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A historic reconciliation or a daily open conflict

It was not difficult to anticipate the stumbling paths of the 25 January revolution and their repercussions such as those we see now of the decline and absence of many of its inspirations, dreams and objectives. To start with, this was the revolution that came in the aftermath of long years of semi-military autocratic rule with all its dreadful impact on our entire life at all levels and across all components: socially, intellectually and morally. Secondly, this was the revolution whose command was seized by those who neither believed in it nor recognized its necessity. Yet, we know quite well that major historic movements went through what we are going through of stumbling until they reached the phase of cohesion, maturity, completion and balance.


Dr Abdulmun'im Abulfutuh

  • Major historic movements went through similar things to what we are going through of stumbling until they reached the phase of cohesion and maturity
  • The devil will be in the details. However, the emergence of the “mass” has become a necessity before the country falls into the abyss of despotism.
  • When Tariq Al-Bishri called for an all-encompassing framework to include all the Ummah’s communities we imagined that he was talking about “The Valley of Dreams” rather than about “The Valley of the Nile”.
  • Confronting despotism, hegemony, corruption and the dedication of national decision to other than the people’s interest can be achieved by means of a mass that brings together qualified individuals from different affiliations so as to crystallize grand objectives for our revolution

It was not difficult to anticipate the stumbling paths of the 25 January revolution and their repercussions such as those we see now of the decline and absence of many of its inspirations, dreams and objectives. To start with, this was the revolution that came in the aftermath of long years of semi-military autocratic rule with all its dreadful impact on our entire life at all levels and across all components: socially, intellectually and morally. Secondly, this was the revolution whose command was seized by those who neither believed in it nor recognized its necessity. Yet, we know quite well that major historic movements went through what we are going through of stumbling until they reached the phase of cohesion, maturity, completion and balance.

For more than two years, the revolution has been through vicious and confusing cycles and has seen numerous interventions and influences from several external parties that closely collaborated against the revolution and its ideas and that have tried to subjugate it with the aim of undermining it or transforming it into a soft hesitant corruptible condition. Take for instance what we’ve seen of the sudden and profuse infiltration of political money in an attempt to dominate the post-revolution path or divert the revolution into the opposite direction by means of providing considerable support to inclinations, ideas, currents or circles that have no connection whatsoever to the principles, goals or strategies of the revolution. We have seen the negative impact of this money manifest in mixing the cards of post-revolution pathways and in squeezing the revolution into political and sectarian conflicts and into marginal jurisprudential and intellectual disputes that provide nothing but empty clatter and clamour.

All this has led to the failure of the revolution’s youth to form a political project and a joint revolutionary current capable of successfully steering the country through the transitional period until the revolution has reached the point of security, stability and deep-footedness. Countless mistakes and sins have been perpetrated. These are well known and we need not remind of them. We shall not blame whose who played the bigger role in making the bigger part of these mistakes and sins, whether through bad assessment or through bad implementation or through bad alliances and agreements or through bad management during subsequent phases. We stand before real and grand problems that emanate from numerous powers around the world. This is simply because we are talking about Egypt, the heart of the globe and the key to the orient; Egypt the place, the location and the entity. So far, confronting these problems and dealing with enormous impacts have been taking place at an extremely weak level because of the absence of a general will that is reflected by a solid cohesive current that knows the minimum and maximum limits of what can be demanded or expected to concords and that knows how to arrange these demands within the more expansive and more comprehensive national agenda.

When Judge Tariq Al-Bishri called in 2008 for an all-encompassing framework that should include all the Ummah’s communities, sects and political and social constituents and that would at the same time preserve the Ummah’s plurality and diversity, we imagined that he was talking about “The Valley of Dreams and Wishes” rather than about “The Valley of the Nile”. At the time, the context was not one that allowed comprehension of such concepts.

Now is the time, out of extreme necessity, to propose the idea of the “historic mass” which Judge Al-Bishri had foretold. This is a mass that boasts of a plurality of ideas and ideological biases without discord. In fact, it is a mass that stands united around a clear and specific objective, namely to drive the revolution forward to completion both in outcomes and objectives.

We shall not re-invent the wheel. The idea of the “historic mass”, with different names, has been proposed by many political thinkers and activists and by various groups and parties. Kifayah and Dhamir movements, for instance, all now agree on a minimum level of difference and on many aspects of mutual understanding and agreement all centred around the idea of a national public will and the grand national objectives in pursuit of the people’s rights and demands.

