This piece initially published in Al-Monitor
There was something almost ecstatic about Egypt during its uprising against Mubarak. A nation that was once dismissed as old and submissive had risen up against its dictator and managed to do it in style. It was a perfect political tale, and it’s no wonder that hopeful descriptives like “spring” and “awakening” flooded the media. Two years later, however, the scene in Egypt could not be more different from that ebullient time. The forces that were once united against Mubarak have turned out to be a coalition of enemies that has disintegrated. Instead, they are now fighting a dirty war to dominate the political scene.
Egypt’s current political chaos has to be seen within the perspective of its contemporary history. Despite its different phases and themes, there was one prevailing conception that was consistently shared by the country through each successive leadership regime. All Egyptian rulers, from Muhammad Ali to current President Mohammed Morsi, have perceived local Egyptians as falling into three subgroups: the loyal, the opponents and the “ignorant.” The apolitical general public (generally known as the Kanaba Party) has always been viewed as ignorant of its own best interests.
Amr Ibn Al-As, the Arab conqueror of Egypt, allegedly described Egyptians by saying, “Their loyalties are always to the winner.” His statement has lingered in the minds of each of Egypt’s leaders. This belief translated into a political game composed of a mixture of submission and seduction. The leaders of Egypt learned to start their tenure by enforcing loyalties, crushing opponents and seducing the public before embarking on any real governance. To continue reading click here
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