January 17, 2002 Special Reports No. 7

Mubarak ­ 'An Angel in the Form of a President' The Egyptian Government Press Celebrates President Mubarak's 20 Years in Office

January 17, 2002
Special Reports No. 7

On October 14, 2001, Egypt marked the 20th anniversary of Hosni Mubarak's presidency. The government papers helda month-long celebration, interviewing practically all members of Egypt's political, military, economic, and social elite.Almost to a man, they marveled at President Mubarak and his leadership throughout his 20 years in office. A criticalreading of what has been published opens a window into the inner world of Egypt's intellectual elite and itsrelationship with the regime. Following are excerpts from a Special Report on Mubarak's 20th anniversary in office:

The Government Press and the Egyptian Regime
Egypt has three major government dailies and about a dozen weeklies. Westerners might find it difficult to understand the real meaning of the concept of "government newspapers," as well as how they are linked to the regime. The atmosphere generated by the Egyptian government press on the occasion of Mubarak's 20th year in power can provide answers to some of these questions.

The most obvious manifestation of the link between the government press and the government itself is the editors' and columnists' declarations of loyalty to Mubarak. Al-Gumhuriya editor-in-chief Samir Ragab, known to have a personal relationship with Mubarak, added his own hand-written letter to the gala front page of his paper. In the letter, he pledged loyalty to Mubarak on behalf of the Egyptian people: "Your Excellency the President, the people that gives you back love in exchange for your love, and gives you its loyalty in exchange for your loyalty, pledges its support to you on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of your rise to power… Live for Egypt, and Egypt will live through you. [Signed,] Samir Ragab."[1]

Ragab's colleague Al-Akhbar editor Galal Dweidar also wrote a celebratory article in honor of the occasion, titled "Mubarak: Sacrifice Without Limits." He wrote, "Although 20 years have passed since he took power, the river of sacrifice has never stopped flowing, and the stream of achievements continues endlessly, with every step he takes…"

"Every time I have spoken with him…, he immediately said to me: 'Behind me stand 65 million citizens, lifting up their eyes to assure themselves a life of dignity. Behind me stands a homeland, which I seek with all my might to lead in the heart of the raging waves in which the world exists. I guard its safety, from within and from without.' This is the president, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak…"

"He has many positive aspects, too numerous to count," wrote Dweidar, before he began counting them: "His determination in making decisions that he thinks serve the national interest; the humanness that dominates him as he monitors the problems of the common citizens, who head his priorities, [and whom he] fosters and aids… His No. 1 enemy in affairs of state is the lie; …and he has eliminated the word 'despair' from his internal and foreign affairs vocabulary; all his journeys and contacts abroad have but a single goal, and that is to achieve a maximum of benefit for Egypt and for the Egyptian people, and the same goes for serving pan-Arab issues; allowing freedoms in a way that serves the interests of the homeland and enriches the democratic experiment…; he bases himself on stability and tends not to make unwarranted changes… I have mentioned only a few of the [traits] abundant in the personality of Mubarak, who lives with us, and with whom we have lived for years. He will live with us and we will live with him also in the years to come, Allah willing, for the good of dear Egypt."[2]

Along with the editors' articles, editorials marking the occasion also appeared in the government papers. Al-Gumhuriya wrote that "the commander and leader Muhammad Hosni Mubarak begins, together with the Egyptian people, a new year of serious work and ongoing sacrifice. Since he, with the consensus of the nation, accepted responsibility into his hands under difficult circumstances on October 14, 1981, Mubarak has succeeded in navigating the ship of the homeland to a safe shore, a shore of stability [in the ocean] of regional and international change."

