Science is an engine of progress. Perhaps more importantly critical thinking, skepticism and a culture of research and contemplation are the engines of civilization. And so when Hazem Zohny in Science and faith among Egyptians: Compatible? finds that less than 10 percent of Egyptians accept evolution theory while some 40 percent have never heard of Darwin we should be alarmed. In dealing with the scientific, we have capitulated to religion.
But we should not be surprised. It is all too possible that as we face increased poverty, disparity, human rights abuses – in Rights groups call Egypt a “police state”, we report that once again independent human rights organizations reiterate that police torture is systematic and that a "state of impunity" rules – and diminishing options people might opt to turn their backs on civilization. From hijab – towards which we have complex attitudes as Ashraf Khalil explains in Hijab-free Zones? – to niqab. From tolerance to bigotry. From basic street courtesy to mayhem.
Last week’s Eid vacation being a case in point as those – mostly of veiled women – who braved crowded streets were harassed by the masses of young men out to have a good time. There were no incidents as collectively violent as 2007’s episodes but the level of tension women now face on Egyptian streets is intimidating nonetheless.
There can be little doubt that this is the same mindset as those who descended on Zamalek before the holiday with the sole aim of attacked the Algerian Embassy after Egypt lost the World Cup qualifying match to Algeria in the Sudan. They are the young men whom the mainstream press has all but unanimously called “the real Egyptians.” We have been told by all and sundry that these men would have represented us gloriously (read: beat the living daylights out of the Algerians) should the government had the sense to send them to Sudan instead of the artistic types (read: wimps).
And so it has come to be: the hooligan is now the venerated Egyptian citizen. As a leading journalist commented to me at the height of the Egypt-Algeria hysteria: “No one seems to care that these hooligans will be the very ones to burn down Cairo sometime in perhaps the not so distant future.”
But then, critical, insightful thinking is not always a hallmark of our collective consciousness. I remind you of evolution theory never mind football.