Naqib's Daughter

Naqib's Daughter
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North Carolina,
Birthday
November 11
Bio
Born and raised in Egypt, educated at London University, immigrated to the United States in the eighties. Author of two novels, The Cairo House, about growing up in a political family in Nasser's Egypt, and The Naqib's Daughter, about Bonaparte's occupation of Egypt in 1798. A collection of short stories, Love is Like Water, addresses in part Arab Americans post 9/11. Also published nonfiction on Islam, Egypt, women in Muslim societies, and terrorism. Have taught at university and in journalism. An editor of South Writ Large, an online magazine of stories, arts and ideas from the Global and US Souths.

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JANUARY 23, 2012 7:08AM

Egypt's Revolution: First Anniversary

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Egyptian Parliament Inaugural Session  

 So you had a revolution…and now, you have the first democratically-elected parliament in sixty years. Today was the day when the new parliament was seated, and all of Egypt watched the spectacle in the hemi-circle parliament hall as newly-elected candidates stood up to take the oath of office- or didn’t. One presumably Salafi representative tried to put his own spin on the oath, which requires him to respect the republican system and the constitution. He was finally prevailed upon to read the oath as written, and the proceedings carried on smoothly from that point on.

 

So what does this new post-revolution parliament look like? As expected, there was a predominance of Muslim Brotherhood, stocky men in business suits, their facial hair neatly trimmed; but also the typical thin, long-bearded fundamentalist Salafis in robes; also a sprinkling of exotic men in red fezzes and odd dress, presumably Sufis. Then there were the sleek, clean-shaven representatives from the liberal parties, and the de rigeur fifty percent quota of ‘peasants and workers’, as per the existing constitution. Women were few; a cluster of them sat together front and center, in a rainbow of pastel hijabs: mauve, pink, blue.  

For the liberal movements, as for the young revolutionaries who paid the price for this free election with blood and tears, the spectacle is bitter-sweet. They paid the price but saw the prize seized by the Islamist currents that had initially sat out the protests. But a young artist I spoke to yesterday at the opening of an exhibition at a gallery in Zamalek seemed to be optimistic. I was arrested by his large-scale painting of a woman lying on the ground, violated and near-naked, pain and dignity in her face; next to her on the ground were a riot police helmet and truncheon. The message was clear: the woman in the painting stood for all the women assaulted by the police and army since the revolution began.

The young artist in a black beret, an activist member of the new Tahrir Party, was not worried. “The Muslim Brotherhood will have to be pragmatic in office- the problems they are facing, economic especially, are so huge in scale that they will need all the allies they can get to spread the responsibility around. And in a year or two, at the next elections, we’ll be ready. We’ll claim our revolution.” 

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Thank you so much for sharing this view from Egypt!
Your insider's view of these important events is very much appreciated!
The Egyptian workers movement played an important part in the revolution, but has seen its contribution largely ignored by the major parties. Independent unions go unrecognized by the government, there are anti-strike laws, plus Mubarak style corruption in the management of many enterprises. Any revolution is a process. Hopefully organized labor in Egypt will grow and take a greater part in the nation's transformation.
To answer some of your comments: as for economic reform, the Muslim Brotherhood are by and large professionals and businessmen, some of them extremely successful businessmen. They are very different from the Salafis in class and economic interests. As for workers' rights, that is a very volatile issue right now, with the minimum wage having been raised, and expectations raised even higher, at a time when the economy cannot sustain present levels of wages and unemployment is endemic.
The new government has much at hand. Thank you for an intimate perspective.

R♥
Interesting...

would be nice to see the progressive (generational) shift, in arab politics (so visually evident during the 'arab spring') realised more fully... sooner than later, and peacefully.
I'd like to hear more about the 50% "peasant and worker" quota. What are you talking about here? This is something I never, ever heard discussed in the Western media before. Is this a socialist sort of thing, reminiscent of Nasserism?

r
As for the 50% peasants and workers, it is indeed a relic of Nasser 'socialism'. This quota complicated the already complicated election process during the 2012 elections: voters were asked to vote for a candidate as either a 'professional' or part of the 50% quota of peasants & workers.
Wow. The voting apportionment sounds almost "syndicalist" to a degree, in that electoral representation is based on occupation/economic function. At least to a degree.

Is this a fair assessment? Would one call this socialist, or syndicalist?
The next President of Egypt will have to deal with the issue that created the uprising in the first place - massive unemployment among well-educated Egyptian youth. Even the best educated Egyptians suffer from extremely high levels of unemployment.
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