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Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Sexual Harassment, the Arab Spring and Social Decay

Responding to Lara Logan (wrongly labelled as Laura Logan):

Hussein Aboubakr Mansour on X

"How did it start?
I was living in Egypt at the time, and I remember these events somewhat vividly. The ubiquity of sexual harassment in Egypt was always one of the main issues that deeply distressed me about the country and made me disillusioned about the Arab Spring very quickly.

The beginning of the phenomenon of what came to be known in Arabic taharush gamae'e, or mass sexual harassment, can be actually pinned down with exactitude in the summer of 2006. The first major incident took place during the opening night of a movie called Alia al-Tarab. It was a spoof stupid film that had become the default of Egyptian cinema starting from the late 1990s. Vulgar films of very low quality that were more of a montage of scenes of vulgar comedy, crass music, sexual inuendos, and sexual suggestiveness primarily catering to the tastes and chauvinism of working-class young Egyptian men. It was likely the worst point of decline in the history of the Egyptian film industry, the oldest in the Middle East.

The main female character of the movie was the famous belly dancer named Dina, who was attending the opening night in a movie theater in downtown Cairo. This was Eid night, the first day of the holiday following Ramadan. According to the news reports I remember from the time, as Dina showed up in front of the theater, a commotion started in the large crowds of young men gathered around the theater. She suddenly started dancing in front of them, which led to an explosion of chaos that sent Dina running to take shelter in the theater, and left the aroused young men hunting in groups in the streets for women to sexually assault.

Dina denied the incident later (I'm surprised I remember all of this), but here are the facts: that night in downtown Cairo, several women, usually in the company of their families, were savagely sexually assaulted by groups of young random men. The group of men, through acts of chaos, would usually isolate their victim from her family, drive her to either a street corner or to the middle, and then proceed to assault her. This was the first time such thing, at least with such a high profile, ever happened: in the middle of downtown Cairo adjacent to Tahrir Square (think Times Square), where much of the Egyptian government and the police forces are headquartered, on an Eid night when a very large number of people is out, and with such barbarity.

This was a shattering incident. It was first called by the press su'ar gensi, or an explosion of 'sexual rabis', and it incensed public opinion. The days after, the Ministry of Interior denied that the incident ever took place, despite the footage, and accused al-Ahram, the government's own press outlet, of spreading false information. Others blamed Dina and the movie makers for the incident, accusing them of debauchery and spreading immorality amongst the youth. Bottom line, no actions were taken.

In the following years, the incidents started to increase at an alarming pace with the highest risk typically on national holidays or soccer matches, days in which large crowds are expected to be present. The victims were of every age and of every background: younger women, older women, veiled, unveiled, etc. The perpetrators also became diverse: older men, younger men, and more alarmingly, and in my opinion, more key to understanding this, large groups of male children as well. (We are talking 11 years old) The government seemed helpless to respond to this in any way, public order and morality seemed to be collapsing at an alarming rate, and the frequency created a sense of normalcy in which this became a part of life for which the term taharush gamae'e, or mass sexual harassment (really, assault) was coined. Women had to deal with it and calculate their moves in public as to minimize the risk to the largest extent.

Then came the events of the Arab Spring in 2011, during which Logan's incident took place. I personally witnessed it twice, once around Tahrir Square and once in Zamalek, an upscale Cairo neighborhood with a lot of embassies and Western residents. Later on, and following the waves of migration to the North, European cities will become familiar with the phenomenon.

I remember the first time I witnessed this in Tahrir Square and it is still very hard to put into words. It was like watching a zoological documentary on National Geographic. It erupted suddenly without signs when a large group of young men, whom I'm certain did not know each other nor did they coordinate in any verbal way, formed a large circle around a young woman to attack her. I was frightened, but I hesitantly got close due to a vague urge of something, maybe a hazy sense of duty, to do something. I got close enough to see the people's faces, and it was, without exaggeration, one of the most terrifying scenes in my life: they were human faces that were not human faces. The eyes were completely empty except from raw instinct in action, like the face of an animal. I found myself looking in the face of a human condition I never thought ever existed: a state of pure animal existence without a trace of humanity. My friends pulled me away afterward.

The second time, which took place in Zamalek, though much less dramatic for the girl was thankfully quickly rescued by a passing vehicle, I still also remember clearly, but for other reasons. I was with two good friends, Amir and Hala, leaving a seafood restaurant after dinner. It was maybe around June, so five months after the beginning of the Arab Spring. Amir and Hala were other fellow Tahrir Square protestors, the kind Obama hailed and featured in American media: middle class, Westernized, generically liberal, etc., the Bassem Youssef type. They were optimistic about "the revolution" and the Californian future awaiting Egypt, a view which, at that point, I no longer shared. I had become disillusioned and believed that Egypt, and the entire Middle East, was heading towards unmitigated disaster, in great part because of the collapse of public order and morality which led to this kind of sexual assaults.

