Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February

Ahram Weekly

No change ahead?

According to growing numbers of political activists, Egypt and Tunisia’s ruling Islamist governments are not respecting the goals of the Arab Spring revolutions, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Islamist governments that came to power in Egypt and Tunisia after the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011 are facing increasing popular challenges, with some political activists and many members of the two countries’ oppositions claiming that an atmosphere of fanaticism has taken hold in both countries. 

Last week, the Tunisian activist Shokri Belaid, head of the opposition Democratic Patriots Party (DPP), was assassinated, his death causing widespread protests across the country and leading to attacks on the offices of the ruling Islamist Al-Nahda Party. Belaid’s killing has also had repercussions in Egypt.

In Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) control the government, the killings of youth revolutionaries protesting against the Islamists has also sparked angry protests from their supporters.

These protests have coincided with the recent fatwa issued by the Salafi Sheikh Mahmoud Shaaban, which allows the killing of the leaders of the opposition to the regime, among them members of the National Salvation Front (NSF) including Constitution Party leader Mohamed Al-Baradei, Popular Current Party head Hamdeen Sabahi and National Congress Party head Amr Moussa.

All Egypt’s political parties have denounced Shaaban’s fatwa, and Nader Bakkar, spokesman of the Salafist Nour Party, has urged Al-Azhar to take action to overturn the ruling.

Al-Azhar has issued a statement rejecting Shaaban’s fatwa, saying that such views would result in bloodshed and chaos in society. “Both the killers and those who incite them are sinners,” the statement said. “People should not listen to such views, which are rejected by all religions.”

The fatwa was condemned by the presidency, with presidential spokesman Yasser Ali describing it as “terrorism” and adding that political violence or the threat of it had now become one of the most important challenges facing the nations of the Arab Spring as they undergo democratic transitions.

“We must all cooperate, people and government, to combat these threats and put an end to attempts to spread disharmony and division among our nations,” Ali said.

Political analysts said the fatwa was a threat to national security. According to Mustafa Al-Sayed, a professor of political science at the American University in Cairo (AUC), when religious edicts such as fatwas, considered by conservative Islamists as rulings that must be applied, are distorted in this way they could lead to the end of the regime, its ruling party and the Islamists. 

“There are many crimes that have been committed in the name of Islam,” Al-Sayed commented, adding that were it to be allowed to continue the present political atmosphere could spread.

The Islamists had come to power in Egypt and Tunisia due to these countries’ unstable economic and political conditions, he said. “The Islamists have lost many political battles while attempting to impose their control over these countries. The Al-Nahda Party in Tunisia, like the Egyptian FJP, is beginning to fall,” he said.

Political analyst Emad Gad of the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies said that events in Tunisia could not be perceived independently from those taking place in Egypt and elsewhere in the region.

“Syria has been witnessing a revolution, though it has not yet managed to topple President Bashar Al-Assad,” Gad said, who added that in his view there could be no genuine revolution in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria or any other Arab country without fighting the West, which supports Israel and other client regimes in the region.

It has now been two years since the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia took place, but these have not yet accomplished their goals. “People in both countries are unhappy with their governments. The government in Egypt is facing a political crisis, and people are waiting for the cabinet to be reshuffled to include a larger range of political views, but nothing has yet taken place,” Gad said.

According to Gad, President Mohamed Morsi did not care about what was happening in the country. “On the contrary, the present escalation of violence could lead the country to a dead end, where nobody can predict what might happen,” he said.

The state of unrest which has been in place over the past two weeks has revealed that nothing has changed over the two years since the toppling of the previous regimes, he added.

People had fought for change that had not happened. “The expectations of both the Egyptians and the Tunisians were of a better future, yet nothing has happened. If the situation continues like this, none of the Arab Spring countries’ revolutions can be considered a success.”

“People must keep fighting for change. If it does not happen today, it will happen tomorrow,” Gad said.

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