Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Egypt…al-Azhar and the military | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Two important statements recently issued in Egypt tell us much about what is happening there in the wake of the Brotherhood’s coup, represented by the President’s constitutional declaration and the subsequent drafting of the constitution in line with the Brotherhood’s vision, without consulting the other components of Egyptian society. The important statements came from al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy and the Egyptian armed forces.

The al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy statement, issued on Thursday, urged that “the President of the Republic must freeze the recent constitutional declaration and engage immediately in a dialogue that includes all political forces, without exception and without preconditions”. In reality, President Mursi has called for dialogue without freezing the constitutional declaration! Then on Saturday the Egyptian armed forces issued a statement saying: “The armed forces affirm that dialogue is the best and only way to reach consensus. The opposite of that will bring us to a dark tunnel that will result in catastrophe and that is something we will not allow”. The final words are very important here, i.e. “we will not allow”. The Egyptian armed forces’ statement emphasized and supported sincere and serious national dialogue, in coordination with the democratic process, to resolve the disputed issues and reach a consensus agreed upon all spectra of the nation. The statement went on to say that everyone should pay very close attention to what the internal, regional and international arena is witnessing in terms of sensitive developments, in order to avoid making erroneous estimates and calculations. The army stressed that the requirements necessary to address the current crisis must be taken into account, albeit within strategic institutional parameters, i.e. the laws and democratic rules that were agreed upon to move towards the future.

The importance of these two statements, the former from al-Azhar and the latter from the military, is that they side with the popular demands. This means that they side with the concept of the state, which tells us, importantly, that what is happening in Egypt is not a battle between those who want religion and those who don’t want it, as some are trying to falsely portray it. The honorable al-Azhar institution could never side with those seeking to abolish religion, but al-Azhar, like the military, believes that what is happening in Egypt is destroying the concept of the state, and undermining its institutions. This is the truth of what is happening in Egypt today, rather than what some are deliberately trying to promote otherwise. Al-Azhar is aware that the components of Egyptian society can only coexist under the umbrella of the state, and not under a specific group, even if it speaks in the name of religion. The Egyptian media personality Amr Adib summed up the situation effectively when he said that if all the demonstrators on the Egyptian streets today are remnants, as the Brotherhood claims, then who overthrew Mubarak in the first place? He then added that if all those on the Egyptian street today are liberals, then we would be living in Geneva. Of course, not everyone in the West is a liberal, and that is another story.

Thus the statements from al-Azhar and the military and every Egyptian demonstrating now against Mursi’s decrees confirm that the battle is not one between those who want religion to succeed against those seeking to abolish it. It is a battle between those who want to protect the state and its institutions against those who want to exploit religion in order to kidnap the state as a whole, and there is a big difference here of course.