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Piotr Ibrahim Kalwas - Pole living in Egypt

I'm shocked at what young people have on their phones. I met an Egyptian who listened to Lutosławski.  In turn, young Egyptian death metallers know everything about Nergal: about his life, concerts, kidnapping the Bible. Did you see what Egyptian feminists did? They posted on their profile a photo of two women seated on an ISIS flag with an embroidered shah on it. One in the niqab sits upside down with the middle finger up and pounds a pile.


Piotr Ibrahim Kalwas in 2008, together with his wife and son Hasan, left Poland and settled in Egypt, in Alexandria. He survived the rule of Mubarak, the Arab Spring, the rule of the fundamentalists and Sisi. He started writing reportages for "Duży Format", among others about circumcision of girls, atheists and ultra-conservatives or bloody ritual slaughter. He cannot imagine his life without this country, he says that it is love for better and for worse.


I decided to go to Alexandria to find out what Egypt was like after the revolution.


- Is Egypt safe?


The wave of the revolution has passed and it is safe again.


- Two weeks ago, when I arrived in Cairo, two policemen were shot in front of my block. A day later a bomb exploded on the train from Cairo to Alexandria, on which I arrived today.


You are talking about political violence that actually comes after the revolution. There are jihadists in Sinai, it is a lawless zone. There have been attacks on the military and police in Cairo. But the so-called common crime in the streets is very low. We never had any problems. In this respect, Egypt is safe, although it is worse than it was, because the police collapsed after the revolution.


- More than 6 years ago you moved to Alexandria, because, as you said, Poland was a country of rudeness, vulgarity, beer rabble, pornographic filth in the media. However, after 4 years, your approach to "safe and perfect Egypt" has changed to a very critical, you can see it in your reports, in which you raise such topics as: atheism, cutting out little girls' clits, religious discrimination, ultraconservative Salafis, or bloody ritual slaughter of animals . When was the breakthrough?


I did indeed curse against Poland once. I was exaggerating. Now it has changed a bit because Poland has changed. But I still have a negative perception of Poles in many respects.


The breakthrough came during the revolution. The revolution opened my eyes because the state of apparent peace has collapsed. When we came to Alexandria, we lived under the rule of Mubarak for 2.5 years. That country was frozen then, nothing happened, nobody spoke out loud about circumcision, nobody published anything. It was unbelievable that the streets were so quiet. When the revolution started, everything let go. First there was chaos, then opening. Fortunately, Syria or Libya did not become here. The power was taken over by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, then General Sisi.


- In one of your articles, the young Egyptian said that most of them do not want the religious state proposed by the Muslim Brotherhood, but also do not accept Western democracy with its unfettered liberalism, nudity, atheism and controversial art. Is there any other "third way" then?


The Egyptians are still looking for this "third way", but it is not there. Just look at the recent developments. When the revolution began in 2011, an Egyptian journalist said that for the first time in five thousand years, Egypt had a chance for democracy. But not only is democracy not in the constitution, it's also not in people. There is no democratic, civic thinking. Egyptians cannot imagine deciding for themselves, a providential man has always ruled here and he was the leader of society. The revolution was the mechanism by which an animal jumped out of its cage. The Egyptians sprang from the authoritarian system into freedom and did not know what to do with it.

- A year later, the first free and democratic ones took place  presidential elections.


Yes. The people then chose the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamization of Egypt began. During their reign, alcohol shops were closed down. 98% of Egyptians declare that they have never drunk alcohol, and cars continue to drive up to Drinkies. In pubs they drink non-alcoholic beer, but they have small bottles of alcohol with them. They buy a can of cola, get drunk and pour the contents of the bottle. After the weekend, whole streets are littered with bottles of cheap ouzoi and Stella cans. The brothers did it. Bribes of bribed Salafists (Muslims postulating the revival of Islam by returning to its original sources, the so-called "religion of ancestors" - editor's note) raided shops, broke windows and smashed alcohol bottles. The brothers said it was "a spontaneous movement of people." They began to build the first Muslim-only hotels on the Red Sea: no bikini and no alcohol. They wanted to legalize female circumcision, banned in 2007 by Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of the deposed president. Circumcision was supposed to cost 5 pounds, which is ... a little over 2 zlotys. The rage at Mursi was incomprehensible, people hated him more than they hated Mubarak. Half a million Egyptians took to the streets and overthrew him.


