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Thesis Reveals Egyptian General's View on Democracy and Islam

Thesis Reveals Egyptian General's View on Democracy and Islam

By    |   Tuesday, 27 August 2013 09:35 AM

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the military man who appears to be running things in Egypt, accepts a democratic form of government but says that there must be a strong Muslim role in any Middle Eastern-style democracy.

Sisi also believes that there may have to be a fourth branch of government in future democratic systems "to ensure that the Islamic beliefs and laws are followed" and warns that "the fact Israel reflects a Western influence raises suspicion among Arabs about the true nature of democracy."

His views on democracy and governing are expressed in the thesis he wrote while spending a year on a U.S. military fellowship at the Army War College in Pennsylvania in 2006.

Recently, the Judicial Watch organization filed a Freedom of Information Act request that made available to the public the general's 12-page thesis with his vision of future government in the Middle East.

Named as defense minister last year by then-President Mohammed Morsi, the 57-year-old Sisi led the movement that deposed the embattled president in July. As defense minister and now deputy prime minister, Sisi is now clearly the man calling the shots in the ongoing clash between the government in Cairo and demonstrators demanding Morsi's return to power.

Like many who advocate a democratic system, Sisi believes in a strong participation by the people but that this cannot happen overnight.

"Populations need to be prepared to assume a participatory role in a democratic form of government. This will require time to educate the population as well as develop the democratic processes that will enable democracy to gain traction," Sisi wrote.

But "democracy," in the Egyptian general's vision, is not exactly what it would be to an American or European.

While accepting that there are those who believe that democratic rule "can co-exist in the religious nature of Middle Eastern societies," he quickly points out that there are also those who feel "the tribal culture of the Middle East may not be suitable for democratic rule, as too many factions will emerge. The result will be a fractured society."

One possible solution he cites is a form of government in place in the Middle East at the time of the Prophet Muhammad. Under that system, writes Sisi, "the Elbaya is the electoral process for choosing the Kalifa [ruler], while the El Shorah advisory and oversight body … ensures that the [ruler] is carrying out his duties in accordance with Islamic teachings."

As unusual as these processes may sound to one unfamiliar with Middle Eastern history, Sisi concludes that "they also represent processes by which democracy can emerge."

In what could be dubbed a prophecy about the downfall of his own country's Hosni Mubarak and the initial rise of the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi, the general warned that democracy "also created opportunities for other forms of government as well as some which are not as preferable."

Referring to the militant Hamas coming to power in the Palestinian directorate, Sisi might have been speaking of Morsi in his own country when he noted that when "groups such as Hamas emerge, they are likely to reach power through democratic means but they still may not fully represent the population, particularly the religious moderates."

He noted that a weak economy and the lack of a strong education system -- Egypt has 30 percent-45 percent illiteracy rate -- are roadblocks to a move toward any kind of democratic system.

As to just where his words of seven years ago would apply in a future government of a President Sisi, no one can say. At first glance, his talk of a government that includes laws carried out in accordance with religious teachings sounds not unlike that of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who clearly has a religious bent in his governance.

"He is not an ultraconservative," Sherifa Zuhur, who taught the general at the War College in 2006, told the Financial Times. "He speaks to women... He is pious in the same way as ordinary Egyptians like my husband's family in the Nile Delta."

Ambassador Henry Cooper, Ronald Reagan's nuclear arms negotiator, brought Sisi's thesis to the attention of Newsmax. While welcoming the moderate tone of much of the general's analysis, Cooper cautioned that it was intended for an American audience over six years ago and included a strong commitment to Sharia law — "a better indicator will be the new constitution being developed under his leadership."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the military man who appears to be running things in Egypt, accepts a democratic form of government but says that there must be a strong Muslim role in any Middle Eastern-style democracy.
Tuesday, 27 August 2013 09:35 AM
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