The devil will be in the details as they say. Nevertheless, establishing this “historic mass” has become an urgent necessity to prevent the country from slipping into vacuum and falling (politically) into the abyss of despotism, hegemony and acute dictatorship with the outcome of losing a great historic opportunity for the country to stand up as it should be among other countries and as is deserved by its location, position and the history of the people and its civilisation.

The “historic mass” concept would put on hold, even if for a short while, partisan thinking and would postpone to some extent political and intellectual disagreement and conflict, which does not in reality relate to the most important and most serious practical reality when it comes to the perception of the priorities and objectives. If we were to be more precise we would say it is a conflict that’s imported either from the past or from a present that has nothing to do with our present reality. As such the danger it poses to political consciousness and to the political process is rather grave and is extremely destructive. It will hinder serious thinking about the true and real problems of the reality we all endure.

We are talking here about problems that surpass such level as that of the Salafi versus liberal or leftist versus Islamist conflict to a level that is a lot more perilous. Simply, it is the level of the conflict between all these ideologies and ideas on the one hand and despotism, hegemony and corruption – both internal and external – on the other. It is the conflict with those that seek to forfeit the independence and sovereignty of the country. It is against the theft of the nation’s resources and the obstruction of national and civilisational project. Such extremely serious challenges cannot be confronted other than through a “historic mass” that harness all expertise and all qualifications irrespective of ideological and political affiliations so as to crystallize the sublime objectives of our revolution in the form of clear social and political projects aimed at serving Egypt, then Egypt and then Egypt.

Calling for the “historic mass” is not a final solution to the problem of political and intellectual conflict. Rather, it is an attempt to put in the right order the priorities for marching forward and achieving real progress, toward the future we pursue and the one our future generations, whose present is our responsibility, dream about. Such prioritising should also be at the popular level as at the level of the elites, who have regrettably proven not to measure up to the historic responsibility in bearing the trust in an affair such as that of the revolution and in a supreme interest such as that of the national interest.

I imagine that the current upheaval and tension will take us all along the path of “national public will” forward in the direction of crystallizing proximal “intellectual and political” patterns that respond primarily to reality’s standards. Egypt, as I mentioned earlier, is truly in need of diverse intellectual and political projects that may enrich the national public action. No single intellectual or political project can claim exclusive authority, for all reform projects are, eventually, human in terms of conception and application. This applies to the Islamic reform project with all its currents, which has no monopoly over the representation of Islam. If over a long period of practice such misconception occurred, the owners of the Islamic project should emphasise this fact repeatedly so as to enlighten the national public conscience. After all, we are dealing with a human concept and a human application that is inspired by religion, whether rightly or wrongly. Religion is available to all to comprehend, be inspired by and implement.

Many researchers find it difficult to comprehend the approach of the “necessity stipulation” that is required for the shift from despotism to democracy in its full meaning, socially, politically and culturally. This is due to the absence of public awareness or at best its shortage. Hence, all intellectual, political and social elites are required to exhibit a sharp and fine sense of duty and to endeavour to the best of their abilities, now and not tomorrow, to forge that difficult and critical concord, which is what I meant when referring to the “historic mass”, so as to accomplish the full transformation toward “the dream state” that befits Egypt, its people and its status; the state of the deep-rooted institution, the state of law, the state of justice, the state of intellect, the state of the human, the state of “the republic” that embraces its army: soldiers, commanders and arms.

I can see two prospects in our present political horizon: the prospect of achieving a historic reconciliation among all the intellectual and political currents in a manner that would facilitate a gradual and secure shift in the direction of a fully fledged “political system” underpinned above all by “democracy” and full civility for both politics and authority. This would be a system acceptable to us all; all of us would assist it and cooperate with it because it would be our own choice and because it would be the future as it should be.

The opposite would a prospect that we never wished for. It is the prospect of heading toward an open-ended case of escalating tension and daily upheaval. The capital of the first prospect would consist of politics, reason, religion, participation and sacrifice for the sake of the supreme national interest and the interest of future generations and their right to see leaders and prominent figures actually and practically making sacrifices for the sake of the public interest. The second prospect’s capital consists of stubbornness, arrogance, belligerence, extremism, exclusion and selfishness.

