Uncle Morsi

The past two weeks, since Morsi announced his Hitler powers, have been the bleakest since the revolution began.

The day after Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration, the attorney general held an emergency meeting and opponents of the decree gathered outside the high court, where they were attacked by mystery plain-clothed attackers using teargas moments after the police quietly withdrew. When I arrived some 20 minutes later the air was still pungent with the gas and riot police had returned, and were facing off against furious anti-Morsi protesters who surrounded them on both sides. It ended peacefully, for once.

I was filled with an indescribable fear when Islamists announced that they would be protesting in support of Morsi in Tahrir, where anti-Morsi protesters are currently holding a sit-in. It was a decision as terrifying as it was brazen and stupid. The crude binary (Islamist/pro-Morsi vs. “secular”/anti-Morsi) that was produced by last year’s referendum is now at its most pronounced – as is inevitable in a context of long suppressed (political and religious) identities and fear mongering about The Other.

Campaigning between the two camps has been reduced to who can mobilise the most bodies in one place. On Tuesday the seculars organised a huge show of force in their old stomping ground Tahrir Square. Islamists responded by holding an equally impressive rally outside Cairo University.

The two rallies couldn’t have been more different. Now that the opposition movement is going after Morsi it has attracted the Ahmed Shafiq/Omar Suleiman/Amr Moussa crowd, people like some members of my family who aren’t necessarily felool (pro or affiliated with the Mubarak regime) but who have a morbid terror of the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam generally. I have a pro-revolution aunt who supported Hamdeen Sabahy in the first round of the presidential elections and then switched to Shafiq in the run-offs when Sabahy lost.

Not all of this group are affluent or from chichi neighbourhoods, but the ones that are were prominent on Tuesday, furiously marching from Zamalek in their velour tracksuits and ugg boots and manicured nails, holding forth in Arabic, English and French about the outrage of it all.

Their appearance has added a new dimension to the binary, with the pro-Morsi camp accusing the opposition of being dominated by felool and atheists who engage in lewd acts in Tahrir, while some members of the anti-Morsi crowd respond with equally vile slurs, calling Islamists uneducated peasants, or sheep unable to think for themselves.

As usual El-Baradei is a convenient shorthand for Islamist criticism of their enemies, especially given his recent visibility, actually in Egypt and actually in public. He popped up in Tahrir on Friday, bustled on to a stage looking uncomfortable as usual where he gave a barely audible speech through the evening’s murk. I’m still undecided about whether he played a shrewd game by being absent, and above, all of 2011’s political yuckiness and base shenanigans. Supporters laud him for not compromising on his principles and for his consistency, but it is easy to do that from the nosebleed seats.

ElBaradei’s name was bandied around at the Islamist rally, too, protesters reminding him and Sabahy that Morsi was elected president and not them.

My friend Adam and I got talking to a man, Mahmoud, at the Morsi rally who said that the president’s political opposition are necessarily against any decision he takes, no matter how prudent, because they reject his Islamic project. Mahmoud was dressed in a neat plaid shirt and casual weekend jacket with the telltale just too short trousers, his chin adorned with a wispy candy floss-like beard. He held a sign above his head demanding the implementation of Sharia, and on the subject of Sharia said that it has never been implemented in the modern age but that the Taliban came the closest to doing so. He added that the media misrepresented the Taliban. He later gave me a polite lecture about how I must think more about God and Islam and that hopefully this will make me want to wear the veil and follow the correct path.

Interestingly, he also said that the Muslim Brotherhood had promised Salafis that they would implement “their” i.e. the Salafi version of Sharia rather than their own version (which Mahmoud described as incorrect). This promises to be an interesting, if messy, showdown in the future.

What was most confusing about the rally is that demonstrators spent much time going on about and defending Sharia when this was a rally ostensibly in support of Morsi, his decree and the draft constitution i.e. to quote Tina Turner, what’s Sharia got to do, got to do with it. Also, many of their political opponents resent the Islamists’ claiming a monopoly on Sharia and point out that they too are Muslims and have no problem with its implementation (but remember that there are different interpretations of what Sharia means).

