Egypt: on glorifying violence

One reason for glorifying violence was because for Mubarak, then SCAF followed by the Ikhwani government, accusing opponents of being violent mobs was a favourite ploy for giving legitimacy to the state's brutality.

Tarek Amr
4 February 2013

Contrary to almost all of the younger generation of my fellow Egyptians nowadays, I hate this growing tone of glorifying violence. This post might be two years late, it might not be the perfect time for it, since the regime and its security forces are currently killing people. But still, I prefer to say it out loud right now. As it is usually better late than never. I am not just against the idea of glorifying and legitimising violence and considering it a revolutionary act, because of my natural hatred to violence. I am against it for pragmatic reasons as well. But let me first explain what I mean by "glorifying and legitimising violence".

Two years ago, when the Egyptian people revolted against Mubarak’s regime, there existed two narratives for the revolution. One pictured it as a peaceful revolution taking places in Tahrir square, where people carried banners and chanted against the regime. The other side of the story are those rarely-filmed acts of burning police stations, official buildings and looting department stores. The argument now, is not whether one of them existed rather the other. Because both sides of that story are true. The more valid question now is to ask ourselves, whether we should blindly legitimise the second asset of tactics and value it as "the only" face of a multi-facade revolution or not.

One reason for glorifying violence was because Mubarak, then SCAF followed by the Ikhwani government now, always find it plausible to accuse their opponents of being thugs and violent mobs who want to sabotage the country and its stability. This was always their favourite ploy for giving legitimacy to the state's brutality. And according to our friend Isaac Newton, "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction". Hence, the leftists on the other hand, decided to nullify the meaning of terms such as ‘thugs’ and ‘violence’ by mocking them sometimes, and glorifying them at other times. You can see people on twitter and facebook giving themselves names like "thug" and "mobs". Other than that, there also exists the radical ones who believe that peaceful protests will lead people nowhere. 

Watching the security forces killing dozens of civilians in Port Said in less than 48 hours and taking an old man's clothes off in the streets yesterday and brutally hitting him with heavy sticks, makes part of me leap to legitimise violence as a sort of response to such acts by the state. However, as I said earlier, I still have my pragmatic reasons for rejecting it. They are these.

On the one hand, such violence gives excuses for the regime to kill, beat and arrest more people, and convince the others that it has the right to do so. And it is obvious that in such a violent game, the regime can easily outnumber its opponents with its weapons, trained forces and media.  On the other hand, if you legitimise violence now, you cannot denounce it later when others such as the Salafies who have always been true believers in violent opposition, use it later on. In fact, they have  already exercised it numerous times during the past two years. 

Do you think the current scene is going to make people less confident in the Ikhwani government and they are going to lose any upcoming elections? Damn wrong! The majority are going to vote for the Ikhwan, like they did earlier, and like they used to do during Mubarak's regime. They just vote for stability, for the authority and for those who play politics while others never learn and continue to play the wrong game in the wrong arena. 

US election: what's going on in Trump's must-win states?

Our editor-in-chief, Mary Fitzgerald, is on the ground in key US battleground states – follow her on Twitter @maryftz for live updates.

There's never been more at stake. But the pandemic has kept many foreign journalists away. Hundreds of international observers who normally oversee US elections aren't there.

Can we trust the polls? What's the blanket media coverage not telling us? Hear Mary describe what she's seeing and hearing across the country, from regular citizens to social justice activists to right-wing militias arming themselves for election day.

Plus: get the inside scoop on openDemocracy's big 'follow-the-money' investigation – just broken – which lifts the lid on how Trump-linked groups are going global with their culture wars.

Join us for a free live discussion on Thursday 29 October, 5pm UK time/1pm EDT.

Hear from:

David Corn Washington DC bureau chief of Mother Jones, MSNBC analyst and co-author the New York Times no. 1 bestselling book ‘Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump’

Mary Fitzgerald Editor-in-chief, openDemocracy

And other guests

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData