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Category: Press articles

The long revolution

Published in Aeon on November 3, 2015 This is an historical perspective on the Arab Spring – particularly in Egypt, but generalisable to some extent to other Arab countries – from a historian by education and practice. A peculiar personal experience drew me from being another Egyptian protesting in Tahrir Square in Cairo to the state historian of the Egyptian revolution. Only one week after Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president, the head of the Egyptian National Archives together with the Minister of Culture appointed me as Chair of an official committee empowered to document the momentous popular uprising of…

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Is Egypt back where it was in 2011?

Published as an op-ed for the CNN on January 14, 2014 Today millions of Egyptians are going to the ballot boxes to decide on a new constitution, the third time they have done so in as many years. They are voting with high hopes that this referendum will put an end to the bloodshed, social tensions and instability that followed the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsy in July 2013. Seen as the lynchpin in the “roadmap” that was declared soon thereafter, the referendum is to be followed by presidential and parliamentary elections. Once these elections are conducted, it is…

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September 11: The grave costs of fear

Published in Ahram Online on September 14, 2013 Following the 9/11 events, a discourse of fear proliferated in America, shutting down rational thought. Wars abroad and attacks on rights at home followed, with dear ethical and legal consequences. The sound of the two explosions rocked the entire city. The smell of smoke wafted all the way north to Houston St, while the sound of the sirens of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars was deafening. People’s gazes were unfocused and confused, unable to grasp the tragic events their city was witnessing. Drivers stopped their cars in the middle of the…

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The Muslim Brotherhood and the West

Published in Ahram Online on September 3, 2013 Western media misunderstood the Brotherhood and underestimated Egyptians’ desire for democracy and social justice One of the signs of the crisis that Egypt is currently going through is the gap between the vision of a large portion of Egyptians that revolted against Mohamed Morsi on 30 June and that of Western media coverage of Egyptian events. Despite the fact that this dissonance initially revolved around the term “coup,” I believe the core of the problem is not related to how the army’s move was characterised, as much as to how the Muslim…

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The threat to Egypt’s mighty state

Published in Ahram Online on August 25, 2013 Even in exceptional times, legitimate violence as embodied by the state — its army and police — is based on popular consent, which means oversight and asking questions. Without this, the state itself is at risk It is often said that Egypt saw the first centralised state in world history. That may be very well true. However, the modern Egyptian state cannot be said to be more than 200 years old. It has nothing to do with the Pharaohs or the Ptolemy. Two pivotal events contributed to the foundation of this modern…

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On fascism and fascists

Published in Ahram Online on July 21, 2013 In focusing on the Muslim Brotherhood’s fascist tendencies do we not risk losing sight of the largest elephant in the room — the perils of army intervention in the name of protecting liberty? In March, I wrote an article here in response to an article written by Wael Abbas, author of the blog Misr Digital, in which he had warned of the threat of a spread of armed militias belonging to different groups, from the Brotherhood to the Ultras to thugs, expressing apprehension at what he viewed was the rise of militarism…

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A Revolutionary People

Published in Ahram Online on July 15, 2013 Among the most complex lessons Egyptians have learned from the momentous events of the past two-and-a-half years is that they are a revolutionary people, writing their own destiny We were taught in schools that we were a patient and passive people, and for generations we accepted facile sayings about the genius of Egypt, its tranquil landscape, its gentle river and undemanding people. And yet here we are, proving to ourselves that we write our own history and that we can depose our rulers if they do not succumb to our will. This…

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Why it was necessary to remove Morsi

Published in Ahram Online on July 4, 2013 The revolution aimed to change the rules of the game, not just its players. When it was clear that Mohamed Morsi was picking up the mantle of Mubarak, he had to go I did not vote for Mohamed Morsi in the previous presidential elections. I invalidated my ballot in these elections because I realised that Egypt deserves better than either Morsi or Shafiq. Yet when the results were announced, I was glad because I realised that we had managed to carry out the first free and fair elections, and I considered Mohamed…

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We did not risk our lives simply to change the players

Posted as an op-ed for the CNN on July 3, 2013 Two days before Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president of Egypt, I wrote an article for CNN calling for the Muslim Brotherhood to have a place in the post-Mubarak Egypt. Back then, I wrote: “As a secularist, I am not in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power in Egypt, and I remain deeply skeptical of its political program, believing that much of it is vague and impractical. But as an Egyptian hoping for freedom and justice for my country, I am deeply convinced that the Muslim Brotherhood has a place within…

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Mr Minister, what are you talking about?

Published in Ahram Online on June 23, 2013 Culture ministers should promote freedom of thought, speech and academic research, not censorship, closure and ignorance. But then in Egypt, avarice and ineptitude reigns from the top One is at a loss as to how to make sense of the most recent policies of the president, the government, and the Muslim Brotherhood. In the latest gubernatorial reshuffle, I can understand that President Morsi would prefer to adopt the policies of the toppled president in designating border governorates to officials from the police and the army, given that the Brotherhood’s constitution had failed…

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