The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

On sexuality and social radicalism in Egypt

Amidst all the worry about fundamentalists and military fascists and felool and insecurity in Egypt, the last few days have seen a decidely odd and unexpected phenomenon. First a young woman by the name of Alia Magda al Mahdi, who appears to be dating the formerly imprisoned blogger and radical atheist Kareem Amer, published a nude picture (full-frontal!) of herself on her blog as a an act of defiance (see more about it here). Then we hear about a Facegroup group calling for a "gay day" in Egypt. Not as in happy, but as in LGBTQ. 

Seeing things like this is a little bit of a shell-shock, because people are obsessed with the political process and Egypt's flawed transition all this stuff almost seems silly and juvenile in comparison. I love it all the more for it, although I also worry about Alia's safety and society's response. Egypt, to be blunt about it, is a deeply bigoted and narrow-minded place. Some people may even be angry with her for associating secular/liberal values with what many will simply see as debauchery.

I don't want to get into a discussion about cultural sensitivity and all that, but simply note and applaud the sheer brazenness of acts like this: they are so radical in this society they appear as if they are from another dimension. Societies need that kind of jolt every now and then, and it reminds me how the youth bulge in the demographics of Egypt and many Arab countries will inevitably shatter taboos, as the Baby Boomers did in Europe and the US. We should just remember that protestors of May 68 in Paris, as influential as they were, were dwarfed by the demonstrations of support for De Gaulle, and that the generation that gave us hippies in America gave us many more born-again Christians.