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Armed Forces: What’s Next for Morsi’s Egypt?

Armed Forces: What’s Next for Morsi’s Egypt?

Henelito A. Sevilla, Jr
The Arab uprisings are redefining the political landscape of the Middle East and North African region. Despite recent transitional political processes being experienced by some Arab countries, chaos, uncertainty, fear, cases of sexual abuses against women, and struggle for power by sectarian groups still describe the general condition of affected countries especially in Egypt. In most recent development in Egypt, the so called first ‘democratically’ elected –transitional leader Muhammad Morsi, has been forcibly removed from power by a popular Egyptian demonstration.
The public demand was based simply on the assumption that Morsi’s administration failed to deliver Egypt from economic and political reforms and instead he vowed to ratify the Egyptian constitution by allocating more power to the president-a move that create another public outcry and eventually led to his removal.

Although the call was popular, it cannot be denied that the interventionary power of the Egyptian military force was increasingly crucial to his removal. Given this scenario, some questions are worth asking;
What will be the future role of the Egyptian Military forces in Egypt? Would there be a guarantee that the Egyptian Military Forces remain committed to the same notions of freedom, justice and democracy and economic liberalization that Egyptian people want? Will the Armed forces returns democracy and government management to the Egyptian people? What will be the future of the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt?
It becomes a normal practice in many Arab countries that military armed forces play a crucial role in the removal and instalment of Arab leaders. In the history of the modern Egypt, Egyptian presidents such as Gamal Abdul Nasser Hussein, Anwar Sadat and Muhammad Hosni Mubarakrose to power from being the officers of the Egyptian Armed Forces. 
Such condition was also practiced in Iraq during President Sadam , Hafiz Assad in Syriaand King Hussain of Jordan where three of them were active members of the Armed Forces before serving as the heads of their respective countries.
However, with the popular uprising in the Arab world today, it becomes clear that Arab peoples want changes in their own countries. Given the critical role of the Military Forces in a transitional Egypt, it remains prudent if they will stay committed to the genuine aspiration of the majority of the Egyptian people for change and not become an instrument of another change which does not have strong support from the Egyptian people.
In short the Egyptian Military Forces may not completely need to emulate Turkish military in restoring the country’s democratic institutions in times of political crisis but it should stay as a credible guard to Egyptian cry for democracy and economic emancipation during and after the transition and not an instrument to another source of political misfortune in Egypt.
Aside from this, the Egyptian Military Forces must exercise non discriminatory practices towards the minorities such as the Coptic Christians. After all the forces that led down the revolution and  overthrow the  former President Mubarak were not identified with a certain Egyptian  group(s) but by the majority of the Egyptian people who dreamed  for a genuine change in their own land. In addition to this, members of the Islamic brotherhood must also be treated with equal rights like other non-members.
The bright future of Egypt does not rest on the dominance of one group over another but by the collective aspiration, commitment and interests of the entire Egyptian nation.
*Henelito A. Sevilla, Jr is an Assistant Professor at the Asian Center, University of the Philippines, Diliman. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Tehran, a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Shahid Behesti, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran and Bachelor of Science in International Relations at the King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies, Mindanao State University, Marawi City, Philippines.

Indonesia, Islam And Democracy

Indonesia, Islam And Democracy

By Bawono Kumoro*


During a ceremony at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where he received an honorary doctorate, President Yudhoyono tackled the global perception that Islam and democracy could not work together. The president said that he believed Indonesia was a good example to highlight how democracy, modernization and Islam worked hand in hand.
Furthermore, President Yudhoyono said Muslims in Indonesia are very comfortable with democracy and with modernity. Thus, the Indonesian democracy may well offer valuable lessons to Arab Spring countries who are now facing similar challenges.


The debate over the relationship between Islam and democracy rests not only on Islamic doctrine but also on history. Essentially, democracy is a system of governance where sovereignty lies in the hands of the people. But many will say this contradicts with the doctrine of Islam, since in the Islamic view, sovereignty lies in the hand of God. Advocates of this line of thinking put forward three arguments.

First, there is the fundamentally different view of the nation, or ummah. The view of the nation in modern democracy is tied to a physical space marked by territorial and geographical borders. On the other hand, Islam has its own understanding of a nation that is not bounded by borders, but by aqidah (the basic tenets of Islam). Therefore, for many Muslims, nation is defined by faith, not by geography.

