Al-Talib interviews Hassen Morad, an Egyptian American who has been covering the protests through vlogs. He went to Egypt over two months ago with the intention of studying at Al-Azhar University.
A-T: Describe the new social and political environment in Egypt. What changes have you seen since you arrived?
Morad: It’s difficult to say there’s a new social or political environment at this point because this revolution is only two weeks old. I think there’s definitely a sense of optimism amongst Egyptians but that’s complemented with a sense of lacking surety as they don’t know what will materialize from this movement.
I was surprised to not see panic or fear overtake Egyptians as they stood guard against looters or struggled to find enough food. I didn’t see that nor did I get that sense from anyone I talked to. I only sensed a feeling of confidence that Egyptians could get through this revolution with the help of Allah.
A-T: Despite these massive protests, Mubarak still has supporters. Why do they support him? How do they view the new situation in Egypt?
Morad: Supporters consist of two groups who want Mubarak to stay, but for different reasons. The first group (which is a tiny minority) views Mubarak as the best leader for Egypt and want him to stay indefinitely. They emphasize that Mubarak is a patriot who sacrificed a lot for his country during his military service and has protected Egypt from wars during his presidency.
The second group wants him to stay until elections so constitutional reforms can be made and proper elections can be held in the Fall. They are worried that Egypt will descend into a power-struggle creating a lot of instability if Mubarak steps down now. Most of my family here belongs to this group.
It’s interesting to see a noticeable sector of Egyptians express love for Mubarak (especially after his second address to the nation) given that they recognize his role in maintaining corrupt institutions and suppressing opposing views. Many people in this group wish for Mubarak to leave with dignity rather than being kicked out and cursed in the process. They often mention his sacrifices as a military general in Egypt’s wars with Israel in ’67 and ’73.
It was a bit of a struggle for me to understand their perspective from my American background. To me this reflects a very different component to Egyptian patriotism, where they view their leader as more of a father figure, whom they wouldn’t humiliate, even if he oppressed them.
A-T: How do anti-Mubarak protesters feel about the past 30 years? What would they like to see change after Mubarak leaves?
Morad: The main complaint of the masses is that they lack dignity. Many people (including college graduates) cannot find work, poverty is widespread, and people are afraid to voice their political views, fearing detainment and torture by secret police. They want to treat the problems in Egypt at their source by ousting all the individuals contributing to this corrupt system, starting with Mubarak himself.
Ideally, they want to move on to a fresh era where people can regain their human dignity. They see holding truly democratic elections as the first step to developing this new state.
A-T: Do you feel optimistic about where this revolution is heading? Do other protesters feel the same?
Morad: Alhamdulillah I’ve become increasingly optimistic about the progression of this revolution over the last week, seeing that the number of people protesting in Tahrir has not dwindled. In fact, the numbers have steadily risen, despite many Egyptians are returning to work.
Mubarak has taken almost every step to counter this revolution, including violently countering the protesters, releasing thousands of prisoners to scare the masses into submission, getting rid of many government ministers, emotionally appealing to Egyptians in his second national address, sending secret police and paying people to organize pro-Mubarak rallies.
But people are keenly aware that Mubarak is trying to buy time for his party and like-minded individuals to regroup and prepare a strategy to maintain power in the fall elections, since they were caught totally off guard with these protests.
A-T: If Mubarak decides to step down, would protests in Tahrir Square end?
Morad: Protesters seem to have a good general sense of what would take the country towards true democracy and what would result in a continuation of policies they’ve been living under for decades. So if a Mubarak ally like [Vice President] Omar Suleiman replaces him, then I doubt the people will stop protesting.