OK- so I do not intend to write a big journalistic blog entry, despite yesterday being one of the momentous in the history of Egypt. Lets see how I get on...
In case you have been holed up in a cave somewhere- and this is the 1st thing you see online- Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhoods candidate has won the presidential elections in Egypt and will be sworn into office, this coming Saturday, 30th June.
Literally within 4 minutes of the announcement of the results (which I watching avidly on tv, twitter and facebook all at the same time!!) I received a message on msn from a dancer in China, panicking. She was concerned that an Islamist president would instantly ban bellydance in Egypt. Seeing all the reactions on facebook, from people all over the world, including people here in Cairo, it seems like this is the common assumption. That and the fear from my friends and family that somehow, instantly, Cairo had turned into a dangerous place to be for me, a foreign, non-muslim, female bellydancer.
Is the worry a valid one? Yes, it is a possibility. I would be lying if I haven’t had a few teary moments over the past 18 months frightened for the future of my livelihood and my art. There is a risk that the worst of people’s fears may come true. That dance would be banned. That alcohol would be banned. That bikini’s would be banned. That strict dress codes for women will be enforced, etc etc etc .They are all possible. However I personally feel they are extremely unlikely. Certainly not in the near future, if at all. Why not?
First of all, after 18 months of disruption, at a time when there is a world recession, Egypt’s economy is not strong. Tourism is one of the country’s biggest sources of income, and employment. To damage any of the sectors which service tourism would be suicide for a president who I presume would like to stay in office. 22 million people work in tourism. That is more votes than either Shafiq or Morsi won in these elections. In fact, it is close to the actual total number of votes in the whole of Egypt for these presidential elections (just under 26 million)!
Secondly, there is a chance that Morsi will not remain as president for the full 4 year term. Why not? read Sandmonkey’s blog entry with all his reasoning behind this. http://www.sandmonkey.org/ I do not know enough about politics to pass much comment. But the logic seems sound and level headed, so I am going with it!
So, my thinking is this; Morsi may be Brotherhood, but he has committed to serving ALL people. That was in his initial speech yesterday. He will absolutely have his hands too full trying to bring the country back into some sort of balanced economy to worry about us dancers. He may not even be there for long enough to deal with a fraction of what he has to anyway.
I am not an expert in any way. These are my own personal hopes and musings.
When the result was announced that he won last night, my heart and stomach both moved drastically at the same time. My emotions were split since I, like most people I spoke to, did not want either of them. We were all convinced that if Shafiq got in, then there would have been riots and a lot of bloodshed in the streets last night. I am incredibly relieved that this didn’t happen. Also, if Shafiq got in, then it seemed to be commonly felt around the world that it would be a step backwards in the democratic process, since we all heard the numbers coming from the polling stations last week and since he was seen as being (rightly or wrongly) the puppet of SCAF.
However, I wasn’t exactly backing Morsi, since the truth is; we just don’t know whether he will aim for a more secular unified Egypt or whether his religious duties (as he might see it) could overly influence his political ones.
So, in summary, we do not know what the future holds. It is not certain at all whether people in my industry will suffer at all. Time will tell. People have become politically aware in the last 18 months at an amazing rate. As long as the people now do not sit back and just revert to being sheep, as long as they continue to question and confront what is happening in their own country then there is still hope that Egypt has a bright future.
At the risk of upsetting some people I would like to say this.
I do not feel religion and politics should be mixed. They are different systems in place for different things. As long as Egypt new president remembers that he is there to help his people live, rather than tell them how to live, then everything will be ok!
Should you come to Egypt on holiday? YES.
Should we continue to love and enjoy and learn it’s fabulous art form that is bellydance? YES
Do I feel personally safe? YES (if I didn’t I would move!)
Do I fear the worst? YES (although my fear is more about prejudices in the street rather than legislative in connection with work. I am concerned that the ’uneducated’ man might try to turn Egypt into their own islamist country, starting with covering their women and harassing the ones who refuse. Women’s rights in Egypt really are at an all time low )
Despite that, do I try and focus on the good and hope, YES
Does this answer or create more questions for people interested in Egypt and in particular for dance in Egypt?- you tell me......