How we create Gods

Ziad A. Akl
6 Min Read
Ziad A. Akl
Ziad Akl
Ziad Akl

Three weeks have passed since the Egyptian army’s commander-in-chief Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi made his very impressive and deservingly historic speech announcing the ouster of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency. Those three weeks saw many developments: politically, economically and even socially. Among these developments is an unmistakable and blatantly obvious increase in the army’s popularity. It is understandable that the army became more popular after it fulfilled the demands of millions and in fact saved what remained of the state before further approaching collapse. But what’s quite alarming in this scene is the amount of army propaganda in the media and quite often among individuals.

I do not know if the army is deliberately a part of this propaganda process or if the media is doing it on its own. It also could be a pre-meditated strategy to be used as a political tool to ward-off accusations of illegitimacy. In other words, the propaganda might be temporary, until the politically sensitive situation between the army and the supporters of Morsi becomes less contentious. Whether temporary or not, voluntary or deliberately, this army propaganda will indeed have consequences.

The army propaganda I am referring to includes all the songs and the video clips that praise the patriotism of the army, all the talk shows that try to prove that the army does not make mistakes, and all the newspapers that are starting to become one-sided and evidently biased information outlets. The real problem we are facing right now is an extreme lack of objectivity and a state of justified hatred towards the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies.

I am not trying to stir up the military-civilian rule debate; Egypt does not have civil institutions that are capable of being the core of a state in the first place. I am actually referring to a process that Egyptians have historically inherited and a technique that some state branches as well as individuals in Egypt efficiently practice; making Gods out of national leaders.

Although a very short time has passed, there are already alarming signs of what this army propaganda might do. The wave of defending the army and refusing to hold it accountable after the clashes with the Brotherhood at the Republican Guard headquarters was a sign of how objectivity is thinning in this matter. I am not trying to say who was right or wrong since both sides, the Brotherhood and the army, have a terrible record of justifying their actions and twisting facts. My point is seeing how some of us are accepting from the army now what we wouldn’t have accepted before.

On another note, late army general Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s last and only vice president and a cornerstone of the Mubarak regime’s security matrix is suddenly celebrated as a national hero whose glorious patriotic life is shown in army-produced documentaries. Again, I am not about to judge Suleiman politically here, but I am simply stating the obvious facts of how integral the man was for Mubarak’s regime with its entire corrupt legacy. What I want to say is how something that would not have been accepted back in 2011 is suddenly accepted now. The army propaganda is somehow changing the dividing lines between what’s right and what’s wrong.

If this propaganda continues together with the absence of objectivity, then we are pretty much on the way of making new demi-gods. Soon it would be easy for the army not to be held accountable for what it does. In fact, it could even be as bad as leaving the army to decide what the revolution is, who its enemies are and what exactly are the actions that jeopardise its goals. We can easily put ourselves in a place where our own truth becomes that of the army’s.

The whole point of this article is to watch out for what we are creating out of our infatuation with the army. Nations do not pay their armies back for taking patriotic stands. The Egyptian army indeed took a brilliantly patriotic decision three weeks ago, but from now on, the army must be judged on the basis of what it does, not on the basis of what it has done. What the army did indeed gives it legitimacy, but it does not exempt it from accountability.

We need to ask ourselves why is it that suddenly some of us are prepared to accept what we did not accept before. Where exactly did we lose our objectivity? And more importantly, why is it that so far some of us are simply refusing to see a connection between this army leadership and the former rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces?

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Ziad A. Akl is a political analyst and sociologist. He is a senior researcher at the Egyptian Studies Unit in Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.