How Egypt can win over the Western doubters
Egypt became a focal point for the West after it dubbed our Jan. 25, 2011, revolution, along with other Arab uprisings, the “Arab Spring.” Many Western diplomats and journalists now give more attention to Egypt, focusing in particular on the inspirations of our youth, who were the driving force behind the revolution. Meanwhile, the Egyptian state’s attachment to the stability factor has been widening the mental gap between the state’s policy and the West, which is often accused of interfering in our national affairs.
Egypt’s foreign relations, similar to those of any other nation, are conducted through two major communication channels: The official diplomatic channel and the media channel. In my opinion, the Egyptian state often has difficulty convincing these channels of its political outlook because of our ungrounded political dynamics and our inconsistent foreign relations tactics. We are weakening our political stance on many issues by attempting to redefine and debate a number of common universal values that have been agreed upon for centuries.
The Egyptian state often misreads and undermines the Western diplomatic channel. Western culture has a tendency to express opinions implicitly, leaving us to interpret their meaning by reading between the lines. Westerners often begin by voicing approval of a given non-debatable issue, such as combating terrorism, and follow with a few remarks couched in the form of suggestions. Our media highlight their approval and admiration and ignore their remarks; inevitably, the meaning of the message is missed by the Egyptian state and its citizens.
The Western media, which naturally sees Egypt through its Western eyes, has been criticizing our country’s political propositions consistently and intensely. Since the Egyptian state knows that the Western media is quite influential and can impact their nations’ political decisions to a certain degree, we initially attempt to persuade them with our arguments (which they often don’t acknowledge), then we switch gears and request them to distance themselves from our internal affairs.
Egypt's policy of warning the West against interfering in our internal affairs and simultaneously urging it to continue providing us with economic aid is simply unsustainable.
For international journalists, Egypt’s political development provides good material to highlight in their media outlets — not because they are conspiring against our country as many Egyptian statesmen believe, but because our provocative and reckless political approach to many issues prompts them to write about these topics, and to excel at their jobs. Blocking access to a number of websites and preventing a few journalists from expressing their opinions freely (just two of many examples) provide international journalists with sufficient grounds for criticizing our government.
The West tends to measure the progress of developing nations based on three criteria that counterbalance one another: Freedom, peace and prosperity. It is not interested in a nation’s progress or retreat. Meanwhile, our tendency to focus on a few selected economic developments and to alter the facts concerning many others has broadened the gap between Western nations and the Egyptian state. We have been attempting to persuade the West using the same arguments that we use internally — arguments that Western society will never recognize.
It is quite difficult for the Western media to acknowledge that the recent presidential election in which incumbent President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi won 97 percent of the vote was free and fair, as stated by our government. In the view of Western society, one of the essential ingredients of an election is competitiveness, which was totally absent in our latest election. Additional justification of the election by the Egyptian state won’t change a single Westerner’s mind; however, exerting constructive efforts in other areas could convince a few to talk about other positive developments, but we decline to do so.
The Egyptian state could do a better job of winning over the West by simply acknowledging and declaring the shortfalls that exist in our ruling mechanism and by offering a clear plan for overcoming these deficiencies in the coming years. Arguing that Egypt is a solid democracy and that the entire world is misperceiving us is a false track that Westerners will never buy. Our current policy of warning the West against interfering in our internal affairs and simultaneously urging it to continue providing us with economic aid is simply unsustainable.
• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom.