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Raghida Dergham

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The Dispersal of the Protest Bears Testimony to the Professionalism of the State and the "Haphazardness" of the Muslim Brotherhood

Posted: 08/16/2013 10:08 am

Many legendary Arab statesmen have fallen over the past few years - having been hanged or mutilated, or fled or been imprisoned. Yet the lesson remains lost on old and new Arab statesmen, from Egypt to Syria, to Iraq and Lebanon. Deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his supporters from the Muslim Brotherhood are in a complete state of denial of what is a clear reality, namely, that there will be no turning back from the overthrow of Morsi and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood - in a mixture of secular momentum rejecting the imposition of religion on the state, and of the Muslim Brotherhood's surprising failure at the exercise of power and its betrayal of democratic principles. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad resembles the Muslim Brotherhood he is fighting in Syria, as they both shed blood as part of their battle for power. He too is in denial of the reality that it is impossible for Syria to return to be ruled by the Baath Party and the Assad family as it once had been, regardless of how many battles Iran and Hezbollah might win him in the balance of power, and of the major assistance he might obtain from Russia and China, whether in the form of ammunition or drones. Indeed, neither is Mohamed Morsi willing to admit that there is no way for him to be reinstated, even as he uses elections, his term, and his "legitimacy" as pretexts, establishing himself as a new model of the old and customary leaders, and an example of debasing the goals of the revolution of change in Egypt; nor is Bashar al-Assad willing to relinquish power, no matter the cost in terms of Syrian lives or the division of Syria, at least for another nine months, even as he uses as a pretext the necessity of completing his "legitimate" term, while insisting on his right to run again as candidate to the presidency if he so wishes. America's war in Iraq brought Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki to power, welcoming a democracy that had replaced the authoritarianism of deposed President Saddam Hussein and of the Baath Party. And here is Maliki now, strutting like a peacock in the narcissism of power and seeking after a third term in office, blatantly ignoring popular protests and what his clinging to power will lead to in terms of bloodshed and perhaps of dividing the country. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has failed at governing through a government loyal to it and in which it holds the majority. It now insists on thwarting the formation of a new government cabinet, so that it may keep holding power by purposely creating a vacuum that will cripple the country. This has led to a qualitatively new wave among the remaining two-thirds of the Lebanese, based on the willingness to secede rather than submit to the dictates of the one-third in whose name Hezbollah claims to speak, and whose political rights it claims to be entitled to defend with weapons and by means of protest. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, has used protests as a means to take the country hostage, rather than for reform. This was not a protest of civilians, but rather an armed protest with women and children brought in and prominently positioned to attract cameras and shackle government forces in order to prevent them from dispersing it. What happened at the protest in Egypt - and in Lebanon - was sedition and a security threat aimed at imposing hegemony on public decision-making by force and coercion, not at reforming a flawed situation to participate in decision-making through dialogue.

In Lebanon, the protest led to taking the state hostage, and this in turn led to a vicious circle of poisonous vacuum that has sowed the seeds of doubt and fear... And today, it is sowing the seeds of weariness from fear mongering, dictates, and hostage taking, to be replaced with the willingness to secede on a background of difficulties hindering coexistence. Thus, obsession with power has become a means to potentially divide the country, and has in fact resulted in new reactions that boil down to "so be it." If Hezbollah fulfills its threats and its hints to resort to making use of its weapons against the Lebanese, as took place on May 7 a few years ago, then so be it. If secession or division into confederacies is the answer to avoid coercion, fear mongering, and dictates, then so be it. So be it, because we are sick and tired of being taken hostage. So be it, because enough is enough.

Egypt is a different matter. Egypt has a state, an army, secular forces, and a people that have proven themselves and put away two presidents in three years. Egypt is a nation-state in the process of being built anew. Lebanon has an unnatural structure and an abnormal state of narcissism, intimidation, and submission. What happened in Egypt in the face of the protest is the exact opposite of what happened in Lebanon, when the protest lasted for months, obstructed the state, crippled the economy, hampered businesses, and scared away tourists.

Egypt the state behaved like a state and took the task of preserving civil and national security into its own hands. The government in Egypt dispersed the protest and refused to allow it to be a means to take the country hostage. The interim government in Egypt behaved sternly and seriously, at first giving the protest a chance and opening the door to international delegations to convince the Muslim Brotherhood to replace the protest with entering as party to the roadmap to a political process that would not exclude anyone.

After the Muslim Brotherhood refused to comply peacefully, instead becoming more obstinate in its misinterpretation of the messages of American and European delegations, the state warned it and informed it very clearly that it was resolved to disperse the protest. The Brotherhood's response was a cowardly one, bringing children to use as shields to protect the men. It mocked the warnings instead of soundly interpreting them and coming to the conclusion that they were repeated attempts to give it another chance to correct its course. It behaved obstinately and arrogantly and did not correct its course, but instead purposely drew the army to the protest grounds, clearly provoking it to use force and shed blood. This was the Muslim Brotherhood's strategy, in a carefully designed plan aimed at addressing the West and seeking its help to seize power once again, forgetting that it was its own failure to govern and its abuse of democratic principles that led to a civilian uprising against it, which the army originally came to support, on the back of the Brotherhood's denial of the right of the majority of Egyptians to a secular state that would separate religion and state.

The process of dispersing the protest in itself bore testimony to the professionalism of the state and the haphazardness of the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, the victims who have fallen are victims of the insistence on protesting, rejecting the authority of the state, and insisting on holding the reins of power. Those who have fallen in this process have been from both sides, most of them as a result of the Muslim Brotherhood's decision to burn Egypt and its churches in response to the dispersal of the protest. The government announced the death of 278 people, among them 43 from the army, including officers. The Muslim Brotherhood spoke of victims in the thousands. The government declared a state of emergency and curfew for a period of one month, which could be shortened if the situation were to calm down.

The obstinacy and the arrogance of the Muslim Brotherhood have led to deepening the hole it has dug for itself to bury the legend it had weaved in people's imagination about itself. Indeed, in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Square has fallen yet another of the illusions of the legend of the Muslim Brotherhood as a colossal force in Egyptian society. The illusion has fallen that Egyptians would choose the Brotherhood over the army. The mask has fallen in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya, as it has fallen in all centers of decision-making, from the presidency to the parliament.

As a shining example of the Muslim Brotherhood's denial of reality, the leader of the Islamist Ennahda movement, which heads the ruling coalition in Tunisia, Rachid al-Ghannouchi, considered that what was currently happening in Egypt had proven "the bankruptcy of the modernists" and "the heroism of political Islam," appealing to the Security Council to look into the situation in Egypt. Such a stance represents the pinnacle of both denial and bankruptcy, because it brings together the priority of rule at the expense of the state, and the constant appeal to the West for help in order to rise to power, regardless of the demands or the desires of the people.

Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei tried to be both this and that, and at the most delicate moment of the transitional phase in Egypt, he chose to resign. The Tamarod movement described his resignation as evading responsibility, and it is right. Resigning in protest is proof of structural weakness, when protest comes amidst the country's need for boldness, leadership, and a decisive choice between this and that. Perhaps ElBaradei was trying to please the West, which had warned Commander-in-Chief of Egyptian Armed Forces Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, as well as ElBaradei, against using force to disperse the protest. Perhaps he meant to provide the Muslim Brotherhood with ammunition. Or perhaps the reason for his resignation was his rejection of bloodshed, whatever the motives and the reasons. In any case, ElBaradei made a mistake against himself when he misread the process of dispersing the protest, expecting it to last for a long time and to result in mutually exchanged violence. Indeed, the process was completed within 24 hours, and it became clear in its wake that most of the violence that had taken place had come after the dispersal of the protest, as a result of buildings being stormed and set on fire by the Muslim Brotherhood. ElBaradei was not alone in hastily condemning the state and the army. Indeed, United Nation Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also acted hastily and found himself condemning the sovereignty of the law, at a time when the Brotherhood was moving to commit massacres in churches and monasteries and to storm state centers without similar condemnation.

Turkey, Qatar, and Iran voiced condemnation each for their own "personal" reasons. Indeed, both Turkey and Qatar support the Muslim Brotherhood everywhere, while Iran has found an opportunity for itself to get involved in the Egyptian issue, at a time when it is entirely implicated, militarily and in terms of bloodshed, in Syria.

Egypt now faces a phase of the utmost importance, having finally bade farewell to the age of nationalist and religious ideologies, and buried the last of them at the funeral of the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood - a funeral that has been the outcome of suicides committed by the Muslim Brotherhood in power, following its hijacking of Egypt's first revolution, then its theft of the presidential elections, offered it by the army out of fear of retaliation, and finally its proving unqualified to govern democratically.

Today, Egypt has the opportunity to build state institutions and form a government capable of building the state and of confronting those who would undermine it. ElBaradei represents one of the aspects of weakness in the government, but not the only one. There is now an urgent need to introduce new young and vital elements to government in Egypt. Indeed, Egypt has today decided that it was a secular state, not a religious one. And Egypt must soon prove that it is indeed a secular state, not a religious or a military one.

Egypt represents a different model of history making in the Arab region and of a relationship that may well be qualitatively new between the people and the government, and between the men and women in power and the seats of power. In Syria, there does not seem to be any willingness to change the balance of government, as a result of clinging absolutely to power. In Egypt, on the other hand, the people have toppled two presidents and a vice president, and they are determined to refuse to be humiliated, and to submit to coercion and to being taken hostage.

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