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Egyptian Youth Essays on Liberalism
Why I am Liberal
A selection of translations of essays written by Egyptian youth activists prepared for the book presentation on the sidelines of the IFLRY EC, Beirut , July 17, 2009
Why I am Liberal
Why I am Liberal Foreword:
The book you are holding in your hands contains twenty distinguished articles submitted by young Egyptians who participated in the essay writing contest on “Why I am a liberal”. This competition was the first of its kind in Egypt and co-sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF) and the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth (EULY). The competition took place in the first half of 2009 with the support of the media partners El Marsy al Youm and radio horyitna All in all 76 articles were submitted and considered by a team of senior judges who ranked the quality of the presentations according to a set of defined criteria, among them the literary quality, the liberal content and message and the originality of the arguments. The team of judges consisted of the following individuals: Dr. Ali Eldin Hilal, Prof. Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University, and Former Minster of Youth Dr. Wahid Abdel Megeed, Expert in Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and Vice President of the General Book Authority Dr. Gamal Abdel Gawwad, Expert in Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and Lecturer of Political Science, American University in Cairo Mr. Charl Fouad Al Masry, Executive Editing Manager, Al Masry Al Youm Newspaper To secure the objectivity of the selection, the names of the writers were removed from the texts submitted to the committee of judges. Mr. Muhammad Sa’d Muhammad's article titled "The Flexibility of Liberalism is the Reason for its Continuity" ranked first in the competition. The aim of the essay writing contest and the present publication is to give an opportunity to the Egyptian youth to explain in their own language what it means to be liberal today. The organizers believe that by asking the young people themselves to express their thoughts and ideas, we are following a basic liberal principle.
Why I am Liberal
This book aspires to contribute to the ongoing discussion about liberal values and principles and the relevance of liberal politics in this part of the world. We invite you to join this debate. For further information go to www.librali.net.
Why I am Liberal
By Dr. Ronald Meinardus Regional Director of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Liberalism is one of the great political mainstreams. Yet, at the same time, in the political dictionary of our times hardly another word is as controversial as the term “liberal”. For many, and surely the liberals, the term has only positive connotations. However, the many opponents of liberalism treat it as a curse. This dichotomy is also apparent notably in Egypt, as in other parts of the Arab world. A powerful coalition of conservative, fundamentalist and pseudoprogressive ideologues has joined forces in a continuous effort to demonize liberalism. The proponents of this anti-liberal campaign use all sorts of negative epithets to denigrate liberals, they call them immoral, greedy, unpatriotic, foreign-led and un-religious, even anti-religious. In order to counter these false allegations, yes insults liberals must go on the ideological offensive and convince the (silent) majority that what is said of them by their opponents is not only wrong and malicious, but at times also deceitful. One important challenge, and at the same time a significant advantage of liberalism, is that unlike other political mainstreams it rejects dogmatism. By definition, liberalism is contrary to dogmatism. Liberalism does not offer a single, ideological answer to complicated and complex problems. Liberals like to debate before they come to a conclusion, they ask questions before they give an answer. This openness to discussion and the willingness to question more or less everything should not be misunderstood as a lack of principles and values. On the contrary, liberals have well defined principles – and some of them are not negotiable. At the centre of these stands the freedom of the individual; to enhance freedom and protect it from encroachment is the very essence of all liberal endeavours. In a liberal order, the freedom of the individual is not conceivable without responsibility, which gives a social dimension to the liberal project. In a political philosophical sense the precedence of individual freedom leads to the great concepts of human rights, the rule of law and the equality of opportunity in society. All these great “inventions” of human civilization are the result of
