Incitement cannot topple the Egyptian state

Erdogan and friends should know that their battle against Egypt is hopeless even if they possessed one thousand TV channels.
Saturday 26/09/2020
A June 2019 file picture shows demonstrators holding pro-Muslim Brotherhood signs in front of the Egyptian embassy in Ankara. (AFP)
A June 2019 file picture shows demonstrators holding pro-Muslim Brotherhood signs in front of the Egyptian embassy in Ankara. (AFP)

There is nothing more dangerous for a country than to lose its stability, and for its people than to be insecure about their lives and their children’s future. We have to contemplate, with impartiality and objectivity, the contexts of any project to stir up chaos and revolt against the Egyptian state, to know where such a project, which is unfortunately adopted by some naïve and impudent people, could lead. Such people actually live with the illusion that overthrowing the regime in Egypt is an easy matter, and that the gate to it is already half-open, needing only a slight nudge to fling wide open, ready to receive the supreme “guide”.

That such a fantasy is quite real in the minds of religious zealots should not strike us as strange. These minds are usually characterised by enthusiastic and almost childlike simplification of the reality, insulation from the facts of life, readiness to accept contradictions as long as they make sense to them and willingness to push people to their doom.

When we honestly and realistically search for the logical conclusions of the project of rebelling against the state, in order to make assumptions about where it could lead, we will find ourselves faced with painful possibilities that make people wish they could go back in time to share in the spoils.

Whenever it was possible for Islamist parties to rally, seeking power, their moral compass got thrown out of whack and they started acting as if they were on one side and their home society on the other. Very often, they would hint at their ability to burn down the country, as if people’s properties and social rights and the fate of the homeland were of no concern to them.At the drop of a hat, they would not hesitate to go down the path of demonising state symbols, even when the latter tend to empathise as much as possible with them and give them the opportunity to obtain political rights commensurate with their true size in society and not with the size of their crowds in the streets.

The late Algerian President Chadli Bendjedid was sympathetic and responsive to the ambitions of Algeria’s Islamists and gave them the chance to compete in elections. In return, all through the period leading up to the elections, he was subjected to a smear campaign by these same Islamists in the form of vulgar wall graffiti.

One of those wall slogans went counter to what these Islamists would profess as their values. It called a Muslim patriot, who was a true ‘mujahid’ in his country’s revolution against the French colonialist, a donkey. What is even more ironic is that this man had to pay the price of his positive attitude towards them by being forced to resign!

In Egypt, and before the July 2012 presidential election won by the Brotherhood’s candidate, the Egyptian Military Council was vilified by the Islamists and subjected to demonisation and accusations of treason. And yet, the Military Council had done nothing to these people except announce its empathy with the people’s demands. Like in Algeria, the religious zealots of Egypt resorted to their favourite tools of loud demonstrations and insulting graffiti to vilify the Military Council.

Had the Brotherhood been asked at the time what they wanted from the army, it would immediately be clear to the questioner that what it wished was for the army to lead it by the hand to the palaces of power and hand them over absolute authority over the land and its people effective immediately. And yet, the Brotherhood had done nothing to merit such a privilege except perhaps jump on the bandwagon of a revolution they had nothing to do with.

During those elections (July 2012), the Egyptians had to endure the Brotherhood’s threat of “setting the country on fire” if its candidate did not win. And he did win with slightly over 51% of the votes while his rival candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, came very close with a little over 48% of the votes, or about one million votes less than the winner.

The strange thing was that, even before the dust of the election battle could settle, Shafiq was quickly targeted by the new rulers. He became wanted by the courts under ridiculous pretexts, really. He was accused of facilitating the acquisition by one of former President Hosni Mubarak’s sons of a plot of land from the Pilots Association. Regardless of the merits of the case, it was a clear sign of the vengeful spirit driving the Brotherhood and a harbinger of a coming phase of exclusion and onslaught against society and the Brotherhood’s opponents.

From here on then, and by virtue of the natural dynamics of things, a tug of war between the Muslim Brothers and the state institutions began, with events taking place practically daily, in a game of exclusion and counter-exclusion.

On the one hand, the Brotherhood’s goal was to overthrow the state and seize it, not to have the opportunity to run the government for a constitutional period, and on the other hand, the army, which was able to gain the people’s support and loyalty, wanted to save the state. Inevitably, pent up popular anger erupted on June 30, 2013.

Today, the Brotherhood’s media plays around the clock the tune of “military rule” in Egypt, as if they know nothing of the history and nature of the modern Egyptian state. That state was born thanks to the military, thanks in fact to the vision and planning skills of an army officer of Albanian origin named Muhammad Ali. He began his revolt by removing the Mamluk and Turkish obstacles to his ambitions and covered up the weakness of the political class of the time with his excellent organizational skills and the ability to take initiatives. Muhammad Ali then used the power of the state to open the gates of Egypt’s renaissance and prepare the ground for the emergence of many of its symbols and movements, which made the Russian Communist historian Lutsky liken Muhammad Ali’s reforms to those of Peter the Great in Russia, as reforms bearing a progressive character.

Much later in the beginning of the twentieth century, Muhammad Ali’s heirs began spending their time and fortune courting the British and in gambling halls. And once again, new patriotic soldiers rose up to courageously meet the society’s aspirations and took over the state, after a military coup in July 1952 they called the Army Movement.

It was none other than the Brotherhood’s ideologue and theoretician, Sayyid Qutb himself, who objected to the moniker ‘Army Movement’ and called it revolution. Former President Gamal Abdel Nasser walked down the same path as Muhammad Ali. He removed the remnants of the old regime, in anticipation of the conditions of the state, and by virtue of the fact that the historical stage required floating the ruler’s power and what it needs, including building on his personal charisma, as the shortest and easiest way towards establishing an effective governing institution in light of the new state’s young age and the delicate context of the time that required it to be intransigent.

Today too, the Egyptian state is targeted from every side, and once again, it finds itself obliged to consolidate the foundations of the modern state and then proceed to focusing on the country’s economic and social development, using its strength, adequate infrastructure, and a strong military institution.

Those who are trying to overthrow the state in Egypt are fools. A country that builds an army as big as the Egyptian army, possessing the latest weapons and technologies, and a number of fourth and fifth generation warplanes, will not be within easy reach of the destructive power of the Brotherhood, even if the latter were able to send a spaceship to Mars.

The matter then is not limited to just the intrinsic power of the Egyptian system and state, but also includes a system of international relations and circles of military industrialisation, the global financial system, and the global security system, all linked to a set of international cultural and social values, and the destinies of influential countries.

I wish for Erdogan to have an expert adviser who can convince him and his Egyptian and Arab friends that their battle against Egypt is hopeless, even if they owned a thousand TV channels.