write this an an outsider and with no apologies for that. For one
thing, what is written should be criticized for its faults but
not for the characteristics of its author. For
another, I have noticed that all too often, Egyptians are
listening to all sorts of crap from outside, especially defeatist
horror stories about Islamists. Better, frankly, to hear me
If the Egyptian revolution is crushed tomorrow, it will
still be perhaps the most inspiring event in many decades.
Before Tahrir, it seemed obvious that against a ruthless, determined
state, bolstered by a huge police force, pervasive informers, a huge
army and a contented establishment, resistance was
impossible. Only - as in Iran, as indeed in the rest of the
Arab world - an actual revolt within the army could lead to a change of
rΘgime. We did not know that unarmed civilians, faced with
snipers, could do anything but run away. We did not realize
that a crowd could muster enough resilience to destroy the ruling
party, invade the headquarters of a feared intelligence service, and
send the police running. Tahrir was proof of concept:
a people can still, even in the modern age, overthrow the
government. This lesson will survive whatever the future
Above all, we did not dream of such courage. It is beyond admiration - but where has it gone?
one round of voting, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists have come
out on top, gained between them a majority that is unlikely to unite,
in an assembly that may never come into existence, exercising powers
that may prove utterly hollow. Yet the most
constructive thing we hear is that, given the problems of government,
the Brotherhood may discredit itself.
Is this really the time to
speak at your own funeral? Are secularists who faced
bullets unable to face a first-round election victory? Has it
occurred to anyone that maybe, possibly, they could fight back on the
electoral front, as they fought so bravely in the streets?
Yes, it seems futile, I know. So did resisting the
government a year ago.
The secularists do not exactly lack
resources. They count in their ranks some of the wealthiest
and most prestigious personalities in Egypt, as well as a host of
capable, courageous, energetic individuals. They have good
connections with the trade unions. They have extensive
international sympathy and support. There are all sorts of
reasons why the Brotherhood and the Salafists are strong, but is it
necessary to obsess about these reasons, to the exclusion of any
serious attempt to counter that strength? Even if not one
Islamist voter - or rather, voter for the Islamist parties - could be
convinced to change allegiance, those who didn't vote are numerous
enough to put the secularists in the majority. Even the
Salafists are just people, living in extraordinary times, presented
with a world an opportunities no one, not long ago, knew
existed. Must these human beings be abstracted into some
spectre, a historical inevitability?
Remember, not one of the
people who with great authority predict the triumph of
'fundamentalism' had any idea that a non-sectarian uprising would
transform Egypt. The truth is, no one knows what the future
holds. To accept defeat now is not only unjustified, it is
as self-fulfilling posture. C'mon folks. Remember
what you have achieved, and don't stop now.