This dangerous impasse can only be solved through a historic compromise in which all forces, be they liberal, pan-Arab, leftist, and Islamist, take part; a compromise that ensures equality between all Egyptians whatever their color, gender, religion, or ethnicity; a compromise that separates between religion and state.
While it is certainly true that achieving such a compromise seems difficult and almost out of reach, there is no other way out. The faster it is adopted the better, since procrastination could only result in the Egyptian people having to pay a higher price. Delay could only lead to the removal of Egypt – and by extension, the entire Arab world – from the march of history for an indefinite period. Recent events in Egypt, Palestine, Tunisia, Libya, Iraq, and the rest of the region showed that it is impossible for one political current however strong to lead the state to the exclusion of all other political forces.
The historical compromise I am calling for was reached in one way or another in Europe, America, and almost all stable states. It was thanks to such a compromise, reached after centuries of civil war, upheaval, and bloody struggle, that democracy was finally established. In order to establish genuine democracy, it is essential to build on unifying factors and agree on certain terms for political action. Otherwise, the country will enter into a spiral of uncertainty, chaos, and self-destruction for an indefinite period of time.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which longed for power for more than 84 years, and which suffered from persecution while in opposition, could not believe itself when it won parliamentary and presidential elections in Egypt last year. With its deficient perception of democracy, the Muslim Brotherhood believed that those victories gave it a mandate to rule as it pleased. The Muslim Brotherhood overlooked the fact that democracy also means protecting the right of minorities to oppose its rule and work towards replacing it in power through the ballot box.
The Muslim Brotherhood must rethink its experience and understand that the nation and its people take precedence over its own interests. Before all else, democracy entails that the majority and minority agree on the same terms of reference which define the bases, objectives, and shapes of political action; terms of reference that personify those factors that all the people – or at least a significant majority - agree on; reference terms that could be called upon to judge between parties and currents if and when disputes and disagreements arise.
The Muslim Brotherhood believed that it was entitled to rule Egypt on its own, just as other reactionary, military, or pan-Arab leaders ruled – and is still ruling – other Arab countries for decades. The Islamists ignored the fact that this type of rule failed to achieve any of the Arabs' goals. They also ignored the fact that times have changed, and that the type of rule they were emulating was born under different circumstances, when there was an Arab project for renaissance that, despite its failures and defeats, did succeed in making historic achievements that cannot be denied. In fact, one of the main reasons that the old Arab order failed was because it did not adopt democracy.
One party (or one man) rule to the exclusion of all others eventually led to corruption, tyranny, and subservience (to the West). Repeating such experiences was out of the question. In the age of satellite TV, the internet, and social media, any group or individual can act freely and effectively. It is no longer possible to exclude anyone, since they have the means to upset the cart if they are not allowed to participate. Under president Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood excluded and marginalized all other political currents – including those primarily responsible for instigating the January 25 revolution. The Brotherhood adopted a constitution tailored to its own measurements, which, along with the other mistakes it committed during its year in power, was enough to send tens of millions of Egyptians onto the streets calling for Mursi's ouster and new presidential elections.
The June 30th revolution– which many see as the second phase of the Egyptian revolution – was largely justifiable. Mursi's refusal to hold early presidential elections could have led to civil war had the army not intervened. But the army's intervention was a double-edged sword: it can help the revolution realize its objectives; but it can also lead to the establishment of a new Mubarak-style regime with the false trappings of democracy. It all depends on how quickly the transitional period ends in a democratic system in which all forces are allowed to participate with the exclusion of no one. The Islamists must not be excluded in revenge for their exclusion of other parties.
Calls and invitations to take part in dialogue, reconciliation, and participation in the next government and elections are not enough. A climate conducive to the success of such endeavors must be created. It is counterproductive to the success of dialogue to close down all pro-Islamist media outlets, continue to detain the ousted Mursi, detain Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and bring charges against them for spying and inciting violence. This does not mean that those responsible for violence and murder should not be prosecuted. But justice must be seen to be blind; all those responsible for committing crimes – before and after the revolution - must be dealt with equally under the law. Crimes committed by individuals must be dealt with as such, without trying an entire current for crimes committed by one or more of its members.
Should the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist currents choose not to participate in a political process held under appropriate conditions, then they would only have themselves to blame. There is a big difference between excluding the Islamists and them excluding themselves. Excluding the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists could conceivably be worse than having them in power. Exclusion allows them to portray themselves as victims, especially as the justifiable grounds used to oust Mursi would remain questionable until a new pluralist democratic order is established.
It would be a great error to believe that the currents of political Islam have been excised from the Egyptian political scene. While the events of June 30th constituted a severe body blow to the Islamists and could affect their future, it cannot be denied that more than 20 million Egyptians have been demonstrating for more than two weeks in support of Mursi's legitimacy. This illustrates why it would be wrong to exclude an entire current from the political process. The most important lesson Egyptians should learn from their revolution is that the Egyptian people is determined to carry on until their objectives are realized, and that they would be prepared to rise again against another President if those objectives are not achieved.
Despite the undoubted historic import of the Egyptian revolution, the fact remains that it is a revolution that lacked leadership, organization, coherent vision, and a clear political program. It failed to give the important issues of national independence and subservience to outside parties the attention they deserve – which was why the Muslim Brotherhood, in a deal they struck with the military and the Americans – managed to steal the revolution. The revolution could be stolen yet again by the army in cooperation with some liberals, Mubarak remnants, and, of course, the Americans. But the Egyptian people will be ready to deal with any counterrevolution.
Yet the fact remains that the Egyptian people did not revolt for freedom of speech alone. They revolted against poverty, corruption, and humiliation. The Egyptians deserve a better life, and their nation deserves to occupy its rightful position among nations.