In Egypt, the space for thought and expression has been tightening at alarming rates, with the mind of Egyptian society tilting towards the right. The heated discussion over whether niqab is religiously obligatory or not makes any contentions that the hijab (headscarf) is not obligatory (a debatable issue among theologians) seem awkward and intolerable, and thus excludes it from public debate. Under this suffocating censorship, no one would dare — like Ismael Adham did in the 1930s — write a book entitled “Why Am I Atheist?”
Censorship went hand in hand with the scarification of unsacred parties and issues. For instance, any explicit or implicit critique of the military establishment (or, say, its performance in the 1973 War against Israel) is today inadmissible. The number of sacred cows has been increasing.
Prolonged practice is the most effective means of indoctrination. After long periods of time of exposure to the same ideas, censorship of other ideas becomes voluntary. In Egypt, Islamists are not currently in power, but they need not worry much. That introspection is inhibited by intimidation and dissent is discouraged denotes that the doctrine of rigid Islamists has already been underway. History tells us that the control of power is often preceded by the control of ideas.
Already under a secular regime, novels have been banned by a “liberal” minister on the grounds they are blasphemous, various intellectuals were convicted by courts of being apostates and citizens were arrested for eating during the fasting hours of Ramadan.
Creativity and imagination recede when the mind is constrained by so many restrictions. Scrutiny and inquiry are substituted by stereotypic answers to all questions of life and destiny.
The withering away of the critical evaluation of ideas, thoughts and beliefs is giving way for the triviality and fundamentality of extremist minds. So at a time when the advanced world has been exploring the applications of Nanotechnology, investigating the secrets of the big bang and decoding the map of the human genome, our minds have been preoccupied with discussing the possibility of marriage between man and jinn [genie, h/t Jeff], figuring out the mandatory length and width of the piece of cloth covering women’s bodies and preaching about the benefits of drinking Prophet Mohamed’s urine.
Pity the nation that was once the hub of thought and knowledge in the region.
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