few remaining walls with sledge hammers, chanting 'Allahu Akbar!' Furthermore, they broke into Coptic homes and called on Copts to leave the village. As a result over 2,000 Copts became homeless for over a week. Sadly, all the atrocities were committed under the watchful eyes of SCAF, which had a battalion stationed less than seven kilometres away from the incident.
On March 14, 2011, the army attacked a group of Coptic protestors in Maspero at 4:00 am using electric batons. Seventeen Copts were detained. Some are still detained at the time this article went to press. Whilst a group of 500 Copts from Manshiet Nasr "Garbage City" were on their way to join the Coptic protest in Maspero, they were attacked by unknown individuals. The army arrived at the scene and initially did not get involved, then shot in the air and then bizarrely enough started shooting at the Copts, Wagih Anwar Abou Saad, an eyewitness, reported.
Although the army could not tolerate few hundred Copts demonstrating, it has been too willing to tolerate the Salafist-led protest, of thousands, in Quena, which has been taking place for ten days. The leaders of the protest are refusing to accept the appointment of a Coptic Governor. Furthermore, the army was happy to let the protestors cut off the surrounding motorways and block the railway, thus severing the south of Egypt from the rest of the country.
From its first day in power, SCAF lacked neutrality. There is considerable evidence that SCAF has been colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood at the expense of all others. During the 18 days of the Egyptian revolution, the vast majority of people, at least publicly, called for transparency. Maybe their call was not loud enough for all to hear?