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In Egypt, an Uncertain New Chapter Begins

Kristin Wright | Open Doors USA | Thursday, July 4, 2013
In Egypt, an Uncertain New Chapter Begins

In Egypt, an Uncertain New Chapter Begins

Dancing and cheering erupted in Tahrir Square on Wednesday within hours of President Mohamed Morsi’s removal from office. The Egyptian military announced late Wednesday that the constitution will be suspended and Morsi will be replaced until new elections can be held.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad told CNN on Thursday that Morsi was under house arrest at the presidential Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo. Authorities are currently moving to arrest the remaining leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a statement release Wednesday, President Barack Obama said he believes that “ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people.” But he expressed “deep concern” over the removal of President Morsi and the suspension of the Egyptian constitution.

“I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters,” President Obama said, adding, “Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the government of Egypt.”

Judge Adly Mansour, the recently appointed head of Egypt’s high court, will govern until new elections can be held. Mansour told reporters he would work to include all aspects of Egyptian society, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in the upcoming interim coalition government.

“The Brotherhood are part of the people, and they are invited to take part in building the country,” he said, according to Egypt’s state-run media. “There will be no exclusion for anyone.”

In power for barely a year, Mohamed Morsi came under fire for consolidating power within his religious base, and ruling the country with an autocratic style that stirred resentment across the new democracy. His constitution was criticized for failing to protect the rights of women and minorities.

In the midst of Egypt’s growing protests, some experts say that neither group is pleased with the U.S. role in the fledgling democracy.

Shadi Hamid, director of research for the Brookings Doha Center, told USA Today that a “widespread perception” exists in Egypt’s anti-Morsi camp, a belief that President Obama is allied with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Some of it was inevitable,” Hamid explained, merely because the U.S. must to work with elected governments and wanted to have a productive relationship with the democratically elected president. “That's standard U.S. policy.”

But the anti-American sentiment isn’t limited to the anti-Morsi protesters. One Morsi backer, Mohamed Ibrahim, denounced what he termed “American intervention” in Egypt's affairs and said the “military coup” was supported by the U.S., which he claims supported the old regime because of Israel.

“It's because of the Zionists and the Israelis, that is why America is supporting this coup,” Ibrahim said.

Tamarod, which means “rebel” in Arabic, is the group behind the massive protests that eventually resulted in Morsi’s removal from office. The group’s petition states, in part, "Since the arrival of Mohamed Morsi to power, the average citizen still has the feeling that nothing has been achieved so far from the revolution goals which were life in dignity, freedom, social justice and national independence. Morsi was a total failure in achieving every single goal, no security has been reestablished and no social security realized, thus and gave clear proof that he is not fit for the governance of such a country as Egypt.”

Egypt’s Christian population has struggled with a response to the sweeping protests. Under Morsi’s government, Christians faced increasing threats and a marginalized role in the new democracy.

According to Christianity Today, Atef Gendy, president of the well-known Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, addressed some of the issues at stake for Christians in a statement released on June 30, 2013.

"In the past, previous regimes pushed the Church to give them support, by controlling Christians and calling them not to oppose standing regimes. In the long run, this minimized the effective role of Christians, separating them from the rest of society and depriving them of the liberty to act independently as full, mature citizens according to their faith and conscience. Now we have learned our lesson and refuse to be a tool in the hand of any regime,” he said.

"We believe that Christians are full citizens, who have the complete right to express themselves peacefully in the way they like. Nevertheless, we call Christians and Muslims as they demonstrate to avoid all sorts of violence or destruction. We also see that religious institutions cannot dispense with their moral and prophetic responsibility in exposing mistakes and corruption. The simple requirements of the Egyptians for which they revolted over 2 years ago and are now rebelling, are fair, legal and logical,” he added. “They deserve the support of everyone and of all civil and social institutions including the religious ones.”

Kristin Wright is a columnist and contributing writer at ReligionToday.com, where she focuses on global human rights issues. Kristin has visited with religious minorities in Pakistan, worked with children at risk in Mumbai's “Red Light” district, and interviewed individuals on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She recently returned from Turkey and the Syrian border, where she covered the plight of refugees fleeing the conflict. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Publication date: July 4, 2013