News / Middle East

Upheaval in Egypt Sharpens Middle East Divisions

Supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi protest in Cairo, Egypt, July 9, 2013.
Supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi protest in Cairo, Egypt, July 9, 2013.
The ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt has sharpened political divisions throughout the Arab Spring nations of the Middle East and North Africa. 
 
The division is between those who align with Islamists and argue that Morsi’s overthrow was a military coup, and supporters of more secular parties who believed Morsi was an autocrat and watched in frustration as the clout of political Islam grew steadily since the Arab Spring uprisings began two-and-a-half years ago.
 
Some liberals and secularists, however, worry that the overthrow of Morsi, an elected leader, could backfire and bring about an end to the fledgling democratic experiment in the region’s most populous nation.
 
In Tunisia, where the Arab Spring uprisings started with the ouster of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, liberal protesters celebrated outside the Egyptian Embassy chanting “Today Egypt, Tunisia tomorrow.” Young Tunisian liberals drew inspiration from Egypt and launched their own Tamarod (rebellion) campaign, modeling it on the movement Egyptians used to rally millions of anti-Morsi protesters in the streets of Cairo and other cities last week.
 
Tunisian movement calls on government to resign
 
They called for the resignation of the Tunisian government led by the Islamist Ennahdha party, which had condemned Morsi’s ouster. They also called for the National Constituent Assembly to be dissolved and early presidential elections. The Tunisian movement’s leader, Mohammed Bannour, claims a Tamarod petition there has gathered more than 180,000 signatures in two weeks.

Police fire tear gas to break up a demonstration by the hardline Islamist group, Ansar al-Sharia May 19, in Kairouan, Tunisia.Police fire tear gas to break up a demonstration by the hardline Islamist group, Ansar al-Sharia May 19, in Kairouan, Tunisia.
x
Police fire tear gas to break up a demonstration by the hardline Islamist group, Ansar al-Sharia May 19, in Kairouan, Tunisia.
Police fire tear gas to break up a demonstration by the hardline Islamist group, Ansar al-Sharia May 19, in Kairouan, Tunisia.
This has drawn a stern warning from the Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution (LPR) in Tunisia, a conservative Salafist group that has been accused of using violence to intimidate opponents.
 
“We have yet to organize protests in support of a legitimate power in Tunisia, but we have contacts of people in every governorate,” said the League's chief, Mounir Achour. “We are ready to resort to violence if necessary.”
 
For Achour, Morsi’s ouster was neither legitimate nor a revolution, but simply a coup. “I am really upset by how the Egyptians removed Morsi. That is not fair. He was doing his job perfectly and governing by the rule of law.”
 
In Libya, there are mutterings that it too needs a “second revolution” to fulfill the objectives of the uprising that led to the downfall of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Suspicions are mounting about the intentions of Islamists following the passage of a political exclusion law that forced the resignation of the president of Libya's parliament.
 
Confrontation in Libya

On Sunday, protestors in Tripoli demonstrated against the continued existence of unofficial revolutionary brigades, many of which are influenced by political Islam, and threated to take on the militias at some time in the future.
 
“When we have enough people, we will go on to the headquarters of these militias,” said one of the protest organizers.
 
The protest coincided with the first anniversary of the election of Libya’s parliament, the nation’s first free election in almost half a century. But there was no sense of celebration, just frustration with a parliament that has made little progress because of deep political divisions and a lack of willingness to make compromises, according to Libyan journalist Umar Khan.
 
Fighting has flared in Tripoli and Benghazi in recent weeks, roiling the already unruly regional and tribal politics in the area.  Islamists, concerned about the turn of events in Egypt, are reportedly beefing up their militias even though there is no army to speak of capable of mounting a coup.
 
A setback for democracy?
 
Traditionally, countries across the region have looked to Egypt as a leading example in religion, politics and culture. For Islamists, Egypt is the birthplace of Sunni political Islam, the place where the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928. For them, Morsi's fall was a strategic setback -- not just for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but also for similar groups farther afield.
 
In a statement, al-Jamaa al-Islamiya in Lebanon, a Sunni Islamist party, decried Morsi’s ouster, saying: “Everyone is suffering from what is happening in Egypt, the great Arab country that held a referendum on the constitution, and free elections for the [lower house of] parliament and the Shura Council and the president of the republic.”
 
Some analysts fear Morsi's overthrow may lead the Islamists to draw the wrong lessons and not see fault in the ousted president's overreach, his mismanagement of the economy and his  failure to accommodate political opponents.
 
These analysts worry that Islamists, already distrustful of democracy as a Western import, will turn their back on elections and explore violent ways to win governing power. It was a point made last week by Morsi aide Essam Haddad, who tweeted as even the army intervened, this “message will resonate throughout the Muslim world loud and clear: Democracy is not for Muslims.”
 
That conviction was echoed by al-Qaida's Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
 
“[We] always knew that our rights can only be regained by force and that is why we have chosen the ammunition box instead of the ballot box," the militant group said on the day Morsi fell.

You May Like

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

Feasts centering on turkeys with an array of traditional sides and desserts are part of the holiday's traditions, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid