The fall of Egypt's regime and opposition

Khalil Al-Anani , Wednesday 26 Jun 2013

Both regime and opposition are currently engaged in a confrontation that has nothing to do with either democracy or the ideals of Egypt's January 25 Revolution

Since I returned to Cairo several weeks ago, I have heard nothing but the drums of the upcoming war that the opposition and regime are preparing for on 30 June.

I am dismayed by the tone of political and media discourse from both camps, which has descended to a terrible level of hatred, vitriol and open incitement to kill. This portends possible bloody confrontations and violent clashes between supporters of both sides unless their leaders reverse course.

I have listened to key figures of the opposition describing the Muslim Brotherhood as "an occupation movement that must be purged from the country along with their plans." That is what one of them confidently and enthusiastically declared on a television talk show – which essentially does nothing but fuel the fire.

Meanwhile, President Mohamed Morsi's advocates describe the opposition as "infidels" and incite to confront them "and rid the country of their evils." Morsi if fully aware of these statement, but does not object to them – as if he concurs.

Over the past weeks, I talked with several Islamist leaders, as well as key liberal and secularist figures, along with my non-stop dialogue with average people on the street. I recorded some general observations that may serve as a doorway to understanding the nature of the ongoing crisis in Egypt, and explore what might happen in the next few days.

First, there is no connection between the current confrontation between the regime and the opposition with democracy or revolution. It is a struggle for existence and a battle of life or death that each side is trying to win. Neither camp can imagine its own survival while the other continues to exist.

In other words, Egypt's current crisis goes beyond a reasonable political struggle that could be explained within the context of democratic dispute. It is more an attempt to banish and abort one party by the other.

It is a zero-sum game between the two sides, which is reflected in the statements of their respective leaderships and their unwillingness to show any flexibility or desire to sit down, talk or negotiate to defuse the crisis.

Second, the conflict between the two is not limited to power but is also over the state – to shape its identity, spirit and personality, and its intellectual, cultural and civilisational character based on their own whims. Both sides – Islamists and secularists – have a vision of Egypt and the universe that are almost polar opposites of each other.

Islamists believe their main mission is to rectify the identity of the Egyptian state and mold it into an Islamist identity, according to their interpretation of religion, in order to stop the symptoms of Westernisation and moral corruption that have afflicted the state at the hands of modernists and secularists.

Opponents of the Islamists believe the identity of the Egyptian state is under serious threat, and if Islamists continue in power this would mean a relapse into the Dark Ages and ignorance. This, they believe, requires immediate intervention to obliterate the threat before it’s too late – irrespective of the cost.

Thirdly, neither side is shy about using all possible means and tools to win the battle. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood has no qualms about entering into alliances will Islamist currents – including those who adopt violent radical ideologies against their adversaries.

They have even resorted to using jihadist figures to send messages of fear and terror to political forces who plan to protest on 30 June. It appears the Brotherhood is not concerned about how much damage its image will sustain by identifying with Salafist and radical groups and by trying to use them in their battle with their opponents.

On the other hand, the Islamists' detractors are not shy about using remnants and figures of the former regime to get rid of the Brotherhood and President Morsi, as if the revolution never took place.

Fourth, the masses have come to terms with the issue of violence, which has started to become part of the culture and general mood in Egypt.

When I talked with a taxi driver about his expectations on 30 June, I found him largely apathetic and cynical about the bloody confrontations that may occur, and the possible violence and death.

It was the same sentiment voiced by several others I talked to about the 30 June protests. This gradual normalisation and actual acceptance of violence is being manipulated and used by both sides.

Fifth, the military is still the only entity capable of defusing the current crisis and containing the political conflict before it evolves into chaos and instability. This is clear in statements by Minister of Defence General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, who called on both sides to hold dialogue about how to exit the crisis.

Al-Sisi also warned against using violence "to terrorise citizens."

In other words, the military is worried that on 30 June matters will escalate beyond control, which would require it to return to political life.

This would thwart hopes of building a genuine democratic model and force the country into another dark tunnel of ambiguity, chaos and instability. There appears to be a growing gap between the Egyptian presidency and the military, as demonstrated by Al-Sisi's statements.

Sixth, each side realises it cannot win the battle no matter how good their ability to mobilise the masses, and neither seems to care about the number of victims and wounded who could fall because of their political conflict.

This strips both camps of any moral cover and exposes them before public opinion. Each side has tried in the past to justify its political discourse and conduct but failed, which means those who will pay the price are the simple Egyptians who support one camp or the other.

In other words, the regime and opposition in Egypt have failed morally and ethically even before the battle of 30 June begins. This failure will not be the last in a series of regressions and setbacks that the Egyptian revolution has witnessed over the last two years.

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