Reflections on the Situation in Egypt


February 03, 2011 at 10:19 pm

We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident…

A well-meaning friend of mine has suggested that if I write anything else on the ongoing uprising in Egypt, I should frame it in terms understandable to Americans. After all, we should be aiming to affect American public opinion as much as possible since Mubarak is an instrument of American policy in the region. This is a reasonable suggestion. I could think of no better way to respond to it than in the words of the American Declaration of Independence. We read in that venerable, yet neglected document:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

This is a message every American should be able to relate to: tyrannized people demanding their usurped rights in the face of an illegitimate ruler, not as an anarchistic exercise, but as their “right” and “duty”. The vast majority of the people of Egypt have peacefully protested to make their voices heard. They are saying loud and clear, “We demand our dignity, we demand the right to choose our leaders in free and fair elections, and we demand that the wealth our land produces stays in our hands.” These are demands that should resonate with every American. Time will tell how far we have strayed from our foundational principles.

A Return on Our Investment

When the pro-Mubarak goons descended on the ranks of the peaceful protesters who had assembled in and around Egypt’s Tahrir Square with knives, machetes, machine guns, clubs, iron bars, rocks, bricks, molotov cocktails and more, the American public got to see up close what our investment in a so-called “moderate” Arab regime buys us. It purchases a massive police state whose primary job is to suppress any dissent –regardless the costs. While it is certainly true that the demonstrators defended themselves against certain death, the eyes of the world could see what happened and who initiated the violence.

The festive atmosphere that prevailed last Tuesday when two million pro-democracy demonstrators filled the square with their hopeful energy was replaced on Wednesday by the negative energy of the murderous goon squads. That negative energy was a harbinger of a new phase in the people’s struggle, a dark and dangerous phase that has already begun. Foreign journalists are being removed from the streets, in many cases after being physically assaulted, some brutally beaten. The offices of human rights organizations are being raided, their members arrested and thrown into dungeons where all will be tortured, some possibly killed. The most serious anti-government blogs have been shut down and their operators arrested and tortured. The only functioning cell phone services are inundating the public with confusing pro-government messages. Soon, if Mubarak chooses to cling to power, there will be a phase of kidnappings and targeted assassinations. Such is the price of stability.

Back here in the United States this repression will all be accepted by most people as business as usual. The protesting masses of Egypt, which include young members of the “Facebook” generation with little religious sentiment, secular university students, trade unionists, socialists, artists, educators, Arab nationalists, Christians, Muslim activists who have proven their commitment to an open and pluralistic system and ordinary people with no political leanings, but who hope for a brighter future for their children in a democratic and free Egypt, will be tainted in the eyes of the cowardly American decision-makers. All of those who have come together to demand the return of their stolen rights and plundered wealth will be stained with the accusation of being dupes of radical “Islamists” who are waiting in the wings to commandeer the movement and place it in the service of their agenda. The repression of the Mubarak regime, like the torture services he rendered at the height of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, will become just another sordid chapter in our “War on Terror.”

However, regardless of how much money we pump into Egypt to “prop up the regime,” no matter how many abuses we tolerate or turn a blind eye to, it is not America that will determine the outcome of the current struggle. That outcome will be immediately determined by the Egyptian people themselves, and ultimately by Almighty God. None of us can pretend to know what the Almighty has decreed concerning the outcome of this affair. However, we do know that He hates oppressors. May God bless and protect the people of Egypt and keep them in His care.

And we desired to bestow our grace upon those oppressed in the earth; to make them the leaders and to make them the rightful heirs. Qur’an 28:5

(…to be continued)