President Mohammed Mursi recently said on Twitter, “respect for human rights in all dimensions: faith, culture, social, economic, and political must be a key component in all our work”. In another, he said, “we do not have minorities; all Egyptian citizens are treated equally.”
I wonder if Mr President has read the news lately or whether he has been following the leaked constitution articles flooding the media these past couple of weeks. I guess the president is too busy with foreign policy and business deals with the United States, Turkey, China and wherever else he is visiting. Or maybe he tweets from Mars.
If I were to enlighten the president of Egypt located on planet Earth, I wouldn’t know where to start. Should it be with the constitution article that pretty much decided to not accept the existence of faiths other than Sunni Islam, Christianity and Judaism? No other faiths are to be allowed to practice their faith in public; hence they should live in secrecy, worship in secrecy and, better yet, disappear. That interesting article manifests, in all its strangeness, the innate Egyptian desire to bury our heads in the sand. Maybe if we don’t see them they will cease to exist; maybe if they have to worship in private, they would convert; maybe if they live underground they will see the “light”; and maybe if we persecute them, they will love Sunni Islam.
I should then move on to tell the president that even the “accepted” faiths, like Christianity, are persecuted, displaced from their homes and threatened by gunmen on Egyptian streets, from Rafah in the north to Assiut in the south, passing by Cairo of course. The president must have also missed the attacks on the Shi’a Muslims, although the fifth pillar of Al-Azhar is for the Shi’a sect, yet somehow his Muslim brothers and their Salafi cousins are labelling Shi’a as infidels, much like pagans. And don’t you dare talk about Bahá’ís or Ahmadis, or God forbid, atheists; these are out of the question.
Has the president heard the sheikh he so gracefully pardoned at some point, the amazing Wagdy Ghoneim? “Liberals, seculars and modern people are all infidels,” Ghoneim said in a widespread video (using YouTube by the way, the same YouTube they wanted to boycott a few weeks ago). We all know what is done with infidels. Alber Saber is a case in point when it comes to equal treatment. Alber was accused of posting the now infamous anti-Islam film on his personal Facebook account, while Khaled Abdalla broadcast it on TV to the general public. Abdalla is at home right now and Alber is behind bars. The former is under investigation, the latter is facing charges of “spreading anti-religions ideas” and demeaning religion. And don’t you dare defend Alber, he is an atheist. So much for human rights and equality!
That was the “freedom of faith,” now on to “respect of human rights” and the freedom of political choice. I suppose Mursi needs to check El-Erian’s sentence, “we will win the majority in the next parliament in spite of those who conspire against us.” Basically Mr El-Erian believes that anyone who does not support the Muslim Brotherhood politically and chooses to vote for other political powers, is in fact a conspirer; a traitor maybe?
Another case in point is the way our rulers dealt with Al-Dostor newspaper and its chief editor, as opposed to how they are dealing with the Freedom and Justice Party newspaper. Both papers publish questionable unconfirmed sensationalist material, sometimes amounting to outright lies. One is under scrutiny with its editor facing charges, the other is thriving.
Speaking of equal treatment, I suppose the president should also know that half the population of his country are considered second grade citizens. The women, in the new revolutionary constitution, are losing ground to the same fight they had back in the 1920s; for the basic right of a woman to choose her future, to be educated and to work if she wishes. When the “revolutionary” constitution gives parents the right to marry off their daughters at the age of nine, I suppose there is not much room for the child to object and absolutely no hope for education or independence. And while they are drafting this, several of them are trying to cancel the khul’ law, which gives a woman the right to divorce her husband. So basically, they will sell little girls for life.
I suggest the president either takes us to live on Mars where human rights are upheld, or comes back to tweet from Egypt on planet Earth
The writer is a columnist at the Egypt-based Daily News, where this article was published on Oct. 1, 2012