Protesters Show Awareness Of Egypt’s Historic Role

The Egyptian demonstrators have raised pan-Arab slogans not as a reaction to the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, but because they are aware of Egypt’s historic role and duty to lead all Arabs.

al-monitor An Egyptian man adjusts a billboard with pictures of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser in Cairo, July 23, 2002. Nasser planned and helped lead the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. Photo by REUTERS.

Topics covered

pan-arabism, islamism, egyptian revolution, arabism

Jul 3, 2013

The Muslim Brotherhood project as a means for change in the Arab world has fallen, regardless of the direct results of the demonstrators who filled Egypt’s squares and called on the president, his party and his Islamist allies to leave.

In reality, the Muslim Brotherhood project fell in the first week after President Mohammed Morsi took power, when he thought that his close victory made him the sole representative of the Egyptian people, including those who voted against him or refused to vote altogether because they rejected both candidates.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood organization in Tunisia was wiser than its Egyptian counterpart when it avoided portraying itself as the sole representative of the Tunisian people, it still suffered a serious setback with the assassination of militant oppositionist Chokri Belaid. The assassination made the Brotherhood-affiliated Tunisian prime minister resign and call for expanding the ruling coalition, thus shrinking the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence in power. The Tunisian crisis, still ongoing, is about the economy and the nature of the country. Tunisians have lived in a secular system for more than 50 years without moving away from Islam.

The Libyan people are suffocating under a bloody power struggle between unheard-of “Islamist” and “secular” groups that are new to political work and used to live in the West before the Libyan people summoned them home. Libya today is threatened with being torn apart, going beyond the old monarchy’s three-state federal structure (the east with its capital of Benghazi, the west with its capital of Tripoli, and the south with its capital of Sabha).

In Syria, which is almost in civil war, the history of political Islam as represented by the Muslim Brotherhood is not pretty, since that movement has long been implicated in bloodshed. The other Islamist groups are no better. They seem to have come from the jahiliyyah era of pre-Islamic Arabia. They are violent and ignorant of Islamic principles. They totally reject political work and consider anyone who is not with them to be an infidel and that every infidel should be killed.

In the above three examples, the opposition’s slogan has been: democracy and civilian (non-religious) rule, and an emphasis on the country’s original identity. In effect, they want nationalism, and nationalism is Arabism.

The objections against the Muslim Brotherhood included their seeking to monopolize power, their use of religious slogans to brand those who oppose them — the majority of Egyptians (and Tunisians, Libyans, Syrians, etc.) — as apostates, their submission to American hegemony, their seeking the approval of the Israeli occupation, their abandoning of the Arab’s No. 1 cause of Palestine, and their enthusiastic support for the Syrian oppositionists, especially the Islamists, many of whom are even bloodier than al-Qaeda and deny the Arab identity of the Syrian people. Arabism is the universal identity of all Arabs — Muslims, Christians, Copts, and those of other religions.

The return to Egypt of Nasserite discourse (of President Gamal Abdel Nasser) is not a reaction to the Brotherhood’s discourse. It is an expression of the Arab nation’s spirit and the Arab peoples’ goal of ridding themselves of foreign domination, confronting Israeli occupation, and rebuilding their economies on a sound footing to preserve the Arab peoples’ dignity and reject the humiliation imposed by foreign (and American-controlled) financial institutions.

The facts have revealed that Islamist organizations consider their true enemy to be Arabism, which is the universal identity of the Arab peoples and represents their aspirations to freedom, progress and unity.

The Lebanese people are aware of that fact and have paid a heavy price when their leaders ignored Arabism. When Arabism took a backseat, such as what happened in Syria and Egypt, a climate of civil war returned to Lebanon because the Lebanese sects start fighting over which sect will control the government. Lebanon’s only safety net is when Arabism prevailed in the region, be it in Syria or Egypt.

So the equation is simple. If religious extremism reaches power, then naturally all those fearing to be dominated by it will unite to oppose it. The majority of the Arabs are Muslims, but they do not accept extremism or factionalism. So any religious rule will face a dilemma: if it accepts democracy, it will eventually lose.

A religious government is unable to govern a country the size of Egypt, especially at a time when one-party systems are falling apart. The Egyptian government is moving against the tide of history and may resort to repression, which will cause its undoing, albeit at high cost.

The opposition is facing a one-party system that uses the support of minor figures and organizations to pretend that it is inclusive. But the opposition, or rather the oppositions, have no unified program or action plan. The opposition parties, youth groups, and associations have no unified leadership and no unified program on how to bring down the religious government and replace it with a nationalist and democratic one that would have the majority’s support.

Slogans are not enough. Chanting “no to sectarianism” or “no to the dominance of one opinion, one organization, or one leader” is not enough. It is not enough for everybody to be opposed to a religious government. It is not enough for everybody to oppose a military dictatorship. It is not enough for everybody to proclaim their belief in democracy. They must also have a competent leadership made up of qualified people who will put forth a national plan that the Egyptians would support but that also would inspire the Arabs in other countries. Egypt should not care only about itself because isolationism will kill the Egyptian revolution.

In the 1950s, when all the Arabs looked to Egypt for leadership, Egypt was not greater nor militarily stronger than it is today. Back then, the Arabs looked toward Egypt because they lacked leadership at home. So the Arabs responded to Egypt’s call and moved to support the Egyptian revolution. Today, the Arabs are again without leadership and they are once again looking toward Egypt to supply it.

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More from  Talal Salman