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Am I the Only One Troubled By Cairo Street Scenes?

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Posted on February 1 2011 2:50 pm
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.

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For days now, the mainstream and leftstream media have been telling us that the Muslim Brotherhood is not dangerous, not radically Islamist—but that even if they are Islamist that they are popular amongst the people. Western leftists view the Brothers as engaged in a Hamas-like form of soup kitchen social work/theocratic totalitarianism, but who nevertheless have earned the right to be democratically voted into power by the people.

Short-sightedly, they claim that if we are serious about standing for democracy and the vote, that we have no choice but to support what may turn out to be an even worse tyranny than that of Mubarak’s.

Such journalists also claim that the Egyptian people in the streets are not “political,” that they are impoverished, broken, barefoot warriors who have heroically risen up for jobs, food, and an end to corruption and tyranny. Indeed, the people may not be “political”—but their heroism may end up benefiting those who, unlike themselves, are already organized militarily, economically, and ideologically—like the Muslim Brotherhood.

On the other hand, unorganized though they may be, the people may still have views and beliefs. Caroline Glick, reminds us that according to a June, 2010 Pew opinion survey of Egyptians:

Fifty nine percent said they back Islamists. Only 27% said they back modernizers. Half of Egyptians support Hamas. Thirty percent support Hizbullah and 20% support al Qaida. Moreover, 95% of them would welcome Islamic influence over their politics….Eighty two percent of Egyptians support executing adulterers by stoning, 77% support whipping and cutting the hands off thieves. 84% support executing any Muslim who changes his religion…When this preference is translated into actual government policy, it is clear that the Islam they support is the al Qaida Salafist version.

When given the opportunity, the crowds on the street are not shy about showing what motivates them. They attack Mubarak and his new Vice President Omar Suleiman as American puppets and Zionist agents. The US, protesters told CNN’s Nick Robertson, is controlled by Israel. They hate and want to destroy Israel. That is why they hate Mubarak and Suleiman.

Is this Pew Center survey really true? What other indicators might we rely upon?

In the last week, we have seen massive coverage of the street uprising in Cairo on every major television channel and in print and Internet media of all political persuasions. No one has commented upon what the photos are showing us. Some say that a picture speaks a thousand words—and so it does. Follow along with me.

First, view these photos of Cairo University graduates in 1959, 1978, 1995, and 2004. Clearly, there is a progression—a regression really, in terms of women’s rights. Former feminist gains have, increasingly, been washed away.

As you can see, the female graduates in 1959 and 1978 had bare arms, wore short sleeved blouses,  dresses, or pants, and were both bare-faced and bare-headed. By  1995, we see a smattering of headscarves—and by 2004 we see a plurality of female university graduates in serious hijab: Tight, and draping the shoulders.

Class of 1959


Class of 1978


Class of 1995


Class of 2004

Now, let’s look at the recent Cairo uprising photos through my eyes. No one has, as yet, commented upon the photos that they have chosen to run.

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