Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Free Democratic and Secular Egypt

Currently there is a committee of senior judges under the chairmanship of the learned judge Tarek El-Beshry is drafting the new constitution of Egypt which will determines the future of Egypt in the 21st century. I hope that the new constitution will ensure the creation of a democratic and secular society controlled by fair laws that apply equally to all the citizens regardless of gender, race, social status or religion.

A constitution that specifies the religion of the nation or the religion of the president is exclusive, divisive and not compatible with the basic rules of a free civilised nation that should treat all its citizens equally. The late Dr Ahmed Abdallah a leading figure in the field of political science always stated that countries have no religion only people who have a religion. A fair society has the duty to protect the right of its citizens to choose and practice whatever religion each individual desires. Civilised nations are also judged by the way they treat the minorities of their societies.

We are at a critical moment of our history and I trust that this highly esteemed committee we will be able to get it right this time. Europe has progressed and achieved modernity and produced civilised societies since it succeeded in separating religion from the constitution and abolished the influence and the power of the Roman Church and other religious organisations on the public affairs and laws of the European nations.  However, the constitution of some European and Latin American countries still indicates Christianity is the official religion of the country. It surprised me to discover that this item is part of the constitution of some Scandinavian countries which are very secular communities and  the influence of religion on the law of the land is marginal. Their laws clearly protect and acknowledge the right of the existence of other religions and believe within their communities. Since religion’s influence on public life in these countries is not prominent my guess nobody bothered challenging this item of the constitution.
The way the Greek stated the role of the Church within their constitution seems reasonable and can be copied in the new Egyptian constitution which can state “The prevailing religion in Egypt is Islam”. However, personal I prefer much more the Spanish constitution (see below) which is compatible with the aspiration of modern times and believes

Spain, Article 16  [Religion, Belief, No State Church]
(1) Freedom of ideology, religion, and cult of individuals and communities is guaranteed without any limitation in their demonstrations other than that which is necessary for the maintenance of public order protected by law.
(2) No one may be obliged to make a declaration on his ideology, religion, or beliefs.
(3) No religion shall have a state character.  The public powers shall take into account the religious beliefs of Spanish society and maintain the appropriate relations of cooperation, with the Catholic Church and other denominations.

Finally, I am fully aware of the apprehension and concern amongst many Egyptians about the term “Secular Democratic Egypt” and they prefer the term “Civil Democratic Egypt”. There is serious misunderstanding that secularism implies atheism which is far from the truth. In a secular society the source of values is much wider and more inclusive than in a closed religious community. The right of belief and practice of any religion is protected, and  the cultural identity of the country is protected. Secularism is not anti Islam or any other religion, secularism is inclusive of all identities and beliefs. Egypt has been and will always be a religious country with Islam the predominant religion, but the laws of the land have to be inclusive and protect the rights of all the people regardless of religion, gender, race or ethnicity and without dominance of one group over another.

Well, what matters now is not losing the momentum of the revolution and we should be accommodating and tolerant to all the views of honest citizens who love Egypt and wishing the best for its people.

Clean Free Egypt

Congratulations to the young people of Egypt for their efforts to clean the country as they have cleaned it from a corrupt regime.
Rwanda, in East Africa is an example to be followed.  It suffered terrible civil war 15 years ago caused the death of more than a million of its people. The current administration introduced several good schemes to heal the wounds of terrible past and build a modern affluent society. One of the impressive schemes the government introduced is on the last Saturday of every month from 8am to 12am everybody including the president is obliged to clean the streets of the area where they live. Kigali the capital of Rwanda is currently a spotless city with clean streets and tidy beautiful gardens everywhere. I hope we can copy the same policy in Egypt, so one day all the cities, towns and villages of Egypt become clean without heaps of rubbish and dirt accumulating in our streets and lanes.
Thanks again to the young Egyptians for igniting the efforts to clean Egypt as they have ignited the 25th of January revolution. Well done my brothers and sisters,  keep up the good work!!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A notice to the Egyptian people:Make sure that our new president does not develop the Hubris Syndrome!!

