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Opinion: Egypt’s Misconceptions | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi during a protest near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, in Cairo, Egypt, 12 July 2013. (EPA/Mohammed Saber)

Egypt appears to be stuck in the middle of a struggle between rival protests, with different figures putting forward zealous slogans that have nothing to do with politics or changing the deteriorating situation on the ground. Everyone appears unaware that simply accepting the political situation playing out in the country today will produce catastrophic discourse that has nothing to do with the values of the revolution or revolutionary slogans.

There have been misconceptions regarding our understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood’s legitimacy and the so-called corrective revolution that has taken place in Egypt. Despite the exceptional circumstances that the country is passing through, Egypt is facing a difficult test in terms of its belief in human rights and respect for peaceful protests. The authorities’ behavior on the ground confirms that they are pursuing an overblown security approach due to the Muslim Brotherhood’s intransigence following Islamist president Mohamed Mursi’s ouster. This is not a result of the Brotherhood’s calls for Mursi’s reinstatement, which would be impossible at this juncture, but rather due to their insistence on securing new political power and leverage in Egypt following the so-called “corrective” revolution.

In fact, the Brotherhood supporters’ approach to this issue is just as unrealistic and impractical as the military’s initial intervention was wrong. The Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters in Rabaa Al-Adawiya are seeking to portray themselves as revolutionaries pursuing democracy and confronting an oppressive state system; however, this is a delusion. Nor was the military’s intervention a coup against legitimacy that failed to take the political balance of power in Egypt into account. This balance of power is based on human rights slogans, soft power and attempts to secure compromises and reconciliation. We have seen this concept of power redefined by the revolution and the mobilization of mass demonstrations to back the military’s decision to correct the course of a revolution that had been hijacked by the Brotherhood.

As for the Brotherhood, they seem to have done a complete about-face. One year after the state of political monopolization that swallowed up all state institutions and the entire political system in the country, the Brotherhood are now seeking assistance from foreign powers and attempting to contact Western human rights organization in a bid to internationalize the crisis. This is just part of the complex and complicated scene being played out in Egypt today.

The June 30 option was harsh by any meaning of the word. It seems that many people fell victim to the June 30 option, with both sides being harmed by the mass protests, and it will be some time before we can come to an objective and final response to Mursi’s ouster. The security violations committed by both sides cannot be justified, yet there can also be no doubt that June 30 decisively changed misconceptions about the revolution, the state and power-sharing.

There has been a mistaken image about the revolution and its continued endurance that led to the emergence of a special social class. This class is a blend of optimistic revolutionaries, baltageya (thugs), beneficiaries and unemployed youths. We can add to this certain well-known figures whose prime concern is appearing on satellite televisions to promote their demands and stances.

Furthermore, the idea of a model state that remains neutral has now been completely disproven following Egypt’s decision to ally with the military. The Egyptian army is today being portrayed in an ideal but ultimately incorrect manner, both domestically and internationally. In fact, the images of Egyptian strongman Gamal Abdel Nasser being raised at some pro-military protests suggests that a new image of the Egyptian military is being put forward, but this is completely rejected by the revolutionary youth. Internationally, the Brotherhood’s allies have retreated and taken a defensive approach; they are now speaking about reconciliation, human rights and political abuse. As a result of all this, the remnants of Egypt’s pan-Arabists and Nasserites have come to the fore, particularly as they view army chief Brig. Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi as a second Nasser. However, this view is an exaggeration, particularly if we consider the immense differences in the political situation in the country then and now. Most prominently, this lies in the Egyptian military’s understanding today that it can achieve the greatest gain by entrenching the concept of the civil state, with the army being detached from this as a national guardian and defender.

The Egyptian state it must keep seeing the army as its safety valve in facing major challenges, particularly regarding violence and bloodshed. This includes crises that existed prior to Mursi’s ouster, such as the deteriorating security situation on the Sinai Peninsula, as well as new challenges, such as Brotherhood intransigence and their possible return to violent operations. Unfortunately, the total indifference broad categories of the Egyptian people have shown towards what is happening to the Muslim Brotherhood today was only to be expected, particularly given the organization’s former approach that destroyed any hope of understanding democracy and human rights. Perhaps the support for the military and the images of Sisi being raised at some protests—as a symbol of absolute power in Egypt—is part of a natural reaction from the Egyptian people, particularly regarding their fears that the country could return to a pre-revolutionary state.

What is certain today is that human rights advocates seem to have missed the massive violations committed by the Muslim Brotherhood during its one year in power; it was these violations that ultimately led to the bitter reality facing the country today. The reality is that this state of affairs cannot be addressed by idealistic solutions and sermons on human rights. Rather, a salvation initiative must be presented by wise men from both sides in a manner that maintains the interests of the state and the people. At this point, the Brotherhood will have no option but to return to peaceful political work despite their retreat in Egypt. This is the only solution to ensure that the Brotherhood does not shift from an opposition that enjoyed the sympathy of a broad range of society to a violent faction forcibly ousted from power.