The Egyptian Dilemma: Between the Crushed Winners or the Felool

Egypt’s interim government may have more in common with its immeditate predecessor than it would like to admit. The current government is using the Muslim Brotherhood as an excuse for its shortcomings, in much the same way that ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s regime used the National Salvation Front (NSF) to absolve it of its failures. Both governments were quick to relinquish responsibility for their lack of success, and demonstrated littleinnovation and an inability to think outside the box when facing Egypt’s ongoing crises. It’s easy to make excuses, and rather than admit the failure of ineffective government policies, both regimes focused their energies instead on confronting the enemy—whether ‘secular destructors,’ in the case of Morsi, or ‘Islamist terrorists,’ as is the case now. Either way, the Egyptian people stand to lose the most in both equations. 

One of the main issues that has had a negative impact on Egypt, both cultuarly and socially, is the settling of scores with either ‘the crushed winner,’ embodied by the Brotherhood, or ‘the felool ,’ embodied by remants of the Mubarak regime. This persistence threatens Egypt’s future and chips away at January 25’s aspirations of political pluralism. The cycles of revenge have evolved, and Egyptians have become, albeit subconsciously, focused on ensuring the complete exclusion of the ’other.’ This mentality of allowing only one opinion, and stating that all are either “with or against” is once again taking over and it appears it will continue to do so for a long time.    

This is not the only way in which roles have been reversed. The Muslim Brotherhood is now taking the place of its political opponents—the remants of the Mubarak regime as well as the NSF—and is focused on hindering the current transition, to the point of ensuring its failure. I still believe that the Muslim Brotherhood bears most of the responsibility for Egypt’s current state of affairs, but they are now using the same tactics employed by the NSF during Morsi’s short-lived rule: withdrawing from political participation and taking to the street in protest instead.  

As we pressured Morsi’s regime at the time and said they must be more capable of embracing all political opponents, we have to do the same with Hazel El-Beblawy’s government. We have to be even more mindful of political inclusion in the current roadmap, and be more understanding of the dangers of exclusion, and its detrimental effect on the political and social future of the country.

Beyond the obvious realms of political exlusion, whether through arrests or court rulings targeting the Brotherhood, two recent incidents are indicative of where the government stands. In fact, it is evident how grave the crisis of the ruling elite has become when looking at how the current minister of sports has dealt with Kung Fu player Mohamed Youssef. Participating in an international competiton in Russia, Youssef accepted his gold medal wearing a yellow t-shirt bearing the four-fingered salute, now synonymous with supporters of the ousted president. Not only was Youssef suspended for a year, but the minister even considered dissolving the entire federation. Had Youssef wanted to truly rankle the Egyptian authorities, he could have sought refuge (and citizenship)in Qatar, for instance. He preferred instead to represent the country, while at the same time, taking a political stand, that differs with that of the governemnt. Youssef, and footballer Ahmed Abdel Zaher who is facing investigations  for similar reasons, didn’t resort to violence or vandalism for them to be faced with suspension or investigation as if they were terrorists or criminals.  

Suspending Bassem Youssef’s satirical program for criticizing the current ruling figures while previous episodes freely humiliated the ousted president is another strong indication of the reality of this conflict. It’s impossible to refer to Morsi’s rule as religious fascism, when it allowed for some sexual innuendos in the program, when the current regime that claims to be in a confrontation with religious fascism suspends the program for the very same kind of sexual innuendos.

We have to stand by the state as a concept, that goes beyond the people within it. We must be wary of the dangers of the collapse of the state’s institutions. This doesn’t mean giving up on political solutions and negotiations in a country that’s exhausted by conflicts that may kill its aspirations.  We, in the Nour Party, which belongs to the Islamist current, have had to make some challenging, but flexible, choices. We are focused on passing through this transitional period, to reach the stage of parliamentary and presidential elections, whatever they may bring. Our strategic goal now is to preserve the presence of a political scene, even if it’s not very bright and regardless of our representation in it. Otherwise, the country will either descend into chaos, or be gripped by a totalitarian regime. Either choice will destroy Egypt.

Nader Bakkar is a co-founder of Egypt’s al-Nour Party and serves as a member of the party’s presidential and foreign affairs committees, as well as the chairman’s assistant for media affairs.

Image: Photo: Rob Stevens (Flickr)