The Egyptian Revolution: Was it hijacked?

AUC Hosts Debate by the Global Voice Hall’s Pangaea Forum

By Masooma Kadhem

Sultan Al Qassemi during debate. Photo by Amira Gabr

“The Egyptian Revolution: was it hijacked?” was the focus of the debate held at the American University in Cairo (AUC) by the Global Voice Hall’s Pangaea Forum on Tuesday, April 24.

The Cairo Pangaea Forum is a first of a series of ongoing Global Voice Hall forums that will be hosted in Libya, Tunisia and other Arab countries over the next few months.

The debate examined the success of the January 25 revolution to date, and looked at expectations for the period during and after the presidential campaigning period. The debate hosted panelists, which included the head of the Modern Center of Future Studies, Dr. Saad El Zant, constitutional law expert and ex-deputy of chairman of the Shura Council Dr. Shawky El Sayid, Alaa A. Fattah and Sultan Al Qassemi.

The debate was moderated by Rawya Rageh, Cairo-based reporter for Al-Jazeera English, who began by asking the panelists about what they believed caused the debate over constitutional principles, parliamentary elections and the constituent assembly.

“The military council has made strategic mistakes, [like] the vision wasn’t clear and making agreements with Islamic currents, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. We appreciate these [Islamic groups] because it [sic] is Egyptian but it has depth, vision, and is more organized. So, it was able to take the military council and revolution to where it is now,” commented Saad El Zant, president of Center of Strategic Studies and Ethical Communication.

Former media consultant for the Muslim Brotherhood Gamal Nassar, who was among the panelists, was then asked about accusations drawn against the Muslim Brotherhood: that it hijacked the revolution.

“The Muslim Brotherhood, for the last 80 years, have sacrificed for the country and that was their duty…The accusation is simply not true. On the 23rd, the State Security has called on officials of the different provinces and threatened whoever went to protest. However, they rejected this threat. Further, more than 40,000 had been arrested [Sic]. The problem is that we examine this issue from one side and don’t consider other points of view,” replied Nassar.

Nassar also added that the Islamic current is “an essential part of this nation” and that “Egypt is an Islamic nation and recognizes the rights of minorities.”

Among the panelists was also Alaa Abdel Fatah, Egyptian programmer, activist and blogger, who was asked about the effects of the splitting of the revolutionary factions in the transitional period.

“The idea that the people have gradually deviated from the revolution is not true. There is just an advanced wave that is able to practice [continue] the revolution on a daily or weekly basis. The main body of the revolution, or the main wave, is only able to every two months or so. However, from 25 to 28 January 2012, the number of people who came to the streets outnumbered those who toppled the tyrant; so, you can’t say people left the revolution. When people feel worried, they will assert their presence in the streets,” explained Abdel Fatah.

Sultan Al-Qassemi, UAE based columnist and commentator on Arab affairs, was then asked about how the media has contributed to shaping the transitional period. “Egypt is the pulse of the Arab world and we wish the success of Egypt due its strategic location in the region [Sic]. The role of the media is important and one of the aspects that will help us overcome the phase we are in now.”

“On the question of whether the Egyptian revolution was hijacked, I think that the Egyptian revolution can’t be hijacked since it has many activists, an aware civil society and independent judiciary.”

The debate was streamed in front of a live studio audience, giving viewers the means to post questions and share thoughts and commentary in real time as well as from the online community via live chat, Facebook and Twitter.

“It was quite interesting because it was the first time we saw people of different political stances, perspectives, views [Sic]. For a moment there, they actually listened to each and studied what the other party had to say and this is something we need to be right now [Sic],” one attendee commented when asked about her impression of the Pangaea Forum.