Not All Roads Were Leading to July 3rd
(published in Alaraby Aljadid, 21/1/2015)
News that didn’t actually take place:
Last night, Sunday, April the 1st, representatives of the withdrawing members from the Constituent Committee (the civil parties, revolutionary youth, Al Azhar and the Church) met with representatives of the committee, headed by D. Mohamed el-Beltagy and Essam Sultan.
The meeting ended with smiles and hugs, since the demands of the withdrawing members — voting on clauses of the Constitution with a majority of two thirds, replacing twenty names from the committee to ensure balanced representation and not handing all the power to one single political current — were accepted.
On Monday morning, the Al-Nour Party announced its withdrawal, explaining that the Muslim Brotherhood have given in to the demand of the “Secularists,” and that what happened would lead to revoking Clause 216 that explains the principles of Sharia Law.
“We remain faithful to the presence of the Al-Nour Party with us,” said Dr. el-Beltagy as a first reaction from the Brotherhood. “But we will not allow the committee to drift into the curse of Islamic/Secularist polarization, which we’ve been suffering from ever since the March Referendum.”
El-Beltagy added that another reconciliation meeting would be held with the members of the Constitutional Consultative Committee, who had submitted their mass resignation as well; some of the most notable withdrawing members are Dr. Heba Raouf, Hamdy Kandil, Dr. Hassan Nafaa and Dr. Ahmed Kamal Abul Magd.
The road to January 25th
A Christian pours some water for a Muslim who is performing the ritual ablution, a non-veiled girl sings and a bearded guy averts his eyes, smiling. That was the perfect picture of the square that conjoined the people, as a result of years of piling up, which lead us to a clear answer to the questions of revolution and state.
The revolution question: Who is our enemy? Hosni Mubarak’s regime, corrupt and tyrannical. The state question: What do we do after Mubarak is ousted? We build a civil state, where rule and reformation are shared amongst all of us.
This kind of common answers was very far-off in the seventies, which witnessed some bloody clashes between Islamists and Leftists in universities, in addition to assassinations and explosions for the sake of raising the “Islamic State.”
Gradually the answers became closer: during the eighties and nineties began the isolation of the right wing of the Islamic current, represented in the violent organizations that were crushed by the state, and also the Salafist movement that rendered elections forbidden by principle.
On the other side, the civilian right wing, who rejects Islamists as a matter of principle, was isolated as well, and then turned into a group of pathetic old people, who then joined the flock of the Ministry of Culture, under the thumb of artist Minister Farouk Hosni, or the flock of the Shura Council in the arms of Safwat el-Sherif.
Little by little the two sides took steps to build trust between them. The Muslim Brotherhood, now the sole political representative of Islamists, issued successive statements rejecting violence and supporting civil liberties and the rights of women, Copts and individuals. Several times they repeated their wish for an era, where their motto, “Partnership, Not Strife,” would reign, which is why their statements in the days of the Revolution had stressed that they wouldn’t nominate their members for more than %30 of the People’s Assembly.
As for applying the Sharia principles and raising the Islamic state, these notions were never mentioned officially except in a very vague and put-off way. Of course they didn’t describe their political rivals as “Secularists,” a word with a bad reputation in the collective consciousness of Islamists.
On the other hand, eventually the civil forces produced new faces. The Kefaya Movement gathered the leaders of the current that refuses joining this or that flock, and the youth gathered at different movements as well, perhaps the most notable of which was the April 6th Movement. All of them welcomed, and even demanded, the participation of the Brotherhood in all activities, and all of them condemned Mubarak’s court-martialing the Brotherhood members and fixing the elections against them.
If you look for pictures from the annual Iftar celebration held by the Brotherhood, you’d witness the biggest political assembly in Egypt. Everyone now had the answers.
It looks like we’re pulling it off
Since the first endeavor for an alliance in the 1984 election, when the Muslim Brotherhood joined with the Al-Wafd Party, until the 2002 election, when the leaders of the Al-Karama Party — Hamdeen Sabahi’s party — were nominated on the Brotherhood’s lists, and then the full partnership at gathering signatures for the Change Declaration, issued by Mohamed el-Baradei in 2010, both sides have realized that both of them could manage to win, and the whole political field would win as well.
It was surprising and pleasant to see a new element from outside the old game, the multitudes of millions of non- politicalized people who were drawn to the demands and chants of the Tahrir square.
Despite the quarrels between the Brotherhood and youth movements during the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, with the Brotherhood abandoning the square, and the harsh accusations by a wide sector of Islamists against the demonstrators, calling them thugs, degenerates or parts of a conspiracy, still the scene had an undeniable momentum, with the final wake during the second round of the presidential election.
The Brotherhood raised the banner of their motto “Unity Is Our Strength,” they marched in demonstrations reiterating all the chants of the Revolution, Morsi met at the Fairmont hotel with a large number of leaders of politics and media, a document of six items was signed, which in turn formed the National Front. Later on, Morsi appeared with all of them standing behind him. The message was clear: We are following the same path which proved successful.
The people’s ultimatum
The election results revealed a big surprise: %49 of the Egyptian people opted to elect Ahmed Shafik.
Shafik, who presented himself frankly as a representative of the old regime, and insisted on refusing to call what had taken place a revolution, and praised Mubarak many a time, Shafik who is accused of corruption, and threatened the rebels and demonstrators with an iron fist once he’s won.
That Shafik was presented to the Egyptian people as opposed to the clean-handed Mohamed Morsi, who wasn’t representing himself at all at the time, while the Brotherhood was flooding the media outlets with pictures of his supporters from the “Revolution symbols.” I clearly remember the propaganda full of picture of Wael Ghoneim, Alaa el-Aswani, Belal Fadl, etc…
Half the people said it loud and clear: We do NOT want all of you, forces of change! We do NOT want all of you, young and old, Islamists and civilians.
At the massive October 6th Tribune march, held by Shafik’s supporters, we realized for the first time that the other side had the power to gather people, just like us; and it seems that they realized that for the first time themselves. They would use the Revolution’s mechanisms to kill the Revolution; they would leave their comfort zone just once to ensure going back to it forever, which would eventually lead us to one of the most notable aspects of the June 30th scene.
That was the biggest challenge the Brotherhood was facing as the ruling regime, in addition to everyone who had participated in the January Revolution. Logic says that it was vital to understand and fathom why half the people supported a representative of the old regime, and to try to change that with smart, practical methods; and of course it was logical to hold on to the alliance that barely won us half the votes.
Instead, the Muslim Brotherhood decided to erase that decisive moment from their minds, and to always start from the point that they are the majority and the people are with them, while any other voice comes from a puny minority, from mislead people, hirelings and Seculars!
Until now there are some Brotherhood members who believe that the masses of June 30th demonstrations were nothing but “Photoshop,” a trick from director Khalid Youssef, as if the 13 million citizens who had elected Shafik before, before everything that happened during Morsi’s rule, could not fill every square in the country!
Do you know anything about logic, people?
The state’s ultimatum
The other supposed challenge was Mubarak’s regime that had spread through the different state institutions, not only in the form of individuals, but as a whole mentality. So, instead of researching ways to deal with institutions and other countries’ experiences with reforming or containing them and the necessary amendments to laws and management methodologies, in addition to achieving national harmony and being honest with the people and political allies, Morsi chose to act like a “pacifier.”
He chose to comport with the very same institutions, and believed that giving constant assurances, like the unprecedented clauses concerning the army in the Constitution, and attempting to infiltrate them through some of the leaderships, was enough to ensure using them as tools at his disposal. Morsi kept praising his police, his armed forces and his judicial authorities until the end, while the talk about the “conspiracy” was always vague.
It happened despite the fact that the state had already shown signs of bad faith, since, days before the election, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a constitutional declaration that robbed Morsi of some of his authorities, and until some at the Ministry of the Interior and Presidential Guard supported a coup d’etat during the events of the Ittihadeyah, according to the Brotherhood’s story.
I don’t believe the story is true, but it’s strange that your version says that there was a failed coup, and then later you do nothing at all but praise those accused of said coup, and hide all the information from your people and partners and never talk about it, while you occupy your supporters with absurd fights with politicians and the media, until the same people try again and succeed!
Khairat el-Shater at the Time of Abul Fotouh
Instead of expanding the alliance in order to face the challenges of the people and aforementioned institutions, the Brotherhood decided to throw motto the “Unity Is Our Strength” in the trash, and instead the banners of “Islamic! Islamic!” were raised.
Since the very beginning, the Brotherhood had had the seeds of that inclination within, ever since the 65 Order took control of the foundations of the missionary, educative society, and rendered the discourse of the reformative trend a mere husk on the surface.
