What is happening in Egypt now is unfortunate, namely coining those who have different opinions about events and different visions of the future as traitors. It is traumatic to mix between political views and other practices that could be described as treason.
Those who call for the division of the army, request the West and the United States to intervene directly in Egypt, think by destroying the country they would regain power, incite the killing of army and police soldiers, and frighten innocent people, all consider the people of their homeland traitors.
The opinion of those who believe that the political process is threatened, find that there is too much interference by the army in politics, which is called militarization of civilian life, see violations being committed by the regime that must be stopped, yet do not deny the crimes committed by the Muslim Brotherhood, such as carrying arms, burning churches, and frightening innocent people, must be respected, even if we disagree with them.
After all, they are more respectful than those who pretended to be revolutionaries and called for the fall of the military rule, then changed their positions and started talking as if they were former officials of the security services, imagining they would this way share the cake of power.
Perhaps the first example is Vice President ElBaradei’s shocking resignation, a move that would end his political future, or rather put him in the ranks of a man of conscience with a revolutionary message that cannot be part of the administration of the state.
The man had stances before that we later found out were right. Whether he would also be right this time or not, it is his prerogative to take the actions he deems in accordance with his conscience and political morals, and we should not consider him a traitor because a country the size of Egypt does not shake before a resignation of one man, and it is naive to think the West would escalate matters against Egypt because ElBaradei is gone.
I remember when the second Gulf War was waged in 1991, while I was studying in France, when French Defense Minister Chevènement resigned in rejection of the war, even if it was for the liberation of Kuwait, nobody said he was a traitor. He was following his conscience and political morals.
It is true that Egypt does not enjoy a stable democracy, is now engaged in a war against terrorism, is threatened, and the people would never forgive those who let it down, yet we should not consider someone a traitor if his stances emanate from his conviction.
The second example is a statement titled ‘The Completion of the Revolution’ by a school of thought that I disagree with politically. It entailed shocking matters, such as holding elections before the constitution and defending the Muslim Brotherhood, as if they were not in power and are not responsible as the first civilian elected rule for wasting the opportunity for democratization. It is true, as stated in the statement, that we should not demonize any political faction and collectively punish all its members, yet one cannot deny that they are responsible for what is happening in Egypt now more than anyone else.
The tone of the statement is new, which is important. The state of hostility against the military establishment was changed into a request for it to stay out of politics. This means that keeping the it away would not be possible by insulting it, but rather by providing an alternative civilian democratic force with a broad stream in Egypt that has fought and will continue to fight in order to build a modern democratic civil state.
However, the truth remains that, thanks to the majority of the Egyptian people and the strength of the military establishment, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is managed in a paramilitary manner in terms of obedience to orders, fell, although the weaker party in the Egyptian political equation is the civil and revolutionary currents.
The question is: How do we get to this state of civil democracy? Would it be through a systematic revolutionary action (The Revolution Continuous) or a gradual reform program? Holders of the statement prefer the first option because it is consistent with their convictions that have not changed in accordance with their political gains, whereas I prefer the second option because it is consistent with my convictions that I expressed before and after the revolution.
The third example that triggered many objections is a statement by nine human rights organizations, led by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies whose signature to any statement gives it significance. Those organizations were also considered traitors.
I personally agree and disagree at the same time with what came in the statement. Those organizations condemned what it called excessive use of force by security services in clearing the sit-ins of the Muslim Brotherhood in Rabaa al-Adaweya and al-Nahda squares, stressing that peaceful assembly does not warrant collective punishment, and that the security forces could have avoided this human tragedy had they followed the international rules and standards for dispersing gatherings. They also blamed the security services for failing to protect the residents of those two areas.
They added that this led to the passing of arms and ammunition, as well as materials to build barricades, in addition to practices of murder, torture, and physical assault on journalists without any form of accountability. Also, crimes were committed by some protesters and their leaders who carried weapons and committed acts of violence.
If it is true, in principle, that peaceful protest does not warrant a collective punishment, but the question is whether what the security forces did was a collective punishment or a reaction to an attack. Also, has the democratic world ever seen in a peaceful or non-peaceful protest so many weapons so that we can talk about international standards?
The way I see it, what happened was close to terrorists kidnapping hostages and hiding behind them, and security forces moving to free them, with all the risks and mistakes the move entails.
The issue is not agreement or disagreement with the voice of rights, but with the different opinion. After 9/11, the United States took exceptional measures, including the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The administration had a broad public support at the time, while voices of rights never disappeared.
We must not consider liberal, Islamist, leftist and human rights currents as traitors because they have reservations on what is happening now in Egypt. It is their right. Some see the need to hold a political dialogue now with the elements of the Muslim Brotherhood that did not bear arms or incite violence, others look at things from the perspective of human rights and point to violations here and there, without looking at the broader political context.
Many who disagree with the current discourse are more honest than the supporters of the revolution. For as long as they did not call for the internationalization of the crisis, ignite a civil war and invited the Free Army to Egypt, request the soldiers and officers of the army to revolt on their leaders to serve Israel, they have the right to say what they want, and we must hold a respectful political dialogue about how to get this country out of its crisis.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm
Amr El Shobaky is the head of the Arab European unit in Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. His list of publications includes 30 books and pamphlets, he also published a number of research papers in periodicals in Arabic, French and English. Shobaky's articles deal with Arab and Egyptian political systems, as well as Islamic political movements. He writes for Al-Masry Al-Youm, Al-Ahram, Al-Ahram Strategic Periodical, Al-Hayat (London), Al-Khalij (UAE), Al-Bayan (UAE), Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), Le Figaro (France).