Thursday, 15 September 2016

Toward an Egyptian cultural renaissance




Before going into today’s issue; that is the necessity to have an initiative launched by intellectuals to establish a movement to revive the Egyptian culture and which goes in the same context with what I wrote two weeks ago… I find myself facing a real, yet funny, dilemma… as many of my village residents and others in nearby villages and also many of my acquaintances think that since I write regularly in important newspapers and I’m an almost regular guest at the Egyptian TV and some satellite channels’ talk shows… and since I adopt a political and cultural discourse that is pro-June 30 revolution and president Sis… and I always value and feel grateful for the role of the Egyptian army in our current critical time… they think that means I’m a very important public figure who has many powerful connections enabling him to appoint a young man or woman in a job or get someone treated in a certain hospital for free… in general, they believe I can solve whatever problem and that my requests to officials in charge will be responded to immediately since I adopt such a loyal supporting stance to the ruling regime.

People in general look for anyone who can help them find solutions for their personal or collective problems… but they cannot believe that I, and many others, are not even invited to the president’s meetings with intellectuals, journalists and others… we even don’t know who are being invited and on what basis those invited are chosen.

What I do know is that if this invitation is coming from an official entity like the ministry of culture and its minister, I will never ever be invited… and reasons are many… most importantly because the minister do not like many of those who used to know him closely in the past… however, such disregard have and will never dissuade us away from the uncompromising stances we had and still believe in… as it’s a matter of nation’s fate and coming generations’ future… I believe one shall always do his best until the last moment, otherwise, he deserves not to be human… I just wish that our folks can excuse us if we couldn’t help them.

As to today’s issue, it has to do with what I have already written about before in my article titled “Sisi and history”… as I called upon the president to open our country’s institutions for the Arab scientists and intellectuals coming from Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Libya and that this shall help us establish an Egyptian cultural renaissance.

As it was proved that awareness is raised by culture side by side with – if not prior to – the economic and social circumstances… we can establish mega projects in more than one field, however, all these projects are prone to failure if those working in such projects are not fully aware of the nations’ priorities and future necessities… moreover, we can say that any pretender – especially those who believe that religion is in contrast with science and progress – can destroy people’s awareness by spreading a false Fatwa claiming to have a religious reference from a sacred verse.

It was also proved that the employees – especially those working in the field of culture – however high positions they have including the minister himself, they cannot establish an Egyptian cultural renaissance with clear targets and that is scheduled on phases… this mission shall be assigned to national intellectuals of all groups, ideologies and specializations.

Now, those who have known and dealt with hundreds of intellectuals have the right to inquire: why have we failed in establishing a comprehensive cultural renaissance movement which we can distribute tasks and roles and bear responsibility toward renovating out-of-time cultural concepts and changing them if necessary?... why don’t we adopt the theory of quantitative accumulation in our cultural life?

What I want to say here is that Egypt have witnessed many attempts of comprehensive cultural renaissances since the end of the 18th century… but those attempts looked like waves that soon crashed once they hit the shore of our social structure… meaning since the attempts of Hassan el-Attar, Rifa'a al-Tahtawi… and later came Muhammed Abdo and those who followed him… and reaching to that wave of the sixties when we had dreams of having statues overlooking water canals of the Nile River and of having a theater in every hamlet.

We still remember the strong campaign that stood in the face of the muslim brotherhood culture minster… and how such large gathering of resilient intellectuals and artists led to total change… but again, everything came back as if nothing happened, even with the current minister, who was known to belong to the progressive forces as he used to declare when he was a journalist… and maybe the reason is what my late friend and great satirist Mahmoud es-Sa’adani used to say in his writings: “but… everything later changed…”… that journalist, now a minister, changed after he experienced the high positions starting from journalistic editing management, to agencies management and finally made it to be a minister…

Back to our point, I believe we should start first by bridging the gaps between renaissance eras… to finally have a continuous graphical line with ups and down and not distant separated dwarfed lines representing our cultural movement.

Those groups claiming to have religious reference – like muslim brotherhood, salafists and their likes – are the only winners of our current alarming cultural tardiness and the chaotic situation of intellectuals… it’s the perfect environment for their twisted ideas to thrive and fill the space left.

We shall continue later.

Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar



This article was published in Al Ahram newspaper on September 15, 2016.

To see the original article, go to:


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