Sunday, April 10, 2016

Weekly Report 6

Alaa al Aswany is an Egyptian writer and political commentator who most notably wrote The Yacoubian Building (which also became a film), among several other published and awarded works.  But only to speak of Aswany's job title or reputation however, is to miss the significance that he holds for Egypt. Before he became a formidable political adversary to the Mubarak regime, he was simply a very well informed and intelligent dentist, who often spoke of politics, corruption, and the lack of ethics therein. In January of 2012 the New Yorker published an article on Aswany, painting a picture of who he is by first describing the scene of one famous debate between he and the prime minister of Egypt Ahmed Shafik, just after the fall of the Mubarak regime. The article notes that unlike Mubarak, Shafik was an accomplished speaker, capable of masterfully turning phrases to fit his ideology. This however, was no challenge for Aswany. Aswany would not allow the prime minister to glance over the deaths of non-violent protesters whom he called "martyrs", pretending as though their lives meant nothing. The New Yorker described him with such words as "bombastic" and "menacing", and this must have been so, as the prime minister stepped down from office on the very next day. This outspoken criticism of the government is something that the Egyptian people were not accustomed to witnessing: or at the very least, not effectively. There were those in Egypt who found his unrelenting questioning of the prime minister to have been disrespectful, but many saw such speech against injustice as empowering. In looking into Aswany's family history, one finds that these revolutionary ideals and the concept of speaking truth to power, seems to run very deeply in his veins. He claims to have had an excellent childhood and speaks very proudly of the revolutionary nature of the work that his father conducted. His father, also a writer, met regularly with other Egyptian intelligentsia to "debate communism and Islam and nationalism" (The New Yorker). It should be noted as well that in his home, which he called "liberal", his mother and her faith had a great effect on his life. He claims that his profound reverence for life, that was evident in his citing of the murdered protesters in his debate with Shafik, was given to him by God, as he experienced his mother's faith. His outspoken nature is however not limited only to the affairs of others; he is also able to acknowledge the flaws wishing his own thought patterns. The New Yorker speaks of his formerly supporting the military, and switching said position due to the fact that the military seemed to have similar ideology to that of the Mubarak regime. This self-awareness and self-criticism is commendable and certainly not common among any public figure. As one Egyptian stated to the New Yorker about Aswany, “After thousands of years and a desert culture like this, this is the father of the tribe,” he said. “He might wear a suit or a pullover like Shafik does, but he’s still the father. This is the mentality. And you don’t question the father.” 

Below is an Al Jazeera interview with Alaa al Aswany: 

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