Riding Egypt's revolutionary wave

Nader Fergany , Thursday 13 Dec 2012

Political Islam has come to dominate all aspects of the state, only cosmetic changes are made to Egypt's infrastructure but the revolution's tide is turning

Like the ebb and flow of the tide on the shore, one revolutionary wave can fail but this does not detract from the ability of the people to revolt again. The preliminary success of a revolution can result in a feeling of impasse and mollification because a popular revolution – even after initial gains – can be hijacked or aborted. Especially if revolutionaries are unable to directly take power into their own hands.

The chances of success in such a case rely on maintaining revolutionary alertness and sustaining revolutionary action to pressure the ruling transitional powers to achieve the goals of the revolution. This impasse does not at all mean that the movement towards liberation is over or futile, especial if the revolutionaries pay the ultimate price: people are martyred or wounded, as we have seen in Egypt.

It is now five months after the elected President Mohamed Morsi promised to make tangible progress in achieving the goals of the January 25 Revolution or at least on six issues he said were the hardships affecting people's daily lives as outlined in his electoral campaign.

Five months is one and a half times the 100 days the president had specified to work on these issues, five months after the first civilian president from the Muslim Brotherhood was elected after the popular uprising.

This is enough time to examine the character of a Brotherhood presidency and what this period has accomplished.

Political Islam has come to dominate all aspects of the state, even the Armed Forces and media, especially after the Brotherhood president succeeded, with the stroke of a pen, in eliminating the chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and his deputy Sami Anan.

This was an unusual surrender following, or on the pretext of, the heinous attack on an outpost of Egyptian soldiers near the Rafah border with Gaza.

A coup occurred against the leaders of SCAF, after the head of military intelligence General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisiconspired with the Brotherhood regime and was rewarded by becoming the next minister of defense.

This was followed by a purge of military ranks to guarantee the loyalty of the new leadership to the authority of the Brotherhood and its collaborators in the Armed Forces.

Thus, the political Islamic current disposed of its single most powerful opponent that blocked it from dominating power and society.

The Brotherhood presidency maintained the position of minister of information, although most intellectuals wanted it to be eliminated as a victory for freedom of opinion and expression.

The post was given to one of its loyalists. The Islamist-dominated Shura Council (upper house of parliament) exercised a mandate inherited from the Mubarak-era, which awards it the task of appointing chief editors of newspapers and the Supreme Press Council, in order to guarantee that political Islam dominates the media.

One citizen was sentenced to two years in prison because he insulted the president on his Facebook page; if this were to happen in a truly a democratic country, then all its citizens would end up in jail.

More importantly, political Islamic governance has yet to change the structure of Egypt's corrupt despotic regime that the ousted tyrant and his cabal created, which the SCAF had also sustained until it handed leadership over to political Islam.

Nothing in essence has changed; in fact, political Islam in the form of the Brotherhood in particular appears to reconcile with the regime that the revolution overthrew and has kept the structure of corruption and tyranny to utilise when necessary.

Meanwhile, they claim to lead the revolution; what hypocrisy.

The efforts of political Islamic rule has focused on painting the model of governance, and even the economy, with superficial strokes of Islam. This includes images of the president and prime minister praying in mosques and giving sermons. Some “advocates” of political Islam like to boast: “suffice that our president prays."

It is imperative to note that Islam did not bequeath us a heritage of the rank of “preacher”; the prophet and his companions lived off their trade. This is a manufactured job title and more like a job for someone without a profession.

It is merely the invention of extremist Salafist Islamic groups that are swimming in money and funding huge salaries for those working on “proselytisation”.

It is well known that some political Islam preachers who claim to have led people’s revolutions, had previously made money from the despots who were overthrown by these popular revolutions.

They should remember that history did not glorify Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, for example, because he prayed in mosques but because he was just and championed the weak, even "the sons of prominent people." Praying in a mosque and other rituals in Islam are a private matter between the worshipper and God.

Even more ominous is that once political Islam, especially its fanatic Salafist wing, took control of the Constituent Assembly drafting the post-revolution constitution, it became apparent that their perspective contradicts a civil state based on equal citizenship for all.

It tried, under the pretext of applying Sharia, to inject characteristics of a theocracy in governance and society and to restrain some commonplace personal rights – especially for girls, women and non-Muslims.

This was accompanied by a campaign by some repugnant “preachers”, who call others apostates, against some artists. This culminated in the death of an innocent young man because he was standing next to his fiancée on the street of a city on the Suez Canal. These developments splintered Egyptian society and the political arena.

It is a crying shame that the Constituent Assembly of Egypt, the country that gave the Arab world and the whole world some of the most prominent legal minds and all Arab constitutions, should include loud-mouthed and dominant cavemen and night creatures, in both form and intellect. This is the fruit of the alliance between SCAF and political Islam.

These are all signs that the first wave of the people's revolution has crashed on the shores of authoritarianism and corruption. The uprising has stumbled on its path to achieving its goals: it has been conspired against by military rule and political Islam.

The sober historic lesson here is that just changing the people while keeping the legal and institutional structure of authoritarianism and corruption in place could never yield liberating revolutionary change.

While this article is tinted with angry sadness, it is not pessimistic. I have noticed signs of the next wave of popular revolution.

If one wave of the great people’s revolution has crashed it will be followed by another, because I am certain that the Egyptian people, and all Arab peoples, are on a tangent of revolutions of liberation that will not stop until the goals of the tide of Arab freedom are achieved.

The demands of Freedom, justice, dignity and humanity will be accomplished by toppling tyrannical rule and establishing proper democratic rule, legal and institutional structures for humanity’s renaissance.

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