Wednesday, 8 July 2009

A Facebook Conversation: Marwa & Egypt

This interesting, yet slightly inconclusive, conversation took place on my Facebook profile, which isn't for public consumption. So I decided to copy it here, and maybe get some further comment on it. It started when I posted a link to a blog about Marwa El Sherbini's story (can't find that post anymore so I'm linking to Bikya Masr, which offers a much better account anyway). A great view of the media coverage is also on Alexander's blog now.

This was the resulting exchange of comments on Facebook, mostly between myself and Mahmoud El Lozy, my number one favourite university professor. Here we go:

Mahmoud El Lozy
It can all be solved through dialogue. Maybe we can have a party and cook some fatta for them. I think this will help create understanding and mutual respect within a globalized environment.

You know what? This man is a homeless, ignorant criminal with, allegedly, a record of prior racist incidents. So, I'm not calling for his public execution or anything. I'm simply horrified at the lack of media coverage. Granted, hundreds die daily at war and in riots (China today). But it doesn't excuse the atrocity of this incident, that it ... Read Morehappened inside a court of law, that it took 8 minutes for him to stab her 18 times, and no one budged. And, the cherry on top, her husband gets shot by the police instead of the stabber. Go figure.

Aiwa. Fatta fil shatta wil lamoon.

Mahmoud El Lozy
That's because the media in the West is responsible, mature and civilized. It doesn't waste its time on issues that can only lead to more violence from people who have been raised in a culture of violence. We have to learn moderation and rationality from the West, so that we can become people too. Don't allow yourself to become caught up in a cycle of violence that is so typical of the turbulent area of the world.

disgusting that security guards didn't nothing to help except, of course, to shoot the one person who was trying save her. Fuck the little courts in buttfuck country bumpkin germany - for all the reservations i have about egypt's justice system - would this have happened in an egyptian court?
the german civil service and justice ministry must apologise publicly to egypt and sack some fuckers now. bitter and angry - and this is coming from a "responsible, mature" journalist (who cares about shit

Mahmoud El Lozy
The Egyptian regime is to blame because it allows for its citizens both at home and abroad to be treated as third rate beings. There is something called reciprocity in international affairs, but Egypt hasn't applied it since 1970 when it became the West's streetwalker in Africa and the Arab World.

That's true. I don't know of a single incident where an Egyptian embassy came to the aid of its people in a foreign country. If a story didn't make news headlines, they'd probably not even know what's happening with Egyptian citizens.

Mahmoud El Lozy
In the last thirty years or so I have seen Egyptians developing a self-hatred and contempt for themselves as Egyptians that smacks of racism. Intriguingly enough, this has been coupled with a jingoistic and narcissistic view of themselves that bears all the marks of fascistic self-satisfied supremacy. It is really very disturbing.

On one hand, poverty, oppression & widescale corruption can drive people to a very disturbing state of mind. One of utter selfishness, disregard for humanity and disrespect for any kind of morality. On the other hand, the country and its people have so much good & beauty that are being lost in the middle of the former environment. Is education at the root of it all? I don't know. But it's probably a sensible place to start

Mahmoud El Lozy
I have a feeling the sense of despair and the cynicism that is so prevalent has much to do with the fact that we are a nation whose possible futures are being constantly aborted. We are no longer even allowed to dream outside of the confines of our cells. Egypt is a prison.

I don't know, Mahmoud. I completely agree on the despair & cynicism. But let me play devil's advocate for a minute. How much of that is self-inflicted? I sometimes get the feeling we give in too easily to circumstances as an 'excuse' rather than try.

Mahmoud El Lozy
I agree. My students always tell me when I confront that "they are victims of circumstances." When I tell them that this is a silly excuse they get very angry, but they don't know what to say.


  1. I agree that this incident should be investigated and people responsible should be duly punished. Why would someone with a weapon be allowed into a court house in the first place, and why the guards did not react.
    Having said that, I am so disappointed with the amount of despair and apathy displayed in the conversation. The rest of the Arab World is not any better, but to accept that we are victims of circumstances and do nothing is slow death. Not only as individuals but as a nation. I am not suggesting that we all take to the streets, but I am sure each one of us can try to go the extra few steps to make things incrimentally better or more right.
    The last statement "My students always tell me when I confront that "they are victims of circumstances." When I tell them that this is a silly excuse they get very angry, but they don't know what to say." then what..... why leave it at that why not start a debate to explore things, I think we are letting our children down when we don't challenge them.

  2. Cool discussion - Mahmoud El Lozy sounds like my kind of guy :)

    All the reservations I have about the Marwa story relate to how it could become inflammatory in a really unnecessary way. Think Danish cartoons, stories of Korans in toilets in Guantanemo, etc.

    Especially when you think that germans, of all people, do not deserve to become symbols of Islamophobia - anyone active in the region knows how much good work is done by German NGOs, German cultural institutions and the German foreign service.

    Its a lot like the insanity surrounding the cartoons, when for a while Scandinavia became this "enemy" to the Muslim world, despite the fact that the Scandinavians bankroll UNRWA and do more good work for the Palestinians than most other Arab states combined.

    I also feel a bit queasy about the way the Egyptian government has no problem allowing a mass protest against Germany / Islamophobia. You can't even protest for the Palestinians in Egypt anymore, given the government's interesting position, let alone anything related to the disgraceful state of domestic affairs.

    The people on the streets chanting against germany or European Islamophobia are doing exactly what the dictatorship wants them to do - keep their eyes off the real prize...

  3. The guy that did it was actually Russian. The German people, certainly the 245 who commented on newspaper Bild's website were horrified at the crime, condemned it and, like most of the Arab world, demanded to know how the man had ever been let near the courthouse with a knife.

  4. Alex - Yeah - that is the real story, which will take some time and reporting to fully understand. What the hell happened?

    We duelled on this the other day, and my point was that the kind of short term reporting / bandwagon jumping that was happening didn't answer these questions.

    Instead, it meant that people in the Arab world are calling her the "headscarf martyr" and chanting about Germans being the enemies of God, etc.

  5. There are many facts twisted in this conversation:

    1. The murderer is not homeless (only jobless), he had no criminal record what so ever and he is a German (of russian origin).
    2. Mediacoverage on the issue was and is actually quite detailed in Germany. What was and is missing in the media is a recognition of this crime as anti-islamic (what it most obvioulsy is) and comlpetely missing is a public statement on it by officials.
    3. According to all news coverage I read he stabbed her 18 times within 30 seconds, not 8 minutes.
    4. There was no security personal in the courtroom the time the incident happend. Policemen from another room were called to help.

    I don't understand what this has to do with Egypt and it's shortcoming, this case is a German Problem, First because of widespread Islamophobia, Second because of lack of security systems in a lot of German courts.

  6. Short term reporting = news journalism. The most short term report was Bild, which filed online on the afternoon of the 10.30am murder.

    The Guardian attributes at least some of the violence of reaction in Egypt to the disinterest shown by Western media and I would tend to agree with that viewpoint.