The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Back to Basics

Our latest translation courtesy of the team at Industry Arabic is a column from former National Salvation Front spokesman Khaled Dawoud (he quit over his inability to continue dismissing the Rabaa massacre), which originally appeared here

Back to Basics

When the Tamarrod movement launched in early May and quickly moved to unseat President Mohamed Morsi, the goal was clear and simple: to call for early presidential elections -- once the man that many described as the Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau's representative in the Presidential Palace had proved a failure at managing the country's affairs, with a similar incompetence shown by the rest of his organization as well. This constituted a threat to the future of Egypt itself and the cohesion of Egyptian society, and even brought us to the brink of civil war. Furthermore, those in the movement really did believe the Road Map, the whole July 3 production, and the pledge to swiftly return to the polls for free and fair elections that would grant popular legitimacy to the new regime.

Despite their belief that the Muslim Brotherhood had completely deviated from the revolution's goals, the stated aim of the parties and movements that rose up to defend the goals of the January 25 Revolution was never to crush the Muslim Brotherhood, imprison its entire leadership and ban them from political activity – and of course not to kill them and mow them down in the hundreds. The actors who are now moving in this direction belonged to a different current that is completely unrelated to the January 25 Revolution; they are the ones who have considered the revolution from the start to be a conspiracy to put an end to their power, influence and corruption, a conspiracy launched by the Muslim Brotherhood with support from Hamas, Iran, America and the whole familiar list. The current trend toward exclusion is backed by those who belong to intellectual currents that have always considered the Brotherhood's ideology to be an obscurantist project at odds with the principles of the Nahda and Egypt's progress toward joining the ranks of the European democracies. In my view, these people do not represent the majority in Egypt's secular parties of any orientation, whether liberal, leftist or nationalist, since to put it simply, Egypt isn't France.

The truth remains that the supporters of these two currents – the old state that has been in place since 1952 with its entire apparatus of repression, murder and a duplicitous, state-controlled media along with those in certain intellectual circles who can be labeled as "exclusionists," have utterly failed to achieve the goal of crushing and excluding the Muslim Brotherhood over the past 80 years since the Brotherhood was founded. Even with all its brutality, Mubarak's police state failed to inflict a crushing defeat on the al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya that was at the forefront of the terrorist attacks in the 1990's, even though their organizational strength and popular base can hardly be compared to that of the wealthy Muslim Brotherhood, which possesses an international organization spread across more than 80 countries. The former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, who is now cooped up in a prison cell, was forced to make concessions to pave the way for a partial restoration of security and to put an end to the daily acts of violence committed by al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya and Islamic Jihad.

Certainly, the Muslim Brotherhood was stubborn, smug and arrogant up to the last moment. They tried to hold a monopoly on speaking in God's name and in the name of Islam and totally refused to recognize that there was broad opposition to their policies. They succeeded at alienating a broad spectrum of society and state institutions, which made it impossible for them to continue managing the country's affairs, even if Morsi did win in fair elections. Morsi lost his ability to govern, not just his legitimacy. Added to that, there was the whole spectacle of the sit-ins at Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda Square, which dragged on for 47 days, turning the lives of Cairo residents into a living hell with their occupation of the city's main arteries and their violent – not peaceful -- protests.

Furthermore, their media discourse was directed primarily toward the West in bid to win its support. This was due to their firm conviction that Western and American support is the only way for them to possibly return to power – although this is in fact impossible. In pursuit of this goal, Egyptian mothers did not hesitate to abandon the least drop of motherhood and parade their infant children before the cameras as they breathe in tear gas. These women insisted on staying just to shoot such a scene, or force their children in Rabaa al-Adawiya or al-Khamsa to wear burial shrouds and say they are "martyrdom projects" while "Morsi is my president, al-Sisi is a killer."

Their discourse toward us, the Egyptians, on the platform in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square was all menace and threats and plunging into the fires of hell, sectarian appeals explicitly threatening to set Upper Egypt and its churches and Christians on fire if the sit-ins were broken up, and crossing red lines in a way we have never seen before in our political existence. This was along with direct appeals to open up fractures in the army and without any scruple to avoid a repeat of the Syrian scenario in Egypt with all its brutality. For a large swathe of Egyptians, these behaviors confirmed that the Brotherhood places the interests of their organization and clan first – ahead of Egypt – and they thereby lost a great bit of the sympathy that had enjoyed among average Egyptians, who love their army – even if only by dint of the mobilization and media discourse they have been subject to over the past six decades since the army-led 1952 Revolution.

Then to make matters worse, they went and tarred everyone with the same brush, thinking that their enemies are all Mubarak supporters and "feloul," refusing to believe that comrades from the January 2011 Revolution were a pillar of the movement that ended up deposing Morsi only one year after he attained office – a historical development that not even the most optimistic Brotherhood leader would have dreamed of two and a half years ago. However, they squandered this opportunity through stupidity and arrogance, along with the belief that they possess the absolute truth, forgetting that they lack the expertise and skills to run the country. As a result, the basic rules of logic and necessity demanded that they work on building alliances and abiding by the promises that Morsi personally made in the famous Fairmont agreement with prominent national figures days before it was announced that he had won the presidency.

However, all this does not mean tolerating or shrugging off the killing of Egyptians by unaccountable security forces. This is not the state that millions of Egyptians launched a revolution in order to build in January 2011. The basic assumption that the Muslim Brotherhood has turned into a terrorist organization that will be eliminated and silenced just through violence is completely wrongheaded. It will cause a further deterioration in the situation and will give the Brotherhood's leadership exactly what it wants.

Everyone knows that the Brotherhood leadership longs for the security forces to commit murder and bloodshed as part of a clear strategy based on the idea that this is what will push the UN Security Council to convene and possibly issue an official statement with the magic words calling for the Egyptian government to "respect legitimacy," i.e. to restore Morsi to power. If the killing mounts, we will soon hear the Muslim Brotherhood leadership calling for the international community to intervene directly in Egypt under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. We cannot allow ourselves to go down that slippery slope.

What we need now is to get back to basics. Putting a stop to the bloodshed is the number one priority, since the nation and its future are at stake. These basics are the reasons the people rose up in the January 25 Revolution, and what the supporters of the old police state are clearly trying to root out: bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity.