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

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs