Egyptian Aak- Week 32. The Dystopian Camps


 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

  • EU envoy is latest diplomat to leave Egypt after negotiations declared a ‘failure’
  • Morsi’s wife: President is definitely coming back
  • Hamas PM denies group’s interference in Egyptian affairs
  • Rights groups call for end to incitement against Christians
  • Obama and Erdogan discuss Egypt

Friday

 Saturday

  • Army ‘dealt’ with culprits behind the killing of 16 soldiers in Sinai 2012
  • Israeli Minsiter of Defence Ya’alon: Israel respects Egypt‘s sovereignty
  • No Egyptian-Israeli coordination on Sinai operations against jihadists
  • Muslim Brotherhood rejects al-Azhar reconciliation plans
  • 10 Brotherhood detained for inciting violence in Fayoum
  • Victim of harassment killed in Tanta

Sunday

A Few Thoughts

One of the unintended consequences of the crisis in Egypt is that it gave many of its subjects the opportunity to have a taste of extraordinary low-budget camping, right in the heart of the capital, Cairo. For many ordinary Egyptians, camping is a novel concept that they have only watched on TV. Egyptian films and soap operas are also full of stories about cool, spoiled rich youth, camping near the Red Sea or along the northern Mediterranean coast. Unlike Europe and the U.S. where camping is available for everyone, in Egypt, it is usually the kind of exclusive adventure left for the elite who are looking for “a different vacation.”  Perhaps that is why some describe the crisis in Egypt as a “class divide,” however, there is more to the conflict than a class war, many working class Egyptians are strong supporters of the army chief, general el-Sissi. The division in Egypt has more subtle sides; including, chemistry, affiliations, links, and yes, attraction to this kind of summer camps.

 Following June30, the Rabaa and Nahda sit-in has slowly evolved into proper camps. With the Brotherhood’s organizational skills, and the Egyptians amazing improvisation, the Islamists have managed to turn Rabaa and Nahda into well-functioning shantytowns. Life has started to evolve to fit the daily needs of the supporters. Pragmatism has become a necessity; pirating electricity from road lamps became halal and music and dance is allowed (usually strictly prohibited). In fact, this has become acceptable entertainment to celebrate “the Eid of victory,” and even looking for “observant women” as possible brides is allowed.

 The sit-in camps have offered a glimpse of the Islamists’ version of “a utopian society,” a society that is made up of loyal subjects, embracing an Islamist leader without questioning his abilities; a society that is equipped to encourage unquestioned loyalty. This is a society where non-Islamists and minorities do not exist. Here, dissent is an alien concept. Historically, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists groups has excelled in maintaining the loyalties of their supporters, but failed miserably in dealing with their opponents. This is precisely why they survive well while underground, but then fail when they emerged into the light.

 The Brotherhood’s so-called renaissance project has based its future success on embracing three virtues: listen, agree, and follow; and on rejecting three vices: thinking, reflecting and disagreeing. The conundrum for the Brotherhood has always been on how to deal with dissent and those who reject their doctrine. This is a tricky challenge in true democracies. Islamists scholars have failed to provide a workable formula that could prevent a contemporary version of the assassination of Caliph Osman or Caliph Ali. Even when they adopted democracy, they still failed to provide an answer, and in fact wrote an Egyptian constitution that make impeachment almost impossible.

 Sunni Islamists thought that they were smarter than their Shia “Brothers” in Iran, who function in a fully pledged theocracy. Instead, the Sunnis thought they could bring the best of both worlds and have a public mandate through the ballot box and illiberal governance through Sharia. This did not work and many who stood against Mubarak and Ben-Ali strongly disagreed with this forced deal. They demanded a proper democracy, and not a ballotocracy. This is precisely why they revolted on June30. The millions who poured into the streets had legitimate reasons to revolt against Morsi’s Islamist regime, regardless of the eventual coup and whether it was plotted in advance or not.

