After watching Alan Derschowitz on CNN wax Zionist about the Big Bad Brotherhood in Egypt and the misguided fears of a mass of veiled and burqa-clad women descending upon the streets of Egypt post-Mubarak like a swarm of locusts, I couldn’t help but wonder in agony about how exactly we have gotten to this point of such blatant institutionalized racism in this current day and age. (You can also imagine my bewilderment then over how Derschowitz can still be a law professor at Harvard Law School.)
Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly at all, during the first few days and weeks of the Egyptian Revolution, leading American politicians, such as House speaker John Boehner, threw their lot behind Hosni Mubarak in fear of the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged takeover of power. As hundreds of thousands of Egyptians from different walks of life, faith, political affiliations and socioeconomic backgrounds descended upon Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand their inalienable rights as citizens and human beings, Western politicians and neoliberal political pundits audaciously dismissed the Egyptian people’s fight for freedom by focusing instead on their fears of an Islamist party takeover.
However, as a New York Times (NYT) article detailed, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood would only muster up a mere 20-30% support base among Egyptians. Since the organization’s founding in 1928, the Brotherhood’s appeal has been its offering of a space wherein grievances – political and otherwise – could be expressed and shared. What this has essentially meant is that, for the most part, the Brotherhood has offered up the only true democratic alternative to Mubarak’s corrupt National Democratic Party (NDP). For decades, from King Farouk, to Gamal Abdel Nasser, to Anwar Sadat and Mubarak, all opposition groups have been imprisoned, outlawed, or silenced. The Brotherhood’s ideological backbone gave Egyptians, frustrated with their lack of a political voice, an arena and space where they could be heard. As newspaper editor and human rights activist, Hisham Kaseem, stated in the very same NYT article: “If people met in a café and talked about things the regime didn’t like, he would just shut down the café and arrest us […] But you can’t close mosques, so the Brotherhood survived.”
Although a seeming thorn in the regime’s side, the Muslim Brotherhood was in fact Mubarak’s saving grace as it gave him just another pathetic excuse to offer up to the people: “Stick with me, the other guys are radical extremists who will cover up your women and take away your freedoms.” Likewise, the more corrupt and oppressive the regime became, the more the Brotherhood gained in strength and support. They almost seem like the best of friends, or unwilling collaborators…
Recently, during a phone conversation with an Egyptian friend of mine who lives in Cairo, he expressed these same fears that have been propagated by Mubarak’s regime for decades about the scary extremist Brotherhood taking over.
My only response was, “So what are you going to do about it?”
My friend’s misplaced fears were exasperating at worst, and ironically reassuring at best. Exasperating in its lack of a realistic and logical grounding, and reassuring in the spaces it left for some much needed facts filling. His expressed concerns only confirmed what I have been thinking, and trying to relay, for some time now. It is not the Brotherhood, who only got an approval rating of 15% after the fall of Mubarak, that people like my friend should be worried about, it is the remaining sector of Egyptian society that has lain dormant for 30+ years.
It isn’t the Big Bad Brotherhood we should be worried about; it’s the silence and inaction of the remaining 80% majority or so that should have us shaking in our boots.
There are no more excuses and no more chances. Now is the time for active engagement, civic participation, and informed decision-making. The only question remains: Is the 80% up for the challenge?
– Change in a Box