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May 2, 2005 Special Dispatch No. 902

Egyptian Intellectual: We Must Expose the Lies and Incitement Against Israel, the U.S., and the West

May 2, 2005
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 902

In an article titled "The Khan Al-Khalili Incident: Causes and Consequences," published in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, Ahmad Naji Kamha, a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, analyzes the causes for the April 7, 2005 terrorist attack at Khan Al-Khalili and proposes how to deal with such phenomena.

The writer emphasizes that the fact that the terrorist attack was carried out by a single Egyptian citizen and that this is what highlights the serious nature of the problem, Kamha explains "the security apparatus does not have enough people to follow every citizen... It was surprised [to find] that the perpetrators of the attack at Taba were ordinary [Egyptian] citizens not affiliated with Al-Qa'ida, with the [Egyptian] Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiya, or with the [Egyptian] Jihad [organization]."

Kamha criticizes the authorities for not letting the liberal Egyptian organizations to convey a message of openness to the Egyptian people, and for having allowed various factions "who live in the mentality of the past" to spread anti-Western incitement and to call for Jihad against anything American. He calls upon the authorities to permit the activity of liberal organizations because this, in his view, would be the most effective response to religious and nationalist incitement. The following are excerpts from the article:[1]

To Prevent Such Incidents, We Must First Admit That We Failed in Fulfilling Our Duty

"...If we really want to fight such incidents and to prevent them from occurring in the future, we must admit that we all – as the state, as intellectuals, and as a people – have failed to fulfill our duty... Let me start with the state. For close to thirty years, Egypt has decided... to play an active and primary role in establishing peace in the Middle East as a strategic option and for the benefit of all its citizens, including the Arab region and the three states in strategic proximity (Iran, Turkey, and Israel). In addition, [Egypt] has opted for special, distinctive relations with the U.S., taking precedence over the other countries... Since then we see that it has not been able to move society forward, except recently, and to be more precise, since 2002.

"We see that [Egypt] has also failed to bring the substantial change to the awareness of the ordinary citizen. In this, the state has its justifications. Whenever things calmed down and moved toward real reforms, [the state] was taken by surprise by political acts of violence, beginning with the assassination of the late President Muhammad Anwar Al-Sadat, which pushed the state into the whirlpool of acts of terrorism, which continued until 1997. Consequently, the state took the step of imposing emergency laws and other laws restricting civil liberties...

"However, the state did not realize that by doing so it was preventing society's non-governmental liberal organizations from performing their duties and from transmitting a new message of openness to the citizens... These organizations could have helped to generate a dynamic of interaction between the citizen and the state, through which a liberal state can confront the political violence of Islamic groups without resorting to emergency laws. This liberal trend was the mainstay of the changes that have taken place from 2002 until now."

The State Behaves as if it is Scared to Tell its Citizens About its Decision to Have a Strategic Alliance with the U.S.

"[Restricting the activities of liberal organizations] is not the state's only mistake. Its greatest mistake lies in the discrepancy between [the state's] policy and decisions [on the one hand] and what reaches the citizen's [awareness on the other].

"The consequence of this [discrepancy] is manifest in the way [the state] dealt with peace in the Middle East and with our relations with the U.S. Despite the strategic choices regarding these two issues that the country has openly adopted for the past thirty years, there is still a trend in the country that adheres to views of the past.

"This trend controls the [political] orientation of certain publications. It has helped to spread hatred of anything American and to disseminate the conspiratorial theory that Israel is behind every [violent] incident that occurs in Egypt. Thus, the state has failed to transmit its message regarding its strategic alliance with the U.S., as if it were afraid to confront the citizens with this truth.

"Yes, we are [the U.S.'s] allies, and this does not constitute a betrayal of any principle. This is an alliance aimed at reshaping the entire region on the basis of freedom and equality, and in order to change and awaken societies that deserve a better life. What is wrong with presenting this message loud and clear? Yes, we are [the U.S.'s] allies, and this alliance grows with every crisis in the region. This alliance is based on principles which permit no-one to interfere with our affairs. It is our policy and our reform alone that leads us to join the policy lines of our strongest ally – politically, economically, and socially – for the sake of a society that is free in every sense of the word.

"In addition, we indeed constitute a major factor in the Middle East peace [process]. Peace [in the Middle East] will never be attained without Egypt playing an active role as mediator and as an actor helping the other actors reach a save haven."

"The State Has Made a Mistake by Letting its Voice Be Weaker Than the Publications Inciting... for Jihad Against Anything American or Western"

"The state has made a mistake by letting its voice be weaker than the voices of the publications inciting … for Jihad against anything American or Western, on the basis of attitudes shaped in a [past] era, which the authors of these publications refuse to believe has gone, never to return.

"It is therefore now the duty of the liberal forces to enter the ideological fray against the authors of these publications, in order to clarify the past, present, and future changes in the state, and to explain that the inciting, inflammatory and violent language is the language of one who is unable to develop and to maintain a dialogue with intellectuals world-wide."

"The Lie Behind the Inciting Claims that the U.S. is the Great Satan Must Be Exposed"

"One must expose the lie behind the inciting claims that the U.S. is the great Satan with eyes for Israeli interests alone, that the changes and reforms currently taking place are merely the result of external pressures, and that the U.S. is [only] looking for some opening that would enable it to exert additional pressures on the Egyptian state and to intervene in its political decisions. Exposing all these [lies] is the opening shot for the phase of an ideological breakthrough that would enable the Egyptian mind to examine everything rationally and to reach rational conclusions instead of being pushed toward a policy of suicide, sacrificing society and its citizens, like at the Khan Al-Khalili market."

"The Inciting Writings and Agitation Rely upon the Religious and [Pan-Arab] Nationalist Dimensions"

"As for the people: the citizens were collectively swept after the thing closest to their hearts, because the inciting writings and agitation rely upon the religious and [pan-Arab] nationalist dimensions. That is why the time has come for each and every one of us to relinquish collective thinking and to search, with his individual mind, what will lead to the realization of the interests of the Egyptian state, as well as his [own] interests...

"We are required today to think rationally and to imagine where such [inciting] publications might lead us, [and to ask ourselves] whether we are ready to accept that each of us harbors within himself a latent terrorist who would destroy the state's and the citizens' property, one who cannot be trusted not to kill those who rely upon us to protect them [i.e. tourists].

"Or else it is incumbent upon each of us to harbor within himself a modern enlightened citizen, who behaves with openness toward others, who is interested in acquiring an education and in modernization, and who is not afraid of the West, but who influences and is influenced by it.

"From the above, one should not conclude – as some of the satellite news channels have hinted – that the state may be the cause [of the acts of terrorism], in order to be able to enforce further restrictions upon the citizens, in an effort to restrain and to direct the process of reform, which was imposed upon it from outside.

"Unfortunately, there have been [some people] who have accepted this [claim].

"We, on the other hand, conclude that the state should complete the steps of its reform, by way of legislation and enhanced implementation... [In addition,] the state must rely upon the non-governmental liberal organizations to establish a new elite that would further develop the official discourse and would better convey the message to the citizens plainly and forcefully. All society's political organizations must be allowed to express themselves. This way the state would respond most forcefully to the inciters and would protect the minds of others from falling into the clutches of this kind of destructive thinking. Thus, the state would begin to confront the most serious obstacles [preventing] communication between it and its citizens, who all oppose criminal actions like these."

Endnote:

[1]Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 11, 2005.

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