A recent poll suggests that 67% of Egyptians are “satisfied with the manner” in which security forces dispersed the sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Square. Meanwhile a different poll suggests that 79% of Egyptians believe the “massacres” on 14 August were “crimes against humanity”.
In recent protests over the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood supporters looted, burned and destroyed 58 churches, Christian schools, and other Christian installations. Many members of the Brotherhood have decided to scapegoat the Christians for the downfall of Morsi’s government, even though they had nothing to do with it, and have targeted them ever since. But in fact, as Raymond Ibrahim documents in an important new book, the recent persecution in Egypt is nothing new – as is part of a worldwide escalation of Muslim persecution of Christians to which the world human rights community has paid little notice.
Of all the troubling images from Cairo these days, none could be worse than the pictures of the many civilian casualties. But nearly as disturbing was footage from last week showing an Egyptian police vehicle toppling off the 6th of October Bridge, which spans the Nile in central Cairo. News accounts differed over whether the vehicle was pushed over by protesters or, in a panic, the driver burst through the bridge railing and plunged into the river. Either way, the bridge was badly damaged, the car was lost, the fate of its passengers unknown.
It is often said that Egypt saw the first centralised state in world history. That may be very well true. However, the modern Egyptian state cannot be said to be more than 200 years old. It has nothing to do with the Pharaohs or the Ptolemy.
As the events in Egypt continue to weigh upon us, we are confronted by an increasingly disturbing impasse that has serious implications possibly beyond Egypt and its troubling fate. It may be true that the democratic experiment in Egypt has been prematurely aborted. But whether the people—or the military that assumed power following a massive popular uprising – were better off waiting for full gestation to witness the birth of a defective child, or worse a “still birth,” will remain a mystery that only history can unravel.
Egypt’s situation cannot be blamed on one party. The new government came to being by massive poplar demand. The rise of the Moslem Brothers to power should not be simplistically attributed only to fair elections. Various forces were party to that outcome; The US and some EU governments have had their share of interest and intervention in Egypt. The hope that the democratic process might reflect favourably on the political conduct of Moslem Brothers proved a misconception. Their failure in administering the country coupled with their eagerness to change the fabric of the society proved intolerable to the Egyptian masses. The EU can help solve the crisis if it refrains from intimidating the Egyptian Government and people; since this would be the surest way to intensify Egypt’s position and driving it farther from the west.
No one would deny that the recent images coming out of Egypt are profoundly disturbing. People are being killed and injured across Egypt. Blood and gore everywhere. Machine guns, tanks, machetes and roadblocks. Gunshots, helicopters and bulldozers. Churches and Christian institutes ransacked, burnt and looted. Curfews and a state of emergency imposed. This, it would appear, is violent chaos unlike anything Egyptians have experienced before.
Supporters of the former president are not solely to blame; violence as well as excessive and disproportionate use of force also comes from the opposite side. Still, the strategy of the Brotherhood is to seek "the brawl" to move things forward, in order to better negotiate its political future and the fate of its leaders, many of whom risk imprisonment on various charges.
The cry for justice cuts the air as caustically as CS gas. Phrases dot the papers as if from To Kill a Mockingbird: “Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand” – Atticus Finch, the sagely white lawyer defending a wronged black.
Believe it or not, I am a member of Egypt’s least-recognised minority. No, I’m not a Copt or a convert or a Bahá’í even. I am an agnostic atheist, or an atheistic agnostic. Basically, I don’t know whether or not God exists, but religion, in my humble view, is clearly manmade and not heaven-sent.
Social media use in Egypt represents a staggering 68.21% of the total online population (mostly Facebook); people spend more time browsing their friends’ profiles than actually engaging in conversation or meeting face to face. As more and more time is spent browsing the countless status updates, shares and likes, life becomes flat. Reflecting on personal experiences, news on Syria’s massacres and the sad loss of 100s have become equal to news of a new baby and birthdays, as the reaction on Facebook for both negative and positive activities is “like” and “share”.
I must admit that I still do not know what to make of 30 June. I was standing on the sidewalk with a sea of my fellow citizens streaming by me waving flags and banners, celebrating the rights they fought so hard to win, still in the struggle for those refused rights they hoped to claim one day.
It’s been over a month since the Egyptian army overthrew Mohamed Morsi at the demand of huge masses of Egyptian citizens, who went out in every square and every street calling for Morsi to step down. Morsi would not step down, thereby forcing the military to isolate him and pass on power to the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, now Egypt’s Interim President, Adly Mansour. Since then both the media and political circles worldwide have been polarized over whether to call it a revolution or a coup d’état, with most international media outlets calling it a coup.
Egypt needs to revert back to the democratic path,” is a common line thrown in our faces from every Tom, Dick and Harry across the world. Egypt’s leaders diplomatically respond with the roadmap of election, constitution drafting and the rest of the plan they have in mind.
Ramadan this year has hardly been a month of contemplation and reflection for most Egyptians. It is hard to remember in recent years a time when the situation has been more tense, more difficult, and more on edge. It seems, however, owing to international pressure, the brakes have been applied (if only momentarily) on the rising temperature – and at no point in the past month has there been a better time to impress upon all parties the sense of urgency for closing a political deal. What can that deal look like?
Two weeks ago I read in the news that my friend Mohamed Nour Farahat, a law expert, blamed me for making an appearance on Al-Jazeera satellite channel. On his Twitter account, he said, "Your scientific and political history are too good for you to appear with questionable figures on Al-Jazeera Mubasher[Masr] to discuss issues brought up by media that serve a specific agenda against Egypt. Even if your talk was balanced, the truth will be lost in the midst of those devils. Sending across a media message is about taking a position."
For the millions of non-politicised Egyptians who were in the country's squares and streets on 30 June in a successful attempt to get rid of Mohamed Morsi, it makes no difference whether it was a coup or a revolution. The majority is literally not able to differentiate between the two.
Behind sandbags at the Muslim Brotherhood's protest camp in Cairo, an activist urges supporters to embrace martyrdom.
The Light of the Desert-Documentary on St Macarius Monastery, Egypt