Egypt's split personality and battle over identity
An Egyptian on this time of turmoil
Egyptian journalist and Cairo resident Sarah Carr writes today about how Egyptian's are talking past each other and focused far more on the clearly evil/illegitimate aspirations of their opponents than on healing national wounds. When you keep reading the word "polarization" in articles about Egypt, this is what it means.
Egyptian politics and society in general are currently split along identity lines in a way that they have never been over the last three years. This problem is so chronic that the merits or flaws of an argument are almost entirely determined by who is making the argument, considered through a haze of fury and suspicion.
For the past week, I have been trundling between the pro- and anti-Morsi protests. It is like traveling between two planets. The pro-camp has significantly more men than woman — although there are women and children there — and it lacks the social diversity of the anti-camp. I have never seen one unveiled woman who is not a journalist there. I have never met a Christian or encountered any other journalist who has met one there (it is important to note that pro-Morsi protesters and pro-Morsi media have often claimed that there are Christians attending their sit-in). At the same time, they also allege that the church was behind the former Mubarak regime-US-Zionist plot to oust Morsi.
The point is that the pro-Morsi crowd is largely homogenous. Their opponents use this homogeneity as evidence that the MB is, at best, an organization that has failed to market itself to non-supporters; and, at worst, a closed group unconcerned with non-members.
While the MB’s opposition might be correct in this assertion, many go one step further. They suggest that Morsi supporters are all members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and all unthinking androids programmed by the Supreme Guide. The popular derogatory term for them is khirfan (sheep). The aim here is to dehumanize and deny agency, much in the same way the Muslim Brotherhood dismiss their opponents as kuffar (infidels) or feloul (Mubarak regime beneficiaries or loyalists).
Carr, who voted for Morsi - reckoning he was a better option than former Mubarak servant Ahmed Shafiq, who came in second - dislikes the Muslim Brotherhood's project for Egypt (she helps run a translation blog, "Muslim Brotherhood in English," that focuses on the groups often outrageous and inflammatory comments) and Morsi's behavior, particularly tolerating extreme sectarian rhetoric, will in power. Nevertheless she worries about the damage done by a resurgent military establishment:
My position on events pre-June 30 has not been changed by events since: The Muslim Brotherhood should have been left to fail as they had not (yet) committed an act justifying Morsi’s removal by the military. The price Egypt has paid and will pay for the consequences of this decision are too high. It has created a generation of Islamists who genuinely believe that democracy does not include them. The post-June 30 fallout reaffirms this belief, especially with Islamist channels and newspapers closed down, as well as leaders detained and held incommunicado, apparently pursuant to an executive decision. For 30 years, Mubarak told them that due process is not for them, and a popular revolution is confirming that. It is Egyptian society that will pay the price of the grievances this causes, and the fact that, with a silenced media and no coverage from independent outlets, they have been left with virtually no channels to get their voice heard.