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What happened in Egypt was amazing, specifically the attack on the US Embassy in Cairo, where the American flag was burned and the al-Qaeda flag was raised, all because of what is said to be an offensive film about the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). The protests witnessed the participation of Islamic groups, Christians, and even so-called ultras – radical football fans.

When I say that what has happened in Egypt is amazing, the reason is simple: no one knew anything about this film that is said to be offensive to the Prophet (pbuh) until now. Even the news agency Reuters, which broadcasted news of the attack on the US Embassy in Egypt, said in its initial report: “it was not clear which film prompted the protests”! This is a puzzling matter; no one had heard about this film; no one knew its name, so is it rational to set the world on fire whenever someone launches a trivial insult towards Islam, or one of its symbols? The truth that must be told, and especially with regards to the events in Egypt, is that the matter is more complicated than an offensive film. The earlier reaction of some Egyptians, for example, towards the case of an Egyptian national accused of smuggling illegal drugs into Saudi Arabia was similar to their reaction now against the US Embassy, the only difference being that in the former example the al-Qaeda flag was not raised, nor was the Saudi flag burned, which means that the problem in Egypt is much more complicated than a strong fervor for the Islamic religion.

The real problem in Egypt, ever since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak, lies in the adulation of a street that has no leader; in other words someone to act in accordance with the concept of a statesman and not to simply pander to the demands of the revolutionaries in the squares or social networks. Even the media crudely attempts to keep pace with the Egyptian street, where sometimes it is portrayed as the guilty defendant, and at other times it is the innocent who is found guilty without trial. This is Egypt’s illness today, and this will hamper Egypt’s march towards the future. Countries are not built on screams, chaos and revenge, but with wisdom, prudence, laws and reconciliation. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Egypt, the evidence being that those who protested against the US Embassy were Islamic, Christian and even football hooligans.

The puzzling and amazing problem is that no one knows anything about the film they are talking about. If they were aware of the film, they would see it is clearly the trivial work of an individual, or a petty extremist group. What is incomprehensible, in the case of Egypt, is how there can be this reaction, even if it stems from religious fervor, similar to the reactions of extremists in Pakistan or Afghanistan, where they burn the American flag and fly the flag of al-Qaeda? How can we demand an apology from America for a film produced by a trivial or ignorant group, and not the US administration? Would it be conceivable, for example, for the Obama administration to demand that the Egyptians, whether the government or the people, apologize for the fact that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaeda, is an Egyptian? This is both unreasonable and unacceptable.

Therefore, we love and care for Egypt, and what is happening there means only one thing: the leaders of Egyptian public opinion must address the chaos of the Egyptian street. Intellectuals and politicians should respect their knowledge and awareness, and the same goes for the media, and they must stop trying to keep pace with the street to avoid igniting Egypt as a whole.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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