Sunday, November 22, 2009

Egypt versus Algeria: all for you, Jamal Mubarak

An Arab journalist in Cairo (who does not want to be identified) sent me this (I cite with his/her permission): " I was at that demonstration in Zamalek, Cairo. The protestors were chanting slogans along the lines of these two, the most common two by the way: "Algeria, get lost: you're the country of one million prostitutes" (ya gaza'ir imshi foot, ya balad millyun sharmout) "1,2,3 fuck Algerie" (1,2,3, qus umm Algerie) It was "respectable" because many of the protestors were rich kids with blackberrys. State tv would only carry images with no audio of the protest, while the anchor women called it "well mannered." One young woman in the protest, dressed fashionably, had a sign saying "get out" in English and in Arabic a call for the expulsion of "the ambassador and all Algerians" I have heard not one dissenting voice on the street toward these racist sentiments. I have been shocked to find most people, aside from a few leftists and Islamists, agree with them. The independent media--Shurouk and Al Masry Al youm--insist that the "barbaric Algerians"--and there is absolutely no distinguishing between people and government--faked the attack on the players' bus. They insist they treated the Algerians here with hospitality, although buses carrying Algerian fans were stoned after the match in Cairo and then hooligans fought with Algerians outside their hotel. 20 Algerians and 12 Egyptians were injured in that clash according to the health ministry. They insist that they are entirely innocent, that Egyptians are the most hospitable people in the world, that Umm el Dunya welcomes everyone to her bosom. This is the rhetoric flooding daily from government and independent media alike. At the same time, they insist that what happened in Sudan was a "bloodbath." Masry al Youm, like the government media, are bringing in psychiatrists to give quack analysis on why the Algerians "have mental problems" and why they are "viscious." I have had Egyptian colleauges and friends calling me to tell me that the Algerians are "a viscious people." They insist that the attacks by Algerian fans against Egyptians in Sudan, which according to the Egyptian health minister injured 21 people--"lightly", Hatem el-Gabali said--was an attack organised by the government. They compare the behavior of these hooligans with the "Egyptian character", as one psychiatrist did today in an interview with state television, which is "respectable" and "beautiful" and "creative." There is no difference between Shurouk and Masry al Yawm and state media in this regard. The liberals, too, are spouting racist invective. Egyptian actors lined up in the Cairo film festival to attack the Algerians, one artist emphasised: "I am against the Algerian government and I am against the Algerian people." And they're getting in the same trench with the government, the ones who actually did muster thugs carrying swords and machetes in 2005 to terrorize voters in the parliamentary election': the ones who brutally tortured a Hezbollah operative to elicit a confession and information on the workings of the group, which they then boastfully published in their Ahram mouthpiece; who annually kill about 10 Egyptians in prison by torture and who have done more than anyone--Israel or Algerian football fans--to chip away at each Egyptian's self respect and sense of dignity and promote the bakshish and ya basha culture."