Sunday, March 17, 2013

On Glorifying Violence

Contrary to almost all of my fellow Egyptian youths nowadays, I hate this growing tone of glorifying violence. Well, this post might be two years late, it might not be the perfect time for it, since the regime and its security forces are currently killing people. But still, I prefer to say it out loud right now. As it is usually better late than never. I am not just agains the idea of glorifying and legitimising violence and considering it a revolutionary act, because of my natural hatred to violence. I am agains it for pragmatic reasons as well. But let me first explain what I mean by "glorifying and legitimising violence".

Illustration by Mohamed Nabil Labib

About two years ago, when the Egyptian people revolted agains Mubarak regime, there existed two narratives for the revolution. One pictured it as a peaceful revolution taking places in Tahrir square, where people carried banners and chanted agains the regime. The other side of the story are those rarely-filmed acts of burning police stations, official buildings and looting department stores. The argument now, is not whether one of them existed rather the other. Because both sides of the story are true. The more valid question now is to ask ourselves, whether we should blindly legitimise the second act and value it as "the only" facet of a multi-facade revolution or not.

One reason for glorifying violence was because Mubarak, SCAF and the Ikhwani government now, always find it plausible to accuse their opponents of being thugs and violent mobs who want to sabotage the country and its stability. This was always their favourite strategy to give legitimacy to the state's brutality. And according to our friend Isaac Newton, "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction". Hence, the leftists on the other hand, decided to nullify the meaning of terms such as thugs and violence by mocking them sometimes, and glorifying them some other times. You can see people on twitter and facebook giving themselves names like "a thug" and "baltajy". Other than that, there also exists the radical ones who believe that peaceful protests will lead people nowhere.

Watching the security forces killing dozens of civilians in Port Said in less than 48 hours and taking an old man's clothes off in the streets about a month ago and brutally hitting him with heavy sticks, makes part of me eager to legitimise violence as a sort of response to such acts by the state. However, as I said earlier, I still have my pragmatic reasons to refuse it. On the one hand, such violence gives excuses for the regime to kill, beat and arrest more people, and convince the others that it has the right to do so. And it is obvious that in such violent game, the regime can easily outnumber its opponents with its weapons, trained forces and media. On the other hand, if you legitimise violence now, you cannot denounce it later when others such as Salafies, who have always been true believers of violent opposition, use it later on. Not only the Salaies, you've got the Ultras (football fans who got involved into politics since the revolution) as well, they have been praised by revolutionaries throughout the past two years, and now they curse them because they are uncontrollably violent. The problem is that we all miss the point, rather than condemning the Ultrals, we should condemn that culture of glorifying violence we have been witnessing since the early days of the revolution. It's that culture that gave birth sometimes and legitimacy some other times to all those violent groups. The third problem here, is that violence is like a snow ball, it can start small and limited to – arguably – legitimate reasons, but it can quickly get out of control.

Do you think the current chaotic and violent scene is going to make people less confident in the Ikhwani government and they are going to loose any upcoming elections? Damn wrong! The majority are going to vote for the Ikhwan, like they did earlier, and like they used to do during Mubarak's regime. The people just vote for stability, for the the authority and for those who play politics while others never learn and continue to play the wrong game in the wrong arena.

Originally posted in openDemocracy

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rachel Corrie, the girl who taught me a life lesson

On the 16th of March, 2003, a girl passed away under an armoured bulldozer in Rafah. Back then, she was of my same age, yet her mental age was way older than mine.

I was raised in a school where we've been taught that Jews are synonymes to Satan. We were never taught that there is any difference between people's religion and an army that kills civilians in the name of the same religion. Rachel Corrie left her home, travelled thousands of miles and stood in the face of a bulldozer to defend some other people's houses and right to live. Rachel Corrie was Jewish, and stood in the face of a government that carries her very same religion, to defend people who are mostly Muslims. And she died. In the very same school, I was taught to call those who die for a cause Martyr, provided that they are Muslims. Members of other religions are not to be called martyrs. That's what I used to believe in back then. But screw all what we've been taught back then. She is a martyr. A more honorable martyr than millions of those we were taught to call martyrs. She is a martyr, because it's not about people's religion, it's about how human they are.

She died for a cause, but also her death taught me a life lesson. It changed the way I see what we used to call others altogether. Changed it forever.

May she rest in peace now.