Thursday, 10 February 2011

Facebook Wars

Disclaimer: Dear reader, I am not in any way impartial, nor am I in any way trying to be. I claim to serve my own agenda (an anti-Mubarak one, in case you were wondering) and none other. I believe I am doing what is best for my country and I believe that the blood of our martyrs can not be erased by weak speeches and minimal concessions. Should any of this offend you, I advise you not to continue reading past the period at the end of this sentence. If, however, you are interested in hearing me out, even if you do not necessarily agree with me, then by all means carry on reading, please.

I have to admit, I was shocked when I came back from the million-man march in Tahrir on 1 February 2011 to find my newsfeed on Facebook littered with pro-Mubarak nonsense. Stuff like "what else do you want, do you want to humiliate him further, he is like a father to you, save Egypt, 3eeb!" I was incensed. I could not believe my eyes. The way I saw it, these were pampered upper-middle-class buffoons who wanted their Tamarai and their 24-hour Home Delivery back. They wanted to quit mid-revolution so that Zamalek can win the Egyptian league. I felt betrayed. I could not see past that.

I made a list of my Facebook friends who put Mubarak as their profile picture. I hid them from my newsfeed and vowed never to talk to them again. What made the decision easier was that all of them were mere casual acquaintances, and at that point I thanked god I will not miss any of them.

My second wave of attacks was that of bitter sarcasm. This wave is still ongoing.

But I am reconsidering.

My hope for New Egypt (creative name, eh?) is an Egypt that is inclusive, one that allows for different perspectives and opinions. Granted, some opinions are indeed stupid beyond belief, based on ignorance and conspiracy theories, and use logical fallacies to reach nonsensical conclusions. Yet I do not want to see any one persecuted for their opinion, dumb as they may be.

I still maintain, however, that freedom of expression as a concept applies only to public spaces, Facebook included. You can express yourself all you want on your profile, but you cannot come on my profile and spew BS all over my wall. If you do, I reserve the right to delete the post, hide you from my newsfeed, or even block you on Facebook and real life. That does not make me undemocratic. That does not make me anti-free-speech. Go express your opinion in your own place or in public places to your heart's content. I will not stop you. I should not be allowed to stop you.

I do not believe I am causing a Fitna by my (admittedly blunt) expression of my opinion. I do not believe I am causing a Fitna by standing in Tahrir and demanding my rights. I believe that the view that Egypt as a nation is easily rifted by mere nonviolent expression of opinions is unfair and, from where I am standing, not true. I am not the one halting the gears of the economy; I went to work when I could. The regime I am chanting against is the one stopping your economy and holding you hostage.

Dear reader, if you have the capacity to hear the other point of view without reacting the way I did, then you are a better person than I am, kudos to you. I still reserve my right to maintain my own sanity.

I do support dialogue, eventually. I do acknowledge that it is frustrating when people talk past each other. Ultimately, I want a better Egypt. Just give me time. My reactions are still largely visceral rather than intellectual.

- Ahmad Farghal