CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak’s speech to commemorate the Oct. 6, 1973 War Wednesday was part campaign-trail accomplishment listing and a warning shot to Egyptian Islamist groups.
With parliamentary elections due later next month, Mubarak, after lauding the role of Armed Forces in the 1973 war with Israel and highlighting the importance of peace in the post-war era, talked about efforts to modernize Egypt since then.
“We faced many challenges in modernizing our society and achieving comprehensive development, and we managed to overcome them. We continue the process of reform and modernization. We have a strong economy that allowed us to face international crises,” the president said in a speech Tuesday, a day before the national holiday.
“We now have a stronger constitutional and legislative infrastructure, stronger organizations, a stronger army, a stronger civil society and a stronger private sector than what we had after the October war,” Mubarak added.
But the Egyptian leader — in power since 1981 — also spoke of another war Egypt faced after the October war, and that was the battle with Islamic fundamentalism.
“We entered after the [October] victory a battle with terrorism and extremism that targeted Egypt’s security and stability and the lives and livelihood of its sons and is still lying in wait for us,” Mubarak said.
And in a rather blatant warning about the political role of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, which is the largest minority presence in the People’s Assembly, Mubarak said there was no place for religion in the political landscape of “modern” Egypt.
“We work towards a modern civic state that can face the world realities in the 21st century and stand by the poor and needy … and does not mix religion with politics,” he said.
Talking of sectarian strife, Mubarak said it was a line he would allow no one to transgress, telling those who wanted to fuel such strife that “no one is above the constitution and the law.”
Nabil Abdel-Fatah from Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies said, “It’s a message to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist movement in Egypt and the perceived distinctions between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. He focused on the concept of the modern nation state, mentioning it several times, and the refusal of sectarian differences. There is a clear message that Egypt is not a religious state.”
Abdel-Fatah added that Mubarak’s usage of the term “civic state” was borrowed from the Egyptian Islamic thinker Mohamed Abdu who supported the metaphorical divide between religion and state, and to avoid the use of the word secular, which in Egypt is often construed as Godless or atheist.
On Oct. 6, 1973, which was then the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and on that year fell on the tenth day of Ramadan, Egypt launched a surprise attack at the Israeli Bar Lev defense line across the Suez Canal while Syria concurrently launched an attack along its border at the Golan Heights. Egypt had lost Sinai and Suez in the Six-day war of 1967.
Egyptian forces managed to smash through the Bar Lev line and advanced into Sinai. Fighting continued until an Israeli encirclement of the Egyptian Third Army. A ceasefire was brokered on Oct. 25.