Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Felool Rhetoric Must End

On October 19, in a march entitled, “Egypt for all Egyptians” one of the men leading the calls interrupted his own chant saying, “We heard that some Felool are joining this day, we declare that they are not welcome and have no place among us.”

Felool is a term which was coined early on in the revolution, used in reference to the corrupt political remnants of the former regime, led by the National Democratic Party (NDP). It has since evolved to include sympathizers of public figures associated with the Mubarak era, including Ahmed Shafik and the military. Old regime figures have struggled to find their place after Mubarak stepped down, and for almost two years now, our fight has been to prevent them from reintegrating them into Egypt's politics.
But when I heard the announcement that they were not welcome at a mass protest, it struck me as off-target. Not only was it apologetic and unnecessary, but looking back at recent events, it wasn't ‘Felool’ who were working against the interests of the Egyptian people by promising to lift subsidies.It wasn’t Felool who sanctioned the arrests and imprisonment of numerous people for the preposterous charge of ‘defaming religion’ - including two children aged nine and ten . It wasn't Felool who responded to chants with violence just a week prior. In fact, many of them have been absent in every way except for the continued rhetoric of blame used in daily discourse, and more notably, in the news about attempts by the current regime to reintegrate them into political life or the ailing economy. That enemy no longer exists or rather has no clout. 
Later that day, reports emerged that Amr Moussa’s political party, al-Motamar, was attacked by protesters, among them members of the April 6 movement. This was an unnecessary attack, particularly since Amr Moussa’s run for presidency did not gain the support of the Felool, who could have used their finances to leverage his candidacy. From a revolutionary perspective, the Felool rhetoric should have ended as soon as Morsi came into office, or at the very latest when Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Sami Anan were side-lined. 
Meanwhile, the current regime is determined to extend the offer to reconcile with corrupt figures, a move initiated by the interim Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). Those who have committed crimes are granted amnesty with many of them honored. The same oppressive measures are still in place, if not arguably worse. People continue to be targeted and imprisoned for their opinions, and conditions for oligarchy and dictatorship are being entrenched in the new constitution currently being drafted. It therefore makes no sense to separate Felool from the current regime. After all, people rejected the old regime for the injustice it propagated rather than individuals who helped carry out the vision. 
That is not to say that what Felool stand for need not be fought vehemently. The police state continues to act with impunity and military personnel who have committed heinous crimes remain not only large, but are protected by Egypt’s current president Mohammed Morsi. Whether oppression is done in the n­ame of secular neoliberalism or under religious pretense, it should not detract us from the underlying reality.
True remnants of the old regime are still in existence in the form of an unreformed oppressive police force, a complicit army and numerous corrupt institutions. However, using a word like Felool to separate these institutions from the Muslim Brotherhood can be counter-productive, particularly that they are now in power.Felool may have been complicit in a corrupt system set up some time ago and have been working within its framework but today, those in power are constructing a new framework, eerily similar to its predecessor. This makes them more accountable and condemnable than their NDP counterparts particularly after people revolted against that form of rule. The Muslim Brotherhood's political party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and its president seem to be attempting to take over the corrupt institutions set up by the former regime to their advantage rather than reform them. The most recent example is the attempt to replace the General Prosecutor rather than work on legislation to guarantee true judiciary reform.
The fundamental issue with the use of the word Felool is that it detracts from the real fight and the real enemy. The anger directed towards them is more emotional, and does nothing to address genuine risks. There’s a fictitious enemy called Felool that does not truly exist. This fictional existence serves only to protect those in power, just as it protected SCAF from being associated with the Mubarak regime of which they were a part . In continuing to use the term Felool we are deceiving ourselves as to who the real enemy is. Such a term can initiate a witch hunt but we’ll always end up fighting windmills.
First published in Atlantic Council on October 30 2012.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why Today?

Why today? Of all the days. My eyes are tearing up. I remembered, that's all. I watched the Kazeboon video about Maspero. But it's not the video, it's my memory. It's my realization of the injustice that surrounds me and my inability to overcome it. The only thing I have is to fight, and either prevail sometimes or go down fighting.

Mina Danial
Some tell me that I'll lose, but what choice do I have? Pretend that it's not happening? Pretend that giving a chance to traitors to our cause will bring about the justice we've been fighting for? What proof do I have that justice is attainable through the unjust. I won't put my fight on hold till they prove to be tyrants like the predecessors they pardoned and granted safe exit.

