Historically, popular revolutions are distinguished by moral purity and an adherence to lofty human principles—dignity, freedom, justice, and truth. Weren’t these principles the slogans raised by the Egyptian revolution of January 25, 2011? Popular revolutions burst out against the corruption of governments and the falsehood of absolute powers in all their forms, for absolute power only arises and continues in power, in both the nation and the family, on the basis of despotism, deceit, and arbitrary rule over millions of human beings through military, economic, political, cultural, intellectual, and religious force. Newspapers and the media (both visual and aural) have become some of the most important weapons for aborting revolutions in the modern and postmodern eras. International, Arab, and Egyptian government media set out to protect corrupt governments; international imperial forces cooperate with the local governments that are dependent on them to ambush any popular uprising, in order to divert it from its profound revolutionary goals on behalf of comprehensive radical change, so that it becomes a superficial reform movement that carries out cosmetic, pro forma operations on the previous corrupt regime without weeding out the corrupt foundation itself.
We have only to follow what is being published today in the Egyptian government newspapers (what they call “the major national newspapers”) to discover how the scattered remnants of the previous fallen regime are discrediting the force of the Egyptian revolution with aborting the revolution’s goals in the name of the revolution itself. We read on the first page a long article that stresses the need to bring the previous president to trial, freeze his assets as well as those of his family and aides in banks, and return them to the Egyptian people. Then we turn the page to read a full-page article contradicting the previous one. It stresses that the great man Mubarak is delivering an address in Mustafa Mahmoud Square. We see photos of citizens carrying posters supporting Mubarak as a conquering hero and nominating him in the coming elections as a steady hand. On another page, we see American Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on his visit to Cairo with the Supreme Military Council and its advisory president. Then we read an article by the editor in chief, who was one of Mubarak’s mouthpieces, and one of the philosophers of corruption and its justification. He writes an enormous article, not a word of which we can understand. He affects a professorial air and gives lessons to young people, praising their great revolution with an essayistic rhetorical tone of searching for the truth. Then he asks, “Does the revolution mean chaos, lack of security and stability, halting the cycle of production, and killing off tourism?” He then causes young people to doubt their revolution, saying, “It’s easy for young people to mobilize demonstrations with millions of people, but it’s hard for them to undertake a positive task that will help the nation get out of the present crises.” A few moments before, he had called it “the great revolution,” which was quickly transformed, in his view, into “the present crises.” He reveals his fear of the absence of security, although the absence of security was not caused by the young revolutionaries, but by the police of the former regime. He warns of sectarian strife, and churches burning. He knows that the young revolutionaries didn’t burn a single church, and didn’t harass one young woman: churches were burned and women harassed by the police of the former regime and their helpers in America and Israel. He warns of the collapse of the economic situation, he asks young people to return to their homes. He advises them to work on churning up production, to stimulate tourism instead of organizing million-strong demonstrations. The great writer forgot or pretended to forget that if it weren’t for these million-strong demonstrations, the head of the regime would not have fallen, no one would have listened to the young peoples’ demands, and a number of the regime’s ministers wouldn’t have been removed from office and their stolen billions revealed. In his long article, the esteemed Editor in Chief continues to strike at the revolution with disingenuous, honeyed words—while slipping poison into the honey. All the men and women in the dominant media and newspapers imitate him in that.
We were expecting the fall of newspaper and media heads who supported corruption and justified it, or at least hid themselves from it, and didn’t reveal it, but they are all still in their positions, serving the previous regime. They work with it equally in secret and in public. Their voices are loud and audible, as they used to be; they are continually making profits, as they used to; they have begun instructing young people (who created the great revolution) with lessons and words of advice. They aren’t embarrassed; they don’t remember that they weakened the revolution, and in fact betrayed it. And despite that, they pontificate about nationalism and revolutionary spirit more than the young revolutionaries do. Who is protecting them? Who is keeping them at their jobs? Is it the Supreme Military Council? The ostensible new government, or the hidden government, concealed in the shadows?
We have learned from history that every revolution has enemies. They lie in wait for it, in order to strangle it at birth, to recover what they lost or what they could lose if the revolution should succeed and realize all its goals—including their removal from their positions. Thus, they carry on their hypocrisy, which by force of habit has become a part of their personalities, and their ideal way to profit from everyone who possesses power. But I have confidence in the ability of the young men and women who created the revolution and deposed the head of the regime, that they will depose the regime’s body, arms, fingers, and lower parts. No internal or external force will stand in the face of the revolution; even if the U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates came to Tahrir Square; even if he planned to strike at the revolution below the belt; even if a church was burned in Egypt to foment strife between the Muslims and Copts that united and fraternized in the shadow of the revolution; and even if a man of religion was sent by plane, trained in the philosophy of an imperialism “that closes up rifts”; he came by plane suddenly after the revolution’s success, addressing a sermon to millions—what are the external forces that sent him? He came to climb to the top of the revolution. He is trying to lead it, without there being any role in it for him. He is trying to strangle it in the cradle, so that it can be religious, despite the fact that it is political, economic, and social, and raises slogans of justice, freedom, and dignity. It calls for changes in the constitution to make it secular and free of the religious and patriarchal articles that create divisions between Muslims and Copts, and between men and women.
An American journalist asked me: “Is it possible that the Muslim Brotherhood will abort the revolution and turn it into a religious one, as happened in Iran after the 1979 revolution?” I replied that the Egyptian revolution will not be turned into a religious revolution, because the young men and women who created the Egyptian revolution are completely conscious of the need for Egypt to become a secular state that separates religion and state, where everyone is equal before the constitution and the law. Even the rising generation of the Muslim Brotherhood believe in the secular and not the religious state. Egyptian youth have learned from the experience of Iran how that country’s political, economic and social revolution was stillborn, so that it became a revolution that was religious, bloody, and destructive for Iran. They realized imperialism sent Khomeini to Tehran to strangle the revolution. These imperial forces realized the gravity of the secular revolution that was attempting to do away with the patriarchal, class-based regime, as well as foreign imperialism and its servants within Iran. Imperialism prefers religious revolution to secular socialist revolution; in fact, religious revolutions serve patriarchal class interests at home and abroad, and foreign and local imperialisms use religions to justify injustice and oppression in name of God. It dupes millions, peddling God in the arena of politics, plunder and killing. Religious states play a role in using texts in God’s revealed books to occupy lands, plunder them, and exterminate their people. Thus, religious revolutions become less dangerous to imperialism (and the local governments that are subordinate to them) than secular political and economic revolutions.
But the Egyptian revolution won’t be fooled, and won’t be transformed into an Islamic revolution, as hostile forces are planning for it, abroad and domestically, just as the Egyptian revolution won’t submit to military rule via the army’s Supreme Council, which holds power for the time being in Egypt. No, external imperial force will not be able to stifle the Egyptian revolution for its benefit. The revolution has restored the unity of the Egyptian people and dissolved all religious, political, sexual, and patriarchal class differences in Tahrir Square. That’s why the revolution will not be stifled, but will continue, and will realize all its goals for radical—not only cosmetic—change. The battle continues and the revolution continues, and revolutionary purity will defeat the deceptions of conspirators within and abroad.
Copyright 2011 by Nawal El Saadawi. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 by Chip Rossetti. All rights reserved.