Where Egypt Is Going?
By Dr Salim Nazzal
01 July, 2013
As I write this article , the TV shows huge pro and anti regime demonstrations, in both the Medan Al Tahrer , and Rabiya Al adwaiya and indeed in many other cities which might develop towards a civil disobedience.
The name of the streets might have some significance. The tahrer square, is named after the 23 officer revolution in 23 July 1952, best known in the 25 of January revolution, which forced Mubarak to leave the power.
Rabiya al Adawiya is a Sufi Muslim lived in the 14thy century, dedicated her life to her greatest lover, the God. But the case is probably not so with the (Muslim brothers), the secularists accused them to be hungry for political power .So even though the distance between the two streets is few minutes in the distance, the reality is that it is dividing the country future choices .
What is going in Egypt is not a question that can be easily answered? Two years ago those adversary powers were together in the Tahrer square demanding Mubarak to leave after 40 years of corrupted administration. In the current heated debates , this episode is used by the secular forces to say that they do not use violent methods . (if we do not like the president we gather signatures from the people. *They say it reached 22 million signatures*. But we do not kill the president) a hint the Islamists who assassinated anwar Al Sadat in 1981 dislike to hear.
The Islamists argues back that the president is legally elected for a four year term, and only the election ballots which decide whether he stays or go. They argue : ( If the president goes, and another president takes power, then any power unsatisfied with him, can go to streets and demands him to go? The secularists argue that even a great hero like Charles De Gaulle, left the power under the street pressures, despite he was legally elected.
The clashes between the two sides is indeed between two worldviews : it includes all sides of life, the political, the cultural, the position towards woman, music and other issues. And I think that the clashes between the democratic and secular forces with the Islamic force will play a major role in shaping the new Middle East.
Nevertheless , the tension is not the product of today. The secular forces accused the Islamists to have kidnapped the 25th January revolution, and deviate it from its goals. The secularist side has since accused the president of trying to Islamization Egypt on the Ikhwan model.
Even if one looks at the events from a relatively neutral position it's hard to see that the current leadership has done something concrete to reduce the huge unemployment and poverty.
All parties agree that Egypt is suffering from series challenges that need a strong leadership , with a clear political and economic plan. For instance, the Egyptian (bank of food) says that the number of Egyptian living under the poverty line is 42 percent . This means that almost half of the population lives below the poverty line which has its negative consequences on development , health , education etc.
The president and his team accuse the secularists of doing everything to make his job not easy. How to run the country when there are 317 demonstrations per day since the president took power one year ago, one Islamic leader complains? But the secularists think that the president lacking vision towards addressing the economical situation, all what he interested in is to consolidate his power!
By comparison, the Islamic revolution in Iran won, by allying its self with the secular forces, likes Tode communist party and Mujahidun and others. But when it got the power it outlawed them and puts them in jails. This won’t happen in Egypt because we are awake from day one, another opposition leader says.
On the international level much concern has been shown towards the events in Egypt. The USA thought to have had some understanding with the Islamists seem to hold the stick from the middle. The European powers do not go much farther from this policy. And Israel watches the situation in Egypt remaining within the same policy .Which is to see the major Arab countries broken and week.
In his two hour speech the president admitted mistakes especially towards young people who deserve better according to him. To repair this mistake he demands from every minister to appoint a young man under 40 as his assistant. The opposition says this is late to admit this , in addition that appointing few young men in minister assistance positions is not going to solve the problem of millions of unemployed young men.
While the tension is rising between the two streets, some observers began to think that the army might intervene, not in the favor of any, but to stop the chaos Egyptians might be drawn to if the tension worsened. The prestigious Al Azhar Islamic center warned of a possibility of civil war, and called politicians to think wisely.
The Egyptian journalist from Al Ahram I have spoken with this evening told me that only God and wise Egyptian can stop the country from more chaos.
(We see how things are in Syria. And it’s our last wish to reach that situation) he added.
Most observers think the current events are defining events in Egypt and probably for the whole region. Because most or all thought earlier that the Islamists are the only winners of the Arab spring, the events of Egypt today shows that this is not the whole truth. This naturally might have a significant impact on the whole region and give breath to the democratic forces.
The question is , is it a counterrevolution as the Islamists says, or , is it a counterattack from the secular forces, the coming hours or days might give a clearer answer to this question, and to the question of where Egypt is going? .
Dr Salim Nazzal is Palestinian-Norwegian historian on the Middle East, who has written extensively on social and political issues in the region.
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