Friday Prayers for Egypt: Quiet Revolution

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January 25, 2011 was a momentous event. But if the president hadn’t said something, in 2017 Egypt might hardly have noticed.

It was a turning point in history, he declared, though it brought on many troubles. But he praised the people and the martyrs, giving assurance Egypt is on the right path.

May it be so, God. But the day itself passed quietly. Maybe that is good news?

Unlike previous years there were no demonstrations, no celebrations, no clampdowns. The metro at Tahrir closed, but it seemed more out of habit.

There are some who would like to erase the memory altogether, God. There are others who want to cling to it. The history is still complicated, contested between parties.

Help Egypt remember correctly. Help her celebrate where honorable, help her repent where necessary.

Help her discern the wide spectrum in between.

And help her move forward, God. The issues of the day are no less serious. Perhaps they are more so. There is much to repair, much to rebuild.

Economy. Institutions. Trust.

God, bless the nation and her people. Provide for her needs, strengthen her loins.

Give her peace and prosperity. Give her justice and sovereignty.

Give her a right understanding of herself, of her revolution, and of you.

Keep her on the right path, no matter the troubles. Momentous, but quiet.






Friday Prayers for Egypt: Revolution Blasphemy

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Another revolutionary anniversary has come and gone, this one quieter than in years past. But as the narrative is tested, so also the freedoms that came in its wake.

Give wisdom to society, to know where it stands.

Was the revolution a conspiracy? So say many pundits. Was it a national moment? So say many officials.

Most important God, make the truth known. However nuanced the answer, help Egypt understand rightly the last five years of tumult.

Prod all to remember. Preserve all who record. Protect all who reveal. Publish all in transparency.

Discredit all who manipulate. Honor all who build.

And in the building, come consensus. In particular about right and wrong.

For another figure fell this week to the blasphemy law, God. Criticizing the practice of a holiday, she slighted a tradition of the religious. And for it a judge sent her to jail.

There is a truth about you, God. Yet of it people differ. These differences matter in faith, but they also matter to a people.

May they not be offended, nor give offense. But what when they are? And what when they do?

The answers, God, strike different peoples as near inviolable principles. So make clear to all where your principles lie.

Guide Egypt in truth, in freedom, in respect, in responsibility. In humility, help her balance between them.

This, God, would be a revolution. Interpret the former, inspire the latter.

May there be proper reverence for all things holy.




A Color (Printed) Revolution?

With decent regularity pro-Morsi supporters have conducted small protest marches around our Maadi neighborhood since his removal from office in July 2013. They do not tend to be violent but usually result in ugly graffiti insulting now-President Sisi.

Recently, new graffiti has emerged, calling the people to ‘man up’ and protest on January 25, the anniversary of the original revolution. And this past week I noticed posters – on the ground – calling for a new uprising.

New January 25 ProtestsThe translation reads: Together for liberation and purging; The people want the fall of the regime; and 25 January, Egypt speaks revolution.

I do not yet have a good feel for whether or not people will respond. A recent effort to rally an Islamic revolution failed dramatically to attract numbers.

But what is significant to me about this poster is that it is printed in color. This means there is money behind the effort. Another version was even more colorful, but was in poorer condition.

Also significant is that it was on the ground, stomped upon. I did not see any such posters anywhere on the walls. Were they torn down? Did residents or police prevent their hanging?

January 25 is a week away. It will be interesting to monitor developments.


Mubarak Verdict Reactions

Mubarak Verdict

From Paul Attallah, a roundup of reactions to the verdict acquitting former president Hosni Mubarak from responsibility for the deaths of protestors during the January 25, 2011 revolution. His perspective is evident, and he is a decent representative of  local, non-Islamist opinion:

Mixed reaction

According to Professor Said Sadek of California Miramar University, there is a mixed reaction as Egypt Court drops charges against Mubarak. The 86-year-old former leader’s trial generated sympathy after his supporters said the charges against him were a conspiracy against Egypt.

However, Sadek also said some Egyptians are displeased with the court’s ruling. “For the victims of the 2011 revolution and those who feel he was responsible for a lot of the legacy of corruption, religious extremism, bad education system, they feel justice has not been done,” said Sadek.

The people said this revolution was a conspiracy against Egypt’s stability, security, safety and future. “People are fed up with revolutions or any attempt to call for big demonstrations.

Percentage of pro and against Mubarak verdict

What’s the percentage of those who are against Mubarak’s innocence? I would say that it is equal to the percentage Hamdeen Sabahy got during the presidential elections (about 3 to 4%). In fact, Hamdeen Sabahu said: Shame for the tyrants even if they had been unpunished and glory to the martyrs.

This tone cannot get more than 4%.

Negative reactions

It’s amazing to see that the West media goes to the MB, 6 April, Ayman Nour and Alaa el Aswany to get the Egyptian reaction forgetting that they represent just a minority, but a minority which gives to this media the statements they are looking for:

“The politicized decision to acquit Mubarak is a declaration of the collapse of the judiciary,” the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, said on its website. The party called upon what it described as “revolutionary forces” to unite and respond to the ruling in squares. “Rise up to proceed with the revolution and resist injustice,” the statement read.

The April 6 Youth Movement, one of the most prominent activist groups against Mubarak’s rule, said on its Facebook page that one of its members, Mahmoud Hussein, was arrested at Faisal Street in Giza for writing “down with Mubarak” on his bare chest. “Down with Sisi Mubarak rule,” read a post on the page.

“I offer the sincerest condolences to the families of the January revolution martyrs,” Ayman Nour, chairman of Ghad al-Thawra Party, who was jailed following his presidential quest against Mubarak in 2005, said in a tweet. “Justice is dim and injustice is glowing… protesters get 15 years, hundreds are executed for murdering one person, while those who killed hundreds are acquitted.”

“The plan’s last stage is executed successfully. Lobby spies and media drumbeaters. People, never raise your chins before your masters again,” tweeted prominent author Alaa al-Aswany, who is known for his fierce criticism of Mubarak.

Balanced reaction

Wael el Obrashi said that the verdict must not give to the Muslim Brotherhood an opportunity to create divisions and achieve their ambitions.

Egyptian political parties refuse the MB call to protest after Mubarak’s trial

The Muslim Brotherhood are trying to ride the popular anger again to repeat the 25 January revolution scenario. This brotherhood is the real enemy of the Egyptian people

Ahmad Mousa: The Muslim Brotherhood and 6 April are calling for an armed protest in Tahrir square

A Salafi preacher: Mubarak innocence proves that the Muslim Brotherhood are involved in killing the Egyptians

Arab Gulf double reaction

King of Bahrain congratulated Mubarak for the verdict

But, A Qatari Emir, Faysal ben Gasem, incites the Egyptians to start a revolution.

He twitted: The Muslim Brotherhood must put all their weight to support the revolution. They must bandon their slogans (?) and not to make a distinction with the people. By God’s will the revolution will succeed even if thousands killed

(what’s the matter of your mother ya Faysal Ben Gasem)

Mubarak says he committed no crime, calls January 25 Revolution ‘weird’

In his first published comments since being found not guilty of graft and cleared of charges of murdering protesters demonstrating against his rule in 2011, former President Hosni Mubarak said in a phone call with Sada El-Balad TV he “didn’t commit any crime,” and gave no orders during the January 25 Revolution.


One dead after Egyptian security forces disperse Mubarak verdict protest

One has been confirmed dead and 8 injured according to Health Ministry spokesperson Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar after Egyptian security forces dispersed over 3,000 protesters who had gathered near Tahrir Square on Saturday evening to protest a court verdict that dropped charges against Hosni Mubarak of killing protesters.

The “ultras” tried to occupy Tahrir square and chanted against the regime, the army and the security.

(The “ultras” had been politicized becoming a destructive political group under a Muslim Brotherhood and 6 April control. Actually, all football games are not attended by people).

85 arrested in storming of Abdel Moneim Riad Square protests

Security forces arrested 85 protesters, after storming Abdel Moneim Riad Square on Saturday evening during demonstrations against the acquittal of Hosni Mubarak, according to a Cairo Security Chief Ali al-Demerdash.

Protesters gather near Tahrir Square to denounce Mubarak verdictThe Muslim Brotherhood alliance support calls the members of the alliance to go to Tahrir Square

And, here is an interesting take from blogger Maged Atiya at Salama Moussa, resident in the US but a keen and sympathetic observer of Egyptian affairs:

The author of this blog will note that he never liked Mubarak. It was not a reasoned response, but a visceral reaction. Mubarak seemed to embody the worst aspects of Egyptian male misbehavior, controlling, domineering, occasionally indifferent, sometimes sneering, and at other times self-pitying. The reaction was enough to persuade this former Egyptian to avoid the country for the duration of his rule, and beyond. Mubarak made being born in Egypt a congenital condition worthy of seeking cure in a larger and perhaps less visible identity. Of course, it is wrong to pin all the blame on Mubarak; but he was case 1 of what has gone wrong in Egypt. He lived on to see himself, and by turns, his country humbled. Yet one senses that no grand understanding came his way. His derisive survival mocked his country as poor and humble and incapable of greatness.