Members in prison never bothered to study the doctrinal and intellectual speculations that were coeval with the fast, dynamic change of the Brotherhood, which made it easy to topple that change and go back to the origins.
Within, answers to the questions enthusiastic youth were asking carried only the sense of postponing, either because of the status of the people: “Our goal is a Muslim society before a Muslim state, and it will take several years before the people are prepared for Islamic rule,” or because of the status of the Brotherhood itself: “We are in a vulnerable position. Vulnerability jurisprudence in Mecca isn’t like empowerment jurisprudence in Medina.” This is why it wasn’t difficult to persuade them that the time to empower has come.
Engineer Khairat el-Shater came out of prison to find a different reality, diverse political forces and even other representatives of Islamists. His priority was to control the general Islamic atmosphere, so he established the Islamic Legitimate Body of Rights and Reformation, which contained Salafist sides alongside the Brotherhood members, and supported the alliance with the Al-Nour Party and Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (“the Islamic Group”); and in turn the Brotherhood succumbed to their allies who naturally vied them in fanaticism — naturally, it was a vicious cycle.
And so, when we came to the decisive moment at the Constitution Committee, either the new ally of Islamists or the historical ally of civil forces, the Brotherhood chose the path of Khairat el-Shater, where it really needed the path of Abul Fotouh.
The fact that Morsi had given a written pledge to the allies at the Fairmont meeting made no difference…and it wasn’t his decision anyway (and later on the National Front was dissolved after being ignored by the president).
Gradually, escalation continued against “Secularists,” “enemies of the Islamic Enterprise” and “thugs of Hamdeen and el-Baradei.” Masses at the “Legitimacy and Sharia” million-man march raised pictures of the figures that had supported Morsi before, this time with ropes around their necks and the “Hit them, Mr. President” chant.
Until we finally came to the festival scene at the Cairo Stadium, where thousands, all teary-eyed, sang in front of the president, “At your service we are, so make your stairs of glory from our skulls…The soldiers of God are marching again from my mosque,” and Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Maksud prayed — with thousands saying ‘Amen’ — to smite the “Secularists” who would go out and demonstrate on June 30th.
And yet they are surprised that their opponents aren’t supporting them. And why would the “soldiers of God” need any support from the “Secularists” anyway?
The scene at the stadium was fit for the end. The Brotherhood wanted it to be too scary for their opponents so they wouldn’t go out to the street, but the exact opposite happened: it was too scary it drove them out of their homes.
In “Leaving the Square,” an important report on the Forum for Arab & International Relations, where I got some of the ideas I reiterated here, my friend writer Belal Alaa refers to another dangerous angle:
“For the first time, the counter-revolution has what it lacked from the beginning: a known, obvious enemy, one you could mass the media against. There was a lot of diversity in the days of the Revolution, which made it hard for Mubarak’s media and security forces to make a monster out of all of them; but now things were easier, and the Brotherhood never tried to help themselves. With time, and with the continuous battles with the other sides of the Revolution, making the Brotherhood the Devil became easier and easier.”
Partnership, Not Strife
One week prior to Morsi’s constitutional declaration, he invited the notable figures Abul Fotouh, Hamdeen, el-Baradei and Amr Moussa to a meeting at the Presidential Palace, to have a discussion about the Constitution Committee, in addition to having met with youth and activists, who all came out praising the very positive words of the president.
Simultaneously, the president’s advisory staff was actively holding meetings with representatives of different forces — two leaders attended meetings themselves, even. The atmosphere was full of optimism, and the attendees, including representatives of the Brotherhood, agreed on many things…
…and suddenly came the constitutional declaration like a slap on everybody’s face. Add to the shock the fact that the president never even asked his advisors, who submitted a mass resignation afterwards, one of which was Dr. Seif Abdul Fattah, his political advisor, who at the time said that someone was running the presidential institution from behind the curtain. The Minister of Justice and vice-president also declined any knowledge of the declaration.
The Brotherhood decided to execute their own version of “partnership,” which in their book means: we do what we want and you follow, period!
The message was clear: Everything you do, all your talk and face time with Morsi, even what Morsi himself says, is worthless, unless it comes from up at the Guidance Office, but you’ll still have to bow to us!
The Brotherhood supporters lament the situation of those who oppose the constitutional declaration, without any appreciation to the fact that the way it happened was provocative — in addition to its collectively-rejected clauses — left no other choice for the other side, including those who had cried against the Attorney General before.
