The patriotic choice

Hany Ghoraba
Friday 15 May 2020

Ramadan television series The Choice, currently being shown on Egyptian TV, accurately depicts what is at stake in the ongoing war on terrorism in Egypt

The Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliate in Sinai known as the Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis have not spared a chance to remind the Egyptian people of the inhuman nature of their members. This was manifested one more time during the first week of the Holy Month of Ramadan, after the attack on a check point in North Sinai killing 10 soldiers before Iftar.

The terrorist attack once again reminded the nation of the brutal character of these terrorists who claim to be fighting for freedom and democracy. Following the attack, the Egyptian police and army led a massive retaliation campaign against the hideouts of the terrorists, killing 146 in the days that followed and destroying 22 hideouts.

Despite the massive victories over the Muslim Brotherhood and the destruction of its organisational infrastructure across the country over the past seven years, there are still those who follow the hallucinations of this cult. This takes place through their following the teachings of founder Hassan Al-Banna or the godfather of modern terrorism Sayed Qotb  or the radical clerics who promote bloodbaths. While the vast majority of the Egyptian population has made it their choice to uphold the tenets of this great nation, there are still those who are willing to sell those tenets cheaply to hostile regimes and even fight on their side against their own countrymen. 

A Ramadan TV drama has come as a pleasant surprise to Egyptian and Arabic-speaking viewers in the Middle East. Ikhtiyar (The Choice) is the first TV series that accurately depicts the ferocious war on terrorism that has been going on in Egypt since 2011. The marvelous production standards of the show help to present at a near realistic level the kind of military operations that have hardly been seen before in any Egyptian TV drama and equal to the best global cinematic standards. 

The Choice stars talented actor Amir Karara, who delivers the performance of a lifetime along with an assortment of some of Egypt’s most talented veteran and young actors. Many box-office stars and veteran actors were happy to appear as guest stars or even in cameo roles in the series in order to contribute to the resounding success it has been enjoying. But the amazing performances and overall production would not have been possible without the flawless work of the young and talented Egyptian director Peter Mimi, who has presented artistic work befitting a world-class director. 

The TV series commemorates the life of Egyptian army officer colonel Ahmed Al-Mansi, who commanded the 103rd unit of the Thunderbolt Forces in North Sinai. He died heroically in July 2017 in a suicide bombing that targeted his unit, having attained legendary status during his years in service through hundreds of successful raids and special operations against terrorists and paving the way to the destruction of the bulk of the Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and other terrorists allied to the Islamic State (IS) group in Sinai.  

The series also depicts the life of disgraced former army officer Hisham Ashmawi, played by Ahmed Al-Awadi, who joined Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis before forming his own terrorist group. Ashmawi was captured in Libya and extradited to Egypt and was later executed for high treason in March this year. 

The Choice depicts the patriotic choices made by millions of Egyptian soldiers whether in the army or the police to serve their country’s security in the face of traitors such as Ashmawi who walked the path of treachery by committing atrocities against their own country and countrymen in the name of jihad. 

Its episodes are seamless and utilise both real and cinematic footage. It presents some harsh realities and exposes the existence of a fifth column within society that has been working in the service of the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamist factions.

The choice that the Egyptian people made in the 30 June 2013 Revolution to oust treacherous former president Mohamed Morsi is depicted in the TV series, with this being a clear message from the people that Egypt will never be turned into a theologically governed country under any circumstances such as has been the case of Iran. The secular nature of the Egyptian republic, which the Islamists are trying to bury with the help of a few foolish politicians, clergymen, media anchors and others, remains the cornerstone of keeping Egypt away from the clutches of the Islamists in the future. 

It is time to recognise the fact that thousands of Egyptian soldiers and citizens have paid with their lives in order to uphold that patriotic choice, and this stands as testimony to the strength of the country’s foundations. However, there should be no mistake in declaring a victory over terrorism and Islamism too soon, as the war continues, and the recent attack on the North Sinai outpost serves as a reminder that the war on terrorism is not over despite the victories that have been attained. 

While the TV series serves as a commemoration of the lives and deaths of the nation’s heroes, a real commemoration would be to honour their memories by not falling into the traps and mistakes of the past by dancing to the Islamists’ tunes, something that is still the case among a tiny minority of the younger generation. 

Furthermore, the exposure of the Islamists and their fifth column must also take place in the West, where the Islamists are still seeking protection They still maintain diplomatic relations with countries where Muslim Brotherhood members form part of the government. 

The Choice is a sound reminder that Political Islam or Islamism must be rooted out from every corner of Egypt and eventually from every corner of the globe as well. It is an existential threat to human civilisation like the current coronavirus pandemic.

The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring and the Winding Road to Democracy


*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 May, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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