The conservative political movement has always had a fundamental dilemma in defining democracy: that is the people’s self-rule, which does not pertain to Sharia’s guidelines and divine provisions. Their fatwas repelled political participation, particularly in legislative elections, due to what they called violations of Sharia in legislative councils. During the 2005 elections, a fatwa was issued against the participation with or support of the Muslim Brotherhood, and it became one of the most prominent fatwas of the time.
Protests and sit-ins were considered a violation of Sharia then. This was not because opposing the ruler is forbidden in Islam as many like to believe. After all, most stakeholders at the time did not consider Hosni Mubarak to be a legitimate ruler. Most of them did not consider him a believer because of the mistreatment and torture carried out against scholars and Salafi youth. Rather, forbidding participation was on the grounds of “averting evils:” injuries, loss of life, or being subjected to persecution by security forces after demonstrations. The gains brought about by participation were outweighed by the great losses. Even after the torture and murder by security forces of Sayed Bilal, a young Salafi man from Alexandria, small protests were staged in the absence of any conservative activists.

Days and months passed, and the Tunisian revolution broke out. Egyptians watched closely. Less conservative fatwas were issued, because “Egypt is not Tunisia.” In Tunisia, the veil and the call to prayer are banned and shameless debauchery and depravity are common – or so they said. But once again, Egypt is not Tunisia. Calls to protest on January 25 were met with great reservations and again with the calculations of the evils and interests, with consideration of that stage’s priorities, and fear of the regime’s oppression. A fatwa discouraging participation in the January 2011 protests was issued.

However, the situation shifted a few days later, and the fatwa was reversed, spurring mass popular participation in the Egyptian revolution that partially succeeded and overthrew the regime. Those just recently enemies of democracy began preparations for the “democratic celebration,” ignoring voices urging them to purge and restructure governmental agencies. They refused to give other revolutionary forces and the pioneering revolutionists a chance [to participate]. They blessed the historic March referendum, the first democratic rift in the Egyptian Revolution. The enemies of democracy received the referendum results with chants of Allahu Akbar, symbolizing their victory in the battle of the ballot boxes. Soon, they left the streets leaving their protest and revolution comrades to face beatings, lynching and death at the hands of thugs, the police, the army, or the people.

The conservative movement fell victim to democratic gluttony. It pushed the group’s youth into the streets to protect the House of Representatives from the very people it represents. It is worth noting that the House is a symbol of the Republic of Egypt under the protection of the Republican Guard, and an attack on it is unprecedented. Yet, it was labeled a democratic achievement. They rushed to participate in the presidential elections and to draft the “greatest constitution in the history of mankind” oblivious to the appeals and calls of their traditional partners, the Salafis for an Islamic state. They scorned their partners and defamed them in international forums. The Vice Chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Essam al-Arian even said in an interview with an American newspaper that “Salafis have a problem with democracy.”

Twelve months passed under the rule of the first democratically elected Egyptian president, and he failed to solve the problems of the ordinary, humble Egyptian citizen, who cannot possibly dine on democracy, fill his car’s tank with democracy, or protect his home against organized crime with democracy. These same citizens decided to display their anger in an undemocratic manner on June 30. Millions spilled into the streets all over Egypt. The crisis could have been avoided by conducting a “democratic” referendum before the situation had deteriorated, and before placing a ceiling on the people’s demands, which we have learned is only raised when it is ignored.

The regime fell. Its supporters rose up in the streets, trying to fill them in vain. Chants of “Islamic, Islamic,” “God’s Sharia,” and “the Islamic state” quickly spread. Pro-Sharia placards covered Raba’a al-Adawiya Square. However, that did not last as they were advised that “God’s Sharia” and “Islamic Islamic” may not advance their cause and could delay the anticipated rescue from the West. References to Sharia quickly disappeared from the scene only to be replaced with “democracy.”

But “peacefulness” also disappeared, and Egyptian cities and towns were smeared with blood. It is thrown from the roofs of Alexandria, it is killed in protests in Mansoura, it is detonated throughout Sinai. And if you ask his supporters if they truly think that Morsi was the believing ruler who was working to implement and protect Sharia, the answer would be “no.” He is a “civil” (non-Islamic) democratically elected president. They would pay their lives for the protection of the “legitimacy” Morsi gained through the ballot box—they would die for democracy.

Mohamed Tolba founded the Salafyo Costa Movement in April 2011. He writes a weekly column for Egyptian daily, al-Youm al-Saba’a, and his first book is to be published in the coming months, detailing his experiences in Sudan, and the challenges he has faced as an Egyptian Salafi citizen.