Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Egyptian Anger Often Misdirected

Cairo has become a balloon blown up carelessly past its holding capacity, hanging on the brink of explosion. I can see it swelling with the political frustrations of millions of Arabs as I stand pinched in this environment of claustrophobia and fear. The recent death of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin has become reason for Egyptians to unleash criticism on everything they feel is going wrong in their political world. There are hundreds of guards lining the streets downtown, dressed in their black uniforms holding long, thin, wooden batons, waiting for the people to protest. Any protest. “Come on,” their authoritative mass begs, “rebel.” The Egyptians seem to know better. Instead, they find comfort in speaking up against the American government, the Israeli government, any government but their own.

With the mistakes that I, as well as much of the world, know the United States has committed, how do I even begin to defend my country? I came to Egypt to settle the internal fight between my Egyptian heritage and my American upbringing. I thought I had finally come to a conclusion: I can be nothing but American and I am proud of it. But with the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, Egyptian anxieties, Egyptian angers have risen. The spark has ignited a fire that no one, not even the backup for the backup for the backup of the guards downtown, can control. I want to be able to say out loud that the United States is a great country of opportunity and freedom – and I want to be able to be convinced of my own words. However, in the face of the increasingly hostile political environment in Egypt, I hear nothing but biting comments of America’s arrogance and power. And I no longer know how to stand up for my country.

In politics, anger is a dangerous sentiment. It blinds, it weakens, it leads to irrational actions. To irrational words. On the day of the death of the Sheikh, American University in Cairo students started a spontaneous protest on campus, sharing in the anger that their “Palestinian brothers” feel. But as the protest continued, the Egyptians went from speaking about the Palestinian problem, to the occupation in Iraq, to their limited freedom of speech within Egypt, to their powerful anti-American sentiments. While holding up a picture of Sheikh Yassin, one speaker jumped from talking about the power and influence of the United States on the Arab world to their inability as Egyptians to exercise their own rights. “We, the educated,” he continued, “should be the most powerful people of Egypt but we sit and do nothing.” Following his speech another girl spoke for the Palestinians. “We are here for the Palestinian cause, the Arab cause. You have to believe in the Palestinian cause, the Muslim cause, take action,” she shouted.

So, the Egyptians are supposed to oppose the United States’ power, save the Palestinians and deliver themselves from an oppressive government all at the same time. I would say those are some ambitious goals. This mess of frustrations that the Egyptians feel is a serious problem; they try to rebel without direction or organization; they are without hope. Because they cannot speak against their own government they feel compelled to put the blame on someone else’s shoulders. And the blame falls on the United States – that one all-powerful country that they try to emulate. They are the elite of the Egyptian crop studying at the best university in Cairo – The American University – and yet loathe the American government. They wear American clothes, speak American slang, listen to American songs and study behind American walls. And yet they believe that President Bush is evil and that the United States’ only aim is world domination. The hypocrisy leaves me wanting to crawl out of my own skin from frustration. They criticize the same way of life that they long for, biting the hand that feeds them yet still expecting to be fed.

Even my professors cannot restrain themselves from putting in their two cents about President Bush and his administration’s ideology to bring democracy to the Middle East. I have seen from the Egyptian’s perspective his arrogance in the pursuit of these ambitions and I know now how frightening this cowboy from Texas and his administration may look. And I understand that he has taken the wrong approach: President Bust cannot swoop into the Middle East with the help of Europe, snap his fingers and create democracy. The change has to come from within the society itself. If they want things to change they must be ready to change themselves. They want governmental reforms? It is time they look inwards. What is threatening the Egyptians? They desire freedom of expression and a democratic way of life, but they ward off the United States with a forceful will. They want to be able to make the changes within their own society themselves. In order to do so the hatred for the United States has to stop. They need to turn away from it and toward each other if, as Egyptians, they want to rise up and take hold of their own country.

As Americans, we must do the same. We must turn into ourselves and not be content with what the Bush administration is doing. But despite its mistakes we must also try and remember why the United States is continually emulated, why foreigners desire to be citizens. We must remember that America offers a tremendous amount of opportunities in education and within the workforce. We must remember that the country is free. Living now in Cairo, it is difficult not to be ensconced by the consuming anger that the Egyptians feel. Just when I thought I found comfort in my nationality I have been confronted by aggressions that have made me feel shame. But it is in the face of such daunting criticism that the beliefs in who we are and where we come from are strengthened. I ask again: how will I defend my country? I answer: with pride.

Yasmine Noujaim is a junior in the College and is currently studying at the American University in Cairo and can be reached at noujaimthehoya.com. SALAMAT appears every other Friday.

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