Short are the moments when you can review the details of your life. In these short moments, you see many details. It was during one such moment that I realised that I went through many changes that few people have been through. I grew up in a labour environment, in the iron and steel city south of Cairo; my father worked there. However, I was originally from rural Egypt, from the Sharqeya governorate. Before and after my marriage, I lived in different places in Cairo. I knew so much of what politicians do not know about their people, who exhibit the qualities of friendliness and compassion more than anyone in the world. Those people can be driven by emotion through one word, and if you dishonestly exploit this quality, they will revolt against you. These people can be gathered through a promise, which if you break, I cannot guarantee the consequences for your justifications.
In primary school, when I started to become more aware, some sheikhs knocked on our doors. This was in the ‘80s. I opened the door and they asked me to accompany them to the mosque next door to pray. I did not hesitate, as I was on my way to the mosque anyway. They thought well of me and were glad of my immediate acceptance. Later, I knew that they were part of the Tablighi Jamaat, and they worked hard to invite us to prayer and lessons in the mosque. I almost joined them, but I was less than 15 years old, and did not want any restrictions on my time or to remain in an enclosed place, even if it was a place of prayer. Although some of my friends joined, I did not.
In high school, getting close to God was one of the characteristics of our generation, regardless of religion, either to gain gratification from Allah alone, or to get into a top university. We were in the early ‘90s, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s presence in the streets was calmer. However, we only knew Salafi sheikhs through cassette tapes, as well as teenage stories and newspaper headlines, including Sheikh Mohamed Hassan and Wagdy Ghoneim.
So many times did we hear about people passing out when they heard their sermons about the torments of the grave and hell. We heard so much about repentants, but we never saw anything. I only heard and helped newspapers to publish these stories, either through attacking these sheikhs or through praising their attitude. However, Egyptians’ favourite sheikh at the time was Sheikh Sha’arawi, may he rest in peace, and the sheikhs of Al-Azhar.
In university, we got close to the Brotherhood youth, who were, directly or indirectly, the role models of many of my generation. Of course, many joined them, and we saw good manners, positive attitudes, cooperation, and attempts to attract people. We heard of the stories of the impossibility of joining them except under certain conditions that not many can meet.
I was one of their fans, and some of my friends, my close friends, were amongst them. I got closer, and then retreated, and I saw their cooperative attitude, as well as their cultural and religious backgrounds, and the latter affected everyone who dealt with them.
They were an important part of the community and gained the respect and appreciation of everyone. Their youth were cooperative and helped you get your rights. Through their student union at the university, they were strong and we depended on them in everything we needed. They were only despised by the leftists, to whom I belonged. However, I did not hate them and I believed they were honest and faithful to everything they believe in; many times I wished I was among them.
Nevertheless, I later saw their other side, after Mohamed Morsi was appointed president. But irrespective of I saw, many of them still rejected the way the older Brotherhood members were handling things and ruling the country, and they also rejected the way things were administered and all the conflicts.
And irrespective of what I saw, I still refuse to believe that any of the Brotherhood’s youth, whom I met in my university, village, or city, turned out to be terrorists, because I also truly believe that I would not have turned into a terrorist if I were to have joined them. If this were to happen, I would have been a terrorist in the making.
But because I refuse to even think like that, the state must amend its rhetoric directed at the Brotherhood’s youth (considering that those who are 40 years old are still young). According to Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), 61% of the Egyptian population is under 40 years old. This is a resource that cannot be wasted in dividing the youth.
I am not defending the bloodshed; I am just trying to salvage what can be salvaged and allow the youth to return to their homes so that the “wheel of production” can resume. I do not have a certain proposal for this, since this is the state’s mission as well as the ruling regime’s. The ruling regime needs to include everything, rather than just fight in Sinai, and it must engage everyone in its future plans.
Of course I have many stories that would reveal the Brotherhood leaders’ ugly side, and I may reveal those later, but I believe this is not the right time, and that every patriot must work for the unity of his home.
I simply wanted to give a well-established mental image that many from my generation hold of the Brotherhood youth, and to attract attention to the gravity of what we are about to endure, before the crisis aggravates and before there is a martyr in every house.
Emad El-Sayed is an Egyptian journalist and the Editor of Daily News Egypt.