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Siding with freedoms against terrorism

Victory in the battle against terrorism is assured if the bond between the people and the state is maintained through the state's respect of the law, human rights and freedoms

Ahmed El-Sayed Al-Naggar , Sunday 12 Jul 2015

Those who underestimate Egypt and its might, its people's sturdiness and its army's bravery, are wrong. This nation, that founded patriotism and made it part of humanity's conscience, is capable of building and rising above all hardships.

Perhaps the absurd plans of the so-called Islamic State, backed by weapons, petrodollars, gas royalties, the Ottomans and the West, may find ground in states split by tribal, ethnic and sectarian divisions and that have a divided or a weak army, or vulnerable or treasonous members within it that can be seduced. As for Egypt, these terrorist insects, whatever their name is, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) to all the devil's brothers and ISIS, are clashing with a people unified through the ages and ingenious in rallying in decisive moments, backed by a gigantic army that believes in the sanctity of the country's lands and that protects the national memory since its revival in the 19th century at the hands of Muhammad Ali and his great son Ibrahim Pasha.

After its revival, this army destroyed the Wahhabis and smashed the nightmarish Ottoman occupation of Egypt and the whole of the Arab Levant. It even punished the tattered Ottoman state through crushing its army completely, occupying its lands and made its entire fleet surrender in Alexandria. One of the consequences of this outstanding performance is that the whole of Europe with its west and east conspired against Egypt after they were scared of its might and the potency of its valiant army.

This army is the same army that rose from the 1967 defeat with the sturdiness of Egypt's mighty people to record legendary heroics in the War of Attrition and the Great Crossing (the 6 October War).

When the terrorist attack happened in Sheikh Zuwaid and the state was late in presenting facts and statements, some revenge-mad fanatics inside and outside Egypt tried to portray it as the beginning of change similar to that in Syria and Libya. However, the Egyptian army's foiling of this futile terrorist attempt has blown away all sinister desires that this change take place, which is totally improbable in Egypt due to its solid patriotic social fabric and its brave army's robustness.

Contrary to any doom and gloom outlook, the assembly of the terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula facilitates crushing them and raises optimism not pessimism. Moreover, it raises the issue of the political settlement with the Zionist entity and the necessity of modifying its provisions in a way that permits Egypt's army to permanently and fully deploy its forces in Sinai to establish security and stability. The imbalanced and humiliating settlement, which President Sadat made with the Zionist entity, has left most of Sinai empty of army forces. Thus, violent and terrorist groups thrived, becoming incubators of terrorism there. This terrorism with its assemblies and leaderships received special care during the rule of Mohamed Morsi and his group, thereby exacerbating its danger.

Fault and international experiences

Despite that both the terrorist attack in which the martyr Prosecutor-General Hicham Barakat was assassinated, and the number of martyrs in the Sheikh Zuweid attack point to the necessity of upgrading Egypt's security efficiency, readiness and alertness of forces in dealing with terrorism, such faults are always possible in every kind of work. This does not mean that we should ignore accountability and make corrections in a straightforward manner. Faults are probable even in the most established and most technically modernised and upgraded security bodies and armies. If not so, how did 9/11 occur in the United States, or the bombings in London, Tokyo and Paris and elsewhere?

Those who are fond of talk about faults, standing before it in a kind of schadenfreude, should go back to history that keeps a record of great mistakes committed by security bodies and gigantic armies. Some of military and security faults were a gateway to transformations and innovations in security and military strategies.

