By MUSTAPHA TLILI in The New York Times
“You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.”
President Obama delivered these words in his Cairo speech, five years ago today, when he reached out to rehabilitate Islam and Islamic civilization in the eyes of the world — and redeem America in the eyes of the global Muslim community after the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The Cairo speech was part of the road map based on the advice of the 2008 report “Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations With the Muslim World,” drafted by the leadership group on United States-Muslim engagement, composed of former senior government officials, both Democrat and Republican, as well as scholars (myself included), political analysts and international relations experts. All of us were concerned about the divide between America and the Muslim world, and we recommended that the new president deliver a major speech in a significant Islamic capital — Cairo, Istanbul, Jakarta or Rabat — directly addressing the Muslim world. That’s what Mr. Obama did at Cairo University on June 4, 2009.
Since then, Egypt has experienced the “Arab Spring,” followed first by the Muslim Brotherhood’s election to power, and then its downfall. If Mr. Obama’s message of 2009 had been conveyed again more forcefully to Egypt’s former president, Mohamed Morsi, before he was ousted by the army last July, the hopes of Arabs and Muslims around the world after the Cairo speech might not have been as disappointed as they are today.
Sadly, every one of the “ingredients” for democracy listed by Mr. Obama was flouted by Mr. Morsi during his tumultuous year in office. He forced the passage of the Muslim Brotherhood’s 2012 constitution, issued edicts imposing himself over the judiciary, failed to provide protections to Coptic Christians, started vendettas against journalists and activists and treated the secular opposition as enemies to be excluded from political life. In short, the Egyptian president furthered the political aims of the Muslim Brotherhood at the expense of the nation, exactly as Mr. Obama had cautioned against.
The result is that the Obama administration has found itself in an uncomfortable position. As the president remarked to the United Nations General Assembly last September, “America has been attacked by all sides of this internal conflict, simultaneously accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, and engineering their removal of power.”
Read more at The New York Times