I woke up to a phone from a friend who lives in Australia. He is a Copt and our families have had very strong ties for the past 40 years. After talking for a while about past memories and the situation in Egypt, he told me he does not want Ahmed Shafiq to win the presidential elections because he is a representative of the old regime.
He then took me by surprise when he told me that his relative in Egypt actually voted for the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi. In fact, he told me that many Copts he knows are also going to vote for Mursi because they believe that he will punish the remnants of the former regime for the way they oppressed and impoverished Egyptians while they enjoyed absolute power and kept accumulating wealth.
Before the revolution, Egyptians never sadly stopped recounting funny stories about the situation in the country starting from traffic jams and the hassle of processing paperwork at government institutions to the corruption of the police and the deplorable condition of the education system. They also talked about lousy medical care because of which millions died and caught fatal diseases while Mubarak was having his back pain treated in Germany.
There were also families who slept on empty stomachs while new gated communities housing luxurious villas were being built everywhere. During the time of Mubarak, everything was going in reverse. The sun rose from the west and logic was nowhere to be found as Egyptians lost their human rights and Egypt lost its civilization.
In developed countries, a president does not do his people a favor when he accepts this position. Instead, he is supposed to offer a plan and work on implementing it and if he fails, the people are to express their discontent through ballot boxes. The president has to offer his people a dignified life so that each citizen can be proud of his/her country and not afraid of living in it and at the same time abide by the law and respect everyone’s rights. Egypt’s place in the world fatally deteriorated as did the dignity of the Egyptian citizen during the Mubarak era.
But will Ahmed Shafiq be a replica of the former regime? Will people vote for him to escape from Islamists or to maintain military rule?
Didn’t Shafiq fail to run the country during the revolution? Isn’t he too old? Don’t all his advisors belong to the former regime? Isn’t his discourse too arrogant? Or, as one of the “smart” remnants of the regime, doesn’t he speak the “language of the military”?
The attack on protestors known as the Battle of the Camel was the culmination of the criminal behavior of the former regime and the story is full of details, many of which I have personally witnessed. What did Ahmed Shafiq do? Go back to his press conferences and you will see. Are Egyptians addicted to being ruled by “the cane and the whip” as some say? Or are those who joined the military academy after getting low grades in high school worthy of ruling Egypt? Would Egypt prefer a military ruler or an experienced politician or a creative thinker?
I thought of what my friend told me and wondered how many think like him. His keenness to punish the former regime is much stronger than his fear of the Islamist rule of which Muslims themselves are apprehensive.
He is motivated by a deep love for Egypt. It is only something that the estranged and those who migrated against can fully understand. Many Egyptians abroad love their homeland, sometimes even more than those who live in it and sincerely hope to see it as one of the world’s best nations.
Despite the general fear of Islamist rule, my Coptic friend decided to give Islamists a chance. If they fail to rule justly, the revolution will continue and if they fare well, then Egypt will benefit. The most important thing is for us to steer clear of the former regime and military rule.
I do hope my friend is right because otherwise we would be escaping from a military dictatorship to a religious one.
The writer is a prominent presenter at Al Arabiya. This article was translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid