Critically Fighting for a Goal.
Edward Said, in his essay ‘Secular Criticism,’ emphasized the importance of criticism. I found myself remembering his affirmation that “there must be critical consciousness if there are to be issues, problems, values, even lives to be fought for,” which rings true especially in Egypt today – a country divided after a revolution.
The Egyptian revolution was a unique one because it truly was a people’s revolution; Egyptians from all classes, religious, and political backgrounds bravely risked their lives as they united behind the single goal of bringing down Hosny Mubarak’s regime. After Mubarak’s abdication, however, the union Egyptians experienced started to falter, as they soon came to realize that they do not share the same opinions with regards to the future of Egypt and the Egyptian state. And even though differences in opinion are a healthy phenomenon, media outlets are, not only emphasizing the differences in opinions between Egyptians, but also portray this diversity as a precursor of impending anarchic doom. In the midst of such a distorted view, I remembered Said’s emphasis on the concept of criticism. In today’s Egypt, not only do we need to embrace our diverse views and beliefs, but we need to do so through criticism.
A couple of days ago, I was shocked to read a headline that quoted a fundamentalist presidential candidate who declared that women would be forced to wear the Islamic scarf (hijab) if he were to become president. He relayed that Egypt’s past of corruption and “backwardness” was due to moral laxity, which, if dealt with “properly” will transform Egypt in unimaginable ways.
How can we deal with such opinions, I thought? Definitely not by appearing on a TV show and accusing the aforementioned candidate of backwardness and barbarity, a tactic used by some. Not only will such a retort embolden the candidate further (as he perceives such an accusation of backwardness to be a sign that he is on the right track, given that the accusation came from a “secular”), but such a tactic also fails to illustrate why it is that such a view would lead to counterproductive outcomes. Seeing that there is an issue to fight for in Egypt today, namely arriving at a democratic state that respects the rights of all Egyptians, it is important to be critical. I thus see a community and a country that is critical- of sweeping generalizations, of dubious claims surrounding God’s punishment, of what it means to be “moral” and lead a “moral” life, of claims that this or that policy is exactly what we need to better the future of Egypt, and the list goes on. The way I see it, it is only by renouncing fundamentalism – not necessarily religious fundamentalism, but any fundamentalism that believes in only one way of doing things.
By becoming a Voices of Our Future Correspondent, I think I can help achieve my vision. Having an outlet that does not solely have ratings in mind, and which is thus willing to do anything to flame the controversy and fighting necessary for achieving that goal (even if that means pushing Egyptians further apart), is valuable. I would use this outlet to play a role in reminding Egyptians in the importance of being critical in order to be able to fight for the goal of a better Egypt, to remind them that the dictum ‘solidarity before criticism’ entails the end of criticism, heralding an era of fundamental Egyptian groupings, each living on its own ostracized island.