American-Egyptian NASA Scientist Essam Heggy: Building a New Egypt Cannot Be Based on Fighting Terrorism
In a recent interview with the Egyptian Al-Nahar TV channel, American-Egyptian NASA scientist Essam Heggy said that it does not make sense for the building of a new Egypt to bear the slogan of "the war against terrorism," saying that the security of Egypt lies in eradicating poverty and ignorance and in improving the education and health systems. In the October 28 interview, Heggy further said that "frustration is the root cause of fanaticism" among the youth.
Following are excerpts:
Essam Heggy: Societies are built, first and foremost, by their leaders, and by putting a mechanism in place that could help leaders steer society in the right direction. In my opinion, In my opinion, there are three types of leadership: There are some who stand alongside the people, on the very same spot, there are those who stand behind the people, talking about past glory, and there are some who stand far ahead of the people, talking about how we could become like France, America, Europe, and so on. I believe that all three models are wrong.
When you stand far ahead of the people, at a distance of 20 steps from them, and tell them that we want a democracy like the one in Canada – how are you to get there? When you stand next to the people, on the same spot as them, this may seem like a good thing, but that way you are not driving them forward. You are standing with them, baffled by the problems and not knowing what to do.
This school of thought also exists here. But the voice of both these schools of thought is not heard. The voice that is well heard belongs to the ones who call to restore the past – whether it is to go back to the days of the Caliphate, or to go back to the past glory of the wars we had here in Egypt, or to return to the times of Abdel Nasser and subsequent times. These are all great people and it's not my place to criticize them, but this is the past.
I dream of a leadership that is one step ahead of the people. Just one step. That way it could say to the people: March this one step toward me, move forward, and let's improve things. Let's improve the education system, the health system, the infrastructure. This is where the security of Egypt lies. Any talk of security without fighting poverty, ignorance, and disease… This kind of vague zealous talk might sound good and look good in video clips, but it cannot really change anything on the ground.
I cannot feel proud when Egypt is waging a war against terrorism. People might get angry with me. There are terrorists, true, and this minority should be isolated, placed on trial, and dealt with properly. But does it make sense for the building of a new Egypt to bear the slogan: "the war against terrorism"? The U.S. entered Iraq under this slogan in 1990, and after 25 years, where is Iraq vis-à-vis this nice slogan? Where is Syria today vis-à-vis this slogan? People abroad view Arab youth as terrorists because our governments say that we are terrorists. They say that our youngster are fanatic and extremist. They are not fanatic or extremist. They are frustrated. Frustration is the root cause of fanaticism. The people who participate in terrorist attacks or who join extremist groups do not do so out of love of these groups or belief in their principles. They do so out of hatred for the existing regimes.