We live in strange days where events change at dizzying velocity and people’s stances change even faster. Voltaire once noted; “Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes.”
In one of those troublesome opinions, women rights activist, self proclaimed revolutionary and Nobel Laureate Tawakkol Karman caused a stir recently through some inflammatory remarks. Her comments were geared towards the events in Egypt in lights of army chief, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi potential presidential run. Several days ago, she tweeted in Arabic; “The Armed Forces Terrorist Party nominates Al-Sisi for presidency.” These comments have drawn strong rebuke from several people who objected her continuous interference in Egyptian affairs.
National pride aside, Karman’s opinion of the situation may have been tolerable if it did not expose a hypocrisy which became a staple of this era; the activist who fully endorsed the presidential run of now Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur, a close aid of ousted president Aly Abdullah Saleh and a military man himself, feels that Al-Sisi run is inappropriate.
The non-competitive presidential election in Yemen was seen by Karman and others as a bid for stability even if such stability is brought about by an uncompetitive democratic process. Interestingly, in December of last year, I have likened the current Egyptian transition as a page from the book of Yemen. I therefore found the criticism launched by Karman to be laughable at best.
Karman’s situation echoes the same contrived stance of many political figures and activists who indulged some deviations from their principles when it was convenient; yet the same people mustered the courage to balk at the same deviations when it went against their current interests.
She joins the ranks of the likes of Dr Amr Hamzawy, who once himself introduced a bill to amend the political rights law. As an MP, he spearheaded an amendment to the law on the exercise of political rights to bar former regime officials from running for president; a blow which was directed to then presidential hopefuls General Omar Soliman and Ahmed Shafiq. Despite being staunch supporter of democracy, Dr Hamzawy aimed, at that time, to craft an exclusive form of democracy that would protect the people from their potential bad choices. In the same schizophrenic fashion, Dr Hazmawy went on to lament the highly polarised environment and the exclusion of people – including him -post 30 June. I guess exclusion is okay so long as it is in the form of a law!
The problem of Karman and Dr Hamzawy is that both wanted to claim the moral high ground by attempting to act in a way which can be viewed as legitimate and morally defensible; the result was however a distorted stance. While they are indeed entitled to their recent opinions, one must note that consistency is a key property of logic, and one which has gone missing in our case.