This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 29/01/2011
It is the right of any Egyptian to ask his government for what he needs, even if these demands touch upon the president or the government itself. However Egypt is not just for the Egyptians; our fears are great, and this is something that the Egyptians must be aware of for we have repeated this time and again.
Now is not the time to recall mistakes, but rather to learn the harshest and most important lessons. This does not just apply to the Egyptians, but to the entire Arab world that is addicted to stagnancy to the point that there are not only slums in our cities, but also media and intellectual slums, and more. The Arab world – which has also become addicted to making promises and holding onto centralization [of power] – is not taking heed of the disasters that are occurring all around us. As Dr. Mamoun Fandy wrote in his article "we are not the people of Tunisia", the answer to this is always "we are not Iraq", "we are not Lebanon", "we are not Somalia", and "we are not Yemen", and the list goes on.
Therefore, legitimate demands are not made through violence, burning our countries to the ground, or destroying our economies. Egypt's economy is groaning and collapsing, its security is in a state of chaos, and the scenes of violence in the country are horrifying; from the burning of armoured police cars, to looting, to scenes of protestors throwing rocks [at the police] as if this were the Palestinian intifada. These are not protests, but violence, and this is violence that does not seem characteristic of the youths whose faces we have seen in the pictures [from Egypt]. The fear today is from sabotage, and from those who want to ride this wave [of anger] in Egypt. We have seen Mohamed ElBaradei – who has nothing to back his claim – return to Cairo in a disquieting manner and naively announce that he would be prepared to head a transitional government…whilst the Muslim Brotherhood have decided to take a leap and support the youth's protests. Therefore, there is much chaos and fear with regards to what is happening in Egypt, as for what is taking place outside of the country, we are facing unparalleled examples of hypocrisy, first and foremost from the Americans.
Washington issued around 10 contradictory statements in a 24-hour period; at one point it announced neutrality, and then came out calling for reform, as if reform could be achieved in one day. Washington pursued the policy of an outstretched hand towards Tehran whilst Iranian security was slaughtering their own people in front of the world, and despite all of the appeals for the US to help the oppressed [Iranian] demonstrators. In fact, the height of Washington's hypocrisy can be seen in its concern with regards to the demonstrations in Egypt, whilst doing nothing to stop the injustice suffered by the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis, which is something that would require libraries of books to document.
As for Britain, it is enough for us to recall what happened during the student protests there, and British police responded strongly to the student violence, and Westminster is still pursuing those who attacked the car of Prince Charles. As for France, we are seeing hypocrisy of another kind, and here we must recall the revelation that Paris intercepted a shipment of anti-riot equipment that was being sent to the Ben Ali regime [before its collapse]!
What I want to say here is that all popular demands are legitimate, and the provision of a dignified life is a right for any Arab, whilst confronting corruption is imperative to ensure our wealth, and protect the middle classes. This is not just with regards to Egypt, but for the entire Arab World without exception. It is the duty of government to provide security, health care, jobs, whilst also stimulating all social classes and not interfering in people's lives and oppressing them. This is the foundation and the principle. However, and this is most important of all, we must not burn our own countries to the ground, or destroy what we have gained. We must not increase our losses or deepen our wounds. Our nations are our own; we must protect them, regardless of our demands, or our anger