Mohamed Morsi’s supporters, Muslim Brotherhood protest across Egypt

The Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi demonstrated in Cairo and other cities today, calling for his authority to be restored:

At the main Islamist rally in Cairo, the crowd poured into a large boulevard in front of a main mosque where Morsi supporters have been camped out for two weeks. During the day, the crowd appeared smaller than in previous days, though it was expected to pick up after sunset and the end of the daily fast of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. . .

Despite the vows to continue until Morsi is back in the palace, the Brotherhood and other Islamists face the question of how to step up their campaign at a time when the new administration is pushing ahead quickly with its transition plans, in part to create a reality and isolate the Brotherhood by showing the country is moving toward democracy. At the same time, authorities are pulling out multiple allegations aimed at showing Morsi’s supporters are linked to violence and militancy.

On Friday, some protesters marched from Rabaa al-Adawiya toward the Republican Guard headquarters, where on Monday troops killed more than 50 Morsi supporters in clashes at an Islamist sit-in. The military says the Islamists sparked the clashes by shooting at troops, though the protesters say the troops attacked them without provocation.

Associated Press

Morsi’s opponents showed optimism as Ramadan began this week:

The frenzied chaos of Egypt’s latest revolt has abruptly given way to the torpor of the Muslim month of Ramadan, a time of feasting as well as fasting during which Egyptians sleep late, work little and party through the night.

This year, the celebratory mood is being buoyed for many by the success of the uprising against Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, who was toppled last week after millions of people took to the streets to demand that he go. The country’s powerful military stepped in to oblige.

In the narrow alleyways of medieval Cairo, shabby streets still bearing Morsi’s faded electoral posters are festooned with glittering bunting and brightly colored lanterns in honor of the holy month. Fireworks, not firearms, pop in the air, and hopes abound that a new era for Egypt is about to begin.

“The economy will get better, the workers will work harder, the tourists will come back, and in one or two months Egypt will be beautiful again,” said Ahmed Hassan Mohammed, 80, encapsulating the sky-high expectations of those who supported the second overthrow of an Egyptian president in a little more than two years.

“We have been living in chaos, and the Brotherhood called it a revolution. And now we’re hoping for a new and better start,” said Mahmoud Ahmed 55, who voted for the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Morsi and then joined the demonstrations against him.

Whether the optimism is justified is in question. Egyptians are dangerously polarized between those who want Morsi reinstated and those who are glad to see him gone. What many ordinary Egyptians hail as a new revolution, Morsi supporters denounce as a coup.

Liz Sly and Sharaf al-Hourani

In the United States, observers continue to debate whether Washington should continue delivering military and economic assistance to Egypt. Opinion writer Jennifer Rubin argues that aid should be terminated, as U.S. law requires following a military coup:

Now, there are good coups and bad coups, coups we like and coups we don’t like. But it seems very clear that Morsi won the presidential election, and whatever point public opinion reached in Egypt he was removed by the Army—not by impeachment and not by a revolution. A “duly elected head of government” was “deposed by military coup or decree.” So the issue is whether to respect our law.

Look back at all those things we want for Egypt, and the answer should be obvious: We will do our friends in Egypt no good by teaching the lesson that for us as for them law is meaningless. . .

This president has become far too accustomed (on immigration, healthcare and now foreign policy) to simply disregarding the express conditions of U.S. law. That is intolerable and Congress should do its utmost to make certain, even if the president does not, that our government respects its own laws. That means in this case following existing law. But it doesn’t preclude then giving assurances, concretized in law, as to how we will proceed.

In other words, the U.S. should suspend aid temporarily with explicit language acknowledging the obvious — a coup has taken place and U.S. law requires that we must do so. But then Congress separately should lay out the conditions (to be certified by the president) for re-establishing at least part of our aid, some of which of which have been satisfied. These would include scheduling elections and forming a civil government. We could exercise additional leverage in requiring, for example, restraint in dealing with the deposed Morsi government.

Jennifer Rubin

Opinion writer Anne Applebaum compares the demonstrations in Egypt that eventually led to Morsi’s removal by the military with other street protests around the world:

In Brazil, the protesters wore halter tops and shorts. In Egypt, they wore headscarves and long sleeves. In Turkey, they wore more of the former, some of the latter, and quite a bit of face paint as well. In each of these three places, they looked different, used different slogans, spoke different languages. Yet the parallels among these three protest movements on three different continents in three countries run by democratically elected leaders are striking, not least for what they reveal about the nature of the modern street protest.

In Rio de Janeiro, Cairo and Istanbul, the crowds had legitimate complaints about their respective democracies. Protesters shouted, among other things, about corruption in Brazil; economic incompetence in Egypt; creeping authoritarianism in Turkey. Economic slowdown was the background to protest in all three countries, but even so, the scale of the demonstrations was a surprise. Everywhere, the numbers were bigger and younger than anyone expected. . .

A flash mob created with the help of the Internet is not necessarily well equipped to make big institutional changes. Social media is not the same thing as social activism. The courage and dedication it takes to transform a society are not the same thing as the impulse it takes to join a crowd. “Just showing up” at the demonstration or the march can help create a day’s headline but nothing more. Real change requires the founding of institutions, of political parties, of news organizations, of local and neighborhood associations, of economic clubs and discussion groups that think about the interests of the nation, not of a single group or faction.

In the end, the ultimate success of a street protest in a democracy depends on the degree to which its members are willing to turn their protest into real activism, to enter into their respective nations’ political systems, to work within the law and to transform passion and anger into institutional and finally political change. In Egypt, whose new democracy was by far the most fragile of the three, the protests have in this sense already failed. Egypt’s anti-Morsi activists had not yet organized themselves into a coherent political party, they hadn’t created a political program with mass appeal and they didn’t have an alternative elite prepared to carry it out. Without these things, their influence over the course of events was necessarily going to be limited. Knowing that they might well lose a new election, they called for the help of the army and thus threw Egypt’s entire democratic project into jeopardy.

Anne Applebaum

For past coverage of the Egyptian crisis, continue reading here.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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