A statement from the Fortress of Evil

The Al-Masry Al-Youm Corporation is “downsizing” Egypt Independent where downsizing means shafting, and this evening it used Egypt Independent’s mailing list to send out a statement. Unfortunately unfamiliarity with this kind of thing meant that they left some things out. Here is the full version:

To our Respectful and Loyal Readers and Other Unnecessarily Capital Lettered entities who we Enjoy Patronising and of Whom we Ensured only 0.2% of subscribers Actually Received their Subscriptions due to Complete Uselessness

In a world where a vast amount of crap is put out by Al-Masry Al-Youm Arabic, where we rush horrified to our digital devices to open any other available newspaper to find out the actual, true, news, Al-Masry Al-Youm Corp. has decided to shut down it’s one good thing which was called Egypt Independent but which in this statement will be called The Egypt Independent because of our natural aversion to accuracy.

Shifting from the traditional print version, and maintaining the online news source, should have been a really fucking easy decision but as usual we fucked it up with our arrogance and incompetence. The apparent and the inevitable dominance of our uselessness has compelled us to muck this up good and proper while not giving a even a medium-sized shit about our readers’ online experience.

The slow and painful process of having anything to do with the Al-Masry Al-Youm Corporation is costly, hectic, and no longer practical or timely and that is why [the] Egypt Independent’s real journalists are buggering off to better pastures. In a world that now and right this moment, gets a Tweet or a Facebook status with a piece of news a few seconds right after it actually occurs! WONDER DEAR READERS AT THE INCREDIBLE PACE OF NEWS IN THE MODERN WORLD. MAYBE YOU GOT OVER THIS A DECADE AGO, WE HAVEN’T!!!!!!!! AND SO HERE COMES ANOTHER ANALOGY. Did you see the comic that says “In case of fire, escape before you tweet”!? This is today’s world and we’ve got to develop at the same pace, and other clichés.

With the rise of the internet (it’s our newsletter. We can choose to dispense with a capital letter where it is actually needed if we want to. Fuck u) population, the promising increase of the internet penetration (we like penetration and have been doing it intensively to the Egypt Independent staff for several months now) in Egypt, and the increasing number of international readers; the prevalence of online news has changed our reality of reception and perception of knowledge but made absolutely no difference to our ability to write something in clear and understandable English. The café late caused a direct set-back in the readership of print newspaper vis-a-vis the online news and has driven us to reshape our thinking, in this respect, therefore, viz, namely, in this regard, photoshop.

In fact, the false hopes that the print version of “The Egypt Independent” will create the desired impact on the Egyptian society, were nothing but a huge waste of financial resources labor and time; a burden that has continued to weigh us down. We in fact were the mothafuckers who demanded that “The Egypt Independent” produce this print copy. EI journalists weren’t sitting around scratching their arses and came up with the idea. Also, the only news that makes an impact on society in our opinion involves crap fed to us by state security about Hamas and Palestianians taking over Egypt. Until we have unfortunately, witnessed a substantial drop-to-loss in the revenues. Drop-to-loss is a business term meaning we mismanaged the hell out of shit and then want to shaft people who have no say in these financial decisions. It was time for us to look at the horizons with a new vision; a vision that suits the “way of the world” where the world is inhabited solely by bastards and dullards who screw people over and fits in the global landscape of khawazee2 provision

We have managed to build a credible reputation thanks to the Egypt Independent staff because we would not know what a credible reputation was if it bit us on the arse, and our currently established and convenient online presence as opposed to an inconvenient online presence whatever the hell that is, has brought about a considerable number of loyal readers who we will cling onto with our sharp little vampire nails, to whom we are committed to maintain a strong bond with and provide excellence to in the form of a shitty news translation service of Al Masry Al Youm content that revolves largely around Hamas, the wonders of the Egyptian army and the contents of Abdel-Meneim Saeed’s head.

 Al Masry Al Youm Mental Institution for the Criminally Insane, Gurden City.

 

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Not everything is marvellous but this made my stony heart happy

Last week I got a ride with Cairo’s coldest taxi driver, an ancient man who drove his car like nobody else exists and dealt with the consequent verbal assaults with a maddening composure: while the driver next to him flailed about at his steering wheel in rage, Buddha looked straight ahead, issuing gummy maledictions about Egypt, Egyptians and Egypt again.

Near my house, we were forced to stop while a motorist had the temerity to take more than 0.1 seconds to park his car. This prompted the now expected diatribe on the quality of the Egyptian character, the mangled words tumbling out of his denture-less mouth like rubbish being emptied out of a tipper truck. The difference this time was that to his left a bouncing small girl’s head appeared next to his window, effervescent with happiness. She was jumping up and down with delight at the promise of a lollipop, which her father was unwrapping for her. The taxi driver ignored this, too.

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Get with the programme

On Sunday I went out with a colleague to get reactions to the Bassem Youssef investigation. In a taxi on the way to Imbaba we asked the driver his opinion and in a serendipitous convergence, the taxi driver declared that he had worked with B. Youssef last week. It was a moment that would have made Thomas Friedman self-combust: a taxi driver who is also a primary source.

As was obvious from his appearance, this juggernaut of a man – who was called Maged – had been employed as a bodyguard during the recording of the previous week’s show downtown, “one of 150 bodyguards”, he claimed.

His bald head reflected the street lights and his immense bulk spilled out of the driving seat. In a baritone so deep it made Barry White sound like a Jimmy Summerville he described the world of bodyguards, young men and their biceps plucked out of sweat and sawdust gyms and paid LE 200 a day to look hard. This figure comes out of a long chain of deception: a senior bodyguard (“kebeer el bodyguardaat”) is asked to recruit say 200 bodyguards and is offered LE 3,000. He then asks someone else to do this for LE 2,000. This person in turn takes a cut for himself and so on and so on until Maged and his brothers come out of a night with a few notes and maybe a rumble.

If they’re working somewhere classy and aren’t required to fight then some of them forgo the payment in return for a meal and drinks.

Maged said that he had been asked to work the following Wednesday, but wouldn’t for two reasons. One, the money is shit. Two, many of the vendors selling clothes and all varieties of crap on the street near where B. Youssef films his show are from Shubra – tough kids just like Maged, except God made them skinny – and Maged objects to fighting his own.

In Imbaba there was a wedding and next to it a fight. Men and women in suits and dresses sat in cars while next to them a youth did continuous, manic wheelies on a 120cc motorbike followed by another youth on a BMX who did nothing except ride in a sedate fashion while next to them a topless youth appeared dabbing at an injury to his face and strutted in the manner of a man looking for action.

We asked people in Imbaba what they thought of the B.Youssef investigation and the answers were predictable. Here are some of them:

“During the revolution we kept within the bounds of good manners. The problem is the language Bassem uses.”

“You can criticise if you want but don’t say that religion says this or doesn’t say that…we all know what religion says.”

“He says what we’re all thinking.”

“Morsi deserves this language”.

“The problem is that he makes us look bad internationally. Imagine if your father was humiliated. The way that he makes fun of Morsi takes away from the Egyptian people”.

“Opinions should be expressed in a way acceptable to God. I shouldn’t knock people or use bad language.”

“I used to watch Bassem Youssef during the revolution and I used to love him.  But I don’t like the opposition’s style now. I’m not with Morsi but I don’t like the opposition.”

“He is constantly attacking Islamists. Before he used to attack everyone but now he is constantly attacking Islamists”.

Note that all of these people watch B.Youssef’s show regularly and enjoy it, even one man who agreed that the satirist should be taken to task for crossing the line. This apparent contradiction is important and symptomatic of a greater moral schism in Egyptian society that isn’t so much private licentiousness/public prudishness as is the case everywhere in the world as it is about safety in numbers and a dull conformism. The result is this (and it is not safe for work):

For those of you with weak hearts or in polite society the video opens to the scene of a gentlemen manhandling on the floor a lady in not very much green lycra. This spirited wrestling mercifully stops when the man’s microphone cord gets caught up in the lady’s foot. Alas there is worse to come and various acts of sexual simulation take place, one of which involves a chair.

The nadir is at 5.30 when green lycra lady drags a middle-aged man in a galabeya out of the audience and proceeds to molest him before he gets a taste for things and spends most of the time attempting to nuzzle her chests. She responds by pulling up his galabeya to reveal his “calcyon” or Dolce & Gabbana underwear before everything goes south again and she sits on him while he lies prostate on the floor.

