13 March 2011
“The 25 January revolution and the future of the government in Egypt” was the focus of a recent seminar held in Cairo by the monthly independent Al-Tareeq wal-Haq (The Way and the Truth).
The main speakers at the seminar were political and rights activist Emad Gad, editor-in-chief of the quarterly State-owned Mukhtarat Israiliya (Israeli Selections), and the liberal writer and activist Nabil Sharafeddin.
“Egypt is going through a critical transitional period,” Mr Gad told the conderence. He prays that the country will emerge these safe and sound from these troubled times, but he believes a parliamentary presidential republic to be the system best suited to Egypt and he wants parliamentary elections conducted according to a slate system. He is wary of a possible escalation in sectarian violence against Copts.
Mr Sharafeddin, however, insisted that what recently took place in Egypt was a palace coup. “It is different than the ‘coup of treachery’ against King Farouk that took place in 1952 under Gamal Abdel-Nasser,” he said. “What happened was a coup by the army against the Orouba Palace (the presidential headquarters), and that was what brought Mubarak down.”
Mr Sharafeddin put forward a hypothesis to explain how former President Mubarak was removed from power. The collapse of the Mubarak regime, he said, came about in three moves. The first was the walkout by the Interior Ministry’s security forces. The second was when Mubarak’s supporters charged into Tahrir Square with camels, horses, and fireballs, killing and injuring innocent and unarmed people and harming the regime beyond repair. The third and last shot against Mubarak, he said, was fired by the military.
Many among the participants, however, disagreed with Mr Sharafeddin’s hypothesis and insisted that Mubarak stepped down as a result of public pressure.
Mr Sharafeddin said it is impossible to predict the real intentions of the military. He was not comfortable, he said, with the message sent so far by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which materialised in the benefits reaped by the Islamist currents, especially the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The MB has gained legitimacy by being recognised as a political group after decades of being legally banned on the grounds that it was unlawful for a religious group to operate in politics. The group was strongly represented in the committee charged with modifying the constitution, and have been hosted by State-owned TV following years of ostracisation as a banned group. The salafi satellite channels, which had for years propagated sectarian sedition and were consequently closed, have reopened. In the absence of the Mubarak regime’s committee of parties affairs, the Islamic al-Wassat (The Middle) Party was formed. The peak came on the ‘Friday of Victory’ after Mubarak stepped down, when the MB totally dominated Friday prayers in Tahrir Square and Sheikh Qaradawi was flown in from Qatar to preach.
Mr Sharafeddin pointed out that excluding Georgette Qellini, a Copt, from the new Ministry of Egyptians Abroad without any explanation after it had been announced that she would be its head was another worrying indication.
Civil, not religious
His last piece of advice to Copts was to rid themselves of the ‘disease of minority’. Copts should shirk off passivity, he said, and take part—side by side with secular Muslims—in elections and political action to bring about a civil Sate. Even if common interests were not sufficient to unite Egyptians, he warned, then common perils should be.
The Reverend Ikram Lamie said he wished all Egyptians would realise the danger of being trapped into a ‘religious State’. “Just look at Iran today,” he told the conference.