Walking Egypt Back From the Brink of Anarchy

By Ebrahim Rasool and Ebrahim Moosa

August 16, 2013 – Originally published in The Washington Post.

Ebrahim Rasool is South Africa’s ambassador to the United States and the founder of the World For All Foundation. Ebrahim Moosa is a professor of Islamic studies at Duke University.

Preventing Egypt from sliding into civil war is a global security issue, as young militants who a year ago trusted the ballot box could potentially turn into the next generation of extremists.

What’s urgently needed is a multi-pronged strategy involving people of moral authority and leaders from countries trusted by the Muslim Brotherhood, the military and secular and liberal groups who can help Egypt walk back from the brink of anarchy and its growing loss of life. We believe an internationally constituted group of eminent persons should jump-start such an effort by brokering conditions for talks between all Egyptian players in an inclusive manner.

Such a group should include Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu of South Africa, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Tunisia’s Renaissance Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi, former U.S. national security adviser Jim Jones, former Irish president Mary Robinson and veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi. With the support of the African Union, South Africa, Turkey and Qatar on the one hand, and the United States, the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council on the other, the group should immediately engage credible Egyptian leaders to facilitate breakthroughs, a task no one inside Egypt can accomplish now.

A first priority for the group is to urge all parties to end the political deadlock by reconstituting an interim but inclusive civilian government of all the political players, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, along with skilled technocrats. This requires the release of political detainees. These measures should de-escalate tensions despite the already-high recent death toll.Egypt’s interim civilian government should have six immediate priorities:

●Lift the state of emergency and free up the political process. Doing so would restore confidence to a damaged political process and start the healing process.

●Use Egypt’s current constitution as a draft for discussion on a final document. This would provide continuity with a legitimate, existing political process while acknowledging its shortcomings.

●Restrict the army to its barracks, enforced by pressure from the United States. If the army retreats, the specter of authoritarian rule will be removed and democratic initiatives will be encouraged.●Deploy police forces to provide effective security with external monitoring. Such a move is necessary to establish law and order in all major cities, one of the grievances of the anti-Morsi protesters.

●Facilitate free and fair elections within a reasonable timeframe, say 12 months.

●Foster institutions for democratic rule and economic recovery. This could include a major aid package from the International Monetary Fund to support economic development plus a donor package targeting the restoration of Egypt’s tourism industry and other infrastructure needs.

For their part, the United States and the European Union must exercise their strategic and economic leverage to rein in the Egyptian army before it entrenches itself and reverses all the gains of the Arab Spring. President Obama’s condemnation of the past week’s bloody violence must be bolstered with decisive U.S. and E.U. action to restrain the army: withholding military aid until an inclusive political process is achieved.

Egypt’s security and stability are vital to the geostrategic politics of Africa, Europe and the Middle East, especially as they relate to the United States. Egypt’s ability to be free and democratic has the potential to forge these values in the broader Arab and Muslim world.

Moreover, with Syria’s civil war already spilling over into Iraq and Lebanon, continued violence in Egypt will seriously jeopardize regional security — something that fits al-Qaeda’s agenda.

The cost of doing nothing and simply managing our respective interests is to witness a major Arab country becoming a failed state, a prospect responsible leaders would not wish even on their enemies.

Learn More about Ebrahim Moosa.  Born in South Africa, Dr. Moosa earned his MA (1989) and PhD (1995) from the University of Cape Town. Prior to that he took the `alimiyya degree in Islamic and Arabic studies from Darul `Ulum Nadwatul `Ulama, one of India’s foremost Islamic seminaries in the city of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. He also has a BA degree from Kanpur University, and a postgraduate diploma in journalism from the City University in London.

Previously he taught at the University of Cape Town and was visiting professor at Stanford University 1998-2001 prior to joining Duke University. As a journalist he wrote for Arabia: The Islamic World Review, MEED (Middle East Economic Digest) and Afkar/Inquiry magazines in Britain and later became political writer for the Cape Times in South Africa. He contributes regularly to the op-ed pages of the Washington-Post, New York Times, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, The Boston Review and several international publications and is frequently invited to comment on global Islamic affairs.


Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Above right: The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions holds South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool in highest esteem for his dedication to peacemaking. Ambassador Rasool, pictured here from the 1993 Parliament (from left) with CPWR Chair Emeritus Howard Sulkin, championed the 1999 Cape Town Parliament as Chair of the African National Congress and has continued on as a trusted CPWR advisor on interfaith resolution for peacemaking over his years as the Premier of the Western Cape, most recently visiting Parliament leaders in December 2012 as Ambassador to the United States from South Africa.

Above left: Ebrahim Moosa is Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religion at Duke University. His interests span both classical and modern Islamic thought with a special interest in Islamic law, ethics and theology. In 2007 he delivered the prestigious Hassaniyyah lecture on the invitation of his Majesty King Mohammed VI in Fez. He was named Carnegie Scholar in 2005 to pursue research on the madrasas, Islamic seminaries in South Asia. Dr Moosa is the author of Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination, winner of the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book in the history of religions (2006). He is he editor of books on Modern Islam, Muslim family law and Islamic revival with multiple publications on issues related to classical and modern Islamic thought. He is a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. 

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