News / Middle East

The Lonely Path of an Egyptian Liberal

The Lonely Path of an Egyptian Liberali
X
November 11, 2013 12:24 PM
The unity that marked Egypt's 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak has fractured, leaving the country polarized, mostly between Islamists aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of the military-backed government. Caught in the middle is a small and increasingly isolated group whose main interest is democracy. A leading voice in this liberal and largely secular movement is Alaa al-Aswany, one of the region's best-known writers. From Cairo, the author talks to VOA’s Elizabeth Arrott about his growing frustration.
Elizabeth Arrott
The unity that marked Egypt's 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak has fractured, leaving the country polarized, mostly between Islamists aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of the military-backed government. Caught in the middle is a small and increasingly isolated group whose main interest is democracy. A leading voice in this liberal and largely secular movement is Alaa al-Aswany, one of the region's best-known writers. 
 
It is not easy being a liberal in Egypt. Alaa al-Aswany, the nation's leading novelist and champion of the 2011 revolution, despairs at what he sees as a flight from democratic values.
 
“You don’t have a political conflict in the democratic sense, you have a kind of war between terrorist groups and the state,” said Aswany.
 
Aswany was one of the few intellectuals to defend the Muslim Brotherhood's right to run in post-revolution elections. Yet he was happy to see Islamist president Mohamed Morsi deposed, ending what Aswany saw as his absolutist vision. However, he now says democracy is still a distant prospect.
 
 “The struggle is not done.  It has just begun, you see, because getting rid of these people which were a real barrier against democracy, you still have the real struggle between the revolution and the old regime,” said Aswany.
 
Aswany's struggle against the authoritarian state has been a long one. He rose to fame with his 2002 novel and subsequent film The Yacoubian Building, one of the first to expose police brutality and state corruption. He was one of the few famous faces to appear on Tahrir Square each day of the 2011 revolution. A month later, his blunt, televised exchange with then prime-minister Ahmed Shafik electrified the nation. Shafik resigned the next day.
 
“I will never expect the old regime or the military to give us, you see, democracy as a present. We must work and we must make pressure until we get to achieve what the revolution wanted,” said Aswany.
 
Aswany's stand has sparked anger on both sides of the political divide. He has received various threats; a bullet was fired into his home.  At a recent appearance in Paris, he was besieged by Morsi supporters.
 
"If you see how those people attacked me in Paris, how they looked, and how they looked at me.  These people thought at that time that I am against the religion and that was very evident to me, very inspiring; I will write about it," said Aswany.
 
The author answers his critics the way he knows best - with words. His columns appear widely in Egypt and he has recently found an international audience as a commentator for The New York Times.
 
However, there is a catch: nearly one-third of Egyptians cannot read. Aswany believes one of the greatest barriers to liberal thought is illiteracy - something neither the military nor the Islamists have tried to erase.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
November 11, 2013 10:20 AM
Aswany should be careful these terrorists, whether they show themselves in their full color as Muslim Brotherhood or they act independently, are brutal and have no value for life. They concentrate so much in reading only the satanic verses that spur them into action to do evil. All the killing in the name of god in islam is the trouble in the world today, which the military-backed interim government of Egypt wants to stamp out. Morsi's administration, supposedly democratic, was expected to show a deviation from that.

Instead Morsi ruled by it to the detriment of freedoms and education. Shows the military is more democratic than all the parties in Egypt, and should be allowed or encouraged to midwife democracy in the country - being itself more knowledgeable in it than all others. Aswany should team up with the government to bring democracy to the people by making them understand that their system of religion in politics has become outdated. He should use his columns and writings to educate the country to come off backwardness otherwise democracy cannot take hold. He should teach the Egyptians to support freedom, liberty and education, not the Muslim Brotherhood's uncivilized barbarism.
In Response

by: Anonymous
November 11, 2013 10:52 PM
In America, we have 300 million Christians, non of whom went out in the streets to protest the burning of churches in Egypt, or DEFEND Christianity.

If a movement go out to burn a bunch of mosques in the USA, I am sure the call for jihad to DEFEND Islam will be loud in all Muslim nations.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs