Tag Archives: culture

Arabs Together: Disunited

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Credits to “Getty Images”

How many times have we heard the word “unity”? For me, I have heard all kinds of it. “Christians & Muslims are one! we are all the same”, “Arab Unity”, “Egyptians and Syrians are one”… and the list goes on. Now I stop here and think; what if we are not really one? What if unity is not the answer? But then I stop here and think again, is the way you define unity the same way I define mine?

Have you ever thought why the west is so diverse, yet very successful (relatively)? As Arabs, we share culture, religion, history, location and language, yet we still feel so distant. We have focused so much on unity that we left acceptance to rot.

We want people to think like us, to act like us; we even subconsciously shape the people just to fit our views. No wonder why we argue all the time and get defensive when someone opposes our opinion. “If you are not like me, then you have something wrong with your brain” this became the unspoken norm.

We don’t have to be the same, if we were all the same, we would just be an army of robots, always seeing one side of the box. What we really need to do is to learn tolerance. All the people killing each other on the streets are just a bunch of ideas competing to dominate, screaming to be heard.

I believe that the greatest strength we have is our diversity. All we need to do is accept each other, with our flaws, imperfections and different perspectives. We don’t have to agree we just have to understand. We don’t have to judge, we just have to listen. But that’s just what I believe, and I could be wrong.

Moufti 

 

 

 

 

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Egyptian Men Don’t Cry

ImageA young boy falls out of his bed and starts to cry out loud. The father approaches his son in an attempt to cease the cries. “Men don’t cry”, shouts the father. At first, the boy may not understand why men shouldn’t cry. I mean, to him what’s the difference between men and women anyway? Slowly the boy is conditioned to be the man who does not cry…  Sometimes human nature strikes with a moment of vulnerability, and boys helplessly cry; however, when boys cry they may hide their tears from the people surrounding them so that they do not look “weak” or “fragile”. Yet, not all boys are ashamed of their tears, tears may be viewed differently, based on culture, tradition and gender schema. In one place, tears of men may be considered as an expression of emotion; in another place, tears of men may be considered as an expression of weakness. For instance, in a country like Egypt, real men ought not to cry. That raises a question, Why are tears dependent on culture and tradition to a large extent? 

From the moment babies are born they are socialized into genders. For example, a baby boy is more likely to receive gifts in the color of blue. While a baby girl is more likely to receive gifts in the color of pink. Does pink or blue have anything to do with enhancing masculinity or femininity? No, but the unspoken consensus among people, is that blue is masculine, pink is feminine.  Apart from biological influence, people shape babies into their “gender schema” of how a boy or a girl should look or act. In other words: putting genes aside, people treat boys differently than girls, so babies are treated according to a certain image inside the people’s head. This image is  “what a certain gender role should be”; the image shapes the babies to act in a certain way that is consistent with the way they are “treated”. Yet, the schemas of how a boy or a girl should act, slightly differs from one society to another. For example in one culture, it is okay for men to wear earrings, while in another culture it is not accepted for men to wear earrings because they may be considered as “feminine”.

 

In Egypt, no one goes to a man who is crying and explicitly tells him that it is not accepted to cry. Crying is one of the unspoken norms of the society. Paradoxically, Egyptians may find it more acceptable to cry for the love of a sports team or patriotism for the nation, than to cry because of the man’s emotional side. Many men cry; however, they may find a lot of trouble to share that with someone else. Even when grown up men want to cry, they may move to a different room so that their family do not see them crying.

Men do have an emotional side, but the way of expression remains to be a choice. As an Egyptian I grew up being conditioned not to cry; therefore, I find crying not an easy task. I am not arguing that all Egyptians should hug, let go of their feelings and start crying. I am just looking at tears from a different perspective.

Moufti

 

 

 

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Thoughts Within Oppression

ImageI know what I feel,

I feel oppressed.

I feel hopeless.

I feel possessed.

I feel love for a nation, a nation that doesn’t know that I exist.

I feel skeptic about nations; I doubt if borders exist.

I feel that I belong to this place.

I feel that to my countrymen, I have no trace.  

I feel that its time to pick a side.

I feel that I don’t care if both sides collide.

I feel ashamed.

I feel that I am not the one to be blamed.

I feel the need to be influential.

