Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Dear Kate: Response to a Reader’s Thoughts

By William Fisher

Last week, a reader named Kate wrote an angry but well-informed response to a column of mine I called ‘Egypt, Minister of What?’ While I detailed many of the shortcomings of the revolution, my sense was and is that most of these failings are failings not of those who put their lives on the line in Tahrir Square to demand change, but rather the military men who took charge of governing Egypt until it had a legally elected Parliament and Prime Minister.

Kate seemed to agree. She said: “There has been no democratic reform or justice brought in by the Military Council for the Egyptian People. All these on-going state-corrupted media claims of Mubarak and ministers of the ex-regime being sentenced by the military Supreme Council are all false.”

Under ordinary circumstances, this kind of statement would not surprise me; it’s happened in Egypt and elsewhere before; an autocratic despot convicted of plundering his country, who gets convicted, and the next thing we know he turns up in a place with no extradition treaties.

But, Kate, shouldn’t the appearance of Mr. Mubarak, and his sons, and his cronies, in a cage in a court in police academy that used to bear his name – shouldn’t the reality of those optics tell you this is no ordinary proceding?

Kate, you go on to say that “The chaos in Egypt is due to the release of criminals from prisons all over the country, by Mubarak’s regime. Does the world know that there are thousands of criminals on the rampage throughout the county??? It’s not the US or Israel’s fault. Corruption and religious extremism by the regime is the main cause. Lawlessness is at its peak, since the revolution.”

Kate, I confess, I haven’t look into this issue yet, so will have to defer my response.

You go on to say, “Christian Copts are targeted by armed gangs. Daily, Coptic women and children are abducted, drugged and raped by armed gangs. The victims are sexually exploited and forced to denounce their Christian belief and accept Islam as their new religion… Saudi Arabia is funding the Islamization of Coptic Christians.”

Then you write: “In every attack on Copts, criminals are protected by the authorities and never punished by the law. It’s the Coptic victims that are arrested and imprisoned by the authorities. This is just injustice!!! Churches and Christian businesses and villages continue to be attacked by Salafi extremists. When will this ever stop???”

Kate, I don’t know about the Saudi involvement, but in general you’ll find no nay-sayer here. The history of the Copts in modern Egypt is a history of bigotry, discrimination, and cruelty. I also take your point that too often the perpetrators of crimes against Copts commit these crimes with impunity.

But, at this time, is the government not prosecuting several people for the recent violence against Copts and Coptic property? Maybe that’s a kind of progress.

Kate, here I’m taking the liberty of placing one of your paragraphs out of order. Here it is:

“Egypt will not get better until law and order is restored, by imprisonment of criminals with a new democratic government, supported by the U.N. The world is asleep at the wheel, believing ‘everything is honky dory’ in Egypt, since this year’s revolution. Egypt is drowning, day after day. Sadly, the country is in a mess…Everyone is now suffering in this atmosphere of corruption, inequality and injustice.”

Kate, I certainly understand your frustration. Things moved at a glacial pace when I lived in Cairo, and that was not during a revolution. But the history of revolutions seem to tell us (a) that most of them fail, and (b) that failure often occurs when various revolutionary factions fail to agree and end up competing for power, thus giving the rulers (be they military or civilian) the opportunity to “divide and conquer.”

To avoid that, a lot of patience and a lot of dialogue are required. Revolutionary factions must talk with one another and work really hard to understand the others’ needs and goals.

Then all who seek change must talk to the pro-tem rulers, the Army. And the Army, never known for the ability to listen, must be a quick study. They need to understand what their people want and need. The headless horsemen of Tahrir Square have already demonstrated their ability to topple an obsolete leader.

They’re too busy to have to do it again. There’s a country to grow!