Backward !

The first few weeks after the revolution saw many  prominent Egyptian scientists and thinkers, mostly from the United States, working toward a revival of Egyptian education.  It is, of course, a worthy project and perhaps the only way to guarantee economic progress and social mobility for all Egyptians. Today, the picture is gloomier. The parliamentary committee on Education is chaired by a member of the Nour party, a conservative Salafi. If Education is to become the Salafis plum then let us not expect too much from Egypt in the near future. In fact, we can look at Afghanistan or Pakistan as a possible model.

Egypt does not have oil and can not prosper as a “rentier” economy. The education imagined by the Salafis will hobble Egyptians for decades to come, if not centuries. We can expect education that is narrow in more ways than one. Narrow in the sense that the glorious history of Egyptian prior to the Arab invasion will be marginalized and ignored. Narrow in the sense that modern scientific theories will be ignored or given a short shrift. Narrow in the sense that literature and the arts will be limited to the narrowest and most radical vision of Islam. Narrow in that sense that Egyptian youth will be indoctrinated in arcane minutia and given few tools to compete in the modern world.  Narrow in the sense that the well-off will seek advanced private education while the majority will suffer the mediocre fare doled out by the narrow minds of the Salafis further condemning them to economic marginalization. And soon this marginalization will give rise to the basest form of politics, driving most productive members of the society away. Giving this committee to the Salafis is an act of pure folly and calls into question the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, who make all the right noises, but whose actions speak louder. Giving this committee to the Salafis is an act of base vandalism.

Egypt for the Egyptians

This rallying cry has so often been co-opted for narrow political purposes, often xenophobic.  The assumption has always been that the country needs to be wrestled back from foreign domination. But the last year saw a different hue to this cry, and one that is profoundly positive.  The country is being wrestled back from the lethargic and corrupt rulers who have wasted its energy and potential.

On this day a year ago, the Egyptians have begun the difficult process of reclaiming their country for themselves. They can now be the owners of their land and their fate, and hopefully wise enough to be careful custodians of its great heritage for all of humanity.

Through the inevitable doubt that comes from decades of shame, failure and under-achievement, a firmer sense of self and place will emerge.

Interfering in Egypt (4)

It is fair to say that all modern communication technology owes a fundamental debt to the 19th Century French mathematician Fourier. A lesser known fact about the great Fourier is that he was an “Egypt Lover”. He supported and championed Champollion in his efforts to decipher the Egyptian Hieroglyphics.

Over the last six decades of failing rule by the Military Egyptians have come to view the West with suspicion.  A major reason is, of course Israel, as Egyptians have adopted the cause of the Palestinians as their own. Another major reason is the unceasing paranoia flamed by Nasser and sustained by the lesser autocrats who followed him. In this haze of paranoia Egyptians have lost the vision of how many in the West are true “Egypt Lovers”. The 18 days in January 2011 brought that back in stark relief as the world cheered the Egyptians on.

If the Egyptians were to rekindle the lost love affair with the West, but perhaps on a surer footing and with less feelings of humiliation and inferiority, it would be a benefit to Egypt and humanity at large.

On this day

Today is Martin Luther King’s Day in the United States. On this day it worth remembering that what will happen to the Copts in Egypt in the next few years will test the souls of all involved. Mostly it will test the Copts who will come under severe pressure, and these hardy resilient Egyptian people will undoubtedly show their mettle. But it will be also a test of the souls of others: the well-meaning Muslims who will realize that defeating the narrow agendas of self-professed guardians of Islam will in fact strengthen Islam and Muslims. It will test the souls of people outside the region, mainly American and Europeans who need to engage with belief and passion on behalf of freedom of conscience in a manner that bridges any ideological or partisan divisions.

Tourism brings corruption

Yes.. that is true. No, not the relatively benign European and American tourists who bare their mid-rif while guzzling beer.  The corrupt tourism is from the Gulf & Arabian Peninsula.  These tourists, unaccompanied men, account for almost all the traffic in prostitution, as well as for a serious percentage of secret and heavy drinking. The stories are horrific. The women, mostly victims of circumstance, have no recourse in a corrupt system of justice that will further victimize them, and will not press their cases.

The question is, will the right and honorable MB & Salafi politicians do something to curb the behavior of the Gulf Arabs or turn a blind eye. Or worse, blame the victims. If their reaction to the Army’s brutal treatment of women protesters recently is any guide, do not hold your breath. These men will not stand up for Egypt’s women.

Are they good at their job?

The torrent of talk about Egypt’s “Supreme Council of Armed Forces” seems to be missing a strand. The question is simple : are these generals good at war-making?

They seem to be into everything else. Business, journalism and politics, of course. But are they good as military leaders?  We have no way of knowing, since they seem to have abandoned that vocation as too difficult since 1973.  Egypt’s location in the world makes a bit vulnerable, yet it is cursed with an army that is unable to defend it properly. Egyptians are good at denial. But they must know that in an all out war against Israel, the army would lose badly. In fact, a small regional conflict with the Sudan or Ethiopia over the Nile resources would tax it heavily.

Yes, they are liars. But most damning, they are bad at their job.


The case against Naguib Sawiris

The news that a Salafi lawyer is suing Naguib Sawiris for “insulting Islam” as a result of a cartoon he tweeted some time ago is distressing. The cartoon had a bearded Mickey Mouse and Veiled Mini Mouse. Many Muslims have found it funny and tweeted it. They are not being sued. There are three disturbing factors:

1- The cartoon made fun of the Salafis, not Muslims in general or Islam as a religion. The Salafis seem to equate their habits with Islam as a whole. This is clearly their mindset: narrow and intolerant. Any protestations from the Nur party that they are “normal” should be ignored unless they come out against the suit.

2- No Muslim who tweeted the cartoon is being sued. In the mind of the Salafis,  Copts have inherently less rights than Muslims. This is exactly what Copts fear, the reduction to a second rate form of citizenship.. in their own country no less.

3- Thundering silence from the FJP & MB. They make all sorts of tolerant noises when it suits them, but they can not be bothered to live up to these promises, even in words.

If the courts do indeed rule against Sawiris it will be a thunderous decision. It will set Egypt back decades in economic and cultural progress.

We should all watch this one.