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Current Events

Two Wings of the Brotherhood

Rabaa Red and YellowThe text has 75 footnotes. Samuel Tadros of the Hudson Institute has dutifully followed the internal power struggle consuming the Muslim Brotherhood since the fall of Morsi. It is a long read, but he ties the strands together in a compelling narrative.

The thrust is that there are two competing wings, an old guard that wants to protect the principle of peacefulness — if only to maintain a longstanding international reputation. Beneath their leadership are the youth bent on revenge for the sufferings of Rabaa and continued demonstrations.

The latter, he writes, have been imbued with a heavy dose of ‘revolutionary Salafism’, pushing conflict with the regime. And with so many leaders imprisoned, it is very difficult to maintain the traditional system of cohesiveness and obedience. The split has not taken place, but it is brewing.

So here is Tadros’ summary of the two sides. It very important to keep in mind when listening to these talking points repeated in media discourse about Egypt:

At the heart of the Brotherhood crisis sit two competing visions. Neither side can claim a coherent strategy. The old guard believes that the Egyptian regime should be given a chance to implode on its own.

In this view, a combination of economic decline, security failure, and growing discontent will lead either to self-destruction, an internal coup, or Western intervention by pressuring for reconciliation.58 To maintain momentum, demonstrations need to continue even if they do not produce immediate results.

Simultaneously, the Brotherhood needs to keep the pressure on the West by warning that the fate of Iraq and Syria awaits Egypt if they don’t move. By maintaining a semblance of non-violence, the Brotherhood can continue to claim that it is the moderate alternative to the Islamic State. It is betting on time and changing regional dynamics, especially a rapprochement between Turkey and Saudi Arabia under King Salman.59

On the opposite side, the new leadership, and behind it the Brotherhood’s rank and file, believes that only by bleeding the regime can it be brought to its knees. 

A regional deal is precisely what they fear as it would mean that all their sacrifices would have been in vain and their tormentors would not be punished. Their war with the regime is no longer about Morsi and the coup; in fact, Sisi’s removal would solve nothing for them. Instead, the struggle is an ideological one between Islam and apostasy, between right and wrong, between them and the “Army of Camp David” and its “Zionist masters.” Such a struggle stems from a worldview that allows no compromise.

From well informed research, Tadros puts forward speculation that is well fitting within the reputation of the Brotherhood. Perhaps the leadership is ok with this division.

Earlier in his text he wrote of the discourse during the sit-in at Rabaa:

The mixing of Islamists had an effect on the speeches. Speakers, in English, portrayed the struggle as one of democracy against a coup while others, in Arabic, cast the struggle in the language of jihad. This was not merely the Brotherhood’s famous two discourses in two languages, but the result of genuine confusion and disorientation.

In order to maintain the organization of the Brotherhood, but perhaps also in strategy, they tried to hold the two wings together:

Besides, the leadership could have it both ways. Officially, the Brotherhood would not claim violent acts and maintain its pledge to nonviolence; in reality, the special units would bleed the regime to death. The new slogan, “All that is below bullets is peacefulness,” replaced the old slogan, “Our peacefulness is stronger than bullets.”

After all, as a Brotherhood member lamented, “our peacefulness is not stronger than bullets.”38 Allowing the special units to conduct these attacks would hurt the regime without committing the whole group to the path of violence. 39 The calculation would prove mistaken as violence spiraled out of control.

But does he know this was a calculation? It is fitting and logical, but toward the conclusion where he speculates, ‘The Brotherhood may still hope to have it both ways,’ he provides evidence that seems more like an organization in confusion:

Before the clash, the Brotherhood’s statement endorsing jihad in Arabic on January 27 was removed from its website; and the group issued a statement three days later, in English, denouncing violence.63

On May 17, Mohamed Montaser called for a revolution to cut heads. Following his statement committing to the revolutionary path on May 28, he seemed to backtrack on June 25 by calling on the Brotherhood youth to be careful not to slip into a cycle of violence.64

His shift was in response to the horror of the Revolutionary Punishment’s assassination of a civilian which it accused of cooperating with the regime,65 and a realization that such acts would tie the Brotherhood to violence and end any prospect of the Brotherhood regaining public support.

The shift was short-lived, however. Following the regime’s liquidation of nine Brotherhood leaders on July 1, Montaser released a statement that declared “the Muslim Brotherhood affirms that the assassination of its leaders is a turning point that has ramifications and by which the criminal, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, founded a new phase in which there cannot be control on the anger of the oppressed segments that will not accept to die in their homes and between their families.”66

An organization in confusion also fits with Tadros’ thesis. But to what degree is Brotherhood leadership — to the extent it exists — engaging in conscious Machiavellian politics?

Other analysts follow the same footnoted evidence and conclude that the youth can no longer be controlled by a leadership that remains peaceful and moderate. Tadros also writes that the Brotherhood pyramid has been inverted, with the base dragging leaders along. But advocates of ‘reconciliation’ who believe that inclusion of Brotherhood-style political Islam is necessary for the stability of Egypt seem to grab this fact in hope that the situation can be redeemed. They lament the ‘coup’ and the failure not only of the Arab Spring, but also of their analysis of integration. Consider this section of a long essay by Marc Lynch, compellingly defending the foreign policy of President Obama:

Obama came to office intending to defeat al Qaeda with a lighter footprint, through drone strikes, partnerships with local allies, and the cultivation of more moderate Islamist groups. He understood the nuances of intra-Islamist politics and seized the opportunity to divide the mainstream of Islamism from al Qaeda and stop the spiral toward a clash of civilizations.

Obama’s willingness to work with the Muslim Brotherhood following Mubarak’s fall was a departure from decades of U.S. policy and the strongest signal Obama ever sent that the United States believes in democracy regardless of who wins. By early 2012, Obama’s policies on Islamism were proving successful.

Lynch then blames the coup and anti-Brotherhood Gulf propaganda as being the primary catalysts of current Islamist violence. Surely there is a contributing effect.

But Brotherhood literature has long imbued adherents with the worldview of ‘a clash of civilizations’ — just not now. And as Tadros’ essay details, even in 2012 the Brotherhood’s primary allies were Salafis, whose strident ideology is now convincing the ideologically vacuous Brotherhood that the priority of pragmatism — and with it the adoption of peacefulness — was a wrongheaded betrayal of the principle of jihad, to which they paid only lip service.

Lynch’s analysis is astute, but does he understand the nature of the Brotherhood? Or only of part of it, the part he hopes can be peacefully integrated into the world system providing an escape from instability, autocracy, and the ever present call for the US to re-intervene militarily. Who would not want such an outcome, and the Brotherhood seemed to promise it.

Only as time is now telling, as Tadros seems to suggest, that only part of the Brotherhood promised it. Let there be all sympathy for the Brotherhood in their trial. They are under tremendous pressure. It is amazing how their organization is still holding together, and a testament to their belief and commitment.

But it is only when a man is tested that his true colors show. And for a very large section of the Brotherhood, they witness that peacefulness was a means to an end. Under pressure, they strike back. Very natural, of course. But also very ugly. Just watch their satellite programming.

Have they suffered human rights abuses? Most certainly. Have they been cheated? Of course. At the least they were outmaneuvered.

But all their appeals in English lose sympathy when the Arabic is read. But is this their internal decision and strategy, or the flailings of an organization in chaos? Even after reading Tadros, I’m not sure. Even he is cautious between deductions and assertions.

Do the talking points meet in a coherent conspiracy-theory whole? As one wing warns of state collapse and a Syria scenario, is the other wing working to make the threat real?

You be the judge, but let 75 footnotes guide you along the way.

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Current Events

The Duel of Drawing Egypt’s Future

What will Egypt one day look like? Declaring this future, and drawing it visually, is one way to secure authority. This is a view put forward by Mada Masr, discussing the plans for the new Egyptian capital to replace Cairo.

via Mada Masr
via Mada Masr
via Mada Masr
via Mada Masr
via Mada Masr
via Mada Masr

The presentation thus stands not only for a city, but for a whole world — and  not merely a better or a greener world, but also a world that is ultra-organized, a world where everything on both the macro- and micro-scale follows a single abstract plan that blatantly encompasses everything.

During the presentation, however, very little was said about the viability of this world. Questions of whether it’s financially feasible, or whether it’s actually going to be functional, or even liked by those who are going to inhabit it, were not addressed. There were only speculative abstract graphics, but they were enough to convince the audience of the achievability of this imaginary world, give it a material existence, and make it somehow immediately graspable.

The maps and images had such a potent make-believe effect that the value of properties located within several dozen kilometers of the proposed city spiked out of proportion just a few minutes after the press release was issued.

The article goes on to show a similar promotional effort in the 1970s to create Sadat City. Between Cairo and Alexandria, at the time it was also designed to be a new administrative capital. Sadat City exists, but in pale reality to the original promise.

Mada Masr is worried the new capital city project is more of the same.

The government’s growing interest photoshopped maps, architectural visualizations, video promos and professional presentations might simply be good PR campaigning, but it’s also part of a ruling paradigm. These plans, drawings, maps, images, videos, presentations and other visual media about grand schemes for a new Egypt are in fact some of the ways in which the authority produces itself, rather than being a mere product of the regime.

If so, the same effort to inspire and hold morale is witnessed in the Muslim Brotherhood. Here, the visual future is in the form of a grand museum to honor the hundreds killed while dispersing the pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo.

Also from Mada Masr:

The Rabaa Story website is sleek and glossy, with infographics detailing the number of people who died during the dispersal (though without clearly identifying sources), pictures of victims, videos promoting the second year anniversary and blurbs telling people to mobilize “on the street” and make videos promoting awareness of the anniversary, and even plans for a museum.

But both the website and the Ikhwanweb twitter account appear to be reaching out and appealing to an international audience. Almost all the promotional material is in English, even the hashtag representing the campaign, and none of the promotional material is religious in nature — instead, it focuses on human rights violations.

When it comes to how the public side of the Muslim Brotherhood remembers Rabaa, the focus appears to be on getting the notice of the international English-speaking community — a community which, as shown by recent condemnatory statements from foreign rights groups, has already proven sympathetic to their narrative.

Image projection is powerful. Mada Masr finds that both sides in the standoff realize this, and are — in these examples — appealing to the hopes of a core constituency.

fd

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Current Events

Friday Prayers for Egypt: Remembering Rabaa

Flag Cross Quran

God,

Two years are past, hundreds are dead. Help Egypt to remember correctly.

In response to massive protests against then-President Morsi, his supporters rallied in protests of their own. They continued several weeks after he was removed by the army. After several warnings to disband, the camp was cleared forcibly. Some policemen were killed, but so many more protesters.

God, give justice for every innocent life. Hold accountable every unjustified killing. Help Egypt recover and heal from a terrible wound.

But the call to remember Rabaa implicitly ignores other troublesome events. A second campsite also witnessed much loss of life, as did demonstrations before and after. Retaliatory attacks struck at police stations and churches throughout the country. Dehumanizing and sectarian rhetoric was hurled in multiple directions.

God, it was ugly.

Two years later much of the country has moved on. A new constitution was written and ratified. The military hero who overthrew Morsi was overwhelmingly elected president. Pro-Morsi demonstrations long continued, clashes ensued, and arrests multiplied. Things are much quieter now, but a terrorist insurgency feeds off the memory.

Some memories are selective, others choose to forget. But two responses are necessary, and seem purposefully ignored: Accountability and forgiveness.

In their place a sole word reigns: Retribution. One side enacts, the other calls.

Justice, God, could take its place, if agreement could settle on a definition. Mutual acrimony and mutual culpability sideline the possibility.

So what can be done, God?

For those aggrieved, touch their hearts. Direct their ire and guide their response, but let not their souls be poisoned. May they overcome hatred, and transform anger. For their own sake, Egypt’s, and the path of righteousness, help them forgive and respond in blessing.

For those aggressing, touch their conscience. Honor their duty and gird their devotion, but let not transgression be swept under the rug. May they be stricken in soul, and find restoration. Give all authorities wisdom, mercy, and firm commitment to rule of law.

But all this may not be enough, God. Behind Rabaa is also a clash of ideologies. Help Egypt to remember, but also to know herself. Guide all in creating the proper society, inclusive of as many as possible.

There, and in getting there, may Egypt heal.

Amen.

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Current Events

A Jihadi in the Making

Islam Yakan, an Egyptian jihadi, not the character described in this story.
Islam Yakan, an Egyptian jihadi, not the character described in this story.

Powerful testimony from Rana Allam, about her former work colleague and fellow Tahrir demonstrator, in Daily News Egypt.

The difference between us, and it was quite minor back then, that he came from a family that believed in the Muslim Brotherhood and he was a religious young man, while I believed in a secular civil state. We never had a problem discussing such matters, and just as he was neither a hardliner nor ultra conservative, we agreed on the basis of democracy.

But then Rabaa happened.

Eventually he found his young brother, after weeks of torture at some detention facility. He could tell the torture was brutal by the marks on his brother’s face and body. They were then informed that the student was facing charges of terrorism and that his trial was due in a few days. By then, and because of the extended absence from work along with his psychological status, our friend was out of a job. He did not appear to mind the unemployment much, being too busy with his mother and sister who lost a husband/father and his tortured brother in detention facing terrorism charges.

