Last week an incident took place at one of the most elegant private resorts on the beautifully scenic North Coast of Egypt. There, where residences range from opulent palaces to tiny bungalows, the standard of living is definitely above average and the residents are all proud of it and would go to any length to preserve it.
Last week, on the beach of this resort, a veiled woman wearing a burkini attempted to bathe in the sea. It was rumoured that she had been sitting under an umbrella with her husband and child ogling all the women in bathing suits or bikinis, and some went further saying that she was actually taking pictures of them with her mobile.
What happened seemed to have been a growing resentment on the part of the residents which finally erupted into a violence that took the form of evicting her, her husband and their child from the beach. A golf cart had to be brought in to rescue this family from the hands of the residents of this resort.
This is the first time such an incident has taken place where the roles are reversed. It was usually the other way around, where veiled women were violently trying to impose their dress code on others not veiled. Is the cultural tide turning in Egypt?
When the veil started creeping in onto the female population in the country in the ’70’s of the last century, it was taken in stride by most of the population as a ‘fad’ that will eventually die a natural death. Most Egyptians did not realise that this was a deliberate, concerted effort to implement a strongly financed plan with an ultimate political goal in mind. Most Egyptians thought it was the “invasion of Wahabi thought” coming back with those returning from the Gulf states after finishing a stint of employment there to set them up financially.
But the hijab took over and many “preachers” suddenly appeared advocating it. It started to invade some of the upper echelons of society until it became endemic. By that time it was too late for anything to be done about it in terms of awareness about loss of the Egyptian identity and culture to an invading, alien culture of backward customs suited to the Middle Ages and not to modern life. But because this was very cleverly linked to religion and pictured as a sign of piety, women fell for it in droves and came to believe in it and finally reached a point of aggressively advocating it and trying to violently enforce it on others.
With the ascension of the Muslim Brotherhood to the rule of Egypt, the final stage of the plan was complete. The veil had become a symbol of this trend, as did the long unkempt beards for men.
In one year the Brotherhood managed to accomplish what all previous presidents over sixty years could not. They managed to completely disillusion the general population of Egypt and antagonise them, then push them into a strong resentment which is now turning into loathing.
With this latest incident have Egyptians now turned this feelings into active violence? The fact that most educated Egyptians of a certain social class had never accepted the hijab and are now turning to a violent kind of rejection, is an interesting social development. The whole population had rejected the Brotherhood after one year of their rule. But now the social aspect is catching up with the political one. This usually takes much longer, for social norms are acquired over a long period and discarding them should take just as long. In this case though, there are other factors that give weight to an acceleration of this rejection. The continued violence of the Brotherhood and its supporters against the Police, Army and civilians has generated a strong feeling of rejection among Egyptians.
In this particular case, not only was there the feeling by all Egyptians of strong rejection of the Brotherhood and all its symbols, but added to that the feeling that the private resort was being invaded and degraded by such a symbol. Among certain classes in Egypt the hijab is looked down upon as belonging to the less fortunate classes, and this feeling is especially strong on beaches where the stark contract between a bikini and a burkini is quite shocking.
That violence should erupt means that people have reached the end of all patience and no longer behave civilly by reporting what they disapprove of to the authorities to take care of it, but have actually stepped out of character and took matters into their own hands and behaved like vigilantes. Besides being a violation of the rights of others and being an illegal act, this incident is very indicative of the mood of certain strata of Egyptian society that has changed and become aggressive and started fighting back to keep their society “untainted” by the alien, invading culture.