There were some positive aspects to the long years of Mubarak. The Army was persuaded to stay away from politics. Infant mortality was reduced dramatically. He made deft moves diplomatically in the 1990s to have the country’s external debt wiped off.  He tried to open up some political room for the Muslim Brotherhood. He made stumbling steps toward liberalizing the economy. Yet, every positive step lived in the shadow of greater errors.  But few of his errors match his performance in February 2011, and none of his successes are as great as his final acquittal in court.

Mubarak insisted that he stood between Egypt and disaster. We are tempted to think of this as the refrain of a humble and limited man who rose above all he ever expected to be, only because he never did much about it. He was not delusional enough to expect immortality, yet he never developed leadership to follow him and stave off disaster. He never even appointed a Vice President, until he was nearly gone. He raised his palms against a nation, insisting that it should not look behind him where abyss looms, but did nothing to point to a better direction. He got away with it because his opponents were too pious or too foolish to point out this simple fact. They railed against him as a dictator, but demonstrated little liberality themselves.

Mubarak’s greatest sin came in February 2011. He attempted to stay in office by a patronizing display of self-pity. He begged his nation to respect him as an elderly father. He should have taken a different tack. He should have simply explained that to shove him off with 6 months remaining in his term would legitimatize arbitrary transfer of power to the Army by street mobs, and God help a country that sets up such a precedent. He should have begged to stay on as the elderly humble Bawab, who would sweep around while younger men built a better structure. His final magic act would have been to finish his term humbled for the sins of his errors. But a man capable of such reach would not have stayed in office for so long, nor left a vacuum in his wake.  His final atonement and redemption would be to offer his country a Shakespearean tragic denouement. He went for the tawdry television serial.

If Mubarak’s greatest error came in February 2011, his final success came afterwards. We should praise him for what he did not do. He did not flee the country. He did not beg for mercy. He stood in court, judged by men we judge inferior, even by his lowered standards. There was indeed the flood after him. A torrential downpour of errors, and blood. Nowhere near as much blood as the rest of the cursed region, but far too much by Egypt’s perceived gentle standards. In the end he was acquitted of charges that could not be proved, but not tried for errors that he demonstrably made. Those errors were that of a nation; formed of its clay and shaped by its humiliation.

In the end Mubarak was acquitted, and acquitted himself perhaps better than the mercurial and damaged country that sought his removal and now longs for his reign.

And finally, here is the reaction of CNN. After recapping the first trial and the political situation at the time, the author concludes:

The defendants appealed and the retrial began in January 2013. It would take more than 50 sessions to arrive at a verdict but this time Mubarak’s trial would be overshadowed by growing turmoil in the country.

Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved the first democratically elected parliament after declaring it unconstitutional. The Egyptian military ousted Morsy on July 3, 2013 following another popular uprising. Security forces began arresting the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership and thousands of their followers. The following August, security forces would clear Morsy supporters from two squares in Egypt resulting in more than 1,000 people killed. Morsy now stands trial over the death of protesters as well as an array of other charges.

From the chaos emerged Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. He served as the head of military intelligence under Mubarak and was promoted by Morsy to be minister of defense. He oversaw the overthrow of Morsy and handover of power to Adly Mansour, although many believed al-Sisi remained the power behind the throne. In May of this year, Egyptians elected him president and thus the fourth recent leader of Egypt.

Today’s verdict reflects the times. Fewer people were outside the courthouse for the trial. Small bands of protesters took to the streets. Most Egyptians vented their anger online. Talking to Mubarak supporters and protesters on both sides, they did agree on one thing. They told me the revolution is dead.

With whom do you agree?



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Judicial Independence

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Not one conviction was levied against those who killed protestors during the January 25 revolution. This fact is still not yet fully explained, but raised questions of whether or not Egypt’s judicial system functions independently of the powers-that-be.

These questions continue today. But this week a few Muslim Brotherhood members were found innocent of certain minor charges. More significantly, an officer was given a ten year sentence when 37 detainees from the pro-Morsi sit-ins were killed inside a police van. It may be that the law is blind.

The coming months will demonstrate. The president referred the fact-finding report from the sit-in dispersal to the judiciary, with its accusations of ‘excess force’. More serious trials against Muslim Brotherhood members continue. Will they judge impartially?

God, you know where justice lies; men make at best approximations. But may those of the judiciary be men of conscience. May they weigh the evidence and act accordingly. May they remember they hold the life of fellow human beings in their hands.

For the weight of accusation is against them, no matter how many are upright. The Judge’s Club has been called financially corrupt by the nation’s top auditor. The onus of revolutionary killings lingers. And while some detained sit in prison for months without trial, others are convicted straightaway. Many view judges as politicized, at the least.

What can be prayed for, God, but the above? The judiciary is but one of many state institutions that is still in flux since the revolution. Purge it from all impropriety. Make transparent its proceedings. Let the people trust its arbitration.

Through them or otherwise, God, bring justice to Egypt. Justice for victims of these transitional years. Justice for victims of the old regime. Justice against all who have manipulated the system for their own benefit.

Through them or otherwise, God, but may it be through them. May Egypt, and its judiciary, be fully independent.



Repackaging January 25

Sisi for President

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is an unannounced, unofficial candidate for president, but the announced, but still unofficial campaign for him to run has long been strong. Immediately after deposing President Morsi on July 3 he denied any intention for seeking office, but has since expressed an openness without declaring himself either way, though he dropped strong hints he would run if the constitution was ratified with strong turnout.

It has, and Sisi-mania has persisted, with many politicians offering their unqualified support should he decide to announce his candidacy. There is even a lawsuit filed to compel him to run for president.

The above poster is a new initiative in this direction. It translates:

Complete the good you have done and choose your president

‘The good’ represents the massive demonstrations on June 30 which demanded early elections to remove Morsi as president. June 30 has been billed as a new revolution, but also as a corrective extension of the original January 25 uprising against President Mubarak. To others, June 30 is the counter-revolution, less against Morsi than for the state/regime which had buckled in 2011, but not collapsed.

So within this mix, the translation continues:

The day of the people’s victory and of completing the path

Take to the streets and share in supporting the nomination of

General Sisi

President of the Republic

25 January 2014

It is unknown whether or not General Sisi is behind this effort or if other state forces desire him, or, if it represents simply the will of a great portion of the populace. Almost all observers predict that if Sisi were to run for president he would win in a landslide.

Will January 25, therefore, be repackaged as the launching pad for the next president of Egypt? If so, will the original revolution lose more of its luster among a weary population, or, if not and, will the June 30 extension restore much of what January 25 meant to topple? Mubarak, of course, was a president from the ranks of the military.

January 25 was originally selected as the start-date for the revolution because of its coincidence with the national observance of Police Day. It was a protest against the police state and its brutality, but also against corruption in general throughout the regime.

Incidentally, the Interior Ministry has called on the public to rally in Tahrir on this day – without mentioning Sisi specifically. He has also floated the idea that Police Day be moved to June 30, to coincide with the revolution against President Morsi.

Let us suppose General Sisi removes his uniform, runs for president, and wins his mandate. This may reflect very poorly on Egypt abroad, giving ammunition to those who call what happened on July 3 a coup d’etat, however popular. He has the right to run, of course, but is it wise?

That may all depend on the type of president he will be. Will he restore the Mubarak state and rule similarly with token appreciation for parliamentary politics? Or will he honor the original revolutionary demands and reform both the police and the culture of politics, presiding over a true and ongoing democratic transition? Might he perhaps, with his military background and popular backing, be the only one who can accomplish this?

Doubters say the manner in which he has presided over Egypt since July 3 reflect a very low possibility of the latter. The violent crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, the controversial protest law, and the media campaign to tarnish original revolutionary icons all suggest resuscitation of the dominant state. Furthermore, electoral flexibility passed by the constitutional assembly to the interim president – viewed in this framework as Sisi’s puppet – allow great maneuverability to shape the coming parliament along conciliatory lines.

But throughout the previous three years there has been a lingering sentiment, now a fully raging fire, that Egypt, especially through the Muslim Brotherhood, has been the victim of a conspiracy. Morsi, it is said, won his victory through fraud and foreign pressure, recalling the Brotherhood monitors who declared his victory long before the official results were counted. Judges who participated in the alleged charade are now being investigated.

Egypt’s judiciary – alternately reviled and respected among the people – will have to judge these matters. Their decision either way will be filtered through the lens of some conspiracy. But it reminds of the question ongoing since revolutionary trials began: Who killed the protestors? Has the judicial system let murders off the hook? Were police shooting in defense of stations attacked throughout the country? Or was there simply a lack of sufficient evidence to rule against anyone?

And though many analysts dismiss these thoughts as the knee-jerk reaction of any autocratic regime that comes under popular pressure, conspiracy theorists have a powerful retort. Look at Syria, Libya, and Iraq before that. Their states and armies are all victims of foreign interference. Shall we allow Egypt to fall next?

Or, through Sisi, is it falling now? Pro-Morsi forces are also calling for mass demonstrations on January 25, at Tahrir Square and throughout Egypt. They are now warning of civil war, even as they mobilize.

The general is at the nexus of many attempts to define January 25 amid ongoing Egyptian turmoil. The success of January 25, 2014 to push Sisi to the presidency, as well as the manner in which he may eventually govern, will define the ultimate packaging of the revolution.