As the years went by, Mubarak’s photographs mounted every wall in every civil servant’s office. The photographs grew larger and larger until they became double the size of Mubarak himself. As he drove on Cairo’s congested streets, his motorcade stopped and jammed traffic for hours. He also had his own batch of auspicious names: the pious leader, the virtuous father, etc. Then, his name was engraved on the most prominent underground metro station, the prestigious police academy, and hundreds of schools and institutions.
Suzanne Mubarak got the same treatment, and she became Egypt’s First Lady, Mama Suzanne, and “El Hanem,” and her name, with its various titles, adorned several organizations and associations. Suzanne’s photograph also appeared on every volume published by “Reading for Everybody,” her effort to reach the poor with books and publications.
Several years ago, during the African Cup, while Egypt hosted and played the final match against the Cameroon, the camera zoomed in on Alaa and Gamal Mubarak every two minutes or so to capture their glee and cheering. On other occasions, when Gamal hadn’t even become particularly significant, TV channels focused on him in summits and conferences for no special reason.
It doesn’t seem feasible that the Mubaraks would have asked for such treatment, but simultaneously they didn’t think badly of it. Indeed, they must have enjoyed it. And in the long run, they must have grown accustomed to it and expected it.
From this perspective, Egyptians have actually played an immense role in creating the tyrants, the Mubaraks. It is actually something that Egyptians seem to do well—put someone high on the pedestal and turn him, her, them into tyrants.
Today, as President Morsi arrives home after his short but seemingly positive trip to China and Iran, he is met by hundreds of people who are there to cheer him. An entourage of supporters meets him around his home and others block the Merghani Street in Heliopolis, where the presidential palace is, and the Airport Road.
Was the visit so vital and so important that Egyptians needed to confront the traffic and noise, leave the comfort of their homes, and ignore their daily obligations to meet the president upon his arrival? I don’t believe that any president had received such a warm welcome after a nondescript but official visit. Even when Sadat visited Jerusalem, a defining day in Egypt’s history, one does not recollect such a celebration.
At dawn, on the first day of Eid, Morsi’s convoy of 17 motorcycles and black Mercedes cars arrives at Amr Ibn El As Mosque—I counted them. The sight is disturbing and reminiscent of another president.
Simultaneously, most worshippers were prohibited from praying at the mosque to make room for Morsi’s guards and team, which left those there to enjoy Eid prayer disgruntled and dissatisfied. Is Morsi aware of the sour taste that his motorcade and entourage left in people’s mouths? Does he approve or is he misguided into following what those surrounding him say?
Morsi seems to still enjoy living in his rented apartment in the suburbs of Cairo; he has yet to move into one of the palaces—no one can deny that the man is modest, at this point, in his expectations and glamour seeking. Still, his followers, civil servants, security forces, and many Egyptians in general are not giving him the chance to function as an ordinary Egyptian. They are quickly trying to make an idol out of him.
Then Morsi’s supporters be they imams, religious leaders, fatwa callers, or mere members of the Freedom and Justice Party are glorifying Morsi and elevating him to the level of a khalif or as a descendent of Abou Bakr or Omar Ibn El Khattab, prophet Mohamed’s descendants.
Morsi has neither told them to do so nor has he expected them to place him at par with such distinguished Muslims. Still, he won’t mind, and in the long run, he will accept and expect. Remember: no man is infallible.
Are Egyptians the creators of tyrants?
We do seem as though we love to create them. We love or hate, and when we love, we go all the way. Even if we don’t love, but happen to be civil servants of any level, we try our best to make that leader a god.
In all fairness and in spite of how sometimes I’m against the overly outspoken activists, I find the role of protestors, demonstrators, citizen journalists, and social media followers fundamental in enlightening Morsi and keeping him aware of how the rest of Egypt thinks of such ways.
President Morsi, beware of your close protectors. They may be leading you along the path of no return.