Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Egypt's own Culture War?

Find below a re-post of a brilliant article by Mahmoud Salem, also known as the blogger Sandmonkey, on what he sees as an emerging culture war in Egypt. Published in the Daily News Egypt, read on...

A country of extremists

Like many of you, I have been horrified with the phone call made by constituent assembly member, Mohamed Saad El Azhary, to the 10 pm show on Dream, where he stated his intention to change the Egyptian constitution to allow the age of consent for marriage for females to be the age at which they reach puberty and have their first period, even if this age is as low as 9 years-old. He stated that the current legal age to be inappropriate with Egyptian cultural values, which always encourage marriage at a young age for certain segments of Egyptian society, and that the international treaties regarding human rights and women’s rights to be a product of western values that are not suitable for Muslim Nations, and therefore should not be followed by us. This is coming on the heels of the week that had both the prophet movie crisis, the attack on the US embassy with people carrying an Al-Qaeda flag and the ensuing political fallout with the US, where we were described, for the first time in almost 40 years, as “not an ally”. It has been a splendid week, as you can imagine.
It is safe to say that Egypt is going through its own version of a culture war, except that unlike the US for example, it is a culture war in which one side always attacks and the other side scampers for cover. The amount of people who told me that this is the week where they have lost all hope and decided to leave the country is ridiculous. For some odd reason, the same people that should stay and engage in this culture war are the same people who are thinking of running away from it, thus allowing the other side to win by default. Nothing showcases this more than the case of Albier Saber.
Albier is a 25 year-old Copt who got arrested by the Egyptian police for the crime of posting the trailer of the movie Innocence of Muslims on his Facebook page, and he is currently being accused of disdain for religion and has been attacked in his holding cell by other inmates for it. One would think that such action would be considered preposterous by the non-Islamist population because 1) the trailer was shown on TV, and introduced to the Egyptian population, by Salafi TV presenter Khaled Abdallah, and yet he didn’t face any charges and 2) Since when is sharing content on our own Facebook pages a crime? and 3) The irony that the police operating under a government that exists only due to a revolution that got organised by a Facebook page that published content that the previous government thought was offensive and dangerous for the country’s unity is now doing the same thing and arresting such Facebook offenders as well? Nope, such points are usually only found on Twitter, but everyone, with the exception of some human rights NGOs , are shying away from defending Albier, as if fearing that they would be labeled Prophet Haters by the Islamist camp or something. And none of them seems to think that them standing up in those specific battles is the only thing that will stop the sum of their fears from actually happening. They have willingly given the Islamists the right to speak in the name of Islam, and step on eggshells in order not to confront them, even though confronting them is fairly easy, and it starts with calling them out on their bullshit.
First of all, given that this is a Muslim country, one should call Egyptian “Islamists” on who they really are: a bunch of shrill, patriarchal, misogynistic, violent extremists who are using Islam as a cover for their behaviour. That in reality we don’t have “islamists” as much as people with unresolved sexual and personal issues that have found in certain Islamic schools an excuse to carry out their convoluted fantasies about sex, control and mental lock-down. That their so called fundamentalism is synthetic and created primarily to excuse their behaviour, and that their “back to basics” mantra that romanticises a time where they believe that their social rules, intellectual walls and sexual fantasies were part of society’s norm and wishes to bring it back is obviously a crock and wishful thinking.
Secondly, one should establish that calling them up on it doesn’t make someone less of a muslim, but rather a defender of Islam from those who are actually tarnishing its image, for what they are doing is more damaging to Islam’s reputation than a thousand so called “Islam –attacking films”. And finally, that their aggressive drive to push their vision on the Egyptian population with its diverse Islamic beliefs and modes of behaviour will not only end up with creating an unbridgeable chasm in Egyptian society amongst its muslim population, but will lead many people who are perfectly good muslims to walk away from the religion and its practices all together.
You see, it is my firm belief that all Egyptians are religious extremists, in the sense that no matter what it is that they believe in, they really don’t like it when someone pushes their religious beliefs on them, and while some will flight, most will fight, even in subversive ways. For example, did any of you notice the amount of people, who never broke their fast before, but didn’t observe the fast this Ramadan? Coffee-shops were full, people were smoking normally in the streets and juice shops had lines in front of them on the street. Many have confided in me that they believe it was a knee-jerk subconscious reaction to having Morsy in office. And this is not a new thing to happen at newly “Islamised” countries: the same reaction was found and notoriously documented in Iran for the past 30 years. It’s starting to happen here now. Observe.
While we all do respect the results of the presidential election, the islamists should understand that it was a referendum between Shafiq and Morsy, and not a referendum on Islam itself and how it should be implemented legally and socially. That the side-effect of mixing politics with religion isn’t that if the politicians fail, people will say that the religion failed, but rather that people who dislike the politicians will start turning their backs on the religion as well. Newton’s first law is that every action has an equal and opposite, if not sometimes delayed, reaction, and something tells me that if they keep this up, if they keep pushing the population this way, the reaction that they will eventually get is not one that they will like. It just won’t end well for anyone.

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