I am unable to fool myself, I know what happened and revisionists are unable to put my mind at ease. I have seen death, I have seen injustice. I have seen opportunists and I have seen those defaming their religion by preaching it. I have seen those insulting their religion by attacking those insulting it. I have seen those sworn to protect us kill us. I have seen the awakening of a people pacified by reformists who want to reform the system so that it serves them instead of its old masters.

How can I move on before we are ready to move on. How can I move on before I see a means to achieving justice. Why am I being told by the blind to follow the blind. I can see and so would they if they open their eyes. How can I accept this? How can I pretend?

Football fans murdered, copts run over, young protesters shot, innocent bystanders brutalized, sons and daughters disposed in the river, parents taken from their children and many more... and you ask me to accept and move on... I can't even if I want to.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Remembering the Maspero Massacre

They're not here anymore, those who marched peacefully a year ago towards Maspero to be murdered by their government and their people. Those who marched to bring their cause to national television are not with us anymore. The media they sought to make their plight turned against them and accused them of murder and incited citizens to kill them. They were shot by their government and trampled on by their military's APCs.  That’s how they died but that’s not what killed them.

Egyptian Christian woman mourns at the Coptic Hospital in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/ Reuters)

As a society we have failed them, every one of us collectively, even the innocent of us. We allowed our society’s illness to reach to the point of state sponsored mass murder. I know that many of those who belong to this society can look in the mirror and say it doesn’t apply to me because I never discriminated and I never murdered and I never hated. But failure is not condemnation or blame in this context, it is a result.

Whatever it was we had to do to prevent such a disaster, we did not do. We simply failed. Maybe we didn’t do enough, maybe we’re not strong enough, maybe we’re too blind and filled with the illness ourselves, maybe we’re the cold blooded murders sitting in their air conditioned offices giving the orders. Whatever we did or didn’t do, we bear a responsibility and we bear the failure.

Everyone has failed those who died. Everyone but those who went as far as they possibly could to protest this murder. It seems to me those who were killed have marched on that fatal day to protest not just the mistreatment of those before them but of their own murder. People marching against discrimination were trampled on by discrimination. They’re not here anymore.

I think they drove a point that day, too painful for many of us to confront at times. Was it just one point?

Was it just that hatred runs deep in our society or was it more? Was it that we're still ruled by a regime willing to run over its citizens and anyone who gets in their way. Was it that deep down inside a large cross-section of society truly despises the other, that we're not free to believe in whatever
unprovable ideas we choose? Was it that everyone must subscribe to one set of  improvable ideas approved by those who control us? That our sentiments are dangerous enough to kill?

Last year, I was away on business. In trying to find out what was happening I found that Copts were run over by the army's APCs and shot from an elevated position by cold metal bullets which have as ample feelings as those who issued the command. I went mad; mad from my own impotence, my distance. I collected all the links that reflect the events of the night, the facts, the truth, but none of the links had the most important truth- that it's our ideas and beliefs that can kill or get us killed. There were no links to displays the deep rooted hatred in the hearts of men and their primitive tribalism. There were no links to show that we are viewed as slaves who must toil and suffer so that presidents, generals and businessmen get richer. There were not enough links, not enough links.

This year, I ponder over last year's events from a distance. The truth still largely obscured as churches are destroyed and copts evicted from their homes. The reality of our decline ever more present as 9 year old children are arrested for insulting religion. Can they not see who is truly insulting religion?

The regime might be a tumor we can remove but our own biases and judgements are a cancer. I see today what I saw back then. The same biases and hatred run deep and we’re not doing enough to stop it. We are killing ourselves.

Most of us are responsible even though not everyone can be blamed.

Morsi released 1500 protesters not just because his 100 days are over and he has nothing to show for but to divert attention from the fatal failing of a regime he is supposed to lead. The failing is reflected in the one year memorial of a massacre. One year on and we have not altered our path. The real murders still free, some promoted and some retired honorably. Morsi pledged in his speeches that they wouldn't not be touched, but his supporters are too adamant to listen to what his words actually mean. They mean that the current state of affairs will be maintained. That hatred and impunity will rule, that soldiers and officers can be free to run us over and that injustices to minorities will prevail.

Those in positions of power have not only insulted religions but insulted our humanity. What justice has been served? What message have we been told? We will be trampled on if we ask for justice. But it is better to be trampled on  by this cruel world or to exist without doing anything to stop its injustice?