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The views and perspectives contained in these Blogs are from individual contributors and external sources, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or position of the Cordoba Foundation of Geneva. The links are neither intended as an endorsement of particular publications nor the only source for the updates, but to connect to information in the public domain, for those interested in background or further details.

EXETER – Commenting on the recent Algerian hostage crisis on an international news channel, one terrorism "expert" made a remarkable claim: "Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was founded because of the so-called Arab Spring, after we abandoned our Libyan ally [Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi]." After enduring a few more inaccuracies, I felt compelled to put aside the students' papers that I was grading.

Let's start by stating the obvious: AQIM is not a product of the Arab Spring. AQIM exists because of the military coup that ended the "Algerian Spring" two decades ago. And it has not been strengthened by the Libyan revolution, but rather by the failure of state-building in North Mali, the absence of post-conflict reconciliation and reintegration in Algeria, and a lack of accountability for a shadowy Algerian security establishment whose brutal methods have proved woefully inadequate to the challenge.

AQIM's history can be traced directly to the coup staged by a handful of Algerian generals against President Chadli Bendjedid in January 1992. Bendjedid, whose memoirs were recently published (he died in October), gave Algeria its first relatively democratic constitution, lifting the ban on political parties and guaranteeing a minimum of basic rights, including freedom of speech, assembly, and conscience. He was the first Arab president to be criticized on state-owned TV (that is, without the critic disappearing afterwards). Algeria was the first Arab Spring country.

CAIRO – Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first-ever elected civilian president, recently granted himself sweeping temporary powers in order, he claims, to attain the objectives of the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship. But the decrees incited strong opposition from many of the revolutionary forces that helped to overthrow Mubarak (as well as from forces loyal to him), with protests erupting anew in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Morsi has thus been put in the odd position of having to defend his decision against the protesters while simultaneously making common cause with them. "I share your dream of a constitution for all Egyptians and with three separate powers: executive, legislative, and judicial," he told his opponents. "Whoever wants Egyptians to lose this opportunity, I will stop him." So, was Morsi's "auto-coup" necessary to realize the revolution's avowedly democratic goals?

The new Constitutional Declaration, the Revolution Protection Law, and the new presidential decrees have several aims:

· To remove the public prosecutor, a Mubarak-era holdover who failed to convict dozens of that regime's officials who had been charged with corruption and/or abuse of power;

· To protect the remaining elected and indirectly elected institutions (all of which have an Islamist majority) from dissolution by Constitutional Court judges (mostly Mubarak-era holdovers);

· To bring about retrials of Mubarak's security generals;

· To compensate and provide pensions for the victims of repression during and after the revolution.

The last two weeks have seen the resurgence of Islamic-Western tensions around the seeming opposition between freedom of expression and respect for religious symbols. We hoped that the unfortunate episode of the cartoons "Muhammeds ansigt" (Face of Mohammed) published on 30 September 2005 by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and the violent reaction in some cities of the Muslim world demonstrated to all parties how both provocation and the violent reaction to it can threaten world peace.

The quasi non-violent way was treated the case of the film "Fitna" (Discord) published on the Internet on 27 March 2008 by Dutch extreme right politician Geert Wilders comforted us in this hope.

DOHA – "They are armed, I am not going to fight a losing battle and kill my men over a demolished shrine," said Fawzi Abd al-'Aali, the former Libyan interior minister, before he "resigned" last August. He was referring to the armed Salafi groups that were accused of destroying Sufi shrines. One of the accused groups was the Ansar al-Shariah Brigade, which was quick to support the demolition, but denied any responsibility for it.

Ahmed Jibril, Libya's deputy ambassador to London, has now accused the Brigade, headed by Muhammed Ali Al-Zahawy, of perpetrating the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, which killed the American ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three other US personnel, as well as Libyan guards. Others have quickly embraced and promoted Jibril's allegation. But the picture is more complex.

The Brigade denied responsibility in a written statement, as well as in a brief interview with its spokesperson, who at the time was in charge of guarding Al Jala Hospital in Benghazi. Like its statement on the destruction of Sufi shrines, it denied involvement in the attack on the US Consulate, but stressed the gravity of the insult against the Prophet that putatively triggered it.

The Brigade attracted public attention last June as well, when around 300 armed members staged a rally in Benghazi, sparking outrage among Libyans. "We wanted to send a message to the General National Council members," according to Hashim Al-Nawa', one of the Brigade's commanders. "They should not come near the Shariah. It should be above the constitution, and not an article for referendum."

CAIRO – "You are the authority, above any other authority. You are the protectors, whoever seeks protection away from you is a fool...and the army and the police are hearing me," said Egypt's president-elect, Mohamed Morsi, to hundreds of thousands in Tahrir Square. A man imprisoned following the "Friday of Rage" (January 28, 2011) took the presidential oath in Tahrir on a "Friday of Power Transfer" (June 29, 2012). But he almost did not.

Ten days earlier, on June 19, I was with a group of former Egyptian MPs in Tahrir Square. One received a phone call informing him that a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader was coming to announce that the group was being blackmailed: either accept the constitutional addendum decreed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which practically eviscerated the presidency, or the presidential election's outcome would not be decided in the Brothers' favor. An hour later, the senior figure had not shown up. "The talks were about to collapse, but they resumed," said the former MP. "Hold your breath."

The victory of the Brotherhood's Morsi in Egypt's first free presidential election is a historic step forward on Egypt's rocky democratization path. His challenger, former President Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, had no chance of winning a clean vote, despite the support of a huge state-controlled propaganda machine and various tycoons. "How many people can they trick, convince, or buy? We don't have that short a memory," a taxi driver told me when I asked whether he would vote for Shafiq.