Monday, April 9, 2007

Mohamed Hasseinein Heikel: The wise man of the Middle East

From Khrushchev to Sadat, many world leaders have felt the venom of Mohamed Hasseinein Heikel's acerbic commentary. Robert Fisk has an audience with the great Egyptian writer

By Robert Fisk

"......"There is a state of polarisation," Heikel continues. "Between the rich and the poor, between revolutionaries and conservatives, between the government and the people. This thing is tearing through the Arab world. When the boys in the universities learn to use computers, they will end at the mosque.

"There is a sea between the authorities and the people - this is the wide sea which has opened. There is no wind now - but when the wind starts ...".......

"There is something serious happening in Egypt. The pressure of the economy, political pressure - we never had it so bad for the poor. I go to the village behind my farm in the Nile Delta and try to help the people there. But some people have never had it so good. They have fabulous palaces. It's amazing - in front of every rich quarter there is a slum. One of our friends, a doctor, was saying that one day each slum will march on its palace. No wonder that last Christmas the government instructed newspapers not to publish the prices of parties and weddings."......

And the future? The Arabs, he says, believe that the Americans are their enemies. "The US was once a promise to them. I sit with young people and try to differentiate between American policies and Americans. But the enemies of the Americans are not only the Taliban, Hamas, Hizbollah, but a wide sea of ordinary people who hate them because the Americans created the polarisations in their lives. They are between impotence and despair. This is a catastrophe."

Yet there is still optimism in Heikel. "I think there is something very interesting going on in Egypt, moving under the pressures of society. What is amazing about our students is not the standards of education - it's their eagerness to acquire knowledge. The effect of mobiles, computers, satellites - there is a generation coming that is outside the traditional controls. Normally, generations recreate themselves. But something else is happening. The police are unable to prevent the political demonstrations. These are not very large - but by using phones, mobiles, the internet, SMS, they are starting a political form of guerrilla warfare in a new medium. Do you know that never before in our history in Egypt was the budget of our army less than the budget of our police? Now it is. What does that tell you?"......"

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