New Delhi: A year
after the people's uprising in Egypt that toppled the 30-year
regime of president Hosni Mubarak, a university scholar says
Egyptians believe it is time to govern the newly-democratic
country in an "Islamist way".
"There is this simple conviction among people that with Islamists,
things will be better. Or else, the Tahrir Square is always
there," Mustafa Riad, professor of English literature at the
faculty of arts in Ain Shams University in Cairo, told IANS in an
Tahrir Square was the centre of Cairo that witnessed the massive
anti-Mubarak protests leading to his ouster and arrest.
Riad, a scholar of comparative studies and an active translator,
has written, published, and presented many papers both nationally
and internationally on Egypt. His latest translation is of Juan
Cole's "Napoleon's Egypt: Invasion of the Middle East".
Riad was recently in Delhi to deliver the Fifth Munshi Premchand
Memorial Lecture on "Naguib Mahfouz and the Making of Modern
Egypt: The Dilemma of Modernity" at the Jamia Millia Islamia.
About how the post-Mubarak Egypt was shaping up, Riad said that
with the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power, civil rights might be
"Yes, this is true, but we have to go through this and try this
Islamist solution. After all, in England too the Puritans ruled
for some time and they got England into a civil war, before
England reverted to monarchy," Riad said.
At the same time, he expressed concern over the fanatic versions
"The young people in Egpyt are now more interested in Islamic
studies and are reading about Islam. But they are very much
influenced by a particular interpretation of Islam that goes back
to Wahabi sect."
"To my generation Islam is more comprehensive and is not to be
equated with Wahabi version. It's a universal religion," he said.
Riad believes this tilt towards the Wahabi sect was on account of
a large number of Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia, and getting
indoctrinated in the belief that this was the only version of
On Indian influence in Egypt, people there seem to have a
"romantic memory" of the Non-Aligned Movement going back to
Jawaharlal Nehru, Yugoslavia's Josip Tito and Egypt's Gamal Abdel
Nasser, Riad said. But that seems to be all.
"People in Egypt have affection for India that goes back to Nasser
and we look back with pride to those days," he said.
Egyptian understanding of Indian literature also goes back to
Rabindranath Tagore, thanks to translations done in the 1950s and
60s. But not much is known about contemporary authors.
Riad realizes this shortcoming and says: "Knowledge of Indian
culture should not stop at Tagore. It should go beyond."
On noted author Salman Rushdie pulling out of the literary
festival in Jaipur, the Egyptian academic said: "'The Satanic
Verses' got more fame than it deserved, on account of the fatwa.
But it's just a book. You can easily write a criticism of that
book and denounce the idea that you feel might be offensive. No
violent means should be used against any author."
(Meha Mathur can be contacted at