A rainbow of originality
By Azza Heikal
Many Egyptian writers and scholars have been preoccupied lately with that debatable question of Egyptian identity. Who are we? And it is not simply a rhetorical question; it is the core of many conflicts that threaten the peace and future of Egypt. After the great revolution of 25 January, all political currents appeared lacking in the practical experience of democracy. The 30 years of Hosni Mubarak's suffocating regime saw suppression and aggression flourish in society while it jailed and tortured all opponents, particularly Islamic groups.
Egypt, as Gamal Hemdan wrote, is positioned in the middle of the world between three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe. It has the cultural traits and genetic roots of them all. Second, Egypt is the cradle of civilisation; many cultures shaped and formed its history, politically, socially and spiritually. From the Pharaohs to the Greeks, the Romans and the Copts, to the Arabs and the Ottomans, no one can discern the true identity of Egypt. We are a milieu and mixture of all cultures.
The extremists call for establishing an Islamic state in Egypt following the Iranian or the Turkish models. This could lead Egypt to chaos and civil war on the one hand. On the other hand, Egypt would lose its true peculiarity as an African-Arab-Mediterranean melting pot with a marvelous tapestry of spiritual streams.
Egyptians throughout history have lived in tolerance and faith in the presence of the Supreme Being. They fast, pray and pay charity either in the church or at the mosque regardless of their creed. Dichotomy and diversity have enriched Egypt's identity, blossoming as a rainbow of light and originality.
This week's Soapbox speaker is professor of comparative literature, a writer and critic.