By Hwaa Irfan
From Islam, Liberty and Development by Mohammad Khātamī
Freedom and Development
As one observes the first phase of the parliamentary elections in Egypt for the People’s Assembly, all the forces at play seeking knowingly and unknowingly to usurp the original youth who gave all Egyptians a voice on the day known as the January 25th Revolution, 2011. For a time that common unity wad felt and shared, until slowly but surely certain elements became apparent to those youth that is not so apparent to the rest of the voting population, because those youth are on the frontline of all forces at play. Those forces have become evident during the first phase as previously mentioned to the extent that the Sufis fear the Salafis, and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis fear the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Brotherhood fear the Jan 25th Revolutionists, the pro-U.S. Egyptians fear the loss of their positions and status, the Christians fear the Muslim Brotherhood, the Jan 25th Revolutionists fear the loss of the Revolution, and not without justification, the governing force the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, SCAF fears the Jan 25th Revolutionists along with the global elite busy playing chess with the whole situation after the fall of former President Mubarak! The serious violations taking place in the election also threatens a return of a corrupt system intolerant of the diversity of Egypt. Wanting change is never easy, but we are at a time in human history that as the Jan 25th Revolutionists stated, that real change has to take place first from within.
After 40 years and beyond of being inculcated to believe in a world system that is collapsing for, and has taken on various forms depending on the region, what Mohammed Khatami said in 1997 is more relevant today, and not just in Iran:
“We are all individually dictator-like in our own ways, and this unfortunate condition is evident in all strata and spheres of our society…. we want to experience freedom in a world that is dominated by grandiose powers who think only of their self interests, interests that they view as being in conflict with the freedom of other countries, as they focus their immense political, military, informational, and economic power on protecting their interests. If the experience of freedom has encountered difficulties in countries such as ours, we should not disregard the conspiracy of outsiders.
“Here, we face a paradox. On the one hand growth and progress are not possible without freedom, and on the other hand freedom will not materialize and last unless society is mature and progressive. What is to be done?”
In the case of the January 25th Revolution, in the early days two fundamental keys were in place that demonstrated not only the maturity and progressiveness of the people, but that they were and are fully capable of achieving their goal. Those two keys were faith and trust in each other. It is these elements if any that turned the “Lotus Revolution” into the “Arab Spring”, and the Occupy the World Movement. However with time, this faith and trust has been heavily compromised by the long duration, the many mistakes, and the blame game placed on the shoulders of the January 25th Revolutionists.
The governing force of the nation, dragged its feet in achieving anything of any substance, to the point of escalation in human and civil rights abuses, and declaring in the first phase, which only represents a third of the country, that the elected candidates from the first phase where serious violations have been carried out by candidates from one particular political party have continued to go unchallenged, and the method of the electoral process prevents prior knowledge of the candidates, and presents obstacles which undermine a truly democratic process.
The growth issue became the priority, and a serious problem that was put on the shoulders of the January 25th Revolutionists, the first interim government formed by Essam Sharif, who was selected by the January 25th Revolutionists redirecting focus from the real cause of the growth problem, the governing body itself, because the interim cabinet had no powers – all powers were that of SCAF. SCAF was able to redirect the nation’s attention to the ‘first free” elections in decades, but those elections void of an informed public, in itself is undemocratic, and rife with bribery and corruption.
In real terms 52% of the public voted in the first phase of the first round, and despite the threat of a penalty of L.E. 500 for every person who dies not vote, 48% did not vote (the figures were voiced under pressure for the truth from the floor of a press conference held by the Higher Electoral Committee. And despite that that was said in the first round of the first phase, with less than a 40% majority by the Freedom and Justice Party (i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood), SCAF took the decision that the results were unrepresentative of the country before the electoral process for the whole of the country is incomplete as of this date, and have formed a council selected by SCAF without consultation with the people which will formulate the nation’s New Constitution, and the FJP have begun issuing declarations pertaining to trade, and foreign relations. Whatever is afoot, possession of power is the only issue in the making here!
“I believe that if we are fair and profound in our thinking, we are fair and profound in our thinking, we will reach the conclusion that freedom has priority over growth. Of course, the road to freedom and liberty is replete with danger and difficulty. Again, by what I mean by freedom, is the freedom to think and the security to express new thinking, and instituting a protective system for the security of the free-spirited and of thinkers.”
For the January 25th Revolutionists who remain in the infamous Tahrir Square, they have been betrayed by the governing body that they worked hard with to ensure the best interests of the interim process, and this became apparent to all when the policing strategies of the U.S. the U.K., and Canada with the Occupy World Movement protests on their streets, have resulted in illegal arrests, entrapment, provocateurs from the establishment to force the protests to a point that they became a public risk, and new national security legislations that is Big Brother in the making. It is in that background that the protests in Egypt moved from peaceful to violent. Along with the U.S. sending arms and 21 tons of tear gas the strategy of SCAF has become blatantly clear, and the “…the freedom to think and the security to express new thinking, and instituting a protective system for the security of the free-spirited and of thinkers,” is no longer guaranteed by SCAF as the state-controlled media narrows its lens on the people unless the people say what the establishment wants them to say. Still the human spirit is strong for those who choose to hold onto that God-given right!
“More importantly, I think, it is practically impossible to suppress thought, but if we live in an atmosphere of freedom, thought appears in a balanced way, and rationality becomes dominant as the power to choose and the means of choice and the progress becomes available to the people. But if freedom is absent, thoughts that will inevitably appear in the minds of thinkers will be driven underground, and may appear in violent and explosive form through the deeds of those who do not believe in thoughtful, peaceful discourse.”
That discourse was opened and closed in the same breath for activists around the world, whether it be the Occupy Movement or the January 25th Revolution 2011, which has yet to take place! The worsening economic climate and the huge leap in the cost of living in regards to Egypt have seen to it, but it took 11+ months, a new cabinet elected by SCAF with powers, and the protestors complaints about the huge rising costs, to make SCAF say they will look into it, via the new cabinet, for the prices to take a sudden drop!
Anger mounts, not just because people do not think, but because they have been ignored and silenced preventing any peaceful discourse from taking place. To be told that they can always return to Tahrir Square if the new government does a bad job, is no get out clause as global governance tightens its grip!
On a brighter note…
“… let us try to create the proper atmosphere so that we can extend tolerance to one another more easily and to share each other’s view of freedom, to share our minimal expectations and priorities, and to base it on the rule of law, ensuring the survival and protection of freedom. It is in such atmosphere that our progress will be accelerated, guaranteeing a brighter future for our people…”
This atmosphere starts with ourselves, the parts of ourselves we have suppressed to rise again in some uncontrollable form. Only then, when we have raised our consciousness enough to work towards the creation of that atmosphere in the home, does society begin to stand a chance to heal and redeem its self. Not for the next government, but for the long term well being of every man, woman and child that constitutes the nation!