By Mahmoud Abu Bakr
Since the incidents of July 2013 and the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, which led to the expulsion of the Muslim Brotherhood regime from power in Egypt, different media did not stop making comparisons between what occurred in Egypt and what happened in Algeria in the early ‘90s, when the elections in which the Islamic Salvation Front achieved good results were cancelled because of what was described as an “obvious blemish” in the elections law.
The comparison, which came with objective, valid and other metaphorical reasons, due to the differences and difficulty of witnessing the same human experiences, proposes a challenge in front of scholars and observers of both affairs of the two Arab countries. Considering that I am one of those who worked in journalism in both countries, Egypt and Algeria, for more than a decade, I find myself concerned with disassembling this political approach, with all what it assumed of slowdown and calmness in media and political solutions.
In principle, there are dissimilar circumstances and contexts between the two examples, whether on the level of era or political experiences of the two regimes and the two organisations. On the level of the era, there is an obvious dissimilarity between the two incidents.
The first occurred in the beginning of the last decade of last century, and the second occurred in the second decade of the 21st century, which has an important impact in context and results, especially as the last update comes after the information revolution that imposed new systems in dealing with affairs of policy, media, economy, and so on.
Consequently, new solutions were created, where the state or the political regime was not the one managing the means of knowledge and information production any more, rather, the normal citizen became able to affect the current incident around him by using the new means of communication. Political organisations, as well, now own their active and effective media arms, away from control of organs of state. This makes a difference in a specific level of media and consequently political solutions for all the dispute parties in a semi-convergent way.
There are also objective differences, on the political side, between the Muslim Brotherhood, which was established eight decades ago, and the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria, in that the former is international and has strict regulations. On the other hand, the front only engaged in the political sphere for three years and had no clear ideology. The Islamic Salvation Front was the centre for all political Islamist groups, from the left-wing of the Muslim Brotherhood to the right-wing of Salafists.
Except for the Front’s resistance against the National Liberation Front, which ruled the country ever since its independence, the Islamic Salvation Front did not have any clear political programme, as well as a calendar answering the common political questions. This has led to a conflict in the Front’s tendencies once the elections were cancelled, when a part demanded that they get back their rights and the other turned to violence, declaring the formation of the Islamic Salvation Front. This formation was followed by rivers of blood that drained Algeria for a whole decade, and the consequences were 200,000 deaths.
On the Egyptian side, the Muslim Brotherhood seems to be stricter and more organised, with its authority and follow-up with its power for eight decades. The group has more ideologies and doctrines, with a number of the Muslim Brotherhood groups in more than 70 countries. The Brotherhood was well aware of its short-term rule in Egypt, which gave it many advantages on the political side. Like the Algerian experience, the situation on the Egyptian side indicates the tendency of the Islamist parties for violence as a means to get back the ousted President Mohamed Morsi to rule. The only difference is the method of the two sides, the Egyptian and Algerian.
Aside from the deviation from chauvinism and the difference in the collective behaviour of the two sides, the positive solution on the Egyptian side is the necessity of taking advantage of the Algerian experience, whether politically or from the security side. This way, the Egyptian decision maker will not have to take the same decision Algerians took a decade ago, which cost it 200,000 victims, economic and financial losses as well as the absence of national security, resulting in rough consequences on the societal side. This solution is all about starting from where others ended, and it is inspired by the experience on the political and security sides. The first step of the solution is to try to get the moderate groups on the neutral side of the battle.
Secondly, embarking on creating the suitable atmosphere for expanded community dialogue, where all political forces, civil society, Al-Azhar and the Church can participate. This would investigate the possibilities of removing the idea of “Politics and Religion”, working with the previous figures on what really matters. It would also mean paying attention to the political transition phase, and separating religion from the political game.
Thirdly, establishing legal and flexible draft laws which can be approved through public referendum or parliamentary legislations and aim for assuring the concept of “National Unity”. It would usher the return of people whose hands have not been stained with blood, and prevent them from being converted to extremism, with Algeria as a wise example, under the name of “Civil Harmony”.
Lastly, improving the capabilities of the security and military services in a way that they can confront actual “terrorist operations” or those possible to occur. There would also be attention paid to the spiritual role of awareness, which should be played by all institutions, including Al-Azhar, schools and media, in order to face the intellectual incubator of the extremist group.
Mahmoud Abu Bakr is an Ertirean journalist, and former editor of international affairs section at Algerie News desk in Cairo