HTS 2041: The Modern Middle East

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Another Revolution in Egypt?


Protests in Egypt have been going on since November and show no signs of stopping. The current president, Mohamed Morsi, has hundreds of thousands protesting in the same square that sparked the 2011 revolution. To fully understand the current climate, the previous revolution needs to explained. Egypt’s previous president, Hosni Mubarak, ran the country in a continuous state of emergency since the assassination of his predecessor. In this state, the power of the government was absolute with the ability to arrest and censor citizens without probable cause. Mubarak continued to rule unopposed for 30 years until 2011 when the revolt started. Tired of the corrupt government and emboldened by Tunisian’s revolt, the people of Egypt began protesting on Jan 25 2012, ending with the resignation of Mubarak on Feb 11 2012. The country was lead by the military until the new president, Mohamed Morsi, was elected in November 2012.

The current unrest started when Morsi granted himself unlimited powers to protect Egypt. This removed the checks and balance system similar to the US government. Using this newfound power, Morsi started to push an Islamist supported constitution through to replace the discarded constitution of the Mubarak regime. Immediately protest erupted across Egypt, demanding an end to the unlimited powers Morsi gave himself and to diversify the counsel drafting the new constitution. In response to the protest, Morsi removed his power but refrained from altering the counsel. This has become the root of the issue and protests today, with many believing the president’s political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, is trying to push a new constitution which imposes Islam as the state religion.

The main difference I see in the previous revolution to today’s protests is it isn’t one sided. Previously, the entire nation was protesting the Mubarak regime when today this issue has divided the nation. Morsi has the backing of the Muslim population while the opposition consists of Christians and Jews. This has lead to violent conflicts between the pro and anti Morsi parties. Several people have been killed and thousands injured in only two months of protest.


I think the protesters are afraid of losing their rights to this new constitution. Several Egyptians have grown up without the ability to speak their minds without fear of the government. Then after a years of oppression they felt the relief of a new hope of personal freedom only to have the new government threaten it. I don’t think Morsi is a power hungry tyrant, but was too enthusiastic in creating a new government. He needs to understand he now is responsible for the protection of several different people each with their own religion, opinions, and way of life. Even though he came from a Muslim background, he has to put his personal preference aside for the betterment of the country as a whole.

With both sides refusing to back down and Morsi calling the military to help break up protests, this conflict is not showing signs of dissipating. Many nations have warned Morsi that his government was put into power by the very same protests which now threaten to break it apart. If the protests continue to become violent, many foresee a nation in a civil war very similar to Syria. In the end, the main issue of religion and state has become the stress that could rip Egypt apart.

-Nathan Holdaway




  1. jdowling6 says:

    It seems the rights that the Egyptian people as a whole will lose will be equality between men and women, to some degree a loss of freedom of speech, according to the source at BBC. Nowhere in the rushed draft does it say that there should be equality amongst men and women, and nowhere does it say that people have the freedom to free speech, all there is regarding speech is that nobody can denounce the prophet Mohammed. I don’t see how Morsi can not consider himself a tyrant at the same time refuse to relinquish his self-claimed “unlimited power” until he the constitution gets voted on, basically forcing a vote on the people to either accept the new constitution that doesn’t favor the majority of the Egyptian people or face totalitarianism. Theoretically, couldn’t he could even decide to hold on to the power regardless if the vote gets passed or not? Lets hope that Egypt can heavily, heavily persuade Morsi to allow an overhaul the new constitutional draft to grant the people a fair and balanced government or that some other unforeseen event places power into better hands for the time being. Until then, we will see more planned violence and things will just get even more disgusting.

  2. religion317 says:

    Is this another revolution, or is the 2011 revolution still playing itself out? The Ottoman tanzimat decree was issued in 1839, and a constitution wasn’t drafted until 1876. (Then it was suspended for 30 years.) The US Declaration of Independence was issued in 1776, but the Constitution didn’t appear until 1787. The Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, but democracy in Russia is still… developing. What are our expectations for the pace of social change, where do they come from, and are they realistic?

  3. The transition to democracy after a long rule of authoritarianism is never easy. It’s great to see that Egyptians are continuing to protest under Morsi and not letting another tyrant take control. Too often we see protests to despose one leader, and then another despot just ends up grabbing control and all progress is lost. But it’s also difficult to assess what would be the best course of action in a situation like this. After periods of violence and instability, granting yourself “unlimited powers” in order to maintain order can be justifiable. When there are people who previously held power still clamoring to maintain it and unrest in the streets, it can be impossible to automatically impose a perfect working system of checks and balances. And while this new constitution is imperfect and probably needs some modifications, at least there is one. I have hope that Egypt will have a moderate and participatory democracy in the future.

