15 AUGUST 2013
The Egyptian crucible has broken. The “unity” of Egypt has melted amid the massacres of yesterday’s suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A hundred dead – 200, 300 “martyrs” – makes no difference to the outcome: for millions of Egyptians, the path of democracy has been torn up.
This is the real story of yesterday’s bloodbath. Who can be surprised that some Muslim Brotherhood supporters were wielding Kalashnikovs on the streets of Cairo? Or that supporters of the army and its “interim government” – in middle-class areas of the capital, no less – have seized their weapons or produced their own and started shooting back.
Yesterday’s violence has created a cruel division within Egyptian society that will take years to heal; between leftists and secularists and Christian Copts and Sunni Muslim villagers, between people and police, between Brotherhood and army.
No matter how many mistakes the Brotherhood made in Egypt, the democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by the army.
The Brotherhood, of course, should long ago have tried to keep within the shell of the pseudo-democracy the army permitted in Egypt, because the alternative was bound to be a return to clandestinity, to midnight arrests and torture.
This has been the historical role of the Brotherhood – with periods of shameful collaboration with British occupiers and Egyptian military dictators – and a return to the darkness suggests two outcomes: the Brotherhood will be extinguished in violence, or will succeed at some distant date in creating an Islamist autocracy.
The pundits went about their poisonous work yesterday before the first corpse was in its grave. Can Egypt avoid a civil war? Will the “terrorist” Brotherhood be wiped out by the loyal army? What about those who demonstrated before Morsi’s overthrow? Tony Blair was only one of those who talked of impending “chaos” in bestowing their support on General Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi. Every violent incident in Sinai, every gun in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood will now be used to persuade the world that the organisation – far from being a poorly armed but well-organised Islamist movement – was the right arm of al-Qa’ida.
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