"Mubarak's Egypt advances every day, from achievement to achievement, in all areas: political, economic, social, and cultural… The phenomenal achievements are the best [possible] testimonial to the love and faith that the commander and leader and his people place in each other. [These achievements] open the gate to more dreams, so as to make them come true and give a sense of pride to Mubarak's Egypt, the land of peace, development, stability, and security."[3]

The weekly 'October' pointed out the event to its readers: "Dear reader, today Egypt begins a new year of Mubarak's leadership, in which it will continue the voyage of development and peace… Every old man, every youth, child, man, and woman says today to Mubarak: Thank you. You gave your life and your best years for your homeland. You have made countless sacrifices. Allah has permitted you to write pages full of sacrifice, and anyone who is beloved by Allah is also beloved by the people; victory will remain at the right hand of anyone whom Allah supports. Long live the leader of the nation; long live the Egyptian people, who is at your side…'"[4]

The weekly Roz Al-Youssuf, a government-leaning independent publication, came out with a special supplement titled "20 Years President and 52 Years in the Service of Egypt; The Art of Leadership, The Art of Presidency Over Peoples." The supplement was published about 10 days before the official date for a number of reasons, one of which was that Roz Al-Youssuf's editorial staff wanted "our celebration to have a special resonance, and not be overpowered by the noise of the war [in Afghanistan]." The introduction read, in part: "This is a very special supplement, 210 pages long, and published in two parts. [With this supplement,] we at Roz Al-Youssuf celebrate the 20th anniversary of the rule of the president, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak. This event merits more than a special issue. Every one of the many aspects in which the president has accomplished achievement after achievement deserves a special issue, so that we can give him the appreciation he deserves… Our celebratory words come from the heart, and express the conscience and emotions of the people and their support of their monumental and exceptional president, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak."[5]

Al-Akhbar columnist Ahmad Al-Gundi wrote: "I had trouble deciding what to write [to mark] President Mubarak's 20 years in power… What can I write about in his fourth term, which is based on the absolute support of the masses and their love for him, and on their devotion to his leadership in every one of his terms of office?"

"In his first term of office, it was Mubarak the president; in his second, Mubarak the president and the commander; in his third, Mubarak the president, the commander, and the leader; in his fourth term of office, it is Mubarak, about whom no one disagrees that he has more experience, wisdom, determination, and faith in Egypt than any of those titles. What shall I write about Mubarak, after all those who have preceded me over the course of 20 years? All that is left for me to do is to call from the depths of my heart on Allah to protect him for the sake of Egypt and for the sake of all Egyptians."[6]

President Mubarak and the People
Many articles stressed President Mubarak's sympathy for Egypt's common people: the children, the youth, and the students, the poor, and the sick. Al-Ahram journalist 'Izzat Al-Sa'adani undertook a special project: In a full-page article, entitled "Twenty Years of Love," he interviewed three youths born October 14, 1981, the day Mubarak became president. "The three told me in unison, as if singing the national anthem in school or [reading aloud] from their textbooks: 'Throughout our lives, we have known, seen, felt, and been influenced by only one president, and that is Hosni Mubarak… He is a father and an uncle to us; he is our friend and we are his friends; he is the head of the Egyptian family; we take our problems to him and talk to him as a son to a father; we take his advice and we are at the center of his heart… We love him because he is a friend to the older among us and a brother to the younger among us… He takes from the strong and gives to the weak; the people are more important to him than anything else; he speaks the truth; he sails the ship of his country through the waves and the tempests wisely and serenely, without becoming agitated."

"We love him because he never shuts his eyes thinking of the pain of his people. If by chance he hears of an injustice done to any man, he investigates it himself, and restores the rights to those entitled to them before the sun sets. We love him because he travels to the East and to the West for Egypt and for the Egyptian people. We love him because he gathered the Arabs around him and restored Egypt to the bosom of the [Arab] nation [after Egypt was boycotted by most Arab countries following president Anwar Sadat's signing of a peace agreement with Israel]; we love him because he keeps the youth always on his mind, develops Egypt, and leads it towards the 21st century. We love him because we can talk freely, without fear. We love him because he brought Egypt into the technological age…"

"We were born and live with Papa Mubarak, and with no one else. We love to call him Papa Mubarak, because we feel that he is the father of us all…"

Al-Sa'adani concluded his article with the following: "President Mubarak, who is starting his 21st year on the throne of responsibility, does not have Moses's staff with which to strike [Egypt's] troubles and pain, and to produce an eruption of solutions, gold, and silver, of rivers of pure honey with flowers on its banks. But he has something more powerful than Moses's staff: He has the love of the people."[7]

