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Egypt then and now: So what’s changed?

Last updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 2:07 PM


Wael Ghonim
Al Arabiya

 


While I was a student at university, the US waged war on Iraq and the Muslim Brotherhood launched a campaign for boycotting all American products. The US was the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategic enemy and calling for boycotting it and kicking out its ambassador and slamming the former regime for its passivity were the trend of the time. A few months ago, this historical animosity suddenly disappeared. American products flooded the markets of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, former American presidents and ambassadors now visit the Guidance Bureau and commend the group’s moderate political vision, and 150 American businessmen visited the president and together they took a souvenir photo while he encouraged them to invest in Egypt. Muslim Brotherhood leaders even received John McCain, one of the supporters of the war on Iraq who vowed in his electoral campaign not to have a passive stance on the war like Obama did, and discussed with him the depth of Egyptian-American strategic relationships. So, what has changed?

A few years ago, President Mohamed Morsi called upon all Egyptians to nurture their children on the hatred of Jews and made fun of the American president’s visit to Egypt and called him “Obama the liar.” He called for boycotting Israel and summoning back the Egyptian ambassador to Israel. Now that he has become president, nothing has changed in our diplomatic relations with Israel. Their ambassador in Cairo and our ambassador in Tel Aviv were appointed after the president came to power. Our president is very happy with his interaction with the American president, Obama “the friend,” whom he congratulated after winning a second term in office. It did not stop at that, for the president apologized in all Western media for his statements about the Jews and even claimed his words were taken out of context. So, what has changed?

When Mohamed ElBaradei came to Egypt with a plan to introduce reforms and amend the constitution, he was warmly welcomed by the Muslim Brotherhood, especially as he had defended their right to take part in politics in several international media outlets. Mohamed Saad Al-Katatni and other Brotherhood senior figures met with him to launch the National Association for Change. In a recorded video, Essam Al-Erian commended ElBaradei’s courage and said he would be the leader of the coming stage while members of the then ruling National Democratic Party were tarnishing his image nonstop in audio, visual, and written media outlets and even accusing him of collaborating with the West and for being the cause of the war on Iraq. Now that ElBaradei is leading the opposition against the Muslim Brotherhood, he is facing the same accusations previously leveled at him by the National Democratic Party at the hands of the group’s leaders and youths and he is again said to have his hands stained with the blood spilt in the Iraqi war. So, what has changed?

In the beginning of the revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood was pleased with the scene in Tahrir Square and steered clear of any slogans that might create a division in the ranks of the revolutionaries as they all called for freedom, dignity, and social justice. Their members said in press statements during and right after the revolution that the Brotherhood is not after power, that all that they cared about was getting rid of the tyrannical regime that oppressed the Egyptian people, that they would only compete for 30 percent of the parliament’s seats, and that they would not field a presidential candidate. At the time, they gave credit to youths and the revolution they staged against the regime. Two years after the revolution, all this has vanished and some media outlets loyal to the Brotherhood even claim that it is thanks to the group that the revolution was successful and continuing and that their coming to power was just an attempt to protect the revolution. So, what has changed?

Before the revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood was categorically against torture and arbitrary detention. The reason was obvious, for they were the victims of such actions by the Ministry of Interior under the leadership of former minister Habib Al-Adli. Now they justify their leadership taking action against the opposition similar to what had been done to them when they were persecuted. So, what has changed?

When the Brotherhood broke their vow and fielded a candidate in presidential elections instead of supporting a revolutionary figure and after their candidate made it through the first stage, they stopped calling him “the only Islamist candidate,” since they knew that this slogan had deprived them of five million votes in the first stage and instead they used: “Our strength lies in our unity.” The new slogan stressed that Morsi was a revolutionary candidate who would fulfill the demands of the revolution that was staged by Islamists, liberals, leftists, youths, the rich, and the poor, all rallying behind common goals that did not include imposing ideologies or seeking an identity that they claim is nonexistent. After their candidate won the votes of all those, the honeymoon came to an end and instead of responding to their demands, the Brotherhood started hunting them down, persecuting them, and accusing them of treason and conspiring against the revolution. So, what has changed?

During presidential elections, the Muslim Brotherhood convinced the Egyptian people that they had a complete vision, the product of years of work, for running the country and on which more than 1,000 Egyptian scientists had worked. They stressed that they had agreements with several countries and international companies to invest more than 200 billion pounds in Egypt and that the country would enter a phase of stability, but that was before the constitutional declaration.

The question is: Why were none of these promises kept? What has changed?

There are so many questions. Some of them have ready-made justifications. Some of those justifications depend on theories of a cosmic conspiracy planned by all Western regimes against the Muslim Brotherhood despite the fact that those same regimes meet with the president and leaders of the group and signed economic agreements with the state while stressing the depth of their strategic relationship throughout. Others revolve around internal conspiracies planned by remnants of the former regime, even though I object to this term that is only used to acquire political gains. The presidency, which has executive power and a prosecutor general appointed by the president, did not reveal any details about those conspiracies so we are only left with statements that we later discover have no evidence to support them.

All those justifications are not going to work, because with every passing moment Mohamed Morsi loses one citizen who voted for him and assumed — wrongly — that he would keep his promises and that the Brotherhood would learn from the mistakes committed by the former regime especially in relation to backtracking on promises, prioritizing the interests of individuals over those of the nation, monopolizing power, and tarnishing the image of the opposition while understanding its influence.

According to Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

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Wael Ghonim is an Egyptian Internet activist and computer engineer with an interest in social entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter @Ghonim.


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