While I was at the rally looking at placards saying things such as “Islam is light and the Quran is my constitution”, “what have you seen from God in order to hate his law?” and “the people support the president’s decisions” I again, for the 726th time this week, considered my own decision to vote for Morsi in the presidential election run-offs having wasted many bloody hours thinking about it before the actual vote.

The thought that I may have contributed to voting in this avuncular yet megalomaniac individual backed up by an army of devotees is an uncomfortable feeling to say the least, and the word “Ermächtigungsgesetz” keeps flashing before my eyes.

People like me who voted for Morsi not out of conviction but to keep out Shafiq are predictably the subjects of considerable vitriol at the moment, perhaps justifiably.

Here comes a however.

HOWEVER, for what it’s worth, I think I made the right decision as someone non-partisan who doesn’t have any qualms about aligning myself with people I vaguely disagree with against people I strongly disagree with. I voted exclusively to keep out Shafiq and remain convinced that had he been elected we would have been shafted good and proper and absolutely nothing would have changed.

Now as we have discussed above there is an enormous amount of shafting going on at the moment and lots of change what with there never being a dull moment with Dr Morsi. I am anxious about the future, but there was an inevitability about Muslim Brotherhood rule at some point in Egypt’s history and unfortunately, I am alive to experience it. The only positive thing about the Muslim Brotherhood in power is that they are spectacularly shit at it. Just like the Egyptian army and their foray into direct rule they have used up almost all their store of good credit with non-MBers in an incredibly short amount of time.

Every day that passes puts another dent in the legend of this 80-year-old group with its dazzling powers of organisation and moderate Islamic vision and familiarity with the Egyptian street. Snort. Morsi is a dull cheating husband who misbehaves and attempts to make amends by offering surprise dinner invitations after he beats his wife up, where his wife is the Egyptian people you understand. The MB itself are a glorified soup kitchen with excellent logistical skills that end at distributing food to the poor and organising large rallies. They are a charity organisation with a militia that finds itself in charge of a country and which seems to think that its decisions do not need to be backed up by reason or say, the rule or law, but can rely entirely on the Egyptian people trusting Uncle Morsi.

This was most evident in the Constitutional Assembly debacle. Virtually all members of the political opposition – and most crucially minorities (women and Christian representatives) -walked out of the Assembly. Those that remained produced a mess of a constitution, but its proponents see no problem in its having been drafted by a largely homogenous group of males. The thinking seems to be:  we have faith in God so have faith in us.

The Muslim Brotherhood are doing what the National Democratic Party did for thirty years, albeit without the God element. The NDP also depended on consolidating their own position by deliberately misrepresenting their opponents, making the law fit their decisions rather than the other way around, a fondness for thuggery* and a paternalistic form of governance that reduces the public’s role in politics to box ticking. The only difference is Morsi’s tedious penchant for moralising (e.g. Morsi suggested that Egyptians go to bed early so they can get up and pray the dawn prayer). The moralising would be tolerable except that they are failing to do anything about the million everyday problems blighting ordinary Egyptians’ lives (despite Morsi’s election grandstanding about making considerable improvements in 100 days) while they have the temerity to think that they can thrust a dictatorship on us because God is on their side and they know best.

All this is very Mubaraky. Good luck to the MB if they think it will work.

* re. the link: The NYT reports that the judges were telling fibs. I have seen one example of the thuggery however when MB supporters attacked protesters in Tahrir Square.

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17 Responses to Uncle Morsi

  1. This is Sarah Carr at her best! Brilliant!

  2. Pingback: The Muslim Brotherhood Rule in Egypt · Global Voices

  3. mo says:

    Not secular vs. religious…but a great one nevertheless

  4. Omar says:

    The last paragraph sums up my feeling, Morsy and his group think that because it worked with Mubarak for 30 years, it will definitely work for them especially with what they think a large number of people behind them supporting every decision they make.

    What they don’t know or fail to see is that A) They’re much weaker than Mubarak. Mubarak learned from Sadat who learnt from Nasser, the ultimate dictator you’ll ever find. Mubarak made sure to eliminate all his opponents, shut them down and be sure that only his voice echoed through the media, made sure that the police forces and the Judiciary power are in the palm of his hands. Right now Morsi is picking too many fights that he can’t handle, aside from the liberals looking for a free secular Egypt, the media are against him (the ones that people actually watch & believe, not the state television and journals), the judges are against him, the poor people can’t see a change from the Mubarak days (some people whose Daily bread depend on Tourism for example long for the days of Mubarak) blame a lot of our recent problems on the MB & their president Morsi. The MB have the police on their side, but that can change quickly if things get out of control, and there will come a point where their ability to gather a crowd won’t matter because they won’t exceed a certain number of people no matter what they do. They have to remember that Mubarak was much more stable yet he fell with the first wave of nationwide protests, so imagine a regime that is yet to fully establish a trust with the people, isn’t stable yet, doesn’t have that many powers and above all is fighting on all areas, it can fall faster than Mubarak’s and its fall from grace will be comical really.

    B) Morsi is yet to gain the trust of the worldwide forces that Mubarak had, sure Obama praised his pragmatism in the Gaza ceasefire truce deal, but the American regime will never endorse him publicly. The thing though if clashes between pro & anti Morsi supporters happen (and let’s be honest at this rate, clashes are bound to happen) then all the worldwide pressure will be on Morsi and if it took the Americans just two days of protests to turn on their biggest alley in the region then it won’t take them long to abide a host of global pressure on Morsi to take back his decisions and especially his decree.

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  6. Sarah Mac Rory says:

    from one half Egyptian to another. This is perfect. Thank you for saying what I haven’t been able to articulate.

  7. Pauline says:

    Great piece, yet again. Am suprised by the willingness to give in to this most recent of trends regarding “brotherhood thuggery”. It pops up in places since a few days and seems to systematically come from ferociously anti-islamist sources. Last thing I heard of yesterday was Afaf El-Sayed claiming that the MB had planned gangrapes in the Mohamed Mahmoud area of Tahrir. Not saying that violence and thuggery aren’t an invariable part of Tahrir these days, and I definitely don’t think every man with a zabiba on his face and a bit of stubble is an innocent, far from. But I’m finding this new characterization of MBs along the exact same lines as the regime a bit suspicious to be honest, more like a deliberate attempt to paint them the same colors as, and equate them with, felul – which, for all their flaws, they are not. I wouldn’t immediately go from A) witnessing someone/a group looking like/being MB engage in violence > B) assuming a “fondness for thuggery” from the organization as a whole. You always show such discernment, I feel it’s a shame you don’t exercise it here too.

  8. Jared Krauss says:

    Well, while I agree with the logic of Pauline’s comment, the term “I feel it’s a shame you don’t…” will always raise an ire in me.

    That aside, wonderfully written and insightful piece. Not being an Egypt I can only rely on the local papers and the international news to get an understanding but it’s nothing like being on the street.

    Thanks,
    Jared

  9. Pingback: The Muslim Brotherhood Rule in Egypt | News4Christians

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  11. strangetown says:

    Thanks. Good, informative read.

    The situation you describe is rendered into even bleaker contrast knowing that as I was reading it you were tweeting live from the clashes on 5th Dec. Take care innit. :)

  12. Pingback: Someone Successfully Explained Egypt's Politics! (In English) -

  13. barbara simmings says:

    I will quote this : “Thinking about profound social change, conservatives always expect disaster, while revolutionaries confidentially expect utopia. Both are wrong. At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and advocating devotion on behalf of religious or political idols.” My comment : mubarak era people are by no means dead.They have seen a disaster,but are adamant to recover.the masses expect sudden prosperity,not on my watch. the bearded are practicing self deceit to no avail.Let the bearded wankers lead themselves to hell.

  14. mike pollard says:

    I have posted this before and will continue to do so as it neatly sums up this and parallel miseries inflicted on the many unhappy populations of the world:

    “It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creeds into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.”
    —Robert A. Heinlein

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