Al-Akhbar's Mumtaz Al-Qat wrote another article on the same subject, in which he described how Mubarak addresses the problems of the common folk: "President Mubarak has, from his first day in power, managed to make himself a melting pot which has collected all hopes, aspirations, and problems. Mubarak is the symbol and the truth embodying 66 million Egyptians, and he bears upon his shoulders all their concerns. My problem is his problem, my dreams are his dreams…"

Al-Qat goes on to describe a day in the life of President Mubarak, which begins with his reading of Al-Akhbar, Al-Qat's paper: "Before seven o'clock, President Mubarak begins his schedule, after exercising – walking or playing squash… He browses through the pages of Al-Akhbar, and tarries over the letters to the editor. He reads a letter from Mu'ida, of the faculty of medicine at [the university hospital] Qasr Al-'Ayini. She complains that the officials refuse to treat her abroad at state expense… President Mubarak takes off his glasses. Emotion, anger, and sorrow are evident in his features. He demands to be put through to the Minister of Higher Education, Mufid Shihab, although it is only 7:10 a.m. Because everyone who works with the president knows that his work begins at the crack of dawn… most of the ministers are in their offices or by their telephones from the early morning hours…"

"[Over the phone, Mubarak instructs the minister to change the law.] Then, President Mubarak calls the director of his office, Zakariya Azmi, and tells him to inform Prime Minister Atef 'Ubeid to immediately order Mu'ida sent for treatment at the state's expense. Within a few days, she will go abroad. Good luck to her. Indeed, she went, and the operation was a success. She returns to work, and her heart says, 'Thank you, my father Mubarak'…"

"Minister of Higher Education Dr. Mufid Shihab told me [in response]: 'President Mubarak's humanity and sensitivity towards his sons [the citizens of Egypt]… is a fundamental element in our work at the universities. There is not a single decision or appointment by President Mubarak from which the fragrance of fatherliness does not waft… President Mubarak's happiest moments are the moments when he talks with his sons and daughters, the students at the universities…'"[8]

Roz Al-Youssef also found an original way to express the Egyptian people's feelings about its president. The weekly published a letter to the editor received several months earlier, written by Yasser Seif, chairman of the Human Development Committee of Mubarak's National Democratic Party in Alexandria. Roz Al-Youssef's editor, the author and journalist Abd Al-Mun'im Sa'id, was so moved by the letter that he published it in full under the title "The Reader Who Discovered Mubarak's Secret," explaining that "all the Roz Al-Youssef employees agreed that this letter expresses best the feelings of all Egyptians towards their president."

The letter said: "When there is wise and rational leadership, all bow their heads to it and the entire world praises it. Therefore, some questions arose in my mind regarding the secret of President Mubarak's phenomenal success in all areas over the course of 20 years, during which he has not lost a single battle. I understood the secret of this sublimity and this genius by means of a new view of the president's personality, and that is the increase in the level of his emotional intelligence. I had great luck in uncovering this aspect of the personality of President Mubarak, whom we all love and respect… The history of President Mubarak attests to a phenomenal increase in the level of his emotional intelligence and in his belief in the soul's ability and in his understanding of others…"[9]

The Egyptian press was also full of letters and paid announcements from non-governmental organizations pledging support for Mubarak. One example was the "love letter" by Muhammad Abu Al-Yazid Abdallah, chairman of the board of directors of an insurance company: "[This] letter of love and gratitude from the bottom of my heart I send to the leader and president Muhammad Hosni Mubarak… My tongue cannot express, just as [my mind] cannot grasp, President Mubarak's achievements… Blessings and complete admiration to the leader of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak. May he live for us in good health always, Allah willing. [May] Allah give him long life for us, as president and as leader for us and for all the Arabs."[10]

Mubarak and the Presidential Family
Some newspapers also gave honorable mention to President Mubarak's family, primarily his wife Suzanne. Al-Akhbar, for example, wrote that Mubarak's family was "a wonderful picture of the ideal Egyptian family, enjoying love and harmony."[11]

Dr. Mamoon Fendi wrote: "We must not forget the role played by family stability," and added, "Here she is, the First Lady, working night and day on the education project; she makes the books available to the [Egyptian] family at a negligible price, and handles the affairs of the Egyptian and Arab woman. May Allah protect her and may she [continue to be] the glowing face of Egypt. And here he is, Gamal Mubarak, spending most of his time in public activity and also trying to construct an education project based on youth. Blessings to him. This is the family atmosphere that always keeps the stability of Egypt in mind, and is no less an important part [of it] than the ministries."

"When President Mubarak came to the throne of power in Egypt and took command of the ship, the Middle East was a stormy sea, whose waves were raging. Many were blinded by this, but the man's eye was always as clear as the eye of Horus [the son of Isis and Osiris, half man and half falcon, who traditionally protects Egypt]."

"Egypt was wrapped in a mantle of sorrow when the powers of terror assassinated the late president Anwar Sadat… And behold, the army gives the Egyptian nation the bravest and most faithful of its men, the first-strike man [in the 1973 war] and the hawk of the Egyptian air force. On this stormy sea Mubarak appeared, to lead the ship…"

"I had the privilege of meeting President Mubarak and shaking his hand. He seemed to me really like one of us. He has transparency, clarity, and honesty, and in his eyes compassion and good are evident. In an article I wrote in English, I called this 'captivating simplicity.' At that moment, I hoped that the entire people would know him and draw close to him, so that it would understand who this man is who leads Egypt at this stage. He does not seem like an emperor, a pharaoh, or a king; when one draws near him, all one sees is the good face of Egypt."[12]

President Mubarak and His Poets
Under the headline "Mubarak in the Eyes of the Poets," Al-Ahram published several works by Egyptian poets, presenting them to Mubarak as "a bouquet of love from the depths of the heart of the homeland." The introduction to the poems read: "Egypt celebrates 20 years of cultural sacrifice and achievement in all areas. The conscience of its sons restores what was written by the poets and the artists in every area. This is one of the purest pictures of the leader to whom his people have pledged their loyalty, out of love and faith, and together with him they continue the procession of civilization building in the new millennium…"

Writers' Association head Dr. Samir Sirhan wrote, "[Just] as the president became one with the Nile and with the pyramids, and they became one with him, thus the hearts of the poets became one exquisite national melody of love and loyalty. The harp of the poets of Egypt has begun to play the sweetest and most beautiful of tunes, out of love for Mubarak and out of loyalty to his historic leadership. The poets do not speak with one tongue. Some wrote in literary Arabic; some wrote in popular Arabic; but the music of love was always the same. The sweetness of the sublime melody, the melody of tremendous loyalty to the commander and leader resonated, and will continue to resonate across the homeland, and it will fill the air with the perfumes of love… When the poets express Mubarak-love, the hearts tremble and yearn for the creator of good, truth, and beauty in the homeland of good, truth, and beauty." Al-Ahram later published some of these poems.[13]

President Mubarak and the Branches of His Government
The Egyptian press also presented the views of government officials and members of parliament regarding Mubarak's 20 years in office. Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher used the recurring motif of a ship at sea: "Despite the storms and gales of the past 20 years, which damaged the region and the world… the captain of the ship, President Mubarak, has not only managed to protect Egypt and her people, but also to turn challenges into opportunities…"[14]

President Mubarak's foreign policy was a central theme in the praise offered to him by journalists and government officials. Dr. Rabah Rathib, a lawyer and a member of the Egyptian Shura Council, wrote, "Out of loyalty to our dear homeland, Egypt, I found myself compelled, with complete pride, love, and appreciation, to direct a blessing of honor and magnificence and offerings of thanks to the man who elevated our affairs throughout the world and who proved to the entire world that Egypt is, truly, the mother of the world. Here he is, liaising with the strongest power in the world [the U.S.], with reason and rationality. He treats [the U.S.] calmly and in a balanced manner, with wise and serene policy, as if he were the leader of the entire world. He gives it counsel after counsel, and America follows all his advice… Behold, the entire world looks up to him as if he held the key to salvation in his hands… Because of all this, and because of many other things, I say again, and with me all Egypt, and even the entire world, says: Thank you, Your Excellency, President Mubarak…"[14]

Many who wrote praising Mubarak's foreign policy referred to America's war on terrorism following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Wahid Hamed wrote an article in Roz Al-Youssef titled "The President – Solid as a Mountain, Because He Supports Truth and Justice": "When a blaze breaks out, the men appear, and the heat of the fire soon reveals which of them are genuine and which are bogus. Some are consumed by the fire; some cannot stand the heat and run far away, seeking a pool of cold water in which to disappear until the fire is out; others settle for screaming and shouting that a destructive blaze has broken out, and think that they have thus done their job; in contrast, only those who break through to the heart of the blaze can put it out and prevent it from spreading."

"…In a blaze that encompasses the entire world, after the events of Black Tuesday in America, the figure of President Mubarak remains engraved in my mind… President Mubarak has proven to the world that Egypt is an influential country that has a position and a view, that is not alienated from the desire of the Egyptian people; it is not a subjugate state that receives orders from the countries of hegemony and influence. President Mubarak reflects the people in all his positions. "

"[The attacks were] a severe blow that completely toppled the American arrogance and made the patronizing American conceit bow its head… America's strength is no longer capable of defending itself, and one can apply to it the saying, 'We remembered the snakes but forgot about the scorpions,' until the fatal sting of the scorpion came… Following this, President Bush declared: 'Either you are with us or you are with terrorism' – a declaration that in and of itself is a terrorist statement. From most of the countries in the world, the cry arose: 'We are with you, oh master of the wounded America; We are with you, oh cowboy who has fallen from his horse.' But in Egypt the situation was different, reasoned, and wise… Mubarak, because of his military past and his political and human experience, chose to stand with justice…"[16]

President Mubarak earned kudos for more than his foreign policy. All Egypt's top officials expressed their appreciation of the president's achievements in their own spheres. Minister for the People's Assembly and the Shura Council Affairs Kamal Muhammad Al-Shazli wrote, in an article titled "Twenty Enlightening Years in the Life of Egypt," that "Egypt's achievements under its president and leader Muhammad Hosni Mubarak over the past 20 years must be documented and compiled into volumes… The president has proven, in all the positions that he presented, both foreign and domestic, that he is a modern, democratic statesman, with a clean conscience and wise in his decisions, [that he] loves the Egyptian identity, [and] that frankness is the logic by which he functions."[17]

Minister for Environment Affairs Nadia Mukarram 'Ubeid took out a full-page ad in Al-Ahram in support of Mubarak, "On Behalf of the Family of Ecology in Egypt," which read: "As we have always been accustomed, he attaches importance to the problems of the nation and is ahead of his time. President Mubarak was the first Egyptian president to take an interest in safeguarding Egypt's ecology, the people, the Nile, and the rare and enchanted land. For the Egyptian man, he ordered the establishment of an apparatus for ecological affairs… We all unite around such a commander and leader, who has earned respect and appreciation from all peoples of the planet Earth, so that he will continue the campaign… Long live Mubarak the good… the symbol of sacrifice. Every day we draw from him inspiration for a new idea and for unceasing sacrifice for our sons, our present, and our future…"[18]

Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade Youssef Boutros Ghali addressed Mubarak's economic achievements: "The economic reform program launched in 1991 under the wise leadership of President Mubarak has completely changed the direction of the Arab economy, and it merits being chosen as one of the most successful economic reform programs in the world, in accordance with the analyses of several international institutions headed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank…"[19]

Minister of Health and former head of the Academy for Scientific and Technological Research Dr. Ibrahim Badran mentioned Mubarak's military record as a fighter pilot: "A man who spends half his life suspended between heaven and earth, endangering his life in every sortie, cannot be anything but faithful to his homeland and to his country. Anyone who is not stingy with his life deserves to be a hero and a national leader."[20]

