Allow me to relay a different point of view.
Secularists in Egypt are not very smart.
Well, not all of them, but their leaders are, living in their bubble of indoor meetings discussing constitutional rights, freedom of speech and “general” calls for better lives while the majority of Egyptians barely make it to the poverty line.
The opposition is hardly present on the street outside of Cairo and Alexandria. Being originally from Upper Egypt, I like to check with my people there, “so what do you think of the National Salvation Front [NSF]?” I ask. “Who?” comes the usual simple and telling response. The situation in the delta is not much different. Poverty is the issue; few care about the constitution, the elections and women’s rights. Most are concerned with where their next meal is coming from.
To understand the difference with how the religious right operates in Egypt and the secularists, I’ll give you an example; the Brotherhood in Alexandria found out that people were suffering from a vermin infestation and thus decided to start a campaign where their youth would go to neigbourhoods to spread vermin poison. Smart and effective! Meanwhile the opposition decided to post Christmas congratulatory messages on banners in different governorates. Noble, but ineffective!
The last year has been hard on Egyptians and the last five months of Morsy and the Brotherhood’s rule have been even harder, with worsening economic conditions, crazy sheikhs on TV calling everyone who opposes them infidels and a flow of hesitant governmental decisions. Many are angry and a lot have lost faith in Islamists, thus when the opposition called for protests following Morsy’s autocratic decree on 22 November 2012, hundreds of thousands flocked to the presidential palace, numbers that staggered everyone, including the Islamists. Every sector of Egypt was represented that night; Christians, Muslims, veiled, Niqabis et cetera. Islamists were so threatened that they violently broke up the peaceful protest the next day, leading to the death of eight men.
Instead of continuing down the path of true opposition, the secularists started to flounder. First they announced they would not participate in the referendum on an unlawful constitution, then they called on the people to vote against it. The referendum’s turnout was very low: 32% of eligible voters. It would have been smarter if the secularists stuck to their principle of opposing the constitution and boycotted the farce of a referendum. I am betting my friends that you did not vote because you were not convinced.
An occupation of Tahrir Square protested the constitution which no one followed up with and now the square is filled with thugs, closed to traffic while no demands have been posted.
Then the opposition announced their boycott of Morsy’s dialogue, only to find El-Sayed El-Badwy meeting the president while Amr Moussa proposed mediation between opposition and Islamists on his own without coordination with the NSF. Of course, the alliance of Mubarak-era men with NSF is a fatal mistake. Regardless of ballads on the importance of unity, this is the not the union you should strive for.
Opposition parties are now preparing for the parliamentary elections instead of gearing up for the fast-approaching protests of 25 January that they themselves have called for. The only two groups working on the calls for protest witnessed so far are the April 6 and Kefaya movements. There is no trace of Al-Dostour or the Popular Coalition on the street, so how exactly are you mobilising people? The Islamists will be back to their known method of giving people food for votes and before you can blink they will win the elections in our poor country. Also, not that many people will even bother to vote in the coming elections, for despair, greater than that during Mubarak times, has fallen over the more impoverished Egyptians.
You have taken upon yourself to lead the opposition and what’s happening now is a mess. I may not know you personally, but it is easy to see that your decisions before the political vultures swarmed around you were clearer. I will not lay blame on them for you are their leader, thus your visionary compass should point north regardless.
Get rid of the Mubarak men for they will sell their own mothers to benefit from any regime and listen to the youth for they have not yet been tarnished by political agendas.
Not a single opposition leader has offered the Egyptian people an alternative to Islamists. People want a plan to get them out of this dire situation; call economists, or even Dr Mohamed El-Erian , and ask them to lay out a plan to save the Egyptian economy and publicise it on all channels. People will listen.
The opposition is not yet strong enough, take your cue from the street for you cannot fully mobilise people yet, regardless of who tell you how amazing you party is. The street is angry and ripe for a new wave of demonstrations. Egypt has a majority of youth, under 35 years. We all have lost people in this revolution either to death or injury and we are very angry. Use us.
Set demands before anything else. If you call for a protest, set demands. If you call for an occupation, set demands. Protesting, as a revolutionary tool, is becoming useless in Egypt with the help of the opposition.
I know the opposition does not have the funding of the Islamists, but you can cooperate with young movements spreading awareness such as Kazeboon and April 6 among others. And work your way through Upper Egypt and the delta, the poorest regions in Egypt.
The Islamists abuse religion to serve their political agendas. To fight this, the moderate Al-Azhar is your ally. People respect its sheikhs, but they are not given a chance to voice a balanced view of Islam. Coordinate workshops with them and send them to the poorest areas. Have the youth of your party write a list of all mosques who have ultra-crazy sheikhs and give it to Al-Azhar so they can no longer give sermons thus hitting the extreme right in the heart of their arena.
We are approaching a “Bread” revolution that can turn ugly very quickly. The constitution, elections and laws will not matter then. And only those who can offer the Egyptians a “valid” alternative will be left standing.
We have two main events the in two weeks: the 25 January anniversary followed by the verdict of the Port Said massacre on the 26th.
Hoping to see the opposition on the street for we still have faith in you.
Sara Abou Bakr