Islamists Flood Square in in Show of Strength Cairo
Below are extensive excerpts from New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid’s article last night under the above headline.
I have followed the Egyptian “revolution,” as it has come to be called, as closely as a man with a real life reasonably can. If “you go to war with the army you have” then you write with the record you have and The New York Times is
’s “newspaper of record.” New York Times reporting has probably provided more of the factual basis for the posts written here on America since February than any other single source and the opinions of New York Times columnists Nicholas D. Kristof and especially Thomas L. Friedman have been, with no doubt, the most influential opinion pieces, negatively so. Egypt
Mr. Shadid gives a factual account of what he saw and heard in
Tahrir Square Friday. Mr. Friedman and Mr. Kristof visited Tahrir Square in February. They also gave factual accounts of what they saw and heard there. Their accounts are very different from Mr. Shadid’s. Part of the reason for the difference is obvious, each of the three visited at different times. Visit a place on different occasions, see different things. Part of it is Tahrir Square is a particular place in Egypt, it is not all of Egypt or representative of all of Egypt. Part of it also is because Mr. Friedman and Mr. Kristof wanted to see democracy and democrats in Tahrir Square. Maybe democrats were there or maybe they saw what they wanted to see. There is no doubt that democracy has not come to , won’t come in September, as the military initially said. I wrote in February that I was very skeptical about democratic elections coming to Egypt as a result of the ouster of President Mubarak not, I wrote, because the Egyptian people are incapable of democracy but because, in what I read, I didn’t see democrats. I saw people who wanted regime change but not clearly (to me) democracy to replace it. The statement of Egyptian protester Mina George (as reported in The New York Times), “First he goes, then we think,” was consistent with the lack of direction of the protest. The protesters didn’t want Mubarak, what did they want? Mr. Friedman and Mr. Kristof said democracy; to me there was insufficient evidence of that. Egypt
There is an ebullient, literally breathless tone to Mr. Friedman’s and Mr. Kristof’s writing, as when Mr. Kristof describes running from Mubarak’s thugs. They wanted democracy in
. Who wouldn’t? I wrote in February, and since, that the outcome of democratic elections in Egypt Egypt may well be a government that is hostile, or more hostile, to the United States, as was after the Nazis came to power via free elections. It does not follow that the government that the people of another country really, truly, want is going to be friendly to the Germany . United States China never had a free election under Mao, yet no serious writer on has suggested that Mao did not have the support of the Chinese people. In each of those cases the will of the people was clearly for a government that was hostile to China and its values. As an American, I do not want that in America , regardless of what the Egyptian people want. But, as I’ve written, I do not think that Egypt America needs Egypt as a friend and therefore I think should be left alone. I do not believe that Egypt America should be encouraging or discouraging democracy in . Egypt can deal with whatever regime replaces Mubarak’s. America
After the excerpts from Mr. Shadid’s article are excerpts from columns written by Mr. Friedman and Mr. Kristof earlier this year.
Tens of thousands of Egyptian Islamists poured into
Tahrir Square on Friday calling for a state bound by strict religious law…
…the secular forces...helped to start the revolution but... remain divided, largely ineffectual and woefully unprepared for coming elections.
“Islamic, Islamic,” went a popular chant. “Neither secular nor liberal.”
…the demonstration Friday had been billed as a show of national unity, but adherents to a spectrum of religious movements — from the most puritan and conservative, known as Salafists, to the comparatively more moderate Muslim Brotherhood— vastly outnumbered other voices…
The numbers of Salafists…surprised and unnerved many secular and liberal activists…
…the few secular activists who attended contended that they were silenced; some said they were escorted from the square. Most of them decided to boycott the event, in protest of the demonstration’s tone, ceding the square to the more religious.
Egyptian politics have entered perhaps their most opaque moment yet.
Some activists were already calling Friday’s demonstration a turning point — a remarkable display of the Islamists’ ability to monopolize space, be it Tahrir Square, the streets or the coming elections, and of their skill at organization and mobilization, which for secular activists served as a bitter contrast to their own shortcomings.
“We’re showing today — to both the people and to the military leadership — that we’re the majority of the population,” said Haithem Adli, a 29-year-old resident, holding a banner that read in part, “Together on the path to heaven.”
His estimation of the Salafists’ popularity was undoubtedly overstated, but more secular constituencies seemed taken aback by the size of the rally.
“They’ve come to show their muscles,” said Amr Hamza, a 25-year-old secular activist…“There sure are a lot of them.”
Around a dozen liberal activists huddled in a tent they pitched in the square three weeks ago, their faces gloomy.
Cries for national unity and coexistence between Christians and Muslims made way for familiar religious chants and demands that
adhere to Islamic law, known as Shariah. Egypt
“Islamic law is above the Constitution,” one banner read.
Heard often back then was a cry that soon became famous: “Hold your head up high, you’re Egyptian.” On Friday, “Muslim” was substituted for “Egyptian.” The chant that became the revolution’s anthem, “The people want to topple the regime,” changed on Friday to “The people want to apply God’s law.”
“If democracy is the voice of the majority and we as Islamists are the majority, why do they want to impose on us the views of minorities — the liberals and the secularists?” asked Mahmoud Nadi, 26, a student. “That’s all I want to know.”
Salafists were largely on the sidelines of Mr. Mubarak’s overthrow, but as elsewhere, new freedoms have given voice to long-repressed currents.
Islamist groups — Salafists and others — have echoed the military’s calls for stability, and many secular activists see an emerging alliance between the two.
