A Leader Who Responds


“This is a good and important step forward,” said Nadine Sherif, an international advocate and employee at the Cairo Institute of Human Rights.

Speaking from Egypt, Sherif said the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi and the institution of military law until true democratic elections can take place is “a call by the public. … We are looking to create an inclusive government process; hopefully, the military will allow that to happen, and Egypt’s democratization will be back on track.”

As of Monday, reports indicated that social democratic lawyer Ziaad Bahaa el-Din likely would be appointed interim prime minister of Egypt. Adly Mansour, chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, assumed the title of interim president shortly after Morsi was overthrown.

Sherif told the JT that the Egyptian people did not feel the election of Morsi was transparent and honest and that he quickly began to rule by Islamic law and not by the will of the people. She said the hundreds of thousands of young Egyptians who gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to urge Morsi to step down last week were part of a campaign started last month known as Tamarod, which had gathered more than 22 million signatures on a petition calling for Morsi’s resignation. While violence did erupt at this protest and other protests throughout the country (dozens were killed as late as Monday), Sherif said, on the whole, the people are peaceful but determined.

“I don’t think it is fair to paint all the protests with that [violent] brush,” she said. “The rule of law will bring stability.”

Sherif continued: “The Egyptians want the antithesis of what the government wants. They don’t just want a leader, they want a leader who takes their voices into account, that hears them and responds.”

Although this is the second time in less than three years that the president of Egypt has fallen (Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February 2011 after a people’s revolt), Sherif maintained this is just a part of the process — a bump in the process.

Sherif said there is a false dichotomy being made in the international media that this battle is between the Islamists and the secularists. She said that the Egyptian people are religious by nature but that religion is not necessarily politicized. The people are not rejecting Islam but the use of Islam by the government as a control tactic.

“That is what has been overthrown,” she said, noting that in America when questions such as gay rights and abortion come up, the public weighs in. Christian and other conservative viewpoints are brought to the table, and ultimately the people vote.

“We want a system that is fair, transparent and accountable,” she said. “The people felt decisions were being made not by the government but by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Professor Sammy Smooha of Haifa University cautioned quick reaction by Israel or the United States. He said in Israel the people get immediately anxious when there is instability in neighboring countries. However, he said, in this case, “I think we have to support this good development. Despite the instability, this is good in the sense that it is opening up Egyptian society. The Arabs in Egypt are fed up with dictatorships. They want a better destiny, and they are protesting.”

Smooha noted that democratization can take decades. He cited, for example, Europe after the French Revolution.

“It took 20 years to stabilize democracy in France,” Smooha said.

Smooha explained, too, that Islam and secular society/the modern world can work together — it is just challenging to make it work. He offered Indonesia as an example of success.

“I think we should be more open and supportive of this process,” said Smooha. “It is not always bad for Israel.”

Sherif requested the same of the U.S. She said, “America should not intervene. This needs to be an Egyptian-led process.”

America provides Egypt with $1.5 billion per year, mostly for defense. U.S. President Barack Obama declared earlier this week that would not consider Morsi’s overthrow a “coup d’état,” and therefore funding will continue at this time. Under a law dating back to the 1980s, a coup label would force the U.S. to cut spending, taking away what little leverage Washington has with Cairo.

Sherif did not comment on the funding, which is mostly for defense, but said Egypt is a sovereign state and should have the ability to engage with itself without international pressure. She said she, now, does not see Morsi’s overthrow as a coup but rather the will of the people.

“Intervention by the U.S. is divisive. … We want to handle our own matters,” she said.

And with regard to Israel, Sherif said it is too soon.

“We have to build a society that can deal with our own internal problems,” she said. “At this point, Israel will have to wait.”

Israeli Arabs Rally In Support Of Morsi
Rallies in support of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi were held in two Israeli-Arab towns in the Galilee last Saturday night. About 250 protesters rallied in Sakhnin and Kfar Kana, in northern Israel.

“The Egyptian people have chosen Morsi, and their choice must be honored,” said Sheikh Ali Abu Ria, head of the Sakhnin Islamic movement.

Morsi was deposed last week by the country’s military amid mounting protests against the country’s first democratically elected leader.

JTA Wire Service

See also, Kudos To Egypt

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