Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Outsourcing the violence

Outsourcing violence to its licensees will not help the current regime to escape its responsibilities, writes Ahmed El-Tonsi

Al-Ahram Weekly

In his recent theatrical speech on the Syrian crisis, Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi expressively described the expected popular uprising in Egypt on 30 June as being dominated by fulul, or remnants of the old regime, who have been dreaming of re-establishing the corrupt and oppressive Mubarak regime that destroyed Egypt and plundered its resources.

Morsi described the regime led by ousted former president Hosni Mubarak as being corrupt and autocratic. However, it is a myth that the current wave of revolutionary mobilisation, this time against Morsi himself, is being led by elements from the ousted regime that lost its legitimacy during its final years, culminating in its collapse under popular pressure in January 2011. Morsi’s description of the fulul can be understood in terms of his convictions about people who rebel against Muslim rulers that he sees as pursuing the establishment of an Islamic state that will eventually pave the way to the return of the caliphate.

Such rebellion, let alone revolution, should be seen, in the manner of thinking pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood, as an attempt to obstruct its sacred path or divine mission towards its ultimate objective. Moreover, the old regime, in Morsi’s view, was not only that of Mubarak. Instead, it was the regime that has been ruling the Arab world for the last 200 years, starting with the adoption of Western laws, political institutions, values and so on at the beginning of the 19th century.

To a great extent, Morsi has been sympathetic to the vision adopted by the vast majority of the Islamists to the effect that the non-Islamist or old regimes were identical in that they shared the common denominator of not ruling in line with the Sharia as the highest governmental and legal authority.

Some Islamists within the ruling regime and its affiliates and supporters have identified all the old regimes as being species of the rule of jahiliya, or ignorance, whereas for them Morsi’s regime is a starting point to building an Islamic state. As a result, all his political opponents are stereotyped as belonging to the jahili regimes. On a practical level, this conviction has been reflected in the ongoing division of labour among the various Islamist factions, where the hawkish orthodox elements have been endorsing retaliatory if not violent stands against the June uprising while the Brotherhood as a whole has been posing as a moderate Islamist voice, an image that it has long endeavoured to maintain for pragmatic reasons in the local, regional and global contexts.

However, it would be a mistake to see the Brotherhood’s ideological stand versus the old regime as being very far removed from the radical approach adopted by the fundamentalists. Instead, the approach has been a stepped or phased one that has shared the ultimate objective of re-establishing an Islamic caliphate and state. The ill-defined boundaries that have separated the jihadist trend from the falsely moderate Muslim Brotherhood have recently become more tenuous than ever, given the presence of Islamic Jihad leaders at Brotherhood meetings, these threatening to smash Morsi’s opponents. Simply put, the Brotherhood has now outsourced the operations of its secret apparatus to the more capable and politically inexpensive Islamic Jihad and Al-Gamma Al-Islamiya organisations.

A kind of “licence to kill” agreement has been signed between the regime and its licensees from the jihadist trends that had previously declared their giving up of the use of violence against the former regime. Paradoxically, while the new and supposedly Islamist regime has been holding power, its licensees have been threatening to smash their own fellow citizens, who have been peacefully seeking to redeem the hard-won rights denied to them by the democratically elected regime. At stake has been the credibility of the revisions made by the jihadist trend and the moderate banner raised by the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been taken at face value by its supporters inside and outside Egypt.

Without exaggeration it can be argued that Morsi’s description of the 30 June revolutionaries is based on an ideological definition of the Westernised secular state that has been prevalent in the region for the last two centuries. As a result, in this view all non-Islamists, whatever their numbers, are remnants of the old, non-Islamist regime. More than 15 million signatures have been collected by the rebel movement, and these are being conveniently disregarded by Morsi and his entourage as being those of members of the old regime.

At the same time, the ongoing war launched by the Islamists against the institutions of the old regime, such as the police, the army, Al-Azhar and the judiciary, can be attributed to the same belief in the false nature of these institutions and their basic contradiction in form and in content with the future Islamist state. All such institutions are seemingly considered by the Islamists as the superstructure of the old Westernised and secular regime. The lack of respect for the so-called old regime institutions may explain the systematic aggression carried out by the Islamists against them, aiming at their demonisation and eventual reorientation as per the whims of the ruling regime.

The present catastrophically irresponsible deal with the jihadist trend has meant that the Brotherhood has now irreversibly shed the last fig leaf covering up its role in Egyptian politics and society. The Battle of the Camel on 2 February 2011 was the watershed moment in Mubarak’s fall as a result of its circumstances and actors. This was one striking episode of violence, and outsourcing the current violence will not help the Brotherhood to escape its responsibility for the violence now being used against Egypt’s citizens, since though specific tasks can be delegated to its licensees overall accountability cannot be delegated.

Morsi’s words now look more meaningful in the context of a mixing of politics and religion, and it is more urgent than ever that they be pondered in the context of state violence and the questions hanging over the regime’s legitimacy.


The writer is a political commentator.

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