This popular Egyptian song by Ali al-Haggar is titled ‘We are a People’. It was created around the time of the military action to remove President Morsi from power, showing scenes from the protests against him.
Fair enough, but the lyrics do not stop at the title. The refrain continues ‘… and you are a people’.
It is a very thinly veiled contrast of the Egyptian people with Islamists, and in particular the Muslim Brotherhood.
This could possibly, maybe, be fair enough. The Muslim Brotherhood is a transnational organization that aims for the unity of the Muslim peoples. Their opponents accuse them of using Egypt as a launching pad for a new caliphate, rather than being loyal to Egypt as a nation-state.
As such, they are a separate people, or so the song suggests.
This is very dangerous and divisive sentiment. Some may say these are dangerous and divisive times. It is good, they say, the Brotherhood has been removed from power before it is too late.
Perhaps. But the song continues, ‘Despite there being only one God, we have a God, and you have a God.’
One Salafi friend, profiled here, complained bitterly about this line before I was even aware of the song.
Islamists are often accused of being ‘takfiris’ – those who call anyone who does not agree with them an infidel. This song does the same in reverse.
‘Take your fatwas and go far away from our land,’ it sings. Early after the revolution some Salafis told Christians and liberals they could leave Egypt and go to Europe or America if they didn’t like the results of elections.
‘We have ibn Sina and ibn Rushd [two famous Arab philosophers], you have bin Laden [you know who he is],’ it also declared. Since dispersing the pro-Morsi sit-in the media had declared the crackdown on the Brotherhood as a ‘War against Terrorism.’
And perhaps it is. Few things are yet clear, but the dangerous and divisive lyrics of this song are one of them. Whatever criminal conspiracy the Brotherhood has possibly engaged in, there are hundreds of thousands of ordinary Egyptians who are partial, at least, to the slogans and promise of Islamism.
These deserve better than this song offers them.
But it is quite catchy. Propaganda often is.