The assassination attempt against the Egyptian Interior Minister Thursday was a cowardly attempt to destabilize the government, but it is symbolic of the political isolation felt by opposition members, and must not be ignored by the country’s leaders.
The minister involved, Mohammad Ibrahim, warned after the incident that the car bomb targeting his convoy represented “not the end but the beginning” of a period in Egyptian security. And unfortunately, it appears likely he will be proven correct in this prediction. While the car bomb was condemned by the Muslim Brotherhood, Ibrahim has been largely responsible for overseeing the widespread crackdown on party members and leaders since the overthrow of Mohammad Morsi in early July. So perhaps not sanctioned by the party itself, it is likely an extremist Brotherhood sympathizer was behind the attack.
This is just the latest in a series of attacks targeting the establishment, from police stations to state institutions, even churches, for being seen to have sided with the coup leaders. But before it is too late, Egyptian leaders must look to many neighboring examples to try and avoid even greater bloodshed.
In post-Saddam Iraq, the new order was only too quick to crack down on the Baath party, disbanding the army and imprisoning party members. This approach, led more by a sense of vengeance than any pragmatic decision-making, has led to years of bloodletting and indiscriminate violence, rendering the streets of Baghdad, the sidewalk cafes and bakeries, all killing fields. This year alone, thousands have died.
After 150,000 had been killed in the Lebanese Civil War, a different response was pursued, and a general amnesty called. Yes, targeted violence has flared in recent years, but the postwar years were largely calm. This might not be the right answer for Egypt, but debate must be allowed, on even ground, so that individuals and parties can begin to see beyond their differences.
Political dialogue must be pursued in Egypt, for the example of Syria shows only too well, the longer you try to ignore a problem – the “problem” here for the Egyptian government being the Muslim Brotherhood – the fiercer it will become. You can try and ignore a political nuisance for some time, try to dismiss it as weak, as inconsequential or as unpopular, but eventually it will rise to the surface, angrier and more emboldened after years of repression.
Democracy is a new arrival in Egypt, and the country is still in a state of post-revolutionary flux. But the new government must strive to embrace all people, with all their myriad ambitions and aspirations. This is not an easy process, and of course it is far easier to simply suppress elements of the opposition. But unless Egypt is prepared for increasing bloodshed, violence which will tear communities apart, then this inclusiveness is the only option.