Learning to Stare at the Sun


Some years back the US press uncovered a scandal in which Catholic priests were abusing children at church. The US press fought to document the abuses until the church finally apologized and the accused priests went on trial. The church recently appointed a special investigator, Father Robert Oliver, to look into any sexual abuse within the church. Oliver began his work with a news conference in which he thanked the US press and said the press did the church a service by insisting that it deal with the scandals. Now, compare that with the way the Brotherhood deals with the media.

Since the Brotherhood came to power, they have been waging a bitter war against the media outside their control. Freedom of expression was severely curtailed under Mubarak but the limits imposed on the media under Brotherhood rule are much worse. Many journalists have been charged with insulting President Morsi – an imaginary, unlawful and vague charge that can be applied to anyone who criticizes the president. Respected journalists such as Dina Abdel Rahman and Wael al-Ibrashi have been questioned because interviewed members of the Black Bloc, although it is known worldwide that interviewing someone, even an outlaw, does not imply any legal liability on the part of the journalist.

On the second anniversary of the revolution countless Egyptians came out in demonstrations denouncing Brotherhood rule. The police, under the new interior minister, stood in their way and opened fire, with reported use of live ammunition. Fifty-three people were killed in one week, and hundreds were detained and tortured. Police brutality was broadcast live on TV, as policemen dragged Hamada Saber naked along the roadway and violated his humanity. Prime Minister Hisham Qandil then appeared, but instead of talking about all these crimes, he amazed us by emphasizing the importance of breast-feeding and the need for mothers to clean their breasts so that their infants don’t get diarrhea. Stranger yet, the minister of information, a Brotherhood member, ordered that the producer who broadcast the prime minister’s press conference be suspended from work and referred to investigation. Why? Because the minister thinks that the producer should have cut off the transmission when the prime minister began to talk nonsense. The Brotherhood minister thinks that the media’s duty is not to convey the truth but to stop people seeing anything that might damage the Brotherhood.

Why is the Brotherhood harassing the independent media? The answer is that the Brotherhood does not understand the difference between media and propaganda. In their view, media is not a way to get at the truth but a propaganda tool that is either used for their interests or against them. They see media that criticizes them as a tool in a propaganda war waged against them, one that has to be silenced by any means possible.

A real problem arises when one starts playing politics with religious sentiments. Members of the Brotherhood do not think before they form an opinion: they take the truth, ready-made from their Guide, adopt it and defend it. Even more dangerously, they believe that they are the only ones who carry the word of God and represent Islam, so in their eyes anyone who opposes the Brotherhood is insulting Islam. Try criticizing the Brotherhood’s Guide on the Internet and you’ll immediately receive a torrent of outrageous insults. The way they identify the Brotherhood with Islam prevents them from seeing their mistakes and their crimes and makes them put all their opponents into the category of ‘enemies of religion’, who by their conventions have no rights at all.

In short, they see the Brotherhood’s opponents as enemies of Islam, so it’s out of the question to talk about their rights and there’s no harm in beating them and killing them if necessary. All these things count as crimes if committed against the Muslim Brotherhood, whereas if the Brotherhood commits them against the enemies of Islam, then by their standards it’s a form of jihad they have been forced to wage. The Muslim Brothers will never admit the crimes that have been documented and recorded, and they will use their power to deny the truth however definitive and obvious it may be. Mohamed Morsi, who began as an elected president, has become a dictator who has suspended and trampled on the law and has imposed on Egypt a constitution that does not reflect the wishes of Egyptians. He is also responsible for torturing and killing demonstrators, just as Mubarak is responsible for the same crimes, for which he has been tried and imprisoned.

All these facts are as clear as daylight, visible to everyone across the world, but there is no hope that the Brotherhood will see them or admit them because admitting Morsi’s crimes would damage their religious belief, based on the idea that everything the Brotherhood does is Islam itself. Now the battle in Egypt is not between the opposition and the government but between a revolution that has not fulfilled its goals and the Brotherhood, who have connived against the revolution and betrayed it for the sake of their own interests. The revolution belongs to the future and the Brotherhood belongs to the distant past. Can anyone stop the future? The revolution continues and will triumph, God willing.  

Alaa Al Aswany, the Arab world’s bestselling novelist, is the author of The Yacoubian Building, Chicago, and Friendly Fire. His work is published in thirty-one languages worldwide.

A longer version of this article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm 

Photo: Reuters

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