How the Brotherhood Differs from Egyptian Culture

From the Arabist:

Nawara Nagm is a revolutionary activist who believes one of the main flaws of the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization is that they do not know how to talk to the Egyptian people. Correct or not in her assessment of the Brotherhood, her article is very humorous and offers great insight into Egyptian culture. There are many lessons here for those willing to learn (and, God forbid, exploit).

Here is a good excerpt:

The Muslim Brotherhood’s problem is that they do not resemble the Egyptian character in any way, they don’t have the Egyptians’ light touch and don’t understand the nature of the Egyptians whom they are trying to rule amidst this turbulence. They don’t understand Egyptian taste in food, clothes or arts. It is a “yes, master” organization ruling a people that only park their cars under “No Parking” signs; a highly organized group ruling a people who spray water in front of shops to cool things off; a dour organization ruling a people that never stops laughing at its own misfortunes; an organization that says “die in your rage” ruling a people that does not fear death even when crossing the street and that does not die when it is in rage, but takes revenge on those who inspired their rage and makes a joke out of them; it is a bureaucratic organization ruled by an official with a family, branch and bureau[3] all above him ruling a people that manages things on the fly.

What’s worse, the Brotherhood deals with us on the basis that we’re an “ill-bred” people and they want to teach us some manners. There’s no greater proof of that than the text of the constitution that the Brotherhood drafted, putting in every article expressions like “cultivation,” “morals,” and “values.” The only thing left for them was to put: “The people must brush their teeth and clip their nails.”

I don’t know what the reason is behind this naïveté on the part of the Brotherhood. Your Excellency the President, Mr. General Guide [of the Brotherhood], Mr. Khairat al-Shater, have you never driven a car on the streets of Egypt? If you do something wrong, smile at the person you wronged and say: “Sorry, I owe you an apology,” he will break out in a smile and say: “May God ease things for you, brother!” And if the other person is in the wrong and you open your yap at him, he’ll say: “Why are you shouting? Don’t I have a voice same as you…that’s not the way to do things…to hell with you.”

Easy… easy… Showing one’s anger doesn’t work with Egyptians. Egyptians are not afraid of a raised voice, since God has blessed them with a throat such that when they whisper in your ear in Imbaba, they’re heard in al-Tagammu al-Khamis,[4] and they don’t get startled or shaken. It’s through gentle coaxing that you gain our affection.

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