A turning point in the war on terrorism

Hany Ghoraba
Wednesday 3 Jul 2019

Egypt’s 30 June Revolution sent a wake-up call to Muslim and non-Muslim communities alike about the dangers of ever letting the Islamists reach the higher echelons of power

Many Western governments and political circles had decided that the Middle East would be ruled by the Islamists, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, for decades if not centuries to come after the 2011 Arab Spring Revolutions, but their calculations were disrupted by the 30 June 2013 Revolution in Egypt. 

Any such ideas were decisively contradicted by a historic display of people’s power against Islamist tyranny in Egypt of a kind that has not been seen in any other country where the Islamists have found their way to power, including Turkey, Gaza, and others. 

A massive wave of protests estimated to include nearly 30 million people took to the streets across Egypt on 30 June 2013 to protest against Islamist rule.

From Alexandria to Aswan, their voices thundered, calling for the fall of former president Mohamed Morsi and an end to the reign of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It did not take long for the Morsi regime to fall and with it came an end to the rise of the Islamists earlier than either they or their western allies had anticipated. 

With the fall of the Islamist regime in Egypt, over eight decades of plotting, scheming, assassinating and terrorising in the name of religion by the Muslim Brotherhood came to an end.

The Muslim Brotherhood had been bragging for decades that it was the only power that could gather the masses behind it in Egypt, and so it was astonished to find on 30 June 2013 that the Egyptian streets were against it, organising massive protests calling for new elections and an end to Morsi’s rule. 

The Brotherhood’s leaders met the protests with mockery, however, especially the petition with 22 million signatures that the “Tamarod” (Rebellion) Movement had prepared.

This petition called for Morsi to step down and for new elections to take place, and the organisers of the movement set the date of 30 June for the launch of massive protests across the country.

The response to their call was beyond the imagination of the organisers and surpassed the wildest expectations of political pundits.

Millions of Egyptians rose up to fight for their land and identity, refusing to go home until a clear message had been sent to the Muslim Brotherhood. 

The 30 June uprising is also considered to be a turning point in the Arab countries, even if some of these had once approved and even financed the work of the Muslim Brotherhood, supposing it to be “moderate” in its aims.

However, the reality of the Brotherhood in power in Egypt had opened their eyes to the level of destruction that could be caused by the very existence of this group.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain all joined Egypt in designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group a year after the group’s removal from power in Egypt.

In Tunisia, the branch of the Muslim Brotherhood that took power in the shape of the Ennahda Movement conceded defeat in the country’s 2014 elections and with this some of its power.

It was forced to share power with Tunisia’s secular and nationalist parties in an attempt to avoid a similar fate to its Egyptian counterpart.

This move was considered a victory for the secular movement in Tunisia, which was emboldened by the 30 June Revolution in Egypt to demand that Ennahda remain compliant with the country’s secular laws.

In Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood group declared in 2016 that it was severing ties with the group in Egypt because it had become a liability.

However, the group’s leaders managed to form an alternative group called the Brotherhood Association in 2015 in order to bypass a ban against the its activities stipulated by a court decree.

The Jordanian group is now led by Abdel-Maguid Al-Zonaybat, who has been attempting to avoid the fate that befell the Egyptian group through the creation of an alternative association. 

Following the fall of the Islamist project in Egypt, a number of terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria declared the foundation of the Islamic State (IS) group, with its “caliphate” based in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul after major military blunders on the part of the Iraqi army based in Baghdad.

While the group’s existence can be traced back as far as 1999, its real foundation came over a decade and half later after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. 

A large number of Muslim Brotherhood members from Egypt and across the world joined IS, which was headed by an Iraqi former member of the Brotherhood by the name of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi who declared himself to be its “caliph”.

The group expanded rapidly, eventually covering an area almost equal in size to the United Kingdom. It committed atrocities in Syria and Iraq, leaving tens of thousands dead and millions more displaced and causing one of the most horrific humanitarian disasters of the 21st century. 

The group’s activities were also not restricted to the lands it rapidly occupied in Syria and Iraq but found their way around the globe.

Europe witnessed an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks by group members, for example, with France, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom being the worst hit.

The aftermath of these terrorist attacks then forced Western political circles to revise their stance about what had earlier taken place in Egypt, acknowledging the Egyptian 30 June Revolution to have been one fighting against tyranny, terrorism, and theocratic rule.

For decades the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists have told stories about the need to establish a “caliphate” to rule Muslim lands, protect Islam, and uphold justice for Muslims and fend off their enemies. However, when these same Muslims witnessed the formation of such a caliphate, it turned out to be very different from the illusionary one that the Islamists had been preaching about for decades.

It has been shown beyond any shred of doubt that there are no “moderates” within the Islamists who can be trusted with the governance and future of any state.

Examples from Iran, Turkey, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Gaza and pre-June 2013 Egypt have proven that Islamism is a disease that has damaged these predominantly Muslim nations, sending some of them hurtling towards chaos and despair. 

The 30 June Revolution will thus remain a turning point in modern history that has sent a wake-up call to Muslim and non-Muslim communities alike about the danger of having Islamists reach the higher echelons of power.

Egyptians have paid the heftiest of prices fighting this cancer, but they have also found the first major cure to a problem that surfaced in the 20th century.  

30 June will thus be considered as a kind of D Day in the war on terrorism, with the battle that took place in France at the end of World War II representing the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany and the liberation of Europe and the rest of the world from its tyranny.

The 30 June 2013 Revolution in Egypt will be looked on a century from now as having something of the same importance.

*The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring and the Winding Road to Democracy.

 *A version of this article appears in print in the 4 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: A turning point in the war on terrorism

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