During the Mubarak regime people were afraid lest they fall prey to some sick police officer, or perhaps end up a victim of some scam or an unjust and corrupt judiciary system.
But we also knew that if we kept our mouths shut and walked close to the wall (as the Egyptian proverb goes), we would probably stay safe. Those who had nothing to do with politics knew that if they kept out of it and went on about their business, they would stay afloat, be they rich or poor, Muslim or Christian.
We knew that if you kept to yourself you could walk the streets. As it became obvious, the absolute sweeping majority of people kept away from politics since the time of Nasser, though that was brought about by fear. The subsequent presidents played more upon "stability."
So, if the status quo is survivable, shut up. And most of us did shut up. We were afraid, but did not live in fear.
Now we do. The smell of fear is everywhere. No longer will keeping to yourself save you, for they want you to become like them. Islamists want to impose their beliefs, their lifestyle, and their idea of right and wrong on everyone of us. They want the “society” to behave in a certain way, they have it in their draft constitution: “the values of the Egyptian family”, and no one explained what those “values” are!
We are now afraid of our businesses being closed in the name God, of our women being enslaved in the name of God. We are afraid for our daughters who could be deprived of education and married off at childhood in the name of God. Hairdressers, clothes shops, tourism-related businesses, sculptors and painters, musicians and writers, bankers and investors… everyone is afraid for their livelihood.
We look at Afghanistan and picture ourselves living it. Not even the Iran scenario seems plausible now, given they at least are advanced technologically, they have a beautiful country that is organised and clean, their girls are educated and can work if they choose. The scenario for us now does not even amount to an Iranian-type of religiosity, it has nosedived to the Afghani scenario, the Malala Yousufzai catastrophe. With these people ruling us, there will be no advancement; the ignorance with which they speak and behave is as thick and ugly as their beards.
I had the misfortune to be working in an office located very close to the Islamist demonstration on Saturday. From my window I could see people walking in small groups heading to Al-Nahda square, holding their flags and chattering. There was not one woman with any of the groups, and they all looked so determined and angry. They looked frightening, to the point that I was very afraid to walk on the same street or even drive next to them. I delayed my trip back home. I waited until dark when they all pack themselves into their buses and head back to their villages.
Some of them were still there, and getting out of that area was a horrifying experience, I was fearful that they would decide I was in need of discipline, right then and there. I had to carve my way through groups of beards and galabeyas, and I honked the horn as loud and as continuously as possible, until they let me through. And not one policeman in sight!
They had that look of power in their eyes, and why wouldn’t they? The police and the army are working for them now (for different reasons), and their president has placed himself above the law. We have no state to speak of.
Everyone in this country is in fear. The risks have become way too high; the effect of an Islamist rule would be direct and final. Many jobs will be abolished, businesses closed, companies bankrupted, women harassed and enslaved. All in the name of God.
Fear is the strongest of all emotions. It is fight or flight now for all of us, but where would we go if we choose flight? Where would the millions of average Egyptians struggling through their days go? It is fight because flight is not a valid option for most.
Fear is aiding the revolution now, because Egyptians are mobilized. Because of fear thousands of people who never previously participated in protests, did join Friday’s opposition marches. This fear is the biggest drive for the country, and this fear is what has made the apolitical stability-junkie stick his head above the parapet.
Please continue your fear mongering tactics dear Mursi, for it is working very well for us!
(The writer is a columnist at Daily News Egypt, where this article was published on Dec. 4, 2012)