The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is waging war against media outlets that are beyond the group's control. They are tightening restrictions on freedom of expression in a way that surpasses the oppression during the Mubarak regime. It is as if the media must stay silent about everything perpetrated by the Brotherhood, and everything the media uncovers is considered a conspiracy against the authorities — an attack on the religious doctrine that the party of the "supreme guide" upholds.
Dear readers, imagine what would happen if an Egyptian newspaper published information confirming that one of the Brotherhood's leaders had sexually harassed a young member of the organization. What would be the Brotherhood's reaction? Would they be glad that this crime had been uncovered and demand that the perpetrator be held accountable — or would they feel that even if the crime occurred it would be best to cover things up, to protect the Brotherhood's reputation? Would the Brotherhood thank the journalist that published details of the crime — or would they consider him corrupt, an agent working for the Mubarak regime and world Zionism?
All of these questions came to my mind when I read what happened in the United States this week. Years ago, the American press revealed a scandal involving Catholic priests who were sexually assaulting children that belonged to the church. American newspapers continued to fight to prove the crimes of harassment, until the church apologized and the accused priests went on trial. The church then established a system to prevent these crimes from recurring. They even appointed a special investigator, Rev. Robert Oliver, to investigate the harassment crimes within the church. Oliver opened his investigation with a press conference, in which he said something along the lines of: The press, which insisted that we face these scandals, did us a service. The press has helped us to face the facts with transparency and sincerity.
His speech reflects psychological and mental maturity, and also indicates a deep understanding of the media's message. Let's compare this to the way the Brotherhood deals with the media. Since the Brotherhood’s arrival to power, they have waged a war on media outlets that are beyond their control. Freedom of expression was severely limited during the days of Mubarak, but restrictions on the media under the Brotherhood's rule are even worse than those imposed by Mubarak. Many journalists have been referred to trial on charges of insulting President Mohammed Morsi — a fake, illegal charge that is leveled against anyone who criticizes the president.
Respectable media personalities, such as Dina Abdel Fattah and Wael Ibrashi, were put on trial because they dared to host members of the Black Bloc, which opposes the Brotherhood's rule. This is despite the fact that the whole world knows that to host someone, even if they are doing something illegal, doesn't imply liability on the part of the media figure hosting them. The Brotherhood's war against independent media is violent and relentless.
At Morsi's behest, or at least with his consent, supporters of Hazem Abu Ismail laid siege on the Egyptian Media Production City and assaulted actors and media personalities. They attacked the headquarters of the Al-Wafd newspaper and burned its building, and no one held them accountable. On the second anniversary of the revolution, millions of Egyptians turned out to protest — denouncing the Brotherhood's rule, demanding the overthrow of the invalid constitution and calling for early presidential elections. These protestors were confronted by the police, under the leadership of the new interior minister, who fired live bullets at them, killing 53 martyrs in a single week.
Unlike hundreds of detainees who have been brutally tortured out of the public's eye, we see a vivid example in the tragedy of Hamada Saber, an Egyptian citizen who appeared on television begging police officers for mercy as they dragged him around naked, disgracing his honor and his humanity. Prime Minister Hesham Kandil then came out to address the nation, and rather than talking about all of these crimes, Kandil surprised us by eagerly emphasizing the importance of natural breastfeeding. He said that it was important for the mother to clean the breast before breastfeeding in order to prevent the child from contracting diarrhea. This astonishing statement humiliated the prime minister in front of the entire world, and it demonstrated that senior officials should undergo serious medical tests to measure their mental abilities before assuming their posts.
The strange thing here is that the Brotherhood-affiliated minister of information demanded that the producer who was in charge of the prime minister's press conference stop his work and referred him to trial. Why? The minister believes that the producer should have stopped the broadcast when the prime minister began making this silly statement. In the Brotherhood-affiliated minister's view, the media isn't obligated to report the facts, but rather should prevent people from seeing anything that could offend the Brotherhood.
The same logic was adopted by the Brotherhood's minister of justice, Ahmed Mekki, when the daily Al-Watan reported that the minister's son had gone to Qatar to work for a large salary. This, of course, creates shared interests between the minister and the state of Qatar, which could lead to an abuse of power. Mekki admitted that his son had gone to work in Qatar, and then proceeded to curse the corrupt media. It's as though, in Mekki's view, the media should cover up anything that could offend him, even if it is true.
It is strange that the Brotherhood and the Salafists dominate many religious channels which are funded by Wahhabis in the Gulf. Sheikhs who appear on these channels do not mainly speak about religion, but rather obscenely curse the Brotherhood's opponents, sometimes even provoking their murder. Nevertheless, the Brotherhood considers the insults and incitement on the part of their religious channels to be normal and acceptable, but they do not tolerate any criticism of themselves in other media outlets.
Is this confusion between media and propaganda the result of ignorance or stupidity on the part of the Brotherhood? I don't think so, since many Brotherhood members received a good education. So why don't they understand that the media does not create facts, but rather reports them — and that the primary task of the media is to reveal to the public all kinds of offenses and crimes?
Here we come to the crux of the problem. We must first acknowledge that it is rare for a human to choose his religion of his own free will. Most of the time we are born into a religion that is predetermined by our parents, and from childhood we learn to believe and practice the religion into which we were born. We need religion in our lives and God created us with religious sentiments. We feel a sense of deep comfort when we practice this religion, regardless of the religion we embrace. Thus, we first embrace religion in our hearts and then think about it in our minds, not vice versa. In other words, we first believe with our emotions, and then harness our minds to search for evidence of faith. Religion, therefore, is an absolute and exclusive emotional conviction.
Believers from any religion always trust that their religion is the only true religion and all others are wrong. Muslims believe that Christianity and Judaism were corrupted, and that adherents of these two faiths are misguided. Meanwhile, Christians believe that the Prophet Muhammad was not a prophet sent from God, while Jews deny both Islam and Christianity and believe that the real Messiah has yet to appear. Thus there is no point in debating religion with someone, since he will defend his beliefs with zeal, regardless of whether that results in self-deception, fallacies and contradictions. Such is the nature of religion, and there is no harm in this, as long as citizens in a democratic state know how to accept other religions, even if they are not convinced of their veracity. The problem occurs when humans practice politics with religious sentiment. At that time, we will inevitably be caught up in what the Brotherhood is doing now.
Brotherhood members do not believe that they hold a point of view. Instead, they believe that they hold the sacred truth, and everyone else has gone astray. Members of the Brotherhood do not think in order to reach an opinion; instead, the truth is provided by their "supreme guide." Thus, they embrace it and defend it. What is most dangerous is that members of the Brotherhood believe that they alone carry the word of God and represent Islam, and thus, in their opinion, everyone who opposes the Brotherhood offends Islam. Try to write any criticism of the Brotherhood's supreme guide on the internet, and you will immediately receive a barrage of insults from someone who claims to be pious. You will also receive advice to refrain from criticism of the supreme guide and repent before God, before you die and are thrown into hell.
The fact that the Brotherhood is equated with Islam prevents them from seeing their mistakes and crimes. Anyone who opposes them is an "enemy of religion," who in their opinion has no rights whatsoever. Perhaps the assault carried out by Brotherhood members against protesters in front of the presidential palace is the best evidence of this.
The Brotherhood members who assaulted girls with complete vileness and brutality, and who tortured protesters in a repugnant manner, are simultaneously faithful believers, eager to perform sincere acts of worship. Their conscience will keep them awake if they miss the dawn prayer, but they can torture others without the slightest sense of guilt. This is because they represent Islam, and anyone who opposes them hates Islam. These haters of Islam are either infidels, promiscuous adulterers who have gone astray or foreign intelligence agents who are fighting Islam. In short, Brotherhood opponents are enemies of Islam, and there is no room to talk about their rights. There is nothing wrong with beating them, dragging them, or even killing them if necessary. All of these things are considered to be crimes when committed against the Brotherhood, but if the Brotherhood commits these same crimes against the enemies of Islam, they consider it a kind of jihad and an obligation.
The Brotherhood will never admit to all of the crimes they committed, which are recorded on video and audio. They will use all of their energy to deny the truth, regardless of how obvious the facts may be. When you ask a Brotherhood member to recognize the crimes of the supreme guide, it is as though you are asking a pious man to admit to contradictions in his religion.
Morsi, who began as an elected president, has obstructed the law and stomped on it with his feet. He has imposed upon Egypt a constitution that does not express the will of Egyptians. He is responsible for the torture and killing of protesters, just as Mubarak was responsible for the same crimes and then tried and thrown in jail. All of these facts are as clear as the sun that can be seen in the east and the west. There is no hope, however, that the Brotherhood will see these facts or admit to them. To them, acknowledging Morsi's crimes would hurt their religious doctrine, which is based on the fact that everything the Brotherhood does represents Islam itself. The battle in Egypt is no longer between the opposition and the government, it is between all of Egypt and the Brotherhood.
Democracy is the solution.
Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
- The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
- Archived articles
- Exclusive events
- The Week in Review
- Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly