Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 24th, 2012

“Egyptians held back by neo-liberalism, not religion”: Isn’t what I said?

President Morsi claims the opposition is an anti-Islamist elite. 

President Morsi is in fact trying to protect the interests of an entrenched elite at the expense of everyone else.

And Morsi is losing support because of his economic policies

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters have tried to frame the current crisis in religious terms, casting opposition to their speedily drafted constitution as the petulance of an anti-Islamist, liberal elite. Media analysis has often replicated this theme:

1. In one corner stands Brotherhood-propelled President Mohamed Morsi who has the supposed blessings of a religious population.

2. And in the other corner, the “secular” opposition, banging on about small details of a constitution that isn’t that bad. (It is very bad, bad, bad…https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/amnesty-international-egypts-constitution-limits-fundamental-freedoms-and-ignores-the-rights-of-women/)

Such wrongheaded analysis prompted Egypt expert Dr HA Hellyer from the Brookings Institution to politely request that western media “knock it off“.

 published in The Guardian, on Dec. 21, 2012 under: “Egyptians are being held back by neoliberalism, not religion…”

“The result of Egypt’s first referendum on the constitution (a second referendum takes place this Saturday, in districts that have yet to vote) has exposed some of the real sticking points.

The referendum had to be split into two stages because so few Egyptian judges agreed to supervise it. And for all its legendary mobilizing powers of the votes cast, the Brotherhood wasn’t able to get more than 57% for its constitution.

Not long ago, the Brotherhood could rely on voter support reaching over 70%. And less than a third of the electorate turned out – though that might be because of the long queues and the difficulty in voting. In an atmosphere of mistrust and mismanagement, allegations of vote-rigging are rife.

Mohamed Morsi

Photograph: Mohammed Hossam/AFP/Getty Images

But if Egyptians are, as results indicate, losing faith in the Brotherhood, it isn’t because the organisation is Islamist, but because it has so far been rubbish at ruling. Many believe the Brotherhood has kept its promises to power, but not to the people.

Crucially, President Morsi’s economic policy has deepened the neo-liberalism that brought so much misery during the Mubarak era and was a key component of the uprising against him.

This economic stamp is all over Morsi’s policies, both before and as a part of the proposed constitution – which was completed in a one-day marathon, by an Islamist-dominated assembly: The Christian, liberal and female members walked out from the assembly.

In early December Morsi announced an end to fuel subsidies – so household bills for gas cylinders and electricity, for example, are set to spike.

Meanwhile, an IMF loan of $4.8bn currently being negotiated is conditioned on what has been described as the biggest wave of austerity cuts since 1977 – when subsidies on staple foods were removed in one crippling hit, prompting the “bread riots“.

Today the plan is to reduce public spending, cut subsidies, increase tax on basic goods, and devalue the Egyptian pound. This package was delayed because of the current turmoil. But why should Egyptians swallow such a Shock Doctrine-style deal, when one of the key tenets of the revolution was a call for social justice?

Meanwhile, the proposed constitution reveals more of the Brotherhood’s conservative economics.

It has a clause that pegs wages to productivity. (In the public sectors?)

It stipulates that only “peaceful” strikes are allowed. (Whatever that means)

It keeps military interests intact and invisible to public scrutiny – in a country where the army is thought to own anything from 10% to 45% of the national economy (nobody knows for sure because it’s all so secret).

It is all more evident that Morsi is not, as he claims, trying to “protect the revolution”, but wants to protect the interests of an entrenched elite at the expense of everyone else.

Indeed, this year a Bloomberg report referred to the wealthy, controlling echelons of this Islamist group as the “Brothers of the 1%“.

Small wonder that the factory-dense city of Mahalla declared itself an independent state, in protest at Morsi’s anti-union laws. Since Morsi came to power there has been a wave of strikes; not just factory stoppages but also health worker strikes and consumer protests at eroding public services.

And Egypt’s rapidly growing independent unions have been mobilising nationally against the constitution, using its trampling of social justices as the hook.

All these concerns have come on top of the constitution-driven attempts to erode personal freedoms, especially for women and minorities, and give religious clerics the final say over legal rulings – all through a process that disdains plurality and vital consensus-building.

These economic blunders, rather than any knee-jerk hostility to Islamists in power, is what prompted such large and widespread protest across Egypt. But while his economic policy makes Morsi unpopular on the streets, it is precisely what makes him acceptable to the west: power-serving economics coupled with a foreign policy that doesn’t rock any regional boats, crucially with Israel.