Why I am Liberal
myriad battles and struggles throughout centuries. In these battles liberal men and women were always at the forefront. Being opposed to dogmatism, it is only natural that liberals engage in long debates regarding the interpretation of these basic principles – and what they mean in practical every day (political) life. In this context it is fair to argue that, in effect, there exists not one single liberalism that fits all societies and all countries at any given historical moment. Depending on the given political, economic, cultural, yes historic environment, liberal programs may have varying priorities and focal points. I am saying this against the background of my experiences working for a liberal Foundation in various parts of the world over the past twenty years: After associating with liberals in Greece, in South Korea, in the Philippines and in Taiwan and now in Egypt and in the Arab World, I have come to appreciate that all are confronted with fundamentally different political, social, economic and cultural challenges - and, therefore, are forced by circumstance to develop specific political answers to these local challenges. Still, in defining their programs and policies, liberals in all parts of the world are united by the conviction that in the end of the day the promotion of the freedom of the individual must be the ultimate focus of the political endeavour. One of the most intriguing experiences since coming to this part of the world two and a half years ago has been to discover what I like to term the dynamism of Egyptian liberalism. Egyptian liberals are by far stronger in numbers and in intellectual power than many people inside and outside the country think they are. Also, happily Egyptian liberalism is potentially much stronger than the existing organizations that claim to represent it today. This, I hasten to add, is not the sole fault of these organizations, but also a consequence of a political environment which is little supportive or – to put it bluntly – inimical to liberal political mobilization. This brings me directly to the essays in this book. They reflect the richness and the originality of liberal thought among the youth of Egypt. We at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the judges of the competition who analyzed the contributions with great care and the highest possible objectivity were absolutely fascinated as we read the entries submitted. In the end, it was a very tough task to choose what we deemed are the twenty most valuable contributions.
Why I am Liberal
As the Regional Director of the Foundation, I wish to congratulate all the writers for their participation and their contribution. I encourage everyone to read the following pages and I hope that in the end you will agree that each and every one of the essays contains a unique and intriguing contribution to the Egyptian liberal discourse. The texts provide an insight how young Egyptians define liberalism, how liberal ideas have had an impact on their lives and how – on a more general level – young Egyptians believe liberalism could change in a positive manner the future of their country. In my many encounters with young Egyptian liberal men and women, I have met modern Egyptian patriots with a great personal concern for the future of this great, yet problem ridden nation. My Foundation is proud to be associated with these fine young people and we are happy to provide the sponsorship of this publication so that their voices may be given a wider audience. Liberalism, this book documents, is very much alive in the minds (and the hearts) of the Egyptian youth.
Why I am Liberal
The Flexibility of Liberalism is the Reason for its Continuity
Muhammad Sa’d Muhammad I was born in January 1977, I hold a degree in sociology from the Faculty of Arts, the University of Alexandria (1999) and a postgraduate diploma in tour guiding, also from the University of Alexandria (2003). I started political work as an underage member of the Wafd Party in 1993 and I joined the Ghad Party in 2005. I participated in the presidential elections and was elected member of the executive bureau of Alexandria in 2007. I have participated in a number of events organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, the most important of which was a trip to Germany with a number of youths from Arab liberal political parties to study political and economic youth organizations in Germany. When I dream for Egypt, I dream of a nation that refuses discrimination on any basis whether religion or gender or race. When I dream for Egypt, I dream of a nation that is void of oppression and corruption, a true nation for all its people. I dream of a nation where dreams come true.
