Egypt’s image and the coun­try’s soft power

The Daily News Egypt - - Commentary - Is a jour­nal­ist at

It is a con­fus­ing ques­tion: Who is re­spon­si­ble for Egypt‘s image? Per­haps the mys­tery lies in Egypt‘s“im­por­tant cards”, which are ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing a “won­der­ful image”, but the new image of Egypt is usu­ally “tem­po­rary“.

The in­vest­ment con­fer­ence in Sharm El-Sheikh cre­ated an “at­trac­tive at­mos­phere”, how­ever the Egyp­tian govern­ment did not com­plete it. The same thing happened with Lionel Messi when he came to Cairo to pro­mote the treat­ment of Hep­ati­tis C in Egypt. Fi­nally, Pope Fran­cis‘ visit to Egypt shed light on Egypt‘s ef­forts in re­li­gious tol­er­ance.Af­ter the visit, we were very happy and ex­changed con­grat­u­la­tions, but we did not re­alise, as usual, that the dif­fi­cult part would be in the next day. It leads us to the same ques­tion:Who is re­spon­si­ble for Egypt‘s image?

De­spite the dan­ger of ter­ror­ist threats, they of­fer an op­por­tu­nity for Egyp­tians to set a model of co­he­sion and co­ex­is­tence. In the midst of these ter­ror­ist tragedies, the world is look­ing for a “light of hope.”

Re­cently, the Christian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor pub­lished an ar­ti­cle about Egypt‘s good­will, in which the Amer­i­can newspaper pointed out that Egypt sets a model of good­will among dif­fer­ent re­li­gions.

It added that the co­ex­is­tence be­tween Mus­lims and Chris­tians in Egypt is a re­sult of the great ef­forts ex­erted by the two ma­jor re­li­gious lead­ers, Imam Ah­mad al-Tayeb of Al-Azhar and Cop­tic Christian Pope Tawadros II. The newspaper pointed out that the two lead­ers launched the „Egyp­tian Family House“body to re­form the re­li­gious teach­ings about oth­ers. The rest of the Mid­dle East needs sim­i­lar mod­els of re­li­gious har­mony among Egyp­tian so­ci­ety, be­cause it cre­ates a soft and pow­er­ful weapon against the ha­tred and vi­o­lence of ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Is­lamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda.

I think that Pope Fran­cis‘ II visit was suc­cess­ful, as in­ter­na­tional me­dia cov­ered it very well. Hence, it seems for me that Egypt has al­ready adopted a “dif­fer­ent pol­icy“cre­ated by Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah Al-Sisi re­gard­ing the re­newal of re­li­gious dis­course and the com­pre­hen­sive con­fronta­tion of ter­ror­ism.

Be­ing a sym­bol of the state and its leader, Pres­i­dent Al-Sisi can guar­an­tee co­ex­is­tence and har­mony within the so­ci­ety and en­sure the se­cu­rity of both Chris­tians and Mus­lims.

We can­not for­get the role of the great na­tional in­sti­tu­tion—the Egyp­tian mil­i­tary—in pro­tect­ing Egypt and its peo­ple from the ter­ror­ism threat. How­ever, these dif­fer­ent ef­forts need to be used in build­ing some­thing more, and in link­ing the in­ter­nal com­mu­nity with for­eign me­dia and com­mu­ni­ties.

Nart Bouran, CEO of the Sky News Ara­bia chan­nel, once said, “There is no in­ter­na­tional chan­nel ca­pa­ble of com­pet­ing with the Egyp­tian me­dia in its coun­try.” I guess he meant that we have a pow­er­ful lo­cal me­dia.

When Bouran is be­sieged, “Do the Egyp­tian news chan­nels live up to the in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion?”

The man said that the com­pe­ti­tion is avail­able, but hon­estly I did not see any of the in­sti­tu­tions de­vel­op­ing a plan to com­pete with Sky News Ara­bia or any other chan­nels. I think that the an­swer is clear, but the man is back to ease the harsh re­al­ity.

Com­pe­ti­tion is no longer just on TV,and Egypt is dis­tinct and a strong com­peti­tor to in­ter­na­tional sites, but it doesn‘t com­mu­ni­cate with the world us­ing its lan­guage to in­crease the im­pact. I think the prob­lem is that we are talk­ing to our­selves, and we haven‘t got­ten tired of self-flag­el­la­tion and com­plain­ing that oth­ers do not ap­pre­ci­ate what we are do­ing, or talk­ing about the won­der­ful things that we have. In ad­di­tion, we haven‘t re­alised that the bat­tle­field is out­side, and that the process of mak­ing the image of Egypt is the essence of the Egyp­tian soft power, which has be­come one of the most im­por­tant chal­lenges of the Egyp­tian na­tional se­cu­rity.

Weapons are di­verse in the hands of na­tions, and they fight their bat­tles with soft power— most no­tably me­dia, cinema, drama, and doc­u­men­taries.

In ad­di­tion,sci­ence has now given us the “new me­dia“and the means of so­cial me­dia com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and it is enough to re­fer to the Aus­tralian film “Walk like an Egyp­tian” [this film is avail­able on YouTube]. The film is about an Aus­tralian man, his fi­ancée, and his friends vis­it­ing Egypt as tourists, and the film has half a mil­lion views.

To be hon­est, its more im­pres­sive than most of the ef­forts of the Min­istry of Tourism. We have al­ready dis­cussed the im­por­tance of tourism, and here we pointed to the need to work on the Chi­nese mar­ket and at­tract­ing 5 mil­lion Chi­nese tourists. Ef­forts come from 300 Egyp­tian tourism com­pa­nies that at­tend a tourism con­fer­ence to sup­port Egyp­tian tourism in the Chi­nese mar­ket, and they are do­ing this un­der the ti­tle “The cam­paign of one mil­lion Chi­nese tourists to visit Egypt”.

I think that pres­i­dent Al-Sisi needs the unity of the Egyp­tian soft power.This unity must be formed as soon as pos­si­ble, and it should work on de­vel­op­ing per­cep­tions and strate­gies for mak­ing the image of Egypt. How­ever, the start­ing point is to fo­cus on com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the in­ter­na­tional world and mov­ing in three di­rec­tions.The first is high­light­ing the Egyp­tian unique­ness of ex­pe­ri­ence in the har­mo­nious re­li­gious co­ex­is­tence and the ef­forts of the pres­i­dent and the re­li­gious es­tab­lish­ments in com­bat­ing ex­trem­ism and re­new­ing the re­li­gious dis­course.

The sec­ond point is to com­mu­ni­cate with the for­eign me­dia as Saudi Ara­bia, Dubai, and Malaysia do.

The third point is to high­light Egypt as a promis­ing re­gion with in­vest­ment and se­ri­ous open­ness to the world, and per­haps the project of the cen­tury is the “Suez Canal Eco­nomic Zone.”

These are just points, there­fore all the Egyp­tian minds should be ac­ti­vated, and ef­forts should be co­or­di­nated.

I think that this dis­pute and the con­flict of com­pe­ten­cies is the last thing that needs to be re­solved, and to make a stable image of Egypt, we need to co­op­er­ate with oth­ers to make the image of Egypt, not to be co­or­di­nated by the min­is­ters them­selves.


Mo­hamed Sabrin


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