Thoughts on the current crisis

* The Brotherhood has badly misread the national mood and its own popularity. In these volatile times, it continues to practice politics as judo -- looking for a sudden, stunning move with which to overpower its opponents and impose its will. Hence a constitutional declaration hatched in secret and sprung on the public. How could the Brotherhood think there would be no backlash -- in a country that has just ridden itself of three-decade-long dictator -- to the overwhelming concentration of power in the hands of a new president? 

* There is great disingenuousness and suspicion on both sides of the current confrontation. The Brotherhood has alleged that the protesters are being manipulated, are thugs, and that they didn't pray on Friday. Meanwhile, it's hard to stomach some of the most egregious Mubarak era figures grandstanding about the need to protect democracy and the independence of the judiciary.

* Sacking the corrupt public prosecutor and re-trying police and regime figures were indeed revolutionary demands. The real problem with Morsi's declaration is its second half (where Morsi sets himself, the consitutent assembly and the Shura council above the law and gives himself sweeping leeway to take measures to defend the revolution). The opposition should make it clear. 

* There is no doubt in my mind that, yes, filul and elements of the so-called deep state -- the ones that supported Shafiq, and have the most to lose from a reform or restructuring of the state bureaucracy -- must be joining in and fomenting the current conflict. One of the difficulties of the current moment is how many different and murky agendas are at play at once. Both sides are convinced that what they are doing is for the greater good. The Brotherhood has stumbled badly but will not admit it; its opposition, while suddenly having found momentum, still lacks cohesion or even clarity. 

* The repeating pattern of events is arresting. I continue to think that calling the Freedom and Justice Party "a new NDP" is lazy and inaccurate. But once again we have a president who is either incapable or unwilling of reigning in his own Ministry of Interior. We have a wall at the end of Kasr El Aini street, and the offices of the ruling party going up in flames. We have rock-throwing 14-year-olds with nothing to lose (their enervated revolt has been the engine of the uprising but the physical and emotional fallout of these cycles of violence will also be its price for many years to come). Tomorrow, we will have rival rallies, parallel narratives and mutual accusations. It is all so strangely familiar. 



Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.