  4. akranc3 says:

    It is without a doubt that Hosni Mubarak, in his 30 years of “ruling” Egypt, put people whom he could trust into government positions. These people would be appointed not based on qualification or merit, but on loyalty to Mubarak. With a mess 30 years old to clean up, it seems justifiable to grant yourself “unlimited power”. In regards to the counsel drafting the new constitution, Morsi should have diversified the group to include a mix of all faiths, including Christians and Jews. That way, everyone has an input into what the constitution ultimately becomes. But who knows what will happen? Maybe the current counsel will make wise decisions in regards to the good of everyone, maybe they will not. Only time will tell.

  5. I remember reading an article from either New York Times or Washington Post talking about the return of autocracy to Egypt because of Morsi’s new constitution. There is also an article published on Jan 27th on New York Times about the revolt happening in Egypt.
    When I first heard the revolt in Egypt, I did not consider it to be the return of autocracy, because a new government will often suffers from the gap between what the citizens expect and what a new formed government can really do. Not only that, citizens’ hopes for a new government are not accord, especially in a state as diverse as Egypt: not only diverse in ethnicity, but also in religion. It was hard for Emperor Qin to govern while he united China for the first time. I will not say that the Islamic Constitution is not right for Egypt, because any kinds of political system and constitution exist for a reason. Moreover, Egypt had been ruled under Islamic law for centuries, so it is kind of reasonable for this tradition’s return, although I personally do no approve. HOWEVER, the way which Morsi’s government reacts to the current revolt is not acceptable for me. If there are different voices, a government should listen to them and negotiate with them to settle things down, instead of using violence and justify it as protection of the state. If Egypt still considers itself as an republic state, the state is not owned by the government. Therefore, Morsi should not do whatever he wants to the state, or annihilate those who oppose him. Although I says the return of Islamic law is reasonable to return, ignoring majority’s will is definitely tyrannical.

    Shitian Liu

  6. jkipp3 says:

    It does seem foolish for Morsi to implement such controversial changes only 2 years after the Arab Spring. I feel that really he is merely a pawn for the Muslim Brotherhood, which actually formed in Cairo in 1928. As the generation who sparked the revolution in 2010 will surely gain significant influence over the coming decade, perhaps the Brotherhood is launching a last-ditch effort to impose their ideals in their former capital.

    James Kipp

  7. flambert3 says:

    It is hard to imagine here in America something like this happening. Imposing a religion on the country which in turn comes with its own laws is a very tense ordeal. This has all the potential to start a civil war which would not end happy for either side. There has to be immediate action to stop such occurrence from happening offering comprise to both parties if Morsi wants to stay in power.

    Frederick Lambert

  8. shaimsn says:

    Whenever I look at the stuff that happens in Egypt, I remember about home – Venezuela. Both situations are sadly similar: A guy took advantage of the problems prior governments had caused by using them as a tool to get to power (convincing people that “it is time for a change” – sounds familiar?). He gets the hopes up of more than half of the country. He gets to power, and then he seeks more and more power. And the way he manages to maintain himself in power is by provoking a segregation between the different groups of people who live in that country. In the case of Venezuela, the segregation provoked produced a strong resentment feeling from the lower classes towards the upper classes. Nathan explained the segregation in the case of Egypt.

    Why is power so important to some people?

    Prosperity should be the goal of a leader.

    Maybe presidents shouldn’t exist anymore? I mean, it was a model proposed over 200 years ago…

    Shai M

  9. mitch7991 says:

    It definitely seems like Morsi is taking the wrong approach to his position as president. It’s interesting when you compare this problematic system with that of the Ottoman Empire, where dhimmis were not as priveledged as Muslims. Though they could never achieve the same status as the Muslims in that era, they accepted the dominance of Muslims and lived peacefully with it. As the Middle East continues to change, so has the status of non-Muslims. And now, equality is the main theme. Dhimmis tend to take their equality for granted now that they’ve grown accustomed to it. Although it’s not certain what the new constitution has in store for the infidels, the slightest speculation of Muslim rule is enough for them to become insecure about their social status and unalienable rights.

  10. It is terrible to see another extreme conflict in Egypt right after this new government was put into place. For this revolution to be based on religion makes the matters much worse and has potential to lead to all chaos breaking loose, causing many to lose their lives. Hopefully they will be able to absolve this problem and separate religion and government so that many of the citizens do not lose their rights.

  11. kolson23 says:

    Morsi’s current problem is that he is using old Mubarak laws left in the new constitution to control the current unrest. This in turn has created a frenzy in Egypt. They need to figure out a way to allow the protesters to continue on peacefully without having to take drastic measures like a curfew and large military presence in entire cities. If he ever figures out how to do this he needs to just let them be, while he works together with a variety of different groups to come up with a commonly accepted constitution for Egypt. This is a revolution, so it will take some time, maybe years, for things to get totally under control, but hopefully it will end on a positive note.

  12. tnatoli3 says:

    This sounds like the rebellions in Bombay in the early 1990s in India between the Hindu and Muslim people both wanting power over the government. The revolution in 2011 was uniting for the people in Egypt with a common goal, but this revolution sounds like a dividing line. Coming from basically a dictatorship, the Egyptian people understand the importance of equal rights and division of control which is a positive for the protests moving forward.

  13. kledbetter6 says:

    The revolts in Egypt seem to me a continuation of the revolution. It will be interesting to see how the leadership of the country changes. One reason the revolutions of history are so fascinating is how the courses they take are so different. Egypt’s government might change hands again, Morsi might become a despot, or Morsi’s government might weather this period of revolt and become the government that creates the constitution of this new Egypt. His trajectory currently seems to indicate he will become a despot, but I think it’s too soon to predict this with any accuracy.

  14. mcharles6 says:

    I don’t believe that this is the beginning of another revolution in Egypt as much as it is a continuation of the already-occurring revolution. Egypt has had an authoritarian government for so many years; one leader isn’t going to change that over night. Morsi took a step in the right direction by taking away some of his previously unlimited power. However, I think that the issue of religion is also at work. The Christian and Jewish population is never going to live peacefully in Egypt with a Muslim government in place. Unfortunately, I do not foresee the Muslims losing power in North Africa or the Middle East anytime soon, meaning that short of the elimination or vast reduction of the Christian and Jewish population, I do not foresee the protests or violence coming to any sort of end either.

  15. bentowns3nd says:

    Egypt had large, reasonably well-integrated Christian and Jewish populations before the ethnic homogenization that took place after the establishment of the Egyptian nation state; as an Ottoman territory and British protectorate, it was extremely cosmopolitan compared with its present status. The issue isn’t with Muslim governance, it’s with contemporary Islamist governance.
    It seems like assessments of major Middle Eastern heads-of-state and their governance are overwhelmingly categorized as either Tyrannical (Gaddafi, Mubarak, Bashar al-Assad) or Incompetent (Hamid Karzai, Nouri al-Maliki, Morsi). These categories also correspond to the method of assumption of power, respectively ‘military takeover’ and ‘elected.’ I’m interested in Shai’s comment that maybe presidents are unnecessary. I disagree, but I do think that a Western-style democracy might be a bad fit for countries as unstable and politically fragmented as Egypt is. Our democracy isn’t stable/successful because the people’s will is being done, it’s stable because Americans mostly want and expect the same thing from their presidents, whose governance is in most cases extremely similar regardless of ideological background. If countries in the Middle East are to be stabilized, it won’t be through the discovery and election of ‘good leaders’ (Western countries don’t necessarily have these) or an increase in political power of the population (American voters lack much impact; Egyptian voters elected Morsi), but rather through the establishment of effective, secular, non-corrupt bureaucratic and legal infrastructure (most Western countries have these). Monthly train wrecks and voters physically assaulting each other in the streets are much closer to being the problem than to the symptom.

  16. marymsherman says:

    I’m going to agree with the already strong opinion in these comments that this is just a continuation of the 2011 revolution. Replacing a 30-year glorified monarchy cannot happen overnight. Maybe our society has gotten so used to immediacy that we try to declare things as “solved” prematurely.
    I also really enjoy hearing from the international students about different governments that have similarities to current Middle East proceedings. It gives good insight to much of the class, like myself, who only know a westernized established government.

  17. phillipscheng says:

    I feel that conflict in the region will continue until a strong, but secular government comes to power. With the amount of tension in the region it’s inevitable that conflict will continue to arise.

