We have again witnessed intense protests in Egypt following President Mohamed Morsi’s expanding his sphere of authority by issuing new decrees within the framework of constitutional amendments.

Alarmed by Morsi’s expansion of his powers, people have again expressed their unease by holding protests in Tahrir Square.

So why did Morsi resort to this new constitutional arrangement? Is he looking to make a gentle transition to a new period of dictatorship? Or is Morsi justified in his actions? We saw a deeply rooted dictatorship in Egypt over the past few decades. Like all well-rooted autocracies, the Mubarak regime had branches all over Egypt. But what happened to these branches following the removal of Hosni Mubarak? We have seen how influential figures from Mubarak’s system (and who have been of little assistance in Egypt’s transition to democracy) were openly favored and have an enjoyed an unofficial and unspoken immunity. It would perhaps have been unreasonable to expect powerful and poisonous cliques dating back decades to disappear overnight.

The camel charges against the protestors in Cairo are certainly one of the more unforgettable images of the public uprising in Egypt.

Those accused of responsibility in that action, in which several people lost their lives, were brought before the courts, but no convictions followed. So was Morsi, who clearly realized that the judiciary was not be trusted, expected to keep silent in the face of this? Of course not. Morsi took the steps required of him by the crowds protesting the release of the suspects in the camel charge incident and intervened in a system that had been corrupt for years. Whichever country it may be, any member of the forces involved in regime change has always had to take action in order to get rid of elements of the old regime, and put the new one on a proper footing.

Bearing in mind the punishments meted out to remnants of the opposition in Marxist coups and transitions to communist regimes in the past, Morsi is in fact treating his own opposition with a great deal of moderation and again looking for a solution via constitutional means.

An unfinished regime prepares the way for the sudden end of renewal. I am not for the moment unduly worried as Morsi needs more time and power to correct the deeply flawed structure he has inherited; bear in mind that Egypt under Mubarak was an autocratic dictatorship, and it is unrealistic to expect the deeply entrenched apparatus of that dictatorship to merely walk away from its decadeslong grasp on power with a smile and a cheerful wave goodbye.

So will there be democracy in Arab countries? That would seem unlikely in the immediate future. In order for there to be a sound democracy in these countries, the conservative masses need to be told that democracy is compatible with Islam, that it does not reject Islam and that it is a guarantee for those who believe in a secular system.

The Koranic verse “There is no compulsion in religion” is the greatest backing for secularism. Allah reveals in the Koran that, “To you your religion and to me mine. I’m not going to believe what you believe and you won’t believe what I believe.”

Therefore, the supposedly theological pretext for forcing someone who does not wish to be a Muslim to convert is eliminated.

When these countries can guarantee to their peoples that they will maintain their religious structures when they are democratic and secular, then we will see that a democracy in which everyone is equal is indeed possible.

The writer is a peace activist. She graduated from istanbul University and hosts a TV show in Turkey.

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