Other troubles followed, and eventually he fled the country with his family. He is not described as in Syria, as I was expecting. But the attitude is similar.

My genius sweet colleague has become a bloody, vengeful, bitter man. He has joined the flock of those who rejoice at the murder of police officers, judges and soldiers. He is hailing the Almighty every time a death toll is announced. He is praying for God’s strength to be given to those “martyrs” dying for the cause. He goes on and on about jihad in Islam against those infidel murderers. He also calls for the heads of their supporters, from government officials to idiotic pro-army demonstrators. Right now, I do not think he minds killing his neighbour if he was a mere verbal supporter of the regime.

Early on after the fall of Morsi, many Islamists and others warned that in keeping the Brotherhood from democratic gains it would push them into violent efforts for power. I recognize the power of the logic, but have argued against it, though with troubled reservation of spirit. It is too akin to blackmail, even as many principles are violated.

But to the extent this account is an accurate description of the post-Morsi environment, the logic is different, and more unassailable. It is not the whole story of extremism, but Allam sums it up, in rhetoric surprising to appear in Egyptian media, even if in English.

Our rulers still deny this fact and continue to breed violence completely oblivious or uncaring of what that leads to. There are almost five million Brotherhood sympathisers in Egypt, given the parliamentary and presidential elections figures. The number might have decreased after the Brotherhood’s rule indeed, but how much? A few hundred thousands are enough to turn this country upside down. We should also count those who are not Brotherhood sympathisers but had their loved ones go through the same suffering. The families and friends of the tortured, murdered, unjustly imprisoned will be bitter enough to hate everyone else, and hatred is the root of evil. Does no one in this regime see that?

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Current Events

Defending Rabaa

Defending Rabaa

Omar Ashour is an academic at the Brookings Institute who recently published a paper entitled, ‘From Collusion to Crackdown: Islamist-Military Relations in Egypt.’

It is an insightful retelling of two epochal moments in history, the 1952 Free Officers revolution and the 2011 Arab Spring. In both, he details how the military establishment and the Muslim Brotherhood cooperated, maneuvered, and eventually clashed.

History is contested, so those who either lived through or studied carefully these events are invited to weigh in on the anecdote that follows. But in understanding Brotherhood resistance following the June 30, 2013 protests against Morsi, this detail risks being overlooked. I, at least, had missed it.

According to Ashour, the Muslim Brotherhood was an intimate partner with the Free Officers, but then tried to resist Gamal Abdel Nasser as he consolidated power outside of democratic procedures.

At one crucial moment the Brotherhood helped organize a demonstration against him, calling for (among other things) the army to return to its barracks.

Nasser asked Abdul Qadir Audeh, the Secretary-General of the MB, to dismiss the protesters. Audeh complied, hoping to reach a compromise, but was arrested that same night by Nasser’s loyalists in the military police and was executed a year later.

Sound familiar? In 2013 the Muslim Brotherhood did not accept the ouster of Mohamed Morsi on July 3 despite the massive protests against him. Right or wrong in this decision, this is an important distinction between 2013 and 1954. The sit-in in support of Morsi had formed to counter these protests, and continued into mid-August. During this time there were intense negotiations between the two sides, with active participation of foreign diplomats.

During negotiations the Brotherhood was urging on participants to stand firm, even to the point of martyrdom. This is well known. But in connection with the anecdote above, this detail escaped me.

On July 17, 2013, Audeh’s son Khaled, a university professor, reminded the hundreds of thousands of protesters in Rab‘a Square of that mistake. “Our stance here is our way to success. I swear I will never dismiss you like my father, the martyr Abdel-Qadr Audeh, dismissed the protesters on 28 February 1954…. They tricked him and told him to dismiss the protestors and that the army would go back to its barracks and democracy would be resumed. He believed them. And then he was arrested at night and executed afterwards.”

It helps put in perspective the psychology of the Brotherhood.

Ashour’s paper considers the removal of Morsi to be a coup, for those who take offense at this designation. But it also demonstrates the Brotherhood’s claim to be a martyr of democracy is overly simplistic. For example:

By December 1952, Nasser made it clear to the MB that there would be neither free elections nor a re-installation of civilian leadership. In January 1953, the RCC dissolved and banned all political parties in Egypt. The MB did not oppose this decision because it did not affect them (they were not a political party) and also to avoid a costly clash with Nasser’s powerful faction in the RCC and the army, an opportunistic stance that would prove costly in the future.

