Monday, December 17, 2012

Aswani clarifies

"The novelist’s devotion to democracy, however, was severely questioned last week.
A tweet dated Dec. 8, in which Aswany wrote that illiterate Egyptians must be banned from voting on the new constitution since they are incapable of reading and grasping its content, created an uproar in intellectual circles in Egypt and elsewhere. Some went so far as to accuse the novelist of racism and elitism.
The 50-something Aswany rejects the charges, saying he never considered those who are illiterate as a lower class. He goes on to clarify that he was talking about a nationwide project to wipe out illiteracy, which “has become totally unacceptable in post-revolution Egypt.”
He adds that during the tenure of late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, whom Aswany describes as the “most prominent socialist leader,” those who could not read or write were banned from applying for driving licenses and from running in elections for the House of Representatives, Majles al-Shaab.
“I really don’t understand why the proposal was vehemently attacked and misinterpreted,” he says. “If you want to eradicate illiteracy you have to give these people clever incentives.”
Yet politics, democracy and literature are not Aswany’s sole fields of interests. He is actually one of Egypt’s main lobbyers for women’s rights. It is with intense pride and excitement that he depicts the role Egyptian women played in the uprising.
“Egyptian women stood in the forefront,” he says. “I think the revolution reminded us of the true value of our women.”" (thanks Mirella)