Touted as a “March of Millions” the people of Egypt are confronting their government in a significant way… but what does that mean for Black America and Africa?
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
There are many people who claim that Egypt is in the “Middle East” and contrary to that belief, Egypt is in Africa, period. The events that have taken place–the mass protest–over the past week have a direct bearing, not only in the Middle East area and its neighbors, but also in Africa and in the United States of America. The events in Cairo and Alexandria will affect this country politically, economically, diplomatically and militarily.
Besides Israel, Egypt is the recipient of the largest amount of economic aid in the region, and it is a close ally of America in the fight against terrorism. However, it appears that the masses of the people there do not benefit from the close relationship … only the few that are in power–the ruling class; the masses remain forgotten and untouched.
Strategically, Egypt is of vital importance to America for several reasons: it controls the Suez Canal, the super waterway that is critical to the flow of oil; it is a friend of the U.S. and of Israel; and it acts as a buffers against some of the other states in the region that is unfriendly and even hostile to the U.S.
In trying to analyze, interpret and understand the events beyond the sound bite and the media’s version … what will the fall of Egypt mean to and fro Black America? The Sentinel reached out to some who may have intimate knowledge about the situation in Egypt.
Speaking to Hesham El Swify is as close as one can get to what’s really happening without being there in person–he was born and raised in Egypt and is now a businessman in America. He often travels back home (to Egypt). Last Monday, El Swify said, “I’ve been talking to Egypt all day long … I’ve been talking to everybody.” Then he added, “The situation now is that Mubarak must stay for now for one reason. If Mubarak leaves Egypt, civility–law and order–the whole area will go down (explode). Egypt has 80 million people. Hezbollah in Lebanon … all the Shiites will know, it they get Egypt, the whole Muslim world will follow.”
Getting an understanding from an individual who have lived most of his life there gives one a different perspective from what the overseas public gleans from the television, radio and/or internet. In the short term, “It is better for Mubarak to stay and restore order, put in a new government, and they he leaves,” El Swify continued. “His term is over in November, so he need to stay to restore order; and once he makes sure that everything in Egypt is safe, and there is a new government, then with dignity, he can leave … no problem.”
Congresswoman Diane Watson (ret.), knows a bit about the diplomatic and political challenges that Egypt in chaos represents. She has been a frequent visitor to Egypt and has spoken with President Mubarak and Mrs. Mubarak. She explained, “These bright young college students and all the others want a different life in their country, and that’s what it’s all about. The old dictatorial ways don’t meet the challenge of the youth today. In fact, we were going to Egypt on April 11, and I had asked Nancy Wilson if she would do a concert at the pyramids.”
After pausing a while, Watson continued, “You know, the culture is there in Egypt and that’s why the whole scene is so disturbing … and particularly when mobs went into the museums and started to attack the antiquities … how can we tell our history. We have to tell our history from what we have found. And it takes the generation at present to deal with those and that’s the idea of lifting people up to leadership; and we who have given leadership can go in to provide it in a different setting.”
Imam Abdul Karim Hasan of Masjid Felix Bilal said emphatically, “I’m with the people … I’m with the suppressed and the oppressed … I’m with them.
They are denied their basic freedom and their basic rights, and I think it’s about time for them to have basic freedom and basic rights. So I’m with them. We had the same problem here in the United States … so we appreciate our own struggle, we have to appreciate their struggle.” In responding to the notion of a Million Man March, Hasan said, “They are calling for a million people; they want men and women in the streets.”
Furthermore he added, “they are not ignorant to American history … they are not ignorant to that any where in the world. They are talking about something that we’ve already struggled to acquire.”
At press time, thousands of people marched in support of President Hosni Mubarak Wednesday morning (Egypt time) hours after he made a defiant speech promising to serve out the last months of his term and “die on Egyptian soil.”
Meanwhile President Barack Obama is reportedly prodding the Egyptian president to quickly loosen his grip on power–as an ally speaking to an ally, who happens to be in a jam–at the same time, telling him that the time to transition from the presidency “must begin now.”
Recent developments made clear the administration’s determination that long-term backing for the Egyptian president was no longer tenable. The administration also appeared to be attempting to reach out to Mubarak’s possible successor, Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, a former Egyptian diplomat and chief of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog program. ElBaradei may be more amenable to a western-style change since he has lived in the U.S. for about 15 years. There is also concern that any unknown successor who may come from an Islamist group or others might be hostile to Israel and unfriendly to U.S. interests. That is what’s really at stake.