Nationalism is the biggest threat to freedom and democracy in Egypt

The Egyptian revolution was a brief, three week period in the seven millennia of history that Egypt proudly claims. A three week period that brought forth a new hope that Egyptians can actually live in a free and democratic society. That being born in Egypt would no longer condemn you to a lifetime of service to the government. And for a while, that hope and that belief lived.

We are now seven and a half years removed from those three weeks, and Egypt is further away from being a free and democratic state today, than it was when the uprising began. Egypt took one step forward seven years ago, but it has since taken a hundred back. The final outcome after three weeks revolution, three years of riots, elections, deaths, and division, was that the commander of the armed forces took over the government. He staged an unconvincing election, where he won over 90% of the vote.

The Egyptian media demonizes all who speak out against him, all who suggest that his power should be reeled in, and even those who criticize Egypt’s uncomfortable deals with radical and extreme regimes such as Saudi Arabia. Egypt is a mess. There is no economic freedom, no press freedom. The education, healthcare and infrastructure is lagging behind other developing African nations. And yet, of all the things holding Egypt back, nothing compares to the monster that is Egyptian nationalism.

In a lot of ways, nationalism has served Egypt well. Nationalists tend not to care about religion, or political affiliation. Egyptian nationalist coalitions often include people from the right, such as Amr Moussa and people from the left, such as Hamdeen Sabahi. Muslims and Christians, men and women.

Besides that, Egypt has historically been able to avoid falling into the same conflicts that inflict her neighbors in Libya, Sudan, and the Middle East. There isn’t really a conflict of identity, as Egypt is an ancient nation, and most everyone living in Egypt identifying as an Egyptian, and usually a bit too proud of being one. This isn’t the case in Iraq, where your religious sect and ethnic group comes first. In Libya, your loyalty is to the tribe first, your region second, and Libya third. So my argument isn’t that nationalism is evil. It’s often been a great thing for Egypt. But it’s killing away any hopes of a democratic future.

Here’s the reasoning behind this. Egypt is run by the military. The Egyptian military does everything from construction, to cooking, to owning multiple football clubs. It is often said that Egypt is not a state with a military, but a military with a state. The military owns the country, and as such, history. Often times the people who know the least about Egypt’s modern history, are the Egyptians themselves. Ask any Egyptian to name all the presidents of their country, and they usually start with Gamal Abdel Nasser. As such, the military is synonymous with the nation. Any critic of the Egyptian military is a direct insult to Egypt. Thus, the people in power, the people responsible for the economic crisis, for the massacres of political opponents and the selling of Egyptian territory to foreign leaders, are the very people who cannot be criticized. Egyptian nationalism is centered around loyalty to the military.

During the coup attempt in Turkey last summer, the Egyptian media were celebrating the rise of the Turkish military to power. Upon finding out that the coup had failed, one Egyptian commentator, a man by the name of Ahmed Moussa, went on to say how Erdogan was a bad leader because he wouldn’t share power with the military. Now I’m no fan of Erdogan, but this line angered me. He won’t share power with the military. It’s such a simple line, but it explains a common mentality that Egyptian share. This is normal.

It’s normal for the military to run the nation. Education, construction, healthcare, infrastructure, football, the presidency. It’s normal for the military to own and run everything, but shoulder no blame for any setbacks or failures.

Any those who criticize the military, are enemies of Egypt.

Long live the republic.

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