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Get your hands off the Egyptian army

Dr. Fahmy Howeidy

Published: Updated:

We have moved from the phase of inciting and mobilizing the army to the phase of frankly calling on it to assume power. After slogans like “down with the military rule” rocked Egypt, we now hear another slogan saying: “the military is the solution.” Although the latter slogan was made by some amateurs discussing politics and journalism, some respectful politicians recently joined them taking us by surprise. This calls on us to take these statements seriously because I contend that this issue does not tolerate temerity or humor. National responsibility and the country’s higher interests impose on everyone to be careful when engaging in this issue, regardless of whether these calls are serious or humorous.

I am aware that some people bring this issue up with an attitude that is between seriousness and humor. It is an attitude of maliciousness. Meaning is that these people are not joking but they are not serious either about summoning the army to control authority. But they do want a subversion to happen between the army and the authority or between the army and the Brotherhood.

Brotherhood and the Army

I had this categorization in my mind until I read that a Brotherhood official reportedly said that the military council set up the attack against soldiers and officers, 16 of whom were killed in Rafah in last Ramadan, for the sake of embarrassing President Mohamed Mursi. This story was published by “Al-Shorouk” daily on Monday. The story mentioned that it attained a video tape for the aforementioned official lecturing Brotherhood members in the Beheira governorate at the end of last month. The hint regarding the Rafah attack was made during this lecture.

If these statements are true, it adds another categorization represented with the irresponsible speech that is neither humorous nor serious. It is a speech which aims are not maliciousness but supportive of the authority. Such a speech has its place within the Brotherhood. The official made this statement with good intents aiming to defend Dr. Mursi. He did not notice that he harmed the army and that he should correct himself in addition to apologizing to the army.

Army distant from politics

I have many notes regarding calling on the army to assume power. First of all, it is a call against history and democracy because any wise decision must begin with keeping the military away from politics in order to pave way for the people to practice politics through democratic and constitutional institutions. On a side note, Turkey did not win this battle until after forty years of political struggle.

Secondly, the Egyptian army kept away from the political struggle the entire time. It never intervened to side by a party against another because its culture and military doctrine made it a professional patriotic army which main concern is guarding the country. Perhaps this was obvious through Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah al-Sissi’s speech warning of the collapse of the government which he is its guard. Other than that, he remains distant from any political struggles.

Thirdly, the experience during the phase when the military council assumed power in Egypt was not encouraging because running the country subjected the army to problems and placed the untrained military police in positions where they had to deal with protesters, and these incidents harmed the military.

Fourthly, after the revolution, the Egyptian army witnessed huge developments that can help it restore its youth and raise its professional capabilities. Since the minister of defense is extremely concerned about this, he begins working every day at 5:30 a.m. and the chief of staff does not leave his office before 1 a.m. This orientation is important because if we notice during the 30 years of Mubarak’s rule, the biggest concern was given to the army because it remained the real guard of the regime which was counted on to suppress opposition figures, forge elections and organize inheritance.

Last but not least, those calling on the army to intervene to only overthrow what they call the Brotherhood rule, are not only engaging the army in political struggles. In addition to the fact that they are not providing a visualization to what may happen after the army intervenes and after they take us towards the unknown which only God knows its repercussions, they are also seeking to involve the army in a tactic battle. Thus, they are sacrificing the strategic role the army is currently developing to restore its well-being and raise its professionalism. It is if they are prepared to overthrow the Brotherhood rule at any expense even if it is at the expanse of the army and its future. This calls on us to wonder whether calls on the army to intervene serves the revolution or serves the revolution’s rivals.

This article first appeared in the Egypt-based al-Shourouk newspaper on Feb. 27, 2013.

Dr. Fahmy Howeidy has worked in journalism since 1958 for Egypt's Al-Ahram Foundation. He is currently the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Al-Ahram newspaper. Previously, Howeidy served as the Managing Editor of Kuwait's Al-Arabi magazine and of Arabia magazine, which is published in London, UK in English. He is now fully dedicated to contributing to Al-Ahram and has a column each Tuesday published in six Arab countries in Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Majalla, and Al-Wafd Newspaper. Howeidy has had seventeen books published, including: The Quran and the Sultan, Awareness Forgery, In Order Not to be A Sedition, Islam in China, Iran from the Inside, Taliban, Establishing Due Rights, and The Crisis of Religious Awareness. Howeidy is a specialist in Arab and Islamic affairs.

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