Apocalypse not quite yet

The American magazine Newsweek chose this title, without the question mark, as part of its evaluation of the developments in the Middle East where Islamist factions have knowingly or unknowingly become the means of dividing the region. Those factions, whose ultimate dream was to seize power and take control, are doing this job in the best way possible and without bothering about the price people and countries have to pay.

According to the magazine, Egypt is still the country that inspires hope in the Middle East despite all the challenges it is facing following the coming to power of Islamists. The article accords this to the notion that it is the only power in the region that is capable of leading the Arab world to a democratic future. What the magazine missed is the fact that Egypt’s real power does not lie in the ruling clique, but rather in the Egyptian culture and which was formed by consecutive eras of communities and religions that passed by and settled on its land. Egypt has never been owned by a specific group even if it seems to be controlled by it for a while. Egypt is defined by those layers of personality, as espoused by the late Egyptian thinker and political analyst Milad Hanna.

The real challenge facing those who believe in what I believe is managing to preserve the authentic components of the Egyptian personality. True, many have abandoned their values or are about to do so, but a few will remain determined to keep Egypt as we knew it and as we want to be. Those will have a difficult job ahead of them, but it is through them that Egypt can become a civilian country that respects all its citizens without discrimination on a religious or ethnic basis, that is ruled by law, and that believes in freedom and creativity. When this happens, we will make sure that, like the Newsweek said, apocalypse is not here yet. Otherwise, we are only left with doubt.

Several parties in the West, especially in the media, are now realizing they were mistaken when they supported Islamists

Abdel Latif al-Menawy
Several parties in the West, especially in the media, are now realizing they were mistaken when they supported Islamists

Even though Western powers supported the coming to power of Islamist factions in the “new” Middle East, many of them are now reconsidering their stances after seeing the behavior of the new ruling party. This was demonstrated in a question that was posed during the American electoral campaigns about why the U.S. lost Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, which mirrors the concerns of American and Western policy-makers about their previous decisions.

After the Muslim Brotherhood managed to get hold of the presidency through the narrow victory—a few thousand votes—their man scored, they started thinking of the elections as a gambling game in which the winner takes it all and no one else is allowed anything. Consequently, they started usurping everything as if they were dividing booties, a behavior that was seen as “too blatant” by several Western powers. The Brotherhood and the president confirmed those concerns when they undermined the independence of the judiciary following their attempts to subjugate the Armed Forces. All the world acknowledges the ability of the Brotherhood and its president to maneuver, but at the same time realizes that their power is derived from the state of division from which civilian and liberal forces are suffering.

The regional system in the entire Middle East is collapsing or is on the verge of collapsing. Revolutions, political struggles, and armed conflicts make speculations rife about whether the borders—meaning political borders or spheres of influence—in the region are to be re-demarcated.

Several parties in the West, especially in the media, are now realizing they were mistaken when they supported Islamists. The current situation in the region, especially in Syria, proves that former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was wrong when she said that civil war in Syria could be the last chapter. Civil war, on the contrary, is just another chapter of the disintegration of the Middle East and while regional and international powers are vying for influence at the expense of the corpses of Syrian children, extremist and Qaeda-sympathetic groups are gaining more ground. We will reach full circle with the fall of Syria, but in a way that would make the West pay dearly in the future.

Once more, is apocalypse here or not quite yet? The answer to this question is contingent upon what will happen in Egypt. Will Egypt surrender unconditionally to Islamists or will those who believe in the genuine spirit of Egyptians keep fighting? The answer will be the clue to the future of the entire region.

(Abdel Latif al-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of "Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak," a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy)

Last Update: Wednesday, 16 January 2013 KSA 14:04 - GMT 11:04
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