May 25, 2013
Dispatches From Cairo: Who’s the Bad Wolf Today?
Posted on Sep 26, 2011
We asked Lauren Unger-Geoffroy, an Arabic-speaking American who lives in Cairo, to share her perspective of life in Egypt after the revolution. In this entry, she writes about the emergence of Islamic liberalism.
“Don’t feed the bad wolf.” I tweeted that a few days ago.
That’s from a Cherokee legend: The wise man tells about the two wolves that fight inside all of us until one wins. One is evil and one is good. And who wins? the child asks. And the wise one says, “The one you feed.”
The view from Cairo is like a kaleidoscope of images of struggle crises hope despair joy misery loyalty betrayal beauty ugliness. The forces of light and darkness compete across a range of shifting shades.
Egypt, O Egypt, forgive me for being distracted by the dynamics of world power in general—and by the weight that will roll from the drama at the United Nations about Palestine, Obama, Arab Spring, Israel, USA, world dominance, political psychoses, tragedy, ethnosocial demographic shift, religious exclusionism, complicity, ascension and decline.
As the people poured out of the mosque on the corner below and the men lined up outside to shake each other’s hands in greeting, I noticed a few neighborhood people whose faces seemed less animated than usual. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that there were clouds in the sky and the afternoon light was not as bright as usual. The sun is beginning its autumnal retreat. The relentless summer sun scorched us, but we know it and we love it. And fall means winter is not far behind. Changes of seasons remind us of all the uncertainties that are to come.
Depending on your half-full or half-empty perspective, it has only been or has already been more than seven months since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, and still we are unsure about the actual changes and the revolution in Egypt. It is now clear that Mubarak’s regime lives on under a new, thinly veiled disguise, but most here are not fooled and will not allow the ascendance of any special interests to hijack their revolution: not the military, not the new old regime, not foreign interests and not Islamists.
Though at Islamist rallies, by their speeches and the crowds and the banners they carry, it is obvious that the Islamists want a religious and not a democratic state, the secularists and moderates still seem to be the majority, for now. The pro-Islamist Labor Party has spoken out against “diluting the Egyptian Arab and Islamic character.” But the verdict is still out. Egypt hasn’t yet decided if this country will turn into a Salafist or a Muslim Brotherhood state or it will choose to become a modern globalist country with all the positives and negatives that entails.
Islamic liberalism seems to be a new idea that is being tasted tentatively here.
“Liberalism has so many good sides that do not run afoul of the universal principles of the Islamic Shariah,” Nageh Ibrahim of the Islamic Group said in speaking before Wafd Party members in July. “We have to search for a form of Islamic liberalism compatible with the norms of Egyptian society while not alienating other forces.” He argues that Islamists and secularists have more common ground than differences, and he, along with most of the people, attributes sabotage campaigns to partisans of the former regime.
Even the cleric Mohammed al-Zoghbi, a hero of the Salafis and self-proclaimed enemy of secularism, recently called the country’s secularist activists “brothers with kind, good and patriotic hearts that just need to know the Islamists better.” However, a few weeks earlier, he insulted secular Tahrir Square protesters, calling them “scruffy homeless, forced into Tahrir Square, after they were beaten up by their wives back home.”
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