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On National Mourning and National Division

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By Alia Assam

The already divided political sphere in Egypt is being further fragmented, just days after the tragic assault on an Egyptian border checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula, which left 16 officers and conscripts dead, and many more wounded. With this unprecedented situation, Egypt is witnessing for almost the first time a lurking threat to its national stability and political integrity at a time when national mourning should be encompassing all political and ideological divisions. This is compounded by not only the severe magnitude of the attack, but also Egypt’s inability to safeguard its national security; a disaster which the attack has proven to be the case. Strikingly, the opposite came to happen, and the bloodshed was turned into an opportunity to further escalate the tone of political confrontation.

The worst part came on the day of the military funeral held in honour of the martyrs. The remnants of the ousted regime, led by the controversial media presenter Tawfiq Okasha, launched an organised series of physical and verbal attacks on a wide spectrum of Islamist and revolutionist figures who were either on their way to attend the proceedings, or succeeded in making it to the event’s venues, the Nasr City military observatory and the Al-Rashdan Armed Forces Mosque. Among those subjected to attack was Nader Bakkar, Al-Nour salafist party’s spokesman, the ex-presidential candidate Abdel-Moniem Aboul-Fotouh, and the revolutionary icons Asmaa Mahfouz and Ahmed Doma. However, the most serious attack was directed at the newly appointed head of government Hashem Qandil, when shoes and insults were hurled at him, preventing him from attending the burial ceremony.

While the offenders in all of the above instances identify with the worldview of the disbanded National Democratic Party, they are empowered by the growing dissatisfaction towards the Muslim Brotherhood, which was clearly reflected in the 48.5 percent who voted for Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential elections run-off. By deciding not to attend the funeral under the pretext of allowing ordinary Egyptians to participate unobstructed by the presidential security restrictions, President Morsy actually contributed further in the curtailment of any hope for political stability in Egypt.

At the least this is the image that can be seen in such a situation, regardless of Morsy’s true intentions. Some analysts started to suggest that Morsy’s absence from the military funeral was due to security considerations. As such, the image of the courageous president stretching his arms wide to show the crowds of Tahrir Square that he was not wearing a bullet-proof vest is worth mentioning. The wisdom of Morsy’s decision appeared at stake when the nation watched military generals, representatives of Al-Azhar and the Church, and even the ex-presidential candidate Amr Moussa marching in the forefront of the funeral, all on live television. The nation didn’t see the President elected by majority stepping forward to decisively lead Egypt in such a critical moment, despite Misr 25 TV, the Brotherhood’s podium, announcing that the president had been leading the ceremony.

I sense a deep disappointment between Egyptians, who as well as mourning the deceased border guards, are also mourning the political integrity of Egypt, whose leaders at this moment are proving disastrous failures in preserving its top state security interests, whether on the internal of the regional levels. The funeral is only the first question in the long exam on how will Morsy react to maintain what is left of Egypt’s political integrity.

 


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