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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
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 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 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 US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
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.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs