Since the start of the global war on terrorism following 11 September 2001 up until the US-led coalition against the Islamic State today, I continue to repeat that a security solution alone will not uproot terrorism. Tackling terrorism in a comprehensive way means reviewing the policies adopted in the Middle East. It also requires finding a viable solution to the main problems in the region, in particular the Palestinian issue. Most importantly, in order to find an effective solution for issues in the Middle East, the international community must revoke its policy of upholding a double standard.
Criticism against the concept of combating terrorism only through security methods is finally gaining more credit. Evidence and indications reveal that the prevalence of terrorism, extremism and the reproduction of violence occurs on a wider scale more than ever before.
Under Mubarak’s rule, all of the opposition’s criticisms were related to security and the authoritarian nature of the regime. The government then burdened the security bodies with addressing the political issues. So, instead of responding to the people and the opposition’s demands of carrying out gradual political reforms, adopting pluralism and restoring integrity and transparency, the regime focused on using its security bodies to resist these demands through repression and violence. Thus, the optimum balance between security and politics was disturbed and that led to a revolution against the regime. The same criticism can be applied, one way or another, on the situation in Egypt after 30 June 2013 and the toppling of the Brotherhood’s regime.
Despite the unprecedented consensus on overthrowing the Brotherhood’s regime and establishing a civil democratic state by the majority of society’s varying sectors, still, the security element was more prevalent than the political one. The reasons behind that are quite understandable, especially when Egypt is facing a wave of violence and terrorism affecting the army, the police, the citizens and the public and private institutions. However, the security mentality alone is not enough to deal with the current circumstances, because it restricts its activities to aspects of violence and stability threats and is not well acquainted with all angles of reality. On the other hand, the security mentality is more focused on encountering violence with violence, which is an exclusive right of the state, not any group.
In fact, the problems faced by the post-June 30 regime are not limited to extremism and violence committed by the Brotherhood and their supporters. There is a large segment who is looking forward to seeing politics as a part of the public domain. This means respecting the right to peaceful expression of opinion, resuming the dialogue between the regime and political parties, and promoting transparency in order to work towards political and community-based solutions to achieve the objectives of the June 30 revolution.
The early effects of this imbalance between security and politics were more obvious in the Egyptian universities where we noticed the excessive presence of security forces compared to the complete absence of political activities. This is due to the nature of the age of the university students. They are in what we can call a “fighting phase”, which means they have energy and vitality to aspire for exercising their right of expression and for following a good example.
The security perspective for the stability of the educational process in universities led first to restricting university activities to one aspect only, namely: combating violence and vandalism. But this violence is done by a few university students and Muslim Brotherhood supporters compared to the large mass of students who are yearning to enjoy their right to peaceful expression of opinion. Most importantly, the security perspective is abolishing the Egyptian students’ movement and revoking its role throughout history. Although some security measures are necessary, their overall effect contributed to the increase of the students’ exasperation and widened the trust gap between them and the executive authority.
Giving priority to the security perspective over the political solution led to restricting the university officials’ ways of thinking to only the security framework. As a result, a dialogue between professors, university administration and students was missing. A dialogue that should be held with the large mass of students who demand their right to peaceful expression and constructive criticism. Those students want to enjoy these rights away from sabotaging university facilities, disrupting the educational process and confusing the state which are the goals of the Brotherhood’s students.
The Brotherhood’s plan is focusing on universities and the prevailing security climate to attract new segments of the June 30 revolution supporters who are so close to joining the opposition unless the June 30 alliance corrects its mistakes. That alliance should realize that the absence of politics will make the security situation even worse, while giving space for exercising political rights will keep a tighter rein on terrorism and extremism.
Abdel-Alim Mohamed is a counsellor at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.