The law carries many meanings, but among them is license. Neither state nor citizen may act as they wish; the law – in principle – standardizes behavior.
In Egypt, two laws in particular are illustrative. God, may the proper lessons be both learned and applied.
Several weeks ago the parliament passed a controversial draft law regulating civil society. It was panned even by the government, but sent to the president to sign or return for further discussion. Yet with no comment at all and the mandated period elapsed, many wonder where is the law? Is the president stalling? Was it given to him at all?
God, the law itself is worthy of prayer, and the effect it will have on civil society. You know the importance of the sector; you know the dangers of manipulation.
Whether or not the current draft is optimal, guide Egypt to the balance necessary.
But guide Egypt also to a law. Help her institutions to function properly, and transparently. May the mechanisms of government mesh with the will of the people and the wisdom of experience, from home and abroad.
The struggle therein is good and healthy, God. At least it can be so. Bless Egypt with a winsome fight.
Meanwhile the protest law is contested to the letter. Recently ruled upon by the Supreme Court, protest is allowed with proper notification, not permission.
A group opposed to ceding two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia followed proper procedure, and then did the state. A judicial ruling denied access to the preferred location. The legal and political struggle continues.
God, the issue itself is worthy of prayer, and the effect it will have on both map and relations. You know the owner of the land; you know the stakes involved.
Whether or not this protest is worthy, guide Egypt to the balance necessary.
But guide Egypt also to an understanding. Help her to promote the rights of expression, and to regulate them properly. May the freedom of the individual mesh with the duties of society and the wisdom of experience, from home and abroad.
The balance therein is fundamental and foundational, God. At least it should be so. Bless Egypt with a worthy consensus.
There is a constitution, God. There are laws. There are laws emerging. There is reform. Set Egypt’s path straight in all navigation.
And in her behavior, regulate and license in the light of your word. May it, to all, be illustrative.
The week opened with numerous protesters and a few policemen dead after clashes on the revolution anniversary. It ended with many soldiers dead following terrorist attacks on their positions in Sinai.
God, be merciful to Egypt. Pretentions are dropping as pro-Brotherhood and pro-state media openly incite against one another. Beyond the lives lost the battle is for stability, perhaps interpreted as justice.
Justice for one side means exposure and conviction of a clandestine group which manipulated its way into power. Justice for the other means exposure and conviction of a cabal which manipulated them out of it.
But for too many of both, justice is interpreted as death.
And stability is the card. If it can be maintained the status quo will reveal the sins of the former. If it can be upended the reversal will reveal the sins of the latter.
All have sinned, God, and fall short of your righteousness. Make known in Egypt your justice.
And in it, God, be merciful to Egypt. Soften the hearts of all. May police work with utmost respect. May activists protest with utmost peace. When either side violates, may this commitment double among the offended.
Because among many, civility is halving. God, honor all that you can of their zeal, but shine your light upon hatred, revenge, and calculating ambition.
Let death be neither means nor goal. Rid its sting, deny its victory. God, be merciful to Egypt, and grant her your stability.
Sixteen thousand Muslim Brotherhood prisoners launched a mass hunger strike yesterday, protesting against torture and other human rights abuses, according to local sources. Haitham Abu Khalil, the movement spokesman, says many more individuals are unlawfully detained.
The same day a lone Coptic hunger striker, unaffiliated and unsympathetic to the Brotherhood, ended his own hunger strike after twenty two days.
Unlike the others, he did so as a free man.
‘People are dying, hatred is increasing, justice is absent, and prices are rising,’ said Dr Hanny Hanna, an archaeologist and general director in the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. ‘We have had no revolutionary government, the same regime is with us until now.’
Three years ago Hanna had more hope. As the world celebrated images of Christians protecting Muslims at prayer in Tahrir Square, less known was the reverse. One of the first Copts to join the revolution of 25 January, Hanna became known as ‘the preacher of the revolution’ for leading protestors in Christian prayers and songs.
But these days of unity are long gone. ‘Everyone is tearing down the other no matter what side you are on,’ Hanna told Lapido Media. ‘The polarisation has become so high.’
And with it the body count.
According to figures reported by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last month, over three thousand Egyptians have been killed in political violence since 3 July, the day former president Mohamed Morsi was deposed.
Over 2500 of these deaths have been the result of protests and clashes, while over 500 have died from terrorism and other militant actions, according to government statements.
Seventeen thousand have been injured in these events, and nearly 19,000 have been arrested. Of these, several hundred have already been on hunger strike to protest their ill treatment in prison.
Hanna, who while drinking only water continued his normal responsibilities, criticized the violence of many protestors which has landed them in detention. But he also condemned the government and its protest law which has imprisoned many innocents beside them.
As the revolution appeared to be slipping away with resurgent autocracy first under the Brotherhood and now more severely against them, the preacher in him grappled with a response.
‘Should I go to the media and just say, “Love each other?” he asked. ‘It is easy to talk but it is stronger to take an action.’
Hunger strikes have largely been an individual action in Egypt since the 1970s, said Osama el-Ghazoly, a senior Egyptian journalist. The mass prison protest is a more recent development, but few have done so outside of jail.
Unlike most, Hanna’s hunger strike had no demands. Instead, it was his chosen action to communicate a message that all is not well and the revolution has not succeeded.
He even takes aim at Egyptian icon General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the front running presidential candidate. Hanna resurrects the memory of the Maspero massacre when 28 Coptic protestors were killed, either shot or crushed under military vehicles in October 2011. Sisi was the director of military intelligence at the time.
‘If Sisi wants my support he should make it clear what was his role in these events,’ said Hanna. ‘If he is clean, then fine. If not, he can go to hell.’