Many members of the Egyptian parliament also used the press to express their complete support for President Mubarak. Parliamentarian Housing Committee head Muhammad Muhammad Abu Al-'Einin focused on current events, stating that "the president's experience must be a lesson to all those wishing to learn how to deal with terrorism. What did President Mubarak do and what is America doing? Twenty years ago, after Sadat's assassination, President Mubarak did not resort to violence. He did not cut down people, or imprison them. He did not freeze suspect bank accounts. On the contrary: He acted with the utmost wisdom and leadership ability. He studied the causes and the motives, and then began the treatment. He freed the political prisoners, called a conference of political parties, granted unprecedented freedom and democracy in Parliament… Will the world learn from the experience of President Mubarak and go in the correct path to eliminate terrorism in all its forms?"[21] Abu Al-'Einin also took out a large ad expressing support for Mubarak in his own name and "on behalf of the 7,500 employees of the Cleopatra Grove Company."[22]

President Mubarak and the Religious Establishment
Relations between Mubarak and Egypt's religious establishment were also included in the Egyptian press's coverage. The sheikh of Al-Azhar University, Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, gave interviews to several papers conveying two main messages in all of them: President Mubarak does not interfere in religious rulings, and he observes the commandments of Islam.

In his Roz Al-Youssef interview, Sheikh Tantawi was asked, "Has the president ever asked that a specific religious ruling by Al-Azhar be changed?" He replied, "It has never happened. I don't remember the president ever calling me to have a religious ruling changed. He is too honorable to do that. Furthermore, I remember that when I was mufti, he would call me on the night of seeing [the moon] before the month of Ramadan and tell me, 'Oh so and so, tomorrow do we eat or do we fast?' ' I would answer His Excellency, 'Tomorrow we eat' or 'Tomorrow we fast,' and he would say, 'Happy New Year.' Allah gave him the dignity not to impose his opinion and even not to interpret the words of the religious ruling."

Further on in the interview, Sheikh Tantawi discussed how religious institutes had flourished during the Mubarak era: "Twenty years ago, there were 3,000 Al-Azhar institutes, and since the president took power the number has doubled to 6,000. Similarly, 20 years ago Al-Azhar's budget was $10 million, and now it is tens of millions… President Mubarak respects the religion and respects Islamic religious law. He respects religious values and does not violate them; on the contrary, he fully supports them… We call from the depths of our hearts to Allah to give him everlasting health…"

To conclude the interview, Sheikh Tantawi gave his opinion of President Mubarak's personality: "I cannot speak by myself of the human aspects. Every reasonable Egyptian, whether he be a Muslim or a Christian, anyone who bears Egyptian citizenship and belongs to those with reason, can determine with complete certainty that the [human] aspects [are] the most striking in His Excellency, President Mubarak… of course, along with other aspects, which are determination, credibility, nerves of steel, and courage…"[23]

Christian clerics also expressed their appreciation of Mubarak in newspaper articles. Coptic priest Giorgios Al-Sumaili wrote, "I am filled with wonder by this phenomenal man. I am filled with wonder by President Mubarak, who is good, noble, and broadminded. I am filled with wonder by his ideas, his moral standards, his deeds, his vision, his penetrating gaze, his love of good, of development, and of the progress of his sons and the entire people."

"While the entire world is in conflict and uses destructive means to sow ruin – behold, he builds and calls for peace and brotherhood. Behold, he inaugurates the Mubarak Bridge, the fruit of the love and recognition by the international community of the ability of this giant of a man… He is a prophet of peace, an angel in the form of a president, who was sent to us from the heavens to propagate good in an age in which many moral standards have been destroyed and evil, selfishness, and self-interest have taken root. He is a ray of light that breathes hope into a dismal world. He draws his strength from his genuine belief in Allah and in his message, which calls for love, good, and development, with determined will, great patience, and wisdom and understanding of the needs of the nation. With realism and with loyalty, he cultivates and cares for his sons. He spares his people the catastrophes of war and lays foundations of love and harmony. Mubarak forever, on us and on all Egypt."[24]

Gergus Hilmi 'Azer wrote in a similar vein: "Egypt and all the peace-loving peoples of the world celebrate the day on which the heavens sent us the president, the commander, and the heroic leader Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, so that he could navigate the ship of peace, of good, and of blessing in Egypt and in the Middle East. Furthermore, I state in complete faith that Allah chose him to bear the message of peace to the entire world. Anyone tracing the course of this man's life senses that his appointment to the position that he fills is a blessing for the Egyptian people… I, like the others, hope that Allah may grant him health, so that he can actualize our hopes and so that every year Egypt will celebrate the holiday of his glorious presidency with him."[25]

Ikram Lam'i, head of the Anglican Church in Egypt, shared the same admiration of Mubarak as his Coptic colleagues: "When we look at the land of Egypt today, we say that on this land has walked a man who has succeeded in changing the place and enriching the time. When we look around us at the world full of violence, terrorism, and wars, when we see the peoples of the world who do not know their way and do not look towards their future, we find that Mubarak is [the one who] tips the scales in the Middle East, and he is the judge to whom all the leaders, and all the press, turn to find out what he thinks …"[26]

A religious tone was also dominant in articles by several columnists in the government-sponsored press. Al-Ahram columnist Sa'id Abd Al-Khallaq wrote: "I would not be exaggerating if I were to say that providence chose Hosni Mubarak to lead Egypt out of this dark tunnel [of Sadat's assassination]. [Providence] chose him at a difficult hour, in which we stood on the brink of an abyss!… But Providence intervened and protected Egypt… President Mubarak managed to cross the minefield and bring the country from law of force to force of law… The question should be asked: Was there anyone suited to take up the reins of government at that time besides President Mubarak? In truth, the answer is no. There was no one [else]. It was fate that chose President Mubarak for the task. There were, of course, several relics [remaining] from the Revolutionary Council of 1923, but political life had not elevated [any] personages capable of sailing a ship on the verge of sinking, except for Hosni Mubarak, who saved the ship [from sinking] and with it crossed the breaking waves and the winds of the gale, and brought it back to a safe shore!"[27]

President Mubarak: A Personal Look
Many well-known Egyptians interviewed by the press stressed their personal acquaintance with President Mubarak and their impressions of him. Dr. Ismat Abd Al-Maguid, until recently secretary-general of the Arab League and who in the past filled several ministerial positions, recounted his first meeting with Mubarak. Abd Al-Maguid was present at the December 1977 Egyptian-Israeli meeting between president Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin at Mena House; Mubarak, who was vice-president at the time, was also there. At that meeting, Abd-Al-Maguid claims, he won an argument with Menachem Begin over whether Begin's roots were in Palestine or Poland. "After that, Sadat told the journalist Anis Mansour, 'Ismat proved himself to be a real he-man,' and Mubarak told me, 'Bravo.' Abd Al-Maguid explained that "at the meeting, President Mubarak noticed my performance, and added that "what increased my honor [in his eyes] was that the Israeli media labeled me 'the Bad Guy'…"[28]

Dr. Mustafa Al-Fiqqi, Mubarak's secretary for sciences from 1985 to 1992, recalled fondly how he was once chastised by President Mubarak: "I remember that once I was late presenting His Excellency with some matters for which I was responsible. He reacted strongly. He ignored me for over a week, because he believes in meeting obligations and fulfilling responsibilities. In contrast, when he felt that I had put a lot of effort into a particular project, I would notice his appreciation without him having to express it in words, because he does not like it when people try to ingratiate themselves with him."[29]

Makram 'Ubeid, first secretary-general of the National Democratic Party, of which Mubarak is president, said that "the trait most characteristic of Hosni Mubarak – and this is a trait of which not many are aware – is his abstention from [seeking] posts. This is the secret of his strength. He did not seek out the presidency, and he would not remain in the position if it conflicted with his principles… Another trait is his great modesty… The trait that made him a fair and reasonable president is moderation… This is Hosni Mubarak, as I knew him and as all the Egyptians knew him. Some may think that I am praising and glorifying him, and that this is a kind of fawning, but I remind everyone that I am already 85 years-old, I have already held the most senior positions, and I have no need to fawn, because I aspire to nothing but a clear conscience."[30]

