Instead of celebrating the first successful round of parliamentary elections, Egyptian intellectuals began sounding alarms after the remarkable victory of Islamist parties.
Two of the alarms now gaining ground are the most dangerous: the immigration of artists to Lebanon and Dubai and the immigration of Copts, especially businessmen. The first alarm was voiced in statements issued by several artists, some of whom decided to resist, such as director Khaled Youssef, and some made up their minds to leave Egypt and turn off the lights on the “Hollywood of the East.”
The second alarm was mainly expressed by a Coptic businessman, Ramy Lakah.
The wisest comment on the results of the elections came from Coptic actor Hani Ramzy, who confidently stressed that art and creativity would not be affected. The Islamist trend, represented by the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing the Freedom and Justice Party and the hardline al-Nour Party, immediately issued comforting statements.
Head of the Freedom and Justice Party, Dr. Mohamed Mursi, said that “Copts are our brethren and an integral part of the Egyptian people” and that the party includes Copts and won a majority in areas with a high Christian density, such as the governorate of Assuit in Upper Egypt. As for al-Nour Party, one of its representatives issued a statement vowing not to harm Copts.
The way Copts flocked to polling stations to vote for the liberal Egyptian bloc is a positive change in their relationship with the political scene and serves to refute the immigration alarm that was heavily sounded in Iraq following the targeting of Christians by extremist groups in the wake of the American invasion. This, however, had nothing to do with them having sour relationships with their Muslim compatriots.
This change in the Coptic stance was highly affected by the church’s recommendations, which focused on specific independent candidates or generally favored the liberal Egyptian bloc. The subsequent participation of Copts in the elections signaled the end of an era in which they were isolated and the beginning of another where they realize they should contribute to the decision-making process in their homeland.
Several prominent liberal candidates stood as independents or were on the list of the Egyptian Bloc and other non-Islamist lists, and their presence in the parliament will be for the Copts’ best interest in case any proposed laws would violate their rights. The Egyptian Bloc alone is expected to get 15-20 per cent of parliament seats, and perhaps even more in case of any surprises in the second and third rounds. This is a triumph for Christians and for all Egyptians, who will be the ultimate winners at the end of the day.
Christians who used to keep silent about the persecution to which they are subjected and who only expressed how they felt within the confines of the church will now give up their previous stance, as a new parliament is being formed with prominent activists and intellectuals who will constitute a real opposition bloc that will return to the legislative body its past glory.
Art is part of the reality that is currently taking shape, and it goes without saying that Egypt had given up its leadership in this field in the past 30 years and that it abandoned creativity in favor of commercial gain. Consequently, Egyptian films, for example, are no longer the favorites of the Arab world, especially in light of the fierce competition by works from the Levant, the Gulf, and Turkey, all of which are supported by hefty funding.
Egyptian art and artists have already been immigrating, but internally. Former Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi was behind the production of a huge number of TV serials that were screened all over Egyptian satellite channels, only to give the impression the Egyptian drama is still on the top. Yet, very few of these serials made their way to other Arab channels because of their poor quality.
The same applies to the cinema industry, as well as the theatre, which has recently turned into night clubs that offer nothing but entertainment. Theatre in Egypt lost its reputation as a creative, political, and critical world and its giants quit after failing to compete with high-heeled actresses and belly dancers.
Egypt, which has fascinated the world with its first elections since the January 25 Revolution, will be back to its original self as a tolerant society and as the Hollywood of the East.
First published in al-Gomhuria and translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid