Egypt, Jordan and the Tragic Art of Making Heroes
By Mahmoud Al Abed
Albawaba.com – Amman
The essence of Greek tragedy, we are told, is a horrific fate lived out in the very act of trying to escape it. In the unfolding Middle East saga, we have two characters whose acts mirror those of Oedipus’ kingly father – in a simple, not complex way, that is.
A similar story has already been played out in Algeria, with catastrophic results. Just as King Laius begot Oedipus, a son who was prophesied to kill him, and recoiled in horror, so the Algerian government found Islamic fundamentalists poised to oust them from power, although by the ballot, not the bullet.
And just as Laius, horrified by his fate, tried to have his son killed, so the Algerian authorities went after the Islamists with a vengeance.
The result, for Laius, was death, tragedy and a crown that slipped through his hands. For Algeria, the results have been equally bloody, even if the crown still remains in place.
Taking the stage, today, are two Greek-inspired countries, Jordan and Egypt, which have lately cracked down on their own fateful foes, the Islamists.
In Egypt, 39 alleged members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested on charges of reviving their organization. It is no coincidence that the arrests came before the country’s Shura Council elections; three of the arrestees were even on their way to register as candidates.
For their part, Jordanian security authorities last week carried out their hardest crackdown to date, breaking up a pro-Palestinian rally by Islamists with such ferocity that even journalists were not spared detention and maltreatment. Attempts to bury Egyptian Islamists in last fall’s elections were equally heavy-handed, involving tough police measures against voters in Islamist strongholds, but nevertheless failed to prevent 17 loud and proud Islamists from taking parliament seats.
It would be tragic indeed if such fumbling, made amidst repeated pledges of devotion to constitutionality and democracy, only made Jordan and Egypt into fate’s fools in the end.
Cracking down can only polish the halos of the Islamists, whose slogans and literature show little sign of the needed capacity to govern ably and retain a constituency, should they face the real demands of running a country. In the end, they would be able to deliver only a sliver of what they promise, and halos, like crowns, would come tumbling down.
In short, the recent crackdowns betray the very one who set them in motion, by lending credibility to people whose claim to heroism is thin at best. But the tougher the crackdown, the brighter the halo.
The lesson of the Greek tragedies – and of Algeria – might be this: don’t wriggle so hard in order to evade fate. Give everyone a chance, with true democracy and real freedom of speech. Otherwise, all that tussling may just tighten the net around you, as King Laius learned - and showcase the tragic art of making heroes.
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