Thursday, November 26, 2009

Egypt's contempt for Africa shown in football

One of the most stark features of the Algeria vs Egypt imbroglio is the undercurrent of contempt that most Egyptians seem to harbour for the rest of Africa. Its a sort of "us" and "them" mentality.
When Alaa Mubarak, who rarely gives public interviews, called all Algerians "mercenaries", he seemed to be articulating the opinions of millions of Egyptians towards their African brethren. 
There is nothing called Arab nationalism or brotherhood, this is just talk, that doesn't mean anything in reality.... When Algerians learn how to speak Arabic they can then come and say that they are Arabs.
This is what sticks in the craw of most Egyptians. That a supposedly "inferior nation", an "usurper" of pan Arabian nationhood as espoused by Gamel Abdel Nasser has the temerity to beat them in a soccer match. These feelings of injustice are being cleverly exploited by Hosni Mubarak who has been the de facto ruler for many decades in a country with weak democratic credentials to drum up support for his regime once again.

The premium on Arabian purity extends to the Sudanese. A big part of the anticipated Sudanese support for Egypt in the Khartoum clash was based on the fact that there are thousands of refugees in Egypt fleeing the civil wars in that country. What is less known is that these refugees are subjected to intense racial discrimination in that country because of their colour. They cannot seek jobs in a country that is reeling from record unemployment. The refugees in turn look to Egypt as a transit point to their ultimate destination, in a strange twist, Israel.
The Egyptian media dismiss them as "Africans", making a derogatory distinction between them and the rest of Africa. As this article points out:
Ask most Sudanese, Somalis, Ethiopians or any other person of dark skin and they will relate stories of racism: not getting to rent a flat because the landlord thought they were "dirty" and would "destroy the place.
The 81 year old president has finally found a heir apparent in son, Gamal Mubarak. It is a strange conundrum because the pan- Arabist position furthered by Nasser was catered towards the Western world while the Islamist position was much better articulated and accepted by the Muslim Brotherhood. The disputed soccer match has come at a convenient time to create an artificial hypernationalism to set the stage for Gamal Mubarak's entry into politics. It was much easier years ago before oil and Israel sidelined Egypt's pre-eminent position in the Arab world. (c)

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