Thursday, August 2, 2012

Patron Saints

By Adel Iskandar
Al-Masry Al-Youm

"Egypt’s revolution was leaderless, but not everyone got the memo. Today legions gravitate towards one notable or another, one visionary or another, one sheikh or another, one demagogue or another. There are those who self-describe as “Hazemoon,” the followers of Sheikh Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, and those who consider themselves among the ultras of Mohamed Elbaradei. There are those who see the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide as clairvoyant and those who mourned for months the death of Pope Shenouda as if a connection to God had been permanently severed. Some flock after Sheikh Wagdy Ghonim’s fiery vitriol and others watch hours of online inflammatory videos from defrocked and exiled Father Zakaria Botros. In the end, there’s plenty of hand-kissing going on these days. At a time when Egyptian institutions are fighting for their survival, celebrity messiahs, saviors, and deliverers are a pound a dozen. They are auxiliary instruments whose seemingly rogue contrarian posturing does little beyond nudge age-old institutions toward greater hegemony over society.

All institutions have inherent problems, which are magnified and aggravated within religious institutions specifically. They are hierarchical structures that emphasize conformity, render subjects dependent, and enshrine a chain of command. Their process of specialization in their ranks leads to ultra-specialization and the disappearance of peripheral vision. Designed to increase efficiency and improve transfer of talent, information, and resources, they are instead killing the spirit of inquisitiveness, destroying intellectual curiosity, and digging a grave for Egypt’s polymaths.

Take for instance Al-Azhar....

The irony is that without exception, all parties in this Olympiad of constitutional and political competition over power and prestige (the SCAF, the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis, Al-Azhar, the church, etc.) are embodiments of counterrevolution. They are counterrevolutionary in their classist schisms, rigid hierarchy, deification of authority, commitment to neoliberal economics, and admonishment of dissidence....."


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