But these messages do not sit well with his fellow Copts. Most are overjoyed at Sisi’s popularly endorsed removal of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government, and anticipate the new constitution will usher in a democratic order.
Even Hanna’s personal Facebook page, filled with good wishes about his intentions, drew criticism. Comments lamenting the timing, method, and relevance of his protest mirrored the responses of political, religious, and revolutionary Coptic leaders.
‘I wish he would be more patient,’ said Naguib Abadir, a Coptic founding member of the Free Egyptians Party, one of the leading liberal flag bearers. ‘We are in a very difficult period with people trying to hijack our roadmap before it can be achieved.’
‘The body is not our own, it is the temple of God and we are responsible to protect it,’ said Revd Fawzi Khalil of Kasr el-Dobara Church, located just behind Tahrir Square, who demonstrated with Hanna from the early days of the revolution.
‘We are able to express our views in ways that do not threaten our life.’
Abadir and Khalil both told Lapido Media that Hanna should save his strength and take up politics, criticising him for picturing everything as negative. But even revolutionary colleagues see him as an idealist, who is harming himself in vain.
‘He is a good person working for peace,’ said Mina Magdy, general coordinator of the mostly Coptic Maspero Youth Union, which suffered heavily in the massacre. ‘But he is giving slogans and this does not work, we need specific demands.
‘Hanna’s message will reach neither the regime nor the people,’ he said. ‘No one cares about him.’
But this unhappy critique is categorically untrue. His wife and three daughters have stood by his side, and over ten friends have promised to join him on a future hunger strike, if necessary, in exchange for stopping now.
Hanna believes most of his critics misunderstand him and have succumbed to a culture that neither values the individual nor believes one person can make a difference.
‘In the beginning no one listens,’ he said. ‘But as you continue more people start to pay attention.
‘The fruit is seen as they change toward the good.’
Still a preacher, but now with his body, this is Hanna’s contribution to continue the revolution.
If protesting has waned on the streets, it has waxed in the universities. Fueled first by some in their support for Morsi, they were joined by others in opposition to a law against protesting. Still others rallied simply because police entered the campus to put it all down.
A last group, presumably the largest and not protesting, just wants to study. Actions by the former make this difficult, whether peaceful or provocative, and perhaps even criminal.
God, the problems of Egypt are well known and offered to your sovereign will. But students are a unique group in confronting these problems. Young, they are without the responsibilities that hold others back from full scale dedication. Intelligent, they see the issues others disregard and imagine solutions. Idealistic, they believe they can make a difference and forswear compromise. Perhaps naive, they may lack wisdom to know if their chosen path of activism will yield positive results.
Bless them, God. These, even the last, are your gifts to them. Their energy, their creativity, their hope, and their single-mindedness are virtues which can serve the people. Their elders have different gifts, some of which must check youthful passion.
In this current confrontation, God, weigh well between the two. Give humility to all that these virtues not be pushed into ugliness. Youth becomes narcissism, intelligence pride, idealism fantasy, and naiveté exploitation.
These may even be traits they learn from their elders. Break this cycle, God, for every youth ages. Students become leaders. Now is still a decisive moment in Egypt’s transition, even if only the universities rage. Honor their passion, and hone it for good.
For this moment may or may not call for their particular gifts. To know, youth and elders would do well to collaborate. University is as good a place as any, perhaps better, to experiment.
And for those encumbered by the activism, give them patience. Give them room for their studies, and the respect of their peers. May their dedication remind all students of the privilege they have been given.
Some for the books, God, and some for the streets. Professors to shepherd the two groups alike. Bless the universities, God. May they prepare a generation that changes Egypt, now, and in the future.
Egypt may still be revolutionary, but if so it is now contrary to law. Perhaps every revolution is. Besides, there is nothing like a law to regulate protest to spark more protest.
It even brought non-Islamists back to the street. Many political parties and movements spoke out against its provisions, requiring prior notification, allowing security to modify or cancel, and imposing harsh penalties on violators. International bodies condemned as well. Revolutionaries tested it immediately, meeting tear gas and arrest.
Islamists, meanwhile, hit the street regardless. Though fellow protestors are not their allies, they are, perhaps, emboldened by the sight of others opposing the government as well.
The government, according to law, confronts them both.
God, society cannot continue forever in chaos. Nor should those with a word against authorities be silenced. Does this law balance appropriately? Or is it a tool to repress dissent? Even if so, do you approve for a time?
Give wisdom to the government, God. The revolution has unleashed a popular fury that will not be subdued. But it has also unleashed a powerful backlash that clamors for calm. Where should its allegiance lie?
May it be with that which is right. May they study the norms of human rights and craft a law for Egypt in consensus with national actors. If there is need to amend, make it clear to all.
Give wisdom also to these actors. All law enshrines principles and establishes precedent. May they know what is worth fighting for and if this issue applies. Help them to hold the government accountable, in a manner winsome for the nation.
And for those who remain outside the law altogether, give them wisdom in spades. They have made it clear they will not stop protesting. Should they demonstrate their peacefulness in compliance with the law? Might it work to their advantage, or just compromise their rhetoric?
God, so many are in a maze and subject to criticism no matter their choice. Bind them all to yourself in commitment to pure intention. Give all the confidence that comes from choosing the right over the expedient. Expose all who willfully deceive in pursuit of their goals, even if righteous. And bring together the men of purpose from all agendas who can hammer home a consensus with respect for all.
But if consensus was constant, God, there would be no need for either law or protest. But you counsel both for mankind, fully aware of our foibles. In both law and protest, then, may Egypt honor you. Honor her in turn, and give her peace.