I have a confession to make: While the whole world was transfixed by us, yet again, due to that whole attacking-the-embassy business, I was going through a tumultuous emotional journey, alternating between bewilderment, horror and shock-based laughter, ending with the most unexpected of feelings: pride. I must say that currently I am filled with a sense of ironic pride for my country and my revolution, for the status both have achieved over the past 19 months. The attention and importance given to Egypt, well, it has been nothing short of overwhelming. We sure have wowed you.
Sure, the scenes on your screens might be so disturbing that some of you openly wondered whether we are going through a second revolution or something, but let me assure you with both facts and personal experience: There is no second revolution, there are no open riots on the streets. The action was totally confined to a 250-meter radius around the embassy, with people going to eat, drink, and smoke shisha within earshot of the fighting. For most Egyptians, this whole video thing didn't affect us at all. And after the initial clashes, the majority of the 2,500 young dudes stationed around the embassy were soccer fans -- the Zamalak Ultras -- who were there simply to do what they do best: battle with the police. The rest of us just went about our lives.
Sure, there are scary indications of things to come, like the attack on a multinational peacekeepers' camp in Sinai, where the al Qaeda flag was hoisted, the same flag now being sold on T-shirts in Tahrir Square. Then there's the arrest of Alber Saber, a guy whose crime was sharing the trailer of Innocence of Muslims on his Facebook page while being a Copt and an atheist as well, and whose house was attacked by a mob (ironically, just like in the movie), but such things are trivialities compared with our other problems.
Here's what I'm talking about: Egypt's becoming way too much like Pakistan for comfort. We are slowly becoming a dangerous, broken rogue state, just like them. Just this week, we had a Salafi member of the Constituent Assembly (the people who are writing our new constitution) talking about efforts to remove or change the law to lower the legal marriage age for girls to the moment they reach puberty and have their first period, even if they are as young as 9 years old. Yes: We might end up having a constitution that grants us child marriages. And you thought you had a culture war.
I know what you're thinking: How can you possibly be proud of all this?
As an Egyptian, the most fascinating aspect of all of this has to be our effect on the American elections, and how we suddenly became an important campaign issue in the snoozefest that is Obama vs. Romney. Isn't it crazy that Obama -- he of the message of peace and understanding with the Muslim world -- must now contend with Islamist rage fueled by those whom he -- and a million thinkers, analysts, and pundits - has referred to as a moderate Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood. That's the same moderate Islamic group whose people met with his people more than 14 times this past year and a half, who convinced them that America should support them because Salafis and liberals are unpredictable and unreliable, and because the Brothers alone can bring peace to the region. That's the same moderate Islamic group that actually called for and facilitated the protests at the U.S. Embassy on the anniversary of 9/11, all while pretending to have nothing to do with it to the English-speaking world. The same moderate Islamic group that now controls nearly all aspects of the Egyptian government, and the source of his current dilemma.