If the effort spent on demonization (of the Muslim Brotherhood) was put towards finding a solution and the development of Egypt, the country would have greatly benefitted from this. Last Sunday, May 18, Al-Ahram newspaper featured a “Brotherhood leader removed from U.S terrorist list” story on its front page. The article’s source was the WND website and reports that Senator Chuck Grassley ordered an investigation into a report that the American Department of Homeland Security had removed records from the terrorist list, including records of the Muslim Brotherhood leader Jamal Badawi, also known for his close ties to Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad. He lives in Canada and is a member of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and founder of the Muslim American Society (MAS).
Wikipedia portrays the same man in a completely different light. It says that he is an Egyptian man who is a professor of religious studies and administration in Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia who earned his PhD from the University of Indiana. He has authored several books and articles on Islam, and produces several television programmes aired in Canada and the US. Audio and video copies of these programmes are available worldwide.
He is a great speaker and has a deep understanding of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and the history of religions. He spreads authentic information about Islam and Muslims in the West and has almost 350 30-minute lectures on Islam that are popular amongst those studying and following religions worldwide.
The image portrayed by the article in Al-Ahram depicts him to be the leader of a terrorist group closely tied to anti-Israel organisations, while the Wikipedia passage suggests he is a preacher who has dedicated himself to defending Islam and Muslims and is popular and respected in the West.
This matter calls for two comments. Firstly, the article’s source (the WND website) is considered to be a platform for conservatives in the US and pro-Israeli, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim views. The aforementioned senator was angered by the Department of Homeland Security’s clearing of Dr Jamal Badawi’s name and removed him from the terrorist list. The only charges made against Badawi were that he is a member of a “terrorist” group according to Egypt’s classification and that he has strong ties with anti-Israel organisations.
Secondly, it suggests that Al-Ahram turned a blind eye to the nature of the website and Senator Grassley’s position in exchange for the news being utilised to demonise the man in an attempt to settle internal affairs.
This was the same ‘bump in the road’ faced by the Egyptian media last May when it reported a story about the Free Egyptian Army in Libya and claimed that it was backed by Obama in America, Turkey and Qatar. The story was published by the online newspaper World Tribune.
On April 23 Al Masry Al Youm reported that Dr Manar Shorbaji exposed the newspaper when she investigated them and discovered it was a right-wing newspaper with ties to mafia newspapers. Dr Shorbaji also noted that it had played a suspicious role in representing the views of right-wing American conservatives who opposed Obama purely because of his race and accused him of hating America and secretly recruiting Muslims to the State Department. The newspaper also did not hesitate to describe Obama as a member of the Brotherhood, a communist, and a socialist at the same time.
Although these events raise a number of questions, I am most concerned at the moment by the effort made to demonise one side and a willingness to cooperate with the ‘devil’ in order to achieve their goal, even if the devil is against all Arabs and Muslims.
Dr Jamal Badawi is fortunate because he has been living in Canada for over 30 years, where the law is respected and the dignity of the people is preserved, but if he were in Egypt, he would be in Al-Aqrab Prison charged with 15 crimes, each of which would warrant his execution.
Yet the story raises the question of how many individuals, who have never been involved in acts of violence or terrorism, have met the same miserable fate that the great preacher has escaped? According to the Wikithawra independent website, there are over 22,000 prisoners in Egypt. Brotherhood sources have reported that about 4,000 of these prisoners are facing charges and will be tried in criminal courts (most of whom are from Upper Egypt), and that 10,000 will be tried in misdemeanour courts, most of whom are accused of violating the demonstration law.
If these estimates are correct, this means that the news about the trials will remain a part of the political scene until the end of the year and could even continue until next year. This also means that 8,000 prisoners do not know their fates and their imprisonments are being continuously renewed according to the needs of the current political atmosphere.
As long as this continues, so too will the demonization as it justifies the continuation of the trials and harsher sentences in addition to the renewal of prison sentences. Independent human rights organisations continue to publish reports and testimonies regarding the suffering and misery of those imprisoned.
