A few days ago, an Egyptian military leader asked his people to authorize him to fight terrorism. I attended these demonstrations and now have two questions for the Egyptian people. Both of these questions are sub-items of a larger concern: What did we learn?
Terrorists? I’m not saying I know one way or the other and I’m definitely not saying that the Muslim Brotherhood hasn’t employed some terrorist tactics since the ousting of Mursi. What I am saying, is that I think it is a dangerous idea to label the entirety of the organization as terrorist. Believe it or not, some these people are rational human beings who feel they were wrongfully removed from power and deserve their chance at democracy. While I vehemently disagree, this does not mean they are terrorists, and they have every right to protest. In fact, when rational people like this who simply want to peacefully protest find themselves labeled as terrorist criminals, they may in fact later be motivated to employ terrorist tactics. Isn’t this a textbook cause of terrorism? Labeling them as ‘the other.’ Inspiring the masses to oppose them in order to legitimate the state’s ability to forcefully suppress them completely? What did we learn?
Someone may respond and tell me, bombs have been found. Attacks have been carried out. Weapons have been funneled from outside of Egypt and martyrs have been called upon to fight with their own blood. My response: Yes, this is true. Some of these people are violent and have no qualms with turning Egypt into a warzone in order to get Mursi back in power. Terrorism is happening but we simply need to bring these people to justice the same way we would any other criminal. Then we allow the rest of the group to be integrated within a pluralistic society participating in a democracy. Isn’t a democratic system the type in which a group like the brotherhood should feel most protected? Isn’t it the type of government that protects everyone’s rights to express themselves? Isn’t it supposed to be the system of government which best seeks to give anyone who desires a chance to take part in government? If so, then why blindly label the entirety of the group as terrorists? What did we learn?
Why are we becoming blindly obsessed with yet another military leader?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m of the opinion that June 30th could not have happened without El Sisi and the military. Mursi’s administration seemed to misunderstand democracy as a system which is solely based on elections. If you’re elected, you officially have the right to rule the country however you please (more on my support for June 30th here). I am still of the opinion that he needed to leave and I’m still very happy that he did.
BUT. What has happened since has not only worried me but also come to cast a shadow on the pure joy and elation I experienced on June 30th. At yesterday’s demonstrations I saw an absurd number of posters praising El Sisi, people chanting his name, children wearing masks of his face, and more. Really?! We are going to emerge from the June 30th revolution by singing the praises of one man? And a military man to boot! Why is everyone so ready to accept the absolute leadership of ANOTHER military leader? Isn’t that a large part of why the January 25th revolution happened to begin with? Are we going backwards or forwards here? You’re walking around holding up signs of El Sisi next to Abdel Nasser? I know Abdel Nasser did some great things for Egypt and the region at large but isn’t he the father of the Egyptian military state? Isn’t he the one who arbitrarily threw people in jail? Ran a one party system which allowed for zero dissent? Didn’t he oversee some of the first instances of police brutality? If we flood the streets singing the praises of one military man as the savior of this nation, don’t we run the risk of setting the clock back to pre-January 25th Egypt? What did we learn?
Furthermore, why is El Sisi asking for people to demonstrate in the streets in order to authorize him to deal with terrorists? I thought we had set up an interim civilian government and he was simply backing it. You shouldn’t need to make such a request. It should come from another place. Where was Adly Mansour, the current president? Or Mohamed El Baradei, the Vice President? Shouldn’t they be calling the shots right now? Didn’t we just say we wanted a civilian government in place? One that would create a just constitution, one that would serve the interests of those who returned to the streets on June 30th, who proclaimed that ‘the January 25th revolution continues?’ Why are we allowing ourselves to rely so heavily on the military again? What did we learn?
I understand that these are dangerous times. Much of the country isn’t safe and its citizens need protection. But I question these methods. I question the absence of political process and diplomacy in decision making and I question the way the millions of citizens who flooded squares and plazas all over Egypt yesterday seemed blind to this absence. It worries me for the future and just makes me wonder….
What did we learn?