Al-Ahram Weekly Online   18 - 24 October 2012
Issue No. 1119
Press review
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Social media

By Mohamed Abdel-Baky

Looking down on Egypt

Yes, there were more than 10 million people around the world watching Austrian Felix Baumgartner while he jumped from 39,000 metres from planet Earth, but here in Cairo, Egyptians saw Baumgartner's achievement from a different angle. For the past week, the social networks were full of debates and jokes about the "Felix jump". Most of the comments were a mix of satire and self-pity.

Baumgartner successfully completed a jump from over 128,000 feet above Earth on Sunday, in the process breaking numerous world records and etching his name in the history books.

Comparing Baumgartner's achievement to the ongoing process of drafting Egypt's new constitution, Mohamed Abdel-Aziz wrote in his Facebook page, "How can Felix dare to jump before we finish our new constitution? It's only a matter of 100 years. What a shame."

Another Asa7be page made more fun when the page admin imagined himself doing an interview with Baumgartner while he was jumping. The page admin asked Baumgartner about how he sees Egypt from above the earth.

"Ok, the vision is clear here from outer space. I can see a long queue of people waiting to get a loaf of bread and another queue of people wanting gas, that is beautiful... wait... wait, I see something, ok, I see your president Mohamed Morsi doing nothing to solve these problems. He only gives speeches. Everything is clear from here man," Baumgartner said in the imaginary interview.

Another comment from Karim Abdel-Sayed who said that the Constitutional Court is about to issue a ruling that "Feilx jump" is not legal and the police should arrest him for "breaking Newton's laws."

In Yehia Al-Husseini's point of view, Felix is lying and only jumped from one of the skyscrapers in New York. Here is his argument: "I thought there was no Internet in space, the Americans are lying again like they did when they told us they went to the moon."

"We, the Muslim Brotherhood are the first group who urged Baumgartner to do this great jump," Mohamed Al-Tayel, mocking the leaders of Muslim Brotherhood who frequently say that they have called for a revolution in Egypt before any other political group.

Mona Mabrouk wrote in her Facebook page saying "The West is praying for Felix to break a science record while the Arabs' only concern is whether Felix will survive after the jump."

It's not only Egyptians who made fun of Baumgartner's new record. Saudis also did the same. On twitter, thousands of Saudis used the trend "What if Felix was Saudi?"

"If Felix were Saudi, he would have a basket full of notes with his phone numbers to sprinkle on planet earth, to compensate for all the girls he has been missing," one tweet wrote in reference to Saudi Arabia's strict rule of separating between the genders and how teenagers in the Kingdom revert to the act of targeem (finding a creative way to give a girl your number) to overcome this obstacle.

Another tweet by another commentator was: "If he were Saudi, his mom would have sent food with him in case he feels hungry."

While a sarcastic Yasmine wrote, "If Felix was Saudi, he would dedicate his jump to the royal family and the dignified Saudi nation once he landed.

'If only...'

In her blog, Nervana wrote a very interesting piece on how Arab society deals with sexual harassment by directing all the blame on women and ignoring the real problems. Here is some of what she wrote:

In our society, we hear "if only" quite a bit. This is what girls and women hear when they complain about sexual harassment: If only you had avoided the crowded metro, if only you had not looked at him, if only you had not replied, if only you had dressed differently, if only you had worn the hijab. The list goes on and on. But make no mistake, it is always our fault -- the woman's fault. It is our job to protect ourselves, and not to expect men to behave themselves. A modest dress code, avoiding eye contact and walking briskly are the unwritten rules that girls learn in order to avoid being harassed on the street. Walking with your chin down is also desirable, as any bold, self-confidant body language invites attention.

But what exactly does a modest dress code mean? In 1970s and 1980s in Egypt, wearing a hijab was the answer. In the 1990s and beyond, wearing the jilbab (head scarf that extends to cover the chest) was the ultimate solution. Colours are also crucial; some advocate wearing only black, brown or grey. The more a woman can put off men, the better. Even so, currently, even women who wear the full-face veil -- the niqab ê" are being targeted.

My experience confirms what statistics reveal -- conservatism does not cure sexual harassment. It just pushes it underground and covers it with a thick black seal that hides deprivation and perverse behaviour and facilitates the exploitation of the vulnerable. Those who point fingers at the "decadent West" do not understand the core foundations of any sexual relation: age and consent. These two words are absent from the minds of radicals who promote underage marriage. For them, consent is granted through silence; if a woman is silent, then she is happy. But women do not choose to be silent; it is men who do their best to shut women's mouths and undermine their claims if they dare to seek help.

We need to protect women in Islamic society. This protection will never be achieved unless women take the initiative and mobilise civil society to rally for more education and legislation that helps to combat harassment. This is a must if we are serious about our democracy and our human rights."


"That Morsi supporters went to Tahrir today to curb preplanned demo against him only serves to show how insecure he & his supporters are." @Nagla Rizk

"Tahrir Square is very anti-Ikhwan a revolutionary mode against the authoritarianism." @Tarek Shalaby

"While clashes go on in #Tahrir, life outside of it, even just 30 metres away, is quite normal. People have adapted." @Bassem Sabry

"Claims that Morsi had more dictatorial powers than Mubarak are looking pretty absurd right about now." @Shadi Hamid

"The Muslim Brotherhood's model of not questioning their leaders' orders makes them efficient, quick in response and act as one, however it doesn't make them democratic!" @Alfred Raouf

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