Khalid, an Egyptian friend, works as a Cairo taxi driver. I have known him for years. His main concern is learning new shortcuts and routes across Cairo to better serve his customers. He does not talk about politics or related issues, except as a courtesy to his passengers, including myself!
At least, this was what Khalid was like until the recent tensions that led to the ouster of the Mubarak regime. Khalid was like any of the other millions of Egyptians who rejoiced at the fall of the Mubarak regime, although I do not say all the Egyptians did so. However Khalid’s joy was accompanied by concerns over the future, particularly as the stars of the new political spectrum were largely unknown to him. He knew who Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, Chief of Staff Sami Annan, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and former Foreign Ministry Amr Musa were, but everybody else was unknown to him, and that includes Mohamed Mursi. In addition to this, Khalid had no idea who Hamdeen Sabahi, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and perhaps even Mohamed ElBaradei were. At the time of the revolution he had only heard of ElBaradei in passing, and was not sure whether he was a prominent businessman, film star or an Egyptian academic living abroad!
The events transpired rapidly, particularly after Mubarak’s final speech. Khalid was of the view that this speech, in which Mubarak pledged not to stand for elections or bequeath power to his son, as well as amend the constitution regarding the political opposition, would put an end to the crisis. He said that he was optimistic at this point, and believed that this speech would draw a line under the crisis and that Egypt would then see a return to normalcy. However, following the so-called Battle of the Camel, Khalid lent his voice to the Tahrir Square protest demands for Mubarak to step down. Following this, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] took power, and Khalid said that he was of the view that SCAF would sort out the country, adding that the Egyptian military is “strong.”
As for Mursi’s election victory at the second round of elections against Ahmed Shafiq, Khalid said that he was angered by this. He relates that he had just returned to Egypt at this point after undertaking an umrah pilgrimage, the first of his life. Khalid is a religious man but in the uncomplicated Egyptian manner. He is worried about the fate of Egypt, particularly the tourist sector, as his profession is largely affected by this sector and its vitality.
Khalid’s was further angered by the Muslim Brotherhood president’s confrontation against the Egyptian judiciary, beginning with the dismissal of the Egyptian Public Prosecutor, and then the announcement of the constitutional declaration. His anger reached peaked with the Muslim Brotherhood militia’s besieging of the Supreme Constitutional Court, with the situation reaching the point where pitched battles broke out in Egypt’s public streets and squares!
Khalid, the taxi driver, has 4 children, two boys and two girls, whilst he also takes care of his ailing mother. He stressed that he is preoccupied with his own daily life and needs and has no life for anything else. He also revealed that he is currently almost finished reading a book by researcher Tharwat al-Gharbawi, a former senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood who left the group and has become one of its strongest critics.
There are many others in Khalid’s position who have been pushed by recent events to counteract their ignorance or indifference and inform themselves of the history, literature and battles of the Muslim Brotherhood. In my view, this is the biggest gain that has been made from what is happening.
Yes, the issue will take time, perhaps even so much as a generation, but this is the true key for change: awareness. Much of our problems are the result of our own ignorance, and this includes journalists and politicians – as well as taxi drivers – regarding the reality of the intellectual existential crisis that is disrupting the Muslims and Arabs. The greatest embodiment of this crisis is the Muslim Brotherhood; its ideology, history, rhetoric and practices.
Perhaps what we are witnessing is the beginning of the dispelling of the Brotherhood’s magic!