The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged youth
E-Militias of the Muslim Brotherhood

E-Militias of the Muslim Brotherhood: How to Upload Ideology on Facebook

This is a fascinating piece on the Egyptian Muslim Brothers social media propaganda strategy by Linda Herrera and Mark Lotfy for Jaddaliya:

The Brotherhood’s presence on social media is slippery, hard to pin down with precision since much of its activity is camouflaged. It appears that the MB operates on five tiers. First, there is its official presence, as represented with the page of their political party, the Freedom and Justice Party. Second are the pages that initially appeared to be independent, but turned out to be orchestrated platforms with complete loyalty to the Brotherhood.  RNN (shabakat rasd), a news network that is approaching two million “likes,” fits this category. When RNN was first launched on 25 January, 2011 at the start of the Egyptian revolution, its Administrators were anonymous and the page appeared to be an independent entity, though a highly professional and well oiled one. Its masks have since come off and the page is known as a Brotherhood page in all but name. RNN has grown into a regional platform with branches in Libya, Syria, Morocco, Turkey, and Palestine. The third tier are pages with sympathies to the MB whose Admins post or do things in support of the Brotherhood line. Fourth are concealed pages, ones that on the surface do not appear to have anything to do with politics or the MB, but in a critical moment, like prior to the presidential runoff elections, expose themselves as pro-Brotherhood pages. Finally, the fifth tier are the E-militia foot soldiers who—using both real and fake profiles—scout out pages and Facebook discussions to interject points to influence opinion towards the Brotherhood position.

Very important to remember that one of the MB's key beliefs is in the importance of indoctrination, especially of youth. One shudders to think of their plans for the ministries of education or state television. 

In Translation: The Revolutionary Youth Coalition's final report

We're really fortunate to bring to you a long translation of an important document today — one made possible by the upstanding chaps at Industry Arabic, who provide great Arabic translation services and more. If you or your business have need of top-notch translation from Arabic into another language, please give them a try and help them keep on helping us.

The Revolutionary Youth Coalition was the most important umbrella group to emerge out of the protest movement of January 25. It continued to be the main reference and contact point for "youth" for several interlocutors in the months that followed Mubarak's overthrow, holding meetings with state representatives and often representing protestors at national conferences and elsewhere. On July 8, the Coalition announced its dissolution and published the document below —  an examination of its actions, mistakes and successes in the last sixteen months. As the writers note, such self-examination is rare in Egyptian politics, particularly as it has descended into a circus in the last few months. It makes for poignant reading, and I've added a few notes for clarification.

An Account of the Actions of the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth

From the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth Facebook page, July 8, 2012.

We believe that every experience should either continue or end according to facts on the ground and logical reasoning. And — even though it is not standard operating procedure in Egypt — we believe it is necessary that every group and/or political entity submit a transparent and clear account that outlines what the organization has done over time, be it good or bad.

Under exceptional circumstances, like that of the great Egyptian people’s Revolution, we contend that it is our duty to publish this account for the Egyptian public, for they placed their trust in the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth, as well as for those who criticized the organization. This account is also dedicated to the best of Egypt’s youth – the activists and believers in the goals and values of this revolution and similar revolutionary movements – as well as for that sector of the Egyptian elite who did what they could in service to this nation. This is for the admirable victims of this revolution who paid the greatest price and who continue to do so for the sake of this revolution; and this is also for the souls of the revolutionary martyrs who continue to fall – up to today – in anticipation of the day when this nation will achieve freedom and dignity, the day when each Egyptian will receive his demands for “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice.”

Establishment:

The establishment [of the Coalition] was comprised of groups that coordinated with one another before the Revolution and the Coalition’s formation was announced under the name the Revolutionary Youth Coalition in [Tahrir] Square on February 1 [2011]. Its first press conference was held on February 4 with the following organizations at the time of the announcement: the Campaign for Supporting ElBaradei, the April 6 Movement, the Youth Movement for Justice and Freedom, the Youth of the Democratic Front Party, the Muslim Brotherhood Youth, in addition to the following independent individuals: Nasser Abdel Hameed, Sally Toma, and Abdel Rahman Fares. Thereafter, other groups were added, such as the Progressive Youth Union and the Campaign for Supporting Hamdeen Sabahi.

The State:

The Military Council: The Coalition of Revolutionary Youth met with a number of members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces twice. The first session took place in the final days of February, during which conversations focused on two papers the Coalition presented. These two documents had been prepared in detail with a group of nationally respected figures. The first document included [a request] for the resignation of the government of Air Marshal Ahmed Shafik, the abolishment of the Emergency Law, and the dissolution of the State Security Investigation Service; the rest of the demands were associated with democratic transformation. A second socio-economic document included a plan for a timetable for implementing special procedures concerning wages and other demands made by Egypt’s laborers, farmers, and the poor.

The second session was a joint session that brought together the Coalition and the Revolutionary Youth Union with Major General Mahmoud Hijazi. This took place in March. The discussions were haphazard. The most important point was the decision to review the two preceding documents of the previous meeting, in addition to: the discussion about breaking up the journalists’ sit-in in front of Maspero [the state television building], doubts that the virginity-test affair “had not yet been confirmed”, and other issues concerning poor and slow performance and management.

The meetings then ended entirely and definitively after the pre-dawn attack on protesters [in Tahrir Square] on April 9, 2011.

The Government of Dr. Essam Sharaf

Contact with Dr. Essam Sharaf’s government was first undertaken after Dr. Sharaf himself called the Coalition to have a meeting, in which he proposed to the Coalition the same two documents previously mentioned. After a lengthy presentation, he both emphatically welcomed [the ideas] and promised to work [with the Coalition] on implementing the contents of the two documents.

The Coalition was presented with the option of choosing a number of its members for work inside the Cabinet of Ministers as advisors to the Prime Minister in order to create a direct line of communication between him and the revolutionary forces. The Coalition rejected this entirely, confirming that it would become a political supporter of this government only if it sincerely desired to achieve the goals of the Revolution. This in turn compelled the Cabinet of Ministers to rely on other young Egyptians for this endeavor.

A number of Coalition Youth participated in the Council of National Justice, under the Cabinet of Ministers, which was responsible for trying to find radical solutions to the issue of sectarianism and discrimination that developed following [the burning of the Two Martyrs] Church in the village of Sol. The Council’s duty was to draft a legal bill on the standard role of religious practice, as well as the creation of a unit for early warning, especially concerning confessional problems and other similar instances.[1]

A number of Coalition youth also participated in the council responsible for the fund for martyrs and injured persons at a time when the idea had not yet been implemented. All of the participating youth members thereafter definitively refrained from attending the two councils after a number of sessions ended without achieving any of the desired or anticipated goals.

After it became clear to all that this government was weak and without any real power, Dr. Essam Sharaf met with some Coalition members before Friday July 8[2], after a long break at his home. They clearly and candidly demanded from him the resignation [of the government] and that people return to [Tahrir] Square. Dr. Essam Sharaf did not respond. The Coalition then announced in the Square on July 8 that Dr. Essam Sharaf’s government needed to be deposed and that a revolutionary government, endowed with plenary powers, be forcibly established by the will of the Square.

The General Intelligence Services:

The Coalition held one meeting with General Murad Muwafi and a number of members of the Intelligence Agency at the beginning of September. A majority of members attended, but the Justice and Freedom Movement[3] abstained. This is the same period in which the Intelligence Agency held a long series of meetings with a number of civil rights activists, public and political figures, as well as revolutionary movements. A number of respected and well-known public and political figures were also in attendance. On the following day, in order to maintain transparency, the Coalition announced to all media outlets that the meeting was held, as well as the details of everything that had been discussed. This was in accordance with the Coalition’s practice of declaring each of its meetings with the Military Council, as well as with the Government. (We published the draft of the two meetings with them in all newspapers and in press conferences.)

Evaluating the [Coalition’s] Relationship with the Government:

In a number of long conversations about the issue of communication, we faced much criticism representing a broad set of disapproval, ranging from the opinion that continuous and intensive communication was important and that it is wrong to interrupt communication even if there were differences, to the opinion that any and all communication would be a grave mistake. Between these two positions, there were some who believed that nothing is certain in politics and that cooperation must be pursued according to each case and situation.

