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For the Revolution or Against the Coup? My Two Cents On Egypt & Recommended Readings

[Women march in Tahrir, January 2013. Image by Gigi Ibrahim.] [Women march in Tahrir, January 2013. Image by Gigi Ibrahim.]

As we bear witness to one of the most dramatic junctures in Egypt's history, it is easy to take a stark position, with the revolution or against the coup. As we think about these events, we need to be much more militant (no pun intended) about sparing nuance from our analytical chopping block. Although there is something undeniably troubling about the coup, there seems to a reactionary defense of "electoral democracy" in Egypt that does away with a context wherein: 

  • The Brotherhood failed to govern. It had a revolutionary mandate which makes Morsi's comparison to Barack Obama or Francois Hollande completely out of place- folks are not angry because he failed to redefine Egypt's foreign policy or "fix" the economy in a year- this is about the failure to reform the security sector, to hold the SCAF to account for 800 deaths during the Jan 25th movement, the expansion of executive powers, the blunder of the constitutional referendum, the gutting of an independent judiciary, and the failure to create a broad coalition.
  • The protesters are certainly not just feloul--who are definitely there--together with AUC elites and hipsters filling Egypts streets, as critics have asserted. Stepping into the  middle of Tahrir or Alexandria or Raabia Al-Adawiya would quickly demonstrate the contrary. The likes of the Revolutionary Socialists and other progressive pro-labor groups are not AUC elites or elitist in any sense, for instance, and they backed this movement.
  • As to external interests and support- the US and Qatar have talked out of both sides of their mouth on this issue and pointing fingers at them right now will have you running in circles so best to focus on the ground itself. 
  • The Tamarod petition had 22 million unique signatures collected by on-foot canvassing that asked for an electoral vote- if it is really about a commitment to the ballot box- then here was an opportunity. Thereafter, 17.5 million Egyptians demanding an alternative cannot be dismissed because of this awful outcome. If democracy is about the will of the people, then let the people speak for themselves. And let us not impose upon them our conceptions of democracy which are certainly incomparable to the history and context of Egyptian politics, with all its nuance and regional/international connections. We are witnessing but another stage of an ongoing revolution after decades of rocky post-colonial development. 

None of this is to celebrate this outcome but it is to temper our swift rejection of it.  As Hesham Sallam pointed out, the binary between military coup and democracy is misleading in this instance. Egyptians who have been part of this movement are simultaneously joyous as well as skeptical of Tamarod's alliances. They are calling it a revolution and simultaneously criticizing the military's clamp down on the freedom of speech as well as the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leaders. As those with the comfort to watch from abroad, I think the least we can do is exercise the same level of nuance and complexity that Egyptians, who have tirelessly fought for their freedom and dignity since January 2011 and well before, have done.  

Having said all that, I do not think that the weeks and months ahead will produce automatic progress. To the contrary, absent the continuing vigilance of Egypt's people power, things can take a dramatic turn for the worse. Although the Egyptian street has not been naive in its planning and approach, it is now open to possibility that the military use this unprecedented popular showing as an instrument to reassert itself. 

A LOT has been written about Egypt in the past few days- and that's an understatement. To help you navigate through it here are my suggested readings: 

Down With Military Rule...Again?, Hesham Sallam 
Sallam unpacks the misleading binary between military coup and democracy as he places current events in Egypt into vivid context. 

The Seven Deadly Sins of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khaled Fahmy 
Fahmy explains how the Muslim Brotherhood has been its own worst enemy in its twelve-months in power. 

Why the Western Media Are Getting Egypt Wrong?, Khaled Shaalan
Shaalan takes on simplistic and overeager media who have reduced current events in Egypt into a battle between the military and Islamists.  

Egypt's Democratic Outlaws, Abdullah Al-Arian 
Al-Arian inserts at least two new elements into the conversation worth considering: 1) the reaction to the Muslim Brotherhood's missteps are especially harsh precisely because of the Brotherhood's legacy within Egypt; and 2) the ousting of President Morsi has foreclosed, "possibly forever, the opportunity to witness the Muslim Brotherhood humbled through its preferred method of political contestation."

For ongoing developments, I suggest following Jadaliyya’s Egypt Page

[Originally posted on the author's blog.]

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