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Dispatches From Cairo: Ramadan, Revolution and Rumors

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Posted on Aug 9, 2011
AP / Ben Curtis

Ramadan Ahmed, 51, whose 16-year-old son Mohammed was shot by police while protesting and killed during Egypt’s uprising, reacts upon seeing former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on television at his trial, while being interviewed by a reporter in the Associated Press office in Cairo.

By Lauren Unger-Geoffroy

(Page 2)

Americans keep asking me about this development and I need to say: DON’T FREAK OUT. The numbers at the gathering were misleading, and the groups concentrated their supporters, importing them from all over Egypt, with what we suspect was the support of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The Salafi movement in Egypt is not united; it is made up of different groups and movements. They are new to politics and awkward and obedient to the SCAF, to Field Marshal Tantawi. This demonstration in Tahrir Square was a message from the SCAF to the West, especially to the U.S., using the old Islamist boogeyman to scare foreigners about real democracy in Egypt. Some protesters were holding photos of Omar Abdel Rahman and Osama bin Laden. Some Salafi groups also used slogans and shouted demands that were not approved by the majority of political forces, breaking the agreement to unify their rhetoric during the Friday protest—and of course the SCAF is happy to support the divergence of power and weakening of the masses. Though its members were not present in great numbers at the Salafist rally, the Muslim Brotherhood too referred to “the uncontested Islamic identity of the Egyptian people, which is spelled out in Article 2 of the outgoing constitution.” Twenty-eight secular parties and coalitions, rejecting the slogans, decided to pull out from Tahrir in opposition to what they called the Islamists’ hijacking of the protests with their own demands.

“The participation of well-organized Islamist forces, as well as Wafd Party, have made the 29 July demonstration look much stronger than former ones,” claimed Maj. Gen. Mohamed Abdellatif Tolba. Yet military officers asserted on Friday that the Egyptian people will not accept a state governed by religion.

The demonstrators ignore the fact that they are being used as pawns in the same old political game of psych-out, division, distraction and mass manipulation that the system has perfected over the years. 

We still do not know each other at all. Rumors rule. The truth is not important. No one is talking about the funding of the Salafi television channels—though they sure did talk last week when there were big accusations of the April 6 Youth Movement being funded and trained by foreigners! When a New York Times article reported that that organization and a number of Arab revolutions and revolutionary groups have been supported by United States funding and training, local media jumped on it.


Square, Site wide
According to spokesmen from the April 6 movement, the reports of foreign funding were false, having been fabricated by individuals not affiliated with the party, including Essam al-Erian of the Muslim Brotherhood and members of the National Democratic Party.

Erian, vice chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, criticized the provocative slogans used by some Islamists in Tahrir Square on Friday. The Freedom and Justice Party formerly rejected these types of minority demands, and today it is also rejecting the actions of Islamists trying to impose their vision on the people’s revolution.

The Muslim Brotherhood is organizing itself and holding internal elections. This either means they are gaining clarity and focus or they will splinter. Waiting to be seen. The vast majority of the people are still firmly if confusedly cohabitating the political center. There are no less than 30 political parties now. The people still want unity; most push for a democratic Egypt but many cannot fully understand what exactly they want. It is all new and there is no precedent to follow. All they recognize as familiar are the emotions—fear, anger, pride, revenge, unity, nationalism, hope, suspicion, disappointment, grief, joy, faith … trust and distrust, love and hate. “Each political group or party has a certain viewpoint on Egypt’s problems, but the whole Egyptian population will decide who they will trust to manage their affairs,” Erian of the Muslim Brotherhood said.

Incidentally, Egyptian intelligence chief Mourad Mowafy met Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C., to talk about regional issues and the process of democratic development in Egypt, according to U.S State Department spokesperson Mark Tone.

I have been out of Egypt again, in the USA, and observing Ramadan here has been a challenge, but it’s been interesting getting to know a broader Egyptian- and Muslim-American community and their perspectives. Stopping in France on Wednesday, and I am returning for the big iftar on Friday, inshalla, and to watch the real beginning of the trial of Mubarak.

In California people arrived in nice cars for the iftar, panicking about “Black Friday” and the recession in the USA. Is a big depression coming? I have family and friends losing their homes and jobs … while in Egypt, the ex-dictator is on public trial, people throw rocks at each other outside and make plans for gathering a million people foriftar, pushing the world and their country forward, a huge show of support for unity. But unity in what? And it is all still a big fog; the people cannot see the future yet, but they can see the Pharaoh Mubarak picking his nose in his hospital bed in the accused cage of the people’s court. This trial is huge and they made it happen—whatever the ending. Don’t think that because the people do not understand politics and are being used as pawns they are weak or stupid. No, they are strong and learning what they want. And they have tasted blood.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, August 15, 2011 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment

A concern for Egypt, which my previous post touched upon regarding the military: At what point is the military protecting the aspiritions of the people, and is there a tipping point where the will of the people being suppressed? is it ever a good thing to suppress the lawfully enacted will of the people?

