The Irredeemable Decadence of Egyptian Elite — Egypt is not Iran — it’s Chile or Argentina in the 1970s

Jun 19

Despite all the turmoil in Egypt, elites in Egypt can apparently unite in mocking the appearance of Muhammad Mursi’s wife, who wears what is know in Egypt as a khimar.  Cairoscene.com published an article yesterday (it has since been removed) about how unstylish the new first lady appears, and that she could use sartorial lessons from the equally modest, but infinitely more stylish, Shaykha Moza, wife of Qatar’s amir.  They even suggested in the original post that Madame Mursi consider shopping at the “modestly-priced” City Stars Mall in Madinat Nasr to improve her image.  City Stars, of course, is an infamous shopping resort built by Gulf Arabs for Gulf Arabs, but also for the relatively few Egyptians with enough money to shop in its luxury stores.

In any case, my friend and colleague, Pascale Ghazaleh, a professor of Middle Eastern history at the American University in Cairo, wrote the following in response on her Facebook page:

It’s sad that, after a year and a half, we are still mostly unable to see past the elections. It’s sad that so many people are still so scared of the majority of the Egyptians — still see them as low-class, ignorant, baladi, badly dressed, what have you. The comments about Mursi’s wife were really breathtaking. Do people really care more about how the president’s wife will look at official dinners than about the fact that there are more and more kids begging in the street? Do people really think that the solution to poverty and ignorance is the whip? I don’t feel like the country is a safe place for my daughter to grow up in, and it’s not because of the revolution or because of the Brotherhood; it’s because so little has changed, and so many are still deprived of even the most basic necessities. Instead of thinking how we can help them, we are thinking of new ways to crush them. But security doesn’t come through the barrel of a gun. You don’t achieve peace of mind by locking poor people up and hiding in gated compounds. The only way things can actually get better is by working for real social justice and real dignity, for everyone. And neither of the candidates will achieve that, because the military are still in charge, and they have shown they don’t know how to run a country. The only language they speak is that of violence and discipline. Fat lot of good that’s done us. The correct comparison here is not to Iran; it’s to Argentina and Chile in the 1970s. It’s not acceptable to judge people based on what they wear and the fact that they don’t speak French. It’s not acceptable to enjoy a lavish lifestyle and spit on people who don’t have running water. It’s not acceptable to remain ignorant of the inhuman, intolerable poverty that lives right next door to us, because we created that poverty and we are maintaining it. Yet we continue to pander to corrupt businesspeople and ex-regime thugs because they drive fancy cars and go to fancy clubs. Let’s not say this is about saving Egypt. Let’s say it’s about protecting class interests. If we insist on committing suicide, at least let’s do it honestly.

As is often the case in these matters, kudos to the intrepid Sarah Carr, whose no bullshit approach to covering news on Egypt has been invaluable during the last year and a half.

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