By Salama A Salama
The media couldn't help it. Once Aboud and Tarek Al-Zomor were released, camera crews raced to get their story. The two men were pushed into the limelight to the horror of many who found the whole experience unpalatable. After all, Aboud El-Zomor was not a hero, but a convicted murderer who stayed in prison for 10 years after completing his sentence. This was unfair. Convicts should do their time and not a day more, but such were the orders of the country's now ousted ruler.
Aboud's release was the right thing to do. Now that we've had a revolution, the hundreds of political detainees who've been incarcerated illegally for years must regain their freedom. Still, media rivalry is a dangerous thing. Often, it leads to misguided choices and ill-conceived exaggerations. It was hard for the media to resist the story.
The man who masterminded the assassination of president Anwar El-Sadat walked out of prison into a world that is no longer repressive and despotic, into a world in which laws are respected. And yet, the way he was treated was bewildering. Between the need to remain objective and the urge to sympathise with a man who stayed in prison for too long, the country's moral compass quivered uncontrollably.
It is normal for injustice to induce some sympathy with the wronged. As a result, Aboud El-Zomor and his colleagues found themselves in a unique position. The country's political climate was such that they could indeed start a political career if they so wished, or allow others to use them for political purposes.
One never ceases to be surprised by those who manage to get elected through deception or for the wrong reasons. Even people with blood on their hands seem to stand a chance these days.
The sectarian strife that erupted lately in Atfeeh and elsewhere is just as alarming. So is the resurgence of all types of Salafi trends. Sufis also seem to be interested in politics. And Coptic extremists, including men such as Michael Mounir who were not part of the revolution, are hopping on the political bandwagon.
Others who refused to take to the streets on 25 January, including the Coptic Church, are thinking of forming political parties. If they do, sectarian tensions in the country are bound to get worse. And the secular state that we need may fall to pieces.
As centrist religious institutions such as Al-Azhar fade into the background, hot-headed preachers, the likes of Sheikh Hassan, seem to be getting more popular on the Friday pulpits. This proved too much for liberal-minded reformers such as Fahmy Howeidy who recently asked, "Where is Al-Azhar and why is it abandoning its centrist role?"
It can be argued that Aboud El-Zomor's actions were what propelled Hosni Mubarak into power. It can be argued that El-Zomor's actions catapulted the country into decades of corruption and mismanagement. It can also be argued that the assassination of Sadat turned the National Democratic Party into a monster.
But what really matters is that El-Zomor has used violence for political ends. And in doing so, he sentenced a whole generation to misery and stymied progress in the country for decades.
Unfortunately, the political regime in Egypt hasn't learned from its mistakes. Mubarak failed to keep the country on a democratic course, and he also failed to restore Egypt's regional role.
The Islamists also failed. They failed to keep up with modern times. They failed to stay on the right side of history. And their actions brought nothing but trouble to Muslims and Islam at home and abroad.