- Now you can see that they are slowly returning to the authoritarian ruler.


Yes, and it is the right choice, because there is no other way for an army not to rule here. After the coup in 2013, Sisi took power. People in Europe did not believe that the Egyptians could choose another general - a despot, but when you know the local realities, you know that there is no other choice, otherwise chaos would ensue. Second Libya. The dictatorship is inscribed in Egypt and in these people, and the army is the guarantor of security and stability.

- How is Sisi dealing with this post-revolutionary reality?


He pursues a delicate carrot and stick policy between supporters of a secular state and Islamists. He considered the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and arrested its members. Paradoxically, the much more radical Salafi organizations, which backed Sisi out of fear, are favored by the government. But in 5 years they can all go to jail. Dictatorship is a delusion and, sooner or later, it always ends in a terrible fall, and then what has been suppressed comes out.


He will tell the truth


- What happened in Egypt? How did society change after the revolution?


There was an efflorescence of arts and artistic circles. Young people, unable to realize themselves in politics, fear persecution and surveillance, realize themselves in art: in dance, theater, music, and literature. It is a manifestation of expression and an discharge of emotions.


I'm shocked at what young people have on their phones. I met an Egyptian who listened to Lutosławski. In turn, young Egyptian death metallers know everything about Nergal: about his life, concerts, kidnapping the Bible, etc.  And how much music from Israel they have! How many contacts with young Israelis on chat. Every day the Egyptian will say that Israel is a muck, bandits and murderers of Palestinians. In the media, Israel to hell. But when talking to people from the upper classes, one feels jealous that there is a rich country with pubs and nightlife in Tel-Aviv next to them. Only they are afraid to talk about it with each other. This is another installment of duplicity. That's why this world is so fascinating. It is remarkable to constantly penetrate the core of Egyptianness and Islam.

- Young Egyptians are more and more bold in expressing their views, more and more often feminists or atheists are taking the floor. Are they not afraid of the consequences?


Recently, two young men organized an action entitled "Spiderman in Cairo." One of them disguised himself as Spiderman and hung at the butcher's next to the carcasses of sheep or at the very top of the mosque, next to the crescent moon with the fingers displayed in the sign of Satan, Spiderman also prayed in the mosque. Even I did not dare to publish it on my profile. This boy's face and name are everywhere in the media, journalists interview him and he is not afraid.

Have you seen what Egyptian feminists have done? On their profile, they posted a photo of two women sitting on the ISIS flag with an embroidered shah, a declaration of faith stylized in early Arabian letters. One in the niqab, turned backwards with the middle finger up (one finger raised up is the sign of ISIS and means one God) and pounds the pile. And the other, naked, squats next to her, her menstrual blood dripping. Even Europeans would not do that, if only out of respect for the Shah.


- Why such a clear objection?


These countries stand on the verge of traditionalism and modernism that no one can stop. The acceleration of modernity does not bypass Muslim countries. It can be withheld, as fundamentalists do, but Islam will not stay that way. Fundamentalists reject the modernity they do not understand and fear. They fear that permanence and continuity will be destroyed, and then what will come in its place? Probably it's evil from the west, naked women, boys disguised as women, transvestites, drugs, alcoholism, all this disease. There was no mention of Conchita Wurst, even in the independent media. But this is the evolution of human life. Can you imagine that in a thousand years, people will be stoned and a thief cut off or scourged?

- However, there are no signs of changes, as 30% of Egyptians cannot read and write.


These people do not live in an intellectual atmosphere. Nobody has books. In bookstores in Alexandria, there is only religious literature or cookbooks. It's a little better in Cairo.


Reading is a waste of time for them. As for 6 years I have not seen a drunk man on the street, I have not seen a person reading a book. Recently, a neighbor wanted to use the phone, she came to us, entered the living room where we keep books, there are almost two thousand of them. As she saw it, she almost passed out. What's all this for?  The same question was asked by a friend when he entered this room to pray: Have you read all this? He was disgusted. He sat down in front of the TV where the sheikh was speaking and said: This sheikh's five minutes is worth more than all your books.




- Public indignation is also growing over the procedure of female circumcision - cutting the clitoris and sewing the vagina, you described this practice in the report "Women's Hell".


Statistics show that over 95% of Egyptian women are abused. You can't see it in the streets at all, because it's a different culture - locked up at home. On a daily basis, Egyptians are hospitable and nice, but not open-minded. For centuries, it has been culture inward: they show something different at home, something different for their family, friends and foreigners. Have you seen a woman with a cigarette somewhere on the street? No? Exactly. They can only smoke at home or on the balcony. I live in a middle class block and deal with it every day. What happens at home is a completely different story.


- It means? What's happening?


There is a lot of violence against women and children. Although they seem happy on a daily basis. There are arranged marriages and virginity tests - mother, grandmother or aunt checking whether the girl has a hymen. Everything happens behind the shutters, in manuars. You saw how the apartments are built. To the front is a large lounge, farther down the corridor, and at the end the bedrooms: all dark, with windows to the inside of the building, to the manuary. There the laundry is hung up and the rubbish is thrown out. In these manuars you can hear the whole of Egypt: the Koran, weddings, songs, laughter, but also terrible drunken quarrels, beatings, swearing, screams. On the outside, it is not known who is shouting, who is crazy or drunk, who is beating his wife. Everyone goes to the elevator in the morning and there are all "salams" (Salam alejkum  - one of the Arab greetings - editorial note).

Besides, sex outside of marriage is common.


- Is it talked about?


With difficulty, but I extract this information from my friends. Condoms can be purchased at any pharmacy. I had a friend of mine, she always wore a black niqab and ran two pharmacies where there were plenty of condoms on hand, but of course only for my husband and wife. Islam does not prohibit condoms. Though expensive, all contraceptives are available, except for early abortion ones.


- They use everything?


All. But there's a problem with keeping your virginity. Because a good wife must have a hymen. Richer women ride  to Europe  and put in a new one. I hear more and more often that such offices are also being created in Egypt. Therefore, anal intercourse is generally accepted, especially among young people. My wife  has a problem with buying tampons, there are only pads. A friend explained to me that women were afraid that the tampon would pierce their membranes. Urfi (temporary marriage) marriage is popular among teenagers. They want to have sex, and you can only get married. So they write down a contract that has no legal value. But despite everything, they want to write it down, because when the "young" goes blue, and the girl is left with only a piece of paper and without a film, she has a certificate that she did not let go, but had a fiancé.


The Egyptians are very ashamed of it. It was once possible to hide it, but in today's globalized Internet age, nothing can be covered up.

- They are ashamed, but are they doing anything about it?


They can not. They cannot get out of the vicious circle of traditionalism in which they have lived for generations. Here it works, duplicity is normal. The divorcee Dina once lived in my apartment on the top floor, all in a black niqab. She raised two children. Often, when she was coming down from the 16th floor, I would join on the eighth. She then discovered the niqab and we talked. She studied philosophy in Boston, knew English perfectly well. She asked me if I had already read a text by Plato or Kant. The elevator was going quite slowly, we managed to exchange a dozen or so sentences. When we left, she cast on the niqab and didn't know me anymore.


Here, masks of godliness are put on all the time. Many things are hidden from unbelievers, or strangers. Because everything new is uncertain. This is due to traditionalism - attachment to conservative values based on religion. And as long as Islam exists in that version, that is, in the Arabic interpretation, nothing will change.


- Backwardness is due to religion?


Yes, and it sounds brutal. I am careful not to say that here. But it is not about Islam itself, but about the traditionalist interpretation of Islam, which is valid throughout the Islamic world and is associated with Arabs. This religious traditionalism is the key that closes the door of openness to modernization, novelty, intellectual development and learning. This is a pre-modern, traditionalist world. The sheikhs on television say the same as their ancestors said 200 or 500 years ago. The Egyptians are deafening themselves by playing the Koran everywhere. Prayer  it is everywhere: in taxis, shops, on the streets. Apart from the fact that Islam is the most conservative religion in the world, it is the fastest growing religion. When we came 7 years ago, there were 80 million people in Egypt, now it's almost 90. Madness.

