June 18, 2013
Dispatches From Cairo: Raising Cane Against the ‘Morality Police’
Posted on Jan 17, 2012
In speaking to Al Ahram paper, Islamist lawyer Montasser El-Zayat said, “The idea of having such a committee is legitimate and in accordance with the Quran—but should not force anyone to do—or not do—anything.” He added, “It should convince people of its beliefs in a respectful, peaceful way.”
Zayat also said, “And, of course, it would be better if such a committee was run by the government and not by an independent group.”
In fact, Zayat, like many Egyptians, accustomed to constant manipulation, believes the committee to have been created to discredit Islam and Islamists. “This group in Egypt seems to be a hoax made up by someone who wants to defame the Islamists after their landslide victory in parliament.”
Meanwhile, this is one more matter that distracts the people’s attention from any productive strategy for dealing with the real issues of Egypt: poverty, health care, infrastructure, education.
One-third of Egypt’s budget is spent on subsidies, mainly food like bread and sugar, and no plan to deal with the economic chaos has been put in place by either the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces or the political parties, including the Islamists and the liberals. Foreign investments are fleeing the country. Though there has been discussion with the International Monetary Fund about a $3 billion loan, the SCAF prefers to have Egypt go it alone.
We are still under “emergency law,” there are still thousands of dissidents in prison, and there are recurring peaks of dramatic violence between period of unfocused calm.
Billions of dollars and other huge assets are unaccounted for, apparently forgotten in the short memory of the revolutionaries who overthrew a corrupt government that bled the country dry while the people went hungry. Bread has lost its place in the list of demands, behind revenge and partisanship and tragedy and glory. The new anti-vice committee seems incredibly convenient as another divisive shard in the election/parliament/constitution/president grab bag.
People will be woozy and weak and worried, their minds batted about by opposing teams—who are our friends and who are our enemies? And who will protect us?—as we go fear-tumbling once again from lack of truth and knowledge and self-determination.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei stated he would not be running for president, adding that this decision does not mean his complete withdrawal from the political scene; he says he will continue serving society “outside any positions of power, freed from all the chains.” He further added that “my conscience will not allow me to nominate myself to the presidency or any formal position without the presence of a real democratic framework that uses the essence of democracy, not just its image.”
Who will ask if the military will really allow civilians to pick the full Cabinet, including the ministers of defense, interior and finance? Will the generals accept an end to the riches and enormous “special privileges” they have possessed for the last 60 years? Will the generals demand immunity from prosecution?
The military has cleverly appropriated the first anniversary of the start of the revolution, Jan. 25, and has orchestrated a vast and extended celebration. It will hold festivities in Tahrir Square—a three-day extravaganza of concerts, air shows and a football match for the benefit of the injured. Egypt National Day has been changed to Jan. 25 from July 23. There will be events over the whole 18 days of the key revolutionary period, with honors going to the martyrs and the heroes. In view of this hoopla, who can call the SCAF counterrevolutionary? In fact, anyone who would interfere with this celebration would be seen as counterrevolutionary.
Meanwhile, the people scrape and live and gobble some propaganda, unable to concentrate on the fine print while waiting for the next roller-coaster plunge.
It’s a wild ride, but if anyone thinks that the women of Egypt will run fluttering and terrified into silent and invisible submissiveness, they have understood nothing. If the few “vice patrol’ incidents that have been reported in the Qalioubiya governorate north of Cairo and 6 October City, on the outskirts of the capital, are an indication of a real trend, I think we will see the biggest revolution yet. Remember the women demonstrating in outrage at their treatment by the police? That was only a hint of the bravery of the Egyptian woman, no weak sister. ... I wish I could have seen the beauty salon turn on the committee members who wanted to deprive its occupants of their dignity. But I did see my friend Eman yell at one who tried to diminish hers.
“It’s the same guys who burned the churches and the shrines of the Sufis. They are Salafi thugs,” she said to me with that familiar, confidant Egyptian ardor and imprecision. “Nothing more than that. But I swear to Allah, if they try to mess with us, we will kick their ass.”
Images of guns and clubs and death cars and tasers and that other tough-talking girl—the one whose blue bra was exposed as she was being stomped and bludgeoned by soldiers—came to my mind, and I chased those thoughts away. “Ya, revolution queen. You go, girl.”
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