My timing was bad. Dad was coming out of the kitchen with his dinner as I watched the BREAKING NEWS broadcast on the Arabic satellite news channel announce that President Morsi had appointed seventeen new governors across the country. Of those seventeen, the appointment of Adel Asaad Al-Khayat as the new governor of the popular tourist destination of Luxor, led me to yell out, “Dad, Morsi just put Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya in charge of Luxor.”
What followed next was not a gasp but a crash, and I quickly got up to see pieces of a blue plate in between my old man’s tomato pasta and chicken. He couldn’t have cared any less as he stepped over it and headed towards the TV.
He was silent as he listened to the female news anchor provide a background on Al-Khayat’s profile: Member of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya in the Egyptian governorate of Sohag; Arrested in 1981 following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat for belonging to Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, who were heavily involved in the assassination. She concluded with the most crucial fact – a fact that Egyptians were already familiar with and a fact that caused my dad to drop his dinner plate only moments before: Al- Jamaa Al-Islamiya carried out the 1997 attack at the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor that killed 62 people. Forget the irony. As of Sunday night when the announcement of Al-Khayat’s appointment was made, irony is dead in Egypt. It’s been hung, drawn and quartered, resurrected, and then shot in the head with a double barrel action rifle.
Only a year ago this household, a mini electorate, was split and in dispute, but Morsi has united us
Dad started cursing in Arabic as is his habit of late whenever Morsi, the man he voted for almost a year ago, makes a speech or does…well, anything. I joined in with the Arabic cursing for a bit too, and for a moment it was symphonic unison of idiomatic Egyptian Arabic that makes sense only to a few outside of Egypt, let alone what the neighbors must have been thinking in West London.
However, only a year ago, father and son were in dispute. Having both voted for Secular/Nasserist candidate, Hamdeen Sobahy, in the first round, we differed in our approach to the unenviable decision of making between Morsi or Shafiq. Brotherhood lackey or Mubarak lackey? New oppression or old repression? I argued for a boycott – that Egypt deserved better. I sounded naïve back then and perhaps my naivety and false hope is all what keeps me engaged today in Egypt’s socio-political and economic hardships. But Dad, ever the pragmatist, went with Morsi, giving him the benefit of the doubt and believing that Morsi wouldn’t be stupid enough to go against the Egyptian people after they had only just gotten a taste of their power and would not relinquish it so quickly or easily. He was wrong. If the appointment of Al-Khayat as Governor of Luxor tells us anything, it is that Morsi is stupid enough to put his interests first at the expense of Egypt, even when those interests are ludicrous beyond parody.
But there have been underlying positives that have come out of Morsi’s presidency. For a start, Dad and I have started to agree more on Egyptian politics and we have Morsi to thank for that. A year ago, Egypt’s electorate was splitting itself up into Islamist or Brotherhood loyalists, Liberal/Secularists, Felool (those in favour of former Mubarak regime members such as Shafiq and Amr Moussa) and boycotters. After the first round of elections, however, these lines became blurred as liberal/secular voters backed Morsi in order to defeat Shafiq – choosing the devil you don’t know, so to speak. Dad is a good example of this, and a year on, he probably doesn’t have any regrets but he is certainly more than happy to correct it.
There has been more good news in that tags like felool have started to die away as Egypt’s electorate and opposition realise that dividing each other into such stiffening categories allows the Muslim Brotherhood, who are election-winning machines, to continue to dominate. Moreover, labels such as “revolutionary” or “activist” were synonymous with Egypt’s youth, while felool was associated with older Egyptians from middle to upper class backgrounds, and so generation and class distinctions made groups critical of one another, and these distinctions in an electoral context have also started to recede.
After the swearing and morbid laughter dies down at the ludicrous appointment of Al-Khayat, Morsi should be applauded by anyone who opposes him because he is making it easier every day to unite people against him. The Tamarod (Rebellion) campaign is a good example of this and it is gathering a head of steam for June 30 protests. And finally, Morsi has given us more reason to be thankful because he is even managing to unite the country in a way that provides Egyptians, notorious for making a joke out of anything, with ample comic material to last a decade.
Only a year ago this household, a mini electorate, was split and in dispute, but Morsi has united us and so I personally thank him. After finding out about Al-Khayat’s appointment, one person on Facebook suggested that Egypt “had entered the Twilight Zone.” I disagree. The Twilight Zone would be an upgrade at this stage. Morsi owes the Kadrys a plate.
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