While the show itself is unremarkable what is bonkers is the location and the audience. This is a wedding in a tent erected in a residential street in a modest neighbourhood. A brief glimpse of the bride reveals that she is veiled. The sex show audience/wedding guests are ordinary civilians; men, woman and children. The men stand around and clap while the women spectate like they were at a conference on agricultural engineering and the kids scamper across the stage. The only point at which anyone acknowledges that something crazy is happening is when galabeya man’s friends are whipped up into a frenzy of excitement while he is preyed on.

El Sheikh Adam, who considers himself an authority on fellaheen by virtue of being one (where fellah means coming from a rural area north of Cairo rather than being familiar with rice cultivation) had a look at the video and after he had picked himself off the floor his expert eye said that the people in the video look like his peoples.

What is certain is that this is a group of people who all know each other, perhaps an extended family/families or a small village, and they have given each other permission to suspend normal service for one evening only. It is similar to when a veiled woman takes off her higab on her wedding day and puts it back on again the next day.

Another parallel is traffic in Egypt where there are virtually no rules other than the law that drivers are allowed to swear at each other in the bluest language they can think of for any reason whatsoever, with the result that Cairo’s cacophony hums with a baseline of kosomaks and ebn el maras. Even cars themselves can swear via a tattoo of ebn metnaka beat out on the car horn.

Contrast this with the narrow limits of acceptable language in “polite” society, Victorian in its prudishness and propriety. While riding in women’s carriages on the metro I see strangers tap each other on the shoulder and alert them to a tiny strand of hair that has come loose from their hegab. El Sheikh Adam tells me that in his village there is zero sexual harassment because it is taboo for a man to talk to a woman he is unrelated to, but some of these same young men come to Cairo and turn into disgusting, lascivious Don Juans on Qasr el-Nil Bridge, lost in a crowd that at some point in recent history deemed sexual harassment in certain geographical locations acceptable. It’s the old story of Egypt and its boxes.

There is a point to all this and you will be glad to read that I am getting to it now. The cases against B. Youssef filed by private actors absolutely NOT affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood accusing him of insulting religion and insulting the president are unambiguously political and about silencing him, but if the Imbaba sample and other anecdotal stories I have heard are anything to go by, there is a sense that Youssef has crossed a line of respectability that has nothing to do with politics, and the idiots behind these charges are banking on that.

That for me is the most interesting part of this case and not the dreary, Mubarakist attempts at censorship. Maybe it will force Egyptian society to challenge these staid ideas of “respectability” and the inconsistencies in the strange moral code that doesn’t so much govern as strangle its behavior. Maybe it will be the first step towards its accepting that foul language deployed intelligently does not detract from a person’s moral standing and that sex continues to exist even in the presence of one’s mother or sister because we are all adults and that, as Max Rodenbeck wisely quoteth, “the words art and should don’t mix”.

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Newsletter no. 1 from the Prosperity and Love Association

Newsletter no. 1 from The Prosperity and Love Association.

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Mountain Brotherhood

Regardless of the chaos, there are some certainties in Egypt and that is at least once a month an armed personnel carrier will bear down on a group of protesting Egyptian citizens, like some squalid, mechanical bull run. On Sunday night I happened to be one of them.

I had gone to the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Moqattam to have a look at the protesters demonstrating against the attack, by Muslim Brotherhood members, on protesters the previous day in the same place. One female journalist was slapped on the face so hard by one of these heroes that she was knocked to the ground.

Moqattam is on a mountain overlooking Cairo, and the MB headquarters is itself at the top of a small hill, and the multistorey villa housing it is taller than its immediate neighbours, like the organisation itself, attempting to be lofty and isolated and above it all and failing. There was a small group of protesters outside its gates when I arrived milling about and demanding the removal of the supreme guide and the regime and such like. Every so often they would all point to the top of the building and demand that the “sheep” they had spotted peering out of one of the villa’s mirrored windows withdraw inside.

A man with prayer marks on both his forehead and the bridge of his nose gently encouraged a woman not to graffiti the headquarters wall and was reprimanded by another man with hearing aids and a giant voice who warned him not to “lay a finger on her”. The first man responded by saying that he had asked her to stop because he “wouldn’t be able to stand seeing another girl or a man or anyone beaten up”. The back and forth continued and ended with both men accusing each other of being Ikhwan.

Further up the road was the usual garrison of Central Security Forces. A middle-aged police officer in full uniform including decorative ribbons and a slightly younger balding man in plainclothes watched the protest dispassionately and we went to talk to them. The police officer’s sunglasses were so opaque and so black that we could see ourselves clearly in them, and his moustache moved up and down underneath them like a ship moving under a night sky on a rocky sea.

The Interior Ministry was there, the officer announced, to “protect lives and property, in that order” and as usual it sounded like a threat. “Look after yourselves,” he said when we took our leave.

Round the back of the headquarters is a huge open area that has been commandeered on one side by even more CSF vans and troops, trying to make the time pass by shooting the shit and horsing around and doing marching drills. Meanwhile, a stream of men entered the headquarters, the majority of them between 18 and 30 with the lightly bearded, sensible trousered look so beloved of this group. Senior or perhaps just richer members alighted from expensive cars dressed in suits and open-necked shirts with no ties.

Two MBers we spoke to were extremely friendly in the programmed, on message way typical of the group. Lots of smiling (think: El-Beltagy) with very occasional and fleeting references to religion – a relevant Quranic verse, say. Much sympathetic inclining of head and jocularities (think: El Erian) and agreeing but actually disagreeing (think: all of them). They are like human automated telephone menus where every number you hit gives you one very polite response and that it that you are wrong.

Sudden CSF activity indicated that things had heated up at the front of the headquarters. The number of protesters had increased, as had the number of TV crews. Two APCs had assumed position some 20 metres away. Demonstrators began removing circular green MB logos affixed to the headquarters’ wall which is when the police officer’s “lives and property” mantra kicked in and they went to the rescue of the property by playing with protesters’ lives.

It was only a mini charge because this was a short street and the driver showed incredible restraint by not killing anyone or even squashing them non-fatally. We asked a copper why the Interior Ministry has this insistence on going Ayrton Senna on protesters and with a straight face apparently because he took us for complete fucking simpletons he replied that the vehicle was moving down a descending slope and thus this kind of speed was inevitable.

The Interior Ministry still uses a pre-revolution tactic of using avuncular, senior citizen officers to shoo away troublesome female/elderly citizens refusing to leave a protest area. A group of about five women were altercating with such an officer who was showering them with affendams and 7adriteks in an attempt to get them to move off. In the end he resorted to announcing that they were about to deal with the protesters down the road “with a new tactic” – i.e. teargas – and the women moved away while one of them roared that the Interior Ministry are “whores who will sleep with anybody”.

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Amir, Abdallah & Port Said

Television channels showed scenes from January 28 2011 alongside yesterday’s events and – were it not for how iconic images from the first Day of Anger are – the two would have been almost indistinguishable.

Downtown Cairo is filled with the revolution’s phantoms and with every new battle a memory builds on a memory, layered, like the posters and graffiti that have accumulated on these streets’ walls, each new layer obscuring the old.

Yesterday evening it was the familiar trinity of rocks, teargas and birdshot played out at the end of the Qasr El-Nil Bridge where, on January 28 2011, protesters prayed under water canon. Yesterday Central Security Forces attempted to run protesters over with the armed personnel carriers – another January 28 flashback.Protesters responded by commandeering two APCs and setting them on fire.

On the outskirts of Port Said on Sunday, Indian free zone workers strolled through the empty streets. Further in on one of Port Said’s main streets, small groups of men gathered near the site of the clashes watched by the blank expressions of shop shutters, firmly pulled down.

A Port Said resident who had agreed to take us around, let’s call him Amir, and his friend, who we shall call Abdallah, met us. Reasons for the name change will become clear later. Both were young men in the 20s, Amir a cocky, well-intentioned know it all and Abdallah an overgrown child in a tight tracksuit.

Amir immediately made it clear that it would be very hard to go anywhere in Port Said because we were too foreign, and by which he meant not only my kind of foreign but foreign as in coming from Cairo. Abdallah advised my colleague Lina and me to cover our heads while underlining that this wouldn’t really camouflage the foreignness but it was a start. In fact I think it increased the foreignness by making both of us look preposterous.