Let’s remember that Morsi had discharged Tantawi and Anan before that and received big support for it: Alaa Abdul Fattah wrote that the decision was “a victory worthy of celebration,” Gamila Ismail considered it “an achievement” and Nawara Negm wrote her story when she went out to demonstrate alongside the Brotherhood at the Ittihadeyah to show her support for the decision. Of course, no one at the Brotherhood bothered to try and explain why the former supporters turned into opponents except with the ready-made answer: they’re Secularists.
Season of going back to the barn
Suddenly, large numbers of the civil current found themselves completely exposed.
On one side, there are the threats from the Brotherhood supporters, where there are frightening, more radical sides, like the supporters of Hazem Abu Ismail and Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. Of course, Aasem Abdul Magid never came short at playing the scarecrow, and his popularity in a Brotherhood’s demonstration was undeniable.
On another, they’re undermined by people from their own current, especially those who basically refused to support Morsi from the beginning, some of them pure Mubarak supporters, and some adopted a project to thwart Morsi and summon the military first — those are the historical failures, graduates from the school of Refaat el-Saeed and the open arms of Safwat el-Sherif. Their voices were hushed at the time of “Unity Is Our Strength,” but now they’re raised loud and clear.
On a third side, they lost the wide support of the people which they represented.
They are not organized and strong, they just chant the demands. The masses no longer consisted of people who wanted change, the masses of Tahrir square who goes out to demonstrate when called upon by the Revolution forces, because there were no more “Revolution forces.” And as Morsi’s regime became a source of discontent, not trust, these former masses became more confused and scattered.
In return, different kinds of masses appeared, seemingly coming from the realm of Shafik’s supporters; they oppose the Revolution, lament the days of Mubarak, the days of stability when the state and police forces were strong; they use the same methods of the Brotherhood in their own way: accusations of treason instead of infidelity, the “traitor” stamp just in place of the “Secularist” stamp against anyone who even things of getting close to the Brotherhood…which added more horrible pressures.
Hamdy Kandil tells sadly of the harsh offenses he took for the first time ever, from the enthusiastic youth who blamed him for electing Morsi, and on the other side he took other, no-less-harsh offenses from Morsi’s supporters as well.
Some of the youth and figures of the current chose to withdraw to isolation; they were tired of being called devils by both sides. Others chose the safest path: they armored themselves with the supporting masses of the old regime and summoning the army. This time the surrender was complete, to the point that the aforementioned figures within the government ignored the pressure to interfere and release the youth from their own current, the children of lifetime friends, who were arrested according to laws they passed!
The barn doors were tightly-locked this time.
Reexamination of falling back?
In the end, both sides were repeating the same thing, that where they were wrong was exactly where they were strong.
The most common reexamination amongst the Brotherhood youth was that “we should have arrested Hamdeen and el-Baradei and the ‘activists’ from the beginning, we should have shut down TV stations and newspapers, and we should have established an armed revolutionary guard to face the police and army. Morsi should’ve responded to us when we cried: “Hit them, Mr. President” and declared us an Islamic state with our Islamist partners. They have been pretending to cooperate from the first.
The same things were being said on the other side: We made a mistake when we supported Morsi, we were foolish to ally with the Brotherhood, they’ve always been radical terrorists, etc…
Neither thinks that had a different path been followed at some crucial point — since the Constituent Assembly met with the withdrawing members, or after the last European intervention, when Reuters documented the fact that an agreement was reached between Dr. Saad el-Katatni and the civil parties, before Morsi thwarted it — had a different path been followed at some crossroads, you’d have been complementing each other right now as partners of Revolution and state.
News that didn’t actually take place:
The demonstrations of yesterday, June 30th, concluded peacefully after having been attended by a few thousand people.
The country was on the verge of a political explosion, before the crisis came to an end by a European agreement on April 7th, thanks to the efforts of Ambassador Bernardino León.
The agreement dictated to changing the Attorney General and Prime Minister, replacing five ministers with technocrats who don’t belong to any parties and responding to the notes of the Constitutional Court concerning the parliament election law (the Shura Council had sent the court the law with the same former reasons of rejection, and it was rejected again).
Parties are to participate during the next few days in the parliament election; they had issued a joint statement rejecting the planned demonstrations of July30th, describing those who called for them as irresponsible youth who blindly support a conspiracy that aims at the country’s stability.