Double standards by any other name

16-08-2013 09:48 PM

Mervat Ayoub- Injy Samy

Last Wednesday saw the Egyptian security forces break up the six-week-long sit-ins by the Islamist supporters of Egypt’s ousted president Muhammad Mursi, at the east Cairo Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque and at Nahda Square in Giza

, west of Cairo. It also saw the Islamists burn, loot, and attack more than 50 churches, Coptic schools, institutions, businesses, and homes; as well as scores of public buildings and utilities.
Yet the international media and the leaders of the ‘free world’ saw only ‘peaceful, unarmed’ Islamists being violently cleared off by security forces, and acted as though the violence of the Islamists was non-existent. Double standards? Not new to Egypt since the 25 January 2011 Revolution, and the consequent rise of political Islam.
2011 and 2013
History will always remember that, back on 25 January 2011, as Egyptians demonstrated in Tahrir Square demanding change, the US president Barack Obama chimed in with: Change should begin now. And in a telephone call with the then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, President Obama asked him to heed public opinion and step down. This despite the fact that the revolutionists in Tahrir had not then demanded that Mubarak should leave. Google executive Wael Ghomein, an e-activist who was among the leaders of the Facebook campaign which rallied for the 25 January 2011 uprising, testified to the fact that the demand for Mubarak to leave was not made till a couple of days later when the Islamists joined the youth revolutionists in Tahrir. Mubarak stepped down on 11 February and the military took over. The US and the West cheered.
What a far cry from the western stance in 2013. On 30 June, some 33 million Egyptians took to the streets demanding the overthrow of the Islamist rule at the head of which sat Muhammad Mursi as president. When the military stepped in to support the people’s demands and Mursi was ousted on 3 July, the US and its western allies decried the ouster of a “democratically elected president”. Egyptians couldn’t help asking: Hadn’t Mubarak been democratically elected? If we claim democracy under Mubarak was a sham, we’ll have to admit too that under Mursi it was highly questionable, and the results of the ‘democratic elections’ that brought him in as president are still being contested in court. Yet the US had asked Mubarak to step down in response to the demand of the hundreds of thousands who desired him out, but Mursi was upheld despite the millions who asked for his overthrow. And in 2011 it was fine with the West for the military to take over, but in 2013 when the military directly handed power over to a civilian interim president, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) as decreed by the constitution, the West disapproved.
What did Mubarak do?
How did Mubarak respond to the demands of the revolutionists?  He gave three speeches in which he announced the appointment of Omar Suleiman vice president and Ahmed Shafiq Premier. Both were then well respected. He ousted the old guard of the [hated] ruling National Democratic Party. He announced he did not intend to run for president, neither would his son, Gamal, who was allegedly seeking to succeed his father. The government talked to the opposition and to representatives of the demonstrators. Mubarak pledged concrete constitutional, legislative, and political reforms according to a definite time schedule. He said he had no qualms about listening and responding to the Egyptian youth who demanded change, but that he found it “a disgrace beyond all disgrace” to acquiesce to “foreign forces”. 
This was, for mainstream Egyptians, the fulfilment of their demands. But that never found its way into the western media which, intentionally or non-intentionally, focused on nothing outside Tahrir Square. Watani International printed a story on its 13 February 2011 issue—Mubarak stepped down on 11 February, but the paper had already gone to print—under the title “The silent majority”. It was a first-hand account of how people on the street saw the situation; and most of them said: “Mubarak has pledged reform. Now, we need to get back to our work and livelihood.” It must be remembered that Egypt’s economy under Mubarak was thriving at some 7 to 8 per cent growth rate. Mubarak was not widely hated in Egypt as the western media would have it; for Egyptians he was an unquestionable patriot; he’d just been there too long—30 years was too much—and his term would have ended in September 2011, anyway. The hate came later, when the Islamists persuaded Egyptians that he had looted the country and killed demonstrators. But he has already been cleared of charges of pilfering money and, even though he awaits a court verdict on the second charge, judicial investigations have proved it was the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) that was behind killing the demonstrators—more than 800 of them—in 2011. 
What did Mursi do?
That was Mubarak in 2011. What did Mursi do in 2013? Since he came to office in June 2012 he picked fights with the judiciary, excluding non-Islamists and working to Islamise State institutions, and failing miserably at getting the country up and running. By November 2012 he had lost massive support. He announced his notorious “constitutional declaration” in which he made a grab for power, entrenched Islamist authority, and rushed in an Islamist constitution through a shady referendum.
