A day late, but in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day in the United States, here is a list of principles to which he had his fellow non-violent activists commit.
I hereby pledge myself—my person and body—to the nonviolent movement. Therefore I will keep the following ten commandments:
1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
2. Remember always that the non—violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation — not victory.
3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
10.Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.
I sign this pledge, having seriously considered what I do and with the determination and will to persevere.
Let us pass on the first commandment, given the primary makeup of Egyptian revolutionaries as Muslim. Some Christians might argue that without the first, however, those following are devoid of their power and without foundation.
Whatever the merits of this argument, it certainly seems like many could be adopted by anyone. On some counts many Egyptians measure up well. On others, not so much.
The Egyptian revolution was largely peaceful. But not entirely. Many protests witnessed low-level violence such as the throwing of Molotov cocktails. This was front line action, though, and the masses of protesters remained behind.
But of #2: All were focused on justice, but some let the pursuit of victory get in the way. Few prioritized reconciliation.
#3: Love was almost never put forward as a theme. Most large protests were labeled ‘day of rage’ and themes of this sort.
#6: Courtesy was in short supply. Slogans tended to demonize the opponent, and graffiti was often insulting.
#8: Islam has a similar listing. A tradition of Muhammad states that if one sees a wrong that must be put right, he should strive to do so first with his hand, then with his tongue, and then if these are not possible, with his heart. Different schools of interpretation have allowed different levels of violence in this effort, or specified who can take this action under what circumstances. In any case, while most protestors avoided the violence of the hand, violence of the tongue and heart was plentiful.
#10: The Egyptian revolution had no leader, and certainly no commanding and inspiring figure like Martin Luther King. Many have identified this as a reason for the rapid divisions that dissipated its power after the fall of Mubarak.
The issues of the civil rights movement and the January 25 revolution were certainly different. But whereas American evils have largely (though not entirely) been put right and social peace achieved, the ills of Egyptian society and state threaten to continue.
Perhaps if Egypt’s peaceful protesters had adopted the spirit and convictions of MLK and not just his methodology, things would have been different. Then again, perhaps not. Your thoughts on the differences are welcome.