Brotherhood protests

The Muslim Brotherhood is calling for further protests tomorrow, and a campaign of civil disobedience. But the organization hasn't been able to mobilize successfully so far, and faces public resentment, as Nour the Intern, who attended some Islamist protests earlier this week, reports. 

The man in the blue galabeya was at loss. In one hand, he held a large poster of deposed president Mohamed Morsi and in the other an icy cold bottle of water. He stood in the baking heat torn between setting down the poster to uncap his bottle for some much-needed hydration, or awkwardly holding it between his knees. He scanned his environment a clean surface to place the delicate poster. When he found none, he prayed for patience and put it between his knees. Behind him, the bearded men were growing restless.

The protesters' squabbles were interrupted by a sudden bang from above. An adolescent was beating a pot with a spatula in her balcony, proclaiming el-Sisi to be her president, drawing laughs and claps from the loitering passersby, and frowns and prayers for retribution from the protesters. An old woman excitedly poked her head out of her window, opposite to the balcony, to praise the girl and suggest she boil some water in that pot to clean the street.

As they stood there squinting their eyes at the balcony, frozen in anger and anticipation, waiting for the rain to fall so they could bring the building down, four men  shoved a middle-aged protester and his son for giving them a headache and ruining the country. With impressive speed and coordination, four large buckets of water were emptied from different buildings. The water was accompanied by insults, saliva and three slippers.

Shoppers came out of shops, mechanics out from under cars, and women out of their windows; teenage boys let their female counterparts walk without receiving a detailed description of their bodies, to join the fight, or sigh at it. Facepalms outnumbered kicks three to one.

Staring at his surroundings with undisguised disgust, the blue-galabeya man stalked off hugging his poster, leaving his followers to disentangle themselves from the grips of the residents and split up in disagreement. Half went left, half went right.

“That was the dumbest protest in the world,” the blue-galabeya man, el-Hag Ahmed, told his feet. He was resting his forehead on the no-longer-sacred, rolled-up poster at a nearby coffee shop. As someone whose neighborhood only protested once in March 2011 to support Gamal Mubarak and demand that their 15-men-and-one-an-amateur-bellydancer march be covered by Al Jazeera, I bit my tongue.

Earlier this week, an almost identical protest took place in Zamzam Street, Mohandeseen, where the complete lack of organization and leadership; hostile bystanders and residents forced the 90 men who marched in unison (incessantly arguing about whether to forward or backward more than chanting) to march away from each other 15 minutes later, some to Sudan St., others to Mohy Eldeen St.

These mini-rallies, which usually avoid major squares and where participation is limited to area Islamists, says Hag Ahmed (the blue-galabaya man), are all that can be done for now. Some are reluctant to venture out of their neighborhoods, he says, and so they content themselves with these symbolic short-lived protests to keep the fight going and retain self-respect.

The reasons for the complete disarray Brothers are in are many and obvious: the arrests or absence of their leadership (and their sons for can’t-be-good-reasons) and the possibility of violent dispersal and detention looming over any attempted protest have weakened their will to protest with fear and confusion. That and the news of Safwat Hegazi’s claim that he’s always had the political activity of a 9-year-old, while Mohammed Badie pointed his finger at Beltagy, which was met with silent shock and disbelief, was salt to their wounds. It’s not hard to imagine why the battered MB didn’t deliver the large marches they promised last Friday.

This understandably humbled the Brothers and lowered their expectations for this Friday, August 30th, the day of choice to reverse the consequences of June 30.

“Let’s not brag too much. If (the Brothers who brag) know something we don’t, then they should keep it that way, save the element surprise...let God decide if it’s going to be decisive or not,” el-Hag Ahmed advised, trying to mask perceptible dread with cool practicality. Even gutsy young Brothers like Ghofran Salah, who like to share pictures of clenched fists with fiery captions, have echoed strangely similar, if not identical, advice, asking his friends to stop building a hype for the 30th.

What’s far likelier than detention, and is now a genuine concern that many islamists calm by the use of Gillette, is street harassment at the hands of fellow Egyptians, two thirds of whom want them excluded from politics, according to Baseera. Not because of the list of valid reasons to oppose the Brotherhood, but to the new-found belief that all the Brothers -- including, if not especially, everyone that was at the Raba’a al-Adweya sit-in -- are terrorists, even though the official MOI report said that the 1118 Brothers they arrested in Raba’a had a whopping total of 20 weapons. (Kindly forget the fact that prime minister Beblawi offered those same terrorists posts in the new cabinet and that triumphant policemen showed us well over twenty guns that they found by the box loads of in their tents and in nearby buildings in pro-military videos that left one waiting for the bloopers.)

On the other hand, the Islamist media people seem to have skipped town and left a repetitive friend behind to act as anchor and keep the same footage spinning in a tireless loop, showing protests in some obscure little street in an obscure little town breaking the curfew that are often aired under the enlightening title: "The Governorates." This is either followed or preceded by pictures of Gen. AbdelFatah el-Sisi dripping blood from his mouth and a post-Jan 25 documentary about the importance, and lack, of media integrity and of course, the graphic pictures of the Raba'a victims, whose death interestingly didn't warrant the official promise to open an investigation and form a fact-finding committee, to be characteristically ignored along with whatever report they manage to hand in or leak to the press.