One of the reasons democracy has not really taken roots in much of the contemporary world is that some groups still remain aligned to the status quo -- reactionary forces in our society. They apparently prefer to join a democratic system, and then invent ways to hijack its terminology and misuse its tools to destroy it from within. As such groups can be found the world over, sadly India is no exception.
A case in point is the protest, organized by the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, the Association for Protection of Civil Rights and the Students Islamic Organisation of India, against the recent visit of Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to New Delhi to attend India-Africa Forum Summit.
The organizers said in a press statement:
"Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is guilty of occupying power after ousting a democratically elected legitimate government in an illegal and immoral way and is responsible for brutally killing and arresting thousands of people. It is, therefore, extremely sad that India, a bastion of democracy, has invited an anti-democracy and fascist dictator such as Sisi. This move by the government goes against the nature and will of the democracy-loving masses, and is therefore condemnable and reprehensible.
"[T]he dictatorial regime of Sisi continues to wreak havoc upon the people of Egypt, with thousands killed and tens of thousands illegally detained and punished without a fair trial. The Egyptian economy is in shambles, and inflation and unemployment have reached unmanageable levels."
Although many of those words appear aligned with democratic values, it is not hard to see that such groups are hardly democratic. These groups have, in their statement, shown a preference for the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood at the expense of the relatively moderate Sisi regime that replaced it.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928, in reaction to the abolition of the Caliphate by Turkey's legendary reformist ruler, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in 1924. The credo of the Muslim Brotherhood is: "Allah is our goal, the Quran our constitution, jihad our path and to die for Allah our highest aspiration." The organization's coat-of-arms displays two swords, presumably symbolizing its militant mission. Its goal is seemingly the unity of all Islamic nations under the wings of Sharia [Islamic religious law] and the return of the Caliphate.
According to at least one Middle Eastern expert based in Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood has spawned a number of organizations, including Hamas and al Qaeda. In Egypt it is represented by the Jihad, Al-Takfir wa al-Hijra; Al-Nagounmin al-Nar; in the Palestinian territories, by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Army and People's Army; in Tunisia by al Nahda; in the Philippines by Abu Sayyaf; in Indonesia by al Jamaa al Islamiya; in Syria by Jabhat al Nusra; in Israel by the Islamic Movement.
Hundreds of other organizations and commercial companies have also branched out from the Muslim Brotherhood.
In addition, the Muslim Brotherhood seems to have inspired the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, notorious for the trampling of human rights of those who do not toe the Muslim Brotherhood line -- in particular, minorities such as the Christians, Yazidis, Shiites, Alawites and Kurds.
Tellingly, the groups protesting against the Sisi visit did not protest against any other leader who attended the summit from all 54 African nations (except Libya).
The human rights situation across Africa remains grim, especially regarding the democratic process and fair trials. Violations of rights also include extrajudicial execution, mutilation, and rape. And although basic universal rights for children include sanitation, clean water, and education, most Sub-Saharan countries barely provide them.
The same groups chose not to protest against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who attended the summit. The International Criminal Court has long sought his arrest on charges stemming from the conflict in the Darfur region in western Sudan from 2003 onwards; they include war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Bashir's regime has also been accused of repression and the ethnic cleansing of Darfur's non-Arab population.
The groups also failed to protest against Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, a leading figure in a coup d'état in August 2005 that deposed President Maaouya Quid Sud'Ahmed Taya. In August 2008, he led another coup that toppled President Sidi Quid Cheikh Abdallah. Afterwards, Aziz became President of the High Council of States as part of a political transition leading to a new election. He resigned from that post in April 2009, contested in the July 2009 presidential election and manipulated the whole process to win it.
The situation of human rights in Mauritania is also appalling. More than 155,000 people still remain in slavery there. Mauritania, in fact, has the highest prevalence slavery in the world: an estimated four percent of its population. Slavery is apparently entrenched in Mauritanian society by tradition; and the Mauritanian government seems to have no intention of ending it. Apparently as lip service to eradicating slavery, Mauritania passed a new anti-slavery law this year, but has yet to start jailing slave-owners instead of anti-slavery activists. The government has yet to release award winning anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeid, arrested last year for organizing a peaceful demonstration against slavery.
People are taught in Mauritania's Islamic religious schools that slaves are the property of their masters and can be passed along as inheritance, and that women slaves must submit their bodies to their masters.
And they did not protest against Burundi's President, Pierre Nkurunziza, who just won a contested third term. Britain, the U.S. and others have condemned the election as not credible due to the harassment and intimidation of the opposition, rights activists, journalists and voters. Burundi's constitution stipulates that a president can serve for two terms only. The opposition claims Nkurunziza's decision breached a 2006 accord to end a disastrous civil war that lasted 13 years and left at least 300,000 people dead.
According to The Guardian, ever since he announced he would stand for office again, the country has been gripped by dread. Street protests were put down by a brutal police response in April. "Treating largely peaceful demonstrators and entire residential areas as part of an insurrection was counter-productive and escalated rather than defused protests," according to Amnesty International.
The Amnesty International report goes on to say that, since April, more than 167,000 people have fled the country; and that a number of dissident army generals, journalists, opposition politicians and members of the president's CNDD-FDD party who opposed Nkurunziza remain in exile.
But members of the organizations who protested Sisi evidently do not care.
In India, they have continued to disregard or gloss over reports of gross rights violations, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other theocracies that have at best little respect for the rights of anyone other then members of their own ruling religious sects.
Many theocracies have little-to-no respect for law; freedom of expression; equal justice under the law; freedom of (or from) religion; for women's rights; tolerance of homosexuals or other sexual preferences -- but they condone the sexual assault of children.
Anyone questioning the authorities' interpretation of Islam is dealt with in a barbaric fashion, from the 2am "knock on the door" to sham trials, public floggings, protracted imprisonment, rape, beatings, torture and extrajudicial murder. In some countries, the lawyers who represent such clients are also murdered.
One hopes that the enlightened sections of civil society in India will remain ever vigilant about the activities of such groups. When no one is out there to protect freedom and democracy, groups masquerading as democratic forces move in to serve the designs of their masters.
Jagdish N. Singh is a senior Indian journalist based in New Delhi, India.