Second, some Muslim scholars see democracy as a worldly value, when spiritual goals are of primary importance. Democracy thus becomes a secondary goal.

Third, a contradiction arises because the people’s sovereignty that lies at the heart of democracy is absolute, meaning the people are the ultimate holders of power. Laws and regulations are decided by the people through their representatives and not by God. But for some scholars, the people’s sovereignty is not absolute at all, since it is bound by the laws of Islam. In Islam, only God’s sovereignty is absolute.

These three interpretations are used by some Muslims to argue that there is no space for democracy in their lives. However, there are many Muslims who take the opposite view, arguing that democracy is inherent in people and in line with Islamic teachings. They base their argumentation on Islamic doctrines —justice, freedom, deliberation and equality— that espouse the basic principles of democracy.

At this level, Islam does not speak about a procedural system but more about the basic soul and spirit of democracy. If the interpretation of democracy is the existence of certain social and political ideals, like the freedom of thought, faith, opinion and equality before the law, there would seem no contradiction, as these are guaranteed by Islam.

There are several cultural factors that have slowed the growth of democracy in the Islamic countries of the Middle East.
First, there is a strong monolithic paradigm of thought over Islam. Such a paradigm stems from Middle Eastern Muslims’ limited understanding of Islam’s nature and essence, both in regards to Koran and Hadith and in regards to history.

Islam is often viewed as a divine instrument to understand the world, and such a perception has prompted some Muslims to believe that Islam offers a complete way of life (kaffah). In this understanding, Islam is an all-encompassing system of belief that offers a solution to all of life’s problems.

This view of Islam as perfect and comprehensive has a number of implications. If Islam is transformed for use at the level of political ideology and political practice, this could lead to the political belief that Islam must become the state’s basis of existence, Islamic jurisprudence must be accepted as the state’s constitution and sovereignty would lie in the hands of God.

In short, in the context of such a perspective the modern political system of rule by the people is in direct conflict with Islam.

Second, the absence of democracy in the Middle East could also be explained by the weak political will of the regimes to accommodate democracy. Leadership has long been based on family ties and regimes would lose this prerogative.
Third, the most ironic thing about the absence of democracy in the Middle East is the often tacit support of the Western world —the United States in particular— for the existence of the authoritarian regimes.

The United States has seemed to care less about whether Middle Eastern autocracies developed any democratic character than about how they were able to secure America’s various economic imperialistic interests. This has nothing to do with the nature of Islam, but it is obvious that the West, particularly the United States, is not always fully in step with its own exhortations to promote democracy globally.

Of special note, however, is the fact that the absence of democracy in countries of the Middle East is not a feature of the wider Muslim world. Indonesia, for example, has seen much success in the transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic system of governance. While Indonesia still has a long way to go before democracy fully takes root, at the very least it has been quite successful in tearing down the walls of tyrannical power.

Indonesia’s experience

The general elections in 1999, 2004 and 2009 were testament to the wave of democratization here, and the direct elections of a president and a vice president through indicated a new phase history of Indonesian politics.

However, the most substantial and revolutionary change has occurred at the level of civil society. Muslims in Indonesia, slowly but surely, have grown and developed to become a rational, autonomous and progressive community. They have started to be able to think rationally and critically especially when they are facing the political and religious elite, which tends to be intrusive, manipulative and exploitative.

The basis of Indonesian Muslims’ political preference is more in the courage of their thinking in line with their rational reasoning. The courage to think rationally has contributed to the creation of a free public sphere, and this has been instrumental for Muslims in Indonesia to create the culture of open and fair political participation.

Indonesia would thus seem to prove that Islamic doctrine itself is not in contradiction with democracy. Instead, Muslims’ interpretation of Islamic doctrine and cultural heritage forms their views on the value of democracy and its relationship to Islam.

As the most Muslim-populous country in the world, Indonesia can play a significant role in efforts to promote democratization in the Islamic World. The nation is a real-world example of the compatibility of Islam and democracy, one that could serve as a model for countries in the wider Islamic world.
Bawono Kumoro is political researcher at The Habibie Center. He graduated from State Islamic University, Jakarta, with Political Sciences major. Currently, he is pursuing his post-graduate degree in Political Communications in Paramadina Graduate School.

