Recently, only hours after a deadly suicide car bombing that targeted a police
headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, Egypt, the Egyptian government
blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the attack and declared the group a terrorist
The Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, denied
involvement in the bombing, and an al-Qaida-linked group based in Egypt’s
restive Sinai Peninsula, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the
blast, which killed 16 people.
Though the Muslim Brotherhood is not
connected to that group and there is no direct evidence regarding the
Brotherhood’s alleged involvement, the military- backed government said it made
the decision because of the Brotherhood’s “serious escalation in the use of
violence against Egypt and Egyptians.”
But violence by whom, and against
whom? Thousands of anti-coup activists were killed at the hands of the army and
police. Two of my best friends were killed in Rabaa when the army and police
broke up the sit-ins. The first was a 38-year-old computer engineer and owner of
a localization company; the second was a 30-year-old journalist at the national
newspaper Akhbar El-Youm.
Furthermore, almost all leaders of the Muslim
Brotherhood have been detained since last July, so who are the masterminds of
the alleged bombing? In addition, if the judicial authority in Egypt is
respected, why didn’t the government wait for investigations and trials? Another
main question is, will the government declaration of the Muslim Brotherhood as a
terrorist group have any effect on the group’s popularity? Two months ago, an
Egyptian court banned “all activities” of the Muslim Brotherhood. One senior
security official has been quoted in The Huffington Post as saying, “The plan is
to drain the sources of funding, break the joints of the group, and dismantle
the podiums from which they deliver their message.”
authorities miss two things: they tend not to understand how messaging works, or
the difference between systemic causation and direct causation.
government views messaging as short-term and issue-based, rather than long-term
and morally-based. In cognitive science, however, messages employ words, words
evoke frames. Effective messaging requires existing strong, high-level,
long-term, morally-based frame systems.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s
messaging system has existed and has been extended and strengthened over 85
years. In other words, like conservatives in the US, the MB activists have, over
a long period of time, consistently and patiently strengthened their moral
worldviews, prototypes and versions of vital political concepts (e.g., Life,
Freedom, Responsibility, Government, Accountability, Responsibility, Equality,
Fairness, Property, Security).
As a result, the MB’s language is
constantly heard in many parts of Egypt, especially inside universities,
schools, mosques, etc. Such a language automatically and unconsciously evokes
the groups’ frames and the high-level framing systems they are part
In this view, the Muslim Brotherhood has a large effect on the public
even when they’re out of office. Importantly, their communication system is
never out of the scene. It is already deep in the minds of bi-conceptuals, those
who are partly Islamist and partly secular. As a result, there is always a
chance for the group’s moral system to be activated.
This would explain
why the group, along its long history, has successfully fought off every threat
to its existence. It also explains why the MB consistently wins elections and
changes policies even without winning elections.
The MB activists very
much understand this. So they will never take up arms against the
The second point is that the government doesn’t understand the
difference between systemic and direct causation.
Bombing a hospital is
Any local application of force that produces a local
effect in place and time is direct causation. Systemic causation, in contrast,
goes beyond the immediate local situation. A systemic cause, as cognitive
linguist George Lakoff states, may be one of many. It may need some special
conditions, and may be indirect, working via a network of more direct
We drill a lot more oil, burn a lot more gas, put a lot more
carbon dioxide in the air, the atmosphere of the earth heats up, more moisture
evaporates from the oceans producing bigger storms in some places and more
droughts and fires in other places: systemic causation.
The coup in Egypt
has led to pro-legitimacy sit-ins at Rabaa and Nahdah.
Breaking up the
sit-ins by force has resulted in two things: 1) violence in Sinai against the
army and police; and 2) protests across the country asking for revenge for the
killings of the protesters.
Violence and demonstrations led to the
announcement of the state of emergency in the country for a month and then for
two more months. Declaring the state of emergency has undermined the economy,
making no foreign investor want to come, disrupted the tourism industry, and
stifled freedoms. And so on.
To the government, the crisis is still
primarily about direct causation. To them, the problem is the direct “terror” of
the Muslim Brotherhood. When the media reports on Egypt, it reports on “terror.”
If the army Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is understood as addressing the “Muslim
Brotherhood,” and he proposes directly bombing the Muslim Brotherhood, the
natural question is whether that eliminates the daily “terror” and improves the
country’s economic health.
When the government admits it does not and
extends the state of emergency for two more months, the question naturally
arises, why bomb when it won’t solve the direct problem, but would result in
more problems? The government doesn’t understand these two points at all, and
continues its demonization of the opposition and stifling freedoms, proposing no
real initiative to get out of the crisis.
The writer is an Egyptian poet,
actor and a PhD student at Lodz University, Poland.
He is also a former
lecturer at Um Al-Qura University, Mecca, Saudi Arabia.