June 4, 2005

Less Shouting… More Silent Voices

Two days ago, President George W. Bush and President Hosni Mubarak held a phone conversation about the political reforms in Egypt and the upcoming presidential elections this fall. Today, President Mubarak announced that his government will speed up the process of political reform. He proposed a concrete plan of reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian civil society. He proposed the following measures:
1. The suspension of the Emergency Law that has been imposed on the country since the assassination of President Anwar El Sadat in October 1981.
2. Establishing a national committee that includes all the political movements in Egypt to develop and propose a totally new constitution. The task of this committee would be completed within a year.
3. Proposing new measures that will guarantee the independence of the national press such as guaranteeing the independence of the National Council of Press from the government and the ruling National Democratic Party. Also, activating the proposed legislation regarding banning imprisonment in publishing crimes.
4. Approving the proposed Judiciary System Independence Law.
5. Releasing all political detainees.
6. Granting national pardon for all state security officers if they come forward and admit any and all human rights violations they committed while in post.

This is one possible scenario of how things could evolve during the coming period. The other possible scenario is that all political forces in Egypt put aside their differences and actually come together as one striking force. They need to set together a list of national demands for reform. Demands that are common denominator for all: islamists, communists, liberals, leftists, and moderate. Then, they should call for national disobedience; a national strike of refusal till this set of demands is met. No violence, no shouting, no demonstrations, just a strike.
The current way of protesting through demonstrations has indeed shaken the calm waters in the Egyptian politics and has produced waves of people who want their voice to be heard. Yet, unfortunately, with the fierce hands of the state security, we loose the momentum of this new wave of people because fear takes over them. The fear of intimidation, beating, sexual harassment, and ultimately detention. The next phase needs a more effective way of protesting. We need a way that is non-violent in order to keep the momentum of people. Also, we need a way that can gather as much as possible of the remaining silent voices in the Egyptian community. The voices that want to say something but they do not want to belong to any political movement. They are entitled to freedom without being a member of a party or a movement. We need to gather them around our quest for freedom: our freedom of speech, our freedom from the police state, our freedom of choice.

Let us all gather wearing black in our mosques and churches where the dirty hands of the state security can not reach us. Let us stick to one set of demands announced and proposed to the government. Let us all stick together: Muslims and Christians, rich and poor, educated and illiterate. Let us all remain silent in our mosques and churches and let the voice of our unity speak for us.

If do not unite ourselves, I guess we have to wait until Mr. Bush makes this phone call.