الجمعة، 9 مارس، 2007

A Tale of Two Egypts;

If you follow the different debates taking place in Egypt these days will come to one conclusion: There are two, maybe three, totally different, mutually exclusive, Egypts!!!

The first Egypt has about 5-10% of the population; they are the ones you see shopping in City Stars, and Maadi City Center shopping malls, they go to Cairo Opera House concerts, follow the latest fashion, mostly well educated, and have an ideal vision of Egypt. In Cairo region, they usually live in Zamalek, Garden City, Dokki, Mohandessin, Ma'adi, Moqatam, Helipolis, and Madinet Nasr in the city, or in suburbs such as Qatameiya Heights, Dreamland, Beverly Hills, Mansouria etc…

They are members of elite socio-sportive clubs such as Gezira, Heliopolis, Maadi, Shams, Zohour, and the new clubs like Wadi Degla, and Dreamland. They speak the same language, share the same aspirations, they come largely from the middle and upper middle classes, both Moslems, and Christians, although they range from mildly religious to atheists. They are the ones who are behind the movement to amend article 2 in the constitution as one of the amendments the government is trying to pass (AP Report). This article was introduced in its current form by the late president Sadat to counter Communism and Nasserism, and it states that "Islamic Shariy'a as the main source of legislation in Egypt."

The former Gama'a Islamiya member, and current leader in the Moslem Brotherhood Dr. Issam El-Eryan provided fresh ammunitions to the critics of this article by saying that only religious parties (or groups such as MB) are the ones that truly respect the constitution since they are the only ones following article 2!!!

The latest onslaught by this first Egypt to amend article 2 was in the form of a petition signed by 100 of the society's thinkers and educated elite demanding the removal or amendment of article 2, since it contradicts the principle of citizenship, and equality.

The second Egypt is composed of 10–15% of the population who are devoted Moslems with large percentage of former and current expatriates in the Gulf countries, and a small percentage of Christians. They try to follow their religion -according to tough interpretations- to the letter. For most of them, life is tough, but it doesn't matter, since life is just a phase in existance. Among this Egypt, there is a small percentage of these who are wealthy enough -either from overseas remittances or retail trade activities- to build mosques, fund social services attached to these mosques -such as MB financiers recently arrested.

Numerous websites (example) from the second Egypt dedicated their efforts to counter and ridicule the petition to amend article 2. They would have wanted it even amended to the other direction by adding the word "the only source of legislation" instead of the "the main source of legislation."

The reason behind the explosion of religiousness in Egypt is simple; the government has shutdown any form of political gathering for so long! The only available network for indoctrination became the mosque or the church! You don't have to be educated; you don't have to commute for large distances; you just walk to the house of worship even at the university where political activities are banned. University mosques have been used over and over again in political mobilization by what used to be known as the Islamic Front students.

Between the two Egypts, there is a sea of indifferent people who don't have the time or the energy to fight for either direction they don't vote in legislative elections, presidential elections, referendum, etc... They are lost in their 16 hours, 2 or 3 job workdays, and their daily struggle to provide food and shelter. For them, the first Egypt is repulsive, since it represents the wealthy ones who have everything. Deep down, they feel that the people of the first Egypt should suffer like them. They would have formed a perfect prolitaria for a communist nation.

I remember one day, a French friend and co-researcher told me that he is surprised that poor people are not revolting against rich people in Egypt because of the big gap! His surprise might disappear soon, since signs of social friction are starting to appear with wealthy people moving out of the city and living in gated communities, and the majority of Egyptians lose hope in getting a better life on earth, and start working to guarantee a place in the afterlife heaven.

In my view, the solution to reunify the many Egypts into one Egypt again is a mixture of improvement policies that should amount to revolutions in the following fields; education, population control, regional equalities, cultural change. The political system should change.

هناك 3 تعليقات:

غير معرف يقول...

this concept of two egypts was emphasized by the genius Waheed Hamed in his movie "Dam el Ghazal" when the character representing the 2nd Egypt which is uneducated, submissive, opressed says sarcastically to the wealthy upper class lady "احنا بلد تانيه غير بلدكوا".. "we belong to a country other than yours"

howie يقول...

And it is those masses (60%) who historically are the ones that get fired up during a revolution by some personality cult...do the dirty work fighting...yell and cheer...then a little later get screwed by the personality cult and go back to where they were, but are lucky to have even ONE job.

Nah·det Masr يقول...

Anonymous,

You are right, I remembered this movie while writing this blog; it is one of my favourites.

Howie,

Yes, the problem is that many people consume most of their lives running after an illusion, it takes them that much to learn that they wasted their lives for nothing, by that time, the good part of their life would have passed. But again, the immortal statement by Carl Marx "Religion is the opiom of people" is nowhere more aparent than in Egypt!