What Egyptians really want

Fatemah Farag , Thursday 4 Jul 2013

Again, Egyptians have proven to Western pundits that their readymade theories and conclusions are void. Will the latter listen and learn this time?

I was lectured over a year ago by a Western expert on how this was the "Islamist moment." The basic argument was that I, as an opponent critical of Islamist rule, was in fact a minority amongst Egyptians incapable of appreciating the cultural specificity of my country — in short, to understand what we as Egyptians really want.

A little over a year later and in the past four days the largest demonstrations in human history have taken our streets by storm with one demand: an end to Islamist rule.

Our fear prior to the revolution was that once we got the Islamists we would not be able to get rid of them. We feared that what the West told us was true.

The January 25 Revolution put the the Egyptian people on a fast-forward trajectory — one that continues to surprise us and the world.

As we defied the stereotypes then ("Egyptians are apolitical, apathetic ... "), we continue to defy them now. The millions who have erupted day after day on the streets told the world what it seems it does not really want to hear: our "cultural specificity" does not dictate that we want some warped Islamist rule. Our "cultural specificity" is in fact complex; as we ourselves struggle to unravel it after years of oppression we discover that important components of it are a joy of life, a deep sense of humanism and an innate will to take our place in the modern world.

Of course the realities are complex. What role the old and corrupt regime played in current events, including its brutal ministry of interior. What role was played by the army and intelligence agencies. At some point the details will be uncovered. But whatever these facts turn out to be there can be no denying the clear will expressed by the Egyptian people. What delusion could explain the millions across the country as all members of a conspiracy?

While Morsi has spoken ad nauseum about "legitimacy" and the West defends "democratic processes," they all turn a blind eye to the facts: Morsi won by a thread, won the presidential elections not because people wanted him, or that this was their "cultural" choice, but against the former regime in the guise of Shafiq.

They turn a blind eye to the fact that Morsi flouted democratic processes since his coming to power. That he brought into play a corrupt process that enforced a constitution on the Egyptian people that legalises the marriage of little girls.

He did all of this and more not in respect of our Egyptian cultural specificity but in direct disrespect of it. And all the while, on the ground and throughout the country, anger has seethed. The ordinary man has been incapable of holding back how much he despises the ineptitude of the Brotherhood government.

It has become common place to hear from people angry remarks about the patronising attitude of religious pundits: "'It is no one's place to tell us what is religious" being an increasingly common sentiment.

The realities expressed by the Egyptian people over the past year and culminating in the past few days are a difficult pill for the West to swallow. It clearly illustrates that they were wrong. It clearly illustrated that the facile arguments used to put us in our place will no longer be enough. It clearly illustrated that the time has come to deal with the Egyptian people as equals.

The fact that respected Western media outlets insist on calling this a "coup" is as delusional as Morsi saying he is legitimate.

It would have done Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood better to embrace the current realities of Egypt. It will do the West better to open their eyes and realise they are dealing with a different people, a new nation — one that will write its own fate no matter what.

Short link: