Urban Thought


Autumn in New York


Down and Out in Cairo part 3 

 On January 28, 2011 I wrote part 2 in this series after watching, riveted like millions of others, the amazing events unfolding in Egypt.  Most of us were filled with hope, some were more cautious and others, particularly conservatives, were filled with trepidation and some fear.  The spectrum of emotions and ideas were all over the place.  I chose the more moderate path and wrote this:

   "This is how I see it.  The truth lies somewhere in the middle, although in this case, I think the conservatives may be closer to the reality.  Mubarak is one of the only friends we have over there.  But he IS a dictator.  He's a craven, power clinging dictator cut from the same cloth as all the rest who is NOT concerned with the welfare of his people but concerned about acquiring and hanging onto POWER.  We throw money at him, he uses it to suppress human rights and in return, keeps the al quedas away.  Once he's gone, which I think is very likely, there will be a short time where anything is possible.  And the fundamental religious forces will move very quickly to inflame an ignorant public with promises of a better economy etc and of course all that is false, but they will say that to establish a religious theocracy.  Another Iran.  The Muslim Brotherhood, or some fundamentalist organisation will move to sieze the opportunity.  The MB may or may not be a radical group, some say it isn't, conservative pundits of course lump it in with all the rest of Al Queda affiliated groups."

   Was I right?  Well, Mubarak is gone.  And in fact, the Muslim Brotherhood, through a series of labyrinthine twists, turns, starts and stops, won Egypt's first free election for president of the country and if not for a banning of the parliament, would have dominated the entire government.  Are they an Al Queda terrorist group like some right wing pundits would have us believe?  No.  But they clearly are not aligned in the west's interests.  

    Right now as I write this, there are mobs of people surrounding the American embassy in Cairo throwing malatov cocktails, burning fires and they have already torn down the American flag and replaced it with a black fundamentalist flag some say IS Al Queda's banner. All of this supposedly because of a totally lame grade C movie trailer.  I wrote 'totally lame' on purpose because honestly, leaving aside the crass, unbelievably insulting content, the clip reminded me of something some frat guys, or valley girls, or Wayne's World types would make.  But unlike all them, this film has ignited a fire storm that I believe is being used by darker forces and groups, to incite and give cover to violence against the west.   

   And what does the President of Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood have to say about this?  Egyptian President Morsi, despite seeing images and getting information of a rapidly deteriorating situation at the embassy, waited more then 24 hours before sending in security troops and police.  Today, the Muslim Brotherhood is calling (demanding?) that the United States outlaw content insulting Islam and calling for the prosecution of the creators of this stupid film.  If anything, in my opinion, SAG, the Directors Guild, et al, should outlaw it on general principles.  But I digress.  Tomorrow is Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, and the Brotherhood is calling for general protests, although hedging, calling for them to be 'non violent'.  That is the tip of the iceberg.  All over the Middle East, devout Muslims will be going to mosques where some Imans WILL be whipping up anti-west sentiments.  One can only speculate how that message will be interpreted by the Arab street.  

   So what does all this mean?  First, given the date of the attacks, September 11, one year after the death of Osama Bin Ladin, to me it is clear that this is an orchestrated event by Al Queda groups using this movie as a tool to manipulate young impressionable mobs into a frenzy.  Many of the same young people who took to the streets in Tahrir Square to demonstrate for democracy.  

   And that brings us full circle.  What happened to those heady idealistic days of the the Arab Spring?  where is 'revolution 2.0'?  One year ago the youth of Egypt took to Tahrir Square and demonstrated for democracy fueled and powered by the technology of the 21st century.  A secular modern technology-Google, Facebook, Twitter.  They did not demonstrate for Islam, nor for Shiria law, nor for old bearded men to hijack THEIR revolution.  They did not demonstrate and for some, lay down their lives, for institutions and groups that have been waiting in dark corners for decades to suddenly come out into the light and snatch it from their hands.  But that, it seems, is exactly what has happened.  Or not.

   Maybe even the secular idealistic youth that brought down Hosni Mubarak did not know or understand the very basic bedrock of a modern democratic republic.  And that is freedom of speech and expression.  You cannot have a democracy if makers of films, however bad they are in content and production, that defame, criticize, or mock ANY religion, ANY figure of government, or ANY sacred cow, are outlawed, censured or taken down.  Once that happens, you cease to have a democracy.  What is the difference if someone gets hung or imprisoned for dis-respecting a Saddam Hussain or if someone gets his head chopped off or imprisoned for dis-respecting the prophet Mohammed?  There is none.  

   One last thing.  I do not believe that the majority of the people in Egypt care, are involved or support, these very disturbing and dangerous events that are happening as I write.  I think that like most people everywhere, they are more worried about where their money is coming from, work, kids, and what is for dinner.  But history has shown from Russia in 1918 to the small Cuban revolution led by a small cadre of a rag tag minority, that the passions of a few can overwhelm the many.  And also, that democracy is a very messy process that takes time to develop.  We can only wait and hope.  


A Beautiful Day

My new video, happy Summer!


My new video, When I Think of You (Do You Think of Me)

Hope you like it.


Lets Stay 2gether

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