 It is hard to judge events in hindsight, but the army’s hasty decision to join the revolt in its early days has undoubtedly overshadowed the civilian uprising. Morsi was not in a stronger position than Mubarak in 2011, and he would have probably been forced to resign, particularly if the police and the army refused to obey his orders. The bloodshed would probably be more than what Egypt witnessed after July 3, but it would expose the Brotherhood’s ruthless face. Unfortunately, the “coup” has given the Brotherhood an excuse to launch its “anti-coup campaign.”  As a result, the army versus the Islamists stand-off has masked a bigger and more important debate, how to counter the Islamists’ dystopian project?

 As I tweeted on several occasions, a forced ending of the sit-ins is myopic, counter-productive, and only a short-term solution to a bigger and deeper problem. These sit-ins have survived partly because of the tenacity of the participants, but also because of the huge worldwide attention by the media. The weddings, kid zones, flowers, and media statements are all designed to please foreign observers, more so than the loyal followers. In reality, Rabaa and Nahda are nothing more than political summer camps that will end once the participants have had a large enough dose of adventure, and when sponsors realize that maintenance costs are more than the political rewards.

 That is why Bassem Sabry is right, Egypt should not break up the sit-ins, and rather should just leave it to dissolve organically. That is also why the alleged plan to end the sit-ins as published in the Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat is dangerous and reckless to say the least. The geography of the Nahda sit-in may facilitate a forced break-up, but Rabaa’s site is trickier with a higher risk for bloodshed, even if the casualties are in tens and not the hundreds as some have predicted. A containment policy may be more realistic in the form of clearing all the roads clearing to the sit-in, and removing road blacks, securing all the side roads, preventing further sit-ins in other squares, and securing military building and headquarters.

 The solution for Egypt’s political deadlock may be tricky, however, there is a golden opportunity to challenge this Islamic project. Rabaa and Nahda are no more than distorting mirrors that deflect the unsustainability of the broader, mythical Islamist project. The crowds inside both camps are happy with the fraternity and sense of unity, but also because the camps have sheltered them from other challenges that they face in their daily lives. It is better to leave the jubilant crowd alone, until they realize that sheltering reality is not the solution. Sooner or later the sponsored “camp holiday.” The Brotherhood tycoons cannot sponsor their loyal Egyptians permanently; their ideological project is more bankrupt than their dodgy finance, and the crowd will slowly realize that the organizers are running out of ideas. Chanting Takbeer will not make Egypt an Islamic state, nor it will bring back a deposed failed leader.

 If Egyptian politicians are really keen on the future of Egypt, they should focus on fixing Egypt’s dysfunctional political system, and strike the right balance between the demands of the ordinary Islamist crowd, and the wider non-Islamist Muslims, Copts and other minorities. This needs to be done in a more robust constitution, together with a serious of social reforms at basic level of service, particularly in rural regions so as to counter the poisonous indoctrination by zealous Islamist preachers.

 All the above may take a long time to fulfill, with many possible painful short-term problems, but it is Egypt’s only path to salvation. Meanwhile, ignore the “Republic of Rabaa, the Emirate of Nahda.” Egypt is bigger than them. Bloodshed will only inject life into a dystopian project that has repeatedly failed to face reality. I hope the decision to end the sit-ins (allegedly on Monday) to be reversed.

Good Reports

Good Read

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues. The only practising doctor who write in Middle Eastern politics in UK.
This entry was posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, June30 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Egyptian Aak- Week 32. The Dystopian Camps

  1. nedhamson says:

    Reblogged this on Ned Hamson Second Line View of the News and commented:
    Right on! If Egyptian politicians are really keen on the future of Egypt, they should focus on fixing Egypt’s dysfunctional political system, and strike the right balance between the demands of the ordinary Islamist crowd, and the wider non-Islamist Muslims, Copts and other minorities. This needs to be done in a more robust constitution, together with a serious of social reforms at basic level of service, particularly in rural regions so as to counter the poisonous indoctrination by zealous Islamist preachers.

    All the above may take a long time to fulfill, with many possible painful short-term problems, but it is Egypt’s only path to salvation. Meanwhile, ignore the “Republic of Rabaa, the Emirate of Nahda.” Egypt is bigger than them. Bloodshed will only inject life into a dystopian project that has repeatedly failed to face reality. I hope the decision to end the sit-ins (allegedly on Monday) to be reversed.

    Like

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