Using standard paternalistic filters, the US is banking on the idea that the Brotherhood’s religious credibility will underwrite its reactionary politics, thereby maintaining the status quo. In this sense, the American administration doesn’t really care if it’s a Mubarak or a Morsi in power, as long as these interests are preserved.

It is true, of course, that the Brotherhood still won majority support in the first referendum – although that might be as much about public desire to put an end to this constitutional crisis.

But the drop in support for the Islamist group shows that Egyptians won’t be fobbed off any more – and therein lies the power of the revolution. Post-uprising polls reveal that Egyptians are more concerned with work, housing, health, security and public services than with the pantomime identity politics of Muslim Brotherhood versus the liberals.

The results of the referendum show that the opposition, as it grows more focused and more organised, might be able turn popular concern for these issues into real political mobilisation, which could gain momentum in the parliamentary elections slated for early next year.

Then the Brotherhood might find out that with such disregard for the Egyptian people, its credibility, garnered during those hard, repressive years in opposition, can easily be squandered.” end of article

Latest news:

1. The vice president resigned on the eve of the second phase of the referendum, on the ground that his culture as a judge does not match the needed “political skills”

2. The opposition is keeping a black list on judges who resume monitoring the referendum

Note:  Arab renaissance is not linked to interpretation of any religious book…https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/no-connection-with-interpeting-holy-booksarab-renaissance-demands-frequent-mass-meetings-in-tahrir-squares/

What alternatives as a mullah or local minor mufti issues a “fatwa”?

In the book “Three cups of tea“, Greg Mortenson had this mission of building primary schools for girls in North Pakistan through the Central Asia Institute that Dr. Jean Hoerni established the foundation and allocated one million dollars to pursue its long-term mission.

After Greg managed to construct the first school in the village of Korphe in the province of Baltistan, many local and minor mullahs in the neighboring towns tried to through a fatwa at Greg (to force Greg from never to set foot again in these provinces) on the ground that a non-Moslem foreigners is not allowed to build schools for girls.

The real reason behind these fatwas was to blackmail the Institution to pay off for every school being constructed.

What alternatives do foreign NGO and for non-profit organizations can opt for when a mullah or local minor mufti issues a “fatwa”?

In the beginning, the team of Pakistanis aiding in the projects, and particularly the professional accountant Ghulam Parvis, tried to circumvent this hardship by communicating with the various local nurmadhar (chief) of villages and their religious clerics so that they appease the concerned mullah.

The next step was to get the highest cleric in the province to get involved.

The third step was to ask the council of ayatollahs in Qom (Iran) to deliver their opinion on the issue.

The fourth phase, and the most efficient in the long-term, is confront the fatwa with a counter appeal to the religious legal court (based on the Shari3a) to decide on the fatwa. This venue takes at least more than 3 years to come to bring an answer, but this alternative forces the contending mullah to get overwhelmed with frequent demands of proofs and documentation and personal presence to the court.

For example, Greg contacted the highest cleric Sayed Abbas (a graduate from the Shiaa religious university of Najaf in Iraq) and satisfied many urgent demands of this clerics, like bringing potable water to villages suffering from high infantile death rate due to drinking bad water, and caring for refugee camps for Pakistani people fleeing from the borders with India during the nasty Kashmir conflict.

Sayed Abbas also asked that Qom intervene and the opinion arrived in a red velvet box, stating that Qom is in favor of the work Greg is conducting, since Islam encourage benevolent Zakat for the poor and the less favored people…

This opinion discouraged future bad mullahs, but the current fatwas were opposed in religious legal court.

Note 1: Greg discovered that the male graduates left their villages to larger towns and cities, but the girl graduates returned to their village after finishing their professional education. Consequently, the institute redirected the mission to give priority to girls in the constructed schools. With this focus, the rate of girls in schools increased by 10% every year.

Note 2: Most of the graduate girls preferred to pursue medical studies, like Jahan, Tahira, and Shakeela… Women frequently died in giving birth and the infantile mortality rate was pretty steep in these mountainous regions, where families lived inside a single room for over 6 months…

Note 3: If interested of the story from the start https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/how-three-cups-of-tea-generated-80-schools-for-little-girls-in-north-pakistan/


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