As the course of events keep unfolding, ordinary Egyptians are busy wondering whether the new president, his government and his parliament will limit personal freedoms, force dress codes, daunt arts and enforce prayers or whether their lives will go on peacefully. Why would anyone think the Muslim Brotherhood or the president is naive enough to pass such laws? Why does anyone think that they need to pass laws? This is a country where social pressure and “street ethics” are in full control. This is a place where people have become accustomed to upholding the law amongst themselves because they know courts won’t help and justice comes too late- if at all.
Throughout the past 15 or so years, since the police became exclusive to the State Security Department (currently known as National Security), we have no enforcement of the laws we keep producing. Since the 70s, we have been suffering from a slow and mostly corrupt judiciary system.
Egyptians refrain from going to the police station if something happens on the street, they refrain from filing lawsuits unless they absolutely have to. People settle disputes, divorces and sometimes even murders on their own without going to court
And we have laws. We have laws against torture, inhumane treatment, sexual harassment, carrying arms, destroying churches, beating women, discrimination …you name it, we are good and have laws. We are signatories to almost every international human rights, women’s rights, anti-discrimination agreement that exists. It means zilch, because this is a society that has its own justice system away from courts and judges.Most of the court rulings passed in the past 16 months are loop-holed and have legal grounds to annul or change them. Our whole political scene is tarnished with lawsuits waiting to be considered, from the dissolved parliament to the ruling political party to the president himself. Trials of the former regime’s mafia and their police are a farce where every verdict of imprisonment or acquittal is questionable. Murderers are roaming free and patriots are behind bars, and the dead are dead.
In a country where there are too many laws to count, and still has absolutely no justice, one would expect Egyptians wouldn’t put too much weight on laws. Just as the case with the Disenfranchisement Law which was never imposed, people enforced it on their own, they refrained from voting for the former regime’s National Democratic Party. Egyptians take matters into their own hands …as has been the case for decades…and they will continue to do so with their current agenda.They don’t need laws to force dress codes or shut down bars or ban arts or punish those who don’t pray. The battle will be a street fight not a courts issue. It will be about social pressure and harassment in our daily life, some women are already complaining of being stopped on the street and asked why they are not veiled, some actresses were banned from filming in universities, and some college concerts were attacked and ruined. It is a street fight, and the survival is for the fittest. It is the civil society’s fight; laws and courts have little to do with it.
Our peace rests with a strong and just police force, one that enforces whatever laws we have right there and then, on that street. But now that Islamists are almost ruling the country, will the police force follow suit and pressure non-Islamist officers into silence? Will they stand with the civil state rules or will they allow beards to grow into their own brains?
The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in the Daily News of Egypt on July 2, 2012