No Grace or Gratitude from Egypt’s Muslim Brothers

The Muslim Brothers and the left are in open war in Egypt. Since taking power, the Brothers have shown little interest in the plight of the poor, and have forgotten their debts to erstwhile allies, writes a prominent leftist activist in an open letter to the chairman of the Islamist group’s political party.

During Egypt’s long decades of authoritarianism, the far left and the Islamist right were frequent, if grudging allies against the regime. Writer Aida Seif El-Dawla is a psychiatrist and founder of the Nadeem anti-torture center; she spent much of her professional life defending tortured Muslim Brothers under Mubarak.

In this angry public letter to a prominent Brother, Seif El-Dawla responds to Essam el Erian’s casual suggestion that leftists were foreign influenced and out of touch with ordinary Egyptians.

Listening to you thoughtlessly vilifying the Left, asserting first that it is funded by sources abroad, then carrying on about its fragmentation and alienation from the Egyptian culture, my anger quickly changed into disdain. You flirt with certain icons of the Left, such as Kamal Khalil and Wael Khalil [prominent left activists], at the expense of others, pretending to be a well-meaning adviser and apologist, in the naive belief that your favoritism can bribe a few. This just proves that you don’t understand the real Left at all. Now that you have gained power and are facing the demands to deliver on your promises–of giving this country social freedom, justice, decent livelihoods, and human dignity–you have nothing but your fear of the Left.

Shame on you! Only recently, when you and other poverty stricken Egyptians were facing torture and detention in prison cells under Mubarak’s regime, you and yours were unequivocally seeking the support of that same Left. You weren’t the only ones to suffer in those prisons, as you would now have us believe. Most of the prisoners and torture victims were not from amongst you. They were the apolitical, marginalized poor, who died under torture for reasons as trifle as refusing to be humiliated by an officer. You wouldn’t have heard of those, though. And even if you had heard, you wouldn’t have cared – they were not members of the Brotherhood.

I won’t bother you with reminiscences of the Leftist lawyers who defended all detainees, regardless of their political affiliations, siding with no one but human rights and freedom. Shouldn’t you be bothered by the testimony of hundreds of medical practitioners who witnessed how you controlled the Medical Union’s general meetings, until many of them compared you to Fathi Sorour, the deposed Speaker of the parliament [and symbol or Mubarak-era autocracy]? Aren’t you embarrassed that the members of the same Left were the ones who joined protests and demonstrations against your imprisonment, calling for your freedom? How can you talk about the fragmentation of the Left when you had four candidates for the presidency, each one of them asserting he alone represented the correct, tolerant Islam, the true sharia?

Moreover, which culture is it that you accuse the Left of being alienated from? You are clueless as to how people live away from your Party’s mosques, forums, and mobilization classes. Do you know how women cheat poverty, repression, the ever-present threats of divorce and loss of their children? Do you know anything about fears harbored by young men and women, and what they resort to so as to maintain a minimum of sanity and emotional balance, while you offer them nothing but lectures on the haram and the abhorrent? Have you spent a day among street urchins whose poverty and homelessness will be exacerbated by your social and economic policies? Have you ever had to cross a brick bridge through a pool of sewage in your own home, hoping not to stumble on your way to your bed?

Which sharia is it that you are talking about, claiming it is the choice of the Egyptian? Egyptian Muslims do not need your explanations of what Islam stands for. They lived and practiced far from the alien fatwas issued by Saudi Arabia on the back of petrodollars. Who do you and your party think you are to appoint yourself the only legal interpreters of Islam, while your party members live like kings, donate to the poor from what is rightly theirs, preach what you don’t practice, adapt religious obligations according to your whims, and renege on what you say?

Don’t even get me started on funding. Have you never read the position of revolutionary left wing parties on it, or is it that your readings are as eclectic as your judgment? Since I manage the Nadeem Center, a legal center that is funded by foreign sources, would you be prepared and transparent enough to compare the sources of our funding with those of yours, and the aspects of our expenditure with yours, or do you identify so strongly with the hangman that you use his tools as soon as you get hold of them?

Maybe the whole issue is unrelated to culture, sharia, or morals. Instead, maybe it has to do with the necessity to liquidate the Left and distort its public image, since it is the only entity focused on the signs of social revolution in this country, and the public protests among workers, farmers, students and professionals; protests which you, like the regime before you, dismiss as “class demands”?

Are the accusations a first step in attacking the Left, under the delusion that its demise will stop the protests, strikes, sit-ins and demonstrations demanding rights for the impoverished workers who paid with their blood for the freedom, while you and yours scurried to negotiate? Have you been blinded by power and unable to see the poverty, the slums, the neediness and disease? Is getting rid of humans easier than getting rid of your greed for wealth?

We faced Mubarak together. We fought together in that first round of the revolution which deposed him and brought you to power. But our dream – and your nightmare – is coming fast for sure: the social revolution of the people, led by workers, peasants, and students, men and women, who will acquire by force their rights from those who only give them crumbs. You, your party, president and parliament will have to choose – either join them, or join those they will get rid of to achieve social justice, freedom and human dignity, to redistribute wealth and punish those who murdered their sons, and those who covered up the murders.

The choice is yours, Dr. Essam. You have no excuses, as you have been forewarned.

Aida Seif el Dawla