The demonization campaign is happening on a wider scale than we think, this is obvious if we think about the above matter, and add on the ruling that prohibits the activity of the April 6 Movement, which includes quite a few revolutionary youth groups, in addition to the tension experienced by other revolutionary youth groups. Such tensions include the implications and challenges overwhelming the popular uprising that toppled Mubarak’s regime in 2011, the attempts to blur the facts about the so -called June 30 revolution and the law prohibiting demonstrations, which aims to silence repressed voices.
People have also been made angrier by two other issues. Firstly, the return of Mubarak’s regimes’ symbols and icons and their emergence in public coinciding with the crackdown and oppression of the security forces, suggesting a return to the former regime’s policies. Secondly, the media campaign which aims to distort the image of the revolutionary youth and their icons through leaks by the security forces, relayed to some of the counter-revolution platforms who have spread these leaks in an effort to expose the revolution and morally assassinate them.
This picture paints an image of demonization characterized by tension and haunted by fear and anger at the same time. This is because the current clash is no longer between the authority and the Brotherhood, along with its allied groups, but the circle has grown to include the youth revolutionary groups and those who have declared their solidarity with the prisoners and oppressed. The circle has also grown to include the independent human rights organisations that have issued several statements denouncing and condemning arbitrary arrest, torture, and fabricated charges; such statements have been signed by 16 human rights organisations and centres.
We must pay attention to the effort being made to demonise and oppress one side, as there is hardly any effort made to pick up the pieces and reunite the national community. Such efforts have not been successful in separating the national opposition forces from the violent groups by distinguishing the radical and moderate forces. This distinction is necessary for the rallying of the nation needed to move towards the future with confidence.
The claims that people accept or reject this are no longer convincing because it would suggest that the people are being taken for fools, as are the security establishment who have actually made the decision and turned the media into platforms from which they launch missiles. These missiles poison the atmosphere and turn things upside down. The people have been taken for fools in a manner that encourages political eradication and welcomes gagging.
After the police and the security forces were acquitted of the charges of killing demonstrators, the oppression doubled and intellectual terrorism added to the civil and social terrorism, making those with different opinions conspirators with the Brotherhood, spies, and part of the fifth column funded from abroad. The mistakes, acts of violence, and crimes committed in the past by several parties were exploited and used to terrorize the community, which led to the closure of the door of politics and the adoption of terrorism as the top priority.
This situation is reminiscent of the events of the French Revolution during which the Committee of Public Security took control of the internal politics of the country and issued a statement in September 1793 declaring that “the time has come for justice to be a priority. It is also time to terrorise and intimidate the conspirators, and therefore it is natural to deal with terrorism as a top priority.” The statement ended with the following line, “Let us be in a permanent revolution because the counter-revolution is being hatched everywhere by our enemies. We must let the law hover over the heads of the guilty”. This declaration launched the campaign trail that led many to the gallows and prisons.
At the moment, all attention has been focused on the economy, which is certainly an important matter, even though the parameters of the economic vision are unclear, and those that are clear are a topic of controversy and criticism for experts.
In light of the preoccupation with the economy, the security institution remains in control of the fate of mankind and the door of politics remains closed to anyone who is not a fan or loyalist. It is worth noting that the proficiency of a policy is measured by its openness to the opposition, whilst counting solely on loyalists is the first step towards tyranny.
When Field Marshal Al-Sisi was asked for his opinion about the figures and businessmen of the former regime who are pushing their network of interests onto politics his response was that he wanted to pick out the best from each party and did not want to alienate anyone. These are very rational and wise words, but the only problem is that he limits this to economics and it is not applied to politics.
This logic makes for a very difficult equation that is trying to combine economic prosperity and political isolation on the belief that goodness is inherent in those affiliated to the economy and evil stems from the political opposition. Presenting the equation in this formula means that the revolution will continue for a long time and still has many obstacles to face before it achieves its goals.
Translated form Al Jazeera net, 20 May, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.