By Ahmed Tharwat
American historian Richard Hofstadter once said: “A fundamental paradox of the paranoid style is the imitation of the enemy.”
The Ku Klux Klan emulated the elaborate rituals and hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and McCarthyism ended up emulating a communist secretive organisation. “The paranoid’s interpretation of history is in this sense distinctly personal,” Hofstadter added. And no one is more paranoid, and takes history more personally than a dictator.
Egypt has been ruled by military dictators who, as they fight the Islamists, have ended up acting like them. Since the military coup of 1952, Egypt has undergone the militarisation of political and cultural life, fighting Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood while introducing a more secular system that controls education, Al-Azhar and mosques, religious leaders, culture, and the media.
The Egyptian military establishment, from the beginning, believed that it had ownership of modern Egypt, and that the Egyptian people are just temporary tenants. They dominated and controlled Egyptian political life as they made sure to keep Islam out of politics. In the same breath, they created orthodoxy in statehood ideology that acted like a new religion. Islam spread and entered through the leadership of righteous caliphs, while Al Sisi took the roles of the self-righteous caliph; he who could do no wrong, with unquestionable legitimacy and power. Al Sisi has been taken or given god-like, transcendent power.
His fascist media has introduced him to Egyptians as the “Redeeming Messiah”, and “Saviour”. An Egyptian poet proclaimed that “Egyptian women were pregnant with his star”, while Egyptian female columnists praised his sexual appeal and potency. Al-Sisi supporters started talking about him as a cult figure with a new mission and a new message to humanity. People in the streets carried his statues as a new idol.
Al-Sisi, like other fascist leaders, seems to be rapidly getting hooked on projecting the god-like image and is enjoying this cult of personality. He recently described himself as “a doctor whose diagnoses are sought after by top philosophers and prominent world leaders”. He even embodies the classical divine trait of confiscating people’s wills; and he believes that his will and the will of the people are one. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Al-Sisi followed in Hitler and Mussolini’s footsteps by saying: “Sissi reflects the popular will of Egyptians.”
Shawqy Allam, the Egyptian Grand Mufti, a position with wide Islamic authority, routinely issues tailor-made fatwas to justify Al-Sisi’s human rights atrocities against his opposition, and especially the Muslim Brotherhood. Religious fatwas (legal edicts) were issued by pro-coup religious figures who declared that buying from the Muslim Brotherhood’s stores and marrying them was ‘haram’ (forbidden); or better yet, stripped Egyptian citizenship from all Brotherhood members.
The Middle East Eye, a news website, wrote about how Emad Shahin, a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, was sentenced to death by a make-shift court in a bizarre mass trial in Egypt.
“Sisi is reconstituting a new state that rests on the military and security apparatus as its driving force. He keeps reminding Egyptians through his divine powers, he will rescue the Egyptian state from collapse; and how the state was targeted at one point, and how keen he is to rebuild it.”
Following the assassination of Egyptian prosecutor general Hisham Barakat and the latest attacks in Sinai, General Al-Sisi is taking advantage of the tragedy and turning his incompetence into his advantage, as he always does. Al-Sisi demanded more mandates and more legal power to fight terrorism. “Our laws stand in the way of our justice” he said. “I can tell what is wrong and what is right,” he professed.
Egyptians are by nature religious people, at least culturally. General Al-Sisi understand that; the only way he can control Egyptians is through turning military statehood to a new religion and proclaiming himself as the self-righteous caliph.
Ahmed Tharwat is host of the Arab-American TV show Belahdan. His articles are published in national and international publications. He blogs at Notes From America, on www.ahmediatv.com. Follow him on Twitter @AhmediaTV