Stranger in the Arab-Muslim World

Stranger in the Arab-Muslim World

Fouad Ajami

Denial is at the heart of the relationship between the Arab and Muslim worlds and America.

Read Time:
1m 12sec

That wily, flamboyant Egyptian ruler Anwar al-Sadat contracted an affection for things and people American when he dominated his land in the 1970s. In the distant, powerful United States, which had ventured into Egypt, he saw salvation for his country--a way out of the pan-Arab captivity, the wars with Israel, and the drab austerity of a command economy. But Sadat was struck down in October 1981. The following year Sherif Hetata, a distinguished Egyptian man of letters, published a novel called al-Shabaka (The net), into which he poured the heartbreak and unease of his political breed (the secular Left) at America´s new role in Egypt.

It is not a brilliant novel. The fiction is merely a vehicle for Hetata´s radical politics. A net (an American net) is cast over Egypt and drags the old, burdened land into a bewildering new world. The protagonist of the novel, Khalil Mansour Khalil, is an educated Egyptian who works for the public sector in the pharmaceutical industry and has known the setbacks and the accomplishments of the Nasser years. The Six-Day War shattered the peace and promise of his world in 1967, but vindication came six years later, in October 1973, when Egyptian armor crossed the Suez Canal. "We lived through a period of great enthusiasm, but it did not last." American diplomacy changed things, "weaned" Egypt away from its old commitments.

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