After 10 minutes of negotiations during which Amir said that it would be absolutely impossible to meet the relatives of men sentenced to death for crimes committed during the Port Said stadium massacre and pontificated on Port Said affairs, it was agreed that we would meet a local journalist in a shisha café. He was a jolly man, able to maintain the jolliness even as he fielded phone calls updating him about the latest fatalities.

We went to a ministry of health administrative building. As we waited for the doctor we wanted to interview, Amir informed us that all the doctors of Port Said know him because of his work with people injured in the revolution. The doctor walked in and Amir introduced himself, disproving the veracity of this statement.

The doctor, a small round man, dispassionately reeled out figures concerning the dead and injured in a rushed, nasal monotone like an ATM belching out a mini bank statement. He nervously fingered his mobile phone as he told us that most protesters had been shot in the head, neck and torso, that 5 had died that day, and that one man was on his way in an ambulance and was unlikely to make it. We asked him whether we could visit the injured in hospital. For our own benefit it would be better not to, the doctor said, because tensions are high.

Amir couldn’t help himself. “I told them that, doctor.”

We left, and walked back through the deserted streets to the car (Amir and Abdallah had made us park 10 minutes away from the health building “because it was safer”.

It had become apparent very early on that Amir was of a nervous disposition when we went round one corner and encountered an army checkpoint and Amir blurted out, “Oh, shit!” in English and made the driver change his route).

Back at the café we spoke to a member of the Green Eagles (supporters of the Port Saidi Al-Masry Football Club) as well as a former Al-Masry player.

It became clear from them and from other residents we spoke to that they feel alienated from the rest of Egypt. This is a city with something of a frontier mentality both for reasons historical (it fought a war of resistance against tripartite aggression in the 1950s) and geographical (it is a port city, vulnerable to incursion from the Canal), and its demonization in the media and by the Al-Ahly Club following the stadium massacre has made the city turn in on itself.

Lina reached the mother of one of the men sentenced to death; she and others were at a nearby protest. Again we bundled into the car, Abdallah and Amir sharing the front seat, and again Amir made the driver park nowhere near our destination. As soon as we parked a group of young men advised our harried driver to remove his number plates before doing it themselves. There was some mysterious way the car could be identified as being from Cairo, they insisted.

The protest was a straggly group of men, some of who immediately surrounded us when we approached the convicted men’s mothers, angry and suspicious. It was at this point that Abdallah proved useful by standing in their way and talking them down. Amir later informed us that “he had unfolded his knife in his pocket, ready, just in case”.

We spoke to the relatives of the convicted men and uselessly bleated out platitudes as they described one of the very worst things you can imagine happening to your child. It was again clear that they felt betrayed and targeted by all of Egypt and that their sons were the victims of some collective punishment being imposed on Port Said.

Amir and Abdallah insisted on accompanying us out of the city, Abdallah trailing us on his moped, Amir on his own in the now spacious front seat. There was a strange moment in this already strange day when Abdallah got out of the car to get his moped and even before his form had disappeared into the darkness, Amir began complaining about Abdallah’s father who he said, is a senior Interior Ministry police officer and who blames Amir’s “braveness” for Abdallah’s being sucked into revolutionary acts.

“His father is a DISGUSTING man,” Amir blurted out suddenly.

On the way out of the city there was another moment of Amir tension when he and Abdallah disagreed about which way to go at an army checkpoint. Abdallah on his moped shouted through the window that the army checkpoint was open and that we could pass through it. Amir, panicked, told Abdallah to shut up and that we would be going his route. Abdallah cheerfully insisted that, no, we could go through the army checkpoint.

“I HAVE A WEAPON ON ME! I HAVE A BLOODY WEAPON ON ME, ABDALLAH!” Amir bellowed into the driver’s ear at Abdallah, ensuring that not only soldiers manning the army checkpoint heard, but all of Port Said.

On the way back to Cairo, our driver, from Ismailia confirmed the general rule in Egypt that the closer two governorates are, the more intensely its residents hate each other. I had had a similar experience in Qena with a driver who spent 30 kilometres expanding on the many reasons why Qena’s residents were glad to see the back of Luxor when it seceded. Citizens of Assiut have similarly minus zero feelings about the good people of Minya.

