“Trust starts with truth and ends with truth.”
A large number of Egyptians and those interested in Egyptian affairs were skeptical about the motives of the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies, but their keenness to effect change drove them to opt for Mohammed Mursi instead Ahmed Shafik in the presidential elections runoff a few months ago.
Many believed that a radical change was necessary to end the alliance between the military, security institutions, and corruption. After doing so, a sorting of the different factions within the broad anti-Husni Mubarak coalition that took part in this change had to take place in order to distinguish each from the others.
The fallout between political Islam and other factions was expected, but it happened much faster than anticipated. Surprisingly, neither the president thinks he monopolized power too soon nor his adversaries were taken by surprise at his behavior.
Each party is well aware of the weaknesses and strengths of the other, but while Mursi was waiting for the right chance to attack his adversaries who call for a civil state based on the rotation of power, the independence of the judiciary, and a respect for diversity, those adversaries wanted him and his group to expose themselves and unearth their real motives, especially that the president had previously declared his support for a civil state before Egyptian voters and the International Community.
A sizable portion of people believe that the end of political Islam will start when its factions come to power. Some of those believe that the gravest mistake in dealing with Islamist factions happened in Algeria in 1991 when the Islamists were banned from assuming power following their electoral victory. At the time, both the Algerian civil society and the International Community gave their implicit approval to this step. Consequently, the Algerian regime launched a “war on terror” against the Islamist groups, which in turn responded with bloody counter attacks that inflicted irreversible damage upon Algeria and threatened democratic transition in the Arab and Muslim worlds as well as gave Islamists a perfect chance for portraying themselves as victims.
It is possible, just possible, that had Islamists been allowed to come to power to Algeria at the time, neither Algeria nor the Arab world would have suffered the following negative repercussions which include:
First, the horrid massacres that shook the Algerian society and drove away a large number of its most qualified citizens
Second, wasting the chance to test the intentions and actions of political Islam on the political, economic, and social levels
Third, enabling Islamist factions to appear as victims before the Arab and Muslim word
Fourth, proving the totalitarian regimes in the Arab world, who have based their legitimacy on fake nationalist, socialist, and liberal slogans, will never give up power and allow for democratic transition
Maybe the Arabs then would have realized that Islamist factions were incapable of understanding and practicing democracy and were unwilling to establish a civil state like they claim they believe in, especially in “Arab Spring” countries.
Anyway, it is too late now. Here are Tunisia and Egypt going through “springs” which indeed allude to “postponed victories” of their respective revolutions, along the lines the “Prague Spring” in 1968 and the “Beijing Spring” in 1977. In fact, the term “spring” in this sense is quite appropriate since what happened in both Tunisia and Egypt was the beginnings of a revolution rather than a full revolution. Still, these beginnings have at least managed a significant plus which is freeing Arab citizens from fear of rebelling against corrupt and repressive regimes.
Many, myself included, believed that it was worth it to go through this arduous experience with political groups, like the Islamists, which have for long claimed to be willing to coexist with and accept “others”. Even the presence of extremist groups within the political Islam camp may have been a cause for optimism in spite of the fact their stances could drive the more moderate groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Nahda in Tunisia, to be dragged into extremist postions just to prove their commitment to the “Islam is the solution” slogan.
What is happening in Egypt now reflects perfectly what has been said.
Those who took part in the January 25 Revolution made sure they avoided slogans and classifications. Hence, the nationalists, leftists, and liberals replaced “secular” with “civil” to describe the state to which they aspired to build out of respect for the sensitivities of the Islamist camp. On the other hand, Islamists treated “civil” as merely the opposite of “military”. This superficial agreement constituted the success of the first phase of the revolution.
But with the coming of premature parliamentary and presidential elections, the situation became different. Mohammed Mursi narrowly won the election runoffs, with less than 2% of the votes more than his rival Ahmed Shafik. However, already backed by a parliamentary majority, the Islamists felt that they now had a strong enough mandate to take full control the Egyptian political scene.
No sooner had Mursi settled down than he got rid of the members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who had respected the ballot boxes and ensured smooth transition of power. Disputes started to emerge in the Constituent Assembly in charge of writing the new constitution with Islamists insisting on writing a constitution that only represented their viewpoints and interests while overlooking the concerns of minorities and forces keen on a civil state.
Later on, Mursi took advantage of his “diplomatic” triumph in Gaza and the American praise he got for mediating a truce in the strip to undermine the independence of the judiciary and “usurp” the constitution, sidelining his former partners in the revolution … under the pretext of “protecting this revolution”!
This is, most likely, the real face of political Islam when it comes to power. This is how its elements and groups perceive the concept of the state and the idea of the “others”.
This is the bitter truth and the greatest shock Egypt can give to the Arab world, especially in countries where Islamist factions are still trying to convince the people of their ability to coexist and accept the “others”.
May God bless Egypt!
The writer is a columnist at the London-based Asharq al-Awsat, where this article was published on Dec. 3, 2012