Monday, October 17, 2005Our African Brothers
Whenever an "Arab" country is mentioned in our mainstream media, you would find the anchor or the announcer rushing to make them as our siblings, for example, our Saudi Arabian brothers, our Tunisian sisters and stuff like that. I have no problem with this forced brotherhood as a pan-Arabist, but I hate to be forced as a brother on someone who hates me or acts like it, which is sometimes felt through the hateful emotions of our so-called Arab brothers every once and a while, but we usually act like the big brother and turn the other cheek. Why not? Since we are one of the pioneer nations of Arab Nationalism movements (btw it didn't start with Nasser it started with King Farouk). But playing the big brother role is a government policy, the reality is that the pan-Arabism dream is wearing off and slowly dying inside the Egyptians and anti-Arabism is becoming a substitute with the old "Arab Garab" (Arabs are rotten) motto is used again by the Egyptians (the last time it was used was during the Arabs boycott of Egypt after the peace treaty with Israel). It's a very dangerous situation since we as "Egyptians" feel cheaper than our Arab brothers, in Saudi Arabia Egyptians are raped, killed, humiliated sometimes and the defendants were let loose because they are locals... Remember the Gulf Air crash in Bahrain, 1 million dollars were paid as compensation to American, British, and Arab Gulf victims and 100,000 were paid for the Egyptians and Pakistanis victims... Qatari prince who kills 5 Egyptians and injures 10 in a car accident and he flees Egypt with the help of the Qatari ambassador... and other stories of the petrodollar Arabs who visit Egypt and have the feeling that they have landed on one big brothel.
Now, organized sports can be very trivial indications of these feelings, but at the same time it tells you a lot. For example, the last game between Egypt and Cameroon in the World Cup qualifying rounds, the Egyptians were already ousted in previous rounds so the game result doesn't matter anymore for us, meanwhile the Cameroonians needed to win in order to qualify, but the Egyptian team played it hard and was able to get a draw on an "away" game and thus eliminating the Cameroon team chances to qualify and breaking their 5 in a row qualifying streak and allowing their arch rival Cote D'Ivoire to qualify to the worlds cup. Normally, something like this is sure will attract dissent from the Cameroonian supporters or even violence from their hooligans. But to our surprise and the surprise of the player (who were expecting to be escorted into safety by the riot police), the Cameroonian supporters applauded the Egyptian team and they cheered them all the way to their bus and hotel, they even invited the team for an iftar (Ramadan Breakfast). Now, let me take you back four years ago during the same event the world cup qualifying rounds, this time the game was between Egypt and Algeria in the Algerian capital. The game was described by the local media in both countries as "a meeting between two brothers". Egypt needed to win that game in order qualify and Algeria was already ousted, the game started 15 minutes late because of the Algerian crowds were throwing rocks at the Egyptian players during the warming up session. The game started with an incredible violence from the Algerian players who were picking up fights with the Egyptians. The referee stopped the game for another 10 minutes because the Algerian supporters started throwing water bottles filled with urine at the Egyptian players, by the end of the game a "rock" was thrown at the Egyptian coach and he needed to be hospitalized. The game ended in a draw, eliminating Egypt and did nothing to Algeria. The Egyptian players were greeted with spits and rocks all the way to their bus, chanting curses against Egypt. The Algerian police didn't escort the bus on their drive to the hotel which was an invitation for Algerian supporters to declare an intifada on the Egyptians... and almost ripping the bus apart with rocks. This event sparked a retaliation feeling from the Egyptians in the next game any Algerian team will play in Cairo, which made the Algerian ambassador in Cairo issue a humanist plea for the Egyptian to forgive and forget. But of course, forgive and forget is not in our dictionary, the game took place with the crowds chanting non-stop "Fuck Algeria" (in Arabic of course)... but violence didn't take place because we won. The same scenario repeats itself with equal or less proportions during games we play against, Algerian, Moroccan, Syrian, Tunisian or Lebanese teams. As I said this over zealous sports supporters are not an indication for anything... but it makes you question the origins of this mutual hate. Please, don't take this as anti-Algerian rant or anything, because I do have few Algerian friends whom I met in Spain four years ago and we are still in contact till now and we do talk about these stuff and laugh about it. I actually owe these Algerians for saving my ass and my friend's ass at club called "Amnesia" in Ibiza after a tough brawl with 10 angry drunk oversized-Brits... they just jumped in and saved us because they just heard us speaking Arabic.
Bottom-line, small incidents like these can hurt any pan-Arabism aspirations and the reason for it is the weakness, oppression and corruption of the Arab governments which can ignite hate within Arab nations and even self-loathing. Even Arab leaders such as President Qaddafi who was one the staunchest supporters of pan-Arabism, he gave up hope on Arabs and now he threaten to quit the Arab league and he is heading in full-force for the Organization of African Unity and a new pan-African approach. Who knows it might even work for Egypt too, after all it wasn't an African "brother" royalty who killed five Egyptians and was helped by his government and our government to flee the country and escape justice.