In 2009 David Owen (Psychiatrist and past Foreign Secretary in the UK) and J Davidson of Duke University, department of psychiatry published a paper with the title “Hubris Syndrome”. The syndrome is defined as “exaggerated pride, overwhelming self-confidence and contempt for others”. Another definition which I obtained from the internet states: “Hubris indicates a loss of touch with reality and overestimating one's own competence or capabilities”.
The sufferer of Hubris syndrome may exhibit the following:
·         Messianic zeal
·         Exaltation in speech
·         Conflates self with nation
Is Hubris syndrome of presidents preventable? The answer is yes, and the following measures could be helpful:
·         No president should be allowed to stay in power beyond 8 years
·         Treat presidents as human beings with the same virtues and vices that we know ourselves posses.
·         The president should always be reminded of his all –too-human frailty. King Philip of Macedonia allegedly employed a man with a stick, the main job of this man is to walk into Philip’s quarter at any hour and hit him over the head with the stick to remind him that he was only mortal.
·         Free press and media should play the role of the man with the stick reminding the rulers that they are humans with flaws and short comings like the rest of us. In modern Egypt the official press and media (TV, radio) has to change its role from being a cheerleader of the president to become the voice of the people and the guardian of free and democratic Egypt. Free press and media should aim at the following:
o   Faire and objective monitoring of the president and government performance.
o   Offering constructive critical analysis of the work of the ruling elites.
o   Ensuring that the rulers are in continuous contact with reality and fully aware of the needs of the ordinary and voiceless citizens.
o   The nauseating tradition of daily praise of the president and his achievements should be avoided. Free media and press are not propaganda tools in the hands of the rulers to magnify their achievements and hide their failures.  
·         The culture and practices of worshiping the ruler should stop:
a.    There is no need for the president’s photo to be displayed in every public and private office in the country.
b.    There is no need to fill the news paper with adverts costing large amount of money to congratulate the president in every religious or national occasion.
c.    There is no need to have big posters displayed in our streets and squares citing the wonderful qualities of the president and stating the unconditional support of all the people.
d.    There are no needs for songs that worship the president. We need more songs that reflect the achievements and also the suffering of our people, songs that can give us hope in a better future, and songs to encourage us to work harder for the sake of our country and discourage us from selfish behaviour and abuses of power.

Finally, it is the duty of all of us to ensure that the old culture and practices that breed presidents with Hubris Syndrome are avoided. We already had three presidents over the last 6 decades with Hubris Syndrome, this is more than enough for Egypt and the Egyptian people and we certainly should not allow the creation of another one!!       

[NB: hubris syndrome was detailed in an article written by Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times on 13/2/2011]

Monday, 14 February 2011

The fall of the wall of fear in Egypt on 25 January 2011.

The Egyptians particularly the young ones have inspired the people of the world by their courage to peacefully ignite the light of democracy  in Egypt after almost 60 years of military autocracy. This autocratic regime has infantilized the Egyptian people (I am quoting the term infantilise  from the eminent Middle East expert Robert Fisk in his report in the Independent Newspaper on 6 February 2011) and castrated them politically for 6 decades. The infantilisation of the Egyptians was so apparent after the humiliation of the six days war in 1967, when we rushed into the streets of Cairo feeling completely helpless like children that have lost their parents demanding Nasser to stay in power. A mature nation would have demanded a new regime and the trial of the  old one that caused this national disaster and  the unnecessary death of thousands of innocent soldiers not forgetting the  massive damage of the inspiration and hopes of an entire generation that was looking for a better future.

It is wonderful to see the empowered Egyptians after 25th of January caring about the cleanliness of their country and working together to clean Tahrir square shouting "this is my country, we want to keep it clean, we want Egypt to be the best in the world" these are some of the comments I heard on the different TV channels which covered the events of Egypt over the last 3 weeks. I wished I was in Tahrir square with all these wonderful people of Egypt who went out to claim their country back from those who infantilized and disempowered them all these years.

I left Egypt with a broken heart 38 years ago as I lost my trust in those who ruled us and mislead us with empty slogans that can not be  achieved. Furthermore, I discovered later in life that the  history which we were taught at schools in Egypt was manipulated to fit the  political agenda of the new regime highlighting that Egypt pre 1952  was completely corrupt and useless and the revolution came to rectify all the flaws of the old corrupt society. Nasser has tried to offer some social justice but  abolishing political freedom was a massive price to pay and caused most of the problems that affected Egypt since 1954 when all political parties were banned with the imprisonment of all political opponents. The culture of fear for having a political point of view was inflicted on my generation and caused disempowerment of a whole nation. The Egyptians felt they are helpless observers that have no say on how the country is managed. They were also fully aware that all power belongs to  the military elites under the protection of a ruthless police force.

Under the old culture of fear I would have not dared to write this peace, but thanks to our young brothers and sister in Egypt; they have broken the wall of fear and liberated us from the chains of oppression that silenced us  for many years.

Although I have left Egypt many years ago, Egypt has never left me. I am glad that I have lived to see the day that Egypt became free and the Egyptian people has reconnected with their beloved country after all these years. Egypt the birth of human civilisation at last has regained its status that its history and people deserves.
At this moment of time we should also remember those who have fallen in the past trying to ignite the light of freedom in Egypt with particular reference  to Dr Ahmed Abdallah who was the leader of the students movement in 1972 and sadly died a few years ago with a brocken heart because of  the state of Egypt. Today I salute Ahmed Abdallah and all the martyrs of Egypt who offered their lives without hesitation to liberate Egypt from its oppressors and give us all  a better future.

I know this is the start of a new future with many uncertainties but I hope the current military high council will honour their promise of  a new constitution and  free election to give Egypt a democratic regime that its people rightly deserves. Otherwise, Tahrir square will see all of us again one hand against any new oppression!!