On March 19, a referendum on recent constitutional amendments as devised by a committee of judges and lawyers will take place. In all optimism, this may be the first time Egyptians experience democracy. For this reason, I find it unnecessary to cancel or postpone the referendum as it will give Egyptians an opportunity to feel involved in the affairs of their country. It will instigate the sense of belonging that has been wiped out over the years. This is what Egypt needs rights now – democratic activity. Whether you support or oppose amendments, your points are valid and must be respected by others.
I, however, would vote no (if I were to vote).
This immediately brings me to my point. The approximately 7.5 million Egyptians living abroad, nearly 60,000 of whom reside in Canada, are excluded from voting for or against the referendum since there are no voting stations set up at Egyptian embassies or consulates, thereby depriving them from their right to enjoy a democratic Egypt. Also, the amendments de-qualify Egyptians with dual nationalities, or ones who are married to Egyptians with dual nationality, or ones whose parents have acquired a nationality other than the Egyptian from holding the office of President, a civil service position.
The concern about Egyptians with dual nationality is understandable and may be valid. However, the response to this concern must not simply be exclusion. Excluding the nearly 7.5 million Egyptians hinders the sense of belonging that a new democratic Egypt desperately needs. Excluding them is a direct way to doubt their loyalty to their country. In fact, if their loyalty is questioned, then the fact that they hold the Egyptian citizenship should be questioned as well, which does not coincide with principles of freedom, democracy and social justice, the key ideals that the January 25 Revolution stood for.
Egyptians abroad are in no way less loyal or less in love with Egypt than any other Egyptian. There is no rule to that. What about the corrupt Egyptians we all know who have lived their lives with behaviors and activities that have only harmed the country disastrously? How can Egyptians abroad be treated as second class citizens, while corrupt Egyptians are still freely roaming the streets of Egypt?
Priorities need to be reorganized and made clear. A constitution must protect the rights of all its constituents, regardless of their present location, religion, race, ancestry, etc.
This is one reason why I will vote no to the proposed amendments.
It has been 21 days since the historical day when the Egyptian people overthrew their now former corrupt “democratic” dictator – February 11, 2011. It took a swift 18 days, from January 25, for this revolution to finally start having concrete outcomes. The ouster of Mubarak. The drafting of constitutional amendments that cater the people’s demands (pending referendum result). The Resignation of former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik and the appointment of revolutionary academic former Transport Minister Essam Sharaf. And there have been indications that more is yet to be achieved.
All that aside, there have been significant changes within Egyptian society, most obvious is the shift from nearly absolute political apathy to a newfound interest in politics. For many many years, as long as I can remember, the one most notable characteristic that I believe has described a vast majority of the Egyptian people is political apathy. If not a vast majority, then quite a considerable and dominant number.
From a class perspective, lower classes were politically apathetic possibly because they were more concerned with day-to-day issues or rather, daily survival. People belonging to the tiny middle class remaining in Egypt had their worldly concerns, just like the upper class. School children were censored from politics in one way or another. Students had their school and university social lives and studies to worry about. And so on. Many Egyptians always had an excuse or a reason to refrain from being politically informed and/ or from being politically involved. More often that not, political involvement was discouraged. And the reasons for that are the very reasons why the Egyptian people have called for dismantling Egypt’s 30+ year old corrupt regime.
A decrease in political apathy is definitely a positive outcome of Egypt’s revolution, but not without challenges. In fact, it has proven to be quite problematic. Egypt now hosts millions of citizens who are forced to be engaged in politics, at least mentally – whether they really like it or not. Many of them have attempted to be involved in political discussions and arguments, and many have often failed miserably at either formulating a logical argument or expressing it. Friends have been lost, families split, etc as a consequence. To me, it is the system to blame, the system that had worked to keep its constituents far from any light that could lead them forward.
This sudden revolutionary shift from political apathy to its opposite is certainly a challenge that must be brought into light and must soon be overcome. In the most basic sense, being well-informed (and well-exposed) is the key. And this is a request to all Egyptians:
If you are passionate about something. If you (and/ or others) consider yourself an expert in a field, do tell us. Politics or not. Do tell!
