Egypt Disconnects from West and Democracy

The Egyptian military’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood is part of a broader pattern of Egyptian disconnection from the U.S. and the West.  The Egyptian military has sought and received a large package of economic aid from the Persian Gulf states in July.  The $12 billion aid package came from three Persian Gulf monarchies which are battling the Muslim Brotherhood in their own countries: Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and regional and global Muslim heavyweight Saudi Arabia. Thus, the secular dictators in Egypt and the Persian Gulf are aligned against the radical Islamists in Tunisia and Turkey.

In addition, the military dictators in Egypt feel comfortable thumbing their nose at the US criticism of their crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood because they have found an alternative source of support from the Persian Gulf monarchies which are more aligned ideologically with them.  This article is critical of both major players in Egypt. The  army and the Muslim Brotherhood are two totalitarian institutions which share an underlying interest in suppressing freedom despite the ongoing and historical violent power struggle between them.

Meanwhile, the Tamarod “rebel” movement which organized the overthrow of the Morsi Muslim Brotherhood regime in July is now calling for the end to U.S. aid to Egypt and to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.  The campaign against U.S. aid to Egypt has already gathered 300,000 signatures and symbolizes an underlying Egyptian hostility toward the U.S. and toward the peace treaty with Israel and the Jews.  The U.S. government is widely resented in Egypt because it has a long history of supporting political repression and military dictatorship in Egypt.  This hostility is shared by political groups that have nothing in common ideologically and range from secular liberals to militarists to Islamists of all stripes.  The U.S. is now paying the price for having supported dictatorship for decades in Egypt.

Unfortunately the liberal opposition to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty symbolizes a high degree of anti-Semitism which has pervaded Egyptian society throughout six decades of military rule.  The Nasser regime exploited anti-Semitism and the external Zionist threat to justify internal political repression and remain in power.  The Mubarak regime continued this pattern of promoting anti-Semitism even after signing the peace treaty.  Thus, Egyptian anti-Semitism reflects decades of ideological indoctrination against Israel and the Jews.

Finally, the Coptic Church has rejected external intervention in support of this beleaguered minority.  The Islamists are systematically burning churches in Egypt and targeting the Coptic Christian minority in revenge for the military crackdown against them.  And the military is tolerating this atrocity by failing to prosecute the perpetrators despite its official condemnation of these attacks.  The Catholic Church and the Coptic Church in Egypt both expressed their strong support for the military and endorsed the military’s official line that its clash with the Muslim Brotherhood reflects a war on terrorism.  The Coptic Church stated,”We absolutely reject even partial foreign interference in our internal affairs.”

This stance is baffling in light of the grave danger which the burning of the churches poses to the Coptic Christian minority in Egypt.  Maikel Nabil, a pacifist and anti-militarist dissident from a Coptic Christian background, has expressed his fears that the burning of the churches represents the beginning of a mass expulsion and/or genocide against his people.  He compared the fate of the Coptic Christians with that of the Egyptian Jews who were systematically expelled and dispossessed under Nasser. He even reflected on the fate of European Jews who were denied refuge from Nazi Europe.

In addition, ordinary Egyptians are now expressing their strong support of the military.  A Wall Street Journal article said that bridesmaids were wearing dresses with Egyptian flags and carrying pictures of General Sisi.  Cakes bearing the face of General Sisi are being sold in bakeries in Cairo.  Ordinary Egyptians are saying they give the military a blank check to do whatever it takes to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood.  The military is widely seen in Egypt as a hero because it has suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood and emerged victorious in the latest round of its long-standing historical clash with radical Islam in Egypt. The tendency to rally around the military reflects deep-rooted authoritarian patterns in Egyptian politics and society which do not bode well for democratic development in Egypt.

Maikel Nabil explains in detail how the military dictatorship is systematically suppressing the expression of political dissent in Egypt.  Civil society is restricted by the mass arrest of members of NGOs that accepted foreign funding and challenged political repression in Egypt. The expression of 20 specific political opinions is explicitly criminalized, such as criticizing the army and both domestic and foreign presidents and encouraging army recruits to disobey orders. The suppression of democratic political dissent is connected with the emergence of military rule and with Egypt’s disconnection from the U.S. and the West.  The military and Egpytian society have disconnected from the West because they have abandoned and rejected the democratic ideals associated with the West.


About the Author
Rachel's educational background includes a B.A. in international relations from Brown University; she has been an independent scholar, analyst, and researcher about Middle Eastern affairs for 12 years; Her focus has been on Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Egypt.