Yet Another Instance of Islamic Exceptionalism?

The Islamist identity of Morsi and his party seems to be the major reason for the reticence of the international community and media in defining this coup a coup!

Tanks rolled down the street, state owned TV channels were taken over, dissenting media outlets were raided and silenced, president’s office was surrounded, the first ever democratically elected president was put under house arrest, the constitution was suspended, and the head of army stood in front of cameras to try to justify these disgraceful deeds. As a citizen of Turkey, a country that has endured four military coups, these scenes were all too familiar; what has been taking place in Egypt was clear and obvious: a coup d’état.


Yet, the leaders of “democratic” countries did not describe the events in Egypt as a coup. The United States, which ostensibly squandered a great deal of finances and shed blood all in the name of “democracy” in greater Middle East and North Africa, failed to use “c” word. President Obama went to great lengths not to denote the events as what they really were: coup d’état. The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce went even a step further by putting the blame for this coup squarely on the shoulders of the ousted president Morsi, without so much as a mention of the misdeeds of the military.

Likewise, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton refrained from using the “c” word in her statement on the overthrow of Morsi. In addition, her statement did not indicate any possible repercussions against the military’s grab of power from elected civilians. Reflecting the EU’s this stance, Marietje Schaake, a member of European Parliament representing the Democrat 66 Party from the Netherlands, in her interview with Egyptian AhramOnline on July 4, shied away from condemning the ousting of a democratically elected president. She rather chose to ignore the coup that had taken place only a day before. Instead, she deemed it too urgent to articulate upon the technical aspects of the EU’s assistance to Egypt and how to defreeze EU’s 5 billion Euros financial assistance and loan program for the country, which was mostly frozen during the Morsi’s presidency.

These two statements were in clear breach of the EU’s stated policy of democracy promotion in neighboring countries. Since 1990s, the EU has developed frameworks such as, Barcelona Process, European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), Euro – Mediterranean Partnership (EMP), in order to forge better relations with Middle Eastern and North African countries and to encourage them to pursue democratization, good governance and to uphold civil liberties. Yet, the EU’s thus far reactions to the military coup’s crushing of a fledgling democracy, no matter how imperfect it had been, in the most populous Arab country has not only discredited all of its policy and parlance of democratization, it has also risked making the distrust between the EU and Islamic-leaning movements in the region entrenched. Unless there is a major reevaluation of the EU stance on the military coup, the relations will be irreparably damaged.

This refusal to call a coup a coup has not been limited to the official circles. A significant part of the international media, pundits, and analysts also followed suit by not labeling the events as coup or condemning them. But why were the pundits so reluctant in defining the new millenium’s first televised coup by its name? Have we not all been applauding the irresistible shift towards democratization world-wide? Was not the Arab Spring a welcome development similar to the ones that had taken place in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 – 1990? Then, why is this Egyptian exceptionalism?


Many analysts strove to offer justification for their either outright or tacit support for this coup, or reluctance to speak out against it. One of the most commonly cited justifications has been that this military intervention has received a significant popular support, hence could not be

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