Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Egyptian Professoriate: Enough

Egyptian university professors, chafing under decades of government intrusion, join the society-wide reform Intifada. Yesterday at Minya University and today at Cairo University, faculty staged silent processions demanding academic freedom and political reform. The great Awatef Abdel Rahman, graduate of Sadat's prisons, says "Professors here are also demonstrating in solidarity with Egyptian judges." After submitting a letter with their demands to the university president, four of the Minya professors were referred to disciplinary hearings.

Note well: Egyptian university professors are even more obssessively monitored and controlled than judges. Their intimate contact with impressionable young people, their traffic in ideas, their social prestige: all render them too dangerous to be left alone. So, soon after the Free Officers took power, they made sure to render the universities an adjunct of state power. Faculty lounges and departments turned into prime recruitment grounds for government ministers, advisers, and miscellaneous intellectual apologists. The road to a ministership more often than not passes through an academic deanship. Think Alieddine Hilal. Think Fathi Sorour. Think Mufid Shihab. And let's not forget "opposition parties": No'man Gom'a was a former dean of the Cairo University Law Faculty.

As heavyweight sectors of Egyptian society join the calls for reform, others are emboldened and inspired. Call it reform fever, call it the infectious cry of "kifaya", call it what you will. But watch it closely.