LRB Diary

Conversations in Cairo are punctuated by dates: 11 February (Mubarak’s fall), 24 June (Morsi’s election), 30 June (Sisi’s coup), which takes a bit of getting used to. On the street murals depicting the martyrs are defaced with black ink; barbed wire, state-constructed barricades and gates used to seal off roads remain in place. My publisher, Karem Youssef, talks me through the geography of the uprising, describing how she herself was radicalised as week followed week. It’s too soon to treat the events nostalgically since, according to some, they are not yet over. I’m not sure about that, but what is indisputable is that hope is dead.

During and after the uprising Mubarak’s name stood for amorality, cynicism, duplicity, corruption, greed and opportunism. A few months after Morsi’s triumph at the polls, the same adjectives were being used to describe his rule, and soon it was being said that he was worse than Mubarak – a grotesque overstatement. The reality is that the Muslim Brotherhood, its supreme guide and its elected president were visionless sectarians, incapable of fulfilling the central demand of the uprising: ‘an end to the regime’. Morsi had no desire to unite the country by full-blooded democratisation: his ambition was to be an Islamist Mubarak. His drawling indolence and utter indifference to the needs of the country saw his unpopularity rise by the day. It wasn’t just urban liberals who turned against him. In mosque after mosque, I was told, and not by Sisi fans, ordinary believers stood up and challenged Brotherhood preachers after Friday prayers and khutba, accusing them of hypocrisy (a very strong condemnation in Islam) and of lining their own pockets. Read more

 

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