Human rights lawyer Fahad Ansari says the Ummah abandoned Mohamed Morsi to his fate in Egypt’s dark dungeons, and if his death is to mean anything we must renew our vigour to fight for the release of political prisoners around the world.
Last night, the democratically elected President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi breathed his last after collapsing in a glass soundproof cage in a courtroom in Cairo.
His passing has triggered mourning and eulogies from around the globe with ceremonial funeral prayers being performed in mosques across Europe and the Muslim world.
This comes as no surprise as Morsi was Egypt’s first democratically-elected president after decades of dictatorship.
He was, for many, the hope for the future following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. He was known for his personal piety, his honesty and humble lifestyle, in stark contrast to the corruption and opulence that have become associated with rulers in the Arab world.
Whatever the criticisms of his policies, and there were many, it cannot be denied that Morsi offered the best chance for democracy and human rights in a country that has since his ousting, returned to a corrupt military dictatorship.
While we all mourn the death of Morsi and will spend the next few days eulogising him on social media, in reality every one of us should be hanging our heads in shame for abandoning him in his darkest hours.
While we all celebrated his election in 2012 and protested against his overthrow 12 months later, our collective absence for the past six years is glaring. How many of us protested against the decision to hold Morsi in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day throughout this period without access to television, letters or any form of communication with friends and family?
The single hour he was allowed out of his cell was for exercise on his own. Why did we not make any noise about the fact that during these six years, he was only permitted to see his family on a total of three occasions, the last being over nine months ago? Where was our sense of solidarity when he was being tortured and abused in prison? Why could our voices not be heard when he was being denied access to critical medical treatment and the right to see his lawyers?
Many will cry that they were unaware which only serves to underscore our culpability in his premature death. If we truly loved and respected this man, we would have exhausted all efforts to find out what had been his fate. For those of us who were aware of his circumstances and who nevertheless did nothing to stop it, then we are even more complicit.
It is worth emphasising that Morsi was a man who recognised the severe consequences he would face by standing his ground. As he boldly declared in what would be his last speech before his detention: “If the price for safeguarding legitimacy is my own blood, then I am prepared to sacrifice it for this country.”
This was not hollow sloganeering or rabble-rousing. This was his response to the very real threat of the military to overthrow him if he did not voluntarily step down. He recognised the threat to his life but also knew that the Egyptian people could not now turn back after so much sacrifice and bloodshed during the revolution.
Morsi, like Hassan al-Banna and Syed Qutb before him, was true to his word remaining steadfast until his final breath.
But what about us? Unfortunately, it seems that what our tongues cried out was not replicated by our actions, raising questions about what is truly embedded in our hearts.
We were more like the people of Kufa at the time of the tragedy of Karbala, the masses who sent thousands of letters to the Prophet’s (saws) grandson Hussain (ra) urging him to come to Kufa to become their leader, only to abandon him at the first moment of difficulty.
When Morsi and the other members of the Muslim Brotherhood disappeared from our screens into the darkness of the dungeons, we forgot all about them and moved on to the next popular cause.
Morsi’s death should be a wake up call for all of us that by failing to stand side by side with the unjustly imprisoned and the oppressed, we are complicit in their fate. Today, the Muslim word is grieving for Morsi but calls for protests outside Egyptian embassies around the world are frankly a case of “too little too late.”
The absence of these demonstrations or any words of protest over the past six years is symbolic of the fact that many from our Ummah is driven by emotion and not principles. Arguments of the futility of such action do not hold water for it is what is being called for today and in any case, President Morsi could have hidden behind the same justifications and resigned from power rather than face the coup, detention, isolation, torture and ultimately martyrdom.
Morsi is only the latest and most high profile Muslim political prisoner to have been martyred by the State. There are thousands of others, not just in Egypt, but across the world from China to India, from Saudi Arabia to the USA, languishing in prisons in the most inhumane conditions.
Think about the last time you went beyond posting something on Facebook about them, if even that. If Morsi’s life and death is to mean anything to us, it will result in a renewed vigour within the Ummah to actively campaign and fight for the release of our political prisoners around the world. The means as to how to do that can be debated but the willingness to do so cannot be compromised.
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