The conventional wisdom, regarding the Middle East, has always been that a group of democracies living side by side would usher in a new era of peace and co-operation in the region.
In tandem with this we must have regard to the stated quest of, primarily, western countries in locating the moderate majority of Muslims and thereby marginalising the extremist minority.
The military coup in Egypt, for that is exactly what it was, has been a major setback for democracy and furnished a basis for extremists to reject the ballot box and sound the call to their followers to rise up and take government by force.
In a nutshell the Muslim Brotherhood, love them or hate them, were the legitimate government of Egypt, voted in by the people of that country in a free and fair election.
The presidency of Mohamed Morsi had been in place for around a year when demonstrations citing economic decline and a refusal to provide an inclusive government were seized upon by the army to oust him from power, arrest leading party officials and clamp down on pro-Morsi marchers.
As a result an interim government has been put in place led by the chief constitutional court judge, Adli Mansour, which is now purportedly putting in place the next series of steps required to send Egypt back to the ballot box.
The West are currently bemused by this turn of events with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair stating over the weekend that the events in Egypt are justified and leaders must now deal with the existing structure.
With regard to the latter there is no doubt that governments around the world will need to engage with the Mansour mechanism but that cannot be allowed to detract from the fact that this coup is an aberration which makes planet Earth a far more dangerous a place to live in.
Morsi’s policies, at best, were one year in the making and this means they cannot be assessed with any certainty at this early stage. Most governments set up short and long-term plans, which only begin to pay dividends or fail after a considerable length of time has passed. Of course if Morsi was messing up there is another election coming up in a few years’ time and that is how democracies show displeasure and replace leaders.
This was something out of the Arab Spring but with far more sinister overtones; where “revolution” was a means to a democratic end in Tunisia and elsewhere this presents a new model (?) where leaders are deposed in circumstances in which the masses rise up but the vested interest groups land up in charge. The military in Egypt for all their talk of fair play and the will of the people have shown total disregard for what the majority voted for in the election citing head counts as the basis for their confirmation that this is what the people want.
The followers of Morsi are now calling for his supporters to rise up and this is, to me, the most ominous sign of all.
While there are extremists who have hitched a ride on the Muslim Brotherhood platform there is nothing to suggest that Morsi’s government were planning to introduce extremism into their government. If they are considered extremists then the time has come for the definition of what constitutes moderate Muslims to be revised.
In this regard the more extreme Salafists — who believe in the same caliphate as al Qaeda — had actively participated in the Morsi negotiations for the new inclusive government and have now withdrawn.
The coup in Egypt has created polarisation that will be very difficult to overcome and can quite easily occasion the next civil war in the region.
If you were a member of the Muslim Brotherhood would you believe in democracy?
If you were part of the substantial group of extremists who might have seen democracy as a solution in light of the events in Egypt what would your thinking be now?
In an extremely volatile region the last thing anyone needed was this egregious coup, which might send another major country into civil war and serve those who wish to benefit from the fallout.
If democracy is part of the solution to the Middle East and courting moderate Muslims forms part of that overall plan then the reaction to what has happened in Egypt needs to be loud and condemn the actions of those who were behind the coup.