“January 28th marked a major rupture in Egyptian history: it is the day Egyptians truly broke the fear barrier created by Mubarak’s regime,” SSRC-IDRF fellow Mohamed Elshahed writes. He goes on to discuss how the protesters have overcome Mubarak’s divide-and-rule tactics and brought the country one step closer to realizing its “potential”:
President Hosni Mubarak became president of Egypt the same year I was born, 1981. Living in Cairo, there is a thought that constantly comes to mind: there is so much potential in this place. It becomes painfully obvious everyday that the regime that controls Egypt is precisely what has come between Egypt and its full economic, social and ultimately democratic potential. In Tahrir Square—the urban focal point of Cairo and the symbolic center of all of Egypt—on the first of February, I experienced a new Egypt. On that day hundreds of thousands, some estimates say over a million, packed the square in a show of solidarity with fellow protesters and called for the regime of Mubarak to fall. Never before have I seen as diverse a representation of Egyptian society assembled in a single public space in Egypt as the crowd that gathered that day, demanding in unison their universal freedoms. Never before have I seen Egyptians of all walks of life—young and old, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, Muslim, Christian, atheist, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and gays and lesbians, veiled women and women in tank tops, Nubians and Alexandrians, and everyone else—they were all there. The atmosphere was peaceful, festive, and hopeful. There was no violence, no sexual harassment, no sectarian tensions, and no confrontations. This is the Egypt that I found inside the perimeter of Tahrir Square; it was a truly democratic Egypt inside of the still largely US-supported police state run by Mubarak’s regime.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Elshahed continues, bears some comparison to conservative groups in the U.S. It
does not have wide support, and it is important to note that there are many opposing and diverse views and political trends among members of the Brotherhood: they are not a unified single-ideology force. Think of America’s conservative, Republican, Christian groups: there are moderates and religious zealots. The difference between the Brotherhood and their American counterparts, surprisingly, is that there are actually more moderates than zealots.
Elshahed closes with some interesting thoughts on how Mubarak’s fall might actually open the door to healthier relations with Israel:
Finally, there is the point about Israel and its concern for Mubarak’s departure. It is clear by now that Israel’s stability has been built on deals with a few men rather than with the people of the region. Arab democracy is understood by Israeli and American officials as a threat. Let us be clear, this too is an issue Mubarak manipulated: while maintaining relations with Israel, Mubarak and his government constantly used the boogieman of Zionist conspiracy internally to present itself as protecting Egyptians from dubious Israeli plans. Even when a shark attack happened recently in Sharm el Sheikh, a member of Mubarak’s government publicly blamed the attack on Israeli conspiracy. Anti-Semitism spiraled out of control under Mubarak. Yesterday in Tahrir Square, a bearded member of the Muslim brotherhood called on Egyptian Jews to return and to take part in this revolution. Such calls would have been unthinkable two weeks ago under Mubarak’s status quo and would have been faced with a serious crackdown.