No One Owns Tahrir

I’ve posted a piece on Arabist on my impressions of the Tahrir demo — a big and aggressive, but in some ways understandable, show of Salafi strength.

A lot of the left- or liberal-leaning youth groups feel that, as they were the ones who made the revolution, that they now own it. IMHO, revolutions shouldn’t work that way. Just because you topple an autocracy, you don’t get to dictate what follows. I realize that a lot of people perceive the Salafis to be opportunists who sat out the dangerous struggle to topple against Mubarak, but in a democratic system, you don’t get to disenfranchise people just because you believe that they’re opportunists. This reasoning is the first step on the path that drives revolutionaries to form vanguard parties and create a new dictatorship to replace the one that fell. I don’t think that the Tahrir revolutionaries will go very far down this road, but I also think that they have to realize that they don’t own Tahrir — neither the square itself, nor the revolution.

By saying this, I don’t mean at all to defend the message of the demo — not the pro-Osama chants, nor the insistence on the implementation of sharia, nor the indifference to Christian fears. Other Egyptian political trends should confront them on these points. But, if Salafis act like Salafis in the middle of Tahrir, it shouldn’t be seen as hijacking the revolution.

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