For instance, at the beginning of World War II, the huge Soviet army stood ready on the borders with Nazi Germany, which embodied the capitalist aggressive obsession in its meanest and vilest form. However, Nazi Germany concentrated its attack on a gap between two Soviet armies, making a breakthrough, besieging one of the armies, killing and capturing large numbers of soldiers, and hence forcing the gigantic Soviet army to retreat. Afterwards, Leningrad, the second Soviet capital, was besieged and Nazi forces rushed towards the first capital, Moscow, reaching its outskirts. Moscow withstood German bombing and pushed the attackers away, so they moved towards another huge city, Stalingrad (Volgograd), which witnessed the battle that determined the fate of World War II. Soviet forces crushed the criminal German attack, killing and capturing hundreds of thousands of Germans. Soviet armoured forces rushed to meet their German counterpart in the plains surrounding the city of Kursk where the biggest tank battle in history took place. Soviet forces crushed the Germans and hurried towards their capital, Berlin, the world centre of evil and criminality at the time, which fell under the boots of the Soviet army. Thus the criminal legend of Nazi Germany was terminated.

The strategic (and military) lesson of this war and of the Soviet error at its beginning was: it is impermissible to leave a gap between two armies without protection in the form of a strong firing arc capable of preventing any attempt to penetrate it. This experience did not prevent its repetition in other wars, including the 6 October War when President Sadat, who had limited military expertise having spent most of his life as a civilian, insisted on pushing the division assigned to protect the gap between the Second and the Third Army to the heart of Sinai, leaving this gap without protection and thus allowing Zionist forces to cross over to the west bank of the Suez Canal, trying to besiege the city of Suez and the Third Army.

The second lesson was that the people's solidarity with the army and the people's engagement with it in defending their homeland can make miracles and record acts of bravery that amount to legends. This is similar to what happened when the city of Leningrad withstood the German siege for 900 days and the Soviet army broke the siege and vanquished the herds of Nazi German criminals that were besieging it. The Egyptian city of Suez repeated such heroism in the October War in 1973 and recorded a legendary steadfastness in the face of criminal Zionist attacks aimed at storming it. Suez sacrificed convoys of martyrs but it did not surrender and achieved a resounding victory for the homeland and humanity against the Zionist criminal killing and destruction machine.

The people and the state

In this fateful moment Egypt is sending its sons to a real war for the sake of protecting its identity, borders, its people's security and its everlasting unity through the sturdiness of its great people and valiant army. This moment cannot tolerate schadenfreude or neutrality for they are a betrayal of the homeland in a moment of real war.

Perhaps the Egyptian people are one of the peoples among the most aware on earth concerning the importance of the state, due to Egypt's ancient history and its great and bitter experiences. Egypt was the country that founded the first state and civilisation in human history in the sixth millennium BC. This was the first unity of Egypt. The world at the time was steeped in darkness and the small and scattered human communities on the world's map were in the first stage of barbarity before history and civilisation.

Afterwards, Egypt disintegrated for 1,000 years during which the people went through the worst of conflicts between provinces. However, Egypt regained its unity starting with the reign of King Menes at the end of the fourth millennium BC, or approximately 3,200 BC until now, through its people's will and the might of its courageous army. Egypt established a state that grounded civilisation and the human conscience while other human communities the world over were scattered and barbarous except for small pockets in Sumer (Iraq) and some of the great river valleys in Asia. Due to the scourges that ancient Egyptians suffered in the age of disintegration, they elevated the unified state into a deity in stature; its power and unity was an ultimate objective the greatest of sacrifices paid for.

In spite of the certainty that Egypt will remain unified, strong and mighty forever and will squash the herds of terrorists, blowing them off the horizon like dust, and will prosper with a radiant face through the ages, there is much to do and necessary policies to elaborate for Egypt at the present time.

Idiotic calls for suppressing freedoms

If terrorism deserves to be hit hard with an iron fist in order to root out terrorists, many revenge-mad fanatics and stupid calls, which pose a threat to the values of the state and government, were launched recently under the pretext of fighting terrorism. I mean all the calls that advocate ignoring human rights and freedoms during the war against terrorism. It is a call that contradicts categorically the idea of fighting terrorism itself. The war against terrorism is a war against criminal currents that confiscate individual and society rights and freedoms of choice. It imagines that committing some terrorist crimes may destroy stability and the state, or constitute pressure over society and the state so that they accept backward, extremist and terrorist options or reconcile with terrorists. It is unbelievable for those who wage a war against this terrorism to accept calls for ignoring human rights and freedoms because such conditions would not differ much from those preferred by terrorists.

