Muslims Divided Over Egypt As Ramadan Nears

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2013 | 10:07 PM EDT

Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans as they carry a flag-draped coffin bearing the body of a man killed when troops opened fire on mostly Islamist protesters in Cairo on Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

( – As Ramadan begins this week, an Islamic world already at odds over the civil war in Syria is further divided over the ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, with some governments denouncing the military intervention and others not sorry to see the Muslim Brotherhood dealt a setback.

Ramadan, which begins as soon as the crescent moon is first sighted – probably Monday night in the Gulf – is meant to be a time when Islamic unity is emphasized.

Tens of thousands of Morsi opponents and supporters held competing demonstrations in Cairo and other Egyptian cities on Sunday, four days after the military deposed him, suspended the constitution and installed a top judge, Adly Mansour, as interim president.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has criticized the West for not denouncing the military’s “unacceptable” action, discussed the situation with U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. Turkey says the military’s intervention amounted to a “coup” and should be viewed as such by the U.S. and European governments.

“In Egypt, a coup has been staged,” the Turkish daily Hurriyet quoted Erdogan as saying in Istanbul on Sunday. “And a coup, whomever it targets, is bad and prejudicial. It murders democracy and the future. Those who don’t call a coup a coup are the supporters of a coup.”

He also urged Egypt’s “so-called administration” to release Morsi from house arrest.

Islamist allies Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egypt's then-President Mohammed Morsi, in Ankara last September. (AP Photo)

Erdogan, whose Islamist AKP Party has ideological sympathies with Morsi’s party, received a hero’s welcome from Muslim Brotherhood supporters when he visited Cairo in late 2011 and again late last year.

Tunisia’s ruling Ennahdha party – also Islamist in outlook – condemned the developments in Egypt. Ennahdha is facing its own challenge as opposition groups step up call for the government to be dissolved.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araghchi told the official IRNA news agency Sunday that the Egyptian military’s intervention to remove a democratically-elected administration was not “proper” and that street protests were not an “appropriate” way to replace a president.

Araghchi insisted, however, that the removal of Morsi did not mark “a defeat for Islamism,” and that the “Islamic awakening” – Iran’s preferred term for what some call the “Arab spring” – would continue.

Some other leading Islamic governments were less direct, but clearly troubled by the deposing of Morsi.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for reconciliation among Egypt’s political forces, saying it would be “unwise to carry out a clean sweep.”

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman said Islamabad did not interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, but added that “being a democratic society, we do however stress that the values of democracy and aspirations of the people should be upheld.”

On the other side of the debate, Saudi King Abdullah was the first to congratulate Egypt’s armed forces for its action last week which, he said, “managed to save Egypt at this critical moment from a dark tunnel.”

Saudi’s Wahhabist regime has long been wary of the Muslim Brotherhood, regarding it as an Islamist rival whose transnational nature and willingness to use the democratic process to get into power poses a potential threat to the kingdom.

The United Arab Emirates, which late last year arrested 11 Egyptians accused of setting up a Muslim Brotherhood cell with the aim of toppling the government, declared itself “satisfied” with the removal of Morsi.

Qatar’s stance has been more nuanced. As the only Arab Gulf state to support the Muslim Brotherhood the small, petroleum-rich country gave Egypt billions of dollars in aid over the past two years.

But the new emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, whose father abdicated in his favor late last month, send a cable of congratulations to Mansour, the interim president, and expressed support for “brotherly Egypt.”

Apart from generously supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Qatar’s former emir was a key backer of anti-Assad rebels – including the Muslim Brotherhood – in Syria, of Islamists in Libya, and of Hamas – the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood – in Gaza.

At a time when the Muslim Brotherhood is on the ropes in Egypt and facing military setbacks in Syria, his young and inexperienced son’s approach remains to be seen.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar, marks the month during which Muslims believe the Qur’an was revealed to Mohammed in the 7th century. During the month, observant Muslims do not eat, drink, smoke or have sex during daylight hours, while evenings are marked by eating, prayers and recitation of scriptures.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow