By Sherief Medhat / AJT //
In the Jan. 11 edition of the AJT, Sherief Medhat introduced himself by sharing the formative memories of his liberal and secular upbringing in an increasingly Muslim fundamentalist-controlled Egypt. For this second part of his ongoing series, he tells of his experience in the Egyptian Army during the 2011-12 revolution.
I was called for compulsory military service in my birth nation of Egypt after I finished dental school in July 2011, six months after the so-called Egyptian revolution happened on Jan. 25 and the army took over.
That was one of the hardest times of my life, moreso because I wasn’t convinced that we – fresh graduates – should go spend a year of our lives serving desk-bound superior officers while the country was in the throes of an unemployment crisis. To me, it seemed the army could make good use of and hire volunteers instead.
Throughout my service, I always asked myself: “Did I spend five years in dental school to go get an officer his breakfast for a year?”
Meanwhile, I knew we weren’t (and probably aren’t in the future) going to war because of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
After the revolution, the Islamists gradually came to dominate the media, as most of them were released from jail. The most noticeable new presence was that of the Muslim Brotherhood, who acted as some of the most powerful opposition during Mubarak’s regime. They decided instantly to start their own party under the name “Freedom and Justice Party.”
Honestly, they were the most organized of the vying powers after the revolution. Even in years before, they had been popular, as their outward face was of an organization primarily concerned with helping the poor. And I can’t deny that they had plans about what to do if Mubarak’s regime fell and how to take advantage of such a situation.
The subsequent Parliament elections were held from November 2011 through January 2012, and the Brotherhood, with the full support of the Islamic bloc, got 50 percent of the seats. It’s easy to see how this happened, considering 30 to 40 percent of Egypt’s population is illiterate and more than likely based their vote on the promise of food or another basic need.
Others were brainwashed, convinced by Brotherhood campaigns that they would go to hell if they did not comply. Here we can clearly see how Islam is used as a tool and not as a way of life!
Still, the country was not finished moving in this dangerous direction. On June 24, Mohamed Morsi – Brotherhood member and chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party – won the Egyptian presidential runoff against Ahmed Shafik. No doubt this was accomplished using the same exact technique of “persuading” voters as was used in the parliamentary elections.
Thankfully, the Brotherhood had been dealt a serious blow earlier in the month when the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that the parliamentary elections had been held unconstitutionally and thus dissolved the parliament. It was a big loss, but since then Freedom and Justice has done whatever it takes to take over all the vital offices and ministries. Of course, Morsi being the president has helped a lot.
All this is occurring, but we in the army had strict orders from Day One not to practice or talk politics under any conditions. That decree made us suspicious that there might an under-the-table deal between the army and the Brotherhood, and I was further convinced when the army announced it wouldn’t ban Islamists from joining – that was a stark contrast from the policy during Mubarak’s regime, which never allowed such fundamentalists in the military.
Sherief Medhat is a dentist living in Smyrna, Ga. and originally from Cairo, Egypt. As part of his quest for greater understanding, he visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in 2012.