Rude awakening for Egypt's liberals

While Egypt's youths and liberals dithered, Islamists were organizing, an Arabic-language commentator writes, and we saw the results in Tahrir Square on Friday. Other topics: the Libyan opposition, Abu Mazen, and the Arab Spring so far

Rude awakening for Egypt's youth, liberals

"Last Friday was a shock for political forces, including the youth- driven movement and liberals who demand a civil state in Egypt," wrote Tariq Alhomayed, editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat.

"This happened when Islamists shouted such slogans as 'power to God' and 'democracy is the answer to the will of people' and 'the people want Sharia'".

One activist said Tahrir square looked like a "new Afghanistan".

"But is the young movement's frustration justified?" the editor asked. "Accordingly should the Military Council be blamed for this outcome?"

The answer, he said, is no. The Islamists who rallied in Tahrir square are also Egyptians, and have every right to express their opinions. No one should exclude them. And the ballot boxes should ultimately decide who should rule.

But if the youth movement and liberals remain inactive while embracing unrealistic dreams, the elections are less likely to give them justice.

A massive turnout of Islamists has been expected since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Civil forces have missed many opportunities to strengthen their position. And when they put pressure on the military to hasten trial of the old regime's symbols, they seemed to want revenge more than justice.

They need to think and act rationally and play the real political game, away from dreamy slogans.


Opposition must probe Libyan chief's killing

"Whatever the motives behind the killing of Abdul Fattah Younes, military commander of the opposition forces in Libya, the event will have profound effect on the rebel movement," the UAE newspaper Akhbar Al Arab said in its editorial.

"Many observers might start thinking there are internal conflicts which are likely to weaken the opposition's ability to remove Col Muammar Qaddafi's regime," the editorial said.

Although some details of Younes's assassination have been disclosed, the motives are still unclear. The killers are known but they remain at large, with no explanation offered. Many presume that a hidden force within the opposition has paramount influence, outweighing that of the political and military leadership.

The international community fears that such an extremist force could replace Col Qaddafi and control Libya.

"Given this challenge, the opposition has no choice but to cleanse itself of such impurities. Otherwise, the gains it has obtained could turn into losses. This is because extremist forces … will deeply harm the opposition."

Accordingly it will not be enough merely to arrest the perpetrators. What is required is a thorough investigation not only for prosecuting the criminals, but also to identify the shortcomings of the opposition.



The Arab Spring is still far from complete

Revolution is a long process and it takes time to reach the outcome, wrote Mazen Hammad in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. There will be a long period of adjustment. So far it is too early to talk about the final situation.

"It is necessary, however, to distinguish between chaos and revolution. In Yemen there is frustration because the public movement has failed, so far, in persuading the ailing president Ali Abdullah Saleh to transfer power peacefully."

There are also rising fears in the US and Saudi Arabia that Yemeni unrest will serve Al Qaeda.

In Libya, the assassination of Abdul Fattah Younes may spark tribal strife, including within the opposition. If this happens, it will be in the regime's interests and will help prolong its survival.

As for Egypt, the revolution has taken an Islamist turn, to judge by the over 1.5 million who took to the streets last Friday. Protesters flew banners demanding application of Sharia law.

In Tunisia, for its part, people object to the staggered process of transferring power to a civilian government.

Syria is no better, as almost 20 people are killed daily, while the revolution evolved into a factional confrontation between majority Sunnis and minority Alawis.

In short, the movements in these five countries are far from complete. We must await further developments.


Abbas's suspicious call for popular resistance

"The Palestinian president's recent call for popular resistance is unique," columnist Hussam Kanafani wrote in the Emirati daily Al Khaleej.

"This is so especially in that he has always objected to any protest movement that could lead to chaos."

The situation is different now with public opinion and high officials within Fateh pushing for a popular movement to support the diplomatic effort.

With peace negotiations at a standstill and dwindling hope for any success in proclaiming an independent Palestinian state at the UN Assembly General in September, in view of the all powerful US veto, President Abbas had to concede to voices calling for an escalation on the ground.

"Still, for such a call to come from Abu Mazen himself is suspect, for he has been historically opposed to any form of resistance."

Some suspect that the move aims at containing the situation, since he prefers that any protest effort remain under the PA's umbrella, which would stop demonstrations from spiralling into a third intifada.

His call is serious, and it will be clearer in the coming days, notably when the official decision to go to the UN is issued and a date set for it.


* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk

Published: August 1, 2011 04:00 AM


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