And They Call Themselves Liberals

Have you ever heard of ‘liberal’ parties and political movements which at times keep silent about human rights violations and freedoms and at other times justify, defend, and even revel in such violations, as long as they are committed against those whose views differ from their own? 

They fiercely advocate overlooking the requirements of the rule of law and prioritizing “the war against terrorism” over rights and freedoms, and use their political and organizational capacities not to build societal consensus within a framework of peacefulness and democratic values, but rather to entrench the fascism of exclusion and collective punishment.

They confront the abomination of sectarianism and discrimination not by seeking to establish equal citizenship rights, but by constructing a counter-discourse based on their own version of sectarianism and by adopting discriminatory views towards those whose opinions differ with their own.

They claim to defend the idea of a civilian state, only to ally themselves with the military and security establishments, thinking that they will thus be allowed to participate in governance (although this will not be the case).

They claim to be against mixing religion and politics, and which then publicize the support of official religious institutions – both Islamic and Christian – for the candidacy of the former defense minister in the presidential elections, just as they previously propagated justifications for violations of rights and freedoms made by these same institutions.  

They are not concerned with issues of free access to information, transparency, fairness, accountability, or public oversight, and do not seek to resist the networks of corruption in both private and public institutions or to confront the marriage of the ruling system to wealth and economic interests.

They rally presenters and journalists with whom they have close ties (or, more accurately, who have close ties to the funders of these parties) to defame those whose opinions differ from their own and to label them traitors based on blatantly false and even contradictory claims, instead of accepting diversity and showing concern for the real issues facing the nation, such as building democracy – the meaning of which they fail to grasp – and defending human rights and freedoms, which they wish to guarantee only to themselves and to those who share their views.

They adopt condescending attitudes towards low-income and middle-class citizens – viewing them as nothing more than voters for “sugar and oil” – and believe that it would be better to exclude these citizens from the polls or to devalue their votes in comparison to the votes of other, more prosperous (i.e. educated, enlightened, and civilized) citizens? 

Only in Egypt.

In Egypt, liberalism – in whose name these parties and political movements claim to speak – is in miserable condition.  Indeed, these “liberals” have plunged us into a deep, protracted political and intellectual crisis.

Amr Hamzawy joined the Department of Public Policy and Administration at the American University in Cairo in 2011, where he continues to serve today. He is a former member of parliament, former member of the National Salvation Front, and founder of the Freedom Egypt Party. 

This article originally appeared in Shorouk.