Cairo: The day after he won Egypt’s presidential elections last year, Mohammad Mursi of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood showed up at a huge rally in Tahrir Square to celebrate his victory.
It was clearly difficult for him to stifle the Brotherhood’s resentment of the 1952 revolution and its iconic leader Jamal Abdul Nasser.
“As for the 1960s, you don’t know much about that era. A lot happened in it,” declared Mursi, an outburst that irked many Egyptians with whom Nasser is still popular.
Nasser’s relations with the Brotherhood worsened after he survived a 1954 assassination bid in the coastal city of Alexandria, which was blamed on the group. Many of its members were put on trial and some executed in the follow years.
For the next 57 years, the Brotherhood became the target of systematic government oppression. The crackdown reached a peak in the 1960s.
Nearly two months after taking office, Mursi made a televised address in which he ignored Nasser’s name and lashed out at the 1952 revolution.
“The revolution succeeded in fulfilling and enhancing some of its goals, but it faltered in others, particularly those related to genuine democracy,” Mursi said.
Nasser, who died in 1970, is revered in Egypt as a champion of social justice and Arabism.
“Its [the revolution’s] steps went back in establishing a real democratic life based on the people’s sovereignty and the nation’s empowerment to be the source of powers,” said Mursi whose Brotherhood remained officially banned from 1954 until a popular uprising forced Hosni Mubarak out of power in February 2011.
“The Egyptian people had to rectify the path and right the wrongs. So they staged their second revolution on January 25 2011 to set the record straight,” added Mursi, referring to the anti-Mubarak revolt.
In a May Day speech held at a steel mill established by Nasser in southern Cairo, Mursi, who was facing stiff opposition at the time, sought to woo workers by pledging to “complete what Abdul Nasser started”. His gesture, however, failed to impress Egyptians, millions of whom, took to the streets on June 30, demanding Mursi’s resignation and early presidential elections.
“Despite its big mistakes of getting involved in wars outside Egypt and failing to establish a democratic rule, the 23rd July revolution still has a great place in Egypt’s public mind,” said Salah Al Hadi, a political analyst.
“The bulk of Egyptians, including the Brotherhood’s present leaders, got free, good education thanks to that revolution’s care about improving the lives of the poor,” he told Gulf News.
“The revolution and Nasser in particular made big strides in achieving social justice. Nasser’s partiality towards farmers and workers was unmistakable. So, they used to call him father of the poor.”
According to Al Hadi, Nasser’s successors – Anwar Al Sadat and Mubarak—showed keen interest in celebrating the revolution anniversary.
“Like Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak were from the army. Thus, their legitimacy was related to the revolution itself. In contrast, Mursi and the Brotherhood have historical scores to settle with the revolution, which oppressed and forced them to go underground,” said Al Hadi.
“Their bitter experience in the Nasser era is one main reason why they are unprepared now to accept Mursi’s ouster. They are haunted by what happened to them since 1954 until Mubarak’s toppling.”
The Brotherhood has condemned Mursi’s overthrow by the military on July 3 as a coup and vowed massive protests until his reinstatement.
Adly Mansour, a chief judge who took over as interim president after Mursi’s ouster, seized the occasion of the 1952 revolution anniversary to muster up support for the country’s military-backed new leaders.
“We will pursue the same goals [of the revolution] namely freedom, dignity, justice and independence,” he said in a televised address Monday night. “While remembering some mistakes of that [revolution] era that should be denounced, we should not allow this denunciation to be a motive for rancourous underestimation or taking revenge against the revolution,” he added.