This is tragic, this is Egypt

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - H.A. HEL­LYER

AN old friend of mine came round for lunch. He re­mains rel­a­tively in­formed as to the daily go­ings on in Egypt and com­mented on the “Sisi-ma­nia” that so many within the coun­try see on a daily ba­sis. When he was in­formed that it had gone be­yond “Sisi-Choco­lates” and may have reached the point at which Sisi tat­toos are be­ing mar­keted - as well as Sisi wed­ding jew­elry and Sisi pa­ja­mas - well, suf­fice it to say that his ap­petite for lunch was some­what dis­si­pated.

As a young­ster in univer­sity, he was a sup­porter of the Mus­lim Brother­hood – in­deed, some of his fam­ily re­main as such. He left the group prior to the 2011 rev­o­lu­tion, deem­ing them to have had ques­tion­able re­li­gious cre­den­tials and cor­rupt po­lit­i­cal ap­proaches. Af­ter the for­mal des­ig­na­tion by the in­terim gov­ern­ing cab­i­net in Egypt of the Brother­hood as a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion, it has be­come a crime to “pass in­for­ma­tion” to the group my friend used to be a mem­ber of. What that law pre­cisely means is, as all things in Egypt are, not in­cred­i­bly clear.

The in­terim gov­ern­ment in Egypt seems to ig­nore the fact that a group by the name of “An­sar Bayt al- Maqdis” claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack upon a po­lice fa­cil­ity in north­ern Egypt ear­lier this week

It is not in­cred­i­bly clear if the cab­i­net ac­tu­ally had the leg­isla­tive au­thor­ity to des­ig­nate the Brother­hood as a ter­ror­ist group any­way (ac­tu­ally, it’s far more clear that the cab­i­net did not have such au­thor­ity). But hey: this is Egypt. Un­der the pre­cise let­ter of the law that ap­plies to ter­ror­ist groups in Egypt, it could very well be the case that if my friend spoke to his for­mer as­so­ci­ates in the or­ga­ni­za­tion, he would be guilty of a crime pun­ish­able by jail time. We joked as to whether or not I would then also be con­sid­ered in breach of the law by talk­ing to him, as surely guilt by as­so­ci­a­tion is not be­yond the realm of pos­si­bil­ity.

Ear­lier on in the week, I spoke with a jour­nal­ist for a highly re­spected pub­li­ca­tion, and his ed­i­tor. As any de­cent jour­nal­ist would, he speaks to a mul­ti­tude of sources in or­der to pro­vide a bal­anced and in­formed pic­ture of the sit­u­a­tion on the ground. That in­vari­ably means that he talks to mem­bers of the Mus­lim Brother­hood – whether in­side or out­side of Egypt. Un­der the new des­ig­na­tion of the or­ga­ni­za­tion as a ter­ror­ist one, is he guilty of a crime? Speak­ing with his ed­i­tor af­ter­wards, we agreed she ought to speak with a lawyer to know pre­cisely where the new red lines ac­tu­ally are, in or­der to pro­tect her staff – be­cause, God for­bid, they ought to be able to do their work and ex­pect the law to pro­tect them and their pro­fes­sion.

The in­terim gov­ern­ment in Egypt seems to ig­nore the fact that a group by the name of “An­sar Bayt al-Maqdis” (Sup­port­ers of Jerusalem) claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack upon a po­lice fa­cil­ity in north­ern Egypt ear­lier this week – the ter­ror­ist group in Egypt, it seems, is the Brother­hood. Not to be out­done, the Brother­hood’s me­dia out­side of Egypt im­pli­cates the state it­self for the at­tack, and sug­gested a shad­owy con­nec­tion with Naguib Sawiris (a fa­mous busi­ness­man), af­ter Sawiris en­cour­aged anti-Brother­hhood vig­i­lante vi­o­lence in the event the Brother­hood tried to vi­o­lently in­ter­fere in the forth­com­ing con­sti­tu­tional ref­er­en­dum. Oh, and the clos­ing of char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions linked to the Mus­lim Brother­hood as a re­sult of the new des­ig­na­tion then be­comes con­nected to Chris­tian mis­sion­ary ac­tiv­i­ties ac­cord­ing to another ar­ti­cle. In the wake of the des­ig­na­tion of the Brother­hood as a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion, pri­vate tele­vi­sion sta­tions start ad­ver­tis­ing the tele­phone num­bers that “hon­or­able cit­i­zens” can call in or­der to alert the Min­istry of In­te­rior as to who among their neigh­bors are mem­bers of the Brother­hood. McCarthy­ism never had it this good, some say. Some then joke about hav­ing the per­fect chance to get rid of that mother-in-law they al­ways had prob­lems with. Oth­ers can’t quite bring them­selves to joke, be­cause press re­ports in­di­cate that the fol­low­ing day, a pri­vate cit­i­zen killed another over an al­ter­ca­tion due to some­one flash­ing the four-fin­gered pro-Mursi salute.

Af­ter the Jan. 25, 2011 up­ris­ing, those who be­lieved in the rev­o­lu­tion could point to truly ex­cep­tional be­hav­ior on the part of the pro­test­ers. Courage, per­sis­tence and re­spect for plu­ral­ism. Af­ter those 18 days in Tahrir Square, and other squares around Egypt, the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies could not, it seemed, turn that rev­o­lu­tion­ary en­ergy into a po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity and the Mus­lim Brother­hood rode the wave of the rev­o­lu­tion into power. Had the Brother­hood opted to fo­cus on the orig­i­nal goals of the rev­o­lu­tion, rather than seek par­ti­san gain, per­haps things might have been dif­fer­ent in 2011, 2012 and even 2013. Still, the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies of the Jan. 25 could claim that if noth­ing else, their up­ris­ing had some­thing beau­ti­ful at its core, even if it was later abused and mis­used. But what of the June 30 “rev­o­lu­tion?” Be­yond the le­git­i­mate, laud­able and demo­cratic aim of call­ing for early pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, is there any­thing com­pa­ra­ble to the 18 days of the Jan. 25 up­ris­ing in the June 30 event? From June 30 to July 3? Or from July 3 to now? In July, the most re­luc­tant sup­port­ers of the mil­i­tary ouster of Mo­ham­mad Mursi ar­gued that in all like­li­hood, the mil­i­tary’s move saved the coun­try from civil war. Of course, it was a the­ory that could never be tested but cit­i­zen-onci­t­i­zen civil strife was cer­tainly likely.

Egypt al­most six months later is not in the midst of a civil war and the signs for it are not there. But civil strife? Vig­i­lante vi­o­lence? Ter­ror­ism? All those things that the re­moval of Mursi was meant to avoid and avert?

—Cour­tesy Alara­biya

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