Relations with the Revolutionary Forces

The Coalition appeared as though it were an umbrella coordinating body representing some of the youth organizations that helped the Egyptians in their grand revolution. On February 1, the establishment of the Coalition was announced, but due to some latent fear of attempts to sabotage the new organization, the Coalition closed down shop. This was an unjustifiable and serious mistake. Attempts at expansion undertaken by the Justice and Freedom Movement and independents actors from the Coalition were unsuccessful, though some small organizations were added to it. We believe that this had soured contact with other respectable revolutionary groups. Afterwards, attempts at rectifying this mistake were undertaken for the sake of the general welfare, through this dispatch of a representative of the Coalition to the Alliance of Movements and Parties.

The People’s Assembly Elections

Differences in opinion arose over elections. Specifically, some from within the Coalition called for boycotting the elections, which resulted in some of the youth abstaining from running the elections and others from participating at all. In general, participation in parliamentary elections was not ideal, insofar as the Coalition at the time was not able to enter the elections as a group. Some of its members preferred to enter the elections on the Egyptian Bloc list, and some others on the Revolution Continues Alliance list; some entered the elections running for independent seats. This was not conducive to creating a situation whereby everyone that might have been nominated for the list of a single electoral alliance could have run in the elections.

Presidential Elections

Since the beginning, there has been a group from within the Coalition – the Egyptian Current Party[4] – that has supported Dr. Aboul Fotouh and has also greatly helped his campaign at the national level. There is another group that did not decide to support any particular candidate, but it did try to help achieve setting up a presidential team that grouped together all the revolutionary candidates. This was undertaken with the help of a number of public figures. Also, a number of other initiatives cooperated, like the Council of 100. But neither these attempts nor the sessions held with the five [major] candidates – both directly and indirectly – were helpful in achieving the desired goal.

Therefore, the situation has continued in this manner. As a result some of the members have chosen to boycott the elections, whereas some other members have continued to support Dr. Aboul Fotouh. The rest have declared their support for Hamdeen Sabahi. Of course, this came at a later time, after which the idea of a presidential project had failed. As for the second round, the majority of Coalition members have decided to boycott the elections, but members of the Egyptian Current Party and the April 6 Movement have decided to support Dr. Mohamed Mursi.

The Intelligence Services and the Million Man Protests

  • The Coalition participated in the popular diplomacy initiative, which was involved in the Nile River Waters case. A number of the Coalition’s members traveled as part of a delegation of public figures to Uganda and Ethiopia.
  • The Coalition participated in the call for some of the important Million Man Protests, starting with the Million Man Protest calling for politically purging the government immediately after the Revolution.
  • Some members of the Coalition participated in some of the campaigns, like the Kazeboon (Liars) Campaign against SCAF.

Letters:

A Letter to the Revolutionary Youth

We are aware that we have erred, that we have at times appeared to be monopolizing dialogue in the name of the Revolution. And we are aware that there are many among you who are better than us in both word and deed, and that there are many of you more suited to contributing to this great Revolution. And we are aware that there are many among you who have paid a price far greater than we have paid. But it is fate that has deemed us to be at this place at this time. We are also aware of the fact that you all hold many reservations concerning some of our practices and our meetings. God knows that in our appearance, in our dialogue, and in the meetings we have held, we have only ever worked for the sake of the Revolution and never for anything else.

A Letter to the Egyptian People

We only hope that you will graciously accept what we have done and forgive us for not fulfilling your expectations and wishes. We hope that you will at least acknowledge the pressure and the confusion we have faced, for this experience has not been easy and the complications involved are beyond most people’s imaginations. There is a whole universe of issues that lies beneath the surface. But every moment we see you in the street and see what you achieved in the parliamentary and presidential elections, this has all served to confirm our faith in the idea of the Revolution. Change is the greatest common variable now and it follows that the responsibility falls on all our shoulders to make this change real.

A Letter to Mr. Hamdeen Sabahi, Dr. Aboul Fotouh and Dr. ElBaradei:

We were not able to approach this [next] step until you all announced that there is a radiant energy emanating from within the formation of a broad national front that can guide the opposition in Egypt over the coming period. We believe that this is perhaps the best and most appropriate thing for the period to come. Everyone should be able to participate in this front; it should be truly representative and reflect the national interests, and it should be a way for accomplishing the goals of the Revolution; similarly it should serve as a reference upon which the Egyptian people can depend.

Finally, since a number of months the Coalition has not played a positive role that has pleased its members or the population at large. But only in name has dialogue continued in the media. We consider this to be an error. Similarly, we do not want to preserve the organization superficially only so that the name itself gains some gravity. Respect for the Revolution requires self-evaluation and criticism. In this context, we have decided to dissolve the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, on the condition that its constituent groups continue to practice their natural role practically. In another context, it could be appropriate for each group to join a broad national front when it is established – God willing – at which time it is also natural that some Coalition members would join as well.

Observations:

  1. Regarding Timing: The decision had been made more than once several months ago to undertake this step, but each time the quick succession of events in Egypt prevented it from happening; it appeared as though the surprises that occurred during the transition period would not end. The idea of announcing to the media the formation of a broad national front after the presidential elections helped.

  2. Regarding the Revolution’s Path: The decision to dissolve the Coalition suggests that the Revolution’s path necessitates different and myriad means, as well as different frameworks, in order to realize its goals in the future. This is especially true if one takes recent developments into consideration.

  3. Regarding Joint Action: The Coalition was composed of organizations that were completely ideologically different, ranging from the far right to the far left. The Coalition was successful many times at reaching a consensus with major participants and in solving disputes democratically. But there were a number of changes that necessitated a new alignment, whereby it could be possible to reach a decision under a different framework. This is due to the fact that the experiment of joint and group action was successful in achieving broad common goals relatively often.


  1. None of this has happened.  ↩

  2. The “Friday of Determination”, which was the largest protest in Tahrir Square since February 11.  ↩

  3. Youth movement of the Muslim Brotherhood.  ↩

  4. Muslim Brotherhood dissidents.  ↩

The Muslim Brothers and their heretics

One of the more significant developments taking place in Egyptian politics in the last few years is the fragmentation of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is perhaps part of a wider erosion of its monopoly on non-violent political Islam in Egypt. The rise of the Salafis may be a cause for concern, but the movement of young Muslim Brothers who left the Brotherhood to form their own movement, joined by major former leaders such as Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Mohammed Habib, is telling of the creation of a wider Islamist identity. And I think that's a good thing, because it dampens the authoritarianism that exists in the Brotherhood's tradition of discipline and hierarchy.

This testimony by a young former Brother is excellent, especially when talking about why he's not tempted to rejoin now that the Brotherhood is in a position to have real influence on society.

On sexuality and social radicalism in Egypt

Amidst all the worry about fundamentalists and military fascists and felool and insecurity in Egypt, the last few days have seen a decidely odd and unexpected phenomenon. First a young woman by the name of Alia Magda al Mahdi, who appears to be dating the formerly imprisoned blogger and radical atheist Kareem Amer, published a nude picture (full-frontal!) of herself on her blog as a an act of defiance (see more about it here). Then we hear about a Facegroup group calling for a "gay day" in Egypt. Not as in happy, but as in LGBTQ. 

Seeing things like this is a little bit of a shell-shock, because people are obsessed with the political process and Egypt's flawed transition all this stuff almost seems silly and juvenile in comparison. I love it all the more for it, although I also worry about Alia's safety and society's response. Egypt, to be blunt about it, is a deeply bigoted and narrow-minded place. Some people may even be angry with her for associating secular/liberal values with what many will simply see as debauchery.

I don't want to get into a discussion about cultural sensitivity and all that, but simply note and applaud the sheer brazenness of acts like this: they are so radical in this society they appear as if they are from another dimension. Societies need that kind of jolt every now and then, and it reminds me how the youth bulge in the demographics of Egypt and many Arab countries will inevitably shatter taboos, as the Baby Boomers did in Europe and the US. We should just remember that protestors of May 68 in Paris, as influential as they were, were dwarfed by the demonstrations of support for De Gaulle, and that the generation that gave us hippies in America gave us many more born-again Christians. 

The Facebook kids meet the generals

Over at the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook group, there  is a fascinating summary of the meeting between some of the young protest organizers and the military. The meeting included Ahmad Maher, Asmaa' Mahfouz (both from 6 April) Wael Ghonim, Khaled El Sayyid, Mohammed Abbas, Amr Salama and Abdul Rahman Samir, a Baradei supporter (not sure why all the members of the revolutionary youth council weren't there) and the post expresses the views of Ghonim and Salama. 

I'm not going to translate the whole thing but here are some highlights:

The meeting is described in very positive terms: "We noticed an absence of paternalism in the conversation ('You don't know your own interest, son.') For the first time we sat with an Egyptian official who listened more than he spoke." Although the young participants did tell the military they should have a better media communications strategy (please! enough with these cryptic SMS messages). 

This is what the military had to say:

- The military does not want power and thinks a civilian government is the only path towards progress. They only want to safeguard the gains of the revolution. 

- Keeping the current government is place is necessary but only until it can carry out the needed changes.

- The military wants to see corruption pursued and prosecuted

- A constitutional committee will be formed during the next 10 days; a new constitution will be voted on in a referendum in 2 months.

- The military encourages the people to take steps towards forming new political parties

- The military will be holding meetings with representatives of all political forces

- They military will supervise a campaign to raise 100 billion pounds in donations repair the damages of the revolution. 

- Egyptians need to go back to work, put their money back in the stock market, and attract tourists again

- Voting in the constitutional referendum and the presidential elections will be just with the national ID card

Ghonim and Salama take all this at face value and say they are convinced of the military's sincerity. There are some promising commitments here, but I am skeptical of several things: how deeply will the military, which controls enormous portions of the Egyptian economy, look into corruption? Why do they get to run a revolution relief fund (with which they will presumably contract themselves to rebuild the country's police stations, etc.)? Yes, the Egyptian economy is important; but this great and self-interested emphasis on getting things back to normal immediately could be detrimental to workers' rights in the long run (the military has said no one is allowed to strike). Last but not least:The military is taking meetings--that's good--but when are we going to see a truly consultative and democratic process put in place? 

 

The year of spontaneous combustion

My new al-Masri al-Youm column is up. This week, I wanted to do something else than the obvious (write about Tunisia or its impact on Egypt), so I decided to be a little more adventurous. Like many people I was aghast at the wave of self-immolations over the last few days, and imagined what might happen if they continue (let's hope they don't). It's written from the perspective of January 1, 2012.

At first, when it began nearly a year ago, many people thought it was just a copycat fad that would soon disappear. Inspired by the events of the Tunisian uprising, people--mainly young men--began to set themselves on fire.

Read the rest.

Links for Jan.10.10 to Jan.11.10
“Lorsque je commençais mon enquête sur le tourisme au Sahara marocain, je n’imaginais pas être prise à témoin d’échanges sexuels” « Ibn Kafka's obiter dicta – divagations d'un juriste marocain en liberté surveillée | On sexual tourism in Western Sahara.
What the "Eurabia" Authors Get Wrong About Islam in Europe - By Justin Vaïsse | Foreign Policy | Critique of Eurabia theory.
The Trials of Tony Judt - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education |
U.S. to store $800m in military gear in Israel - Haaretz | To keep in mind in context of Iran.
Israel and Iran: The gathering storm | The Economist | Interesting story with background on Osirak bombing, Israeli prospects against Iran.
Executive | Magazine has new books section.
Strong reaction to warning of coup - The National Newspaper | Iraqis react to UK ambassador's testimony to Chilcot Enquiry that coup to purge Iran influence still possible in Iraq.
the arabophile | New blog.
Joe Sacco: Graphic History | Mother Jones | Interview with the cartoonist and author of "Footnotes from Gaza."
High cost of living means more unmarried in Egypt | Bikya Masr | Stats on why Egyptians are marrying later.
Arab Reform Initiative | Report on constitutional reforms in the Arab world.
The architecture of apartheid | SocialistWorker.org | On the bantustanization of Palestine.
The Venture of Marty Peretz’s bigotry: Arabs, Muslims, Berbers and more « The Moor Next Door | Kal on the New Republic editor's Islamophobia.
The Forgotten Recantation — jihadica | Interesting post on the recantation of Abbud al-Zommor.
'Bush sold Arab states arms in violation of deal with Israel' - Haaretz - Israel News | Obama, more pro-Israel than Bush: "The Bush administration violated security related agreements with Israel in which the U.S. promised to preserve the IDF's qualitative edge over Arab armies, according to senior officials in the Obama administration and Israel."

Del.icio.us links for November 21st

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