Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1139, 14 - 20 March 2013
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1139, 14 - 20 March 2013

Ahram Weekly

Readers’ corner

Al-Ahram Weekly

The proposed constitution

Sir— As Egyptians, our relationship to the state and each other is determined by citizenship with all the rights and obligations that designation entails. Citizenship as a construct precedes ethnicity, gender or creed. We are first and foremost Egyptians. The proposed constitution both implicitly and explicitly implies that our citizenship is predicated by our acceptance of Islam as the guiding principle of all matters of state. To use existentialism as a metaphor: Islam precedes citizenry. Religions in general, similar to ethics, are but a regulator of societal behaviours seeking the well-being and advancement of humanity: they fulfil man’s need for a purpose in life, for order, and for acceptance of one’s fate.

That may be true, but this supposed altruism and enlightenment of spirit are rarely seen in those self-appointed to provide exegeses of religious text and other purveyors of religious dogma. The notion that we, as citizens of Egypt, will be held hostage to obscurantist or even enlightened interpretations of the Quran, hadith and sunna, claiming the right to regulate our behaviour is anti-democratic at its core. Citizenship via Islam is a recipe for social strife, and subjects thought and reason to a gauntlet of irrationality. This constitution, as proposed, forces every Egyptian into an Islamic labyrinth as a prerequisite to citizenship.

This serves to remind us of the rather pathetic triumphalist/ revisionist interpretation of history we have all been subjected to as recipients of official educational dogma in Egypt over the past 60 years. The recanting of the glories of Arab invasions and spread of Islam served as a balm in the face of the abject failures of Arab states during the 20th century; hence the need of a return to the past, in other words: salaf.

Islamic and Arab history are certainly teeming with achievements in numerous fields, from science to art, architecture and poetry. This all came as result of interactions with surrounding cultures, the novelty of new territory, and the discovery all this entails. I suspect the practice of religion and enforcement of its most draconian rules had little to do with any of these achievements. And yet this is what the Salafist ideology promises: it is an empty promise. There is no enlightenment at the end of the obscurantist’s road.

Kamal Shoukri




Aid trap

Sir— The Ikhwan (Brotherhood) have two big challenges: they have inherited an age old infrastructure with the same old people still in the civil service, oiling the same old rusty cogs; Egypt still relies on Western markets and aid. The aid comes with even more pre-conditions to ensure that the Islamist groups fail. This is the reason why the Western governments are allowing Islamists to come to power. Their failure will ensure Muslims turn away from Islam for another generation or so. Judging Morsi after eight months only outlines this fact. The real question is would the non-Islamist group have made any difference to Egypt’s economy. In the short term, yes, as the Western world would be there to make them succeed. Longer term, Egypt would lose in the end (as they did with Mubarak supported by Western aid). The Western countries are only going to go so far in helping Egypt by following the current world model — that some nations have to be at the bottom of the pile for others to remain on top. The challenges for Morsi and the Brotherhood is to ensure Egypt comes out a very different nation but one not reliant on Western baksheesh and pity from Western tourists. That itself will be a great success.

Eduard Dejardins




Fog of religiosity

Sir— People like to segment human culture into nice, easily understood pieces. Politics, religion, science, art, etc. But in reality all these segments of culture are intermixed and cannot be easily separated. Religion in the Arab world is not the guiding light it is said to be, for if it were, Arabs/Muslims would not be killing each other in wholesale numbers. Clearly their religion is secondary to other political goals and objectives, but publicly this is all clouded in a fog of religiosity which tends to make Westerners shy away from the issues because religion is so difficult to discuss. But I think the more we discuss the issues and stick to the facts without name-calling, the religiosity can be mostly ignored. Why? Because I sense that even those who actively participate in Arab/Muslim politics know in their heart that they are perpetrating a fraud. The future does not belong to fundamentalist or violent religious-politics. That is a dead-end and I think most people know it.

Erica Garrett




Copts in Libya

Sir— Copts strongly condemn the round up, detention and presumed torture of Egyptian Copts in Benghazi, Libya, being held for allegedly proselytising Christianity which is illegal in that country. Evidence of such an offence is as yet unsubstantiated, as facts cited by the arresting body keep changing. Furthermore, the charges are highly suspected given they follow recent attacks on a Coptic church. Now after more than a week captive, the Egyptian prisoners from Upper Egypt, who live and work temporarily in Libya, are strongly believed to be denied their human rights in violation of international law.

We request Western leaders and human rights organisations around the world to intervene to ascertain fair hearings for the Egyptians as soon as possible. Outside attorneys must be allowed to consult Egyptians inside Libyan prisons to give them an opportunity for a proper defence. Libya must open its prisons for inspection and observation of its treatment of detainees consistent with Geneva Convention requirements.

Ashraf Ramelah



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