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Opinion: The Abla Fahita Distraction - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A fajita is a well-known Mexican food quite similar to the Lebanese shawarma. But in Egypt today, the term “Fahita” is more popularly associated with the name of a fictional character called Abla Fahita, a puppet well-known on social networking websites for her social and political commentary. Her name suggests that the person pulling the strings has a passion for Mexican food.

Abla Fahita burst onto the political scene last week, and local Egyptian and foreign media found her to be a perfect target for coverage. Media outlets were fascinated by the puppet, which has had accusations of inciting terrorism thrown at it. A complaint has been lodged with Egypt’s prosecutor-general against a Vodafone ad featuring Abla Fahita which, it is claimed, is being used to transmit secret terrorist messages. According to Egyptian law, the prosecutor-general is compelled to investigate any complaint, regardless of how frivolous it may be.

The media can, of course, be excused for its interest in this story, which combines suspense and humor and thus, one would think, would be equally of interest to the general public. But no sooner had the story emerged than it vanished, once people came to realise it had not warranted this level of coverage.

Many largely imaginative stories that have no basis in fact have been circulating in the media recently. It is wrong to preoccupy the public with such rumors, which only distract from the real issues and create a social climate of distrust and skepticism. In fact, Egyptian society today reminds me of the well-known Arabic proverb: “He whose tongue is burned by hot soup blows even on yogurt”—i.e., Once bitten, twice shy.

We cannot blame society for being skeptical, because the post-January 25 developments caused many Egyptians to rethink things they had believed in or thought represented the truth. These developments included the assumption of power by the Muslim Brotherhood and its attempts to set a consensual roadmap at a time when society, political forces and institutions were in a state of confusion. However, Egypt was taken aback by the Islamist group, which tried, through trickery, to impose its own ideology on the country. At times, the Brotherhood was faced with outright rejection by society at large, which sat uncomfortably with the group’s administration of the country, particularly given its attempts to monopolize power. As a result, the Egyptian people took to the streets in protest against the Brotherhood.

Promoting skepticism and searching for hidden conspiracies is unhealthy for the collective consciousness, because it diverts attention away from what is important: promoting the political process and achieving a roadmap to end the transition. The political and media elite must be responsible for focusing and directing the public’s attention towards important issues, thus improving political discourse for all concerned.

Doubtless, achieving the first step of the roadmap by holding the forthcoming referendum on the draft constitution will create a new momentum, particularly if there is high voter turnout. This will create a climate of trust and hope in the society’s ability to overcome any future difficulties. The only solution is for the roadmap to be pushed forward and finalized, because standing still would be tantamount to suicide.