(written on March 5, 2011)
Long before the birth of the Berliner Mauer, Robert Frost, English poet and writer, wrote of walls in 1914, which may have been forshadowing what the world was bound to witness. In his poem titled “Mending Wall”, he writes:
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out
And to whom I would like to give offense.
The Berliner Mauer existed to serve the purpose of any other wall, to wall something in and/ or to wall something out. Families and friends had been walled away from each other. Communism was walling out democracy, and democracy was walling out communism.
Almost exactly 10 years before the Berliner Mauer‘s death, Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd) wrote of walls, sang of walls, and composed music of walls. And, who knows?! Perhaps he was in fact referring to the Berilner Mauer. While his focus in his musical film (and soundtrack), “The Wall”, was centered around a rock musician’s construction of a wall that isolated him from society and his destruction of all his interactions with his world, Waters’s perspective remains valid and can be applied to any such structure. The character goes through an isolation phase, as was experienced by many Germans and the world-at-large following the contstruction of the Berliner Mauer. Yet, following a myriad of internal conflicts, hysterias, etc, the character eventually tears down his own creation. He breaks free from the chains the wall has bounded him to. He is now free!
Unlike many obituaries, this one may seem ironic in that it may seem to speak more of the negatives of the Berliner Mauer than its good qualities. However, there was a purpose behind its very existence that is much more humanitarian that political. It showed us the true strengths and weaknesses of human civilizations. It showed us how it is for a country to be united, and for the world to finally be united. It showed us the end of “global conflict” (and we’re forgetting this as we are on the brink of a new global conflict). It showed us, humanity as a whole, the true essence of living: We are beings created to live together, peacefully and harmoniously. With the death of the Berliner Mauer on November 9, 1989, we must remember what we are here for. I pray that the world wouldn’t need another wall’s rise and fall to remind us of the lessons we have learned or should have learned from past mistakes.
On an ending note, I leave with the words of Roger Waters in his song “Outside the Wall”:
All alone, or in two’s,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall.
Some hand in hand
And some gathered together in bands.
The bleeding hearts and artists
Make their stand.
And when they’ve given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it’s not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger’s wall.
In memory of the wall that divided Germany for 28 years and of the destruction of the wall that divided the world.
(written on November 9, 2009)
Gamal Mubarak, a name that causes outrage. As one of the sons of Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981, we fear him. We fear the idea of him. We question whether Egypt will abandon its democratic hope and the initiatives that have held so much stagnant potential and return to being a monarchy. Many fear the possibility of Hosni Mubarak passing down his Olympic torch to Gamal Mubarak, in any of the coming elections, particularly the 2011 Egyptian presidential elections. We fear being silenced and muted, when we should only embrace the opportunity (provided by the elections) and play a role in our long-dormant community.
HOWEVER, suppose elections proceed as they should, with all corruption aside. Suppose the candidates of the 2011 elections are arguably qualified. Suppose the list of candidates include Gamal Mubarak. Would you vote for him for his qualifications? OR would you disregard his presence only in fear of the idea of the modern Egyptian royal family?
Let us judge Gamal Mubarak, not based on who his father and his family are, but based on who he is for once. Let us consider him as a person, and not as a mere frightening idea. After a fair amount of research, the following are reasons that deem Gamal Mubarak a potential candidate for presidency (IF AND ONLY IF he expresses interest in the first place):
- He has a strong background in economics, and was educated in some of the most prestigious institutions.
- His focus was on investment banking.
- He is (or was?) involved in corporate finance consultancy in London, which is quite a difficult field to get into on an international level.
- He holds the third post powerful position in the NDP, Deputy General Secretary.
This man holds potential.
I am, however, not arguing FOR or AGAINST him in this piece. However, I am sending out an SOS for lack of better words. In order for any kind of change to occur, we must begin to look at things with a more open eye, mind, and heart. Let us consider whatever options we have not on the basis of fear, but on the basis of sound judgment.
Let us not forget the line we constantly quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (Ghandi).
(written on October 15, 2009)