- Is this the country you want to live in?


I love Egypt, I love it. It is love for better and for worse. I cannot imagine my life without this country. Besides, everything is very cheap. We have a 160 square meter apartment and we pay PLN 120 a month for the maintenance of the whole apartment - there is no rent here. And we got used to it. This city is captivating and life is fascinating. And what delicious food! All vegetables and fruits are real, and we are vegetarians. When I come to Warsaw, I get insane. I hear azan (prayer - editor's note) everywhere, the sounds of an Egyptian street, traders, vendors, buses. I can't live without it.


source:, Katarzyna Zając

 For years we have supported bloody dictators for oil and for peace. It was a short-sighted policy. Now we have bearded demons, breathing hatred on an unprecedented scale - since the time of the Inquisition - and hundreds of thousands of immigrants - says Piotr Ibrahim Kalwas, a Pole and Muslim, writer and journalist who moved with his family to Egypt seven years ago. He devoted a collection of reports "Egypt: Haram Halal" to his new homeland. They show the image of a country that exists in constant tension between "halal", that is, what is consistent with religion, and "haram" - what is forbidden.


When we first met seven years ago, you were just selling your apartment to fulfill your grand plan in life's revolution: moving your family to Egypt. I remember how it intrigued me, I thought that this is not a typical direction of emigration ...


- You would be surprised how many Poles settle in Egypt. Of course, most of them buy an apartment in Hurghada or Dahab and commute there regularly, treating it as a "dacha", but accessible by charter. But there are also people, especially the elderly, who live in Egypt permanently, basking. Even for the average Polish retirement pension, it is good to live there. And the apartments are ridiculously cheap - about PLN 1,000 per square meter.


You did not, however, "heat the bones". You chose not the touristic Dahab, but Alexandria, a provincial city albeit with a great multicultural past. What was the reason? Because you converted to Islam? Because you wanted to start a new life? Because Poland pissed you off?


- Poland pissed me off a bit and still pisses me off in many respects.


The book says Egypt pisses you off too.


- Yes, I will complain everywhere.  (laughter)


A Muslim, but a "real Pole"?


- Do I know ... At least the situation from a moment ago. We are sitting in this cultured Warsaw café-bookstore, and next to the table, two young girls are swearing like a cobbler and cannot even resist the fact that the child is listening! It pisses me off! One of the reasons for my departure was that I was disturbed by everyday Polish rudeness. And I stand by it.


There is no rudeness in Egypt?


- Yes, I would like to emphasize it - in Egypt there is much less rudeness in everyday life. There are primitive or simple people, it can be dirty, crooked, they turn off electricity or water, the noise is terrible - 70 percent. The Egyptians are hearing impaired, but there is no such rudeness there. There are other horrible things that I have described. On the other hand, the average Egyptian is an extremely nice (though by no means open, because he hides his world from a foreigner) man. We are absolutely safe in the street where we live, and so are the others. Paradoxically, it comes from the fact that everyone knows everything about everyone. Typical South.


There are two sides to this community or tribalism: they watch you, don't let you go beyond established boundaries, but at the same time, if something bad happens to you, you are protected. There is no individualism there, but also no loneliness. For us Europeans - as I describe in the book - it is a bit tiring, because we have to be alone sometimes. My family for sure. Because loneliness is about books, music and thinking. It's silence. However, people there do not need it. They are together all the time, they help each other. There is terrible poverty, but no one goes hungry, not even the poorest. Nobody is starving in the streets as I have seen in India.


AND  other reasons for leaving? Choosing Islam as "Your" Religion?


- Islam was also the reason, but in this case ... Maybe I was not so disappointed as I saw what the real face of Islamic traditionalism in its Arabic version looks like. And here I became very, very critical. Although I still find a lot of nice things there, it is still difficult to live in a family of Muslim individualists, because we are so in Arab Islam.


