There are some issues we should stop at, analyse and learn from if we seriously want to understand the chaotic scene of Tahrir square last Friday, where fighting erupted between pro and anti-Morsy protesters.
You have a historically oppressed group – the Islamists – that suddenly have power over all other political groups, and are eager to fully practice its “right.” You also have a group that feels betrayed by the Islamists – the revolutionaries/seculars – who feel sour for having others gain the fruits of their sacrifices during the revolution.
All of this is enough to make physical fighting erupt, if you put them together in one place. The Muslim Brotherhood’s call to join the protest, including themselves in a million man march called for and planned by the revolutionaries was the greatest mistake. Probably the Brotherhood leadership did not mean violence to break out, but still they are definitely to be blamed for such a wrong move.
The revolutionaries, with mostly secular attitudes, simply chanted critical and maybe offensive slogans against both President Mohamed Morsy and the Brotherhood’s General Guide Mohamed Badie. Behaviour that reflects a sense of freedom of expression and aspired for democracy that they believe should be in full bloom in post-Mubarak Egypt.
Here comes the critical issue that we all should pay attention to, and advocates of political Islam should do too.
Let us not claim that the Islamist protesters were just an ignorant-poor-undereducated group of protesters that headed to Tahrir. It was very obvious that the variety of them included well educated individuals from different income and social groups. Conspiracy theories and blaming the unknown here does not help fix our problems.
I believe that the majority of them – the Brothers – genuinely believe that they had to fulfil their “duty.” They had to “change the Munkar” by their hands. The Munkar in Islam means the evil or the wrong-doing.
A Hadith by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says “Whoever among you sees a Munkar, let him change it with his hand [by taking action]; if he cannot, then with his tongue [by speaking out]; and if he cannot, then with his heart [by at least hating it and believing that it is wrong], and that is the weakest of faith.” Narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh.
Basically it is a noble call for people to take the initiative and be proactive in correcting the “wrong.” If you see a thief robbing someone, you should help the victim. If you see someone being victimised, you should help. If you see someone cheating and lying, you should take the initiative and speak the truth. All are great values. All are very early calls, 14 centuries ago, for having a society that should naturally stand by the “right”.
Now, given the rise of political Islam in its modern form, which is mixed with contemporary values of democracy, is criticising or even insulting a leader considered a Munkar that should be changed by hand? And which hand? My hand, your hand or the law’s hand?
What happened in Tahrir on Friday, as a reaction to criticising our “holy” president and his Guide, was not only changing the Munkar by hand. It was actually by hands, legs, sticks and stones.
Political Islam in the 21st century democratic context is still an experimental methodology. There are many great and valuable practices and principles that used to work in the past, especially in non-political contexts, that are still to be examined in today’s complex lifestyles and sophisticated governance.
To those Sheikhs and Imams in mosques and religious TV channels, and to those leaders of religious political parties (Freedom and Justice, Al-Nour and others): you better watch what you are calling to the masses for. Pay attention before you open your mouths and preach for political Islam. Have mercy on the country and do not mobilise your followers for causes that might resemble a virtue in principle and a sin in practice. I am not sure what Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would have said in reaction to Friday’s violence if he was still among us, seeing his call for changing the Munkar by hands hysterically developed into changing it by legs, stones and sticks, disregarding rules and laws governing people’s relationships and interactions.