I had spent dinner trying to convince them that the cause was already lost and that there was nothing to hope for. They, on the other hand, were optimistic, calmer, and very hopeful, playing down everything I said (being dismissed in this way seems to be my fate) They insisted I was exaggerating and unable to see the historically inevitable progress awaiting us (both of them now live in the West) and I insisted they were delusional. As we were exiting the restaurant, we saw the incident in which a large group of young men running after a young, pretty woman wearing a nice short dress (this was Zamalek) and it wasn't hard to guess what was going on. Thankfully, a car, I don't know if the driver knew the girl or not, sped through the men, let the girl in, and took off with speed. I didn't need their validation then.

Now, if you I got you to read this far, you must read the rest of what I have to say about this,
Followers of Western leftism, a despicable ideology, would have a hard time fitting this into their worldview they would usually deny its existence altogether. So would liberals, whose ideology became a form of intellectual retardation with its recently acquired delusional and infantile views on human nature. Those who are disposed to suspicion of Islam or Arab culture would happily blame it entirely on an eternal Muslim or Arab ethos. As a person who lived it, I find all to be delusional.

This kind of truly barbarous, anti-social, and uncivilized behavior was actually a new development in Egypt, traditionally the most modernized and middle-class Arab society for most of the 20th century, and was, until 2006, unknown and unimaginable. Egypt was not a feminist society by any Western measure. Sexual harassment and assault, including street cat-calling, existed long before. Yet, and until my teenage years, it was still a largely civilized society. There were clear codes of public civility and morality; some derived directly from religion, some from modern Western bourgeois morality, and much from social norms of family relations, the honor institution, neighborly conduct, and settled ethical norms.

These ethical systems had their own structure of social authority, which most people intuitively obeyed. Again, it was not perfect, nor did it conform fully to Western standards; for instance, a man could slap his wife in public in case of an argument (not that it was very common) and expect little interference. But such public demonstrations of sheer cruelty and sexual barbarity was something that went through every grain of public order, morality, religiosity, and social expectations. Their explosion was a sign, not of the presence of a certain system of non-Western morality, but the erosion of one along with traditional authority, law and order, and the collapse of entire systems of civilizing restraints.

It is an important story not because it exposes some essential barbarity at the heart of Muslim or North African men, but a story of a society that went through a process of decivilization and in which it's institutions were no longer capable of transmitting its capital of social knowledge and psychological inner restraints, and regulated releases, to the low strata of its members. It is inseparable from the story of social implosion, state collapse, and proliferation of ever more cruel forms of violence in many parts of the region. Reducing the entire issue to 'culture' or 'Islam' is not just unfair to the people, (screw fairness) but it blinds us to understanding how a process of drastic civilizational and social erosion can happen at such a speed. The pundits who keep selling you easy answers, neat explanations, full packages, etc. are mostly lying to you and do not know what they are talking about. Understanding what happened to Arab societies since the disaster of decolonization until today and the leftist revolutionary culture wars (already happened in the MidEast in the 1950s and which the Arab left won decisively) and the revolutionary gradual destruction of every psychological restraint and social institution could be your cautionary tale about what is happening to Western societies today.

Lastly, and more importantly, these terrifying and beasts of men I watched in these terrifying episodes were still human. They were as human as myself and as every other human I met in my life from all faiths and races. If Western liberalism wants to become a pathetic lie, offering the Western youth a rosy image of a Disneyland human nature, its a lie that no self-respecting person should participate in. Civilization and socialization, things that are easier lost than gained, are the most precious accomplishments of any society, but they are accomplishments nevertheless. We are not born with them. We inherit them, we appropriate them, we take part in them, and we preserve them. They are things that arise not from design but from accumulated experience through countless lives in the past. To squander such an inheritance for the sake of a lie is the worst self-betrayal one could ever commit.

This life experience of mine is the reason I do believe in the possibility of progress but also of regress, and I consider any Western ideology that believes in laws or inevitability of progress to be nothing but the lies of of empty minds and shallow souls."

Clearly, making any link between this and allegations that Muslim migrants in Europe are linked to sexual harassment is racist and xenophobic, so Hussein Aboubakr Mansour needs to be deplatformed and prosecuted for hate speech.

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