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Egypt must reform to turn critics into advocates

Politics is not a field dominated solely by authoritarian figures. A great many political influencers play significant roles in shaping their respective governments’ policies, leaving a clear impact on their societies. The US is the nation that best portrays this type of ruling mechanism, in which large numbers of scholars and journalists influence their country’s political decisions. A clear majority of such scholars have not been in agreement with the policies applied by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi since his inauguration in June 2014.
I have read most of the articles written on Egypt, particularly by American scholars. Most of these writers are extremely well informed about economic and political developments in our country — which, for some reason, annoys many Egyptian officials. However, if the state had a better understanding of the American ruling mechanism, it would be better equipped to deal with such critiques. As it is, the Egyptian state has been puzzled by the criticism voiced by these scholars, questioning their novel views, especially since they differ from those of several international financing institutes that are praising our government.
The Egyptian state often counterattacks American scholars’ criticism by casting doubt on their ability to digest what is truly happening in Egypt. A review of each party’s arguments gives the impression that we are discussing two completely different nations. The fact that Egypt is a focal point nation means that it draws intensive international attention. In my opinion, this is a clear advantage — if we can manage to deploy international media to highlight the positive aspects of our country.
In a media outlet, reality always conveys a better picture than an opinion piece. The millions of foreigners who visit Egypt learn about us thoroughly. We must therefore work on overcoming our challenges and advancing our achievements, which the world will view favorably. The building of a new bridge will not impress Westerners, who perceive it as a basic government duty. Meanwhile, the tackling of human development challenges in Egypt, an issue that is considered to affect the entire world, is being closely watched. Labeling all critics of the regime “state enemies” does not help.

Government should stop hitting out at foreign scholars and instead focus on policies that value human development over infrastructure expansion.

Mohammed Nosseir


Many of these scholars and journalists used to be more tolerant of former President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling mechanism, justifying many of his policies. Thus, our current regime cannot accept the fact that these same people are strong critics of El-Sisi, especially given the regime’s belief that its performance in all fields is substantially superior to that of the Mubarak era. Moreover, anyone who does not support the current ruling regime is seen to be either conspiring against our country or a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate.
The point that our government is missing is that we are living in an entirely different age than that of Mubarak. The political dynamics of the Middle East have changed completely. Social media channels have played a radical role in changing people’s perspectives: Today, people are more aware of their political surroundings and they value human development over infrastructure expansion. Nonetheless, Egypt is clearly a static nation, believing that it can continue to apply the same policy forever — it will neither adapt to these developments easily nor even be able to work on reducing these waves of criticism.
Egypt needs a government that thinks and acts ahead of its citizens’ needs. Applying some kind of reform will turn our international critics into our advocates. We need to learn from our critics by implementing what we determine to be genuine advice, as our tendency for denial won’t help us for long. If our government persists in applying the same policy (which appears to be the case), the rift between the Egyptian state and international society will widen, impacting Egypt’s already shaky relations with many advanced nations.

• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom.
Twitter: @MohammedNosseir