Maher Hathout: A second chance for democracy in Egypt





[Maher Hathout is senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council, spokesperson for the Islamic Center of Southern California and chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.]

Half a century ago, I was part of a human flood surging through the streets of Cairo. It was March 1954, and we had poured out of the university gates intending to cross the bridge of Qasr el Nil and meet up with other protesters for a massive demonstration outside the official presidential palace in Abdin Square.

The Egyptian people had recently emerged from the rule of King Farouk, who had been ousted in a military coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952. The coup was initially met with support and hope, but that quickly dissipated as the Egyptian people watched the new leadership veer toward repression. Newspapers were nationalized, the constitution was suspended and members of the opposition were arrested.

The Egyptian people, led by students, rose up to resist oppression and call for freedom of expression and respect for the constitution, and that is how I found myself marching through Cairo in 1954.

The bridge shook from so many footsteps as we set out across the Nile. It pulsated with the anger and hope we all felt that day knowing that history was being made. And then, as we reached the middle of the bridge, soldiers opened fire. Books covered with blood flew and wounded students cried for help. The resolution of the crowd was immediate: We refused to be cowed. We would find another way to reach Abdin Square. The government had to be brought down.

We had no cellphones or Internet, of course, but word spread rapidly...


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