I was not surprised when I read a story on Twitter about a man divorcing his wife after 12 years of marriage and having two children because he was a supporter of Dr Morsi while his wife continued to support General Al-Sisi.
Nor was I surprised by what I heard from a great Arab intellectual, who lives in Beirut and visits Cairo regularly, about him noticing, during his recent visits, a serious change in the opinions of his educated nationalist and liberal friends. He has noticed that opinions about political Islam have shifted from being critical and reserved to feelings of rejection and isolation. He considers this as a “divorce” of some sort that embodies the sad polarisation currently present in the Egyptian political arena. Although the malevolent voices in the media have expressed this and continue to spread hatred and encourage the division to the point that the terms co-existence and reconciliation provoke them, I am surprised that such intelligent and respectable people would give in to it. Moreover, they have shown astonishing willingness to abandon their sobriety, knowledge and moral sense when the matter regards exploring the relationship with the political “other”.
The situation is no longer only surprising; it is also sad, because we depended on the role of the educated and wise in preserving national unity and directing it in a manner that guides the country to safety and stability. However, I have found that some of them have distanced us from our desired goal, making it a far-fetched dream in the current situation.
One of the consequences of this is that if we examine the discourse of the louder voices in our media we will find that there is no national opposition in Egypt; that the critics of, or opposition to, the status quo are labelled as traitors and spies; and that they are said to be working in accordance with the Brotherhood’s plan or are funded by Turkey or Qatar. According to this same point of view, only those supporting the regime are now respectable citizens and “the surviving group”, if we were to use the common term. This puts us in a situation of political disbelief, which is no less dangerous than religious disbelief.
I know many loyal citizens who have their criticisms of Dr Morsi’s time in office and have their reservations regarding the situation after his ousting, but they have remained silent so as not be labelled as traitors or spies, or belonging to a fifth column. These individuals are against Brotherhood rule and military rule, and their sadness over the loss of the protestors in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Square is no more or less than their sadness over the officers killed in Sinai. Moreover, their sympathy with the prisoners from the Kefaya and April 6 Youth Movements is equal to their sympathy with the Brotherhood prisoners. I believe that such people make up the majority of the citizens whose consciences haven’t been influenced and whose top priority is for the nation to triumph and its people to co-exist; this far outweighs their desire for one party’s victory over another or the monopoly and expansion of one party at the expense and exclusion of another. Unfortunately, the severe polarisation that we are experiencing at the moment has suffocated this group of people, so the voices of those keen to avoid defamation and accusation are not heard, while those who took the risk and publicised their positions and opinions have paid the price.
One of the major challenges facing Egypt in the upcoming days is how to remove the effects of this bitter polarisation in order to cleanse the atmosphere from the poison campaigns that distort perceptions and corrupt consciences (and even strip some intellectuals of their wisdom and balance). I do not know how we can come to a “truce” that can put an end to the civil war and allow us to take a deep breath in order to think about how to restore our balance and wisdom. I know that there are individuals amongst us who want to battle it out until the end, a battle that has no definite duration, with no advance knowledge of the outcome or what price will have to be paid by the nation. I also know that there are some amongst us who are trying to bring us back to the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. However, I have decided two things: first, that the stronger party in the political scene must take the initiative and decide to call for a truce, as it possesses the civil, military and political power. The second matter can be summed up thus: the elimination of ideas is not done by means of a political decision or military decree, as no authority has ever succeeded in killing an idea in this way. It is history alone that has caused some ideas to become extinct, while others survive.
Footnote: I had finished writing this piece before I found out that a phrase was omitted from Interim President Adly Mansour’s speech, in which he announced the date of the referendum on the constitution. This phrase appeared in the original text, which was distributed before his speech was broadcast; it read: “Difference of opinion is permitted as long as it is done in a peaceful manner that takes into account the interests of the nation.” Yesterday, Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm described this phrase as the “reconciliation phrase” and quoted presidential sources saying that it was omitted for political reasons. No matter what our opinion is regarding the non-political reasons, this omission has convinced me that what I have called for in this article cannot be done at the moment. I would, therefore, like it to be considered as a suggestion for the future.
This is a translation of the Arabic text published by Shorouk newspaper on 16 December, 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.