At milestones, feelings of distrust mingle with optimism, and developments that seem highly contradictory in form but are in fact compatible in substance become apparent. In such instances, it is important that people and institutions work in close harmony, coherence and have a clear vision.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its allies have exerted huge efforts for two tumultuous months to overturn what they describe as a "military coup" in Egypt. Not only have they failed to achieve their goal, they have suffered a comprehensive security crackdown that seems to threaten their very existence.
Writing about art and culture has been a challenge the past few months. We were looking forward to reviewing the outdoor concerts that herald in the summer season, but this year people flocked to marches instead of performances to shout erhal in unison and not the lyrics of hit songs of their favourite bands. And while the political changes grabbed everyone’s attention Ramadan started, never an easy time for those of us who make their living covering the cultural scene of Egypt. Most venues suspend their normal activities or close down completely and while a fancy iftar or sumptuous sohour makes for good copy in a glossy, it does not help us fill the back page of the paper.
This was how my reporters greeted me five days ago. At first I thought it was another pun by DNE’s wily reporters until they showed me the links in Arabic; the police confiscated a duck carrying a “strange” device.
The political map of Egypt is slowly changing. As events continue to unfold following June 30 and then the July 3 coup, there are emerging new realties that may have an impact the future of the country for years to come. Currently, however, there is nothing definitive or clear.
The great and good Lord Sacks, former Chief Rabbi, according to a report from the Daily Telegraph, made the following comments in a recent interview marking his departure from office:
Supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi as well as the current regime are accusing each other of heavy reliance on the US; such assertions border on allegations of high treason most of the time. Amidst frenzied talks of Sykes–Picot, War on Islam, War on terror, Imperialism and all other sort of rhetoric, it is really worth taking a brief look at this illusive question: Who does the US Support?
“Political Islam is faced with a major setback; it is not just about [ousted president Mohamed] Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood, who admittedly failed to run the state,” Kamal El-Helbawi, former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has said. He added: “This public dislike is bad enough to the extent that Islamist leaders have to worry about walking down the street lest they will be attacked."
Mohamed ElBaradei, who recently resigned as interim vice-president ending his political career in my opinion, had been the most controversial Egyptian politician in the last few years, and will remain a debatable figure for a good time to come.
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”.
This documentary is by Emad Thomas, highlighting the true nature of the Muslim Brotherhood