Novelist Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid: The Brotherhood has lost the street

Dina Ezzat , Sunday 30 Jun 2013

Renowned Egyptian novelist Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid says the 30 June protests are about correcting the path of a people's revolution gone awry, and that the youth should now lead

Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid
Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid (Photo: Ahram)

“The camera is moving slowly to capture the images on the ground of the field; the viewers must be anticipating a scene of a young man that was shot down but instead it is just the dog that was killed … the young man is still there on his feet … He walks to pick up a woman that was wounded during the clashes and carries her — despite his pain."

This could have been a scene from developments that unfolded Friday evening in Alexandria in what is seen by many as prelude to the 30 June demonstrations. Rather, it is a few lines from a novel that the Alexandria-born novelist Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid wrote in his trilogy about Egypt, specifically Alexandria, in the past few decades.

The three-part Alexandria Trilogy reflects on something that Abdel-Meguid is convinced is "an integral part of the Egyptian character that has been diluted with the socio-religious influences that attacked Egypt from some of the oil rich traditional Gulf societies" but was regained with the growing number of youth in Egyptian society: "determination."

Correcting the path

“Today, we are living in a country that has endless political and socio-economic challenges, but it doesn’t really matter because of we have a generation of young people, who are the vast majority of Egyptian population, and who have shown a unique ability to live up to the challenges and to face these challenges not just with strength but with a great deal of creativity as well,” Abdel-Meguid told Ahram Online in interview on the first anniversary of the inauguration of President Mohamed Morsi.

Throughout the first year of the Morsi's rule, Abdel-Meguid says, Egyptians have come to conclude that Morsi "for one reason or another is not up to the job" and that their lives are "not getting any better, maybe the opposite, and that there is no clear prospect for improvement.”

This realisation, according to Abdel-Meguid, was not difficult to come to. “What was difficult was to think of a way to have it announced in a way that takes into consideration that Morsi is an elected president: hence the Rebel movement (Tamarod) that has been garnering the support of millions of Egyptians to 'withdraw confidence' from the failed president. This is the beauty and the strength of Tamarod,” Abdel-Meguid said.

It is the call of Tamarod, he added, that is giving “a unique momentum’ to nationwide demonstrations protesting the performance of the president throughout his first year in office.

“The 30 June demonstrations are essential to fix the mistakes that have been unfolding since the January 25 Revolution forced Hosni Mubarak to step down. It is picking up from the day Mubarak stepped down on 11 February 2011 and trying to fix the path that got so convulted.”

Abdel-Meguid assures that the 30 June demonstrations will begin on the day but will last for as long as it takes to get early presidential elections scheduled. “Again and again, I keep saying it: the 30 June demonstraitons are not just about the failure of Morsi's rule, but are also about the failures of the transitional phase. On 30 June, the people are picking up what was left unaccomplished on 11 February 2011 — setting the right rules for democratic transition, rather replacement of one military-based dictator with a religion-based dictator,” he said.

Forces must unite

In many ways this novelist, whose literary production demonstrates great sensitivity to and awareness of the topography of social changes in Egypt, is not blaming the way things are on Morsi and the Brotherhood, or on the military that took over from Mubarak the day he stepped down until Morsi was inaugurated 30 June 2012. “If we want to be fair, it is Hosni Mubarak who is really to blame; it was him who stripped the country through 30 years of rule of any political potential. The Muslim Brotherhood, and for that matter other political Islamist groups, survived because they were underground,” he said.

To a lesser degree, Abdel-Meguid also blames revolutionary forces for failing to be united behind one leader. “There was no revolutionary leader; the movements were divided. Inevitably the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had to deal with the one united power that was on the ground — the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “Today, we need to avoid falling in the same trap again. We need to be ready with an alternative once we manage to force Morsi to agree to early presidential elections,” he added.

Abdel-Meguid is hoping that collective support goes to one of the "youthful faces of the revolution." Having voted himself for the youngest of all presidential candidates, lawyer and activist Khaled Ali, who is in his 40s, during the first phase of the presidential elections, Abdel-Meguid is convinced that Ali could still be a good candidate.

For Abdel-Meguid, the fight to get Morsi to bow to the will of demonstrators calling for early presidential elections will not be easy. Morsi, he suggested, would probably follow the same cycle Mubarak followed before he agreed to give in to the demands of the people. “He will try to use the media and the mosques, but it will not be easy, because the mistakes of the Morsi-Muslim Brotherhood rule go way beyond matters of concern to intellectuals and the elite, into matters of the daily life of all Egyptians who are finding it harder to make ends meet,” he argued.

In any event, Abdel-Meguid said, “time has run out for Morsi to make a deal or a compromise. The political momentum is on, and is for all I can see unstoppable. When the people take to the streets in large masses it is the people that is in charge,” he argued.

The youth must lead

Abdel-Meguid suggests the Muslim Brotherhood, who used to enjoy the respect of many for holding the moral high ground, and the support of many more due to their wide social network, along with sympathy due to state persecution, have lost almost any sympathy outside their distinct membership or the following of Islamist groups.

“The Muslim Brotherhood have lost the street,” he stated.

The removal of Morsi and the pursuit of early presidential elections will not, according to Abdel-Meguid, lead to an immediate sense of stability. “It will take a while. There is so much dust and it has to all settle down, and there is so much apprehension and it has to be addressed,” he argued.

“The important thing is to have the youth at the leadership because their energy and creativity could lead the way towards a better tomorrow,” he added.

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