Ambush in Tahrir Square

International Herald Tribune Daily News Egypt

August 2 2011

Philip Whitfield

CAIRO: Harry Potter fans revere the wisdom of Professor Albus Dumbledore, headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards. He found value in everyone according to Elphias Doge, a Ministry of Magic jurist.

Harry Potter’s engaging honesty, his trust in his friends and the triumph of good over evil is why he’s so popular with readers all over the world. Although Harry’s creator J.K. Rowling says it’s also her belief that children want security above all.

Don’t we all. And aren’t we all crushed by the duplicity of the militant Islamists over the weekend?

In The Sorcerer’s Stone Harry and his two best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger are playing Wizard Chess on Harry’s way to face the Dark Arts teacher who is bent on destroying him.

Ron: Knight to H3. (Ron and his horse advance to the next square).

Ron: Check. (The white Queen turns, advances slowly upon him, then draws her sword and plunges it into his horse, throwing him violently to the ground).

Harry: Ron! (Hermione makes as if to run to him).

Harry to Hermione: No! Don’t move! Don’t forget – we’re still playing. (Harry moves three squares diagonally to his left and turns to face the King).

Harry: Checkmate.

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends, says Dumbledore.

The face-off in Tahrir Square on Friday was revealing. Was it an act of bravery or cowardice for the liberals to quit when the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, the ultra-conservative Salafis and Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya supporters, bussed into Tahrir from all around the country, reneged on their agreement to gather in unity?

According to Al Ahram the Islamists argued that they were not obliged to honor the agreement because they ‎had not approved it, while others denied there was an agreement in the first place.

Al Ahram reported the fact remains they have isolated themselves from the rest of ‎the revolutionaries with a whole different set of objectives and agendas of their own.

The Salafis had prepared themselves for the fray with banners and slogans. One read: Shut up secularists, Egypt is Muslim. Some carried Saudi Arabia’s flag. They chanted: The people want to implement sharia and Islamiya.

One flier explained why women should not wear trousers, calling them haram, forbidden. Another described the correct hijab.

These people are the self-righteous sanctimonious zealots of this age. Brazenly they colluded to sucker in liberals and secular supporters of the revolution, hoodwinking them with promises of a show of unity in Tahrir Square.

Wisely 30 non-religious groups quit when they saw what was happening and to avert any chance of violence. That’s good judgment.

The revolution stumbled on Friday — highjacked with nary a whimper of oppugnancy.

Rania Al Malky, the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt pointed out in an editorial the following day: Egypt’s political players are inherently afraid of the outcome of a democratic process.

That bodes ill for the country. Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, said Sir Winston Churchill. Adding: courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

By reserving for themselves supra-constitutional rights the military are in pole position to continue governing the country ad infinitum should chaos ensue after the election, or if the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis and their allies get close to the levers of power.

A conversation last week was limning. I know this man. I rely on him for counsel. He and his family have been stalwarts of middle-class values including the all-important one of getting along with your neighbors. They joined patrols to deny the released prisoner-thugs trying to attack their street in 6th October City.

This is what he said: It seems the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies are going to be the biggest group in the new parliament. So long as they win democratically we have to accept that. If they attempt to introduce sharia or revoke Egypt’s commitment to pluralism, then we shall have to dislodge them through democratic means.

He also said this: People are scared to oppose their views. They fear retribution. Egyptians are too passive.

Plato said courage is knowing what not to fear. Why should Egyptians fear standing up to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis?

Isn’t it the suspicion that just as the Islamist parties duped the secular and liberal supporters in Tahrir Square, they have no intention of honoring their election pledges? They are prisoners or their own imprisonment, their rage exploding from grievances festering over years of maltreatment.

Militant Islam’s perfidious skullduggery is the contemptible bane of their recent existence.

There are many who cringe at the prospect of a governing party that regards shirk, the worship of anyone or anything other than an Islamic god, an irrevocable sin.

The coming election should not be a contest about religious faith. Islam doesn’t have a monopoly over belief.

Moreover, Islam respects the two other Abrahamic faiths: Judaism and Christianity. Disrespecting them is a sin, according to Islamic scholars, leaving no room for intolerance. Neither do the opponents of Islam have the right to inveigh against true Islamic believers.

Egypt’s revolutionaries have an opportunity to show the rest of the world how a new complaisant order can be ushered in.

Pro-Islamists have demonstrated their numeric strength. It’s time for those who oppose sharia and other narrow interpretations of Islamic thinking to respond.

As Mark Twain said: It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.

Philip Whitfield is a Cairo-based commentator.

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