Consolidating the bond between the people and the state

If the battle against terrorism is the battle of the people, their state, and their army against gangs of backward extremist terrorists, then victory is assured when the bond between the people and the state is fulfilled through the state and its bodies respecting the law, applying it justly on everyone, on an equal footing, and respecting the human rights and freedoms of good-natured people. This respect should be manifest in how the ordinary man is treated by the state's bodies — in police stations, by sovereign bodies, governmental administrations, and agencies. It should also be manifest in the ordinary man's right to enroll in the Police Academy, military colleges and judicial bodies if his academic and physical qualifications permit him, and also in joining different state bodies and agencies whenever vacant jobs are available, provided that he has the necessary qualifications.

It is a fact that the bonds between the people and the state and its bodies are maximised when the state finds solutions for unemployment, poverty, provides educational and healthcare services for citizens free of charge, or mostly free, develops infrastructure and achieves economic development that guarantees a rise in standards of living.

However, even in the case of slow or stalled development, the state's respect for the law, its application on everyone on an equal footing, and the absence of those who are above the law and those beneath it, observance of social justice and taking the necessary measures to realise it are enough for consolidating the bond between the people and the state and its bodies. 

The real danger in any war between the state and terrorism lies in citizens being neutral due to the tyranny of some government bodies over them. In spite of the existence of some erroneous practices in this context, the historical belief of Egyptians in the state is capable of sustaining the strong bond between them.

However, for a rising state aiming at building a new future founded on the legitimacy of the people's 25 January 2011 Revolution, which overthrew a corrupt and despotic rule, and its huge second wave in 30 June 2013, which overthrew religious fascism, reformation of governmental bodies, aimed at consolidating the people/state bond, based on respecting human rights and freedoms and consent, and not just fear of the state, is deserved.

Despite the importance of the step of releasing some youth who were tried according to the protest law, which actually curtails the right to peaceful demonstrations, the majority of those released belong to religious currents that are by nature sectarian and antagonistic to freedoms and nearer to violence. There is no harm in releasing those who were not involved in violence, but there are considerable numbers of peaceful youth who struggled against Mubarak's despotic and corrupt rule, and the fascism and sectarianism of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood organisation's rule, languishing in prisons due to verdicts based on that law. They composed the most vital mass that was ready to sacrifice within the 30 June coalition and under Muslim Brotherhood rule. 

This law must be modified, its victims be redressed and the bonds of that large coalition regained, which are necessary for Egypt's fateful battle against terrorism and takfiri groups. In the context of building with a view towards upgrading the regime and the state to befits Egypt's stature, there are matters of extreme importance, such as holding the symbols of Mubarak's rule accountable for their crimes in political corruption, forging the people's will, financial corruption, robbing public funds and destroying what previous generations and governments produced through the corrupt privatisation programme, and restoring public funds from their money and assets they seized inside Egypt. These matters will consolidate the people's support for Egypt's fateful battle against terrorism and those backing it, locally, regionally and internationally.

Regaining Syria and joining forces against terrorism

Egypt's fateful battle against terrorism starts, in fact, by standing with those confronting it in Syria and Libya. If, for instance, a kind of solidarity was made with Syria in the face of ISIS, the terrorist Al-Nusra Front and "Free" Syrian Army insects, the terrorists would not have expanded and moved to other countries, or posed any threat to Egypt.

Despite the intertwining relationships and regional alliances of Egypt, its strategic interests require that it should adopt decisive measures, siding with Syria in confronting terrorism and fully restoring relations with it, which were cut during Muslim Brotherhood sectarian and extremist rule. It is certain that the success of the Syrian state in its war against terrorism is warding off a danger threatening the rest of the region's countries. As for the countries that have financed and armed the evil terrorist sectarian herds from Al-Nusra Front to ISIS, along with the Salafists with their backwardness and sectarianism, this black magic will turn against them and it will be too late for regret.

The writer is chairman of the board of Al-Ahram Establishment.

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