by Ayman Ahmed (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 47, No. 4, Ramadan, 1439)
Egypt is an important country in the Muslim world. It can be counted among the top five countries and almost in the same league with such leading players as Islamic Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and arguably Saudi Arabia (we will overlook mass poverty and Saudi subservience to imperialism and Zionism for now). Egypt’s ranking is not based on its policies that are quite atrocious, but rather on the fact that it is an important country in its own right.
But how does one explain the fact that Egypt has also had more than its share of dictators and mass murderers as rulers? This is even more shocking because it is home to al-Azhar University, one of the oldest — if not the oldest — Islamic university in the Muslim world. Further, that it was Imam Hasan al-Banna, a schoolteacher who took the lead in establishing al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun (1928) soon after the khilafah was abolished in Turkey in March 1924. Egypt has had other contributions in the intellectual field such as Muhammad Rashid Rida’s tafsir of the noble Qur’an, Tafsir al-Manar or Sayyid Qu†b’s Fi ¸ilal al-Qur’an Rashid Rida was born in al-Qalamun in Syria (present-day Lebanon), which was at the time part of the Ottoman Sultanate. He later settled in Egypt and had a profound influence on the thinking of intellectuals in the Muslim world.
There is also a darker side to Egypt that is too glaring to overlook. Both Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qu†b were martyred, the first gunned down in February 1949 while the second hanged after a kangaroo trial because the Egyptian tyrant Jamal ‘Abd al-Nasir feared his growing popularity and influence among the people.
The Pharaonic mindset, it seems is embedded in the psyche of Egyptian rulers. And the people too have surrendered meekly to such tyranny. The current dictator, General ‘Abd el-Fattah el-Sisi, has surpassed his predecessors in cruelty and barbarism. He came to power not only by overthrowing the popularly elected government of President Mohamed Mursi but also by wading in a sea of blood of the innocents. On two separate occasions he ordered his troops to shoot unarmed peaceful protesters, among them women, girls, and even children whose only crime was that they were maintaining a sit-in at two public squares in Cairo. When some of the protesters sought refuge in a masjid, the mass murderers went after them inside the masjid and shot them dead. These butchers have never had the courage to stand up to the Zionist invaders but they are eager to kill their own people.
And what was the reaction of the Egyptian media, the courts and other influential opinion-makers to the August 2013 carnage? Far from denouncing el-Sisi’s butchery, they applauded the slaughter of innocent people. Many Egyptians, showing extreme cowardice and immorality, also joined the applause.
Extrajudicial executions sanctioned by the state, abductions followed by disappearances of suspected political opponents, and closure of media outlets that have dared to disagree even mildly with el-Sisi’s policies have been rampant during his five years in office.
Displaying an acute sense of inferiority, el-Sisi’s sycophants have gone overboard. Newspaper columns shamelessly present el-Sisi as the country’s — indeed the world’s — most beloved celebrity. With his face resembling an unpeeled potato, his mug shot peers down from every billboard at every street corner in all major cities.
In their sycophantic rants columnists have described him as the “Redeeming Messiah,” “Savior,” and even “Better than Prophet Muhammad” (nastaghfir-allah). If these columnists had any self-respect or honor, they would not stoop so low to appease a mass murderer. But they have no self-respect; worshipping every rising sun is their fundamental creed.
This is not mere speculation. Mukhtar Issa, an Egyptian poet, proclaimed that “Egyptian women were pregnant with el-Sisi’s star”. If this sounds vulgar, consider the following. Female columnists have begged him to take them as his concubines. Ghada Sharif writing in al-Masry al-Yawm (July 25, 2013) is one such columnist but she is not alone. Interestingly, the court clergy that are quick to declare any protests, however peaceful, against the tyrant as haram have been mum about such public displays of vulgarity by female columnists.
Like dictators elsewhere in the Muslim world — and there is no shortage of these clowns — el-Sisi has claimed that his leadership is divinely inspired. If this sounds familiar, it is. Other clowns have made similar claims with a straight face to the loud applause of sycophantic admirers. He went so far as to claim that he dreamt he would rule Egypt. He obviously thinks he was doing the Egyptian people a huge favor, as Richard Spencer reported in the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph on December 12, 2013.
How many people have had their dreams come true? Did his dream also include wading through a sea of blood of the innocents to grab power? El-Sisi’s rule has increased the misery of the people even if the sycophants have benefitted somewhat. Similarly, the military continues to rake in billions from real estate deals and other business ventures. Why do they even bother to go to the military academy for training; why not open real estate and business offices all over the country?
The sycophantic rants in newspapers and on television notwithstanding, the misery of the people keeps growing. Poverty rates hover at 30%, according to a report by UNICEF released in December 2017. This has left ten million children “multidimensionally poor” leaving them deprived “in key well-being dimensions that have a direct impact on their ability to survive and develop”. Children have been left “stunted, dropping out from school, not having clean drinking water, lacking access to health care, and/or suffering severe corporal violence.”
Unemployment remains very high and prices of basic necessities such as bread have risen by more than 100% since el-Sisi grabbed power in July 2013. Mass poverty and misery are forcing parents to kill their own children and then commit suicide, both practices expressly forbidden in Islam.
These practices, however, show the desperation of people. “Fathers do not commit these unjustified crimes without being under a lot of pressure,” Marwa Ali, a specialist in human development and psychological researcher, explained. And there is no relief in sight as inflation hovers above the 30% mark. Official statistics show that inflation hit the 30.2% mark in February 2018, the highest since November 1986 when it had touched 30.6%.
Despite inflicting such misery on the people, el-Sisi does not care. The thug in uniform sits smugly in the presidential palace insisting the masses “adore” him. In presidential elections at the end of March, he drove all opponents from the race and cleared his way to receive 97.08% of the votes cast. Despite a low turnout at a mere 41.5%, it was the percentage he polled (97.08%; how badly can one do without a serious challenger?) that leads to his smugness.
The potato-faced dictator may be digging his own grave and when the lava of resentment explodes, he will be buried under the rubble. It could come none too soon.