EGYPT/Amr Moussa’s predictions

“There is always a space for a change, and all of us – in Egypt and in the other Muslim countries – feel that we have to change“, Amr Moussa told me during an interview few years ago.

Going now through the ex Secretary General of the Arab League’s words – just after Mubarak’s regime and after the “Arab Spring”, the Revolution which exploded in North Africa at the end of 2010 –, is like clearly reading the future of Egypt and of its nearby Countries. Moussa’s advice for Egyptians at that time was not to be afraid and to move ahead. And his advice has surely been listened.

“There is a lot of terrain to walk until one can really say, ‘Here I am, departing, leaving my culture behind'”. While telling so, Moussa noted the difficult paradox that comes along with change: “The Egyptian society must cross, must go, must walk, must move on, without necessarily sacrificing the basic dimension of its culture”. Unfortunately many Egyptians know today what they have been really sacrificed, after the Revolution. But none of them is able to say what they have gained. Not yet.


Moussa had also another advice. This time for Westerns: “I would like to say to ‘Westerners’ – accepting the generic sense of this word – that, first of all, the Arab world is not their enemy. But second, that doesn’t mean that the Arab world should be considered simply a source of fortune. And third, it could very well be their friend“. Amr Moussa saw extensive distortion of the image of Arab culture and the Arab way of thinking. Progress should not come at the hands of Western countries that see the Middle East as a mysterious place that needs to be improved. “I wish that this stereotype would come to an end,” he said adamantly.

To Amr Moussa most people did not have a complete picture of Egypt, the country for which he recently run against Mohamed Morsi to become President: “Lots of Western countries have not really discovered Egypt. It is not only what you see in Luxor, Aswan, Cairo, and Sharm El-Sheikh. Egypt is everything: present, past and future. It is spiritual and it is factual, it is poverty and it is richness. There are so many contradictions that one should notice. You can see the bones that pull Egypt to live with its past and other forces that push this country to live with the future”.

Even its culture is much more diverse than most people realize. “As much as we are Arabs, or Muslims –  in the majority – or Africans, we are also Mediterranean, and we have a special relationship with Europe.” Both the West and Egypt must keep in mind their shared past; Egyptian culture is actually the foundation of Western (and particularly Mediterranean) culture.
In fact Egypt was once the home of numerous many French, British, Italians, and Greeks, most of whom left the country in 1960s. The current generation only comes for a week to scuba-dive somewhere. “They have a superficial vision of this country – Moussa said. They may not know Egypt the way the previous generation did”.

Moreover, Egyptians can be suspicious of the West. At the time of the interview many peaceful protests have moved on in the country. I remember when some local families have spoken out against the reduction of religion classes in schools, blaming this on the influence of America, and reacting by sending their children to classes in mosques.
Being suspicious doesn’t necessary mean that certain kinds of help wouldn’t be welcome, “such as in the areas of science and technology”, Moussa pointed out. This is what would quickly create change. “A change that has to serve society itself, but can improve only with our approval”, said Moussa. He thought that the way the ‘West’ has dealt with the matter is counterproductive: “What tarnishes the attempts at change is this kind of interference: ‘You have to change and we’ll tell you how to change, and to change first when it comes to Islam’. The cultural class in Egypt has not been enriched and irrigated lately – he added – and is now in a state of frustration because of the conflict with the Western societies. The right strategy for these improvements could be more cooperation based on dialogue“. And surely this is also the Egypt “post-Arab Spring Revolution” hope.

I want to see Egypt promoting cultural relations. Human development needs also to be underlined and promoted”, Moussa wished. As for religion, “There is no problem between Muslims, Christians and Jews,” he declared. “The problem stands in politics”. Then what is the cause of the increasing religious radicalism of some groups? I asked him.”The main reason brings us to politics,” Moussa said simply. “It is Palestine!”.

Of course there are many aspects of Western culture that exist in Egypt, such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and KFC. “Are these the symbols of the Western countries?” Moussa asked me with a smile. “Western food and Western policy are two different things. Disagreeing with American policy on the question of Palestine, for example, is something that needs to be analyzed in a different context. One has nothing to do with the other, even though I know that some people are boycotting the hamburger”.

At the question: “Is Egypt moving on?” Moussa confidently answered: “I believe it is. It is the nature of things to move on”. Egypt has always played the mediator part between the Western and the Arab countries. After September 11 and the most recent “Tahrir Revolution”, which has changed the international scenario, its role became more difficult. “In the past Egypt was the bridge, because it was the most modern Arab country,” said Moussa. “Now I don’t think the West needs a bridge of communication between its society and any part of the Arab world”. Although Moussa’s insights have all come true, his final prediction could not be more wrong.






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