“If any Muslim woman screams his name, he will immediately run to her rescue.” The speaker of this impressive statement is an Egyptian preacher and the “he” is the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate. The idea is borrowed from a famous saying by the second Islamic Caliph Omar ibn al-Kattab: “If a beast of burden stumbles in Baghdad, God will hold me accountable for not paving the road there.”

The second sentence offers a wise ruler’s take on the idea of political responsibility and was actually quoted a lot at the time when controversy was at its peak over who should be blamed for the cold-blooded death of peaceful protestors. The first, however, gives a totally different impression and is better understood when compared to another statement said earlier by the former Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide. “I don’t give a damn about Egypt and I don’t mind a Malaysian president,” he said. While this bit might seem a little cryptic, the bit that came right after it made the whole idea much clearer, for he stressed that Ottoman rule of Egypt should not be called “occupation” because the so-called occupiers were Muslim. In the first statement, the woman who is going to scream is Muslim and obviously not necessarily Egyptian. Nothing is known, therefore, about whether a Christian woman is allowed to scream, too.

Both the preacher and the former supreme guide endorse the idea of a Muslim nation that transcends political borders and considers Muslims citizens of one big entity that takes in all adherents of the same faith. This, by the way, is the same concept the second caliph explains, only with a time difference of 15 centuries or so. The caliph was referring to a status quo and stating how he should act according to the given circumstances. He was a caliph and was, thus, responsible for all the territories encompassed in his caliphate. This, however, is not the case in an age of nation-states where sovereignty is determined through a set of internationally-accepted lines commonly known as borders. The two of them are, in fact, imposing a system of governance that has been long extinct and are doing so in the most exclusionist manner possible. A Muslim woman in, say, Nigeria can rest assured that the future president of Egypt is there for her and a Malaysian man is most welcome to govern Egyptians. Here, religion takes precedence over nation so that a Christian Egyptian is no longer a priority and even a Muslim occupier will feel more at home than he/she does.

The ruler’s alleged right at the choice of “subjects” was made pungently clear to me when I watched for the first time the campaign clip of this same presidential candidate. In the clip, all females, including teenage schoolgirls, are veiled, an explicit indicative not only of excluding Christian women, but also non-veiled Muslim ones. Add to this that while the clip starts with the Muslim call for prayers, a church is nowhere to be spotted in any of the scenes that depict different parts of a country of which Coptic culture and heritage form an integral and inseparable part. I am not sure how different this is from George W. Bush’s notorious “You’re either with us or against” and I am not sure how the new caliph would expect the “against” to shift to “with.” Is that an implicit and/or moral reenactment of the “conversion or expulsion” policy at the time of the Reconquista? Maybe that was not the case with the original caliphates, but it is definitely one of the aspects of the modern one in the making before our very eyes.

The caliphate rhetoric then witnessed an abrupt shift from insinuation to declaration with another clip by the same preacher explicitly crowning the same presidential candidate the next caliph of some new nation that he decided to call the United States of Arabia, leaving you wondering if the move to what looks like Arab nationalism is intended or if the man just happened to forget that Malaysia and Turkey are not Arab states or may be both countries and all their Muslim counterparts will be part of an Arab-led pan-Islamic caliphate. The third option would sound the most logical especially in the light of the sudden change of heart towards the formerly beloved Turkish invaders following Erdogan’s blunt response to attempts by Egyptian Islamists at dragging his name into the trans-border project and which he categorically dismissed by flatly stating that he is just s senior statesman of a modern, secular state that is predominantly Muslim. Jerusalem would be the capital of the new nation after, of course, the president liberates it, the preacher explained, unleashing a wave of applause by an audience who start chanting slogans about “depriving Jews of sleep” and offering “millions of martyrs” until Palestine is free. How relevant this is to the political platform the candidate is expected to offer about his future plans for Egypt remains a mystery unless the whole point was stressing the not giving a damn about Egypt theory and which might for some strange reason seem attractive to voters who think no prosperity is possible without the grand unification of a stretch of land that prioritizes scriptures over national identity.

While I can’t personally judge if Egyptians were better off at the time of the Romans or following the Arab conquest or under Ottoman occupation, there is one thing I am sure of: time machines would not have come into being had it not been for H.G. Wells and Universal Studios and other than that they do have no physical existence anywhere on the planet. The concept of the caliphate, which is technically not different from that of empire, could have seemed normal at a time when territorial expansion was the only way a given nation would prove its superiority and/or build defenses in the face of menacing adversaries. That was the same time when the word “people” was synonymous with subjugation and lack of an independent will and when concepts like democracy and citizenship were probably various manifestations of the barbarity of the ignorant masses.

Egyptians did not stage a revolution because they wanted to restore the caliphate nor did the most patriotic of its youths lose their lives in order to replace a dictatorship that humiliated each and every citizen with a theocracy that sets its own criteria of what a citizen should be like. And as much as Egyptians support the Palestinian cause and loathe the former regime for abandoning Palestinians, liberating Jerusalem was not one of the revolution’s demands and making a presidential candidate seem like another Saladin is just a cheap attempt at emotionally manipulating a generally religious public that rallies behind anyone who claims to be able to save al-Aqsa Mosque from the “Jews.” And seculars and Christians did not take part in the revolution in order to end up being treated as second-rate citizens or to be forced to comply with a set of rules that violate everything they fought for.

And definitely Egyptians did not rebel against decades of tyranny to be threatened with having their “dead bodies bitten in their graves by snakes for four whole years” if they do not vote for the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, like one venerable preacher warned in the press!

So, if you are not lured by the caliphate, you better be scared of the snakes. In both cases, you need to deviate from the goals of the revolution in order subscribe to some illusory project that is sold to Egyptians as the only means of returning some past glory while in fact it only aims at stripping them of one of the world’s most diversified heritages and most culturally-enriched identities in favor of a one-tracked system that considers compatriots within the same borders aliens and foreigners on the far side of the globe brethren.