EDITORIAL: In Egypt, Change is the Only Constant

7/10/2013, 3 p.m.
Last week's coup d'etat in Egypt is a not-too-subtle reminder that the revolution which led to the ouster of former ...

Last week’s coup d’etat in Egypt is a not-too-subtle reminder that the revolution which led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mabarak a year ago is far from over.

Almost a year to the day that a majority of the populace elected President Mohamad Morsi, he was swept from office by a popular uprising of disaffected Egyptians who chafed under what they said were his dictatorial tendencies and disdain for the secular segment of the populace.

The military has Morsi under house arrest, rounded up Muslim Brotherhood leadership, and they shut down television stations with close ties to Morsi. And what began months ago as relatively peaceful protests is now turning deadly.

On Monday, the political wing of the Brotherhood, an Islamic-based movement, called for a popular uprising by pro-Morsi supporters against the military after soldiers are said to have opened fire on Morsi supporters who had gathered outside the building where they believe Morsi is being held.

According to state TV, soldiers killed 51 and wounded 435. It is not far-fetched that the conflicts could slide the country into civil war.

Morsi’s sudden and stunning fall from grace came as the country’s powerful military leaders made good on their veiled threats to Morsi that they would intervene if he didn’t respond to the people’s demands. And we saw compelling images of millions of anti-Morsi crowds crammed into Tahrir Square celebrating his departure with cheers and fireworks.

Yet it’s becoming clear that the coup is likely just the latest salvo in what will probably be a protracted battle for the soul of the country.

As the Arab Spring broke out first in Tunisia and other parts of the Arab world, the hope was that people who yearned for greater political, social and economic freedoms would gain these ideals and practical desires. But the Egyptian political, religious and social landscape is quite complex.

Egyptian journalist Wael Gamal notes that the January 30, 2012 revolution that ousted Mubarak “has not yet realized a single success, with the exception of the removal of Mubarak, a few of his men, and the dismantling of his ruling party.”

In the meantime, he said, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the Brotherhood, “took care to reproduce the old regime, politically, economically, and in the security services.” These reproductions, Gamal added, were carefully tailored to prevent the translation of changes in the balance of social and political forces (millions of ordinary people breaking into the world of politics) into actual authority.

“Not even one basic reform of the wage system, the redistribution of wealth, or corruption has been realized. The police have undergone no reforms whatsoever, and the security’s grip on society is as tight as ever,” he said.

Which is why, according to Professor Khaled Shaalan, we might be witnessing “the emergence of a true grassroots democratic alternative in the Arab world’s largest country.”

In order to protect their interests in the country, he said, the U.S., Britain and their allies have invested heavily in a tamer version of Islamist rule as practiced by the Muslim Brotherhood “as they seek to take over the Middle East from post-colonial populist regimes living long past their expiration dates.”

So the millions who took to the streets on June 30 have thrown a monkey wrench into Western plans and as the country moves forward may take Egypt in another direction, “even if only by beginning to address different possibilities regarding the future of Egypt, its people and its regional state of affairs,” Shaalan said.