Dallas resident Mahmoud Fahmy, a retired professor and historian who was born in Egypt, said that while the upheaval and bloodshed in his native land might seem far removed from everyday life in the United States, it would be in the best interest of Americans to keep abreast of the situation for several reasons.
Egypt is “a very important ally of the United States,” and an informed public can help convince their elected officials to deal with the country appropriately. “We cannot just think, ‘We don’t care, let them kill each other,’” Fahmy, 82, said in a recent interview.
“Speaking as an American, we should be informed about the issues because it’s very easy to look at social media news and rumors and make generalizations. … Religion and education are very important from a cultural perspective. We should not overreact in this case,” he said, given that Egypt is an Islamic society.
From a financial aspect, increased unrest in the Middle East can lead to rising oil prices. Also, Egypt is in control of the Suez Canal, a major pipeline of goods between the East and West. If operation of the canal is threatened, that could cause prices forgoods to spike. With the unrest, Egyptian labor also is threatened.
Fahmy said it’s important to understand why people are rioting in the streets and holding sit-ins. Supporters of Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted as president last month, have been staging sit-ins and the army has been attacking them. Many of them are members or supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt’s June 2012 presidential election was the first democratic election unmarred by widespread irregularities and allegations of rigging. “There’s no doubt it was a free election,” said Fahmy. “But what percentage of Egyptian people went to the ballots?”
Fahmy, incidentally, supports the freedom to demonstrate. But he said demonstrations are different from sit-ins, because the former are disruptive to society and can prevent people from getting the groceries and medical care they need to live.
Fahmy believes the Egyptian people who ousted Morsi’s predecessor — Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s fourth president who was in office 30 years until the Arab Spring in 2011 — “are looking for not justice and democracy. They are looking to restore their dignity.”
For centuries, despotic rulers dehumanized the Egyptian people, Fahmy said. A lack of housing, infrastructure, education and medical care led people to seek the removal of Mubarak. What allowed the people to succeed was the army’s refusal to intercede and follow Mubarak’s orders to kill the protesters.
Morsi, said Fahmy, “could be a very good man.”
“However, he did not deliver the dignity the people wanted. For this reason, they came back and revolted. And the revolution will continue,” he said. “Revolution cannot be settled in a week or a month or a year. Look at the Civil War in the U.S.”
The American Civil War lasted four years.
But Fahmy believes there eventually will be compromise. He is optomistic that “part of the Muslim Brotherhood will say it’s time to work with the other parties so we can have a government of national unity.”