The Egyptian state’s struggle to engender citizens’ loyalty
That nearly three-quarters of eligible Egyptians voted for political Islamist entities in the 2012 Parliamentary election came as a severe shock to the deep state in Egypt and to many non-Islamist politicians. Since then, the Egyptian state has been doing its utmost to strengthen citizens’ loyalty to their nation — an effort that often, unknowingly, produces the opposite effect.
The Egyptian minister of health’s recent decision to play the national anthem in government hospitals every morning (aimed at reinforcing national loyalty among hospital personnel) underlines our government’s deficient understanding of both the true meaning of national allegiance and the real needs of citizens in specific crisis situations. Additionally, it highlights the ongoing state of panic about our citizens’ attachment and devotion to their country.
The minister who issued this decree is probably aware that an appropriate and speedy cure is the only desire of hospitalized patients and their families; if attained, it will eventually strengthen their loyalty to the state. However, as a career state physician, the minister is also conscious that upgrading our mediocre government hospitals into advanced ones necessitates substantial efforts that the state is not competent enough to provide; whereas broadcasting the national anthem is a task that is likely to be appreciated by the minister’s superiors.
Egyptian political pundits often tend to credit political Islamist entities with being skilled in expanding their popularity in Egyptian society. I personally believe that the credit should go to our government’s deficient policies in various fields; it is they that reinforce the status of political Islamists. Meanwhile, as long as it is never challenged, political Islamists’ false claim of building a Utopian community will persist as a fantasy in the minds of wishful thinking citizens — and our government’s defective policies certainly intensify this state of affairs.
We are sending a clear message that citizenship is all about paying a lump sum of money, irrespective of any kind of allegiance or loyalty.
For decades, the Egyptian state has been tolerant of political Islamists. It has enabled them to infiltrate society at will, as long as they don’t attempt to officially compete with political figures in key state institutions. This ruling approach has enabled political Islamist entities, working through a variety of underground channels, to reach out to the poor and illiterate, thus strengthening their political standing, to the detriment of building the desired allegiance to the state.
Egyptians have never bought the state’s constantly repeated argument that, instead of demanding better government services, citizens should be thinking of how best to serve their nation. The state still ignores the true meaning of reinforcing the state-citizen bond, believing that state media rhetoric is all that is needed. Thus, the state keeps working on expanding its rhetoric, according to which humming the slogan “Long Live Egypt” is valued over genuine job performance.
Moreover, and to complicate the loyalty issue further, the Egyptian Parliament has recently passed a law enabling foreigners to obtain Egyptian citizenship, subject to them placing 7 million Egyptian pounds ($390,000) in a zero-interest account and then handing it over to the Treasury after five years. Many advanced nations grant citizenship to foreigners after they have resided in the country for a specific number of years and have become socially and culturally integrated. We, on the other hand, are sending a clear message that citizenship is all about paying a lump sum of money, irrespective of any kind of allegiance or loyalty.
Several unsuccessful policies that our government has adopted lately are resulting in disaffiliating Egyptian citizens from aspiring to a coherent state bolstered by loyal citizens. The Egyptian government is confidently and speedily working on founding a failing state, wherein deceptive rhetoric moves a few citizens forward at the expense of the many citizens who can offer genuine merits. If the Egyptian state truly wants loyal citizens, it needs to revisit all government policies related to this issue to better serve this commendable and legitimate goal.
• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom.