Voices for a Democratic Egypt, 7/22/09
Tonight was indeed a memorable night. A delegation comprised of a few co-opted parliamentarians, headed by Dr. Mostafa El Fiky, the chair of the foreign affairs committee in the Egyptian parliament, visited the Coptic church of Fairfax, VA to engage with the Coptic community. This visit was undoubtedly an attempt to diffuse anger over rising sectarian violence in Egypt, particularly in anticipation of a visit by President Mubarak in August where “embarrassing scenes”—such as those of an Egyptian American community angry over the deterioration of their homeland on all fronts at the hands of a corrupt government staging a protest—are to be avoided at all costs.
El Fiky, no doubt briefed by the active Egyptian embassy media office and security officials, knew of my Washington Post article earlier this summer, where El Fiky is mentioned--and not in the best light possible. He mentioned me during the introduction to his talk as a “journalist” who criticizes and is unhappy with the state of things in Egypt. El Fiky proceeded to serenade his audience with stories of how Mubarak personally likes Copts (as a matter of fact, the guy who tucks Mubarak in bed every night is a Copt! Yes, this was in fact part of his speech), and relayed an entertaining story about how our president refused to meet with a Coptic ambassador at a certain point in time, a story which, in El Fiky’s eyes, demonstrates that the president gives no one preferential treatment. You are quite correct, Dr. El Fiky: Muslims and Christians alike are treated with indignity under the current government.
But this does not mean the denial of the existence of a Coptic problem—one that uniquely afflicts the Copts—whether you view them as a minority or not--beyond and apart from the dismal situation of all Egyptians living under the current regime. Nonetheless, El Fiky took us all down that ignoble road of stating that some of his “best friends are Coptic.” Sound familiar, African American community?
El Fiky’s trite lecture finally concluded, and question and answer began. I proceeded to ask a question. I told Dr. El Fiky that a state should be comprised of laws and institutions, and should not rely on the beneficence of its rulers, and that Mubarak’s personal likes or dislikes of Copts as such is irrelevant to me. El Fiky kept interrupting, and said that in Egypt, individuals do matter, demonstrating that he is indeed still wedded to the pharoahnic era, where our rulers are nothing short of Gods, for which we should feel grateful for our very existence.
I then proceeded to ask Dr. El Fiky—over the endless interruptions—what he thought the relationship was between a continued state of emergency law for over 28 years, the lack of democratic governance, and the exponential rise in sectarian violence. I said, it’s not true that Copts are living a “golden age” under Mubarak, as El Fiky had—astonishingly—stated in his speech, despite all the evidence to the contrary. I said that he was misguiding us. My words accusing El Fiky of being less than accurate or forthcoming in his characterization of the Coptic situation in Egypt then unleashed Pandora’s box—in a fit of rage, Egypt’s honorable parliamentarian accused me of everything from not “being raised properly,” to a “traitor,” saying that I am “against the government,” and demanded an apology, repeatedly, which I refused to give, also repeatedly. El Fiky could not help but resort to that age old tactic of totalitarian regimes, especially Egypt’s, that characterizes anyone who disagrees with the regime—particularly a younger woman no doubt—as a traitor, unpatriotic—everything under the sun with which you can be easily discredited in the eyes of the feeble minded.
The fiasco that ensued of the audience trying to intervene, and El Fiky screaming was a stark reminder of things back home. El Fiky proceeded to threaten me with a lawsuit—you know, those infamous defamation lawsuits that are slapped onto everyone from artists to activists, in a unique effort to silence and intimidate them.
The thuggishness of the Egyptian regime, and its cronies, my friends, is alive and well, not just in the streets of Cairo, but in Washington DC. As though to add insult to injury in addressing a wounded community that has suffered enough, El Fiky proceeded to say that he wouldn’t actually “mind” if a Copt were prime minister. Thank you so much, your highness. As for a Copt being president, well, you know that is off limits, both to Copts and Muslims (as long as we have pharaoh), but especially to Copts, and El Fiky told us—point blank--that he would not accept a Copt as president.
Interesting to openly hold such a position at this time, in a country that has just elected its first African American president in a historical, compelling election.
Also interesting, Dr. El Fiky—given that you actually lost in the previous parliamentary elections to a Muslim Brotherhood candidate, and a female judge exposed the fraud only to be shot down by the government who affirmed your victory anyway (given that you were “one of the boys”)—isn’t it interesting that you have come full circle to embrace the exclusive and racist ideology imputed to the very people whose ideology you deem unacceptable, the Muslim Brotherhood, who were themselves severely criticized for adopting the position of excluding Copts from the presidency in their 2006 political platform? There seems to be a pattern where standards are held very high to those who dare oppose a government who itself is perfectly comfortable disregarding all standards of the rule of law, and simple decency.
El Fiky of course gave us the standard “blame Israel” line—stating that there are those who wish to destroy us, and “not just Israel.” Really? So Egyptians themselves modeled after yourself are not doing a good enough job destroying the country independently of any external effort? Thugs who think they can yell and threaten and intimidate—in a free country--represent precisely the poor moral character that threatens to undermine Egypt irreparably every day. Think about this, Dr. El Fiky, as you make your congressional rounds during the rest of the week. And wake up.
And wake up, Egypt.