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'Egyptians believe Islamists will make a better nation'

Sunday January 29, 2012 07:37:16 PM, Meha Mathur, IANS

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New Delhi: A year after the people's uprising in Egypt that toppled the 30-year regime of president Hosni Mubarak, a university scholar says Egyptians believe it is time to govern the newly-democratic country in an "Islamist way".

"There is this simple conviction among people that with Islamists, things will be better. Or else, the Tahrir Square is always there," Mustafa Riad, professor of English literature at the faculty of arts in Ain Shams University in Cairo, told IANS in an interview here.

Tahrir Square was the centre of Cairo that witnessed the massive anti-Mubarak protests leading to his ouster and arrest.

Riad, a scholar of comparative studies and an active translator, has written, published, and presented many papers both nationally and internationally on Egypt. His latest translation is of Juan Cole's "Napoleon's Egypt: Invasion of the Middle East".

Riad was recently in Delhi to deliver the Fifth Munshi Premchand Memorial Lecture on "Naguib Mahfouz and the Making of Modern Egypt: The Dilemma of Modernity" at the Jamia Millia Islamia.

About how the post-Mubarak Egypt was shaping up, Riad said that with the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power, civil rights might be curbed again.

"Yes, this is true, but we have to go through this and try this Islamist solution. After all, in England too the Puritans ruled for some time and they got England into a civil war, before England reverted to monarchy," Riad said.

At the same time, he expressed concern over the fanatic versions of Islam.

"The young people in Egpyt are now more interested in Islamic studies and are reading about Islam. But they are very much influenced by a particular interpretation of Islam that goes back to Wahabi sect."

"To my generation Islam is more comprehensive and is not to be equated with Wahabi version. It's a universal religion," he said.

Riad believes this tilt towards the Wahabi sect was on account of a large number of Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia, and getting indoctrinated in the belief that this was the only version of Islam.

On Indian influence in Egypt, people there seem to have a "romantic memory" of the Non-Aligned Movement going back to Jawaharlal Nehru, Yugoslavia's Josip Tito and Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, Riad said. But that seems to be all.

"People in Egypt have affection for India that goes back to Nasser and we look back with pride to those days," he said.

Egyptian understanding of Indian literature also goes back to Rabindranath Tagore, thanks to translations done in the 1950s and 60s. But not much is known about contemporary authors.

Riad realizes this shortcoming and says: "Knowledge of Indian culture should not stop at Tagore. It should go beyond."

On noted author Salman Rushdie pulling out of the literary festival in Jaipur, the Egyptian academic said: "'The Satanic Verses' got more fame than it deserved, on account of the fatwa. But it's just a book. You can easily write a criticism of that book and denounce the idea that you feel might be offensive. No violent means should be used against any author."

(Meha Mathur can be contacted at






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Picture of the Day

New Delhi,27 Jan 2012-IGNOU Vice-Chancellor M Aslam receiving the "Best teaching practices Award" from noted film director Prakash Jha at the India Today Aspire education summit 2012,in New Delhi on Friday. Also in picture India Today Group's Rekha Puri.

(Photo: IANS/Amlan Paliwal)



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