September 21, 2019

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  • Op-ed: The absurdity of ideology

    Screen grab in the vicinity of the Presidential Palace shows an Egypt that is literally split in half as army erects concrete barriers to contain the violence between pro and anti-Morsi protesters.


    One of the most common phrases I’ve been hearing recently is “Egypt has plunged into chaos” followed by a nod by everybody around the table. Next comes the unanimous admission that “the country is now polarized,” substantiated by a statement that “the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters are pitted against everyone else.” Again everyone nods their head. The grand finale is “Mubarak was right when he said it is either me or chaos,” which is when the nodding of head actually stops and very bitter arguments ensue.

    There are those who agree with the fact that Mubarak might have had a point, there are those who believe that Mubarak created a platform of despair that led to todays supposed chaos and then there are those who play devil’s advocate, but the end result is the same: a lot of noise around the table.

    In fact, I think that in the past two weeks many people have raised their tone of voice and their vocal chords have been vibrating incessantly with anger and fear at the recent political events. This extends from coffee table political discussions, to satellite TV channels, to phone calls, to protests by both pro and anti-Morsi supporters (if we can simplify it and call them that), but what has the result been? Basically, a very disturbing cacophony, and what makes it all the more disturbing is the fact that Egyptians have died and have been injured at the forefront of this cacophony.

    Assuming that the country is composed of two blocs, pro and anti-Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood, both sides have pointed fingers of blame at who is responsible for the violence that took place eight days ago on Wednesday Dec. 5 and understandably so. And it goes without saying that a major investigation needs to be undertaken for the truth to come out as to who was killed and by whom.

    But I think what is more important is the why? Why did Egyptians have to die or be injured? And I am not talking philosophy here and neither am I asking a rhetorical question. I am sincerely asking why.

    To rephrase: Does it make sense that due to a decree issued by a President, or due to a date set for a constitution, or due to the process in which a constitution was drafted and voted upon (legitimate or not), due to ideological differences, due to a power struggle between the powers that be on all levels, individuals have to lose their lives? It is only as I am writing this that I am struck by how absurd it can all appear. And that could probably be because I am simplifying it. I am simplifying it because I don’t have all the facts or research because as an average Egyptian citizen I do not know what is going through the head of our President, neither do I know how all his supporters think, just as I am not familiar with the logic of all of those who stand against him. All I know is my version and from this limited perspective it seems to me that there is no good enough reason for lives to be taken because of politics and everything related to it.

    There is no good enough reason for lives to be lost in the struggle for freedom where so-called liberals are territorially guarding their rights to be free against a group they believe is working towards infringing on their rights. There is no good enough reason for lives to be taken because the the so-called Muslim Brotherhood is supposedly trying to enforce a totalitarian project that ensures that they reach, maintain and abuse power as is believed by the liberals. There is no good enough reason for lives to be lost because a group of religious individuals wish to implement Islamic Sharia Law with no regard for the methodology. There is no good reason for lives to be lost because one group believes that the President has lost legitimacy and are protesting against what are defined as Fascist tendencies and another group disagrees with that. In fact there is no good reason why the lives of any Egyptian has to be lost.

    Some people think that for Egypt to reach some form of stability (whatever that may mean), blood has to be shed. It is similar to the argument that you should be willing to die for what you believe in. But must you die? Did the death of the Egyptians in the past  eight days lead to any stability? Did it bridge the gap between the two opposing sides? Did it affect Presidential decisions? Did it result in an all-inclusive dialogue between political groups to solve what people are now calling chaos and polarization? Did anything positive come out of these deaths?

    I don’t know who killed these the victims and as I said before, both sides are pointing fingers at each other. But until the perpetrators are found, political powers that be must take a step back from their almost ivory tower and indignant stances and make a major effort to find a solution that ensures no more blood is shed. And yes, I am being idealistic and probably a bit naive but I cannot help thinking about the disrupted lives of Egyptians (no different from any of us) who were prohibited from living a day longer like the rest of us who are still alive, for reasons that are almost ridiculous when you really think about them.

    Reham Barakat is a Cairo-based commentator and creative writer.

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