Mubarak decided to make national police day a public holiday this year. While national police day isn’t a recent invention, this is the first year that the Egyptian public gets a day off out of it. My own explanation for this sudden act of lie-in generosity is that Mubarak – inspired by countries which have several bank holidays – decided that there is no reason why Egypt shouldn’t have public holidays named after one of its most hated institutions.
The idea of a national holiday in honour of the police is so unchallengeably farcical that it is hard to believe that the authorities penciled it in the national calendar with a straight face. Tellingly, Interior Minister Habib El-Adly said during a TV appearance on Sunday that Hosny Mubarak decided to make it a national holiday so that the sacrifices made by Egyptian policemen against the British occupation wouldn’t be forgotten. Past glories are extremely useful for filling in the blanks of today.
I can’t resist a few words about the El-Adly appearance. He was interviewed by Mofeed Fawzy, one of my favourite presenters.
Fawzy presents a programme called “Talk of the Town” in which he barrels around Egypt being pompously sycophantic with anyone more famous than him, and humiliating and badgering the proletariat. I first encountered him during a fit of insomnia some years back when I didn’t have a satellite dish, and was suddenly confronted with this troll-man at 2 a.m., bearing down on prisoners in Alexandria’s Borg El-Arab prison. I particularly remember that he interrupted one startled prisoner doing a timed exam in order to chastise him about his life of crime and lecture him on the dangers of recidivism.
There was none of that with our Habib, of course. The interview was conducted in a room resembling the Mohamed Soghayar hair salon waiting area, which we were told is in the Interior Ministry. Habib and Mofeed were seated on chairs on a shag pile rug. The rug resembled, to some extent, Mofeed’s hairpiece, though of a lighter hue. Mofeed spat out questions at Habib in the unique fashion for which he is famous, namely verbosely and interminably, and often in highfaluting modern standard Arabic.
Habib meanwhile spent practically the entire interview trying to make his eyebrows reach his (rapidly retreating – even his hair is scared of the police) hairline, while giving circuitous and nonsensical responses. Ever eager, Mofeed finished off many of Habib’s sentences; such is the time that the latter spent saying “errrrr”.
I had always understood that holding public office requires a degree of fluency, and dare I say charisma, but should have learnt better after John Major. There is also a major difference between holding, and impounding, public office, as Habib, who has been in the job since 1997, might like to errrrr about if asked.
Needless to say that since the interview was broadcast on state television, Habib is not pressed on anything (even though Mofeed regards himself as iconoclastic, and the Jeremy Paxman of Egyptian television). You can see the load of pie in the sky codswallop Habib comes out with here (apologies for linking to myself, I can’t find anything else in English). I was astonished though, by his frank admission that security bodies re-detain individuals given court release orders where these bodies “know” that the individual in question poses a threat. As I understand it, most countries either deny that their security bodies do this, or locate such practices on distant, non-touristic, Caribbean islands – so as to avoid contaminating their justice systems.