Why I am Liberal
I think I am of a generation that reached maturity and developed awareness at a time of great transformations – or great disintegrations – in the world. The collapse of the great wall of Berlin was not simply the demolition of a wall that separated the two Germanies, it was the demolition of a line of demarcation between two ideas that governed two different worlds. The first was a world where humans are the objective and the goal is their wellbeing and prosperity. The second was a world where humans become a tool to achieve objectives that transcend them, pass them over (and in all cases are never achieved). The demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was not simply the demolition of a wall of stone blocks and mortar, it was the demolition of the stones of ideology or the ideologies of the stone age that regarded individuals as inferior and transformed humans into a cog in the wheel of a machine that is supposedly bound for paradise but never arrives at its destination. The collapse of the wall was like a mercy bullet to what used to be known as the Soviet Union – the empire that ruled the communist bloc for seven decades. And the Soviet Union fell when its mighty military machine and its terrible machine of internal oppression and its vast propaganda machine were no longer able to prop it up. They could no longer prevent the collapse because it came from within the individual for whose sake the Bolshevist revolution claims to have arisen. Man was no longer able to achieve the higher goals of the group and the state and in parallel, the group was no longer able to secure man’s rights and reinforce his liberties. The collapse of the Soviet Union had more than one meaning, the most significant of which was that the state lasts and survives as long as it maintains individual liberties not military machines and tools of oppression. This scene shaped the universal awareness of a generation of Egyptian liberal youths. This is the generation that was born at the end of the seventies and the beginning of the eighties, a period that witnessed a series of regional and local transformations that affected Egyptian society and attracted it to liberalism. The most significant of these transformations were as follows: 1. The phenomenon of Gulf money and the migration of many of the members of the Egyptian middle classes to these countries and their return influenced by a culture that is more conservative and less liberal.
Why I am Liberal
2. The reinforcement of religious forces that combat liberal ideas and put them in a forced and unreal position of opposition to religion. 3. Despite signs that the political scene might clear up especially after the re-establishment of political parties, these signs did not achieve the expected results and liberal thinkers were clamped down on both by the state and by the religious movements to the extent that some thinkers (Farag Fouda for example) paid for there enlightened stances with their lives. 4. Western support of Israel at the expense of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians resulted in a state of apprehension and rejection of all that is Western. This included the rejection of progressive and enlightened values and was due to the confusion between civilized values of a universal humane nature and the political choices of the West. 5. Although Egypt had a liberal heritage that developed from the nineteenth century to 1952, the liberal forces that appeared later were unable to regain their former strength. This was due to changes in the historical and political circumstances and to the administrative weakness of these new movements. 6. The ruling party carried out economic policies that did not gain popular approval such as the badly planned liquidation of the public sector and the random sale of these assets at prices less than market value. All this was overshadowed by increasing accusations of corruption and was carried out under the banner of liberalism, a fact that led to a state of confusion about the meaning of the term. All of the above led to the appearance of a new generation of Egyptian liberals. This generation was burdened by the accumulated problems of the past years yet armed with the fruits of an information revolution – the biggest in history – that allowed it to find out more about the progression of the human race towards values of liberty, co-existence, tolerance, acceptance of others, equality in rights and duties, and many other liberal values that Egyptian society was in dire need of. This was especially vital after the political and social arteries of the nation had became clogged, what with the state of isolation propelled by religion that has manifested itself lately. The idea of liberalism first appeared at the end of the Middle Ages under circumstances very similar to those Egypt is now going through at the beginning of the third millennium. Control of the heavens was in the hands of a religious establishment and control of earth was the monopoly
Why I am Liberal
of political tyrannical forces and in both cases, it was the people who paid the price. Liberties were repressed first in the name of religion, then in the name of the group, then in the name of the state. Religious and political oppression was what the whole world had in common. In the East, caliphs used scholars of jurisprudence to get rid of their opposition and oppress all those who dared not to agree with them (examples range from al-Husayn to ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr to al-Ja’d ibn Adham to Abu Hanifa to Ibn Hanbal to Ibn Rushd). In the West, the Church allied itself with kings and feudal princes who ruled in the name of religion and were regarded as God’s hand on earth. Anyone who opposed or disagreed or thought differently paid the price (examples start with the inquisition courts and do not end with Galileo). Historical happenstance favored the European West and its civilizational curve was on the rise while unfortunately, the East started to regress. In Europe, ideas started to surface rejecting the concept of the divine right to rule and denying the notion that God had delegated one person out of many to rule His subjects in His name. Theories surfaced that argue that the political conception of government is that it is a consenting contract between two parties both of free will. It is a variable human contract not a sacred Godly one. It can therefore be changed, altered and developed. This is known as the theories of the social contract. Even more important than the concept of the social contract is the idea that John Locke put forth, namely that of natural rights. This is the idea that I, you, and all humanity whether they are ruling or being ruled were born with equal rights and that no one is above others whatever the religious, ethnic, gender, or class differences between them. And no religious or earthly power is allowed to strip these individuals of their rights, which are as follows: 1. The right to life 2. The right to have faith and to express this faith freely. 3. The right to private property. Property used to be a monopoly of the feudal classes and this enabled them to monopolize wealth and power. Monopoly, whether political or economic, is absolutely rejected by liberal thought.
Why I am Liberal
I do not deny that a good part of these ideas has roots in our culture. Human civilization is a continuous chain of ideas, one adding to the other. As we have benefited from concepts that have appeared in the West, the West has made use of ideas that are rooted in our culture. The major contribution of western thinkers was to formulate these ideas and arrive at a clear concept of individual liberty that does not allow any power, whether religious or political, to penetrate or defile it. Based on the concept of natural rights, came what can be called the system of liberal values, i.e. the principles indispensable to the realization of liberalism. To my mind, the most important of these values is the value of diversity or difference. According to liberalism, people are by nature different whether in ideas or in religious, cultural, ethnic or social background. Moreover, it argues that this diversity is the best of human qualities because it leads to creativity, competition and development. A further set of basic values related to this basic value of difference appeared. They were acceptance of the other (he who differs with you), tolerance (accepting that the other has a different view and has the right to express it in any manner as long as it is peaceful), co-existence (that different ideas can exist together without attempts by any side to alienate or eliminate the other sides), the relativity of truth (no opinion has a monopoly over absolute truth, truth is relative and it differs from one to the other according to point of view and way of thinking). Then comes the inception of another set of values that are related to liberal political views. They argue that all humans have the same natural rights and this is why liberalism believes in a state governed by laws that consider all individuals, whether rulers or ruled, as equal. Liberalism also believes in the accountability and responsibility of the ruler. In other words, it believes that the ruler has reached a position of power through the free consent of the people, or by contract from the individuals he has come to rule. He thus rules by proxy in return for responsibility and is therefore always in a position of accountability and is answerable to his people. The people are allowed to review the level of his commitment to the terms of the contract or to the constitution. They can, by common consent, call him to account, even remove him if he does not abide by the terms of the contract.
Why I am Liberal
And since liberalism is against monopoly, it believes in the peaceful exchange of power through a political competition between different ideas (through free elections in which individuals choose a person to represent them in the administration of public affairs or legislation of laws or monitoring the government, i.e. in the parliament). Economic liberalism is founded on the idea of freedom to own coupled with freedom to compete in the market. This only happens through the prevention of monopoly and encouragement of competition. Liberalism argues that competition in economics, as in politics, will raise the efficiency of both services and goods. Probably the thing that surprises me most about liberalism is its amazing ability to self-critique and correct its mistakes. While many ideas have fallen prey to rigidity, ideological apathy and intellectual narrowmindedness, liberalism developed its economic performance. When the idea of letting the market work without state interference according to its own mechanism failed, a new liberal school of thought appeared and called for the intervention of the state to regulate the market and prevent monopoly, exploitation of workers and protect the rights of the individual, whether producer or consumer. A set of laws appeared in liberal countries that outlawed monopoly, dictated the number of working hours, regulated wages, holidays, days off, specified quality control for goods and set up a wide network of social security that insured against unemployment, disability, sickness and old age. It provided many of the privileges that the states that claim to have arisen for the rights of workers could not sustain. This economic flexibility comes hand in hand with political flexibility whereby the applications of liberalism differ from one country to the other and from one political current to the other. These differences enrich the concept of liberalism without undermining it. I was even more amazed by the respect liberalism has for the cultural specificity of the peoples of the world. As we mentioned, it is not against diversity, in fact it co-exists with difference and interacts with it. Nor is it against religion, as some people have portrayed it to be. It was always a call for religious and cultural tolerance. It assured every individual the right to adopt whatever suits his beliefs without coercion or interference in
