Four years before Egypt’s glorious 25 January Revolution, in an article about the rights of citizenship between citizenship and allegiance published in Al-Ahram newspaper on 11 February, 2007, I wrote: “The best motto is ‘If I wasn’t Egyptian, I would want to be Egyptian’ worthy of Egypt. I add worthiness to the famous quote by the young Egyptian national leader Mustafa Kamel, simply because Egypt is worthy of pride.”
No doubt, our youth who triggered the revolution have shown their worthiness as Egyptians. They rejected the conspiracy and insolent notion of hereditary ascension to power in a republic. When the heir (Gamal Mubarak) and his gang were given free reign, respect for the state was undermined and corruption ran rampant through the marriage of power and wealth. When they saw the world around them and used modern information tools, the children of the middle class rejected the stagnant and regressive nature of Egypt and the oppression Egyptians suffered by the security forces and social injustice. The leaders of the revolution were not fooled by the lies propagated as “a new way of thinking” by the advocates of supply and demand, or trickle-down, economics which squandered the wealth of the nation for the benefit of those who were in authority. These put forward the delusion of showering the poor with the fruits of development without uprooting the causes of poverty, injustice and backwardness.
Over the past six years I have reviewed the history of Egypt and the Egyptians since the dawn of recorded history until modern times, in search for an answer to the following questions: Why have Egyptians forgone their loyalty and allegiance to their country? Can Egypt rise again after despair has set in the souls of its people? I have reached the conclusion that if an Egyptian wasn’t Egyptian, they would want to be an Egyptian worthy of Egypt. I added the notion of worthiness of Egyptian citizenship to Kamel’s quote because Egypt is the pioneer of civilization with an innovative soul and discourse.
It is now time to decide on the immediate tasks of the Egyptian Revolution as it embarks on the long and difficult road ahead to achieve its chant “The people want to build a new regime” after realizing that of “The people want the regime’s removal”. These tasks can be summarised as: citizenry, progress and justice which all require building a democratic and civic state which is neither military nor religious. This begins with a new constitution which guarantees, without exception, the rights of citizenship including the rights, freedoms, political, economic, social and cultural duties.
At the same time, there needs to be a social market which combines an efficient economy with social justice. This would begin by reviving the national project of Egyptian industry according to the standards of an information economy, with the aim of joining the ranks of advanced industrial countries. This would advance Egypt’s economy and society as well as raise her stature, regionally and globally.
In my article ‘The rights of citizenship, allegiance and loyalty’, I wrote that the Egyptian people deserve to enjoy the rights of citizenship without exclusions, so that allegiance to Egypt is more than just a feeling born of a rare realisation of its unique value. It must be a live allegiance based in a contract between the people and the state which translates citizen rights into a tangible reality. I wrote that purported constitutional reforms do not meet the legitimate rights of Egyptians in this day and age; the country needs a new constitution.
In ‘When will Egyptians respond to their patriotic leaders?’ I wrote: “Many have said that Egyptians surrendered to slavery for centuries and acquiesced to the injustice and oppression of their rulers whether foreign or domestic. But this theory is incorrect if we realise that Egypt remained independent for most of its long history, and it was not the oldest occupied land as they claim. Revolts by Egyptians to liberate their land are continuous, and the people have been warriors throughout their history. Despite rare resilience and immense courage by Egyptians in confronting foreign occupation, another false claim accused them of easily espousing and submitting to their national leaders. In reality, Egyptians do succumb easily to their national leaders, as long as the latter shoulder their responsibility towards the nation by strengthening the economy, social justice and providing security and freedom.” Here, I add that Egyptian revolutions have continued, unabated, throughout the country’s history.
Social justice was at the core of the demands of our young revolutionaries, the descendants of the builders of Egypt’s pioneer civilisation must remember that the sun of social justice shone on Egypt some 5,200 years ago. The Egyptians expressed their value system, created at the onset of the state of Ancient Egypt and unique among ancient civilisations for not distinguishing between rich or poor, with one all-encompassing word, Ma’at: truth, justice or honesty.
This system remained in place for 1,000 years between the 35th and 25th centuries, BC. When this system diminished, the regime of the old state collapsed and the Egyptians took part in the first people’s revolution in history. They demanded Ma’at once again and got what they wanted. In this way they recorded the first victory for humanity in the battle to extract social justice, personal freedom and equality from their tyrannical rulers.
The writer is an analyst at the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic studies