I am pleased to announce that Egyptians everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, Egypt has been beset by myriad problems and obstacles since the overthrow of Mubarak (not that it was exactly problem-free while he was in power), not least of which are mounting inflation, fuel shortages, a security vacuum, and a virtually stagnant economy. All of this is besides the huge amount of work that needs to be completed following the fall of Mubarak, such as the criminal investigations and trials of all those responsible for the violence visited upon demonstrators, the reform of the security services, the reclamation of funds hidden by regime cronies abroad, and of course the drafting of a constitution that will outline the governmental division of powers and pave the way to presidential elections. Some may look at the herculean task before Egypt and be intimidated by its magnitude. Others may scratch their heads in befuddlement over where to even begin!
Others, that is, but not Salafist Nour MP, Dr. Younis Makhioun. Dr. Makhioun has looked at the seemingly insurmountable task before those who the Egyptian people have entrusted with putting Egypt back in order and keenly identified priority number one: Porn. Porn, argues Dr. Makhioun, is at the source of a whole host of societal ills, including divorce and rape. Moreover, porn , leads to political lethargy among Egyptian youth who, according to Bakhioun prefer to surf porn websites than engage politically. This despite the fairly well-documented fact that it was internet savvy youth who, along with organized labour, human rights activists, and other dissident groups, led the charge against Mubarak. Bakhioun made his ringing indictments against the evils of pornography without any mention of studies or supporting evidence of any kind to back up his claims.
We all know what Bakhioun is doing. Ultimately it’s not dissimilar from what politicians of far right parties of every nation do. They find an easy target to blame for much of society’s undisputed ills, and then whip up a frenzy among their base. For the far right parties of Europe it’s Muslim immigration. For the Republicans it’s…porn as well! Second-place Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently took his own swipe at porn, arguing that it causes violence against women. To back his claims, Santorum only made vague reference to “a wealth of research.” Perhaps he and Bakhiouny have the same source.
Both politicians are pursuing the same strategy, and porn is a convenient target. In both America and much more so in Egypt, to appear to be supporting pornography through opposing attempts to censor it is an uncomfortable position for a politician. And while progressive American politicians can frame the debate in terms of constitutionally-protected freedom of speech and expression, Egypt’s constitution is currently being drafted by a panel of 100, from which many liberal MPs have withdrawn in protest over the over-representation of conservatives and reactionaries.
It’s difficult to tell how much support for such positions exists among the Egyptian body politic. To vocally oppose such moves could be seen (or at least distorted to seem) as an advocacy of porn, an untenable position in mainstream Egyptian society. At the same time, I don’t have so little faith in the Egyptian people as to think that this blatant posturing will go unnoticed. Egyptians are aware of the difficulties and hardships afflicting their country more than anyone else. And more than anyone else, Egyptians are aware of the almost incomprehensible magnitude of the task at hand. Ultimately, Egyptians will have to ask themselves how a ban on porn improves their lives or gets Egypt any closer to emerging from the political quagmire in which it is currently mired. I doubt many would agree it does.