In several meetings with groups of young people in Cairo, Tomas Hirsch, a spokesperson for Universalist Humanism in Latin America, gained insight into the vision of young women and men who continue going to Tahrir Square every night to ensure that the process of change continues in a real way. The following is a summary of our conversation with Hirsch.
By Chris Wells
Pressenza Pressenza International Press Agency El Cairo, 3/6/11 In the last several days, developments have been encouraging. The Mubarak-appointed Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq, has been replaced and the new Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has named a new post-Mubarak cabinet.
Although Mubarak stepped down weeks ago, these young people have not gone home. They want those in the government with ties to Mubarak to step down too. They are filled with pride and happiness at the historic changes they have achieved, but at the same time afraid that the traditional political forces will simply remain as the new corrupt officials running the country.
Another point they have very clear is that they were able to do this without using violence. “In eighteen days they were able to change the history of their country without using any type of violence. They all feel this,” says Hirsch.
Also, according to Hirsch, although their Muslim religion is a central part of their identity, they don’t want power to go to the fundamentalists. “The Muslim brotherhood is no more than 10 or 15 percent and they feel that it would be absolutely unacceptable for the process to go in that direction. They are Muslims but are totally against any type of fanaticism, any type of fundamentalism, any type of religious discrimination against others.”
One of the most surprising factors in the process has been the role of the military. “For Latin Americans, the military are usually the ones that hold power with violence; who are very close to the right wing parties and to the businessmen and the multinationals. Here they feel that the military is very close to the people.”
“We asked them, ‘But the military was in charge of the government’ and they said not at all, the military never used violence. The violence came from Mubarak and his security forces, which are completely different.”
For Hirsch, as a Humanist, there is a striking resonance with Letter 8 of Letters to My Friends by Silo, the founder of Universalist Humanism, which emphasizes that the true role of the military is to support the legitimate aspirations of the people.
The question facing these young people now is what to do. “We spoke about the importance of organizing themselves to continue the process – not to leave it to the traditional politicians but to organize themselves and go ahead with their vision of the future.”
In a meeting with a lot of young people, Hirsch told them about the Statement of the Humanist Movement (a fundamental document of Universalist Humanism), which may provide a reference, a point of view that can help give a direction to the process.
For Hirsch, the most interesting things have been the absolute commitment to nonviolence and the complete rejection of fundamentalism. These sentiments seem to come mostly from within the people themselves, rather than from outside influences. This is very different from the view of Arabs and Muslims as violent fanatics that has been so common in the West since 9/11. “We realize an image has been pushed that has nothing to do with reality,” confirms Hirsch.
When asked if it is clear that young people are leading the process of change, Hirsch replied: “Absolutely – that is recognized by everybody here. In the square, you could see people from different classes but the most noticeable thing was young people and a lot, a lot of women.”
And the future? “The feeling is of a new generation. I’m not so naive to think that everything will change from now on but something new is coming and it’s very positive and it gives me a lot of hope.”
North American Spokesperson for New Humanism.