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Questions About the Egyptian Revolution

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The fall of Mubarak; this unarmed, pacific crowd, risking death to bring down a deadly regime; this demonstration of power by men and women proving, once again, that there is only one superpower in this world, that of the people gathered together; the grandeur of these people finding the source of unimaginable energy in "fusion" (Sartre) and, in "hope" (the other John Paul, Wojtyla), the invitation to "fear" no longer. The apparition, out of nowhere or, more precisely, out of a space believed to be merely virtual, that of the social networks of the web, of this new agora that was, for 18 days, Tahrir Square in Cairo; these responsible, republican demands, moderate and on a human scale; this absence of lyrical illusions; this astonishing political maturity that also seems to have sprung from nowhere--except, again, from the web; even more striking, this discretion of Islamic agitators who initially remained silent, then reluctantly rallied to the movement, only to try, at the last moment, hand in hand with Suleiman, to plaster over a regime in the process of disintegration; the fact, again, that all this occurred, for the first time in modern Arab history, without a single anti-American or anti-Western slogan, without the burning of an Israeli flag, without dragging out the worn out slogans about the "Zionist" origins of all the plagues of Egypt; the incredible spectacle, then, of these demonstrators who, once having gotten rid of the tyrant, had the civic, citizen's, city dweller's reflex to clean up the place where they had besieged him, telling the world, in effect, that 'clearing away the old order is not an abstract slogan, the clearing away starts here, now, in the lives and in the minds of each of us'--all this constitutes one of the most moving political sequences I have ever lived through. Whatever happens, there is a stock of indelible images that call to mind those of the revolutions of the year of grace 1989; it is the mark of this marvel the French Christian philosopher Maurice Clavel called an Event and that no fear, no reservations, no sombre foreboding should, for the moment, dissuade one from applauding.

That said, it is one thing to salute, to celebrate, to embrace the summer dawn of this Egyptian spring in winter, to say and repeat, as I have for weeks, that a page of the History of the region, hence of the world, is being turned, and that one should rejoice without misgivings. But it is quite another to do one's job by trying to be not, as the media put it, "partners" of the event, but its demanding witnesses, asking the same questions that, at the moment I write, the wisest and most lucid Egyptian democrats are posing.

The first of these questions is that of the events subsequent to the movement. To continue in a Sartrian vein, what happens to a group in fusion that falls back into inertia? What happens to this order on earth that, as another revolutionary--Mao Zedong--said, always ends up succeeding disorder on earth? The price of this succession? Vengeance or none, of what is real, and of its prose? The ruse, or not, of History that, as Marx said, has more imagination than men? And what should one think, for example, of the declarations of Ayman Nur, the leader of Hizb al Ghad and historic figure of the oppositon who, when the Supreme Council of the Army announced that "the international pacts and treaties" would be respected, declared he was in favour of a revision of the treaty with Israel?

The second question concerns the Muslim Brotherhood who, I repeat, were conspicuous in their absence during the uprising but of whom nothing indicates that they will not attempt to hijack it after the fact, like the fox in La Fontaine's fable. Moreover, there is no evidence that confirms that they have undergone the profound change described by the distinguished Islamologists who, for the past thirty years, have strung together blunders and errors of analysis, one after another. For, what, precisely, does the leadership of the Brotherhood say? What do they reveal of their deep-seated ideology and their project for society? Have they renounced Sharia? Taken their distance from Hamas? And where are things with Sayyid Qutb, modern theoretician of Jihad who simultaneously serves, until we are otherwise informed, as their principle intellectual guide?

The third question, then, concerns the army that has assumed the direction of operations since the fall of the Raïs and whose professions of faith in democracy everyone seems to take at face value. Must one point out that this is the same army, commanded by the same generals, which, for the past 58 years, has been the backbone of the contemptible regime? Must one be reminded that, for decades, major NGOs such as Amnesty International have unceasingly denounced the brutality and the repeated violations of human rights of this army? Can one actually be certain that we are dealing with an army like that of Atatürk, or of Portugal's Carnation Revolution in 1974? And should one completely rule out the hypothesis of an Egypt that, at the end of the day, may find itself with a government that, civilian or not, is a variation of the regime installed long ago by Nasser, the bases of which, fundamentally, will not have changed?

Asking these questions does not amount to raining on anyone's parade or, even less, insulting the future. It is offering a modest contribution to a revolution that is only in its first act. What follows, obviously, concerns not only Egypt, but the world.