A Dark and Slippery Slope into Chaos

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Egypt’s counter-revolution emerges in full force as hundreds are killed

 The Egyptian counter-revolution reared its ugly and brutal head this week, showing its true colors. In an effort to break up the 6 week-long pro-Morsi sit-ins, Egyptian Central Security Forces razed the protest camps and killed 600 plus and injured some 3,000 on Wednesday, with dozens more killed in continuing demonstrations on Friday.

The recent events came in the wake of the arrest and military-backed toppling of President Mohamed Morsi in early July, and the detention of much of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership. Brotherhood supporters saw this move as illegitimate and refused to recognize the new government. Since then, they’ve demanded Morsi’s return to power.

Perhaps too much blood was spilled this week in Egypt to talk politics, as a friend in Cairo suggested late Wednesday evening. Indeed, in the wake of so much bloodshed, political analysis seems callous.

Yet we must also try to understand the larger picture and put these recent events in context, even if the view from the U.S. is murky at best.

In the wake of the recent massacre, both the April 6th Movement and the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists have said they stand against the current military-led government and its use of state violence, while simultaneously standing against the Muslim Brotherhood-led sit-ins and the return of Morsi to power.

Both groups have called attention to the fact that recent events contradict the very heart of the revolutionary demands: “freedom, dignity and social justice.”

As the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists suggested, the reimplementation of the emergency law following the grotesque violence this week seems to indicate that the interim Egyptian government is determined to not only put an end to the political participation of the Muslim Brotherhood, but to quash the revolution all together. The architecture of the old regime seems alive and well.

This could have chilling implications.

It is undeniable that many Egyptians wanted to see an end to a Muslim Brotherhood-led government. In fact even before the election of Mohammed Morsi, ordinary Egyptians on the ground across the political spectrum in Cairo last summer expressed fear of having to flee the country under a conservative Muslim-Brotherhood dominated government.

Many Egyptians clearly don’t want to mix religion and politics. And indeed Morsi’s presidency hailed anything but a new age for religious tolerance. Anti-Christian rhetoric escalated during his year in office, along with a dramatic increase in the number of Egypt’s Coptic Christians fleeing the country.

However, it is also undeniable that the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi have significant support, which has clearly been expressed in the streets of Egypt over the last 6 weeks. The looming question now is this: is the military trying to exclude and sideline the Muslim Brotherhood from the political process altogether? If so, what message does this send to Islamist parties in Egypt and across the region?

The message seems to be that democratic participation is not meant for Islamists. The ghosts of the Algerian civil war are likely haunting the streets of Egypt today.

For now, too many questions remain. Is the Muslim Brotherhood holding the country hostage by pushing its supporters into a full on confrontation with the Egyptian military? And have those who supported the removal of Morsi from power helped back the Muslim Brotherhood into a corner from which an armed insurgency might become the most attractive option?

Whatever the case might be, the potential for sectarian violence that one could sense lingering ominously in the air last summer has borne fruit. All of the ingredients for a full out civil war have been thrown in the bowl, ready for mixing if one or more parties decides to stir it.

At a time like this, it’s important to try to get the facts right, because the he-said, she-said rumor-mongering and sectarian scapegoating among different segments of the Egyptian population seems only to serve the ends of those who wish to thwart the momentum of a truly democratic Egypt.

As things stand now, the Muslim Brotherhood has been portrayed as a terrorist organization and stands accused of attacking security forces, government buildings and burning churches. A spokesman for the Freedom and Justice Party denies that the Muslim Brotherhood had anything to do with the attacks on churches, and maintains that the movement is peaceful.

Conversely, some Islamists think the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, appeared to endorse the brutal crackdown on the pro-Morsi sit-ins.

There are no easy or clear-cut solutions to the current crisis. But an Egypt divided is an Egypt conquered. If not put in check, the distrust among Egyptians will spread like cancer. The best defense now seems to be unification, for the sake of all Egyptians and the future of Egypt itself. The question is how to get there.

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