Egypt: An Appeal for Urgent Civil Society Mobilization
To be a passive, non-violent observer of violence is indirectly to choose violence.
By Tariq Ramadan
The situation in Egypt is growing worse by the day and by the hour. Anything can happen. Even though the threat of civil war has yet to materialize, we must take all possible outcomes into account and act accordingly. It appears that the power structure—civilian and military—disagree on strategy. Some would like to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) while others would prefer that it survive without power, the better to maintain the illusion of a pluralistic and democratic future. But they agree on one thing : their only opponents are the “Muslim Brotherhood”, who they demonize as “terrorists” and “extremists.” Repression is now driving radicalization, which in turn will be used to justify further repression. It will not be the first time contemporary Egypt has witnessed such a vicious circle.
Opponents of the coup d’État, led by the MB, have taken peacefully to the streets and continue to demonstrate despite the state of emergency and repression. Their weeks-long resistance has been, and must continue to be, non-violent despite the provocations of the Armed Forces and the police, whose tactics are well known : mass or targeted executions, delinquents in the pay of the authorities used to attack demonstrators, in addition to firebombing of Coptic churches to create divisions and stoke sectarian rage (Sadat and Mubarak perfected the same technique).
It is imperative, as non-violent demonstrations continue, for civil society of all political stripes opposed to violence and to the military, to create a common front focused on clear, courageous and realistic demands. A national civil coalition bringing together secularists, Islamists, Copts, women, young activists must be prepared to enter into dialogue with the authorities and to demand :• An end to repression; • Liberation of all political prisoners, leaders and party members, which would lead to the immediate end of demonstrations; • A roadmap for restoration of civilian political authority and a negotiated political and electoral timetable.
Civil society must today make its voice heard, must reject the lie that the Armed Forces are arrayed against the Islamists alone. What is at stake is the democratic future of Egypt, something that the Armed Forces can never protect. Civil society must examine its past errors and work together to find a way out of the crisis. To be a passive, non-violent observer of violence is indirectly to choose violence.