Then why Egypt and Alexandria?


- Because it was safe there - who would have foreseen that a revolution would break out? Also because it's a country with a second language of English, not French, like Morocco or Tunisia, and we don't know French very well. Because the ease of travel, countless cheap charters. And cheap life - we bought a huge flat for little money. In addition, a very good English-language school for a child, which we already recommended, is also much cheaper than similar schools in Poland. Living costs four times lower than in Poland and a pleasant climate, of course. It all contributed to the decision to leave. We do not regret it. Egypt became the source of my work, my inspiration. And now I can't live without this Egypt.


However, it is not a simple feeling of love, as we have already said. As in the title: "Egypt: Haram Halal", which is stretched between two extremes - what is allowed: halal and forbidden: haram. This whole book is full of passion, you keep saying that you love and hate this country at the same time, you can't live without it and it constantly frustrates you. This is how it is?


"It frustrates me to be there, but when I leave, I miss it immediately.


And do you miss Poland while being there?


- No. I feel very good when I come here, like now, for a short time. Then it's great. Perhaps I watch more old Polish films there, which have always been my passion, as well as old chronicles from the times of the Polish People's Republic. We will probably leave Egypt in a few years, because we want our son Hasan, 12 years old at the moment, to study in Europe. In Egypt, we would have to pay to study as foreigners and the university level is low there. But even then, we will try to keep an apartment in Egypt in order to return there. I, like my wife, like this kind of circulation: have an apartment here, a corner there, a family to visit elsewhere, and move between these points. If I have three homelands, i.e. Egypt, Poland and a third country that we already have an eye on, it will be quite OK for me. The son speaks three languages and is still learning a fourth. It's open to religions, cuisines, civilizations, and that's great!


This is what you were looking for when you left Poland?


- Yes. I've always lived this way. Cosmopolitan. I love it.


But the environment you live in right now, and which you describe in the book, is not particularly cosmopolitan and open-ended. I dare say the opposite. You might as well stay here and look for this cosmopolitanism here.


- It is true that Egypt, and Arab Islam in general, is a closed world. But for me it is a source of constant inspiration, a mine of topics for articles and books. If we lived in some European country, there wouldn't be much to write about. And in Egypt, something surprising is happening all the time. I've lived there for seven years and I still don't know him. Some things are already obvious to me, but I assume in many ways I can be wrong. Although for us, Poles, this tourist Egypt seems so close, true Egypt is still an unknown land for all people who are deeply interested in other cultures.


You say that upon arrival you became disappointed with the version of Islam there. What exactly?


- The fact that Arab Islam is absolutely not my Islam. I had to find out about it there.


So you are a dissent?


- Not the only ones. There are some of these dissenters, I describe some of them in the book. These are Egyptians who are not at peace with their country, such as professor A.


While living in Egypt, I developed a defensive factor against this Arab traditionalism. I hid inside with my Islam and it is now a very, very individual, private religious space for me.


I cannot belong to a collective tribe, in this case a Muslim community. There are many Poles who moved to Arab countries and grew beards, and there are also Polish women in niqabs for whom European culture no longer exists - they cut themselves off. It is impossible for me. I am brought up on Polish books, Polish films, and on European culture, and my Islam must be something different from the collective Arabic version.


So who are you there? Stranger or yours?


- I'm always mine  (laughter). In the sense that even when I lived in Poland, I had a small group of friends - 4 or 5 people, and I have always liked living alone. Likewise, my wife. I'm no stranger there, but they treat me a bit like a freak. Generally foreigners are treated differently.


You are allowed to clean up the garbage decaying on the pavement in front of the apartment building for weeks and giving off a terrible smell, and for an Egyptian it is out of the question. He wouldn't let himself faint from the stench, would he?


- Exactly. I criticize this culture, but I respect it. In the sense that I do not impose myself on these people from my point of view. Only in private conversations and contacts. I do not tell them: you are stupid, you did not grow up to civilization. Also for security reasons - I do not want to expose myself directly to anyone. My wife and I live there with a very private life. We have a small group of friends, Hasan has his friends from school, but we also lived in Poland. In his bubble. And that's okay.


