The ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi has left the nation starkly divided down lines popularly described as either “fascist” or “terrorist.” The latter accuse the former of siding with the military in their tour de force against the Islamists, while the former describe Islamists as inherent lovers of violence.
In the process, new groups are emerging that hope to create a third wave out of this impasse — but not without difficulty, or divisions of their own.
One group of revolutionaries who do not feel affinities with either of the two camps started a reflection process on Facebook with a group called, “To continue the revolution; now not tomorrow.”
The point of departure for the discussion was a statement written by some group members, which was concerned with the strong presence of the military in the current transition — especially its “intervention in the political process to impose a roadmap for the democratic transition that seemed satisfactory to some sectors of the Egyptian people.”
“Egypt is now under threat of being dragged into critical situations that put the demands of the January 25 revolution in danger [including] falling into the trap of unconditional military rule,” the statement read.
The group is also concerned by the ongoing demonization of the Muslim Brotherhood, which they worry could lead to “a loss of all principles of justice, inclusion, and human dignity.” This statement was read by some as a moralistic move made by a revolutionary few, but that revolutionary few defend their position as one of strategic importance for laying the foundations of democracy.
Nermeen Bedair, a dermatologist and outspoken critic of the Brotherhood, told Mada Masr that the statement was very provocative in its rejection of the persecution of the Brotherhood, when the Islamist group had allegedly committed massacres in Manial, Bin al-Sarayat and Sidi Gaber.
“There was no mention whatsoever of the need for retribution for those who were killed in these massacres. I just don’t understand what it means to reject the demonization of the Brotherhood if they are insisting on demonizing themselves with what they do,” she argues.
Clashes have erupted between Muslim Brotherhood supporters protesting for Morsi’s reinstatement and residents of the surrounding areas over the past month, resulting in dozens of deaths. However, in clashes with police and the army, the Brotherhood has also lost tens of lives.
Another aspect of the statement that drew serious criticism is the call for early presidential and parliamentary elections before drafting the constitution, due to the “polarization that does not pave the way for drafting a democratic and reconciliatory constitution.”
The statement declared its opposition to the military’s roadmap, which stipulates forming a legal committee to look into the disputed articles of the 2012 Constitution passed during Morsi’s tenure.
“[The constitution’s drafting process] should happen through wide democratic and participatory means that do not exclude any political, intellectual, religious or racial elements,” the statement reads.
For critics like Bedair, this move “drives us back to the mistakes of the past.”
“Why insist on giving the country back to a president and a parliament with no defined powers? Why are we asked again to place our bids on a president whose powers are unknown? A constitution first, so that we can have a president whose powers are defined.
“If those who signed the statement believe that the country is so polarized to draft a constitution, is the situation thus suitable for elections?” she asks.
One of the main polarizing issues since the January 25 revolution is whether elections should be held first, or the constitution should be written first. Islamists mobilized for the former option with the hope of controlling parliament and subsequently the constitution writing process, some analysts say.
Economic researcher Tamer Wageeh, who helped shape the statement, told Mada Masr that fears regarding the military junta’s return to power are justified.
“I prefer the country to be run by an elected body, rather than by the military junta,” Wageeh says, defending the need to elect executive and legislative bodies before writing the constitution.
For him and others, the military’s strong political presence essentially means exclusion of other voices.
“We have been blaming the Brotherhood for excluding all the political forces when they drafted the constitution; now, some of the secular forces will do the same,” he claims.
By reconciliation, Wageeh means one that is guided by transitional justice, not morals.
“We said transitional justice is above all else; we stressed the need for investigation into all the crimes committed — then comes reconciliation,” he explains, adding that some secular groups are using fascist rhetoric against the Brotherhood that could further complicate the situation.
“We are not calling for forgiveness here,” he stresses.
This is how another initiative, called “In order not to repeat the mistakes of the past: Justice before reconciliation,” was founded with a statement that stresses the need for a well-defined system of transitional justice in which all the crimes of former President Hosni Mubarak, the military junta and the Brotherhood would be fully investigated.
“No one who wishes good for this country can stand against reconciliation and rejecting inclusion, but we stand against taking these terms out of their contexts. No reconciliation without justice. No reconciliation without partnership. It does not make sense to call for reconciliation without stopping the Brotherhood from using violence, calling for international intervention and defection from the ranks of the army,” the statement reads.
A call for signatures was made around a document demanding the inclusion of an article in the new constitution that would recognize the crimes of state officials since 1981, when Mubarak took office. The document also calls for issuing a bundle of laws for transitional justice, police reform and the end of military trials for civilians.
Concerns are also looming around the state’s potential exclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood from the political arena through its traditional repressive measures.
Aly al-Reggal, a scholar and columnist, thinks that repression is simply unsustainable, while an atmosphere of freedoms would be enough to end the prowess of the Brotherhood. He writes that if victimization is the main driving motive inside the organization of the Brotherhood, it could be dissipated by opening up the political field.
“One year of freedom was enough to end an organization that managed to survive 60 years of repression,” he claims, referring to the auto-destruction of Brotherhood rule during Morsi’s presidency.
Reggal adds that it was the people who ended the legend of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but the Brotherhood is advancing a narrative that this is a rift authored by the generals, “because, like the state, they cannot admit that they were beaten by families and youth.” For Reggal, in order to preserve this dynamic, the fight cannot be delegated to the military.
Sherif Younis, historian, objects to this assertion.
“The [Brotherhood] cannot be satisfied unless it is completely beaten and barred from all its international network of support to work like everyone else,” he argues.
For Younis, the idea is not to allow the state to blindly repress the Brothers, but to regulate their control of the group. “So the slogan becomes ‘no to delegation without representation,’ or ‘no to delegation without a new social contract’,” he offers.
But Wageeh questions the possibility of negotiating these conditions with a player like the army.
“The current situation gives the military the chance to create a state of McCarthyism where the discourse of ‘no voice shall rise against the voice of the battle’ will prevail,” he cautions.