The anatomy of corrupting power: Nixon Grand Jury Records

The anatomy of corrupting power: Nixon Grand Jury Records


On November 10, 2011, the National Archives in College Park, MD opened 26 files from its Records of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force (WSPF) collection including transcripts of President Nixon’s grand jury testimony of June 23-24, 1975, pursuant to the July 29, 2011, order by Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In response to a petition filed in the case In Re Petition of Stanley Kutler, et al., Chief Judge Lamberth ordered that the transcript of Mr. Nixon’s testimony and the “Associated Materials” to that testimony be released to the public following the review of these documents for any information that must be redacted as required by law. There are a few redactions made for the privacy of living persons. In addition, there are several portions of the testimony that were deemed to be properly classified for national security. These portions, as well as parts of the accompanying materials, have been referred for declassification. When the National Archives receives a reply to these referrals, the transcript and accompanying materials will be updated.

… access the Records

Using Privilege to Challenge the State

Using Privilege to Challenge the State

by Noam Chomsky

Since we often cannot see what is happening before our eyes, it is perhaps not too surprising that what is at a slight distance removed is utterly invisible. We have just witnessed an instructive example: President Obama’s dispatch of 79 commandos into Pakistan on May 1 to carry out what was evidently a planned assassination of the prime suspect in the terrorist atrocities of 9/11, Osama bin Laden. Though the target of the operation, unarmed and with no protection, could easily have been apprehended, he was simply murdered, his body dumped at sea without autopsy. The action was deemed “just and necessary” in the liberal press. There will be no trial, as there was in the case of Nazi criminals—a fact not overlooked by legal authorities abroad who approve of the operation but object to the procedure. As Elaine Scarry reminds us, the prohibition of assassination in international law traces back to a forceful denunciation of the practice by Abraham Lincoln, who condemned the call for assassination as “international outlawry” in 1863, an “outrage,” which “civilized nations” view with “horror” and merits the “sternest retaliation.”

… Read Article

Watch the author’s comments:

Cruel America

Cruel America

by Jonathan Schell

At the GOP debate on the 12th, there was another public expression of enthusiasm for loss of life in Texas. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who favors repeal of President Obama’s health plan, what medical response he would recommend if a young man who had decided not to buy health insurance were to go into a coma.
Paul answered, “That’s what freedom is all about: taking your own risks.” He seemed to be saying that if the young man died, that was his problem.
There were cheers from the crowd.
Blitzer pressed on: “But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?” Someone in the audience shouted, “Yeah!” And the crowd roared in approval.
A characteristic that these exchanges have in common is cruelty. Cruelty is a close cousin to injustice, yet it is different. Injustice and its opposite, justice—perhaps the most commonly used standards for judging the health of the body politic—are political criteria par excellence, and apply above all to systems and their institutions. Cruelty and its opposites, kindness, compassion and decency, are more personal. They are apolitical qualities that nevertheless have political consequences. A country’s sense of decency stands outside and above its politics, checking and setting limits on abuses. An unjust society must reform its laws and institutions. A cruel society must reform itself.
…Read Article

The legacy of a “public servant” who would torture the public

The legacy of a “public servant” who would torture the public

On: Remembering Why Americans Loathe Dick Cheney
By Conor Friedersdorf
As the former vice president releases his memoir, it’s useful to recall the many reasons why the vast majority of Americans disapproved of his tenure.
When Vice President Dick Cheney left office, his approval rating stood at a staggeringly low 13 percent. Few political figures in history have been so reviled. As his memoir, In My Time, hits bookstores today, and he does a series of friendly interviews in the press, some Americans with short memories might wonder, “Why is it that so few were willing to endorse his performance in office?”

…read full article
And here is why I disapprove:
Mr. Cheney’s zeal in pursuing the enemy abroad could be excused on account of blinding patriotism. He may argue, and some may believe him, that his designs of torture and policies were intended to protect Americans from foreign thugs. But his support for the torture regime he devised becomes treasonous when combined with his role in the illegal monitoring of US citizens.   He has shown a lack of respect for the constitution, for the separation of powers, and for the presumption of innocence—a universal doctrine that is meant to protect the lives and liberties of citizens.
I disapprove of Mr. Cheney for his willful blindness to endangering the lives and liberties of US citizens at home and abroad. Mr. Cheney does not appreciate the constitutional guarantees that are supposed to be honored in all times, especially during times of turmoil, not just in times of convenience.
* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.
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