Fervor in Egypt Raises Alarm ; Breaking from the Past, Liberals and Intellectuals Support Military Takeover

By Kirkpatrick, David D | International Herald Tribune, July 16, 2013 | Go to article overview

Fervor in Egypt Raises Alarm ; Breaking from the Past, Liberals and Intellectuals Support Military Takeover


Kirkpatrick, David D, International Herald Tribune


A hypernationalist euphoria unleashed in Egypt by the toppling of the president has swept up even liberals and leftists who spent years struggling against the country's previous military-backed governments.

In the square where liberals and Islamists once chanted together for democracy, demonstrators now carry posters hailing as a national hero the general who ousted the country's first elected president, Mohamed Morsi. Liberal talk-show hosts denounce members of the Muslim Brotherhood, where Mr. Morsi has his roots, as a foreign menace and as "sadistic, extremely violent creatures" unfit for political life. A leading human rights advocate blames the Brotherhood's "filthy" leaders for the deaths of 50 of their own supporters in a mass shooting by soldiers and the police.

A hypernationalist euphoria unleashed in Egypt by the toppling of Mr. Morsi has swept up even liberals and leftists who spent years struggling against the country's previous military-backed governments.

An unpopular few among them have begun to raise alarms about what they are calling signs of "fascism": the fervor in the streets, the glorification of the military as it tightens its grip and the enthusiastic cheers for the suppression of the Islamists. But the vast majority of liberals, leftists and intellectuals in Egypt have joined in the jubilation at the defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood, slamming any dissenters.

"We are moving from the bearded, chauvinistic right to the clean- shaven, chauvinistic right," said Rabab el-Mahdi, a left-leaning scholar at the American University in Cairo.

Many Egyptians are overwhelmed with dual emotions: relief at the end of an Islamist government that many called arrogant and ineffective, and thrill at their power to topple presidents. The voices on the left who might be expected to raise alarms about the military's ouster of a freely elected government are instead reveling in what they see as the country's escape from the threat that an Islamist majority would steadily push Egypt to the right.

Many on the left are still locked in a battle of semantics, trying to persuade the world -- and perhaps one another -- that the overthrow of Mr. Morsi was not a "coup" but a "revolution." The army merely carried out the popular will, they insist. On Sunday, one private satellite network in Egypt was running commercials of citizen testimonials proclaiming as much.

Some have begun to voice doubts. Amr Hamzawy, a political scientist who held a seat in the dissolved Parliament, was among the first to condemn the military's shutdown of the Islamists' satellite networks, the arrest of their staffs, and the detention of Mr. Morsi and hundreds of other Islamist leaders.

Mr. Hamzawy objected in a recent newspaper column to "the rhetoric of gloating, hatred, retribution and revenge against the Muslim Brotherhood." After the mass shooting, he called the celebration of the military takeover "fascism under the false pretense of democracy and liberalism." Fellow intellectuals who said nothing, he wrote, were "the birds of darkness of this phase."

But he was almost alone. A chorus of liberals and leftists rushed to denounce Mr. Hamzawy as hypocritical for defending the Islamists.

Khaled Montaser, a liberal columnist, declared that the Islamists were worse than "criminals and psychopaths" because they could never reform. "Their treason, terrorism and conspiracies are an indelible tattoo," Mr. Montaser wrote. "They do not know the meaning of 'homeland.' They only know the meaning of 'the caliphate' and their organization first."

Ahmed Maher, a founder of the left-leaning April 6 Youth Group, initially joined a small volunteer team that tried to enlist Western support for the ouster. But after the arrests and shootings of Brotherhood supporters, he began to recall the generals' long hold on power after mass protests drove President Hosni Mubarak from office two years ago.

Mr. Maher put his worries about the generals in an online message to another activist: "If we assume it's not a coup, and I tell people it's not a coup, when they screw us again like they did in 2011, what would I tell people? …

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