Egyptian brothers and sisters!

Internal divisions will hinder Egyptians and will compromise the their revolution, argues scholar Hamid Dabashi.

Hamid Dabashi asks Egyptians to forget the artificial divisions that promise to hinder development and to embrace one another in a common endeavour towards self-determination and dignity [EPA]
Hamid Dabashi asks Egyptians to forget the artificial divisions that promise to hinder development and to embrace one another in a common endeavour towards self-determination and dignity [EPA]

Brothers and sisters – comrades of our common dream!

The time to write in diverted tones and as if the fate of your magnificent revolution is of no immediate and vital consequence to me and to millions of Muslims and non-Muslims like me is past – we must talk, directly – as Muslim brothers and sisters, as human beings sharing the fate of a fragile planet, as a people deeply affected by the violent and enduring bruises of a colonial and postcolonial world that has left us baffled, searching, seeking to take control of our own history. 

I write to you not in the convoluted voice of a scholar, a thinker, or an idle observer. I write to you as an Iranian, a Muslim, a fellow-human being, and a person deeply, vastly, and enduringly invested in your world-historic revolution. I am one of you. What you are doing today will affect generations of our children, of the posterity of who and what we are.  

Think me an honorary Egyptian, and grace me with the magnanimity of your gracious company, as a person blessed by the generosity of your repeated hospitality, your kindness, your camaraderie, collegiality. 

Think me in the extended shadow of your greatest minds – philosophers like the late Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, filmmakers like the late Youssef Chahin or Yousry Nasrallah, novelists like Son’allah Ibrahim or Ahdaf Soueif, scholars like Samia Mehrez or Mustafa ElLabbad, literary critics like Samah Selim, Noha Radwan, or Firial Ghazoul, journalists like Hani Shukrallah, Mona Anis, or Rasha Saad, film critiques like Samir Farid.  

Think me an Iranian version of my late friend, colleague, and comrade Magda al-Nowaihi. Think me and millions of others like me as Egyptians in a different garb, integrally invested in the fate of your revolution. 

Today we are all Egyptians! 

Like millions of others around the globe, I have watched your magnificent revolution in awe, with hope, and with an abiding sense of undeterred admiration!

You did it for all of us – humans, Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Afghans, . . . Muslims, non-Muslims, men, women, young, old, frightened, hopeful.  

And yet, your division, your bitter and bruising and false divisions between pro-Morsi and anti-Morsi, between religious and secular, is threatening to sully your world historic revolution. Here is a case that you are both right – both those who valiantly took to the street and demonstrated in your millions against Morsi and those of you who stuck to your convictions, both Islamic and democratic, that he must stay in office as the manifestation of the democratic will of his people and given a chance to finish his term with the dignity of his office! It is impossible in good conscience to take side with either of these two positions, either of these two sides – and we must not, and you must not. 

This division is the historic fate of your revolution, the pains of it the birth pangs of our delivery to posterity, to a better world, a world of our ancestral dreaming. This division is the historic turning point when we were destined to overcome the cruel fate of our colonial history. 

Overcome it for all of us, for all Muslims and non-Muslims, Egyptians and non-Egyptians! Recognise the colossal responsibility that our history has bestowed upon your heroic shoulders, men and women, young and old, Muslim and non-Muslims! 

Your glorious revolution is in danger – in danger of being kidnaped by corrupt or compromised politicians, by an army knee deep compromised in the geopolitics of the region, in its structural rootedness in American imperialism, and by regional powers each poised to serve their own benefits at the heavy expense of your revolution and what it means for you, and the rest of us, for the region at large, for all Arabs all Muslims, all human beings, from Asia to Africa to Latin America, and even in Europe and North America!

Think your future together, draft your constitution together – let your best, irrespective of any false identity as Muslim or liberal, religious or secular, Sunni or Shia, Copt or otherwise, tell you how they dream of a better Egypt. 

Make Egypt safe for Egyptian women – let their safety, security, and integrity be integral to your dreams. Your sisters, mothers, daughters, wives – they are the measures of your revolution. If they are not safe in the streets and alleys and squares of your history nothing, no ideal, no aspiration, no dream is safe. 

Do not allow the fate of your revolution in compromised hands! Politicians and military officers are the last people to be entrusted with this historic task. Take your fate in your own hands. 

Those of you who protested against Morsi, do not allow a military coup be written in your name. It is time to go and seek the hands of those who protested for him – seek your brothers and sisters on the other side of the divide – go to their homes, go to their neighbourhoods, go to their mosques – they are your mosques, your homes, your neighbourhoods. Peace, peace, peace – white flags, open hearts, extended hands! 

Organise a national day of mourning for all these brave pro-Morsi demonstrators who were martyred. They are the martyrs of the revolution, your revolution, which is also their revolution. Honour their memory, give solace and support to their families, call and consider them your brothers and sisters! Remember the days and nights of the Tahrir Square in those fateful days of your January revolution when you could not tell one from the other! 

Those of you who demonstrated for Morsi do not think of those who rallied against him as your enemies – they are not – just like you they are Egyptians, mostly Muslims, share your fate and dream your common dream for a free and democratic future. They were not asking for a military coup. They were exercising their democratic rights.

Overcome the nasty old colonial divide between the religious and the secular, and the equally pernicious divide between Sunni and the Shia, the Muslim and the Copt, the Jew, the agnostic, the atheist! They are all false divides. Look into each other’s eyes – see your brothers and sisters, with or without a beard, with or without a niqabArrange for joint rallies, hold each other’s hands – you are not each other’s enemies. The enemy is not personified – it is structural to the world we have inherited and your revolution has paved the way for us to change. 

Your magnificent revolution has taught us how to heal these enduring wounds. Those who come with billions to give you they are not the solution – they are part of the problem. Egypt does not need hand out, Egyptians do not need generosity – your magnificent revolution is the definition of generosity. With your industry, your hard work, your ingenuity, you will make Egypt a model for the rest of the world to follow and emulate.

What matters is not Morsi or another politician, Morsi or another president – what matters is the future of Egypt, the fate of millions of human beings and the hopes of even more millions watching Egypt and hoping and wondering and dreaming.

The world watches you with fear and hope, which way will you go – will false divisions destroy your hopes, our hopes, or will the dawn of a new generation of thinking, of solidarity, of purposefulness, deliver you and deliver us all to better days?

May the force of reason, may the light of sanity, and may the grace of your collective will be with you and guide your way! 

Your brother in faith, and in solidarity! 


Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. Among his most recent books is The World of Persian Literary Humanism (2012).

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