Egyptian alum talks Sept. 11, the ‘Arab Spring’

By Andrew Miller

Correspondent

A Fulbright scholar from Egypt and a College alumnus holding both a law degree and doctorate, Dr. Yassin El-Ayouty spoke about the recent Arab Revolutions and their relation to the events of 9/11 on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

He also discussed Islam, Egyptian culture and the effect of social media on U.S. foreign relations. Audience members were engaged in a question-and-answer session after his talk, which took place at 4 p.m. in the Library Auditorium.

“Hearing an actual person who is part of this society was much more informative than reading about this society from a textbook,” said Amanda Parks, a sophomore history major enrolled in an Islamic history course at the College.

El-Ayouty prefaced his presentation with a quote from an Oxford professor, who, when asked what the most important event in the Twenty-first Century was to date, responded “not 9/11” but “the Arab Revolutions. ” And yet, Arabian citizens and U.S. officials alike thought that without 9/11, these rebellions “never would have ever happened,” he said.

El-Ayouty explored the causes of the Arab Revolutions, remarking that when public outrage concerning an event “overrides” fear of a dictatorship, rebellion ensues.

“Sucide by fire intiated the Arab Revolution in Egypt, said El-Ayouty. “(It) symbolized the cry of Arabs which sparked the Egyptian revolution.”

This “spark” involved Mohamed Bouazizi, the 26-year-old fruit vendor who authorities told did not have a license to sell fruit on the street. Bouazizi appealed this decision, and then was physically abused by the government. As a public protest, Bouazizi set himself on fire in a Tunisian square.

According to El-Ayouty, this act symbolized the “cry of the Arabs” and initiated not only the Tunisian Revolution but also the Egyptian Revolution.

To illustrate the importance of the Egyptian Revolution in relation to the other Arabian Revolutions, El-Ayouty compared Egypt’s revolution to an “engine,” and revolutions in countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen were akin to “wagons” pulled by the engine. The Egyptian Revolution paved the way for other Middle Eastern revolutions, he said.

Facebook and Twitter played a key role in turning the Egyptian rebellion into a full-scale revolution, according to El-Ayouty. He described these two forms of social media as being analogous to the “bullets” in a war.

“Guns in Egypt remained silent — Egyptians do not like confrontation,” said El-Ayouty.

While social media helped to dismantle the government in Egypt, it also held implications in U.S. foreign policies. The outrage conveyed to the American public through the Internet angered Americans.

“Never again will the U.S. support dicatorships in the name of freedom to win the war on terror,” said El-Ayouty.

El-Ayouty also spent a portion of his presentation discussing the misconceptions of the Islamic faith. Al-Qaeda does not represent all of Islam, he noted.

When asked about the results of the upcoming elections in Egypt in terms of the type of government that will be established, El-Ayouty assured the audience that Islam strives for “gender equality” and does not condone a religious state.

“Egypt will not become another Iran,” he said.

El-Ayouty gave his talk at the College free of charge, in memory of not only 9/11 but also of the late William Hausdoerffer ’36, who befriended him upon his arrival at the College in 1953. Hausdoerffer — a generous donor, former professor and dean of the College — died earlier this year at the age of 97.