A sampling of commentary from Middle East studies scholars and moonlighters, non-specialists who write about the region, on the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt follows:
Invoking conspiracy theories:
Tariq Ramadan, professor of contemporary Islamic Studies, Oxford University; grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna:
The latest revelations . . . confirm what was already clear: the decision to overthrow President Mohamed Morsi had been made well before June 30. A conversation between President Morsi and General al-Sisi indicated that the head of the country's military had planned the overthrow and imprisonment of the president weeks before the popular upheaval that would justify the military coup 'in the name of the people's will.'. . . It would hardly be an understatement to say that Israel, like the United States, could only look favorably upon developments in Egypt. . . . The people, in their legitimate desire for a better life and for survival, for justice and dignity, have been unwitting participants in a media-military operation of the highest order. The situation is grave; the silence of Western governments tells us all we need to know.
Abdullah Al-Arian, assistant professor of history, Wayne State University; son of Sami Al-Arian, former professor at the University of South Florida and North American head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad:
There is something to be said . . . of the ways in which large swaths of the Egyptian public seem to have internalised decades of demonisation of the group by the former regime and its propaganda arms, which continued to operate unabated throughout Morsi's term in office.
Hatem Bazian, senior lecturer in Near Eastern studies and director of the Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project, University of California, Berkeley:
The ME, it's [sic] oil, and wealth are far too valuable to be left to the Egyptians on the street to determine are the words said behind doors.
As'ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science, California State University, Stanislaus:
Generally I hate conspiracy theories, but interesting that while Obama was in deep trouble over the NSA spy scandal suddenly a revolution in Egypt bursts out (Morsi was only given an impossible 48 hours to make things right), wiping out or at least putting lower on the front page news about the NSA spy scandal.
Amer Araim, adjunct professor of political science, Diablo Valley College:
The Egyptian military authorities, which have a close working relationship with the United States and depend on its aid, could not have staged the coup without a nod from Washington despite the statements of concern by the administration.
The Muslim Brotherhood are democratic, "moderate Islamists":
Khaled Abou El Fadl, Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Professor in Islamic Law and chair of the Islamic Studies Interdepartmental Program, University of California, Los Angeles:
The reality is that the Muslim Brotherhood believed in the political process and tried to practice it. Like the Salvation Front of Algeria before them, they believed that democracy and Islamism are reconcilable, and that it is possible to build an overlapping moral consensus with non-Islamists. . . . What has been dealt a deathblow after the Egyptian coup is moderate Islamism.
Perhaps one of the many tragedies of these latest events is that we have lost, possibly forever, the opportunity to witness the Muslim Brotherhood humbled through its preferred method of political contestation [democratic elections].
Noah Feldman, Bemis Professor of Law, Harvard University:
In both Tunisia and Egypt, the first democratic elections produced significant pluralities favoring Islamic democratic parties. Ennahda, the Islamist movement whose political party won in Tunisia, is ideologically similar to the Muslim Brotherhood, and is a kind of associate of the Brotherhood's loosely affiliated internationale. Both parties believe in combining Islamic values with democratic practice. Both accept a political role for women and equal citizenship for non-Muslims, even if in practice they are both socially conservative and seek the gradual, voluntary Islamization of society.
Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History, University of Michigan:
[I]t depends on whether the Muslim Brotherhood is wise and mature enough to roll with this punch and to reform itself, giving up its cliquish and cult-like internal solidarity in favor of truly becoming a nation-wide, center-right, democratic opposition party. If they take this course, they have a chance of emulating Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) and one day coming back to power.
Making excuses for the Muslim Brotherhood:
Mark LeVine, professor of history, University of California, Irvine:
Morsi's failure was not entirely his fault. Despite the fact it was controlled by religious conservatives, the disbanding of the lower house of Parliament closed off the one institutional political space for Egyptians both to negotiate with, moderate and even push back against the new leadership, leaving nowhere for the normal push and pull of politics to transpire. And so the street became the only viable vehicle to assert opposition to the new order, a situation which inevitably reinforced a uniformly antagonistic relationship between the opposition and the President and his allies.