    While many of us in the US would find a large scale march on the capital, and what would in the US be considered rioting to be abnormal in DC, in Taiwan, it feels like that happens every election cycle. Every election cycle citizens march on the capital to protest results, defend their candidate or what-not. While the events are not overtly violent, inevitably, someone becomes injured every year. These aren’t quiet protests either – they’re filled with shouting, air horns, some minor destruction of property, and where party lines meet in the street, sometimes a fist fight or two. I can only imagine how the local residents feel.

  18. jbholleman says:

    “Why is power so important to some people?

    Prosperity should be the goal of a leader.

    Maybe presidents shouldn’t exist anymore? I mean, it was a model proposed over 200 years ago…”
    -Shai M

    I don’t think that the idea of a single leader for a country is antiquated. A leader such as the president gives a country direction and a larger sense of unity. Governing bodies, such as the Parliament in the UK, have the sense of people squabbling, nit picking, and in general not getting anything done. A good example of a strong leader was Steve Jobs. He gave apple direction and was a charismatic person who could get people to follow him and help him realize his ideas. But, a single leader does have it’s problems, some of which can be seen here in Egypt. It is in human nature to crave power and many people abuse that. A leader can also be misguided or have a direction that his followers do not believe in or is opposed to the people’s views. This is where the checks and balances come in with more modern forms of government. What may need to be done in Egypt is have foreign involvement to act as a mediator between the people and those currently in power.

    -Jeffrey Holleman

  19. Kaitlyn Johnson says:

    I feel like this is more of a continuation of the 2011 revolution and the Arab Spring. Yes, the violence of the revolution has mostly finished but this continuing unrest is just the prolonged aftermath. I worked at the State Department in the Spring of 2012 and the actions of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were still very much monitored by multiple departments inside State. Many were concerned about the new constitution and even though it was said to be similar to our own constitution the deletion of some civil rights and the proclamation that Islam would be the state religion worried many inside State.

  20. I agree with the consensus that this is just a continuation of the 2011 revolution. Because Egypt is becoming more diverse, it becomes harder to please the people. Similar to what Phillip said above, a secular government will probably solve the conflicts between the people and government. Being an American, I can see why one would be upset to lose certain civil rights because of a leader with different religion that I do not believe in.

  21. sstephenson3 says:

    As a student of the previous section of this course, I would be in error not to notice that this has been a historic problem of the region. In short, Muslim populations have issues with living under secular law, as their religion demands strict adherence to the Shari’a, with most other authorities falling secondary or lower. The fact is this, the majority of citizens of Egypt are Muslim and they elected a Muslim leader. While these people may claim to support a state law and a constitution that supports the rights of all, they only feel obliged to obey and support the laws laid down by their religion. In my opinion, this extension of the Arab Spring was inevitable, simply because Muslim populations who elect Muslim leaders to government have historically had issues drawing a definitive line between religious authority and state authority.
    -Stan Stephenson

  22. Jeffrey Lester says:

    It really baffles me how the new leadership in these hot bed countries stand at their podiums and espouse the same beliefs as the previous regime but expect a different outcome. When will they realize that the only way to create an effective government is to have it devoid of religious affiliations? It seems like this is always the subject for contention. Unfortunately it will continue to be a problem until the the religious factions themselves come to terms with each other.

  23. nathenj65 says:

    This is a very interesting story and should really be watched with a keen eye by the major world powers right now because if this were to become a civil war it will be terrible for Egypt as well as any countries that are allied with either side because they will inevitably be drawn into the conflict to help whomever the give the alliance too. I agree with jeffrey too though in the fact that due to these religious groups that are in such conflict in these countries in order for the conflicts to end. There either has to be a leader that is willing and able to be able to connect these groups so that they can see things in the eyes of the opposing party or the groups need to find this solution themselves. If neither of these things happen there will remain conflicts just like this going on forever.

  24. mjuren3 says:

    As some of the other post have already discussed about the role of the president in a state’s affairs, a president is the representative to the world for a nation and all its people. It is important for presidents to realize that they are a servant of the people, all of the people, and that they have to protect the rights of all the citizens under their watch, no matter what their personal beliefs are. An effective president is one who is able to set aside his or her own personal beliefs at times to do what is best for the nation as a whole. I hope that Morsi and the new government are able to unite Egypt in order to secure a peaceful and lasting democracy. Morsi should also remember that it was the people who put him in power and that is where his real power comes from. They can just as easily take it away.

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