Egypt under attack from within and without

Liberal activists and academics are bent on worsening their nation’s woes. They claim to be guardians of the January 2011 revolution’s principles that had atop its list “freedom.”

Yet, either from tunnel vision, paranoia, and arrogance or for more sinister reasons, they’re playing a major part in destroying the future of millions of their compatriots. The American-Egyptian commentator Mona Eltahawy, currently railing against the interim government and the military, says she’s been receiving e-mails accusing her of being paid, which she laughs off by stressing her bank account is pretty slim.

Secular, liberal activists broadly supported Mursi’s ousting, but now their ire is turned against not only the Muslim Brotherhood but also the military and the interim government, partly due to a new protest law, which they deem oppressive. In reality, it is less so than many such laws around the world, including those of the UK, Europe and the Arab world, to give just a few examples. If Egypt were stable, free of violence and on a sound economic footing, they might have a point. But the indisputable fact is that the future of this most populated Arab country is in the balance. Now is not the time to rock the boat by defying the law of the land.

They’ve purposefully set themselves up for arrest by organizing or attending illegal protests in downtown Cairo and then complained, “How dare the state arrest us when we are the true blue Jan. 26 revolutionaries.”

Many of those career activists simply lack political maturity, no matter their age or educational credentials. They claim to represent the aspirations of the population when the majority of Egyptians have little interest in purist democracy; they want security, job opportunities, improved services and streets free of mobs setting fire to cars, firing guns and lobbing Molotov cocktails.

What part of “interim” don’t they understand? If they believe Egypt can turn into Switzerland overnight, they’re deluded. If they’re out to ignite serial revolutions, they’re malevolent. People are tired, insecure and despairing; their hopes pinned upon the roadmap promising presidential and parliamentary elections within nine months after the newly drafted constitution is ratified by a public referendum in January.

Recent history records their mistakes. For one thing, without the liberal vote during the presidential run-off, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate didn’t have a hope in hell. They were so hung-up about the past that they opted for a virtual unknown, a man whose allegiance to his organization surpassed any other over an experienced politician they wrote off as ‘faloul’ (remnant of the Mubarak regime). Several well-known activists, as well as ordinary citizens who once sympathized with the Brothers, have publically wrung their hands over their mistake. Too late!

Moderate, leftwing, rightwing and liberal political parties must also accept blame.

Instead of joining hands to select one or two secular candidates (as they did post last-year’s presidential election by launching the National Salvation Front) they fielded several, thus splitting the secular vote. It was a case of “each man for himself.” Look where that got them!

Following the 2011 revolution that was instigated by liberal youth but swiftly piggy-backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, revolutionaries were repeatedly asked by the media who spoke on their behalf, who was their leader and what plans did they have to participate in the political process going forward? They invariably answered that they had no intention of appointing leaders and as far as they were concerned their job was over and it was for wiser heads to take it from here.

A case in point is computer engineer Wael Ghonim who set-up the website “We are all Khaled Saeed” that sparked Mubarak’s overthrow. Ghonim flew-in from Dubai where he was employed by Google to make an emotional televised speech that galvanized the canaba (couch) crowd to flood to Tahrir Square. He became a public icon; his influence was enormous, yet rather than capitalize on his considerable sway to lead his country into safe territory, he walked off into the sunset.

The bottom line is this. Liberal activists are playing right into the hands of the pro-Mursi, anti-coup crowd as well as certain western and regional powers plotting to ensure the interim government’s downfall. Last week, Egypt’s Presidential Adviser Ahmed ElMuslimany announced, “Today, we are fighting a tough battle with extremists who are supported with money and weapons. We are surprised to see western institutions supporting religious extremism in the Arab world. Since those institutions do not work for the benefit of Islam and Muslims, we are angry. They seek modernity for their countries and extremism and chaos for ours.”

His words might sound fanciful except for the fact that the US and the EU have been undermining Egypt’s post July 2013 reset from the get-go with punitive material steps and condemnatory messages. An unverifiable top-secret US report allegedly leaked by Russian intelligence focuses on the need to bring down Armed Forces chief Gen. Abdel-Fatah El-Sissi so as to avoid facing “a new Nasser in the region.”

Moreover, it’s well known that the Tanzim Al-Dawli (the international Muslim Brotherhood organization) is orchestrating and funding protests within Egypt and inciting university students to revolt. A few days ago, a leader of the Jamaa Islamiya—the organization behind the assassination of President Anwar Sadat and the killing of tourists in Luxor—told Al Jazeera that protests “will be what break this coup.”

The US president’s spokeswoman and the EU’s Catherine Ashton have both made statements criticizing the new law as infringing on rights to free assembly and free speech. This is utter nonsense when the law requires protest organizers to give three-day notice of intent to demonstrate and allows for spontaneous protests in certain circumstances.

And, yes, those carrying out acts of violence or carrying weapons will face severe sentences. Western powers champion peaceful protest in the knowledge that hardly a single demonstration that’s taken place in Egypt over the past months can be characterized as “peaceful;” people are being killed or injured almost daily, private property and vehicles torched, major roads blocked causing hours-long traffic jams.

Egypt is under attack from within and without. Unless all Egyptians wake up to the dangers and pull together instead of pulling this great Arab civilization apart, the last laugh will go to its enemies, leaving liberal activists sobbing into their Earl Grey.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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