By Mamoon Alabbasi
The revolution in Egypt came in spite of (or perhaps because of) a long-standing US backing of the dictatorship there. It was clear from the beginning that the protestors were united on one demand: namely that the unelected regime stand down or allow genuine political reform to be carried out.
It is easy to see that these protestors come from diverse backgrounds, have different political views and do not necessary share the exact same list of grievances. Not if your view of the region is influenced by an unhealthy negative obsession with Islam. In such case, so called analysts put on their binary world view glasses and see only 'Islamists' or 'the rest' – not that they have an accurate definition for each of those categories. They ignorantly put Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran in one bag, and like to think that everyone else that remains falls into what they claim is a liberal category.
With this in mind, western observers who were against the uprising in Egypt were quick to warn that this was (or will be) an 'Islamist' revolution, while those who backed it went to great lengths to stress that the Muslim Brotherhood was an insignificant part of it. They cannot see Egyptians outside this two-dimensional view. That's all that matters: not the humanity and suffering of 80 million Egyptians but how powerful will the Brothers emerge in a democratic Egypt. And if the revolution is going to be a success story then they mustn't appear as having played any part in it.
Of course religious Egyptian protestors who are not officially part of the Brotherhood would automatically be calculated as part of 'the rest', even though many of them may hold views that are more conservative. Demonstrators who complained from the former regime's restriction on religious freedoms or its foreign policy (especially with regards to the US, Israel and Palestine) are also conveniently ignored if they are not members of the Brotherhood. Following this logic you'd be forgiven for thinking that being a cyber activist and a devout Muslim are mutually exclusive.
The fact is this was a revolution of the whole of the Egyptian people, including the Brotherhood (and of course Christians too). But the Brothers did not catch up with the revolution late in the day; it was the masses that finally joined their struggle against the regime. Their activists had long been tortured or routinely detained in the regime's jails decades before the 2011 uprising. Every time there was an election, their campaigners were the first usual suspects to be rounded up.
They played a very positive part in the demonstrations and even their former critics commended their role in protecting protestors when they were attacked. They also never sought to hijack the revolution or claim it as their own. In fact they tried to stay out of the limelight to avoid US animosity towards the uprising. They insist that they do not want a 'religious state' and called for democratic reforms (although they too need to reform). They are a part of Egypt, so who stands to gain from dividing Egyptians? Why do outsiders push for hatred instead of free and fair polls?
In a truly democratic Egypt, political parties will have a place, the strength of which would be determined by the ballot box. The Brotherhood may not be the perfect party (despite improvements over the years) for everyone, but the unwarranted demonising of the group by non-Egyptians is a great disservice to the whole of Egypt. We have witnessed great solidarity between Christians and Muslims during the anti-Mubarak protests, which shows that Egyptians – if left to their own devices – can live together without serious sectarian tensions. There were rare scenes of people holding up copies of the Koran and crucifixes shoulder to shoulder. These people included ultra-conservative Muslims; men with long beards, women with niqabs – all of whom expressing sentiments of unity with their fellow Christian citizens.
This inspiring sense of compassion between Egyptians must not be lost. It is even a greater gain than the fall of Mubarak, because united Egyptians can topple any future dictator. Those who have failed to suppress the Egyptian revolution now seek to derail it or rebrand it to keep the status quo of division and mistrust among the people. But Egyptians of all walks of life need to remember their moments of unity in Tahrir Square and across Egypt: do they want this spirit to continue or will they let their ill-wishers divide (and rule) them once more?
Mamoon Alabbasi (M.A. in applied linguistics) is a news editor and translator based in London. His op-eds, reports, poetry, and reviews have appeared in a number of media outlets.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|