Ian Nisbet, who was imprisoned in Egypt for four years for being a member of Hizb ut Tahrir, argues that life is about to get very tough for Egypt’s Islamic movement.
Often sitting in the West we have a highly distorted view of what actually is happening on the ground in the Middle East. Amidst all of the unrest of the past two days, most media outlets have focused on the strength of the opposition and that the army is representative of the will of the people.
At the same time in Cairo, even larger protests in support of the president were taking place, but who would know?
While I was a prisoner in Egypt during Mubarak’s era, America and Britain attacked Iraq. I could follow the news on Egyptian TV and was able to compare it to the British newspapers that would occasionally be sent to me.
It was as if two different wars were taking place. British journalists could only find people who were happy about the occupation, looking forward to the coming democracy, whereas Egyptian media could only find Iraqis whose loved ones were dying and were hateful of the occupiers.
This is the way of the media, even where it is claimed that there is a “free press,” the reports are always biased towards the view that the journalists want to convey, which in foreign policy matters is almost always in support of the government policy of the day.
Having lived in Egypt for four years alongside the Islamic activists, both Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist, I have learned something of the way the Egyptian people think. I am also regularly following the news of my Egyptian friends from their Facebook comments.
The problem of Egypt in the time of Mubarak and even today is that the Egyptian people have no real say in how their country is run. Since Abdul Nasser’s coup in the fifties which ousted the British backed King Farouq, the army and the government have remained loyal to American foreign policy interests.
America’s problem is that it does not wish to see a return of Islamic government to the world, as that would surely be a serious competitor for influence in the Middle East, hence putting an end to American colonialism and hegemony.
At the same time however, the peoples of Egypt, Turkey, Syria etc. are overwhelmingly Muslim and becoming more aware of the Islamic political system, the Caliphate, by the day. They are increasingly demanding the return of shariah to political and economic life, as it will end the corruption and also as it is from the teachings of their beloved Prophet Muhammad.
This is America’s quandary – allowing the Muslim people to decide would mean leaving them to establish their own Islamic state, whereas opposing them requires supporting a dictator.
America’s solution was to replace their man Mubarak with a very secular but popular Muslim leader, Muhammad Morsi, who would talk the talk of Islam, but follow the policies of America.
He failed miserably, as he attempted to strengthen the power base of the Muslim Brotherhood, his own party, which left him open to accusations of partisanship and corruption from the non-aligned majority of Egyptians. At the same time his (America’s) policies were woefully inadequate to resolve the many problems that ordinary Egyptians can see every day.
Since the 2011 ousting of Mubarak the power of the state security police has been weakened considerably, hence Islamic groups have been free to give speeches in the mosques and even set up satellite TV stations. Such freedom to speak cannot be in the interests of America, which supported Mubarak’s continual imprisonment policies for anyone who called for other than official secular Islam.
We are likely to again see a coming era of suppressing of Muslims’ voice through brutal arrests, torture and imprisonment, indeed such arrests have already started.
The media is trying to portray the anti-Morsi protests as a protest against Islamic rule, while the majority of protestors themselves would be surprised to hear that. The instigators and their thugs maybe hateful of Islam, wishing to see the return of Mubarak’s Pharonic rule to Egypt, but the rest of the Egyptian people are not.
They have a grievance against the presidency of Morsi, so have taken to the streets and see the army as their saviour. The Islamic opposition, who have supported Morsi, despite his shortcomings, view the matter as a defence of Islamic rule, as they anticipated that he would have brought them closer to it over time.
The battle lines have been drawn – an ideological battle between Islam and secularism, which has the propensity to become a bloody battle amidst the confusion. And there is a lot of confusion.
The majority of Egyptians are mixed up in the middle being pulled from one side to the other. They will ultimately decide the fate of the region. Things do not look good for the secularists, hence the move to again suppress the Islamic activists’ voices, lest the rest of the people hear something that they like.
I was imprisoned myself for carrying the ideas of the Islamic political system, the Caliphate. I was adopted by Amnesty International as prisoner of conscience, as I was subjected to brutality and given an unfair trial and all because I believe that such an ideological struggle should take place, but that violence is not a part of that struggle.
Given America’s recent policies of imposing democracy by force in the Middle East, it is feared that they may instruct the Egyptian Army to behave as Syria’s Army have.