I still am confused after reading Egyptian author Alaa Aswany’s Sunday editorial in The New York Times:
PRESIDENT OBAMA is clearly trying to reach out to the Muslim world. I watched his Inaugural Address on television, and was most struck by the line: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.” He gave his first televised interview from the White House to Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language television channel. But have these efforts reached the streets of Cairo?
Quite frankly, this is one of the stupidest articles I’ve read about the Arab reaction towards Obama and the American elections! I was ready to stop reading by the time I got to the second sentence when Aswany expressed astonishment that Obama said the US is a nation of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Non-believers, as if this is something extraordinary that’s not happening in Germany or India for instance. Or as if Egyptians and Arabs don’t already know this about the US.
I know that I’m disappointing many of those working on improving the US image in the Arab world, but seriously if you reread that article you’ll notice how silly it is.
In Cairo, which is seven hours ahead of Washington, some people I know stayed up practically all night waiting for the election results. When Mr. Obama won, newspapers here described Nubians — southerners whose dark skin stands out in Cairo — dancing in victory.
Ok, if we believe Aswany’s account the poor, illiterate, underprivileged and politically and socially oppressed Nubians (even more than the rest of the Egyptian society) rose up dancing in joyous victory that Obama won. I wish Aswany would inform us which papers said this nonsense because I read them all and this is the first I’ve heard of the Bedouins dancing in the streets when Obama won. Nor did I see any talk in the Egyptian papers about a feeling of happiness that filled the Egyptian society that would be solved just because Obama got elected.
But Aswany didn’t stop there and went on to talk about “our” supposed admiration for Obama.
Our admiration for Mr. Obama is grounded in what he represents: fairness. He is the product of a just, democratic system that respects equal opportunity for education and work. This system allowed a black man, after centuries of racial discrimination, to become president. This fairness is precisely what we are missing in Egypt. That is why the image of President-elect Obama meeting with his predecessors in the White House was so touching…We saw Mr. Obama as a symbol of this justice. We welcomed him with almost total enthusiasm ….
These empty statements leads me to recall the Angry Arab when he says ” you have the right to be stupid, but please don’t speak on behalf of (the Egyptians) as you are being stupid.” I can only raise one question here: ” What does the average Egyptian possibly know to favor or admire with Obama? Can anyone present a reason to tell us why would they care to know who is Obama in the first place? They have nothing against him for sure, but the point is why would they be keen to know who he is? How would that effect them?
Although Aswany points out that Obama ignored Gaza, he thinks that “we” are still enthusiastic for him, because, according to him, the “Egyptians still think that this one-of-a-kind American president can do great things.” Frankly, this piece looks like a primary student learning how to write a composition. I think even if an Egyptian child read that last part he would just ask him one simple innocent question “why would the American president do great things for you?” Although I think he answered that question when he said it’s because he embodies the great American values. I just wonder what values is he talking about? And the Egyptians just left all their problems to learn about these values? And above all to know how they are embodied in Obama?
Mr Egypt is an Egyptian who lives in Cairo.