The situation in Egypt is serious and the future seems bleak. Anything can happen. Although the specter of civil war is not yet a reality, one must consider all scenarios and act accordingly. It seems that the Power (both civilians and military) are divided on the strategy to be adopted. Some want to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood and their organization, others want to impose conditions of survival without power, thus maintaining the illusion of a pluralistic and democratic future. All are reducing their opponents as only the “Muslim Brotherhood”, demonizing and calling them “terrorists” and “extremists.” Repression increases radicalization and justifies, a posteriori, the repression itself. A vicious cycle that we have seen in the modern history of Egypt.
Opponents to the coup, and among them the Muslim Brotherhood, have been rallying peacefully and they continue to demonstrate despite the state of emergency. Resistance, for several weeks, was non-violent and should remain so despite the provocations of military and police whose strategies are known. Mass executions or targeted, bribe of offenders (known as the baltaguiyya) to push them to attack the demonstrators, with, in addition, the increase in fires Coptic churches in order to widen the sectarian divide and feed bills (Sadat and Mubarak had used the same strategy).
While these protests continue to be peaceful, civil society – all tendencies – opposed to violence and military, must mobilize and form a united front around common, clear, bold but realistic position . A national coalition to be formed with women and men of the civil society – secular, Islamist, Copts, women, young activists – who are willing to open channels of dialogue with the authorities and asked:
1. End of repression 2. The release of political prisoners, leaders and members of political parties, which would result, in fact, with the end of demonstrations 3. Determining the steps that should bring back the political process to the civilians, based on a negotiated political agenda and future elections.
Civil society must now speak out and refuse false rhetoric that spreads around that the Army is only opposed to Islamists. What is at stake is the democratic future of Egypt and it will never be positive with the Army in control. Actors of the civil society should indulge in self criticism (for their failure) and, at the same time, work together to overcome the crisis. Being a passive, non-violent observer of violence is, indeed, to make the indirect choice of violence.
An Egyptian church was attacked at the start of the new year and scores of people were killed. That incident was highlighted prominently by worldwide mainstream media and it brought out the usual Islamophobes, including the president of France, who lamented the supposed ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Christians from the Middle East. The irony of such remarks coming from a president of France who wants to condemn to failure the appearance of Islam in France is blatantly hypocritical to say the least. But what you haven’t seen or perhaps heard much of is the response of Egyptians to this attack and in light of the Islamophobic drenched atmosphere it might surprise you.
Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.
In the days following the brutal attack on Saints Church in Alexandria, which left 21 dead on New Year’ eve, solidarity between Muslims and Copts has seen an unprecedented peak. Millions of Egyptians changed their Facebook profile pictures to the image of a cross within a crescent – the symbol of an “Egypt for All”. Around the city, banners went up calling for unity, and depicting mosques and churches, crosses and crescents, together as one.
The blogsphere picked up on this show of solidarity but main stream media chose to ignore it, although they covered the deaths of Egypt’s Christians rather extensively. Perhaps that’s why Sarkozy reacted so impetuously to the tragedy; he should read more than his government controlled press. It should be noted that the terrorist attack on Egypt’s Christians was roundly condemned by most major Muslim organizations and leaders.