On the whole, though, critiques of the Tamarod movement””as well as of the police and the army””are muted. People are careful not to portray the Brotherhood in a negative or violent light. Everyone I speak to stresses that it’s natural for members of a society to hold differing opinions and says that the media is overstating the divisions in Egyptian society. Others differentiate between the army and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, saying the former are of the people while the latter is a part of the old regime. Even the police, the same police who looked on while the Muslim Brotherhood Headquarters burned yesterday, are called “an Egyptian institution” by Abdel Aziz of Alexandria. “They don’t belong to any [political] trend,” he says.
Despite these gentle words, I can’t help but be unsettled by all of the military-looking exercises going on around me, though I am assured several times that the weapons and hardhats are merely a precaution against “thugs” who might want to harm the protesters. The presence of hundreds of men with sticks does give one pause, even when those men insist they are “peaceful” and “against violence.”
“We don’t want military rule. We want a civil government,” says Ahmed el Bahrawi, a 37-year-old engineer from Sharqeya in the Delta. “We don’t say religious, because people think [we mean] like Iran,” his friend, a French teacher, adds. The choice of the words “civil state” is a bit ironic. In this case, people are using it in the sense of civil as opposed to military rule, but the phrase “civil state” is usually used by liberals here to contrast with an Islamic state””which, of course, these people seek in some form. Changing times, changing lexicons, I suppose. Ahmed then shows me his dirty clothes and says he has been camped out since last Friday; today he took his first shower in six days.