Hundreds were arrested in the United States as protests, which took to the streets after the inauguration of Donald Trump, escalated into violence and destruction. Vehicles were set on fire, some people dragged garbage cans into a street a few blocks from the White House and set them ablaze. Perhaps then we should focus only on the few violent incidents that took place during the demonstrations and ask American protesters to “denounce violence” instead of praising their bravery and showing solidarity with the values they are trying to protect; because that’s what happened with the Egyptian people.
Imagine if an Egyptian official made the following statement about the demonstrations:
“Some say that street action will produce better results than elections. To be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical. (The country) needs stability to get its economic house in order and more violence on the streets will do little...”
I am sure the reaction of the American protesters would be a mix of anger and denouncement, which was exactly what millions of Egyptians felt when those words came out of Anne Patterson, US ambassador to Egypt, on June 18, 2013 discouraging street protests. This statement made Egyptians, packed into Tahrir Square protesting Mohamed Morsi regime, carry pictures of Patterson’s face with an X drawn across it.
When I saw pictures of marches in the United States and around the world in a protest against Donald Trump on his first day in office I was thrilled to find amazing people fighting against racism and protesting the divisive rhetoric of the new American president. Adding to this, two civil rights groups started already working on an online campaign to get Trump impeached. However, I felt frustrated when I compared reactions to what’s happening in America now and reactions to what happened here in Egypt in 2013.
Egyptians protested against the divisiveness Morsi was promoting in every step he was taking. Once he took office, he alienated the leftists, liberals and moderates and became loyal only to Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood members. He did not react when he was attending a rally at a Cairo stadium and Salafi clerics described Shiite Muslims – who are a minority in Egypt - as “filthy” and “nonbelievers who must be killed”. A week later Shiite men were fatally lynched by a mob in a village south of Cairo. Also threats against Egyptian Christians – who account for 10% of the populations – increased significantly after Morsi became president of Egypt. Pope Tawadros II, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, criticized the nation’s Islamist leadership and dismissed the proposed constitution at the time as discriminatory.
The list of catastrophes of Morsi can go on and on, the people had the right to protest and voice their dismay to what’s happening to their country by the hands of the person they elected. People of Egypt waited months before protests took to the streets, while protests in America started from day 1 after Trump was sworn in as president.
I can’t help but wonder why American protests are seen as democracy while the Egyptian protests were depicted as otherwise. Why was it hard to understand the reason Egyptians wanted to oust the same person they voted for but it is easy to understand the reason Americans want to impeach Trump? Isn’t this the same version of democracy?