The first prospect requires that “historic mass”, which would encompass, as mentioned earlier, the biggest amount of political, social and intellectual plurality. There is real agreement among political actors that democratic transition finds its way to stability and deep-rootedness through practice, action, trial and error and the accumulation of popular and institutional expertise in building the democratic edifice, which – if right and sound – would put right our entire life in this dear homeland of ours. This is a strategic goal, in all that which strategy implies of the ordering of goals and priorities. Yet, the current reality points to some kind of lack of clarity accompanied by some sort of carelessness and incomprehensible sluggishness in seeing the means and tools of accomplishing this goal.

For the sake of agreeing on the ideal framework for achieving this, with all that which the national and historic duty requires of us of sincerity and honesty, we must realise the danger of hegemony and the destructive desire to monopolise whether on the part of one side or one party or one current. Not only realisation is required but also working continuously and tirelessly in order to develop political and intellectual consciousness of the spirit of “democracy” and achieve an understanding and a rapprochement among all the parties that act sincerely and truthfully in order to accomplish the dream of the revolution and the generations that have lived through it.

Accordingly, it is essential to agree on formulating a future vision of the aspired democratic model benefiting from what can be learned from other experiences of transition from despotism to democracy. Of particular interest would be the three waves of transition that the world has seen since the Second World War. The first wave started with the end of the war in 1945; the second took place after the end of the cold war and the dismantlement of the Soviet Union in 1991; and the third started at the beginning of the new millennium with transformations in thought and policies in the states that embraced the value of democracy as a path toward successful development and political reform in Latin South America, Spain, Portugal and Greece. Many researchers point out that the fourth wave has indeed begun in Egypt.

Add to the above whatever that may be learned and what may be contributed by intellectual and political elites from the present reality with all its constituents, relations and experiences. None of this can be realised without a serious and decent dialogue in which all currents take place in an atmosphere of mutual understanding, honesty, openness and civilized maturity.

The process of “planting” democracy “while emphasising the steps of transition and transformation” is in dire need of developing and maturing the intellectual and political consciousness of the ordinary people. The accomplishment of such a mission requires not only a continuous awareness of the democratic idea for the benefit of the present and the future but also working in order to explode and destroy the foundations upon which despotism and tyranny stood and towered above the people.

The historic lesson that matters in all of this is not confined to achieving the dream of democratic transition and transformation but goes beyond this to providing the guarantees for its continuation and not reneging under any circumstances, and even “immunising” the masses with resistance tools to deter any form of retreat and going back to the milieu of oppression, despotism and autocracy. One of the more important tasks of the “historic mass” is to spread “the culture of participation” that is built upon inviting ordinary people to play their role and perform their duties in the service of public life and in influencing the political process and in directing it too.

It is a tough and continuous process, for without the right and good “citizen” there will never be good governance or sound development. We must continually seek to form this condition of “full sound citizenship” and develop awareness of the idea of right and duty and deepen the idea of affiliation to the “national community” and of participation in protecting and maintaining it. The arena of political action should always be considered open, continuously, to all political forces and currents irrespective of their differing visions and ideas. The time of exclusion is gone, the time of exclusion is gone.

We should have absolute faith, scientifically and politically, that “change” is a deep-rooted law in every political reality and even in the whole of life. This imposes upon us all the adoption of a great deal of flexibility in dealing with the political affair in accordance with the concept of “change” and what it entails.

There is a need for the propagation widely of the culture of dialogue, of argumentation and dissent, and the rules governing it, especially when dealing with “the question of ideas”, whether supporting or defending them. This is a culture that firmly and absolutely renounces all methods of violence and extremism in dealing with the other. Renunciation by itself is not enough, they should be despised and considered appalling. We have learned from other people’s experiences that excessiveness and exaggeration in political and intellectual debates between opposing parties end up doing harm to the subject matter of the debate. Such attitudes undermine rather than benefit discussions if the various parties involved don’t know how and when to continue or stop.

I’ve become certain that the best way to complete democratic transition and achieve good governance would be to form this “historic mass”, which we hope will play the role of “the greatest reform actor”, politically, intellectually and socially. Undoubtedly, the cultured elites have a basic role to play in building that mass and in formulating its intellectual underpinning to pave the way for the emergence of a coalition among many social and political components so as to achieve our goals for which we rose in January 2011.

The author is a former presidential candidate and member of the Muslim Brotherhood. This article was first published in Arabic on Thursday, 26 September 2013 by Al-Shorouq newspaper.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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