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Average Egyptians Not Aghast At Army's Actions


If all you read is up-to-the-minute coverage of what’s been going on in Egypt over the past three days, you might be forgiven for assuming that what the Egyptian Army is doing somehow defies the wishes and desires of most Egyptians. With the caveat that the plural of anecdotes is not data, an article in the New York Times this afternoon provides a much more nuanced picture of how a substantial portion of Egyptian society may have understood the army’s actions yesterday:

In the working-class neighborhood of Imbaba on Thursday, a teacher, Mohamed Abdul Hafez, said the hundreds of Islamists who died the day before mattered little to him. “It’s about the security of the country,” Mr. Hafez said….

“It was necessary,” Akmal William, standing in his auto-detailing shop on Talaat Harb Street, said of the raid by soldiers and police officers. “They had to be strict.”

Witnesses described a disproportionate, ruthless attack. Condemnations came from human rights advocates, a few Egyptian political figures, and from abroad.  But many Egyptians viewed things differently, focusing on what they said were continuing threats from Mr. Morsi’s supporters, who were frequently referred to as terrorists. In their view, the army was the only force standing in the Islamists’ way….

In Imbaba, a neighborhood that seems to catch all the nation’s political currents in its congested alleyways, many people regretted the bloodshed. But they asserted that the alternative was worse. The Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Morsi’s political party, was holding back the country with endless sit-ins and protests, many said. And the longer the army waited to act, the weaker Egypt seemed to them.

That last point is critical, and is often overlooked by Westerners trying to understand the Middle East. It’s a point ably elaborated by Adam Garfinkle in his guest post here at VM yesterday:

The Middle East lacks the warm, fuzzy affection for the underdog that many Americans take to be second nature. The dominant view of what is still a patriarchal, hierarchical and still clingingly pre-modern set of Muslim Middle Eastern societies is that the weak deserve whatever depredations they suffer. It’s a kind of ur-Social Darwinism that has been at work for many centuries before Darwin himself ever saw light of day.

As I also said before, I think Egypt’s military leaders are right about this. And I suspect they recognized that the longer they waited to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood encampments the better prepared the MB would be to resist. And they have resisted, and are still doing so.

As the corpse count mounted further as a result of the Brotherhood’s “Day of Rage” today, Adam’s piece remains one of the more lucid pieces of analysis during this crisis. If you haven’t yet, go read the whole thing.

[Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Morsi gather in Cairo’s Abbassiya neighbourhood on August 16, 2013. Photo courtesy Getty Images.]

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  • Pete

    That the ‘average Egyptian’ is not troubled by the army’s murderous assault on MB demonstrators shows why the country is generations away from being a civilized society.

    • wigwag

      The Muslim Brothers are reaping exactly what they have sown. The credo of the Brotherhood extols Jihad and martyrdom and brags that dying for Allah is the highest aspiration of the Muslim Brothers. Why exactly should secular Egyptians or ordinary Americans lose any sleep over the Egyptian army assisting the Brothers in achieving their highest aspiration?

      • Pete

        Probably the only Americans losing sleep over Muslim-Muslim killings are the buffoons in that infest our foreign affairs establishment and the talking [empty] heads in the MSM.

        And have you noticed, even the Pope is pretty quite on the uproar in the Middle East. I think he made one banal statement a while back of the “let’s all get along” variety, but that was it.

        But be all that as it may, my comment stands, Wigwag.

        Namely, the attitudes & beliefs of the average Egyptian show that Egypt is far away from becoming a civilized country, let alone a tolerant democracy. .

    • USNK2

      The average Egyptian wanted the Tahrir Tweeters to go home so everyone could maybe get back to work.
      Today, the average Egyptian wants the armed camps of firebombingBrothers to go away so maybe those who still have a job can go back to work.
      Considering the living conditions of most Egyptians, I think they are far more civilized than the spoiled millenials and/or clueless media of the ‘West’.

      • Fred

        _I think they are far more civilized than the spoiled millenials [sic] and/or clueless media of the ‘West’_

        Suuuure. So if those “civilized” Egyptians are so superior to all those “spoiled millenials [sic] and/or clueless media” why don’t you just move to Egypt? Yeah, I thought so.

        • USNK2

          Fred can not imagine what Egypt would be like if the forty million Egyptians at the poverty line were to start rioting in every street in Egypt, or if the ten million Coptic Christians under assault by the MB, if the Copts were to fight back by burning mosques.

          As for me? I am Bank of America’s mortgage slave, otherwise, I would move to another country, with the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights my #1 choice.

    • Corlyss

      As compared with Western Europe and the Anglosphere, I’m inclined to agree with you. However, if there was a society in the Arab world whose gravitas, historical leadership of the Arab world, and whose urban population was much well on the road to pluralism and modernity, it is Egypt’s. That’s why this it is so upsetting to see American policy makers who ought to know better pretending that Morsi’s election was some kind of evolutionary triumph and must be defended with every ounce of waning American influence as if it were the Hindenberg government in pre-Nazi Germany.

      I don’t much mind the military Muslims killing Brotherhood Muslims. I think in the end, the military will win to the point that it’s not worth the candle for the MB to continue fighting. They’ll go back underground. I hope the military kills off the MB leadership while they still have the upper hand. Modern doctrine on warfare is patently ludicrous in the real world. What Egypt needs is stability. That’s what’s in the best interest of Egyptians and America, not democracy per se.

  • wigwag

    There’s much to be gleaned from what’s happening in Egypt not just about the state of the Middle East, but also about the horrifically horrendous state of political discourse in the United States.

    On the progressive side of the aisle we have the spectacle of hypocrites who became apoplectic a few years ago when right wing Christian leaders like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell started a public debate about abortion rights, funding for Christian schools or opposition to gay marraige. Today these same progressives are the biggest advocates for restoring the Muslim Brotherhood to power despite the fact that the Brotherhood supports punishing apostasy by capital punishment, torturing gays, sexually mutilating teen aged girls and intimating women into wearing head scarves. It’s funny how progressives think that Robertson is beyond the pale while Morsi and the Brothers are a cause that they can get behind.

    On the so-called conservative side of the aisle we have the likes of dim bulbs like Senators McCain and Graham expressing outrage that the army deposed Morsi. The fact that Morsi called Jews the descendants of apes and pigs doesn’t seem to concern these idiotic Senators at all. Neither does the fact that the Brothers routinely attack Christian Copts and their houses of worship. The fact that the Brothers fervently support executing Egyptians who chose to convert from Islam to Christianity doesn’t seem to bother these “conservative” leaders either.

    The Egyptian imbroglio may demonstrate how premodern Egypt is. It also proves how pathetic American discourse about foreign policy has become and how clueless the American foreign policy glitterati is.

    • FrankArden


      You write with so much clarity and authority about this business. I don’t care to offer some oblique point just to be unique on these blogs.

      I almost always agree with you entirely and there’s no reason for me to post some foolishness at the feet of someone who knows more than I do.

      I’m not stupid or uneducated, and I would never be a sycophant.

      After reading three years of our conversations you usually nail the issue on the head. Since I usually agree with you, I have little else to offer.

      But I really appreciate reading what you think. I appreciate your clarity.

      • wigwag

        Thank you for the kind words. They are appreciated, Frank.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I am pleased to see that the average Eygptian recognizes that the Muslim Brotherhood fanatics are trying to drag the entire country backwards into the past, and that you can’t make an omlet without breaking some Muslim Brotherhood heads. LOL

  • Anthony

    Related context to Quick Take in The Arabist: “It only gets worse from here.” Also, Egypt’s economy has sputtered even before a government crackdown; now, it’s immobilized and impacting heavily on average Egyptian (see Bloomberg Businessweek).

    • Corlyss

      Foreign investment is 1/10 what it was in 2007, and, with McCain & Graham running around denouncing Obama’s refusal to call a coup a coup, the American aid is in jeopardy as well.

  • Fred

    I continue to be shocked that anyone is shocked that savages are savage.

  • Corlyss

    I’m completely mystified by Obama’s, McCain’s, and Graham’s public denunciations of the military in Egypt and their silly remarks on the necessity of compromising with the MB. How can they do that when they know what the MB is and what its goals are? With Obama, you expect him to make the wrong choice because he’s even dumber about foreign policy and what’s important about it than he is about domestic policy and the American persona. But McCain and Graham are not neophytes. What’s their excuse?

    • Pete

      “But McCain and Graham are not neophytes. What’s their excuse?”

      McCain is senile, and Graham has his nose so far up McCain’s butt he can’t see straight.

      • Corlyss

        I knew there was a simple explanation that eluded me . . .

  • FrankArden


    But, what confounds me is there’s no discussion about how the US (Bush and
    Obama, Kerry and John McCain and Lindsay Graham) have used the term
    “democracy” with so much promiscuity without really knowing what
    democracy is and what it is not.

    Nobody seems to have a respect for democracy. The concept is thrown about as if
    it’s a panacea for all the political problems in the Middle East, or Russia,
    for that matter.

    Jimmy Madison has
    probably rolled over in his grave several times starting with the neocons in
    the second Bush Administration.

    Democracy is relatively easy to do unless you know (as Alexis de Tocqueville
    and others knew) that mob rule under the banner of democracy was no different
    from a tyrant whether he be George III or Mr. Morsi.

    I don’t think democracy is so much about owning democracy, as a simplistic
    ideal as controlling it must be.

    As our own US Constitution does quite well is to protect the minority from the
    majority. That’s the purpose of the first ten Amendments and others that

    That appears to be one of the flaws of the new Egyptian Constitution as it was
    sp also in the Weimar Republic.

    Democracy can be a flame of hope or it can be a gallon of petrol thrown on a
    raging fire.

    Democracy is something adapted to after years of strife, it is something to be
    guarded, it is something precious and somehow undeserved, it is something to be
    controlled and restrained.

    Democracy has never been proven successful except in Judeo-Christian nations
    who’s history struggled out of the medieval times into the Renaissance and
    ultimatively called it The Enlightenment.

    Science, Logic and Rationality were the disciplines of the Renaissance. Even
    the Church had to admit that God was rational and, as man was made in his
    image, was rational, too.

    As I understand it, both Sunni and Shia reject the rationality of God.

    How can people reject the rationality of God, a rationality that bonds all
    faithful people, one that holds the immeasurable sanctity of human life
    precious, one that holds all life equal under the laws of God and the laws of

    As followers of
    Mohammed, they believe that God transcends goodness at his whim. They will
    never be good and will never know what it truly means to be rational and to see
    all men with respect.

    And, they will
    never understand democracy, either.

    I think we ought to stop throwing the concept around. They’ll never be ready to
    use democracy until they’re socially and politically mature enough to limit its
    broad and dangerous excesses.

    I’m getting sick and tired of hearing the word bandied about to people who have
    no idea what it means by people who don’t know what it means, either.

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