11 -17 February 1999
Issue No. 416
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Egypt Region International Book Fair Economy Opinion Culture Features Obituary Travel Sports People Time Out Chronicles Cartoons Pack of Cards Letters
Lost in actionBy Ibrahim Nafie
I was deeply shaken by the death of my close friend and colleague, Lutfi El-Kholi. That morning, a mutual friend called me to tell me there was an emergency. Yet, within minutes of completing the necessary procedures in order to ensure that Lutfi would have the best medical attention possible, I received the call informing me that he had passed away. I found it hard to believe that death, the fate we will all face, had struck this champion of political and literary thought in his fullest vigour. Lutfi El-Kholi's fertile mind, passionate heart and youthful will seemed beyond the grasp of time.
Lutfi El-Kholi was and will remain a major symbol of a generation of Egyptians and Arabs fully committed to the defence of the causes and concerns of the Egyptian and Arab nation. His dedication and his faith in this nation's right to a better future remained ardent until the last moment of his life.
Like other symbols of his generation, Lutfi El-Kholi possessed, in addition to extraordinary vitality, that rare ability to change and develop to meet all challenges, however diverse. He was forever honing those skills that would enable him to give his best on all fronts of national endeavour. Egypt, and the Arab world, have lost a fresh and dynamic mind whose prodigious contributions flowed seemingly inexhaustibly.
Throughout his career, Lutfi El-Kholi stood for one thing: candour and courage in the advocacy of the causes he believed best served the interests of the nation. This is why, in every phase of his career, he could offer a fresh perspective that would enrich and enliven debate. The tenacity with which he held his ground against inadvertent or intentional offence was, in itself, inspiring.
One of his most outstanding characteristics was his readiness to pay the price of his courage, to pay the toll for his beliefs. He was in and out of prison on numerous occasions, yet at no point did he back down or begin to contemplate retirement. For him, what was important was to voice his opinion, and to voice it openly. In his commitment to this need, he entered numerous political and intellectual battles, unafraid to lose friends, unwavering against the vehemence of his opponents, as long as he possessed the sincere and powerful conviction that lent him strength and determination to persist.
He always told me: "Intellectuals should not only translate their actions into thought. Ideas and action must always go hand in hand."
Lutfi El-Kholi was never given to those glamorous slogans intended to rouse the masses. He was a responsible intellectual who would not rest until he had examined each side of an issue and opened his mind to absorb every development until he had reached a viewpoint that he could put before the public with the utmost integrity. Lutfi El-Kholi deeply believed that the task of the intellectual was to address people with the greatest possible candour, not to manipulate their emotions. It was his belief in the importance of keeping an open mind that could permit him to say in all sincerity: "I opposed Sadat at the time of Camp David, but now I lead the drive to peace!"
In his many battles, his word was the weapon with which he withstood the most vicious assaults. His nationalism, patriotism, career, intelligence, talents and even his ability to sustain friendships came under attack. None of that could divert him from his commitment to peace. He led a campaign against the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories and went to Israel himself to lead a protest demonstration against the Israeli settlement in Jebel Abu Ghneim. While in Israel, he delivered a courageous message to the Israeli prime minister, in which he said: "You are not building homes; you are building graves to bury peace."
Lutfi El-Kholi lived and died in action, consistent in his faith that the cause of Egypt and the Arab world was his own. I have lost a dear and faithful friend. Egypt has lost a brave and dedicated fighter. May you rest in peace, Lutfi El-Kholi.