There is another important difference between the two episodes, as the Brotherhood did not initiate the protests of 2011, joining later. But they soon demonstrated a spirit of collusion with the military, ranging from cooperation to non-confrontation. Different examples are given, but here is one sometimes forgotten.

In June 2012, a SCAF decision dissolved the lower house following a constitutional court ruling that part of the electoral law was “unconstitutional.” This decision vested all legislative powers in the SCAF only days before Egypt’s first civilian president was scheduled to take office on June 30, 2012. It was, in effect, a bloodless coup, one that passed without any international condemnation and limited domestic criticism. Because the winner in the parliamentary elections, the MB, had also won the presidency, it did not mobilize its supporters and coalition partners [against the decision].

The Brotherhood may argue it was trying to be pragmatic, accepting defeat against a stronger foe in hopes of fighting another day with a stronger hand. Perhaps. But the details Ashour provides help recount a history that is not clean and principled. This is important to remember given the righteous garb the Brotherhood now seeks to don.

In the struggle for power in Egypt, democracy is a tool. But it is only one among many. That it is the preferred tool of the Brotherhood should not lend them greater favor. It is a bare-knuckled fight, and right now they are losing badly. But they chose to step into the ring, and have grappled along with the rest.

Without granting good intentions to either the military or the Brotherhood (which may be there), let there be some sympathy. Every fight has its principles. Every struggle for what is right is met with temptation to embrace some wrong.

The Brotherhood sees the military leadership as a dictatorial junta. The military sees the Brotherhood as a radical transnational force. Both see each other as a rival.

Be careful, oh outsider, about taking sides. For Egyptians of course it is a different matter entirely.

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Current Events

Friday Prayers for Egypt: Rabaa and the Gulf

Flag Cross Quran

God,

Old events and new repercussions affected Egypt this week. The semi-independent National Council for Human Rights spoke publically about its fact-finding mission on the August 14 dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins at Rabaa and Nahda Squares, in which several hundred died.

Unrelated but poignant in timing, a row erupted in the Persian Gulf as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar. Largely at issue is Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which was designated a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia, following Egypt’s lead.

God, a gulf is an apt description of perceived reality in the region. The report by the NCHR was not only rejected by Morsi supporters, it was criticized by some of its own members. They found the protestors had fired first at security, which then responded in ‘excess force’. Its criticism of the state is noteworthy, but little of its focus was on police abuses. The report has no power of law, but will those responsible for excesses be held accountable?

And God, none of the Gulf countries have strong reputations for promotion of freedom, democracy, or human rights. By contrast, most stand accused of being behind much of the terrorism in the world, at least via their citizens. There appears little principle in their spat, but much division. Its consequences, however, may be serious if there is escalation.

Help Egypt to choose her friends wisely, God. Or rather, to balance her interests. Many nations take interest in her stability/disruption, so give Egypt ability to put her own house in order.

And in this house, God, may August 14 not be swept under the rug. Much dirt has already been hid there, leading back to January 25, and beyond. Whether to protect power, interest, or principle, too many have treated cheaply the blood of Egyptians. May this accumulated stench rise to your nostrils, God, but be merciful in your judgment.

Do you not hold the kings of this world in the palm of your hand? Do the actions of bureaucrats escape your notice? What of those who plot chaos and violence? Bring justice to Egypt, God, and make your righteousness clear for all to see.

But if not, God, give eyes of discernment in the movement of events. Give faith to the people that your will shall prevail. Hold accountable all guilty; convict all who see themselves innocent. Lead the nation to repentance for all her ills these past three years, and many beyond.

There is a great gulf between self-perception and your divine standard. For the sake of Egypt and Egyptians, bridge it peacefully.

Amen.

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Current Events Family

Our Little Ones Watch a Protest

Rabaa Child
From a protest elsewhere in Maadi

The other day Emma’s best friend, Karoleen, and her younger brother, Boula, came over to play at our home following church. As the kids were gathered around the table working on crafts, I heard the familiar sounds of a protest approaching. A fair number have passed near the house in recent months, although they usually go down the main street perpendicular to ours. Since we live on the ground floor, we usually don’t get a good look despite the noise, but this time they turned and came in full view.

We had been looking for an opportunity to film a protest for a recent video we made about the changes in our neighborhood since we returned from a summer in America. So I dropped the construction paper I was cutting up for one of my daughters, grabbed the camera and ran to our play room, which is a glass-enclosed porch. This gave me the best view I could get of the marchers.

