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Editor’s letter: Crucifying the Muslim Brotherhood

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Maher Hamoud

Maher Hamoud

A few days ago while walking in Tahrir Square, I heard a young man shouting at two bearded men: “Out, out.” It was not clear to me, nor to anyone else, what they had actually done wrong.

The poor bearded men, one in his early twenties and the other in his mid-forties, did not have the chance say anything and in less than 10 seconds they were trapped in a mob of hundreds, with dozens beating them up. The young man quickly covered the older man with his body and took most of the punches and kicks.

This insane scene lasted for about 15 minutes until the two victims were dragged towards Qasr Al-Nil Bridge, where they were let go. They ran away, wounded and with faces bloodied.

As an important side note, the anti-Morsi protests that started 30 June had a very visual presence of conservative looking citizens. Good numbers of bearded men and niqabi women. Yet these two men were not given the chance to explain themselves. Everyone was ready to lynch them on sight.

I am not sure how to explain or justify this bestial mob behaviour. Apparently, I already did by describing it as bestial, with all respect to beasts. I actually prefer to leave this task to anthropologists. However I would like to talk about another aspect that I can claim some understanding of: the role of the media in stoking this anti-Islamist mania.

The Brotherhood’s politics were already enough to turn the media against them, since they horribly messed up their year in power. But having this anger against Islamists reach this inhuman street level; I blame the very biased media, besides other factors.

It all started about a week before the 30 June protests, when the state-run media switched loyalty back to the military after being pro-Morsi for the last year. It was a strong signal to the private and “independent” media that something had definitely changed in relation to the army and they immediately shifted allegiance as openly anti-Islamist agents. They have always been biased, but in the past they at least made an attempt to appear objective. Within that week, even this veneer of objectivity disappeared.

The language used by the media against the Brotherhood and their constant twisting of facts was, and still is, horrifying. Actually, it could have been much more effective to leave facts as they were, since the Brotherhood had already made it extremely difficult for themselves. They were definitely toppling without the need for this media push. It would have been better to leave facts as they were and act professionally, without inflicting biased coverage and hours of ranting on cheap talk shows to the millions of Egyptians who watch television until the early hours of every morning.

Sickeningly enough, rumours about the pro-Morsi demonstrators in Nasr City and Giza still find ears eager to believe anything. One of these rumours is that scabies is spreading among Morsi supporters. Many in the traditional and social media find this as good material for jokes. For non-Arab readers: the term scabies is also commonly used as a swear word. It shows how society now sees Morsi supporters and these views are very condescending and socially dangerous.

Again, anthropologists and those versed in mass-psychology might explain why people were so ready to slide into such a swamp.

The current hostile environment towards the Brotherhood is not the first, as the events of 1954 were similar. Then the Brotherhood messed up their relationship to the 1952 military coup against King Farouk, and the Free Officers Movement led an anti-Brotherhood offensive. The people, who sided with the military, stormed and torched Brotherhood offices.

The people turned a blind eye to the horrors the Brotherhood experienced under Gamal Abdel Nasser’s rule. A few years ago the Brotherhood reappeared to fill the gap of social solidarity that Mubarak’s regime left empty. Then they ran for elections after his fall with promises of prosperity and justice. They actually did good social work under Mubarak, but they failed miserably to meet their election promises when they finally gained power.

There are two main differences between 1954 and 2013. First, the Brotherhood did not actually rule in the period of 1952-54. So, the social memory of them as a disliked power was quicker to fade. Second, documentation and access to information is completely different in 2013.

If someone wants to know about the Brotherhood in 1954, researching this is difficult. However with today’s technology, easy access to information and digital documentation, it will be almost impossible for the Brotherhood to regain power anytime soon. They will be stigmatised for their political misbehaviour, injustice and religious manipulation for decades.

Therefore, it is of even greater importance, now more than ever, to include the Brotherhood in dialogue. A dialogue that prevents them from returning underground. If this happens again, it will be much more dangerous and violent than it was previously under Nasser or Mubarak. Brotherhood members will feel their cause is hopeless and will be bitter that legitimacy was stripped from them, just as their leaders preach.

The bottom line is that the eras of crucifixion have passed, and making martyrs out of the Brotherhood, or a messiah out of Morsi, may be the biggest threat Egypt might face.

About the author

Maher Hamoud

Maher Hamoud

Former Editor-in-Chief

Former Editor-in-Chief of The Daily News Egypt, and currently Media Politics Analyst. He can be followed on Twitter @MaherHamoud1, his public page on Facebook, or email: [email protected]

  • sam enslow

    This article points out two major needs for Egypt.
    The first is a consitution that follows all the human rights treaties signed by Egypt and the UN. Religion and government do not mix. Even making Islam the State Religion puts non-Muslims on a second class basis. Shiria serves in many instances as the “common law” of Egypt – even to Copts. There is no need to place it in the new constitution. The rights of any Egyptians should belong to all without regard to any other consideration. Islam is one of, if not the, most individual based religions. The individual’s relationship with God is between the individual and God. There are no priests or protectors of dogma. Shiria to a Sufi is different from the Sharia to a Salafi. Allow all to worship in peace and as they believe God wants. No other persons KNOWS they are wrong.
    Egypt has a problem in sectarian relations with no innocent parties. Real work must be done to heal these divisions. If greater effort was given to what all religions have in common, this would have a benefit. Egyptians need common ground. A Muslim friend once made a very true observation, “We spend so much time debating the Nature of the Messenger that we forget the message.” All religions are about Peace. These sectarian fights mean we are doing something wrong. It is, “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” It is time for Egypt to build a future and stop trying to get revenge for things of the past. “The moving finger once writ..” Egypt cannot change its past. Egyptians can together build a bright future.