Thomas L. Friedman:
Tahrir Square, and of all the amazing things one sees here the one that strikes me most is a bearded man who is galloping up and down, literally screaming himself hoarse, saying: “I feel free! I feel free!” [F-2/8.]
That is what makes this revolt so interesting. Egyptians are not asking for
or for Allah. They are asking for the keys to their own future, which this regime took away from them. They are not inspired by “down with” Palestine America or . They are inspired by “Up with Israel ” and “Up with me.” [F-2/8] Egypt
Watching so many Egyptians take pride in their generally peaceful birth of freedom…[F-2/12]
What emerged from below in
is, for now, the first pan-Arab movement that is not focused on expelling someone, or excluding someone, but on universal values with the goal of overcoming the backwardness produced by all previous ideologies and leaders. [F-2/15] Egypt
The Arab tyrants, precisely because they were illegitimate, were the ones who fed their people hatred of
as a diversion. If Israel could finalize a deal with the Palestinians, it will find that a more democratic Arab world is a more stable partner. Not because everyone will suddenly love Israel (they won’t). But because the voices that would continue calling for conflict would have legitimate competition, and democratically elected leaders will have to be much more responsive to their people’s priorities, which are for more schools not wars. [F-2/15] Israel
Nicholas D. Kristof:
Exhilarated by the Hope in
As I stand in
Tahrir Square on Monday trying to interview protesters, dozens of people surging around me and pleading for the to back their call for democracy, the yearning and hopefulness of these Egyptians taking huge risks is intoxicating. United States
When I lived in Cairo many years ago studying Arabic, Tahrir Square, also called Liberation Square, always frankly carried a hint of menace…Now the manic drivers are gone, replaced by cheering throngs waving banners clamoring for the democracy they never got…
…this pro-democracy movement, full of courage and idealism …
Everywhere I go, Egyptians insist to me that Americans shouldn’t perceive their movement as a threat. And I find it sad that Egyptians are lecturing Americans on the virtues of democracy.
Maybe I’m too caught up in the giddiness of Tahrir Square…It’s increasingly clear that stability will come to Egypt only after Mr. Mubarak steps down.
…we also owe it to the brave men and women of Tahrir Square — and to our own history and values — to make one thing very clear: We stand with the peaceful throngs pleading for democracy, not with those who menace them.
I approached [two] women and told them I was awed by their courage. I jotted down their names and asked why they had risked the mob’s wrath to come to
Tahrir Square. “We need democracy in ,” Amal told me, looking quite composed. “We just want what you have.” K-2/2 Egypt
…the pro-Mubarak mobs were picking fights. At first, the army kept them away from the pro-democracy crowds,
It should be increasingly evident that Mr. Mubarak is not the remedy for the instability in
; he is its cause. The road to stability in Egypt requires Mr. Mubarak’s departure, immediately. Egypt
…the democracy protesters held their ground all day at
Tahrir Square despite this armed onslaught
We Are All Egyptians K-2/3 (headline)
Tahrir Square on Thursday, I met a carpenter named Mahmood whose left arm was in a sling, whose leg was in a cast and whose head was being bandaged in a small field hospital set up by the democracy movement. K-2/3
...as I snapped Mahmood’s picture I backed into Amr’s wheelchair. It turned out that Amr had lost his legs many years ago in a train accident, but he rolled his wheelchair into
Tahrir Square to show support for democracy…
She also suggested that instead of being sent into comfortable exile, Mr. Mubarak should be put on trial as a criminal; that’s a theme I’ve heard increasingly often among pro-democracy activists.
…the only way to restore order in
and revive the economy is for him to step down immediately. Egypt
Countless Egyptians here tell me that they are willing to sacrifice their lives for democracy. They mean it.
The lion-hearted Egyptians I met on
Tahrir Square are risking their lives to stand up for democracy and liberty, and they deserve our strongest support — and, frankly, they should inspire us as well. A quick lesson in colloquial Egyptian Arabic: Innaharda, ehna kullina Misryeen! Today, we are all Egyptians!
Maybe my judgment is skewed because pro-Mubarak thugs tried to hunt down journalists, leading some of us to be stabbed, beaten and arrested — and forcing me to abandon hotel rooms and sneak with heart racing around mobs carrying clubs with nails embedded in them. The place I felt safest was
Tahrir Square — “free ,” in the protesters’ lexicon…K-2/5 Egypt
I constantly asked women and Coptic Christians whether a democratic
might end up a more oppressive country. They invariably said no — and looked so reproachfully at me for doubting democracy that I sometimes retreated in embarrassment. Egypt
I’m so deeply moved by the grit that Egyptians have shown in struggling against the regime — and by the help that some provided me, at great personal risk, in protecting me from thugs dispatched by America’s ally. Let’s show some faith in the democratic ideals for which these Egyptians are risking their lives.
It’s a new day in the Arab world — and, let’s hope, in American relations to the Arab world. K-2/12
In Egypt and Bahrain in recent weeks, I’ve been humbled by the lionhearted men and women I’ve seen defying tear gas or bullets for freedom that we take for granted. K-2/26
I’ll never forget a double-amputee I met in
Tahrir Square in when Hosni Mubarak’s thugs were attacking with rocks, clubs and Molotov cocktails. This young man rolled his wheelchair to the front lines. And we doubt his understanding of what democracy means? Cairo
Egypt, Libya and Bahrain are better positioned today for democracy than Mongolia or Indonesia seemed in the 1990s — and Mongolia and today are successes. Indonesia
Photo: New York Times, accompanying Shadid article.