"Imagine if hordes of reporters and cameras had been on hand at the St. Bartholomew massacre, when hundreds of thousands of French Huguenots were slaughtered by their Catholic compatriots…Or if some intrepid investigative journalist had managed to sneak into the Tower of London and revealed the nightmare existence of the Tower’s assorted prisoners."
Friday, November 2, 2007
A Man Who Dared
All Egyptians know the journalistic icon and international political analyst Mohamed Hassanein Heikal. An exceptional man with an exceptional talent and an eye for history. A man who, way into his 80s, is still intellectually fit and determined to deliver his message to the world. He is certainly a unique phenomenon, worthy of utmost respect and admiration. Even if you happen to disagree with him, you can't help but respect his elegant logical talk and polite informed criticism. It is fine if he can not convince you with his point of view, cause you still admire the fact that he respects your mind and appreciate his exceptional literary style in talking about history.
Unfortunately, most Egyptian youth are unfamiliar with Heikal (same as they are unfamiliar with any intellectual icon). But if you ask any of them, he can tell you that Heikal has a weekly show on Al Jazeera channel. They can even give you the name of this show "Ma3 Heikal" which means With Heikal. Young people in our country get almost all of their knowledge from TV. But they can't even dedicate themselves to seeking knowledge through this medium, that's why they don't watch the show. Yet it's good that they heard of Heikal anyway, even if it was through the ads.
Another reason why new generations don't know much about Heikal is because he is untalked of on Egyptian TV. His criticism of the present Egyptian leadership angered those in power. The Egyptian regime's dislike of Heikal grew so fierce, especially after a lecture he delievered at the American University in Cairo several years ago. It was in this lecture that fears of President Mubarak's son ascending to power were publicly discussed for the first time. This drew a red line, and since then an official campaign broke out with the aim of staining the man's history. No wonder editors of official newspapers who thrive on lipservice and hypocrisy were happy to find such a big target. Those of them who still had some self-respect, couldn't bring themselves to take part in this shameful campaign, at least not openly. But at the bottom of the ethical ladder, Rosalyousef magazine and newspaper, led by Abdallah Kamal (my no.1 in 5 Most Hated People) and Karam Gabr, could stand at nothing to please authorities. They basically depended on false accusations and low insults. They dedicated whole issues to this aim. Such people, like pagans in ancient societies, believe that offerings and sacrifice please their gods, so the bigger the object of sacrifice the better. They didn't feel any shame in talking about a man of this value in such a debased way. They (and others who had the same aim) had made the pathetic claim that Heikal's criticism of the Egyptian regime is driven by a personal desire for revenge after he lost hope in gaining any high positions in the current system.
How could those people, who have absolutely no cultural contributions or intellectual value, bring themselves to say such a lie about this great icon? How pathetic they appear! Their positions made them forget who they are. They thought that a chair can raise the value of the person who sits on it. Who are they? What will Egyptians remember about them? (Can Abdallah Kamal and his likes write one word in The Times?) They can't see that Heikal's value as a thinker is way above all of the present Arab leaders compiled together. How can a man with such stature dream of shrinking his size to fit in a position or a chair?
None of those leaders, nor those who claim to be better patriots than Heikal, can have the courage to say what he said in his lecture at Oxford University a couple of days ago. Of course none of them will ever be invited to give a lecture at such a prestigious university, in first place. But in the most imaginary scenario, even if they did, they will concentrate on asskissing and showing their gratitude. They will never dare say what Heikal said, with this straightforwardness and this exceptional eloquency.
You can download the full text of the lecture in English by clicking here or in Arabic by clicking here. You can also check feedback on Oxford University website.
There, at Oxfored University, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal dared tell Europe where it erred. His lecture, "Bridges and Barriers," can definitely be considered one of his literary masterpieces, blending intelligent discourse, elegant philosophy and artistic language. He talked about the widening fracture which seperates the North from the South, and how the North is being unjust in its judgement of the South. He argues that the Clash of Civilizations only exists in the imagination of some people in the North and the West. Civilizations can not clash as they all share one and the same source. He blames the foreign media for celebrating this clash, saying:
Who dares say that in the eyes of the most prestigious European academics, but Heikal? Who dares criticise their biased views, twisted media, political leaders, and even religious icon, Pope Benedict XVI himself? He did. He said it all, for you and me and every moderate Arab. He could do it because he is a man who valued reason and intellectual dialogue, sincerely believing in their effeciency. He could do it because as much as he believed in this, people believed in him, and he was able to win international respect. He was introduced by the Chancellor of Oxford University as "a living legend". He is a pride to all Egyptians, and Arabs in general. But just like all icons who were denied a due celebration as punishment for challenging the political regime, this living legend is denied a due appreciation or honoring in his country. At the time when the world is talking about his lecture, Egyptian offical newspapers and TV just kept totally silent.
I just wish any wise person in the current regime would understand that all this hatred can never decrease the value of such an icon. Whether they like it or not, whether they acknowledge it or not, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal will always be a living legend.