Why I am Liberal
his religious faith and without this faith being the reason for any form of discrimination or persecution. This is why liberal tolerance of religious and sectarian difference is the only guarantee and the ideal solution for societies with diverse religious doctrines. This precludes the elimination or isolation of the followers of a certain sect or religion. One should therefore not wonder when one finds out that liberalism is one of the oldest ideas that appeared in the Modern Egyptian state at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Liberalism and Egyptian character blended and took on a new shape that was purely Egyptian. It was first introduced to us by turbaned men of religion (and not foreigners in hats). The inception of the Egyptian liberal tradition came with the ideas of the Azhari Sheikh Hasan al-‘Attar and his call to make use of what suits us of western civilization. He was followed by another Azhari, Rifa’a alTahtawi, who translated the French constitution and was awestruck by the law that equates between all citizens, whether rulers or subjects. Despite his reservations about some of the aspects of European civilization, he did not hide his admiration of the tradition of European liberties. He was then followed by a third sheikh, originally from Syria, ‘Abd al-Rahman alKawakibi who exposed what he called the ‘traits of oppression’ in Arab political thought and paid for this with his life. And finally, we should not forget the great reformer, Sheikh Muhammad ‘Abduh and his enlightened views on reforming religious apathy that had hindered progress for centuries. The ‘sheikhs of the Egyptian renaissance’ or the founding fathers of Egyptian liberalism continued to appear and their efforts were crowned by one of the greatest of all Egyptian revolutions, the revolt of the people of Egypt in 1919 in demand of independence and of a constitution. This is the revolution that produced the 1923 constitution in which came the admission, for the first time in Egyptian history, that the nation is the source of all power. This constitution shaped what came to be known as the period of liberalism. It had its flaws and they included the palace overthrowing constitutional legitimacy and the constant interference of the British occupation. Yet it also witnessed the peaceful exchange of power between the different political parties (in spite of the palace stepping in against the will of the people), the flourishing of academic liberties and of literature and art. During this period, Egypt produced giants in the world of literature, poetry, art, science and politics and they were living proof
Why I am Liberal
that the experience was growing in spite of certain negative aspects. Yet instead of building on this great tradition, it was completely destroyed and overturned after July 1952, the revolution that started a new era with its own pros and cons. And the most negative of these cons was the fact that it turned against the great liberal tradition. I think that this project is able to unleash human abilities and talents that had broken down and rigidified under the yoke of tyranny and political and social oppression. This is why … I am a liberal
Why I am Liberal
Richness is in Diversity
Cynthia Farahat I was born in 1980. I study Journalism in the Modern Science and Arts University. I was a founding member of a liberal political party between 2004 and 2007 and have participated in organizing a number of political activities related to liberalism and human rights under the auspices of both Egyptian and international civic organizations. In addition to my work experience as co-coordinator of the Network of Arab Liberals in collaboration with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in 2008, I practice sculpting and writing as hobbies. I dream of a political environment in Egypt that is both civic and civilized and that emulates the types of political regimes that facilitate all aspects of life for its citizens and have discovered that the ideal way to achieve this is through work, political civic and liberal struggle with passion and love for this nation and for the achievement of comprehensive human rights for all citizens of Egypt, on all levels, as is the case with the citizens of the free world.
Why I am Liberal
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” Albert Camus Many thinkers, scholars and philosophers have remarked that good questions incorporate their answers. From that we can deduce that good ideas hold within them the mechanisms for their successful application. This question (why am I a liberal) can be classified as one of those self-explanatory questions that answer themselves somehow, especially if we rely on observation and life experience to mould our opinions and thinking methods. We are not accustomed, in the Arab Region, to wonder about the terms that define us and that we may even be obliged to fight for. We do not stop to think about this type of question, a question that may even be considered by some as criminal for we did not choose most of the identities that define us. Most often they are Prêt-à-Porter identities. Laws exist to punish skeptics who question those ideologies they didn't choose for themselves, yet they are being used consistently to represent us. The laws that are there to protect these ideas are an indication of the critical situation we have put ourselves in and which does not speak well for our ideas and methodology. We were brought up to believe in ideologies, defend them, and sometimes die for them without being afforded the luxury of questioning them, analyzing them, or objectively testing them or doubting the degree of their relevance or applicability. We were therefore never primed to question even the most private of beliefs such as those related to religion or political orientation. Most of the definitions that represent us are drilled into us. They are an intellectual and existential reduction of who we really are and they do not even allow us the luxury of rejecting them. Political, legislative and penalizing systems against questioning and criticism and this in itself is sufficient proof of the inapplicability of these ideological systems. We need a lot of courage to come face to face with this realization. So why liberalism? My personal choice of liberalism to be one of the basic tenets by which I define myself is not simply a result of conviction of an idea. It is much, much more than that. Liberalism is the political, social and intellectual philosophy that I found myself being guided by as I tried to live the values of brotherhood and tolerance by putting the rights of all those around as a priority in my daily life. My ambition is to be a small seed for the
Why I am Liberal
solution rather than a negative factor in the problem. One of the fundamental points that makes me proud to represent myself by this term is because liberalism is capable of presenting itself through a critical question such as this and accepts that I write now in its favor or against it and in both cases allows me the same rights and privileges. This is because liberalism is a political and economic system and a way of philosophical and everyday thinking that does not involve incriminating those who doubt it, analyze it or reject it. In fact, you are choose it freely and rejected freely. Moreover, liberalism will guarantee me the right to declare and announce my disapproval and rejection of it through its very different channels! And I do not accept to represent myself by an idea unless this idea can tolerate my rejection of it should choose to do so one day. Yet this degree of tolerance would certainly make me more and more tenacious in holding on to it. Liberalism assumes that I am responsible and mentally adequate of bearing the burden of freedom, which in my opinion is more difficult than being born within a sealed system of intellectual slavery that affords us with the means to relinquish individual responsibility and throws the burden of informed choice off our shoulders. With liberalism, all options are available and I have to choose and decide and bear the consequences. This is responsible freedom and it is not the freedom that is endorsed by non-liberal regimes. They try to convince us that freedom is moral lassitude and crime, as if these regimes do not themselves suffer from all forms of immorality and criminal behaviors. In fact, their policies of opacity and covering up inflame the situation and provide the perfect environment for these problems to escalate. Liberalism is knowledge through the right to publish all ideas and information and to disseminate knowledge through any medium of communication. Liberalism creates an environment of freedom in which you can get to know yourself and come face to face with your true identity hidden under the veneer of big words that have been forcefully dictated and indoctrinated to you. It allows you to choose after you get to know your identity and after you become relatively informed about the nature of the outside world, not through what is said about it in the media of its enemies, but through how it has chosen to represent itself. You then bear the consequences of this newfound knowledge and accept responsibility for it because there is no merit in choosing virtue if this choice is forced upon us. In fact, choosing any human or moral value within an atmosphere of freedom is the true test of the real mettle of the truth of our core. This is the kind of space that liberalism affords us so we can see ourselves in our true light and choose and become who we want to be based on
Why I am Liberal
experience, trial and error and individual responsibility. This to me is liberalism. The late American Judge Potter Stewart once said, “Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself”. To withhold information and rein in ideas because we are not able to deal with them is to pre-judge that we are mentally disqualified for freedom. It is a preconception that dooms us to incompetence of thought. Withholding ideas and information through censorship makes us more enslaved to prevalent ideas that are approved by dictatorships and totalitarian regimes. My choice, as an individual, to represent myself as a liberal does not simply stem from my love of tolerance, it is also a pragmatic choice based on how I can make use of it. It therefore contains within it the seed of self-improvement and evolution that is the main trait of the planet we live in. Liberalism is the result of accumulative knowledge that comes from centuries of human struggle to improve our civilization. It is an idea that has crystallized through centuries of trial and error and forbearance with the aim of creating an environment suited to the application of political, individual and economic liberties and for the practice of sound science, art and thought under the banner of liberalism. This freedom has been one of the primary goals of the human race many eras and epochs past. Moreover, it is a political and intellectual system that is good for hundreds of years to come, and should a better idea appear, liberalism is capable of evolving with it and not obliterating it. It is a philosophy of bridges and open doors, not of ready-made walls or dictated identities. Liberalism is a thought process that has taken shape through an experimental methodology of scientific and critical thinking. Its applicability is tried and tested and its success is proven. I have adopted it and am overwhelmed by a need to apply it so as to create for myself an environment that embraces my trajectory towards self-improvement. And because I am part of this planet on this historical moment and because evolution and change are the fundamental quality of Planet Earth, it will not wait around for me to acknowledge it and it will not move backward with or without me. Yet in embracing evolution and development, I fulfill a need as an individual and as part of society to be in sync with the nature of evolution, to be at ease with the world, and to find myself a small space in which I may be creative with my life on both the individual and social level. Liberalism is one of the few ideologies in the world that propose criticism of self and other as one of its primary poles. This is because it is one of the
Why I am Liberal
results of relative human accumulative experience that discovered that freedom is the ideal ground and the true lab for trial, error, evolution, and then success. One of the main pillars on which it stands is acceptance of the others without incriminating difference or attaching negative preconceptions and labels to it. I disagree with Sartre for saying hell is other people. On the contrary, other people, other cultures, and other identities are a paradise of richness as has been proven by liberalism, which comes in tandem with pragmatism. We grew up in Egypt learning from society that difference is a sign of danger and that it should be avoided, in fact obliterated, at all cost. I then discovered that diversity is indeed a goldmine of educational, cultural, developmental and peaceful resources. The benefit that I derive, for example, from dealing with Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican Christians or Sunni, Shia, Quranic, Bahai Muslims, Jews, Atheists or Sikhs or Hindus or Buddhists is indescribable. It has enriched me with intellect, education, depth, tolerance, forbearance and logical thinking much, much more than I would have gained if I had imprisoned myself within one idea, seen the world through its eyes and prejudged it inexperienced. The liberalism that has emancipated my mind and allowed me to exist in a healthy environment is the same liberalism that is applied in western countries that offer asylum even to those who do not believe in these countries or have even attacked them ritually. Liberalism has created a social and political environment where even those who oppose and fight liberalism aspire to live. Even its opponents desire to live under its protection! Are any of the ideologies prevalent here strong enough to take a similar position? Can any of the schools of thought currently prevalent in our society provide refuge for those who oppose them as liberal societies and countries have with their opponents? For example, can Salman Rushdie come to us and find protection? Can we afford him complete rights although he has rejected a principle tenet of our identity the way the United Kingdom has guaranteed protection and rights to its opponents from other countries, this in spite of the fact that some, like Omar Bakry, have announced their complete and utter hatred of this country? For years, Bakry has rejected and criticized the UK, until he finally decided to wage war and incite violence against it after years of living in luxury and comfort of the money of the British taxpayers. Can we, without liberalism, reach this level of sophistication and give our opponents a chance to express themselves peacefully non violently?
Why I am Liberal
We do not accept those who differ from us or oppose us some of ideas and ways, and this is why non-liberal countries have problems like transition of power. We never find a scene as powerful as the one we witnessed in the United States when the white man bowed in front of the black man he had previously enslaved not very long ago and handed him the keys of the White House to rule him from. This scene that shook the world was one of the few scenes that I witnessed and made me truly grateful to witness one of the strongest moments in humanity's modern history. I was watching a scene whose protagonist was not simply the black man who triumphed over oppression and slavery. The real triumph belonged to the white man who vanquished his racism. This scene is the answer to the question, “why am I a liberal”. I am one because liberalism is a triumph over our individual bigotry before it is a triumph to whom rights are endowed. Abraham Lincoln once said, “As I would not be a slave, I would not be a master”, and as I would not be a victim of oppression, I would not be a silent party to its favor.
Why I am Liberal
So that Mariam Loves her Country
Shihab Abd al-Magid Wagih I was born in February 1984, I graduated in May 2008 with a BSc in engineering from the University of Helwan. I am an electro-mechanic engineer in Degla Group for Real-Estate Investment. I am a founding member of al-Gabha Party and am the head of the Free Youth Front, the youth wing of the party. I am a member of the executive bureau of the party and a liberal activist. I would like to thank everyone who taught me to accept the other and understand him. I dream of a world in which everyone accepts each other and dream of a world where everyone accepts each other and know the fact that they differ and compete enriches them and builds them a better future.
Why I am Liberal
I did not know her but the innocence and sweetness that lit up her features were unmistakable. I was in one of these endlessly argumentative debate circles about the Camp David treaty and about peace, and to be honest, like many others, I was not paying much attention to the subject under discussion until it was her turn to speak. Her accent was obvious Palestinian, and this was in keeping with the Arab features of her face. “My name is Mariam. I am a Christian Palestinian from Gaza”. This is how she started her comment. She did not join the ongoing competition for ‘most powerful empty slogan”. Instead, she told her story with the utmost honesty and love. She, like all the people of Gaza, had suffered under Israeli occupation. She was persecuted for no reason other than the fact that she was an Arab Christian living under the shadow of an occupation that had usurped her freedom and her land. And when a new hope shone thanks to her struggle and the struggle of her brethren, a new system of self-rule came as a result of a democratic process. It was a government that represented the dictatorship of the majority and it wished to force her to wear the hijab, a choice she respected but did not embrace, and it wished to prevent her from listening publicly to the hymns she loved, and if they were sung out loud, the police of the majority could attack her. Just one example of the many infractions of liberty that are committed in the name of democracy. Mariam was the victim of a democracy that was not liberal. My dear reader, before you start to insult and curse Mariam and the writer of these words, and start saying that before the freedom of the individual comes the liberation of the land, and that for the sake of the nation sacrifices should be made willingly, and that Mariam’s right to practice her faith freely is nothing compared to the quest for a nation that is whole not fractured, I ask you to imagine with me Mariam’s future within the current conditions. Do you think that Mariam, as part of the minority, will love a nation that does not love her? Do you think she will hold on to her sense of belonging to a nation that rejects her and does not acknowledge her rights? Will she resist the temptation of the monies of the invader and his promises of freedom? Will a weak and crumbling nation campaigning abroad for its freedom be able to stand firm when its minority is persecuted within? Let us apply this example to Egypt. Egypt is a nation whose true majority is a large group of ethnic, sectarian and ideological minorities. Imagine with me
Why I am Liberal
what would happen if the majority of one faction took control and forced its beliefs on everyone and privileged its race over all others, will the sense of belonging survive? Will peace survive? Will the nation survive? This is why I am a liberal. I am a liberal because I believe that the state was not established so that it may force its views on the inhabitants of the country. It was established to respect their rights and their liberties. I am a liberal because I do not believe in a state that feeds you, teaches you, employs you according to its whim and within the limitations of a capacity which will stay limited because of a deficiency in enthusiasm and passion for work. How could we expect a person to be enthusiastic for work when he sees that those who work and those who do not are equally rewarded? I am a liberal because I believe in a ruling majority that respects the rights of the minority. I am a liberal because I believe that competition is the only way to a better life as long as it is governed by law. Political competition brings the best candidate to power and economic competition brings the cheapest best quality product to the citizen. I am a liberal because I refuse monopoly over power, economics or truth. I am a liberal because I believe in a state based on law, not on a state founded on one person or one idea. I am a liberal because I believe in a world that develops and does not stop at one rigid ideology whatever its name and liberalism by nature is the opposite of rigid ideology. I am a liberal because I believe in the integration of the world and in its cooperation through free trade and cultural links. I am a liberal because I believe that only the rule of law can provide citizens with a good life and that only equal opportunity can achieve the best results. I am a liberal because I want Mariam to love her homeland and to build it hand in hand with her brethren of different religions and ideas.
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