I feel powerless.

I feel deep as an ocean.

I feel shallow as a puddle.

I feel free.

I feel locked inside my head.

I doubt if I know what I feel anymore.

I doubt if what I feel is even real.

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An Egyptian Dream: A Response To Insanity

 Image “ I’ll tell you a riddle. You’re waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don’t know for sure. But it doesn’t matter.”(Inception 2010). Sadly, this rings a bell; this rings a bell to most of us, the Egyptians.  In Egypt, our hope is not getting to our destination on time; our hope is to make it, alive. But it doesn’t matter, because if you have a family member who was deceased in a train accident, there is a good chance the government will compensate you with money; money that is nearly enough to buy the latest iPhone. In fact, we should look at the bright side. We have a president that appears in short videos to sooth our agonies. We have hospitals not ready with medicine but ready with broadcasts and tweets to ask for money, volunteers and supplies. We have government officials who refuse to resign or take responsibility, but are humble enough to apologize. The current situation concerning how crisis is being dealt with in Egypt can be described in one word, “insanity”.

Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?  Insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again, expecting things to change. Every single catastrophe, the one’s responsible think “this time it is going to be different”. As a side note, I have asked myself how vague I was, when I attributed the blame on “the one’s responsible”? I found that my description was too vague and that’s when I realized the actual tragedy.

Heartbreakingly the amount of people who are responsible is indefinite; there are several people who are considered to be responsible. Consequently that brings us to a psychosocial phenomenon titled “Diffusion of responsibility”. Basically, Diffusion Of Responsibility occurs when a person is less likely to assume responsibility for an action when there are others who share the responsibility. In Diffusion Of Responsibility, the individual either assumes that other people are responsible for taking action or assumes that other people have already taken action. In other words, have you ever passed by an accident and made the assumption that somebody else has called for help? In a perfect demonstration of Diffusion Of Responsibility, everyone assumes that the other one has called for help and the ending result would be no one calling for help. I see that this is fairly analogous to the situation in Egypt. The time we start pointing fingers is also the time when we realize that we do not have enough fingers. 

I remember around 7 years ago, my school implemented a method called “ the call chain”. The call chain is a cycle, where each student is accountable to inform another student about class information. Each student had a back-up plan if the person the student was trying to call, did not pick up. If the student did not deliver the message, he or she is responsible for all the other students who did not get the message and that student faces consequences. A call chain system would look something like this:

Teacher → student 1→  student 2→ student 3→ Teacher

Only now I have comprehended the importance of this system. Unlike the Egyptian governmental system; in the call chain, responsibility is not diffused; responsibilities, roles and consequences are explicitly assigned and well explained.

Sometimes individuals don’t want to be liable for failure, so they force the responsibility to be diffused by placing the blame on anything but them. When a person succeeds, he or she attributes that success to their personality; however, when a person fails he or she attributes that failure to the situation. For example, if a beggar approached a man walking on the street and the man decided to give him money. The man’s first thoughts may be “oh! That was kind from me, I am generous because I shared my money with someone who needed it”; however, the man ignored the fact that the beggar asked him for the money several times before he decided to give him the money. Days later the same man goes to a restaurant and the waiter mistakenly forgot to bring him skimmed milk with his coffee, so the man starts shouting at the waiter in anger. After the man calms down his first thoughts may be “ I knew this day was going to be a bad day since the moment I saw that black cat in the morning ” or he may think “everyone was getting on my nerves today and that waiter was not professional so he deserved it anyway”. Contrary to the preceding scenario, the man’s first thoughts were not “ I am ill tempered, that’s why I shouted at the waiter”; the man simply attributed success to his good nature and attributed failure to the surroundings. This response is somewhat similar to the response of the Egyptian government officials, when they succeed they praise themselves and their far-sighted planning, but when they fail they blame it on “the third party”.

In Egypt, one of the major flops is management.  The government provides short-term solutions, rather than preventive measures. What we need is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). A business continuity plan is a map for continuing procedures under adverse conditions such as a fire, or excessive rain. BCP minimizes risk and saves lives. In other words, it is not only expecting the unexpected, but also having a plan to deal with that “unexpected”.

