LAST year, just before the election of Dr Mohamed Morsi, I happened to be in Egypt with a group of Irish journalists. For the first time in years, election posters appeared on every available lamppost and billboard and all the talk was of politics and "the revolution". And if some of us Irish hacks raised an eyebrow at the unbridled optimism of young men who envisaged a bright, free future ahead, we hoped it was down to our ingrained Irish pessimism and not just our experience that civil war inevitably follows revolution.And surprise, surprise. He wasn't in favor of secularism at all. Now, luckily, he's not even "president" anymore, he's just a cellblock member. And he deserves whatever he gets in prison.
You may note that I mentioned only "young men", the fact being that I rarely got to see, let alone speak with, Egyptian women. Initially we had stayed at the southern tourist resort of Sharm El Sheik where it took a few hours to realise what was missing: females. Every single staff member was male. Where were the girls?
We were told they were kept at home with their families until they married. "Their families preferred it," said our guide. Why? "It keeps the women safe and their fathers know where they are."
A few days' chatting with locals confirmed the view that, in the 15 years since my last visit to Egypt, the country had become increasingly "Islamicised". Meanwhile, in Cairo, what stood out was the utter poverty of many of its people, male, female, young and old.
At Tahrir Square, our young male guide advised me not to attempt to chat with any of the women, as sexual attacks on females – including western journalists – were increasing daily. Five minutes later, I watched as he rudely chastised a group of older women, headscarves properly in place, who had been taking pictures of each other outside the nearby Cairo museum. They moved off with a dignity and weariness that suggested they'd suffered years of this sort of attitude. Our guide then proudly pointed out the picture of the man he was voting for: Dr Morsi, or "moderate Morsi" as he was known then; the benign face of the Muslim Brotherhood who was supposedly more predisposed to tolerating secular values than the ultra-conservative Salafis.
I hope the reporter understands what's behind all this oppression, namely, the Koranic verses promoting the belief that a woman is an object who should be enslaved. If she's smart, she'll advise Islamic-run regimes to abandon the Religion of Peace, otherwise, nothing has been accomplished.