Many of those who had been privileged to work with President Mubarak pointed out his industriousness. Former prime minister Ali Lutfi related that when he was prime minister, "the telephone would ring at 7:30 a.m. and President Mubarak would be on the line." Lutfi hastened to add, "This never bothered me, because I naturally wake up at 6 a.m."[31]

However, an article by Othman Al-Gawahri, which appeared in Al-Ahram shows that President Mubarak's dedication surpassed even Lutfi's: "He woke up early and did not go to sleep before finishing his work. He would rise every morning at 5:30, and at 6:00 begin to play his favorite [game], hockey, or squash. At 8:30 he would begin his daily agenda… which he would finish most days at 10:30 p.m., except during national holidays. Thus, the president set a personal example of proper planning and utilization of time." [32]

"Democracy Already Exists"
The issue of the democracy that President Mubarak has granted the Egyptian political culture was a leitmotif in most of the articles and interviews. The author and journalist Abd Al-Azim Ramadhan, chairman of the Documentation Committee in the Supreme Council for Culture, declared, "Mubarak is the only Egyptian ruler whose regime has been characterized by a democracy free of treachery, surprises, and violation of human rights."[33]

Dr. Madhkour Thabet, general superintendent of art censorship, wrote, "Like every creative person who engages in art and culture, I am always in the opposition, as this is characteristic of the artist, whether he likes it or not. But a surprise awaited me when I began to bear responsibility [i.e. when he was appointed censor]… I discovered that I alone was the one who made the decisions [without interference from above] and that I had to implement all the principles of freedom and democracy in which I believe. It became clear to me that the matter was much simpler than we think: Democracy already exists, and all that is left for us to do is to believe in its existence. "[34]

Only Nobel Prize laureate Naguib Mahfouz spoke critically of Mubarak's policies: "I hope that President Mubarak will change all the laws restricting freedom, and amend the constitution – which establishes that Parliament must comprise at least 50% of farmers and laborers, something which is completely unjustified and which harms democracy. The election process must change such that there is more than one candidate – even if we are certain that the republic will elect President Mubarak. I think that President Mubarak is the president of all Egyptians. With regard to the problem of terrorism, I think that the only solution is having a true democracy, something that requires much courage in changing the constitution and in abolishing the laws restricting freedoms."[35]

[1] Al-Gumhuriya (Egypt), October 14, 2001.

[2] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 15, 2001.

[3] Al-Gumhuriya (Egypt), October 14, 2001.

[4] October (Egypt), October 14, 2001.

[5] Roz Al-Youssuf (Egypt), October 6, 2001.

[6] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 15, 2001.

[7] Al-Ahram (Egypt), October 13, 2001.

[8] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 12, 2001.

[9] Roz Al-Youssuf (Egypt), October 6, 2001.

[10] Al-Ahram (Egypt), October October 15, 2001.

[11] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 11, 2001.

[12] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 29, 2001.

[13] Al-Ahram (Egypt), October 26, 2001.

[14] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 11, 2001.

[15] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 25, 2001.

[16] Roz Al-Youssuf (Egypt), October 26, 2001.

[17] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 14, 2001.

[18] Al-Ahram (Egypt), October 11, 2001.

[19] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 12, 2001.

[20] Al-Mussawar (Egypt), October 19, 2001.

[21] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 14, 2001.

[22] Al-Mussawar (Egypt) and other papers, October 19, 2001.

[23] Roz Al-Youssuf (Egypt), October 6, 2001.

[24] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 14, 2001.

[25] Al-Gumhuriya (Egypt), October 15, 2001.

[26] Al-Ahram (Egypt), October 18, 2001.

[27] Al-Ahram (Egypt), October 13, 2001.

[28] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 12, 2001.

[29] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 14, 2001.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Roz Al-Youssuf (Egypt), October 6, 2001.

[32] Al-Ahram (Egypt), October 14, 2001.

[33] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), October 12, 2001.

[34] Al-Mussawar (Egypt), October 19, 2001.

[35] Akher Sa'a (Egypt), October 24, 2001.

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