Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Commentary: My unwritten spoof

After the assassination of the Public Prosecutor on Monday, Youssef Rakha changes tack

Al-Ahram Weekly

I had planned to write a spoof. I was to be a committed Islamist reviewing the first two years after 30 June. I would extoll the virtues of Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood. I would glorify their puppet president Mohamed Morsi (aka the Mandela of the Arabs). Remembering the Rabaa massacre and the number of death sentences issued in its wake, I would underline the extra- and quasi-legal excesses of the fascist junta currently in charge. I would decry xenophobia, leader worship and the coup d’etat status quo. I would cite concepts of revolution and human rights in which I do not actually believe (cf, freedom of belief). I would appeal to shariyah – democratic legitimacy and sharia – divine law in the same breath. I would accuse the Copts, the infidels and the deep state of such evils as sectarianism, violence and unfreedom, absolving all manner of jihadis, fanatics and fundamentalist lunatics of exploiting the potential for positive change, working with the same deep state and army when it suited them... the moral of the story being that, had there been no military intervention to cut short Egypt’s democratic transformation, we would have been living in prime Garden of Eden real estate.

The Arab Spring promised functional liberal societies freed of the shackles of post-colonial identity. It has delivered civil wars, shaky borders and pseudo caliphates. In my spoof I hoped to show how the gap between these two things is precisely the space occupied by political Islam. In a light-hearted tone, I hoped to set out an alternative history in which — rather than state- and judiciary-administered injustice and a monolithic, army-dominated regime — we would have multiple (including non-Egyptian) militias, theocratic summary justice and a lack of anything approximating state institutions. I hoped to stress the Islamists’ capacity for eliminating not only non-Islamists but also other Islamists with whom they differ, and to demonstrate how — to a far greater extent than even the most corrupt army-based order — political Islam is susceptible to internecine and extra-national conflict and disorder. I also hoped to point out that, under such a wobbly arrangement, there is no reason not to expect members of state institutions with access to weaponry to form their own warring factions seeking a greater share of progressively scarcer resources. I would leave it up to the reader to extrapolate the economic and human cost of this — and ask why.

I was sitting down to write, chuckling at the jokes I had planned, when I heard about a new bombing in Heliopolis. Before too long news of the death of  Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat had reached my Twitter timeline. And it was no longer possible to be light-hearted. The history that was unfolding as I glanced at my laptop screen was far too overbearing for me to imagine any alternative, however much worse or funnier. What struck me, however, was the way in which Islamists all over the world greeted the news, congratulating each other on a new triumph and praising the perpetrators as heroes. For a moment I was tempted to proceed as planned, to talk about the blessed blowing up of law and order and the beneficent forward march of fanaticism. It seemed in bad taste, but in the end the reason I desisted is that, two years after 30 June, it remains tragically unclear how the vicious circle of a nationalist authoritarianism undermined by nothing other than the threat of a totalitarian sectarianism might be broken. We may have been spared statelessness and civil war, but the fundamental questions at the heart of our society remain unanswered. And it will take far more than the government declaring a state of mourning to begin to confront them.

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