From the archive of Abdelrahim Ali

Abdel Moneim Said stands in solidarity with Abdelrehim Aly against al-Qaeda's threats and writes ‘In Search of Voltaire!’

Abdelrehim Aly

In his article in Nahdet Misr newspaper 15 years ago, that is, on Thursday, November 1, 2007, Dr. Abdel Moneim Said announced his solidarity with Abdelrehim Aly against the threats of al-Qaeda and wrote, “The man did not carry a sword but rather carried a pen, and the man did not curse an organization but rather created a juicy mixture of journalistic investigation and scientific research that delves into Islamic political movements and tries to search for their roots and origins, belonging to that group of people who, if they make a mistake, have a reward, but if they are right, they have two rewards.”

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In search of Voltaire!

What Voltaire said one day about being willing to sacrifice his life for the right of his opponents to express their opinions does not seem to be an Arab currency in the near future, despite all the talk about freedom of opinion and expression, democracy and tolerance for opposing opinions. What appears to be prevalent in Egypt and other Arab societies is that the strife of freedoms increases sharply when the violation is from the political authority. At that time, the playing of tyranny and dictatorship has a lot of cheerleaders, but when the violation comes from political groups that are not in power, silence is broadcast, and the voices become faint and whisper, because the opinion group is not completely sure whether it is a violation of human rights and public freedoms, or that the matter may be confused between resistance and terrorism.

The story this time revolved around Abdelrehim Aly, a journalist interested in issues of political Islam and its affiliates of beliefs, ideologies, terrorism, violence and elections, when a direct threat of death was directed at him by the al-Qaeda group in Iraq by urging its allied groups to get rid of the man or strike his neck, according to the common expressions in those jihadist groups.

The ruling came as a punishment for what our friend publishes in several newspapers, in addition to his heavy presence on Arab television channels. The man did not carry a sword but rather a pen, and he did not curse an organization but rather created a zealous mixture of journalistic investigation and scientific research that delves into Islamic political movements and tries to search for its roots and origins.

Certainly, the subject is a kind of ethical and moral test for the owner of the pen. It is not easy for a person to live under the mercy of a death threat, especially from groups about which the virtue of joking is unknown, and at the same time maintain his intellectual objectivity. It is possible, of course, that what happened to the great thinker Sayyid al-Qemany could happen to him. Qemany lived a similar experience that put him under great family and psychological pressures, and he came out of it with great courage. But the biggest test was for the entire Egyptian and Arab press and intellectual community, from left to right.

For the truth, there was some reaction in the form of statements from the Freedoms Committee of the Journalists Syndicate, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights and some news and articles, but all of this did not exceed a kind of disclaimer, so I did not find a sufficient movement on the subject that deserves a position, nor did the Muslim Brotherhood group, despite its large number of statements, find anything worthy of condemnation. With the exception of the Freedoms Committee in the syndicate, seriousness has been excluded in looking at the issue, which is one of the most important issues of public freedoms.

In fact, the intellectual group’s current defense of journalists sentenced to imprisonment will not be correct unless it turns into a general position on freedom of opinion, especially since Abdelrehim Aly’s writings do not include ambiguity related to insults or slander, but are first-class intellectual jurisprudence.

It is likely that the issue will be of much broader dimensions than a terrorist group’s threat to kill a journalist. It seems that the next stage will witness many things in this respect. The threat of al-Qaeda in Iraq can only be understood in light of its position, which is subjected to many pressures.

During the current year, despite the general failure of the American experience in Iraq, it succeeded - in cooperation with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states - in attracting the Sunni tribes, which themselves began to suffer from the violent pressures of the jihadist groups that left the jihad against the Americans and directed it mainly towards the Iraqis, and the result of that was the spread of awakening councils in the Sunni provinces and directing the efforts of their tribes to expel the al-Qaeda group and its ilk. 

This transformation, which prompted even Osama bin Laden personally to criticize the practices of al-Qaeda in Iraq, is currently deepening and threatening the survival of the various terrorist groups in the country. Hence, they lost an important base for the political and military movement, training and armament. 

In line with previous experiences, tightening the screws on the al-Qaeda group and its ilk has always been a reason to transfer the jihadist movement to other theaters, as its most important strategic advantages are flexibility, agility and the ability to move from one theater of operations to another. 

It seems that the next chosen theater in the event of the exit from Iraq will be the test of the situation in the various Arab countries, as well as of course the great battle that is taking place now in Pakistan.

This, however, has another story, but what concerns us here is that the intellectuals and writers will be among the main targets of al-Qaeda, because they are easy targets for defenseless individuals, and most likely, because of their opinions, they are not among those who receive direct protection from the security authorities. But on the other hand, they achieve a great media return that satisfies the need to achieve the greatest return from fear, tension and intellectual withdrawal, not only for the thinkers and their families, but also for the entire intellectual class that may withdraw out of fear from al-Qaeda or approach it with flattery and adulation.

During the terrorist wave during the 1990s, the attempts to attack Naguib Mahfouz and Makram Mohamed Ahmed and to assassinate Dr. Farag Foda were all part of a major battle of intellectual terrorism, in addition to the material terrorism involved.

In fact, the brave stance of the intellectual group in those days was one of the most important reasons for Egypt’s success in combating terrorism when everyone’s efforts were united in order to combat fear, terrorism and violence. This should start early this time, so that there is no need for a number of writers and thinkers to fall until the intellectual and political group wakes up. More than that, it should be part of the public morals and the foundations upon which the cultural, intellectual and political construction in Egypt is based.

It is true that the intellectual and political community in Egypt is fraught with many wounds related to intellectual and public freedoms, but the threat directed at the writer Abdelrehim Aly represents another moment that no one should miss!