Writers on Egypt’s Constitution Committee

via Arab Literature (in English):

Two Novelists, Poet on Egypt’s 50-member Constitution Committee

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On Sunday afternoon, Egypt’s presidential spokesman Ihab Badawi announced names of the 50 member-committee given the job of re-drafting the suspended 2012 constitution:"Nostalgia" by Mohammed Abla“Nostalgia” by Mohammed Abla

It should at the very least be a compelling read, as two novelists — Mohammed Salmawy and Haggag Oddoul, and a poet, Sayed Hegab – are on the committee.

All have other identities: Salmawy is the long-time head of the Egyptian Writers Union, and has been a journalist and an aide to the Minister of Information; Hegab is apparently also on the High Council of Culture; while Oddoul is also an activist and campaigner for Nubian rights.

Salmawy has several works that he’s composed in English, including Come Back Tomorrow, published by Three Continents Press (1985), Two Down the Drain, published by theThe General Egyptian Book Organization (1993), and Naguib Mahfouz at Sidi Gaber : Reflections of a Nobel Laureate from conversations with Mohamed Salmawy, published by the AUC Press (2001).

Two of Oddoul’s works have appeared in English: Nights of Musk: Stories from Old Nubia, trans. (2005) and My Uncle Is On Labor, trans.  Ahmed Fathy (2008).

You can read more about Hegab in “Son of a widowed city.”

If you don’t think that’s enough book lovers, there’s also Hoda Elsadda, who is a literary scholar and was a judge for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

These four join visual artist Mohammed Abla and director Khaled Youssef on the 50-member committe. Only two members on the committee are labeled, on the Ahram Online list (which must have some typos, as there are repeated names), as “Islamist currents.” This means artists have more than twice the representation of Islamists? A strange list.

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Comment on “Writers on Egypt’s Constitution Committee”

  1. The relationship between the Army and the Muslim Brotherhood has passed the status of a blood feud and moved closer to that of a civil war. Egypt’s future looks very bleak indeed with the chances of constructing a civil society in Egypt ebbing by the day.

    While the thought of a few artists trying their hand at the creation of a constitution is a charming thought, no one in the West should get all warm and fuzzy about it. The Arab Spring turned to winter soon enough and one suspects the constitution, at least one that is truly democratic, will go the same way. Constitutions require strongly worded legalese in order to guarantee real freedoms and offer true transparencies throughout the system. It is hard to write a constitution; it is even harder to work one out in practice. Overseen by the military or the Bros., this is highly unlikely to occur. Let’s face it, constitutions in Egypt, like the elections, are all for show and the assurance of continued American aid. This money never goes where it should. Now that support for Assad is growing throughout the country, who knows where the money will go. In Pakistan, Al Qaida and other assorted extremists pick off half. Will Egypt be the same? How bad would it be for the Yankees to go home for a while? Well it would be bad for sure but ever so much more economical.

    The ghost of Osama bin Laden is no doubt smiling. Some would say this is due to the 77 virgins he earned. I think it more likely that he finds the fires in hell far more pleasant than the fires he left burning throughout the Mid East. There are surely more to come. Liberal-minded Egyptians are not smiling nor are the Coptics. Few minorities are. The writers and poets will be hard pressed to create a document that will protect them.

    Unbelievable as it may seem, there once was a time when the Brotherhood and the Military had a common purpose. This was after WWII when they united to rid the country of the Brits and a decadent, Europhile monarchy.

    But once the king was toppled in 1952, it became obvious that the Bros and the Military had totally different goals in mind for Egypt. The Military wanted a secular version of Pan-Arab nationalism. Oddly enough, this had more in common with the Baathist movements of the day in Iraq and Syria. The Bros. , just as now, held tight to a restored Islamic caliphate vision.

    The army won; Nasser was ruthless. Of course so were the Bros. but they had fewer weapons and jails to fight with. Many older Bros. still carry the scars of Egypt’s own Reign of Terror.

    Sadat may have been more benign but his diplomatic shift towards Israel enraged the Brotherhood. A jihadist faction assassinated Sadat. While no direct evidence proved the Muslim Brotherhood was involved, the event ensured additional persecution under Mubarak.

    The so called Arab Spring saw the overthrow of Mubarak and the entry into the political arena of the Freedom and Justice Party, in other words, the Bros. were back!. Many people got nervous (the West, Israel, Egyptian secularists, Christians). Many hoped Mohammed Morsi would be a moderate and keep the raging jihadists and salfists at bay. But Morsi is no more a moderate than Iran’s Hassan Rouhani. Both have blood on their hands.

    In the belief that one should keep your friends close but your enemies closer, Morsi promoted Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to his position of high command. Violent acrimony soon followed.

    There are no more liberals or Christians for Morsi. Radical Wahhabism is gaining strength as are the anti U.S. and pro Syria movements. General Sisi, in spite of his good press, is simply a younger and more stylish Mubarak. And so it goes in Egypt today. Names on a list are meaningless. He who holds the gun runs the country. You’ll see many more lists. Here’s hoping that when a name is deleted it does not mean totally.

    Since the time of the Pharaohs, the more things change in Egypt, the more they stay the same. A couple of writers and poets, regardless of their talent won’t change that. The tourists won’t go there any more, nor should American money, at least not for the foreseeable future. The Mid East, ever on the verge of erupting, may just be at the tipping point.

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