Until this week, many observers may have still wondered what kind of rulers the Muslim Brotherhood are in Egypt. Since assuming office last June, questions were being raised around the dubious power-consolidation strategy carried out by President Mohammed Mursi, the democratically elected Brotherhood candidate who came into power on the back of the demise of the Mubarak regime in 2011.
However, there was very little room left for uncertainty recently, when a highly disturbing video of Egyptian police brutality went viral. The footage shows police officers stripping middle-aged protester Hamada Saber naked, and beating him senseless in front of the presidential palace; this was said to have taken place last Friday.
No reason to celebrate
Egyptians have taken back to the streets since last Jan. 25, to mark the second anniversary of the revolution that ended the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak. However, it was quickly evident that the crowds were not gathering to celebrate; this was another angry protest.
With a tarnished economy, worsening living conditions, the re-establishment of the state of emergency, and a government that seemed only keen to serve the interests of the ruling party (the Brotherhood in this case), Egyptians were back to square one.
Eight months into its rule, the Brotherhood has very little to show in terms of achievements (apart from Cairo’s first ‘halal’ coffee-shop, where gender-segregation is imposed and playing music is forbidden!). The only brilliance the Brotherhood has shown is in waste-management: they “managed“ to “waste“ a real and valuable opportunity when the whole world was ready to support the resurgence of Egypt.
Unsurprisingly, many global players are now reluctant to lend the country the money it so badly needs to get back on its feet. Egypt has just received a loan offer from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but this is not necessarily a good thing. In today’s world, any offers of ‘assistance’ from Iran can only mean one thing: that you must have messed up so badly with everyone else.
A unified opposition
This is not to say that Egyptians were wrong to go down the democratic route, and this is certainly not to say that we should not accept the choice of the now-democratic republic of Egypt.
However, let us not shy away from the truth: that it was not the Brotherhood that ignited or led the 2011 revolution, and that since there was no clear opposition figure that claimed responsibility for it, the path was clear for the Brotherhood to reap the rewards.
In addition, due to some questionable inner-workings of local politics, when the time to vote arrived in 2012, Egyptians were caught between a rock and a hard place. The only two choices left were the Brotherhood’s candidate, and one associated with the former regime.
Whilst much can be said to criticize the Brotherhood, one cannot but admire how well-organized and structured it is. Indeed, it was evident that it was going to be the de-facto beneficiary of the Egyptian revolution.
The country’s liberal opposition must unite behind a strong and savvy politician, and this must happen now. Without a healthy, solid and powerful opposition that could impose a system of checks and balances, it will not just be a protester dragged naked onto the streets, but the whole country.
Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya English, he is a renowned blogger and an award-winning journalist who is working on an upcoming book on Arab Media. Faisal covered the Middle East extensively working for Future Television of Lebanon and both Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat pan-Arab dailies. He blogs for The Huffington Post since 2008, a recipient of many media awards and a member of the British Society of Authors, National Union of Journalists, the John Adams Society as well as an associate member of the Cambridge Union Society. He can be reached on @FaisalJAbbas on Twitter.