Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Inside Egypt: Nostalgia for Colonial Rule. I finished reading John Bradley's Inside Egypt. Well, John, you asked me to read the book, and I have. I could not believe it. There is so much racism and contempt for the Egyptian people in this book. And you need to really get over your obsession (and hatred for) Nasser. You are so obsessed with Nasser that you forgot that he died back in 1970. I know, I know. He really ended that wonderful colonial order (you kept referring to it as "belle eopoque") that you kept praising, but did you forgot that Sadat ruled for 11 years? You barely mention that guy. And even Mubarak is marginal compared with the stress on Nasser. You even speak about the Egyptian people as being deranged: you say the "deterioration of the mental health of the Egyptian masses" (p. 39) and I don't care if you always manage to find some Egyptian to "substantiate" or "validate" your theories about the decadance and inferirority of the Egyptian people. You generalize and generalize without any evidence or data: you say that "at least half of the local youths would, without a second thought, sell their bodies to a Western man."(p. 195) Do you see what I mean? Do you realize why I was fuming as I was reading this on the plane? And is one not expected to provide the results of an empirical study for such an outlandish statement? And your references to women (Western in particular) are so sexist and insulting: you describe Western women in Luxor as "decent looking" (p. 185) and then add other generalizations, like "Some of these women slept with half of the men in Luxor before they settled on marrying one."(p. 178) What was that? Did the editor not raise alarm about such assertions? You express shock that some Egyptians you met wanted to emigrate to the West when they are politically opposed to Western governments (p. 171). No, it is only surprising because you miss to learn that the underlying causes of their hositlity to West are political and not cultural or religious. You dare to say that "not a single tear" was shed by Arabs for Saddam's victims.(p. 145) Do you know how many Arabs helped and funded Iraqi opposition groups since the 1960s? You quote some Kuwaiti racist who claims that "torture is a way of life" in the Middle East?(p. 144) Are you suggesting that there is more violence in society in Kuwait than in US? You even speak of the "acceptance of torture" in the Arab world. You need to advance in your reading of Arabic to be able to read the contemporary Arab body of literature where the horrors of (and from) torture loom large. You speak about state punishment for relatives of wanted men (p. 128): you compare that to Nazi Germany but forgot to add that Israel consistently employs that method, as has the US occupation authorities in Iraq. You say that women refrain from reporting sex crimes, but that is also true here in the US according to Justice Department studies. You were so offended that an Egyptian spoke to you in classical Arabic (p. 57) that you claimed (falsely) that Egyptians are not able to speak it, and that they don't like it, when fusha is still highly appreciated. Your obsession of Nasser is so out of whack: you complain that the Egyptian Free officers are not "sophisticated" like Faruk's cronies (p. 13). You say that King Faruk was rehatbilitated when you should have said Saudi media have tried to rehabilitate him. And your evidence is the success of the TV serial on Faruk. Let me surprise you: this year's TV serial on Nasser is yet a bigger success. And I am willing to entertain all the criticisms of Nasser but compared to what? To Faruk? Mubarak? To the Nazi dicator, Sadat? You say, actually say, that all what was done under the Nasser regime was bad. Does that include state feminism, relative secularism, mass education, nationalization (and Nasser--to be fair--enacted nationalization long before Bush, Obama, and McCain discovered the virtues of nationalization), welfare benefits, and land reform? Of course, Nasser's rule desrves to be criticized, but more so in the ase of Sadat. And you really are unaware of the state of culture and arts in Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s, despite censorship and restrictions on expression. You clearly are appalled at Arab popular hostility to Israel, and you basically refer to that as "hatred." You so gloss over the Israeli running of a terrorist ring in Egypt in 1950s, and you even justify it. And on and on. You really sound bitter about Egypt and the Egyptians, which is your right, and I am bitter about this book, which is my right.