This is an important but not an easy question. I am amazed at the lack of interest here by the Truthdig bloggers.

Hopefully Truthdig will continue to feature Lauren Unger-Geoffroy, and she will write another update.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, August 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment

I will keep this brief and focus on one quote. But let me start by saying that the people in Egypt are going to straighten this out for themselves. It does not matter whether we understand or pay attention or even care. So I am not talking about Egyptians directly, as if my comments will make or break Egypt, I am instead making an observation about this most recent dispatch from Lauren Unger-Geoffroy, and I quote:

“The participation of well-organized Islamist forces, as well as Wafd Party, have made the 29 July demonstration look much stronger than former ones,” claimed Maj. Gen. Mohamed Abdellatif Tolba. Yet military officers asserted on Friday that the Egyptian people will not accept a state governed by religion.

First, it is less than optimal that the military seems to be the news organization reporting on the meeting in Tahrir. Or that the military is the trusted news source in Egypt.

Second, it is less than optimal that the military is deciding what the people will and will not accept.

Yes, i know that this is a unique point in Egypt’s history, so one ought not to expect all the functioning of a democracy as we in the West understand it.

The demonstrators ignore the fact that they are being used as pawns in the same old political game of psych-out, division, distraction and mass manipulation that the system has perfected over the years.

This is not a good sign. Not that some people are being used as pawns, because that is a universal truth. We all are being used as pawns to some extent, and it isnt good that we always think its only other people who are susceptible to it. So what bothers me more is that Lauren buys into the idea, via the military, that some citizens are unsavory because of their opinion, that this opinion of theirs must be the result of control by outside interests, and by that logic we can invalidate their opinion no matter how many of them there are or what they are saying.

I dont think it is wise to say that that some people who you disagree with are being manipulated so we dont need to listen to them. Especially if its a lot of people the dynamic is not democratic at all.

If the people in Egypt are buying into this simply because the military says so or because it appeals to their prejudices, this is a bad habit, or at the very least it is not a good start.

Now i do understand that my opinion of Lauren’s opinion is pretty far removed from the real life of Egypt. I merely think about and comment upon what i read because I care about this.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, August 11, 2011 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

This story is important, and the report itself is interesting, and to add to that interest one could discuss the evolution of the author’s thought on the situation in Egypt over the course of her several reports here. Thats a story all its own.

Unfortunately the main lesson from this story will have to be drawn from this fact: the Truthdigger’s lack of interest, which perplexes me.

It is also interesting that the only comment generated by the story was an awkward attempt to bash Christians.

Whats happening in Egypt? Isnt that important? Will they manage to form a better government for themselves? And what would that be? And how do we as outsiders judge that success or failure? Do we have the right to make any judgement at all?

These questions are important but in Truthdig world…no one cares. oh, they cared when the process could easily be identified as a blow against the USA, somehow it resonated and congratulations were made all around. Yes that first blush of UPRISING! REVOLUTION! was music to thoughtless Leftist ears. And there were so many many many comments posted so rapidly you couldnt read them all.

Only one person wondered how it would develop, knew that real success in a revolution was elusive and is yet to come, and thats a very conservative way to look at things. That person didnt break open the champagne just for UPRISING! For that he was ‘booed’ because supposedly it showed he “didnt care about the people”.

That person was me. Well i did care and i still do.

But now we see that the story of the people in Egypt, the complicated story of the people themselves, the hard work of forming a new government… all the things i wondered and worried about in the first place… none of the Revolutionary and Leftist Truthdiggers gives a damn now. It turns out nobody cares about the Egyptian people at all. Truthdiggers got UPRISING! REVOLUTION! and after that who cares?


So it falls to me, the conservative, the fundamentalist American Christian, the one who supposedly doesnt understand and doesnt care, to make the only comment that deals with the topic. I will do so shortly.

Meanwhile, maybe someone will redeem the Left and the Truthdiggers by saying something relevent. We are hitting a low point here. Come on…

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Arabian Sinbad's avatar

By Arabian Sinbad, August 10, 2011 at 1:46 am Link to this comment

“They chanted, “We want it Islamic” and “People want Shariah to be applied.” “
In Egypt, with one of the largest Muslim population in the world, there are large numbers of Muslims who are demanding the application of Shariah (Islamic Laws)because it is mostly lacking and absent!

In the U.S. with only 5-7 million Muslims, non-Muslim bigots and fundamentalist Christians are trying their fear-mongering techniques to frighten people about the prospects of some 5-7 mostly secular Muslims taking over America and enforcing Shariah or Islamic laws on the overwhelming majority!

Is this a bad joke?! Is it fear-mongering and bigotry running a mock? Is it a lack of confidence in the American secular way of life?! Or is it a sinister evil plan by fundamentalist Christians and Christian Zionists to enforce their own fundamentalist laws on mostly secular America as an alternative to the imaginary hypothetical Shariah which is not even applied in the majority of Muslim- majority-population countries?!

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