Call for early elections gained force. But Mursi paid no heed; he acted as though Egypt was living its brightest ever days under him, and went ahead with his Islamisation efforts. His ties to Hamas and his notorious apathy towards Egyptian sovereignty in Sinai infuriated Egyptians. He had never attended the funeral of 16 Egyptian soldiers who were shot dead by Jihadis in Sinai in August 2012 and, in May 2013 when six were kidnapped by Jihadis he called for “merciful treatment” of both the kidnapped and kidnappers. The economy collapsed, grinding shortages of basic commodities including bread and fuel became common, and public discontent rose to unprecedented level. Yet the Islamists claimed Mursi’s “achievements” were unprecedented, and he gave a series of speeches in which he arrogantly claimed nothing in Egypt could be better. The Tamarud (Rebel) grassroots movement was born in April 2013 and, by that time Egyptians were determined they wanted Mursi and his Islamist regime out, and would accept nothing less. The target was to wage massive public protest on 30 June, the first anniversary of Mursi’s swearing-in as president. Tamarud gathered some 22 million signatures, far above its target of 13 million, the number of voters who allegedly voted Mursi in, a year earlier. Mursi’s blatant support of the Islamists in Syria and his call to Egyptians for jihad there compounded the public outrage at his unabashed Islamism to the detriment of Egyptian interests.
Come 30 June
Tamarud had obviously learnt the lesson of the 25 January 2011 Revolution which was a mere movement for the overthrow of a regime without a concrete plan for a replacement; the result being that Egypt shirked off Mubarak but fell into the hands of the Islamists; for Egyptians it was out of the frying pan and into the fire. So Tamarud drew a plan—the same plan adopted and implement by the civic forces in Egypt and the military as the “Roadmap” to follow once Mursi was overthrown. The plan was to swear in the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court as interim president, have him appoint an interim cabinet and a panel to draft a new constitution or amend the current Islamist one, and draw a time line for parliamentary and presidential elections. 
The military sensed the critical situation, and called upon President Mursi to listen to the Egyptian public. But Mursi gave a speech on 26 June in which he belligerently threw to the wind the public’s demands, announcing he was legitimacy, the president and the supreme commander of the armed forces, and vilifying all his opponents. If anyone in Egypt had been hesitant before as to the planned 30 June rebellion, their mind was now made up. Colonel-General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces. made his famous declaration: “If this is the way we are to live in Egypt, it is better for us to die.”
The rest is now history. Come 30 June, Egyptians in their millions took to the streets demanding an end to the Mursi Islamist rule; the army gave its 48-hour ultimatum for Mursi to meet the public halfway; Mursi rejected the ultimatum; and was ousted on 3 July. The Roadmap was directly put into force: the SCC president was sworn in, a new cabinet headed by Hazem al-Biblawi is now in office, and a panel is already amending the constitution.
Long list of comparisons
Yet the West, which so enthusiastically supported the 2011 uprising that dislodged Mubarak took a diametrically opposite stance towards the 2013 millions-strong revolution that ousted Mursi. 
On Facebook, Egyptian youth posted a long list of comparisons:
Both former presidents were democratically elected. Why insist on the departure of Mubarak, even though he went to all lengths to meet the “legitimate” public demands, and decry the ousting of Mursi who arrogantly refused to so much as acknowledge these demands?
Why welcome the departure of Mubarak but go to unprecedented lengths to reinstate Mursi and, when this proved impossible since Mursi faces charges of conspiring with Hamas and killing prisoners and protesters, demanding the release of other Islamist detainees, who all face charges? 
Why welcome the handing over of the country to the military once Mubarak stepped down, and criticise the military backing of the ouster of Mursi on 3 July, even though the following day the military handed over the reins to a civilian president? 
And why the insistence on a ‘democratic transition’ in Egypt, as though implicitly denying that such a transition was already in motion? Why the branding by the western media of the interim president and cabinet as “military installed”, even though it is a constitutional stipulation that, should the president of the republic be out of office for any reason, the SCC president should replace him until a new president is elected.
Islamist atrocities
When it became clear that there would be no comeback for Mursi, the West—through the countless declarations by heads of States and governments, the visits by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and the efforts by the US Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, insisted there should be conciliation with the Islamists and that they should be ‘included’ in the political process. No such efforts were ever done on the part of the Mubarak loyalists. In all cases, it was the Islamists themselves who this time rejected conciliation and declared they would accept nothing short of the re-instatement of Mursi. And did the West ever ‘conciliate’ with the Nazis?
Why is the western media ignoring the atrocities committed by the Islamists; the killings and savage torture of their opponents? According to a report by the Ibn-Khaldun Centre for Development Studies, during the period from 29 June to 2 August, 82 persons were killed at the hands of the Islamist Mursi supporters, and 44 were tortured, 22 among them to death. The real figures are bigger, the report said, given that these were the cases that came to their attention. The executive manager of the centre, Dalia Ziyada, told the media that the centre was still following up on similar victims, but had hastened to publish its report in view of the horrendous truths it had uncovered. The Journalists’ Syndicate is also compiling a file on the cases of torture of Egyptian reporters at the hands of Islamists, the most recent being Aya Hassan of al-Youm al-Sabei and Muhammad Mumtaz of Veto, who lived to tell of their encounter with the Islamist protestors at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in the east of Cairo. Then Yolande Knell of the BBC writes a long report on how the Egyptian media is against the Islamists and doesn’t report from Rabaa. Near the end of her report, she says the Mursi supporters do not allow Egyptian reporters in.
Suicidal killings
The western media insisted the Islamists were “peaceful and unarmed”, and it was the police and army that were targeting them. The western media reported nothing of the suicidal killings in which the Islamists have targeted fellow-protestors then claimed they were killed at the hands of the police. Yet after-death reports proved these protestors were killed by bullets shot from the back at close range, as in case of three women who were used as human shields on the front line of an Islamist protest in Mansoura some three weeks ago. 
Political analysts, among them Samir Ghattass of the Middle East Forum for Strategic Studies, Abdel-Rehim Ali of the Arab centre for Studies and Research, and Ahmed Abdel-Hadi of the Egypt Youth political party, confirm what Egyptians had long suspected: that the western interest in the MB and Mursi mirrors the fact that the Islamist regime served very well western interests. The US-supported Arab Spring had, after all, exclusively brought to power Islamist regimes that would be sure to sow fissures and discord among the various sectors of the community, thereby always maintaining weakened States. The Islamist pan-world project that knows no national borders is the only system that would give up Sinai to the Palestinians, and that would band with other Islamists even if this goes against Egyptian national interest. Mursi’s policies were the epitome of this principle. 
“Peaceful and unarmed”?
When Egyptian public patience was severely tried by the non-peaceful Islamist sit-ins and demonstration and there were calls to disband them, the US and its allies warned that Egypt should respect the right of assembly. Has the US forgotten how it disbanded the Occupy Wall Street protestors? Did London forget how it quelled the riots in 2011? And is Turkey blind to its dispersal of the protestors at Taksim Square only last month and earlier this month?
The Islamists had defied all calls by the Egyptian people and authorities to disband their sit-ins, and had insisted they were not budging till Mursi was reinstated. This not being an option in the first place, the Islamist stance meant they had opted for violence. Throughout their six weeks of defiance they had turned the lives of Egyptians into living hell with their ominous threats—their leader Sheikh Safwat Higazi vowed they would show Egyptians “terrorism they never imagined in their wildest dreams”—and noisy marches in which they blocked roads, attacked passers-by, and shouted obscenities against Egyptians, especially Christians. 
Arms and ammunition were smuggled into and stored at the sites of the sit-ins; caches of these were found when the Rabaa site was cleared. And the Islamists made the lives of those who lived in the neighbourhoods they occupied—Rabaa and Nahda—bitter with daily terrorist practices. They broke into homes demanding access to baths and threatening with dire consequences should the residents refuse, they searched the residents as they went in and out of their homes, they built for themselves restrooms and bakeries on the streets, slaughtered animals and cooked their meat, piled up filth and garbage on the sidewalks, and altogether behaved as though they owned the public—and private—spaces there. 
Yet none of this found its way into the western media or western official declarations. Quite the contrary. the Islamists were depicted as peaceful and unarmed.
Setting Copts on fire
The Islamists had more than once threatened to set Egypt on fire, and set her on fire they did. Once the sit-ins were broken, they burned public buildings and police stations. But their worst revenge was reserved for the Copts. As the day drew to a close, more than 50 churches, Coptic homes, schools, property, businesses, and shops had been burned. The cost was 578 deaths, among them 318 at the sites of the sit-ins; and some 4000 injured, 1700 at the sites of the sit-ins. Some 45 policemen and officers lost their lives, two of them beheaded at the hands of the Islamists, and 211 were injured. 
Again, the western media and western officials behaved as though it neither knew nor cared. News reports by the topmost western agencies insisted the Islamists were “peaceful and unarmed”.  Will someone please explain how “peaceful, unarmed” people can go on a rampage of burning, plunder, and terrorism? And how such calamity can go unnoticed?
As the following day, Thursday, dawned most of the ‘free world’ had condemned the ‘violent breakup’ of the Islamist sit-ins. But not a word about the Islamist atrocities. For non-Islamist Egyptians, and they are the peaceful, unarmed, silent majority—a testimony to their massive, majority numbers (some 33 millions) were the protests they joined in on 30 June and on 26 July to demand an end to Islamist rule—the international community appeared bent on ignoring their plight and casting them in the light of villains, whereas it promoted a false, cosmetic image of the Islamists. The injustice was excruciatingly painful; the ‘free world’ so unfair and its standards flagrantly biased. 
Sky News reported that: “Hundreds of MB supporters have reportedly stormed a government building in Cairo hours after the group pledged to ‘bring down Egypt’s military coup’ using peaceful means.” The news item failed to report that the MB set the building on fire, first burning three fire trucks that had been in the vicinity to make sure the fire will not be put off easily. Kudos for Sky News and its “peaceful means”.
Perhaps the most important question of all, however, is why the Islamists are termed in the western media merely as “pro-Mursi” demonstrators, and the non-Islamists “anti-Mursi”. This labelling shifts the focus from political Islam to the person of Mursi. As though Egyptians had not rebelled against Islamist rule, but merely against Mursi as president. What a way to reduce the Egyptian all-out endeavor for an Egyptian civic State as opposed to an Islamist exclusive State which would be part of a wider pan-world Islamic caliphate into a petty personal struggle.  
The photos show the breakup of protests on Occupy Wall Street and in London, and the fires the Islamists set to Rabaa mosque in Cairo when their sit in there was broken on Wednesday 14 August.
Watani International
16 August 2013
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