x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

A little respect where it's due, please

Egyptians have a sad tendency to disdain and devalue high achievers, a literary pundit says. Other topics today: Salafist extremism and Arabic culture.

Smear campaigns against successful people are the worst of all ills in Egyptian society

Societies get sick just like individuals, and Egyptian society is no exception, Egyptian literary figure Alaa Aswani wrote in an opinion piece, entitled Do Egyptians hate success?, in the Cairo-based daily Al Masry Al Youm.

"The worst of all ills of the Egyptian society is this sick appetite among some individuals for attacking and defaming high achievers," Aswani wrote.

Certain Egyptian success-haters are bent on bearing a grudge against any person who gets ahead. They fiercely fight them and downplay their achievements until they quit or get frustrated, he argued.

A case in point is Dr Ahmed Zewail, the prominent Egyptian Nobel laureate in chemistry and holder of more than 50 honorary doctorates worldwide.

Dr Zewail returned to Egypt to serve his country in the field of science, only to fight for over 15 years for his ambitious scientific project, to no avail.

Worse still, when the former president, Hosni Mubarak, heard reports that Dr Zewail had enormous popularity among Egyptian youth, Dr Zeweil quickly became the subject of systematic smear campaign from all directions.

This failure in society has its roots in three factors, according to Aswani.

First, the majority of awards in Egypt have been governed by favouritism and connections, rather than merit. Thus, any recognition at home has been greeted with scepticism. But sceptics have been oblivious to the fact that most awards in the West are based on objective standards.

Second, as extremist ideology took root, many Egyptians have tended to brand the West as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, and cast a sceptical eye over any figure earning international recognition.

True, the policies of western governments have often inflicted massive harm upon Arabs and Muslims, but it is equally true that governments and peoples in the West are not one and the same.

For instance, many people in the West supported Egypt's revolution from day one, while governments oscillated between backing Mubarak and sitting on the fence.

Third, 30 years of corruption and injustice under Mubarak have led to bitter frustration among Egyptians, many of whom feel they deserve a better life.

These malcontents are convinced that their failure to make it big is due only to unfavourable circumstances, not laziness or incompetence. The flip side is that this always invites comparison with Egyptians who attain success on a global scale.

Seeing successful people is annoying because it proves that failure is not due to destiny or adverse circumstances, but rather to incompetence or non-performance. The frustrated then find solace in frenzied attacks on Egyptian achievers.

Let us hope that the revolution has brought an end to this success-hating disease, Aswani concluded.

Salafist extremism growing in Libya

Developments in Libya no longer make headlines as they did during the fierce fighting that ended with the toppling of Muammar Qaddafi, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi noted in its editorial.

The causes of this lack of interest are not hard to deduce. First, regime change was achieved through Nato intervention. Next, Libya's oil exports are back to normal, about 1.4 million barrels per day. Third comes the media, which has no desire to distress readers and viewers with appalling pictures coming in from Libya, the editorial said.

On Monday, an armed group launched an attack on the headquarters of Benghazi's criminal investigation department. Earlier, car bomb explosions struck the capital Tripoli and, days later, a Salafi extremist group rased a Sufi mosque.

The US embassy in Tripoli, reopened only a few days ago, encapsulated the situation when it issued a government warning to US citizens against visiting Libya for fear of murder or kidnapping.

Interior minister Fawzi Abdel Aal was candid when he submitted his resignation after being widely criticised. He admitted his ministry's failure to maintain security.

The editorial said Mr Fawzi was also honest to say, in comments about the mosque attack, that the extremists in Libya are powerful and numerous, and that he could not enter into a losing battle to kill people over a grave.

Lack of culture in the Arab Spring

There are several curious ironies in the developments unfolding in the Arab world, but the lack of culture and literature in the Arab Spring remains striking, Abdul Latif Zubaidi wrote in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

Who is responsible for this? Is it because "the transformations smelled fishy to the clairvoyant Arab intelligentsia?" the writer asked sarcastically.

There is no way one can strike an analogy between the Arab revolutions and the French Revolution, except in two matters, he said: high unemployment among the populace, and the exacerbation of cruelty and extremism.

But there's no parallel when it comes to pioneering thinking as the harbinger of change.

Pre-1789 France enjoyed an elite of intellectual heavyweights, though most of the populace was illiterate. And French artists played a major part in the revolution. In the decade after 1789 alone, 3,000 songs and chants were created - almost one a day, the writer remarked.

"Has a single song about the Arab Spring piqued your interest since the self-immolation of [Tarek Al-Tayeb Mohamed]Bouazizi?" he asked.

It is a striking irony that the Arab Spring has not even produced a new breed of national anthem such as France's La Marseillaise, the writer observed.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni