Should Egypt have criminalized insulting the revolutions?

Egypt is going through a phase of sharp polarization

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

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Egypt is going through a phase of sharp polarization. The situation pushes us to think of ways out and it seems that the easiest way out is to issue regulatory laws. It’s in this context that one can explain the announcement of the desire to issue laws that protect the January 25 and June 30 revolutions, but I think this situation will only end if we move forward.

What’s required today is a law that looks forward and that does not take us back or stir disagreements. Implementing the president’s electoral slogan is the means to “stability, security and hope.” If there’s hope, disagreements and polarization will end.

As I have previously said on several occasions, both progressive and backward societies still embrace many of their primitive stages to varying degrees. I think a huge part of our problems is due to the sanctifying of ideas which leads to clashes that sometimes end in murder. This appears in the religious frenzy, the sharp political, sectarian and religious polarization and the spread of violence and terrorism, and there’s no room for rationality and consensual solutions when it comes to all that.

I brought up this phenomenon when the issue of legislation to protect the January 25 and June 30 revolutions from any insults was being debated.

Deterring penalties

Some sources said the law will include deterring penalties to whoever insults either revolutions and that the punishment will be based on the Egyptian constitution issued last January which considered both the January 25 and June 30 revolutions as revolutions. I hereby seize the opportunity to announce my rejection of such legislation. I don’t reject it due to its attack on freedoms of speech or only because issuing such a law provokes people, but I reject it because it actually contradicts with what should be the ruling mentality.

I hope that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was known for having his finger on the public pulse, does not get influenced by some voices calling for protection because they believe it should be illegal to criticize their opinions. Revolutions are a social act that continue or end according to societies’ development.

According to my humble knowledge, there have not been any laws prohibiting the discussion of revolutions throughout history. The French revolution is still a matter of controversy and the same applies to all other social metamorphoses.

If we enter that tunnel of change, there’s no exit from it. We will pay the price of drowning in rivalry if such a law is issued. It’s the right of those who are described as “slaves of the military boot” by others to demand a law that protects them and protects their political choices. It’s also the right of whoever believes in an idea, movement or orientation to scream out for protection.

This article was first published in al-Jarida on December 20, 2014.


Abdel Latif el-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

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