What If The Charlie Hebdo Massacre Happened In Egypt?

What If The Charlie Hebdo Massacre Happened In Egypt?


“I ask you to remain united – it’s our best weapon. It shows we are determined to fight against anything that can divide us. We must not be divided.”

Those were the words of French President François Hollande in response to the tragic terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine headquarters more than a week ago. They rang true with the French people, who took to the streets last Sunday in what was called ‘the largest demonstration in French history’.

A show of their unity. An affirmation of their right to free speech. An unrelenting stand in the face of oppressive terrorism.

Watching the massive rally and the inspiring cohesion with which the French, and indeed the entire world, came together in light of this tragedy, one cannot help but wonder: what if the situation was here in Egypt?

How similar (or different) would reactions be to this tragic event? What kind of responses would a terrorist-driven attack on free speech garner here in Egypt, a country whose very definition of free speech has always been a very elastic one? One that could be swiftly turned into ‘incitement of unrest’, ‘debauchery’ and even ‘contempt of religion’.

Let us imagine the cascade of events that would surely follow a similar tragedy should it happen in Egypt. While it is quite unfathomable that an Egyptian magazine would publish cartoons degrading of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), it is not unheard of that Islamist organisations have previously labelled certain writers, journalists and thinkers as ‘infidels’ and declared their killing a holy duty (much like the case of late writer and thinker Farag Fouda in the 90s).

Should this happen again in a similar fashion and magnitude to the Charlie Hebdo murders, what would the official responses be?

Unquestionably, a swiftly written statement from the Egyptian Presidency condemning the attacks, and declaring a three-day state of mourning with just the right sprinkle of nationalistic fervour, is sure to follow.

Promises will be made by the security apparatus to hunt down those responsible as soon as possible.

“…sources in the Egyptian Ministry of Interior, who have opted to remain anonymous, have hinted at possible Muslim Brotherhood involvement in the terrorist attack”

Perhaps a news piece like this one will circulate news channels and media outlets, plastering the crime on the outlawed organisation. It doesn’t matter if there’s no evidence to back those claims up, the charges were made and the sentence announced, providing the MOI more reason for a harder crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Much like Hollande urged the French people to take to the streets in response to the calamity, maybe the Egyptian president will do the same, and it certainly would not be the first time.

Egyptians, of course, will answer the call and rally to the streets much like they did before and, possibly, in numbers to rival those of the Parisian rally.

"Enzel!" Egyptian media outlets - both printed and digital - called on Egyptians to join protests called for by the Military 'against terrorism' in July 2013.
“Enzel!” Egyptian media outlets – both printed and digital – called on Egyptians to join protests called for by the Military ‘against terrorism’ in July 2013.

But how much of the unity shown by the French will be exhibited by the Egyptian people? A people that remain divided, in essence, ever since their 25th of January revolution between pro-state, anti-coup, pro-revolution, anti-revolution, anti-MB, anti-coup yet anti-MB etc.

This Egyptian version of the rally will, undoubtedly, offer an ample opportunity for much political gain.

“In the days following the massive rallies, the Egyptian president has decreed a state-wide emergency law effective immediately ‘to battle the black roots of terrorism which have plagued this country for so long and protect the lives and rights of the great Egyptian people'”

It would not be the first time an Egyptian official used massive demonstrations as a tool to enforce strict, sometimes even harsh, security measures.

Such a decree will undoubtedly divide the public around it. A great portion of the older generations of citizens will see it as a needed measure to achieve stability, perhaps only because its what they heard on the news channels from various political party heads, strategic analysts and ex-army generals who always seem to materialise out of nowhere to populate media outlets whenever such decrees hit the news.

However, some voices will still ring with dissent. The younger masses mainly. Political activists. The revolutionaries, as they have come to be called. But, these voices will be drowned out in the much larger symphony of supporters. They will be reduced to a faint dissonance in the larger musical score; and if that is not enough, the MOI have a state of emergency on their side.

The upcoming parliamentary elections? Delayed .

“Seeing as to the turbulent times the nation is going through and maintaining that it is the government’s unwavering resolve that the electorates’ safety is upheld above all else, the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt hereby decrees the upcoming parliamentary elections be postponed indefinitely until a time where it is deemed suitable that they be conducted. Long Live Egypt.”

Countless arrests will be made in the name of emergency law. In the name of ‘fighting terrorism’. The jails of Egypt will be stacked with more dissenters, who would be labelled ‘rioters’ and ‘Muslim Brotherhood elements’.

And the massacre against free speech? The very spark that set these wheels in motion?


The perpetrators of the horrendous attack against free speech would never be mentioned again by any official source, let alone caught or neutralized.

Another tragedy to be added to a long list of tragedies.

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  • Mervet

    What is the point of the article? What is the writer trying to imply on readers??either he is a writer or v cunning.

  • Ahmed Bata

    you missed an opportunity to highlight our hypocrisy. What would have undoubtedly happened is an attempt to lynch the cartoonists by the public, and if they were gunned down first, the perpetrators would have the backing of a good chunk of the population. Azhar mufti el tayeb just said azhar has been infiltrated by wahabists, and he is locking horns with salafists and extremist elements trying to take over the institution. This is made plain by the student demonstrations. I understand you are concerned about freedom and free speech from this administration, but that is undesirable goal, unless we also ensure those same freedoms will not be threatened by a theocracy with the backing of millions of imams, scholars, and supporters, who have been brainwashed en masse starting in the 1970s, into a foreign religion that is less tolerant than Islam in Egypt historically is.

    • rado

      Freedom of speach never will be threaten by a theocracy. ‘freedom of insulting’ it will. There must be limitations.
      In todays Egypt, those who terrorize are the state police, who kill innocent protester carrying flowers.

      • Ahmed Bata

        Freedom of speech will never be threatened by a theocracy? You really believe that? The paragons of theocracy these days are KSA and Iran, where freedom of speech is all but nonexistent. Or are you talking about an ideal theocracy, as was found in the hey day of the Islamic empire? The Islam we have now and what was practiced in the past are only remotely related. Be careful what limitations you set, because those will be the battle lines and those encroaching on it will be the ones threatened with the rule of law. I would rather draw the line where all who sincerely write or speak what they feel will be safe from prosecution. Look to Pakistan if you want to see what it’s like to have today’s idea of Islam given free rein to terrorize all who would “insult” it. Would you support criminalizing criticism of child marriage, FGM, practicing the arts, song and dance, etc…? is criticizing the burqa a criminal act? Keeping females in the home? Those are very basic human rights that are under threat from today’s Islam, and all those rights are threatened by theocracy. That trumps any right you have to not read about criticism to your religion. Moving on to what Islam actually says, we are supposed to ignore and walk away from extreme irrational insults. The prophet himself, pbuh, prohibited the punishment of those who insulted him. We ofc are too hypocritical to follow our religion, because we have been brainwashed. If Charlie had never happened, most of us would have never heard of the magazine. Instead, it has increased its circulation 10 fold, and we all know about the atheist given a 1000 lashes in KSA, and all the other atrocities committed by brainwashed society.


Simply, Ahmed Khaled is a medical student with a passion for writing!

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