Morsi announced a curfew on Monday in the Suez Canal cities. On Sunday Port Said was virtually empty. On Monday, when a 30-day curfew was announced, its streets were full, as were those of Suez and Ismailia. There were jokes on Twitter about Egyptians observing the curfew by going out to have a look at the curfew. It broke the tension, to some extent, after weeks of awful news.

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Back to the squares, without the Brothers

_MG_2828

Here is something about the third January 25th.

Commenting on a Brotherhood statement saying “We will not be in Tahrir on the revolution anniversary,” a friend wrote on Facebook, “You weren’t in Tahrir on the original 25 January either.”

The Muslim Brotherhood’s absence from the party is one of the few similarities between proceedings on 25 January 2011 and during the 2013 redux. In 2011, during its awkward tango with the National Democratic Party, it announced that it would not be taking part in the demonstrations as an organisation, but that individual members were free to do so.

In 2013 it announced that it would not be taking part because it would be busy commemorating the revolution by planting trees and offering the Egyptian people vegetables at a discount price, which is apt, because it brings to mind a vulgar variation on the popular saying, “The world is like a cucumber: one day it’s in your hand, the other it’s in salad”, where salad is replaced with something anatomical. The MB have been thrusting cucumbers on us for six months now and very few have been anywhere near hands.

Read the rest here.

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MORSI VISITS WHEEL OF PRODUCTION IN HOSPITAL

Morsi train

GIZA: President Mohamed Morsi visited the wheel of production in hospital on Tuesday after a stolen train driven by the Nahda Project hit it.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing the Nahda Project steal the train at approximately 5 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. It was driven at high speed and erratically from Assiut on its way to Cairo.

It struck the wheel of production in the Giza area of Badrsheen while the wheel was spinning for the good of Egypt.

“I too am a replacement, so I understand how you feel,” Morsi said to the tyre before placing his hand on it in order to exorcise it of demons while former public prosecutor Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, who is now being a doctor in his retirement as a hobby, watched him.

Morsi promised that $2 billion compensation would be given to the wheel by the state of Qatar. The families of the 1,000 people also killed in the accident will be receiving LE49.67 and a cassette tape, “Abo Ammar’s Top Hits” signed by the singer himself, presidential sources said.

The Nahda Project is suspected of involvement in several recent incidents including an attack on protesters outside the Presidential Palace last year. It has not however been arrested because it is not a messenger pigeon carrying a microfilm.

The Freedom and Justice Party placed the blame for Egypt’s poor railway safety record on the culture of negligence and neglect that developed during the period of Thutmose III. The National Salvation Front alleged that Morsi was driving the train at the time of the accident. Nader Bakkar meanwhile said that he has an iPad. Writing on Twitter, Mona El-Tahawy said, “tits”. Abdallah Badr responded by saying that Elham Shaheen is a low woman.

Before leaving the hospital Morsi opened his suit jacket and said, “I’m not wearing a bullet proof vest”. Army chief Abdel-Fatah El-Sissy rolled his eyes discreetly and the wheel of production told Morsi to fuck off.

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A world turned upside down

While I was outside a polling station waiting to bother voters while covering the referendum a man sidled over to me.

He was unusually tall, his height accentuated by the straight line of his blue galabeya, and was wearing heavy rimmed 1960s type sunglasses.

“See that man over there?” he whispered conspiratorially, pointing at a middle-aged man entering the polling station unaware that he was under scrutiny and who was in no way remarkable other than for the Afghani style hat he was wearing.

“The man in the Afghani hat,” the man said.

“Yes what about him?”

el balad bazet. Typical en el balad bazet,” [the country has been ruined. Typical [sic]…the country has been ruined] he declared before floating away without any further explanation.

I accompanied a colleague to Zagazig shortly before the first round of the referendum for a story he did on anti-Muslim Brotherhood protests in the Delta city. One MB office had been the subject of an arson attack.

We went to a different MB office in order to meet the head of the MB youth section of Sharqeyya, a cheerful man in the mandatory uniform of suit with no tie and light beard.

On our way into the building the bawwab enquired as to who we are and my colleague joked, “don’t worry we’re just going to set fire to the MB office and leave right away”.

“Do you need a lighter?” the bawwab replied deadpan without missing a beat.

The head of the Sharqeyya MB youth section laughed.

There is a bank below our newspaper’s office, and a middle-aged security guard sits outside it in a little kiosk under the stairs reading the newspapers or playing with his phone.

Morning pleasantries have inevitably descended into a discussion of the constitution and it transpires that the security guard voted yes. My merry friend on Sunday greeted him with, “kharabto el bala!d” [“you’ve destroyed the country”] an expression that in 2011 was the favourite refrain of the anti-revolution camp.

A man sitting next to the security guard riposted with, “so you’re felool!” and there then followed one of those lively and interminable discussions about the constitution overshadowed only by the fact that much of it was spent establishing that we were actually talking about the same draft and also that nobody knows what the final draft looks like.

Read the rest here.

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Uncle Morsi

The past two weeks, since Morsi announced his Hitler powers, have been the bleakest since the revolution began.

The day after Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration, the attorney general held an emergency meeting and opponents of the decree gathered outside the high court, where they were attacked by mystery plain-clothed attackers using teargas moments after the police quietly withdrew. When I arrived some 20 minutes later the air was still pungent with the gas and riot police had returned, and were facing off against furious anti-Morsi protesters who surrounded them on both sides. It ended peacefully, for once.

I was filled with an indescribable fear when Islamists announced that they would be protesting in support of Morsi in Tahrir, where anti-Morsi protesters are currently holding a sit-in. It was a decision as terrifying as it was brazen and stupid. The crude binary (Islamist/pro-Morsi vs. “secular”/anti-Morsi) that was produced by last year’s referendum is now at its most pronounced – as is inevitable in a context of long suppressed (political and religious) identities and fear mongering about The Other.

Campaigning between the two camps has been reduced to who can mobilise the most bodies in one place. On Tuesday the seculars organised a huge show of force in their old stomping ground Tahrir Square. Islamists responded by holding an equally impressive rally outside Cairo University.

The two rallies couldn’t have been more different. Now that the opposition movement is going after Morsi it has attracted the Ahmed Shafiq/Omar Suleiman/Amr Moussa crowd, people like some members of my family who aren’t necessarily felool (pro or affiliated with the Mubarak regime) but who have a morbid terror of the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam generally. I have a pro-revolution aunt who supported Hamdeen Sabahy in the first round of the presidential elections and then switched to Shafiq in the run-offs when Sabahy lost.

Not all of this group are affluent or from chichi neighbourhoods, but the ones that are were prominent on Tuesday, furiously marching from Zamalek in their velour tracksuits and ugg boots and manicured nails, holding forth in Arabic, English and French about the outrage of it all.

Their appearance has added a new dimension to the binary, with the pro-Morsi camp accusing the opposition of being dominated by felool and atheists who engage in lewd acts in Tahrir, while some members of the anti-Morsi crowd respond with equally vile slurs, calling Islamists uneducated peasants, or sheep unable to think for themselves.

As usual El-Baradei is a convenient shorthand for Islamist criticism of their enemies, especially given his recent visibility, actually in Egypt and actually in public. He popped up in Tahrir on Friday, bustled on to a stage looking uncomfortable as usual where he gave a barely audible speech through the evening’s murk. I’m still undecided about whether he played a shrewd game by being absent, and above, all of 2011’s political yuckiness and base shenanigans. Supporters laud him for not compromising on his principles and for his consistency, but it is easy to do that from the nosebleed seats.

ElBaradei’s name was bandied around at the Islamist rally, too, protesters reminding him and Sabahy that Morsi was elected president and not them.

My friend Adam and I got talking to a man, Mahmoud, at the Morsi rally who said that the president’s political opposition are necessarily against any decision he takes, no matter how prudent, because they reject his Islamic project. Mahmoud was dressed in a neat plaid shirt and casual weekend jacket with the telltale just too short trousers, his chin adorned with a wispy candy floss-like beard. He held a sign above his head demanding the implementation of Sharia, and on the subject of Sharia said that it has never been implemented in the modern age but that the Taliban came the closest to doing so. He added that the media misrepresented the Taliban. He later gave me a polite lecture about how I must think more about God and Islam and that hopefully this will make me want to wear the veil and follow the correct path.

