This blog post was originally published today in David’s blog An Arab Spring in My Step, which he has set up while in Cairo reporting on post-Mubarak Egypt and the Arab Spring.
Eid al-Adha in Cairo, is a time for family, communal praying, and in 2011- some serious electioneering.
The streets of Cairo run with blood on the morning of probably the most important religious holiday on the Muslim calendar. Sheep and cattle are slaughtered on the sidewalks across the city, to be later feasted on by families and distributed to the poor.
The sight is not for the squeamish mind you, and after some internal debate I will not post any pictures of the sacrifices. The truly inquisitive should not despair of course, because as Socrates said to his pupils when queried about apparent barriers to knowledge… “Just Google Image it”.
Locals are long accustomed to this yearly sight of outdoor sacrifice, but we will have to wait and see whether Cairenes have a strong enough stomach for a long election campaign.
The early morning public prayers at the Mostafa Mahmoud mosque in the Mohandessin district of Cairo, attract massive crowds annually.
This year the festive family atmosphere (the feeling in the districts of the city I visited during Eid seemed very convivial) was also interspersed with activists from the Freedom and Justice Party (basically the Muslim Brotherhood) and some Salafist groups handing out leaflets (there were also people from the Al Ahly soccer club distributing flyers who proved even more popular).
Eid in Egypt seems to have marked the real start of the election campaign. On a trip to Ismailya a pleasant city along the Suez Canal, families celebrated the festival in the local park. Along all the adjoining streets, the faces of very serious looking election candidates gazed down upon them from newly erected party banners.
Whether or not the Muslim Brotherhood makes the electoral breakthrough remains the most important question posed about these elections in the West. I have written a bit about the election and the brotherhood in a wider news feature in the current print edition of the Village magazine (the feature is not yet available on the webpage).
Suffice to say the organisation is not homogenous, will not win a majority of parliamentary seats, and even if victorious, does not seem intent on instituting some very radical religious state here like Saudi or Iran. In an interview in the current edition of Egypt Today, a leading member says “We are trying to show people that we are normal, that we only use religion as a reference for us and that we vow to preserve personal rights”.
Although one must remember from Monty Python that “nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”.
But if the brotherhood raise some fears in places as far apart as the US State Department and the hearts of some Egyptian liberals – there is certainly one entity who should not fear the brotherhood at all.
That entity is…international capitalism.
In a very revealing interview with the Daily News Egypt last week, one of the brotherhood’s leading businessmen Hasan Malek made some comments that will keep them all sleeping like babies in the Washington offices of the IMF and World Bank (alas, us placid Irish are not disturbing their sleep too much either).
“One of the main financiers and business strategists of the Brotherhood, Malek said the economic policies in force during Hosni Mubarak’s rule were on the right track, but were overshadowed by blatant corruption and a culture of favoritism…
“Malek said he supported decisions made by Rachid Mohamed Rachid, Mubarak’s former minister of trade and industries, whose mandate included liberalizing Egypt’s industrial sectors and attracting more foreign direct investment (FDI),” reads the Daily News report.
“We can benefit from previous economic decisions. There have been correct ones in the past. Rachid Mohamed Rachid understood very well how to attract foreign investment and his decisions in that area was correct,” he says.
Plenty of sheep in pens appeared on the streets of Cairo in recent weeks.
Like these on Tahrir Street in Dokki. Well fed and as far as I could see with my untrained eyes, “relatively” well cared for, although alas, I think after Eid, no longer with us.
Three days ago this camel appeared tied up on my street (not a usual experience). I fear, after Eid, he is also no longer with us.
David Lynch is an award winning journalist and author. His work has appeared in numerous publications and he has reported from the occupied Palestinian territories and in the wider Middle East. ‘A Divided Paradise: An Irishman in the Holy Land’ (New Island 2009) is his second book; his first was a historical study that focused on the early political life of James Connolly ‘Radical Politics in Modern Ireland: The Irish Socialist Republican Party 1896-1904’ (IAP 2005).
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