Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Solidarity and Freedom for Egypt

For the past several days, I have been glued almost 24/7 to CNN and Al Jazeera (English) online with continual breaking news from Egypt.

The situation in Egypt is something that has my interests peeked, not just because I have several friends who are currently living in Egypt, and a handful of Egyptian friends; but for me, Egypt brings back memories of Anwar Sadat and his assassination.

Granted, I was only young, 8 years old to be exact, but I was at a stage in my life when the events that flashed before my eyes on the nightly news, actually had meaning to me.

I remember the news reports about the Camp David Peace Accords between Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter, and Anwar Sadat. The warmth in the handshake between Begin and Sadat, the prospect of peace and change.

Then, I remember the horrible day when the radio announced that Anwar Sadat had been assassinated. At school, I excitedly told my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Richards and was telling her how terribly sad it was. I remember even asking her what this would mean to the Camp David Accords and the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel? She was obviously baffled and taken completely aback; but that was how I was brought up, listening (and paying attention) to the news and current events. It has long been a part of my life, a part of who I am, ingrained in me.

So this new wave, the "revolution" as some are calling it, has once again peeked my interest. But its more than that, especially now. Now, I have friends there, I have Egyptian friends here, I am Muslim, I have a vested interest in what is going on over there.

Hosni Mubarak has created a monster in the people with his oppressions and lack of freedom. Most of my friends have never known anyone as ruler but him, and grew up under his rule, and his rules. But this experience goes to show that after a period of time in oppression, poverty, lack of food, the beast will tear off the shackles and fight back. Enough is enough, and the people are rising up.

The light of the future
As I watch this, I have memories of scenes from Tienanmen Square. When the army rolled in to Cairo and Alexandria (and other areas) on Friday, I held my breath. Was this going to be another massacre like China? And of course, news came out that this weekend, China shut down any social media and banned any posts with the word "Egypt" in it; I guess they don't want the beast to rear its ugly head in their capital again, 22 years later. Many of my more recent friends, were either infants when this occurred or they were not born yet. But most don't remember this as experiencing history in the making as I did, for them, it is a blurb in a text book. For them, this, Egypt, the uprising, the beast being unleashed, this is their Tienanmen, this is their history in the making. In 20 years, they will be remembering it as clear as day, while the youth of the moment will be coming to experience their own "history" being created before their eyes.

It does seem that this happens in cycles, every couple of decades... Tienanmen, Vietnam, Korea, WWII...

And of course, since I have a vested interest, I am not content to sit at home and simply view history happening on my TV screen before me. Maybe it is my innate desire to be a journalist, to be in the "thick of the action", to get the word out and inform others; or maybe it is the "activist" in me, but when this began, I felt pumped up, motivated, I felt a strong need to be a part of it, to be in the thick of it.

Barring getting on the next plane to Cairo, and join my "heroes" in the journalism field, I could do the next best thing, join in the local protests that were occurring here in Tempe.

One of my friends was one of the organizers of today's rally to support Egypt, Tunisia, and egging on for the rest of the Middle East to rise up and create a "revolution", creating a positive change; so of course I had to go, and lend my voice.

The email said to arrive "on time", as most in the Muslim world know, there is in actual fact "two sets of time"; regular time that most of the world sets their clocks by, and then there is "Muslim time", which tends about 30 [plus] minutes late.

Protester getting riled up
I guess I must have been Muslim for my entire life, because I have been living on "Muslim time" for eons!

Because we were not sure how extensive parking was going to be, and being disabled without the ability to walk too far, we needed to arrive on time, if not early to ensure we had parking.

As we arrived, there were about 20 people already there, holding up signs and others choosing which sign they were going to hold up. While the turnout began a little disappointing, it was not long before more and more people turned up.

As I stood on the street corner with my sign proudly posted towards the cars at the intersection, a young American lady walked up to me and greeted me in the Islamic way "As'salaam alaikum" she said. I was taken aback slightly as this was the first time I have been greeted as such by a non-Muslim.

"Wa'alaikum as'salaam", I responded. She looked a little confused by my answer, I think she might have wondered if I spoke English, with my sun glasses on and hijab, maybe I don't quite look like I do. I mean I do look to be an anomaly anyway, and people are always baffled, but with large sunglasses, it must double confusion.

Lady in pink shirt asked me if anyone could join in
"Is this an organized event... I mean, is this an organization?" She asked.

"Well, it's an organized event by word of mouth and social media, but not an organization only." I responded.

"Oh, so can anyone join in?" She asked.

"OH SURE!" I answered really eagerly. I was thinking "How cool is this? Just some random person coming off the street wanting to join in."

"Go ahead and grab a sign over there and join us."

She smiled sweetly and disappeared into the crowd of people. I caught sight of her later with her file folder, standing just a little away from the crowd, observing.

Today was an awesome day. It was amazing to stand together with brothers and sisters (of the human race), Muslims and non-Muslims, people who just joined in off the street, shouting out loud our support for "Freedom in Egypt" and "Down with Mubarak".
We were one human race, with one agenda; solidarity.

To stand there as one people, and to hear the amount of support from those in cars driving by. And then; a fire truck rounded the corner, and the next thing a loud, blaring "honk" from the fire truck, in support and solidarity of us, of Egypt, and of freedom.

We are currently in a spectacular time. The outcome in unknown, but the solidarity and the beast is rising stronger and louder. When will it end? Where will it end? No one but Allah knows. But what will forever be remembered is that the beast was unleashed, and once unleashed, it may quiet, but it will never sleep again.


Photo Montage 

Jamie Steele, of San Carlos Apache Reservation

Muslim young ladies taking the advantage of the rally to
protest against Israel's bombing of Palestine

Mothers and their children came out to rally

Usama Abdallah, of Chandler, along with his 5-year-old son Adam, wave a flag during the protest at a rally on the corner  of Mill Avenue and University Drive in Tempe.

Ayah Ahmed (left), 19, and Amanda Elgamal, 15,
protest during the rally .

Mike Watkiss from KTVK 3 in Phoenix covered
the event live. KTVK 3 was one of five news
stations that covered the rally in Tempe this

Omar Hassan, 12, makes a definite statement
as he protests during the  rally.

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