Interestingly, he also said that the Muslim Brotherhood had promised Salafis that they would implement “their” i.e. the Salafi version of Sharia rather than their own version (which Mahmoud described as incorrect). This promises to be an interesting, if messy, showdown in the future.

What was most confusing about the rally is that demonstrators spent much time going on about and defending Sharia when this was a rally ostensibly in support of Morsi, his decree and the draft constitution i.e. to quote Tina Turner, what’s Sharia got to do, got to do with it. Also, many of their political opponents resent the Islamists’ claiming a monopoly on Sharia and point out that they too are Muslims and have no problem with its implementation (but remember that there are different interpretations of what Sharia means).

While I was at the rally looking at placards saying things such as “Islam is light and the Quran is my constitution”, “what have you seen from God in order to hate his law?” and “the people support the president’s decisions” I again, for the 726th time this week, considered my own decision to vote for Morsi in the presidential election run-offs having wasted many bloody hours thinking about it before the actual vote.

The thought that I may have contributed to voting in this avuncular yet megalomaniac individual backed up by an army of devotees is an uncomfortable feeling to say the least, and the word “Ermächtigungsgesetz” keeps flashing before my eyes.

People like me who voted for Morsi not out of conviction but to keep out Shafiq are predictably the subjects of considerable vitriol at the moment, perhaps justifiably.

Here comes a however.

HOWEVER, for what it’s worth, I think I made the right decision as someone non-partisan who doesn’t have any qualms about aligning myself with people I vaguely disagree with against people I strongly disagree with. I voted exclusively to keep out Shafiq and remain convinced that had he been elected we would have been shafted good and proper and absolutely nothing would have changed.

Now as we have discussed above there is an enormous amount of shafting going on at the moment and lots of change what with there never being a dull moment with Dr Morsi. I am anxious about the future, but there was an inevitability about Muslim Brotherhood rule at some point in Egypt’s history and unfortunately, I am alive to experience it. The only positive thing about the Muslim Brotherhood in power is that they are spectacularly shit at it. Just like the Egyptian army and their foray into direct rule they have used up almost all their store of good credit with non-MBers in an incredibly short amount of time.

Every day that passes puts another dent in the legend of this 80-year-old group with its dazzling powers of organisation and moderate Islamic vision and familiarity with the Egyptian street. Snort. Morsi is a dull cheating husband who misbehaves and attempts to make amends by offering surprise dinner invitations after he beats his wife up, where his wife is the Egyptian people you understand. The MB itself are a glorified soup kitchen with excellent logistical skills that end at distributing food to the poor and organising large rallies. They are a charity organisation with a militia that finds itself in charge of a country and which seems to think that its decisions do not need to be backed up by reason or say, the rule or law, but can rely entirely on the Egyptian people trusting Uncle Morsi.

This was most evident in the Constitutional Assembly debacle. Virtually all members of the political opposition – and most crucially minorities (women and Christian representatives) -walked out of the Assembly. Those that remained produced a mess of a constitution, but its proponents see no problem in its having been drafted by a largely homogenous group of males. The thinking seems to be:  we have faith in God so have faith in us.

The Muslim Brotherhood are doing what the National Democratic Party did for thirty years, albeit without the God element. The NDP also depended on consolidating their own position by deliberately misrepresenting their opponents, making the law fit their decisions rather than the other way around, a fondness for thuggery* and a paternalistic form of governance that reduces the public’s role in politics to box ticking. The only difference is Morsi’s tedious penchant for moralising (e.g. Morsi suggested that Egyptians go to bed early so they can get up and pray the dawn prayer). The moralising would be tolerable except that they are failing to do anything about the million everyday problems blighting ordinary Egyptians’ lives (despite Morsi’s election grandstanding about making considerable improvements in 100 days) while they have the temerity to think that they can thrust a dictatorship on us because God is on their side and they know best.

All this is very Mubaraky. Good luck to the MB if they think it will work.

* re. the link: The NYT reports that the judges were telling fibs. I have seen one example of the thuggery however when MB supporters attacked protesters in Tahrir Square.

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