September 13, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 783

Egyptian Progressive: 'We Should Understand and Practice the Concept of Civil Strife'

September 13, 2004
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 783

Egyptian progressive Sa'ad Eddin Ibrahim, the chairman of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, published an article in the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat describing the apathy that characterizes the Egyptian people's feelings toward their government, and imploring them to engage in more focused "civil strife." The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

Egyptians Need 'Civil Strife,' not 'Indifference'

" Former Egyptian Information Minister Ahmad Kamal Abul Magd and Deputy Chairman of the Egyptian Council for Human Rights (ECHR ) said that the Egyptians are living in a state of a taciturn civil strife, as they do not respect the general rules and regulations such as traffic signals, practicing their electoral rights and duties, in addition to the wasting [of] public finances and general services. The Egyptians have an increasing feeling that the country is no longer theirs, and that the ruling authority does not work in favor of the public.

"Abul Magd was partially right… Civil strife is [more accurately] an act of consciousness and willpower, and a declared act to protest against an inequitable law or a reckless policy. The elements of consciousness, willpower, and declaration are very important. Consciousness and willpower append to the act of civil strife a meaning that goes beyond the negative indifference, as the person advocating a civil strife is a concerned citizen interested in changing things for the better.

"Civil strife implies challenging the authority; therefore, it means a refusal to implement a certain policy or to abide by a certain law, as this law might be broken. This challenge of authority might lead to the imprisonment or arrest of all those who engaged in the civil strife. Civil strife tacitly implies a peaceful resistance; some of the colors of civil strife are: protests, strikes, boycotts, and demonstrations."

The Achievements of Civil Strife in History

"It is said that the first Egyptian civil strife was in the year 1919, and this was unprecedented in the modern history of Egypt and the history of Third World countries. It is also said that Gandhi carefully followed the events of this revolution and was impressed by its occurrences. He insisted on stopping in Egypt while passing through the Suez Canal, on his way to South Africa, in order to meet the leaders of this revolution, and to learn from them how this revolution was capable of uniting all Egyptian sects in collective demonstrations against the British colonialism.

"Gandhi crystallized a new strategy for the paradigm of a civil strife, and transformed it into a philosophy. This new strategy or new paradigm of civil strife, ' Satyagraha 'as he called it, was successful in uniting millions of Indians against the British, by giving them a replica of forgiveness and love. The British were surprised to see thousands of protestors on the streets, accepting their arrests and admitting that they had broken the law. At a certain stage, the [British] authorities found that this strife was reaching the British soldiers. The British public opinion was infuriated and started exerting pressure on its government in order to surrender to the demands of the Indian National Movement in achieving independence; and this is what [actually] happened.

"There are similar experiences in history, such as the experience of Martin Luther King in the United States, who advocated the same policy as Gandhi; the result was the Civil Rights Act which was passed by Congress in 1964.

"The Sudanese were successful in toppling two military despotic regimes by means of protests and collective strikes. The Palestinians were also successful in their first Intifada of 1988 to 1991, which resulted in the Oslo Accord. As for the second Intifada, which was based on suicide operations against civilians, it led to the Palestinian cause losing international support, as well as a great deal of what this cause had previously gained.

"This is how we should understand and practice the concept of civil strife, this concept which can never be silent. Civil strife does not mean an armed strife because civil, by definition, implies peaceful means, and is contrary to a military strife.

"To those opposition forces and the advocates of political reform [who ask] despotic regimes to listen to their demands, we say that they have no alternative to achieve their goal other than civil strife, civil strife, civil strife. Amen."

[1] Al-Hayat (London), September 1, 2004.

Share this Report: