Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The voice of reason between Saudi Arabia and Egypt | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Imagine if all Arab people were asked which of the following two situations is better: A young man sees his friend quarreling with someone. The first situation sees him intervene to fight his friend’s opponent before he even inquires about the situation. The second situation sees the young man separating the two fighting sides and then inquiring about the cause for such hostility. He then makes a judgment either by placing the blame on one of them or holding them accountable together, but to different extents. Certainly, everyone would rationally answer that second display of conduct is far better.

The case of Ahmed al-Gizawi, whom the Saudi authorities allege entered their country with a sizable amount of prohibited narcotic pills, is yet to be prosecuted. Nevertheless, in the manner of “street fighting”, mistakes have been committed by two narrow categories on both the Saudi and Egyptian sides. On the Egyptian side, it was a fatal mistake for some demonstrators to attack the premises of the Saudi Embassy, a manner of conduct that no religion, custom or law would sanction even if a guilty verdict was passed upon al-Gizawi by the Saudi judiciary. How on earth could such uncivilized conduct be justified when the Saudi judiciary is yet to pass a sentence? On the Saudi side, the mistake has been limited to the irresponsible words and descriptions posted on social networking websites, which incorporated unfair generalizations blaming the Egyptian majority for the errors committed by a minority.

The situation would have remained manageable had it been limited to the reactionary and irrational minority, which could exist in any nation in the world. Yet, the real catastrophe occurred when a handful of intellectuals and columnists on both sides used utterly obscene racist words that added fuel to the fire of hostility. The Saudi and Egyptian people had the misfortune of the al-Gizawi incident coinciding with the feverish Egyptian presidential elections, which meant that the issue was soon exploited by those seeking only to win the greatest number of votes. One of those presidential candidates was Amr Musa, who demanded that al-Gizawi be released, although he is aware that the case is yet to be taken to court. Similarly, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party claimed that the masses who demonstrated in front of the premises of the Saudi Embassy over the past few days have only expressed the people’s desire to maintain the dignity of the Egyptian expatriate community in other Arab states, yet the party failed to condemn the attack on the embassy itself.

The silver lining of this issue is that a broad category on the Egyptian side has requested in a civilized manner that the Saudi authorities grant al-Gizawi the right to a fair trial with a lawyer to defend him. At the same time, this category has condemned what a small minority of the Egyptian people did in front of the Saudi embassy. Similarly, there is also a broad category of Saudi people who saw the attack on their embassy as an act of aggression limited to a handful of people, maintaining their love and appreciation for the Egyptians in general, and also attacking those Saudis who made generalizations and unfair judgments. Unfortunately, the small minority that used reactionary phrases and racist terminology seems to have the louder voice.