Geopolitics

Egypt's Fate In The Hands Of The Military

The Egyptian army has so far acted with restraint, but has also yet to choose a side in the battle between the country's protesters and President Hosni Mubarak. Until they do, chaos and uncertainty will persist.

Cairo (Al Jazeera, via flickr)

There has been much speculation about whether the riots in Tunisia and Egypt have been the first Facebook and Twitter revolutions. In fact, these Internet-based social networks have allowed young protesters to interact and organize easily and have accelerated the dynamics of the revolutionary process. In the end, however, their success will depend on the answer to an age-old question: where does the military stand?

In Tunisia, military generals were quick to usher the reviled President Zine el-Abidine to the door. By quickly reining in the regime's security forces, they helped the country to avoid a long period of violent conflict. In Egypt, the army has been much more reserved. While the Egyptian people have jubilantly welcomed the soldiers into their cities, believing them to be on their side, the military has in fact been ambivalent and hesitant to act. They are not shooting demonstrators - that's left to the regime's internal security apparatus. But they are also not helping the demonstrators by joining the cause to remove President Hosni Mubarak from office.

Chaos and anarchy take over

This highlights a problem that many autocracies face. Such regimes usually make a great effort to bring their interests in line with those of the army. The generals are granted lucrative fiefdoms and, in Egypt the military has become an economic actor on its own, contributing not only to the defense industry but also to the construction, tourism and consumer goods sectors. The more the generals have to lose, the more likely they are to oppose change.

Because the military has yet to choose a side, chaos and anarchy are taking hold in the country. There are already some signs that security forces are contributing to this chaos, alongside criminal gangs and looters from the slums. The regime is calculating that the worse the situation becomes, the more likely citizens will be willing to let security forces take back control. In the meantime, however, they're taking matters into their own hands and trying to protect their neighborhoods.

It is unclear how long this intermediary phase will last. The regime hopes that the demonstrations will lose their intensity over time and that the situation will calm itself. But the more the cities break, the harder it will be for the military to remain passive. It's like the James Dean movie, "Rebel Without a Cause": both cars race towards the cliff's edge, each driver hoping that the other will bail out first. Hopefully this won't leave the whole country falling toward the abyss.

Read the original article in German

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Society

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.


The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.

Hollandse-Hoogte/ZUMA

Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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