 We need government officials on the streets doing audits, not in their office all the time doing only paper work. The process of reforming supervision needs to be top-bottom. If the supervisor with the highest rank was doing his job, the worker with the lowest rank will be also doing his job. Just like the call chain, responsibility should be assigned specifically to prevent diffusion. Also the government needs to have incentives of safety and freedom to work efficiently. For example, the government should have a wide time frame to fulfill certain goals, and at the end of that time frame, the government can be judged fairly.

I am not here to judge governments; I am here to raise ideas to be further developed. I dream of the day where we know for sure where the train will take us, a day that we no longer witness insanity; I dream of the day where every Egyptian receives fair education and has equal rights.

 -Moufti

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The Niqab Of Gyges

        Earlier today I was having my random thoughts and it crossed my mind how the criminals wear masks when they commit an act of crime. I came with the conclusion that those criminals wear masks because covering their faces gives them the power to be anonymous to any possible viewers of the crime. So I thought of reversing the process, if we gave a person that has no intention of misconduct a mask, would he or she become an offender? I started looking for an example and that led me to think of “Niqab” (a piece of cloth that covers the face) that is common among the Arab society.

        Recently I have witnessed two incidents concerning women wearing the “Niqab”. The first incident was when a woman wearing the Niqab wanted to get on a bus with one functioning door, so she impatiently pushed against the other women who were trying to get off the bus without giving excuses, which led one of the women to yell at her and start a fight. The second incident was when a woman wearing the Niqab tried selling my friends and I, drugs. I have also read about many stories of women wearing the Niqab who engaged in prostitution, theft, faking identities and other things that may be considered by many people as immoral. I have even met many people who claimed that women in Niqab are the most corrupt. So I started asking questions, are those women under the Niqab initially born evil? Or humans are all born evil and that evil side is more likely to show if one covers his or her face?

        I was not able to draw conclusions because I did not have sufficient tangible evidence to support any of the claims related to the questions above; however, my thoughts led me to a mythical artifact named “The Ring Of Gyges” that was mentioned by the philosopher Plato in his book “The Republic”. Briefly, Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; one day there was a great storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where Gyges was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he descended into the opening, where he saw a dead body of stature, as appeared to him, more than human, and having nothing on but a gold ring. So Gyges decided to take the ring. Later on, the shepherds met together and according to custom they might send their monthly report about the herds to the king.  Gyges attended the assembly with the ring on his finger. As Gyges was playing around with his ring he turned the collet of the ring in his hand, instantly he became invisible to the company and they began to speak of him as if he were no longer present. He was astonished at this, and realized that turning the collet inwards made him invisible while turning it outwards made him visible again. Using the power of his ring, Gyges made himself chosen to be one of the messengers sent to the King. As soon as Gyges arrived, he seduced the queen, and with her help conspired against the king, murdered him and took the kingdom.

        I am not here to question Gyges’ ethical standards; nonetheless, I see that the ring he has acquired gave him an advantage over the other people. In other words, the ring gave him power. I see that the power the ring gave him is somewhat similar to the power the Niqab gives. The one wearing the Niqab has an anonymous identity that gives a wider window of opportunity to commit sinful acts and get away with them. So Now you are probably wondering if I see that wearing the Niqab necessarily leads one to commit sinful acts? And the answer is: No, as I will illustrate further in the succeeding paragraph.

        As I have reflected on the Niqab I will reflect on politicians. Many politicians start off clean and end up dirty. Is it because politicians are initially nasty people who fake being nice until they what they want? There is a possibility that this is true; yet, rationally speaking, this is not the case. Politicians have an advantage over the other people that is somewhat similar to that advantage given by the Ring Of Gyges or the Niqab, and that advantage is power.

        Once one has power, one is a given a choice, a choice to either be just, fair and altruistic or to be self centered, unjust and corrupt. The decision to have more power is similar to the decision made by Gyges when he decided to keep the ring on or the decision made by a woman who decided to wear the Niqab. With greater power comes greater responsibility and once you have made the choice to have more power, you must realize the responsibility that comes with that power. I am not here to tell you that when you have power you should be nice to everyone. I am here to remind you of how the choices you make when using your advantages, can impact your life and the lives of other people.

—Moufti                                                                                                                           

Citations:  

“The Ring of Gyges.” The Ring of Gyges. Charles.D.Kay, n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2013.

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