Recent western analysis and media depictions of the current state of affairs in Egypt have falsely framed the latest clashes between anti-Morsi protesters and pro-Morsi rallies as a result of an unholy alliance of upper class “elites”, liberals who are bitter due to successive losses at the ballots, and Mubarak-era holdovers grasping at any straws of hope for toppling a democratically elected Islamist president. Such facile characterization completely overlooks the key issues at the core of the current state of extreme polarization in Egyptian politics, misses the main reasons why people are pouring out onto the streets of Egypt again, and sets the current protests in a simplistic as well as fallacious mold of a clash between secularism and Islamism.
This misrepresentative narrative about the reasons behind the resurgence of mass popular dissent is not only a result of a flippant set of assumptions about what the current struggle in Egypt is fundamentally about, but is also rooted in long-standing and intellectually primeval presuppositions in the western psyche about the notions of freedom, rights and modalities of claiming both in Arab and predominantly Islamic societies. Far too many western pundits cast the ongoing sociopolitical chaos in post-revolution Egypt into preset idea-constructs about the Arab World. The term “Arab Spring” itself is steeped in such Orientalist patterns of thought, amalgamating the “Arabs” into a big, ideologically homogeneous mass based on which analysis that reek of patronizing overtones exist in a parallel moral universe, far away from the humanist traditions that western democracies pride their development on.
In making these errors in framing the politics of post-Mubarak Egypt, western media constructs stylized topologies of contention that fit the aforementioned Orientalist imagination, as well as reproduce – albeit indirectly – the fundamentally exclusionist yet ostensibly “authentic” narratives of post-revolution sociopolitical development, as preached stentorian by the Islamist ideologues from the mount of the hegemonic state apparatus which they inherited from those who were unseated in January 2011. What we are presented with, in effect, is a perverse confluence of western misanalysis of what is essentially a continuation of popular struggle against durable authoritarianism, and western discourse on freedom, human rights and inclusiveness.
What is taking place in Egypt right now is, simply, a continuation of mass dissidence against oppression under a different ideological heading. The Muslim Brotherhood is replicating the structures of tyranny of the past six decades. The revolution’s demands of “bread, freedom, and social justice” are being misappropriated by the neo-hegemons to pass an exclusionary constitution that undermines civil liberties and cements the structures of oppression and coercion deeper, as opposed to uprooting autocracy and reestablishing a social contract that prioritizes freedom, equality and justice as demanded by Egyptians who unseated Mubarak in early 2011.