I opened the window and screen, just enough to stick the camera out, but I still felt conspicuous. I didn’t really want to attract any attention from the protesters, but I was willing to risk a bit for a decent line of sight. As they marched, I noticed that some of them looked at our house, but not, as best I could tell, in my direction.

But it was then I heard the shouts and screams from my own kids and their friends in the other room, as they watched the protest go by from our living room windows. That’s why they were looking our way.

Two weeks earlier a protest had gone past Karoleen’s house, about ten streets away from our home, while Emma and Hannah were playing there. Her mom told me afterward that it made Emma concerned, even for us in case the protest came towards our home. But Karoleen’s family lives on the 7th floor of her apartment building, far above the action.

So as I was filming, I was simultaneously hoping the kids weren’t too afraid now that they were outside our window. As it turns out I had nothing to worry about. The kids loved it.

They noticed the bright yellow hand signs, though they didn’t know what they meant. They especially took interest in the kids who were marching along in the protest. There were balloons and chanting, which sounded more like cheering to them. In this particular march, there was nothing to be afraid of. It was a friendly, jovial atmosphere.

When I returned to the table the kids talked excitedly about what they had seen. The planned craft was abandoned as they used the construction paper to make protest banners. Theirs, however, bore the name ‘Sisi’ as opposed to ‘Morsi’, in favor of the current military leader who many see as a hero. They teased each other about being ‘for Morsi’ as they bantered around the table. I didn’t realize what fun it would be for them to have political discussions, though this was not the first time our children had taken sides.

In the end, I got the video we had been looking for, and the kids received some unexpected entertainment. We appreciated the peacefulness of the protest, and wound up happy they turned down our street.

It wasn’t until later we were less pleased, noticing the graffiti they had sprayed on our walls. ‘Sisi is a killer,’ they wrote, and, ‘Against Oppression.’ The latter is a message we won’t mind our children seeing every day, but the first one is not so nice. Of course, neither was the explanation we had to give about the yellow signs, commemorating the hundreds of pro-Morsi protestors who were killed when their campsite was cleared.

Our kids, of course, pay little attention to the graffiti. It will be the image of the protest that will stay in their mind, which we invite you to share in also.

'Sisi is a Killer'
‘Sisi is a Killer’
'Against Oppression'
‘Against Oppression’
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Current Events Jayson

Friday Prayers for Egypt: Defining 6 October

Flag Cross QuranGod,

Egyptian national holidays seek to honor the deeds of the past. Their value is invested by the state, but the people can sometimes force a redefinition.

The most recent example occurred on January 25, 2011, now celebrated as the birth of the revolution. But the date was chosen to coincide with Police Day, in protest of the brutality for which they were known.

The current example is under contention, taking place October 6, 2013. The date traditionally honors the launch of the surprise attack across the Suez Canal which led eventually to the liberation of Sinai, known more often in the West as the Yom Kippur War.

Now, pro-Morsi supporters have chosen the day to launch massive protests against what they deem was a military coup. As January 25 became a popular rejection of the police state, they hope October 6 will become a popular rejection of the military state, and in particular its head, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The protest weekend kicked off today, leading to sporadic clashes, and an at least initial failure to occupy desired squares such as Tahrir and Rabaa, site of the pro-Morsi sit-in violently dispersed in August.

God, what is Egypt’s history? In all nations it is part fact and part construct, defining what it means to be a citizen. Only in Egypt there is plenty to choose from, simply pick your millennium. Which is more honorable in your eyes: distilled data or cherished myth? As Egypt faces her future, give an accounting of her past. Help her self-improvement to be based on self-reflection.

But what of today, God? In one sense it is more of the same. Protests of diminished size seek to keep alive the hope of reinstating a president and returning achieved legitimacy. But they also appear to further antagonize a tired population which – at least in the cities – had largely rejected the president even before he was deposed.

The difference is twofold in possibility. First, they aim this time for the squares, which if occupied bring great symbolic value. Second, they call for numbers and have built up the hype, which if fulfilled can redefine the struggle.

God, success and failure are in your hands. Many Egyptians pray you grant them success, while many others praise you for thwarting their ambition. In a polarized nation, God, make clear the facts. Reveal all offenses and manipulations, so that culprits are exposed for all to see.

A new Egypt was born on January 25, God, but such a venerable nation can never be truly new. A part of that nation was recovered on October 6, and some hope to claim – or reclaim – her again this week. Be sovereign in Egypt, God, and give sovereignty to the people. Protect them and Egypt together.

But redefine them according to your will, that peace, justice, transparency, and love might define the nation entire.

Amen.