There is no question in the minds of Egyptians that we have lost most of our moral values and virtues in recent decades. No Egyptian will argue this fact; what we do argue about is the reason behind this deterioration in moral conduct. I am convinced that if we seriously and genuinely want to bring back our waning moral integrity, we must work on regaining three specific essential values: justice, tolerance, and inclusiveness.
Justice is something that the majority of today’s Egyptian citizens have never experienced. In my opinion, the entire Egyptian society is a victim of injustice in one way or another. Although injustice would seem to imply favouring a few people at the expense of many others, in reality it also has a negative effect on those who belong to the privileged portion of society—who initially and deliberately helped to create social injustice—even if they have not noticed this yet.
Egyptian society generally is not a tolerant one. We tend to focus on and cling to our own ideas far more than on implementing any degree of tolerance by entering into constructive dialogues with others. Believing that we are always in the right seriously narrows our chances of understanding others’ perspectives and accepting the fact that they simply have different views. Actually, inclusiveness is an attribute that does not fit our cultural temperament, which is founded on exclusiveness. Egyptians tend to be proud of their individualistic superiority; they believe that they have been blessed with being ahead of everyone else and they only value their lives when undermining others.
Furthermore, understanding the true meanings of justice, tolerance, and inclusiveness is a challenge for Egyptian society. Our society is constructed to deliberately indulge a very tiny portion at the expense of the majority. Citizens are pleased when the law is bent in their favour—often to the detriment of other. We tend to be narrow-minded concerning many issues—which clearly leads to the rejection of others’ ideas—and we often distance ourselves from those who belong to a different religion, gender, ethnic group, etc.
Even though our country offers clear business opportunities, the absence of justice discourages many Egyptians and foreigners from investing in Egypt. Any investor, regardless of background, knows that at some point in the course of his enterprise’s operation, he could be faced with a business dispute and need to resort to an efficient judicial system and a proper application of the rule of law—both of which, unfortunately, are non-existent.
Egyptians affiliated with the current ruling regime are living happily in their exclusive bubble, believing that Egypt was created only for them. The deliberate marginalisation of citizens who differ with the ruling regime’s policies (including the total exclusion of a large portion of society—political Islamists—whose beliefs and behaviour I personally disagree with) is transforming both the secular opposition and the political Islamists into a vicious opposition force and creating many additional enemies to the ruling regime.
The Egyptian state is fully aware of these deficiencies. It takes advantage of them to better manipulate Egyptians by constantly capitalising on the absence of morals. Individual citizens work hard either to obtain their missing rights or to benefit from and extend their unjust acts. In either case, the citizen relies on the state, which is in charge of controlling these issues. The state is conscious of the consequences of this policy and is happy to implement it to further empower state entities without any regard for the application of true moral values.
Getting back the Egypt we know will require prompting Egyptians to embrace the moral values and virtues that we all used to live by. The vast majority of Egyptian citizens have suffered in one way or another from the absence of justice; thus, we need to have fair laws and we need to ensure their proper enforcement. By helping us think of Egyptian society as a single unit, the principle of inclusiveness will strengthen and unify our society, doing away with the current social polarisation. Egyptians need to understand that all citizens, even those who think, act, and behave differently, are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities.
Mohammed Nosseir is an Egyptian liberal politician working on reforming Egypt on true liberal values, proper application of democracy, and free market economy. Mohammed was member of the Higher Committee and headed the international relations of the Democratic Front Party from 2008 to 2012.