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The Egyptian opposition has acquired an image of being anti-Islam. It must correct this image before taking part in upcoming parliamentary elections.
For the sake of maintaining its credibility, or what has remained of it, the Egyptian opposition needs to engage in some deep soul-searching and to practice some self-directed accountability. This is not to say, of course, that the opposition represents all that is bad whereas the other side — the Islamists — represents all that is good.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a substantive gap between what the opposition claims to be and its public image in the minds of many people, Egyptians and non-Egyptians alike. I don't claim to be an expert on Egypt. However, as an avid follower of developments in the Egyptian arena, I can say the opposition has much homework to do before taking part in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
True, the opposition is not monolithic in nature and is quite diverse politically and ideologically. Similarly, the opposition varies, occasionally sharply, in its national and moral credibility.
In general terms, however, the opposition has a negative image of being anti-Islam. True, opposition figures and spokespersons would vehemently deny any hostility to Islam. However, a fleeting glance at the opposition media discourse in the past few months shows that the Islamists, including democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi, have been thoroughly demonised.
One Egyptian writer said that the opposition media was so virulently anti-Islamist that even a prophet of God would have been besmirched and distorted.
Indeed, opposition to the Islamists seems to have morphed into an all-out war on Islamist ideology per se. What else can be said about calling President Morsi a "thug," "Hitler" and "Mursilini," a snide play on Mussolini, the infamous Italian dictator?
To be sure, Morsi is not beyond reproach. He can be criticised and should be criticised, being responsible for catering for 90 million Egyptians. Nonetheless, criticism, however mordant and scathing, is one thing; vulgarity is an entirely different matter. Vulgarity is libelous, defamatory and incompatible with civility and good manners.
More to the point, in many instances, vulgarity is counter-productive; it eventually boomerangs on the vulgar source, whether it is an individual, newspaper or TV station. This is why, even the most libertarian societies promulgate anti-defamation and anti-libel laws to protect the public from the excesses of the unbridled media.
The anti-Islam image vindictively promoted by the bulk of the Egyptian opposition, especially the so-called secular and civil groups, is by all means a very serious charge. If consolidated and allowed to become a permanent feature in the collective public consciousness (or sub-consciousness), this charge could prove quite lethal for the opposition and its electoral chances.
Yes, propaganda coming from the Islamists camp played a certain role in the dissemination of the contentious anti-Islam image. However, it is also true that the opposition is not completely blameless for the existence of this commonly-held notion.
It is well known, for example, that opposition media often ridicules Islamic principle as "Ikhwan (Brotherhood) principles" with regard to a host of issues such as women rights, status of non-Muslims, Christians, showbusiness, art and the economy.
Such insinuations are often interpreted by many ordinary citizens, correctly or otherwise, as suggesting that the opposition is really against Islam itself, not merely against the Islamist camp.
This point is further accentuated by the repetition of often virulent canards about Islamists, including the so-called "farewell intercourse with newly-dead wives" and the claim that Islamists are intending to impose poll taxes on Christians.
Needless to say, spreading such baseless lies exudes extreme malice, hatred and vindictiveness towards Islam since the ultimate goal behind the slanders is to make the public hate the religion that the vast majority of Egyptians adhere to.
This is why malicious disseminators of such obscenities ought to be severely punished, since freedom of speech doesn't include the freedom to malign, abuse and demonise, especially by way of lying.
Moreover, the opposition shoots itself in the foot when it chooses to remain silent whenever the symbols of Islam are targeted. For example, when Al-Kaed Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria was surrounded and Sheikh Mahallawi was besieged for many hours by mobs of the opposition, the opposition refused to condemn the repulsive behavior as if besieging worshipers inside a mosque was a banal matter that didn't command the opposition's attention.
There is no doubt in my mind that the opposition would have gained a lot of popularity —and therefore earned a substantial political capital — had it hastened to sincerely and unequivocally condemn the "shameful taboo" of besieging a mosque in a country that prides itself on being the home of Al-Azhar.
Why didn't the opposition even contemplate doing this? This is a question I leave for each person's conscience.
I believe the opposition didn't tell the people the whole truth about the real reasons behind the vociferous rallies and protests it held in several localities in Egypt. Was it really the draft constitution? Was it deep-seated ideological hostility to the Brotherhood, bequeathed from Nasser's era? Was it a certain desire to induce a coup against the president? Or was it a certain intent to generate chaos and turbulence in order to force the military to intervene and declare a state of emergency in the hope of nipping Brotherhood rule in the bud?
What exacerbated the incendiary situation further (some people even started speaking about civil war) was the lamentable fact that many of the protests held by the opposition were fraught with decidedly barbarian acts of sabotage and vandalism, including the torching of numerous offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party.
The torching of offices is an act of terrorism. Besides offices and furniture, it set fires in the hearts of millions of people who voted for the Islamist parties.
Finally, the opposition needs to make a real departure from its notoriously convulsive discourse to one based on reason and honesty.
In the final analysis, the opposition can't call itself "democratic" and at the same time refuse to allow the masses to have the final say. In fact, some segments of the opposition were so unreasonable that they vehemently refused the outcome of the latest referendum on the draft constitution.
Finally, the opposition cause suffered a sharp blow when some opposition protesters communicated to the public a truly childish and ignorant message when they chanted "Leave, leave, leave" outside the presidential palace at Ittihadiya in Cairo. Well, this behaviour, evidently music to the ears of the leaders of the opposition, encapsulates a stunning tendency to reject the rules of democracy.
I don't know how opposition parties will fare in the next parliamentary elections. However, I do believe that these parties will suffer miserably if they don't put their house, or houses, in order now. Perhaps a little humility, honesty and respect for their political opponents will help.
Source: Ahram-on-Line http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContentP/4/61305/Opinion/Some-advice-to-the-Egyptian-opposition.aspx
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