John Esposito, director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University:
The Brotherhood, for decades living under siege and faced with repression, learned to survive and prove the only significant opposition during the Mubarak years. But the very methods and skills that enabled survival and the building of a tight knit, disciplined organization capable of organizing and mobilizing in elections, did not prepare the Morsi government for governance, for building a representative coalition in the very complex political and economic climate post Tahrir square. . . . In the end, despite accomplishments, the Morsi government and the Brotherhood proved unable to move quickly and effectively to garner sufficient popular support which enabled hardline anti-government factions, bent on bringing it down, to mobilize diverse sectors of society with legitimate concerns and grievances.
Egypt's first democratically elected president was bound to make mistakes, due to the 'democratic deficit' in both systems and culture as a result of decades of authoritarian rule.
In reality, all those who were observing the developments in Egypt since the president [Morsi] began his term a year ago were aware of his assurances regarding the separation of powers and respect to the judiciary despite the attempts of the judiciary to undermine his efforts. The fact is that many in the judiciary sided with counterrevolutionary forces and put many obstacles to prevent the democratically elected president from performing his functions.
President Morsi cannot be fairly criticized for not doing all he could to establish relations with the opposition, either by inviting it to join the government or to take part in a broad national dialogue. But his approaches were rejected out of hand, with the opposition bitterly opposing his every initiative
It is now clear that the Muslim Brotherhood, which judged its own reputation solely by its ability to win at the ballot box, underestimated the extent to which a significant number of Egyptians had developed a healthy reserve of revulsion for the group, irrespective of its political performance.
Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and international studies and director of the Middle East studies program, University of San Francisco:
If Morsi had emulated the Tunisian Islamists and formed a broad coalition to oversee the democratic transition, he wouldn't be in trouble.
Richard Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights:
What makes an assessment based on competence so inconclusive is that the secular opposition, including the Mubarak residue and the Coptic minority, were unwilling as a matter of political principle to live in an Egypt that was governed by Islamists. The old Mubarak sectors of the government that remained in place, including the judiciary, the police, and the interior ministry, threw every possible roadblock in the path of Morsi's governing policies.
Overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood was antidemocratic:
Military removal of an elected president dose [sic] not promote democracy as it rarely [sic] been the case across the world & Egypt is no exception.
Ingrid Mattson, London & Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies, Huron University College:
Let no one be fooled now that the truly anti-democratic forces in Egypt are those who have falsely appropriated the mantle of liberalism.
Enemies of the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] argued for years that they should not be allowed to rule because they would abolish democratic rule as soon as they get into power. Events in Egypt proved that enemies of Ikhwan are more guilty of precisely what they have accused Ikhwan of.
Imagine just for a minute that the coup overthrew a democratically-elected liberal quasi-secular government. You can easily imagine the international uproar and the fury of liberal intellectuals worldwide. . . . But the victims of this coup are the uncouth Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood.
I read the last statement by the Egyptian military: it said that it spoke on behalf of 'the will of the nation.' The fascist coup resorts to the rhetoric of fascist regimes.
Khaled Abou El Fadl:
The so-called liberal secularists of Egypt exploit the language of democracy and human rights in the same way that Islamists exploit the symbols of Islam and the values of Shariah. Both preach what they do not practice, and both behave in ways that completely undermine what they preach.
The 'ouster' (read 'overthrow') by military 'intervention' (read 'coup') demonstrates the extent to which so many Egyptians of all political and religious orientations have been infected by [Hosni] Mubarak's legacy, the political culture and values of authoritarianism. In the end, all the major actors succumbed: Islamists (the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists alike), disenchanted April 6 youth, hardline illiberal secularists (or more accurately 'secular fundamentalists'), failed presidential wannabes and other sore losers, and especially the remnants of the Mubarak regime and its deep state.
Mursi was genuinely elected -- and genuinely deposed by a military that was the only force in the country that could bring him down. Sure, the protesters also wanted him out. But as he himself made clear, he wasn't going anywhere as a result of the protests. Plenty of Egyptians wanted him to stay in power. The crowds weren't about to storm his palace and lead him out Nicolae Ceausescu-style. If it were not for the army, Mursi would still be president, albeit of an embattled nation. This was a coup -- and if wasn't, then nothing is.
The anti-Morsi commentators, retired generals and hard-core secularists are now openly acknowledging their complete repudiation of the Brotherhood as an acceptable presence in Egyptian political life, speaking of it as a force dedicated to 'Islamic fascism,' as having 'hijacked' the revolution and the presidency, and that it is good thing that the armed forces have rescued the Egyptian people from such an Islamic destiny, and are finally cracking down on the MB as harshly as during the Murbarak [sic] Era.
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