A quiet revolution behind the revolution
by Omar Kassem and Mohamed Malik on 22 Nov 2013 2 Comments

As students, both girls and boys, are being arrested and given long prison sentences for displaying the yellow Raba’a sign of the Egyptian anti-coup movement with its four raised fingers, and sportsmen are being suspended and penalised for briefly making the Raba’a sign on TV during their games, the Junta leader, Abdel-Fattah Sissi, is having his photo delivered and placed in all the country’s shops and offices, and his image moulded on chocolates delivered to confectionary stores, as well as on endless quantities of gifts and other paraphernalia.


If you can believe it, he’s trying to ‘sell a brand’, and compete with the ubiquity of the Raba’a sign. Although it may thus look as if Sissi is beloved by his nation, store holders and office managers don’t have much of a say in the face of this merchandising avalanche. Having left as head of military intelligence to become Defence Minister, Sissi is dead keen on psychological warfare (PSYOPS). He recognises that he needs to counter all the tools that peaceful demonstrators are using to give greater momentum and effectiveness to their protests, and the fact that the Raba’a sign has become an infectious international symbol. Pity Sissi chocolates don’t work in Europe, they might have earned Egypt some foreign exchange.


In fact, if there is a true revolution, it is actually happening right now, and it is an Islamic revolution. It is because of this revolution that the current Arab Winter will turn into a lasting Arab Summer. Gene Sharp, Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and founder of the Albert Einstein Institution, is known for having systematically developed the concept and praxis of peaceful revolution.


His books, in particular From Dictatorship to Democracy and Anti-Coup, were posted on the Muslim Brotherhood website in 2011 and developed into lectures intended to educate anti-coup protesters on the FJP website. In one lecture on the same website, a snippet is introduced after its introduction with President Morsi forcefully insisting on the peaceful nature of all protests.


To say this is a revolution happening now in the approach to revolution, is not to say that the Muslim Brotherhood had previously sought violence as a means to an end since its founder Hassan al-Banna had decided against it in 1948, after the murder of Prime Minister Nuqrashi by a young student. In fact, Mohamed Salim el-Awwa, who ran for president in 2012 against Morsi in the first round, insists that the Muslim Brotherhood has to his knowledge never broken its founder’s pledge against the use of violence.


What is different now is the systematic way in which non-violence is being applied in the pursuit of redress against tyranny and oppression. Such systematic development of non-violent means has to develop beyond the Raba’a sign, and new local websites are growing, which are running competitions to create new anti-coup ideas, including songs, slogans, images, and new forms of civil disobedience to undermine further the credibility of coup leaders and state organisms that support the Junta. Junta military intelligence is continually on the back foot, with ideas like Sissi’s chocolates unable to compete for instance with the idea of Sissi as a donkey-ride in a local park, a particularly offensive characterisation in the context of Egyptian culture, which had Sissi in paroxysms of anger and led unfortunately to violent reprisals against all those villagers who started calling their donkeys, Sissi.


While the mass of Egyptians almost unbelievably continue their daily trials of peaceful protests, facing death, suffering possible loss, incarceration and injury, they are being treated for ‘terrorists’. The co-author of this piece, Mohamed Malik, can testify to the ease with which one can be injured in the heat of demonstrations, having had to remain at home for nearly a month now with an eye injury.


Meanwhile, the Junta appointed a ‘Committee of Fifty’ to tear up the 2012 Constitution which they voted for and draw up a new constitution in secret to cater for the demands of special interests, with the military giving itself sovereign rights. But it is not only the military which seeks special protection; the Coptic Church under the new Pope Tawadros also seeks the same.


Where up until 2011, the ‘nation’ above ‘church’ tradition of Makram Ebeid, a Coptic Christian who was Egyptian Finance Minister and Secretary-General of the Wafd party in the 1930s and 40s, seemed to hold, all that has now changed. The old ideas embodied in the deep personal friendship between Makram Ebeid and Hassan el-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, finally died with Pope Shenouda III on 17 March 2012, and we are now graced with a Coptic Pope who sees himself strictly as CEO of a religious corporation.


Not only did he object to the 2012 Constitution, although it nevertheless did become law, he is now threatening to walk out of the ‘Committee of Fifty’, and is demanding affirmative action for Copts and non-proportional quotas of seats in the future legislative. Not, that is, that the legislative is liable to count for anything under the Junta. But the idea of the people of the country being assaulted in the streets, while special interests are picking and squabbling over the carcass of the nation, is particularly revolting.


Oddly, we find the Salafi al-Nour party with its representatives Bassam Zarqa and Yasser Brahimi in the ‘Committee of Fifty’, contrary to the hard stand of the Coptic Pope, rolling over like puppy dogs to please the Junta, which given it is an Islamic party, should puzzle any newcomer to the narrative of the Arab Spring. The earlier elected constitutional committee under Morsi drafting the country’s constitution, had actually had a very rough time trying to get agreement on Article 2, which says that 'Islamic principles’ are the source of Egyptian law.


Al-Nour had taken an extreme position on the interpretation of Islamic principles, namely that it should accord with tradition (ahl al-sunna wa l-jama‘a): a position the Muslim Brotherhood and the FJP didn’t agree with. Eventually articles 4 and 219 were added to the constitution to establish al-Azhar Islamic University as the compromise interpretative body. In the course of the proceedings of the new ultra-secret ‘Committee of Fifty’, the representatives of al-Nour have now agreed to the proposition put to it by the chairman of the Junta committee that such interpretation of Islamic principles should accord with the rulings of the Mubarak Egyptian Constitutional Court of 1985, 1996, 2002 in respect of what is considered to be the ‘purpose of law’, a position 180o away from their original position in 2012.


But all this is no longer of any surprise to the Egyptian people who have learned that al-Nour party, to whom they gave 107 seats to the FJP’s 213 in the 2011 elections for the lower house of parliament, had actually taken them for a ride.  Neither it is a surprise that Egypt’s state media at the time had not even heard of many of the people involved in the upcoming Salafist parties of 2011, since a number of their leaders, including Nader Bakkar and Yasser Burhami were actually ex-secret policemen who had grown their beards and donned skull caps to become Salafi preachers and then politicians.


As soon as Mubarak, Saudi Arabia’s favourite dictator, was overthrown in Egypt in February 2011, its government, it is now known, was seeking to buy influence in whatever new régime appeared next, forming in Egypt, in the space of few months, 120 companies with a total capital of $1.3bn. With funding coming from these sources it was Christmas for the Salafists, and the next logical thing in their minds was to meet with Abdel-Fattah Sissi, head of military intelligence, to agree to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood and the FJP from power after the elections, at a future time to be agreed.


This agreement was made even before Morsi’s election as President. In other words, our realisation since awhile that Morsi’s rule was actively undermined by the Ministers of Defence, Interior and Electricity in his cabinet after his election, has since been superseded by our new understanding that a competing political party within the Islamic alliance was infiltrated by the secret police and funded by Saudi Arabia to undermine the whole electoral process from the very start. We can now understand more clearly why al-Nour as an influential party suddenly and inexplicably switched to join allegiance with the unelected National Salvation Front leading the anti-Morsi protest, consisting of strutting self-appointed Presidential hopefuls, Mohamed el-Baradei, Amr Mousa, and Hamdeen Sabbahi.


It is important to note that throughout modern history there has never been love lost between the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, although from a non-Islamic perspective the distinction may indeed be unclear. In fact, it is the enmity of the Salafists towards the Muslim Brotherhood that made them a natural place for the Mubarakite successor of Egypt’s Nasserite state, the ultimate antagonist of the Muslim Brotherhood ever since Nasser’s grab for power in 1954, to plant undercover secret policemen. Salafists, who believe that Islam should be practised exactly as it was in the 7th century in Medina in Saudi Arabia, have always maintained that the Muslim Brotherhood are reckless and heretical modernisers.


Salafism is what Wahhabis call their creed and was originally established by Muhammad ibn Abd el-Wahhab writing his Kitab al-taw?id in the 1730s, and came to be adopted by the military House of Saud as a revolutionary doctrine antagonistic to Islamic practice in the Ottoman Empire. As a creedal ideology, it was unconcerned with Islamic law as such, merely insisting on the universal application of particular rituals to ensure passage into paradise. The doctrine demanded not only the observance of these rituals by its advocates, but crucially also a commitment to attack all such communities as followed different rituals.


Leaving aside all the usual explanations of the differences between these two views of the world, and getting to the crux of this old antagonism can, for the sake of simplicity, be said to come down to a prophetic hadith (report) in the Islamic tradition, which prophesises that the Jews would eventually split up into seventy-one or seventy-two sects, the Christians into seventy one or seventy-two sects, while the Muslim community would itself split into seventy-three sects. This hadith clearly predicts the general growth of a diversity of opinions and beliefs over time.


However, another hadith from the Sunna is widely quoted by Salafists, which says that only one amongst all these sects would ever get into paradise: a hadith which is rejected as false by the scholars of Muslim Brotherhood, the reasons for which rejection are explained by Yusuf al-Qaradawi on his website.


Morsi during his tenure as president was often heard quoting a snippet from the Quranic verse 2:256, saying ‘there is no compulsion in religion’, and for this he was castigated by Salafists, who now maintain that his overthrow was inevitable because he held false beliefs. The mind of the Egyptian public boggles at all this latest news about the antics of the Salafists during the elections and in the secret ‘Committee of Fifty’, supposedly drafting the country’s new constitution.


After sixty years of repression by the Nasserite state with widespread unlawful killing and illegal imprisonment on a mass scale in 2013, echoing similar events in 1954 and 1965, which are recalled in an interview with Mustafa Amin and in the famous Egyptian film, Karnak, it is time to end this ongoing tragedy of colossal proportions. But the creativity of such as call their donkeys Sissi, chant slogans against the coup, carry the Raba’a sign and refuse to co-operate with banks and state institutions in order to bring the régime to its knees, is faced with a truly ruthless military opponent.


This opponent kills and imprisons it own as don’t obey; is liberally funded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who promote Salafist ideology throughout the world with their seemingly endless wealth; is advised and guided by Israel, and is now avoiding the efforts of the ITN team to question exports certification of arms sales throughout the European Union to Egypt, by contracting for such arms purchases with Russia.


In other words, this illegal military régime, which deposed and kidnapped an elected President of the Republic and his team, is backed by a great part of the international community. It is now time for that other part of the international community who believe in freedom and who have a conscience, to stand up and counter this. This must include such international media as is not influenced by the deluge of Egyptian tourism advertising funded by the Saudis to counter the effects of the protests and demonstrations.


Omar Kassem: http://different-traditions.com

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top