Legend of U.S. bias to Muslim Brotherhood dispelled
The White House's announcement reflects an opinion that differs from what Egyptian media outlets have expressed over the past 10 months
Barack Obama sold the Muslim Brotherhood after Sisi was elected president of Egypt. This is the message readers will get from Ash-Shourouk's June 5 headline "Obama turns the Brotherhood page and extends his hand to Sisi." The editor gleaned the headline from the statement the White House issued the day before and in which it said it looks forward to working with Sisi to improve strategic partnership and many other interests between the two countries.
The White House's announcement reflects an opinion that differs from what Egyptian media outlets have expressed over the past 10 months. Some of them marketed the idea that the American administration was biased to the Brotherhood and some hinted that the C.I.A. had from time to time colluded with other countries to destabilize Egypt and bring Mohammad Mursi to power. Some went as far as saying that the American intelligence was not far from assassinating Sisi. It's been also said that Obama's brother has a relation with the Brotherhood’s international organization.
The White House statement casts doubt in terms of the information that has been marketed over the past 10 months regarding Washington's stance. This background was not overlooked by the daily editor who in the introduction to the White House statement wrote that the American president has "temporarily" folded the page on the Brotherhood. This means that Obama may return to his previous stances at a later time. I see this as a sort of simplification which is characteristic of the Egyptian media. This shows willingness to turn disputes into rivalry. The latter develops into conspiracy thanks to media rhetoric and a virtual battle thus erupts out of nothing.
I don't trust the American policy which is governed by complex domestic factors. What I understand is that the Obama administration had a different evaluation of what happened on July 3 and saw the events on that day as a coup against an elected authority. According to U.S. law, this imposes restraints on the authority - restraints that prevent it from cooperating with the new situation. Therefore, its stance back then was more an act of commitment than an act of bias toward the Brotherhood.
Change of course?
When Sisi was elected president, the U.S. considered that since there was an election it could itself of its legal commitments. This allowed for the restoration of bilateral cooperation to what they formerly hasd been. This reading allows us to say that the American policy hasn't changed. It didn't fold a page and open another. It remained committed to the law in both cases but we are the ones who condemned it when it disagreed with us and who commended it when it supported us.
There are many other legends of this kind in which those who disagreed with us were categorized as enemies. What is said about British media in Egypt is another example. When BBC broadcast some of the concealed news about Egypt and particularly about victims of protests, an Egyptian daily said in its April 1 edition that BBC's act is due to the station's historical enmity with Egypt since the Suez War of 1956. The daily added that BBC "sacrificed all values, traditions and professional ethics and brought back this hostility [toward Egypt]. [BBC] has exposed its ugly face of bias toward the Brotherhood..." etc.
The irony is that our media marketed the legend of Gulf support to Islamist groups and Salafists in Egypt for a long time. But experience has shown that Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. oppose these groups and stand with those calling for eliminating them from political life. It's not only that, but what we currently see now is that both countries strongly support the camp that includes symbols of secularists, leftists, liberals and so-called civil powers.
The legends don't end here because rhetoric is instilled in many other ironies. When the majority voted in favor of the previous regime, this was explained as surrender to temptation and bribes. But when many people did not show up to vote during the first day of the recent election, the Egyptian people were described as ignorant and ungrateful. When the Egyptian people responded to the call to mandate Sisi in July 2013 and took to the streets singing and cheering, they were considered great people capable of achieving miracles, of bedazzling the world and of making history.
It's not only the problem of a media that adapts the news to serve politics. The real problem is represented in the democracy crisis which annulled the culture of variety and ignored the other opinion building an enmity with it. But there's another face to the problem brought up by this question: If coincidence allowed us to figure out the reality of some common political legends, how can the society differentiate between what's an imagined legend and what's purely true?
This article was first published in Ashourouk on June 8, 2014.
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.