Islamist president Mohamed Morsi is out. His opponents, a military-backed interim government of secularists, are in. And if you’ve got a beard — that most conspicuous symbol of Islamism in post-Arab Spring Egypt — you’re likely to get taunted on the metro, harassed in the souk and possibly even assaulted, according to conservative Muslims.
A month after a military coup ousted Morsi and landed his top cohorts in the Muslim Brotherhood behind bars, a popular backlash against the Islamists who governed for just over a year is palpable far beyond the halls of power. It is evident in the sidewalk conversations, the grocery lines and the television talk shows.
Criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood had been building for months, as citizens griped about a declining economy and what some called the group’s determination to dominate this nation’s power structure. But since Morsi was toppled, the complaints have exploded into a full-throttled fury at his supporters, demonstrating the dangerous polarization in this nation that is a key U.S. ally.
In the weeks since the July 3 coup, Egypt’s military and the interim government — which is made up largely of liberals and stalwarts of the Hosni Mubarak era — have cast Morsi’s Islamist supporters as evil-willed “terrorists,” child abusers and spies. The Egyptian media have whipped up the anti-Islamist fervor with dramatic reports that the Muslim Brotherhood dismisses as lies.
On the streets, where hundreds of thousands of ordinary Egyptians joined protests in June to oust Morsi, there is a willing audience for the new government’s charges. “The treatment has changed for the worse,” said Osama Ibrahim, an imam at a Cairo mosque that caters to hard-line Islamists.
The nation’s turmoil has seeped into his daily life in the Cairo neighborhood of Ain Shams, he said. “On the metro, they call us names. People come up to us and say, ‘How are you, Sheik Morsi?’” he said.
He said his wife, who wears a face veil, saw men in their neighborhood yank the veil off another woman draped in black. At another point, local men stopped the couple’s car and barred them from entering a marketplace, Ibrahim said, because of the way they were dressed.
“You have to understand: The minibuses don’t even stop for me anymore,” he said.Cry me a Nile River, pal. You brought this on yourself. When you seek to impose a totalitarian ideology on people, don't expect them to cut you any slack when the shoe is on the other foot. I think the encouraging thing here is that the Egyptian people, though (in)famously conservative in the Muslim world, are making resistance to Islamism personal and are consciously expressing it in their everyday lives.