Mubarak, SCAF, Muslim Brotherhood and democracy in Egypt

A Point of View, Egypt, Middle East & North Africa, Politics | | June 20, 2012 at 17:30

Mubarak being wheeled into courtroom. This is day he really died. This is day the world saw him in a cage.

Mubarak lives. He doesn’t live. What is living? Heart beats while brain is dead. Machines keep his body functioning. At best, he’s in a coma. Is there a parallel here with democracy in Egypt?

Maybe I don’t have any right to weigh in. I’m not Egyptian. I’ve been there a few times. I’ve been fascinated by Egypt since I was about five years old. I studied Egyptology. I write about it in my novels – albeit the time period is a couple of thousand years ago. I followed the Revolution from the first day Tahrir Square blossomed and then erupted. Egypt got me started on Twitter and led me to Libya, where I spent as long as it takes to bear a child, following that struggle for freedom and democracy, following the so-called Arab Spring. But after saying all that, I have to go back to “I’m not Egyptian.”

That doesn’t keep me from being heartsick. We were warned. All the “Old farts” and pundits said it from the beginning. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Military (SCAF) – the future of Egypt would come down to a battle between those two forces. And so it has.

Now the MB (Muslim Brotherhood) did go through a period of intense counter-propaganda to convince the world – and Egyptians, I guess – that they weren’t interested in political power. I wanted to believe them. Everyone did. But of course, they were lying. Like all effective politicians, they told a few lies to fool the fools.

Just like predicted, they were the best organized group going into the revolution, and thus the best organized going into elections. And they won Parliament. Next came the Presidency. One by one the candidates committed to a secular and progressive Egypt fell away. Didn’t have the guts to continue – or didn’t have the support. The youth who started the revolution in the first place never got themselves organized to run their own candidates. I’ll never quite understand exactly where it all went wrong.

Mahamed Mursi, Muslim Brotherhood's candidate and probably winner of Egypt's first presidential election.

But it did go wrong. Terribly wrong. At least, in my opinion. When the final two candidates emerged, the Egyptian people had a choice between Mubarak-era prime minister and former air force commander Ahmed Shafiq and Muslim Brotherhood’s enforcer Mohamed Mursi. Conveniently soon after early indicators of the election pointed to the MB’s Mursi as the winner, the High Constitutional Court rendered a verdict declaring the results of the parliamentary election illegal. The military (SCAF) dissolved Parliament. Next step was the edict of the military proclaiming that the newly elected President – results not to be released until this weekend – will not hold office long and will have virtually no power. SCAF (military) has appointed a committee of 100 to write a constitution which is predicted to render null and void the Presidential election.

It’s truly a coup. Anyone can see it. And I should be outraged. I AM outraged. But strangely enough, I am also a little relieved. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like the military. They arrest people and do terrible things to them and generally stand above – way above – the Law. But I don’t like the Muslim Brotherhood either.

Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi of SCAF - the Egyptian military in control of Egyptian government since Mubarak's resignation.

SCAF has a clear intention – not to allow the Islamists to take over Egypt. I don’t want the Islamists to take over Egypt. So I find myself in a strange camp with the enemy of my enemy who is also my enemy. How dreadful for the Egyptian youth who gave so much to bring about a change that turns out not to be a change at all.


But like I said, I’m not Egyptian. So I don’t really have the right to an opinion. I’m expressing it anyway, because this is bigger than Egypt. This is the fear that so many had who refused to support the Libyan revolution against Gaddafi. Who don’t want to get involved – really involved – in Syria. If an Islamic government unfriendly to the West and contra-progressive in terms of women’s and religious rights is the inevitable outcome of the Arab Spring, then who can blame the sceptics for their lack of enthusiasm?

So Egyptian democracy has had a major stroke. It’s in a coma that looks like it’s leading to death. I hate it when the naysayers are right. I SO wanted them to be wrong.

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