  • Nevine Loutfy

    I read your opinion and wondered what is it that we know that you don’t, what made us anti Islamists and why are they stigmatized in our eyes. While I fully agree that stereo typing is dangerous, unfair and should be fought and the behavior you’ve described with the older people who were chased out of the square was indeed bestial and unacceptable but there is so much you didn’t say that has led the masses to where we are now. You mentioned the media and their ability to twist and blabber lies that some naïve folks are willing to listen to and believe and you may be right. However, you didn’t mention the Islamists’ own media and how much it did to create their own stigma. Did you ever watch Khaled Abdallah, Wagdi Ghoneim or Abou Islam, did you watch clips of Ahmed el Mogheer, Safwat Hegazi, Essam El Erian or Channel 25… Did you hear the crazy fatwas they spread around. Did you watch the sessions in the desolved parliament and how they handled the sessions and themselves, have you watched news about one of the most conservative religious rights media figures and representative in the parliament getting caught on a public road with a 19 year old on his lap and the lies that followed, or the thug who attacked actresses and accused them of adultery on the air, did you listen to Mohamed El Omda and his name calling on TV describing non Islamists as infidels, aldulterers and lost soul people. Did you watch how they behaved and continue to behave occupying neighborhoods and making its residents life beyond miserable, their silly military exercises in anticipation of attacking the rest of us, did you not see the destruction they are causing daily all around Cairo… I can go on forever, but won’t. Reconciliation will come sooner or later but it takes two to tango. I will not reconcile with someone who overtly trains their 4 year old to carry and shoot guns and direct it to fellow Egyptians, or with people who lie through their teeth, people who feed the International Community with lies and asks for them to wage war on Egypt, or with someone to whom Egypt is of no importance. Anyone of all that I listed is enough to stigmatize any group, can you imagine with all of them put together? The dislike, or even hatred has become truly deep rooted not only with those who did not vote for them, but mostly with many of those who voted for them and were so let down. It will take a lot for people to forget and contain back into society but it will never happen unless they relinquish the path of violence and chaos they are on. This you should have included in your analysis and it would have answered your questions!

  • Ibrahim Ben Nemsi

    I completely agree with your article, However, it should be pointed out that you don’t need to look as far as the state media to find examples for “the role of the media in stoking this anti-Islamist mania”.

    Your fellow columnist “Sandmonkey” has been talking up violence and hatred against the Brotherhood on many occasions, presenting the readers in detail with his violent phantasies of revenge.

    There was the scenario about a Brotherhood “with all of its members hunted down”, another one about them being “broken, with their bases (along with some of their leaders) crushed in an outright street war”, as well as his denial that “the Brotherhood is democratically elected by millions of votes” and his claims of “systematic fraud in the voter rolls” – conveniently ignoring the fact that the parliamentary elections took place under the rule of the military council.

    So if you are appaled by the results of all the incitement, maybe first have a word with your own writers …

    • Goober

      This newspaper suffers from more than Sandmonkey. It suffers from all its youth writers and their greater ilk beyond the paper who are too young to understand that actions have consequences. And as the author of this column points out, there will be memories for a long time. These youth have spent months on Twitter and Facebook calling the Muslim Brotherhood sheep and worse. They have immortalized their hatred forever in digital format. An underground Brotherhood will have it easy finding targets if they choose to seek their revenge as a simple search will give them the most popular and most virulent commentators against them. In a society where bearded men can be targeted in Tahrir, youth who wear their digital opinions publicly also perhaps should be worried.

      • me

        This comment is an excellent example of the older generation belittling the “youngersters” and looking at them as if they have no idea what they are doing that led to Jan 25th in the first place. Thats for not changing at all in the last two years.

        • Goober

          I am one of the older generation who supported the revolution and participated it. I have seen the younger generation waste the opportunity we all created via the January 25 Revolution and take us back to a worse police state with the June 30 Coup, worse than even the one we lived under with Mubarak all those years. The younger generation is too young to remember that, but we remember it and we could see it coming back before June 30 sadly. And I am not an Islamist or even aligned with them. We ALL suffered under the old regime that the impatient younger generation has swept back into power. We have no choice but to blame the younger generation when the younger generation makes up the bulk of the population in the country. You can’t ignore your demographics and then pretend you had nothing to do with allowing the felool back in.

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