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This article is reprinted from Stonegate Institute.
The myths of a “patriotic” or “altruistic” Egyptian military carefully protecting the “rights” of its citizenry—the narrative of the mainstream media of the January 25 Revolution—are long gone.
Back in January, it was natural to conclude that the Egyptian military was the “savior” of the people, and that their “anti-democratic” president, Hosni Mubarak, embodied all of Egypt’s ills: such views are intrinsic to the Western worldview. Today, however, far from allowing protesters to stand atop its tanks in triumph, the military has taken to mowing them down with tanks at Maspero, and other barbarities—culminating in the recent massacre of civilians in Tahrir [ironically, “Liberation”] Square.
The military’s behavior is hardly inexplicable; Egypt’s own history offers countless precedents demonstrating context and continuity. Consider the Mamluks, the non-Muslims who were abducted and enslaved in youth, indoctrinated in Islam, and trained to become jihadists par excellence. While the Ottoman Janissaries, who terrorized Europe for centuries, are the most notorious of Islam’s slave soldiers, Egypt’s Mamluks—the word mamluk simply means “owned”—actually assumed power, establishing a slave dynasty in Egypt from 1258-1517.
Known for their fierce prowess—testified to by the fact that it was they who first defeated the otherwise unstoppable Mongol hordes at Ayn Jalut—Egypt’s Mamluk rulers were naturally oppressive, to both Muslims (which is legitimate under Islamic law) and non-Muslims (which is expected).
As James Jankwoski put it:
Ultimately, Mamluk rule rested on force. The chronicles of the period are replete with examples of Mamluk violence against the indigenous population of Egypt… From horseback, they simply terrorized those lesser breeds who crossed their paths. The sudden and arbitrary use of force by the government and its dominant military elite; frequent resort to cruelty to make a point; ingenious methods of torture employed both for exemplary purpose and to extract wealth from others: all these measures were routine in the Mamluk era.
One immediately discerns parallels between Mamluk Egypt and today’s military-run Egypt, from the fact that the Mamluks ousted their former Ayyubid master and installed their leader as ruler—just as the Egyptian military ousted Mubarak and installed their leader, Mohamed Tantawi, as ruler—to the fact that Egyptian citizens are again being terrorized and killed regularly, whether at Maspero or Tahrir Square.
But while the Mamluks were not indigenous, Egypt’s military today is made up natives; and while the Mamluks were slaves, today’s soldiers are free. These differences make the brutality of today’s military that much more objectionable.
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