By Philip Whitfield
Nodding off, the scene segues from Downtown’s crepitating, clattering convulsion to a salubrious setting – a favourite picnic spot in the newly greened Rabaa Touristic Village. Families and friends have gathered, sedately celebrating their communion. A podium awaits the once reviled now revered.
Behold, he comes from the East. He alights from a pearl Rolls Royce, raising the imperial sceptre in one hand, a golden orb in the other – a leaner if slightly stooped figure, robed in deep green satin and golden silk threads. The glow from a rubescent sun haloes his head.
The throng hushes, vocal chords parched from endlessly repeating My Homeland. Touched, he absorbs the adoring crowd.
My beloved United Brotherhood of Humankind: 40 days and 40 nights in a captive wilderness – strange, you might say, that in my cell I should discover words to mend the broken hearted, words etched on my soul, words we’d ignore at our peril.
Now, as we stand on the warm threshold, which leads into the palace of justice to gain our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force… for many of our Christian and secular brothers have come to realise that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred… I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.
I say to you today that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that one day from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean the sons of slavery will be able to sit down together at a table of Brotherhood. I have a dream that one day every corner of our land will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the choice of worship for God but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day lips that still drip with the words of interposition and nullification will be transformed, where all boys and girls will walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning: My homeland, my homeland, my homeland/My love and my heart are for thee/ Egypt! O mother of all lands/ My hope and my ambition/ How can one count/ The blessings of the Nile for mankind?
So let freedom ring…when all of God’s children will be able to join hands and sing: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty. We are free at last!
Awoken by gunfire and a helicopter overhead, I pick up the newspaper on my lap and read:
Rabaa City is composed of a large number of tents, without any diversity among those protesting; almost all of them come from lower income rural backgrounds… if we continue to disregard and/or persecute these thousands they will become even more extreme in their ideas than they are now, and the possibility of violence will rise, especially now that their dream of an Islamic Caliphate in Egypt has been crushed.
Martin Luther King’s speech in 1963 was the turning point in America’s reconciliation of black and white cultures. It was anchored in the Book of Isaiah and the thanksgiving praise of Psalm 30: For his anger endureth but a moment. In his favour is life. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
The words are King David’s, a prophet of Jews, Christians and Muslims the world over.
Philip Whitfield is a Cairo commentator.