Reading your reports, I get the impression that you are acting as a provocateur, forcing people to confront things that they do not want to talk about. You even make them cry sometimes!


- Yes, because these are people who are so used - not only in Egypt, but in the Orient in general - to conceal and hide their views, their lives from foreigners, that in order to get something out of them, you have to force them a bit, provoke them. Sometimes even subject to heavy criticism. Upset. Of course, I always know who to treat like this.

In Egypt, often something different is told to foreigners and something else is done for one's family or community. It is a kind of hypocrisy, but it has been going on for ages. It is hiding from those "others" with their habits, which foreigners may perceive as flaws or symptoms of barbarism. Like circumcision of women.


You devoted one of the most moving texts in your book to this topic. Circumcision is officially banned in Egypt, yet more than 90 percent of women are circumcised there, often under terrible conditions. They suffer mental and physical torment. Mothers do this to their daughters. Also in progressive, not very religious families.


- Such is the terrible force of traditionalism. A dozen or so years ago it was all hidden. Who was talking about it in Europe?


Even today, 90 percent of the people I wanted to talk to about it turned me down. Women and men. What they say are absolute exceptions, most of them wouldn't hear of it at all.


The most shocking thing is the last sentence when your interlocutor says: "Help us." I thought that if I had lived in Egypt, I would have left then, I would not have been able to bear this suffering around.


- It wouldn't apply to you at all. Other cultures are also full of horrors, for example, people are fascinated by India, and terrible things happen there. It moves if you have empathy, but it doesn't directly affect our lives. Not so as to leave. Anyway, there are still a lot of such difficult topics there.


Recently I had a conversation with two Egyptian women about the so-called virgin tests. Because there, premarital chastity is very important. I thought I was going to be crazy about this, it was horrible! Nobody wanted to talk about it, just these two women, let's call them Egyptian feminists, my friends, who just needed to get it out. Besides, no one! And all the time people think they'll hide it. And yet in the times of the Internet and satellite television, it is no longer hidden. Several years ago, only specialists knew about it. Now it's talked about in the world, so they have to come to terms with it, which is a problem. The rise of fundamentalism, jihadism, and Islamic terrorism is also related to this.


Is it a kind of resistance to confronting the perversions of your own tradition?


- Yes, because the world is starting to know about it all, some fellow citizens are also starting to protest. They want freedom, they want democracy. They don't know which one yet, but they want to. And the traditionalism that prevails there and is the basis of everything is starting to fall apart. And if it breaks down, what's going to fill this void? The Western world, at least since the Renaissance, is constantly changing, it is fluid, and everything is constant there. This is how my father lived, this is how my grandfather lived, and this is how we all lived. Some people start to want to live differently, but how? What is now to replace our daily rituals? How to change it? Fear appears.


The world of Islam is torn apart. For example, he worships American pop culture, and at the same time he despises America, he hates it ...


- The lines at the American embassy are huge, you can see American equipment everywhere, you can hear American music, you can see American clothes. On the other hand, 80 percent of people - young, old, everyone - hate America. Contradictions only! After all, over 80 percent of Egyptians want Sharia in various forms! But these same people first overthrew one dictator and then abolished the fundamentalist dictatorship. It is true that it was betting on the army, but at that moment it was the only force that could block the march to the power of the Muslim Brotherhood. Inconceivable! These are the contradictions that make this world fascinating to me.


In one of the reports you "dress up" as an ordinary tourist and conduct a discussion with an orthodox Salafi preacher you meet. You provoke him to tell stories of what is right and what is not. They say that the vision of the future they represent may soon be a vision that will apply to all of us. Do you really think so?


- It's already happening. There is no doubt that the Muslim community in the West is growing. Therefore, radical circles are spreading there and in many Western countries they are already a noticeable force. Our children or grandchildren may face the problem that we will not deal with Muslims as ordinary citizens, but with people who will want to introduce their own rules and customs. We already have the beginnings of sharia courts in England. That is why it is necessary to get to know this culture in order to integrate these people, assimilate them, and teach them our values. This does not mean that they have to lose their identity, but being in Europe, they have to live as required by the foundations of equality, freedom and fraternity. It is important that we integrate each other - us and them, otherwise there will be more and more ghettos, more and more excluded.


You mentioned Egyptian feminists. Your reports show people who break out of this traditionalist society, rebels. Like young atheists who think about emigration, like death metal musicians, like Jasmin - an activist fighting the cruelty of ritual slaughter - or professor A., who "from childhood" was not at peace with Egypt.


- Egypt has always had a strong group of intellectuals, excellent writers, filmmakers and theater makers. In the scale of this country it is admittedly a small group, because it is a huge nation, currently about 90 million people, but there are quite a lot of pro-freedom activists. There are also Maoists, Social Democrats, Communists - a full overview. However, it is incomparable to European countries. This is some kind of niche niche.


Has this niche widened at least a little after the Arab Revolution?


- It cannot expand too much when it comes to the freedom of political activity, because it is still a military-police state. But it broadens a lot, e.g. artistically. There is a huge bloom of foundations, theaters and creative groups. The development of art is incredible after the revolution, and this is, after all, a manifestation of human independence, inner freedom.


In your book you pay attention to the very strong caste nature of this society


- This is one of the symptoms of social traditionalism. There, everyone recognizes everyone at once, everyone is assigned somewhere. It was a bit similar in pre-war Poland - a worker could not enter some pubs, even if he had changed into a suit. I should call our janitor in Alexandria "ya mouth", something like "simple man", which does not pass through my mouth. Of course, the neighbors admonish me. This caste system is another thing that is holding back the development of this and other Arab societies, delaying the entry into democracy.


A similar quote from Najib Mahfuz, an Egyptian Nobel Prize writer, who quotes at the beginning of the book, that the entire Egyptian society must be rebuilt so that democracy is possible there


- Yes. But how to do it and who is supposed to do it - no one knows for sure. Somehow, this has been achieved in Turkey and now in Tunisia after the Islamic revolution. From the European point of view, Turkey may not be some great democracy, but from the point of view of the Islamic countries - it is!


You say that in Tunisia, the so-called the Arab Revolution was successful. Is it really? Do the recent tragic events in this country indicate something else?


- Despite two bloody attacks on tourists, the Tunisian revolution was better than the Egyptian one, including because Tunisia is and was a country much more oriented towards the West, mainly towards France, of its former occupant. It is a sad paradox: the more colonial influences in Arab countries, the more open society and the greater the chance of at least the foundations of democracy. Tunisia, like Turkey, has undergone many years of secularization processes. These processes, although at times dramatic and brutal, opened the societies of both these countries to Western, rational thought much more than the societies of other Arab countries, where Western influence was weaker.


The recent tragic events in Tunisia only underline this: the fundamentalists and Islamic conservatives of the entire Arab world are horrified at the prospect of Tunisia's potential freedom and the introduction of democratic rule there like the hated West. It would be a fundamentalist nightmare and the beginning of the end for the religiously and morally oppressive Arab society that stretched from Mauritania to Iran. A similar mechanism of thinking can be seen in Russian despotic politicians who observe how "their world" - Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltic states - slips under their control, moving towards freedom and democracy.


Despite the attacks, Tunisia still has the best chance of being the first Arab country to break free from the yoke of the deadly, toxic Islamic conservatism. And this is probably why Islamists will strike there more than once. This is the furious howl of traditionalism wounded by modernity, which sees "his world" perishing before his eyes ...


What will this latest coup bring to Tunisia - what do you think? Will it stop democratization or on the contrary? After all, the collapse of tourism, caused by the fear of attacks, will hit the country's economy, affect ordinary people ...


- It is difficult to predict the future of Tunisia, just as it is difficult to predict the future of the entire Arab world - it is squaring the circle, but I think that nothing will stop the democratization of this world. The Arabs have tasted freedom. The process, however, will be long and very painful. This world is waiting for its enlightenment and its reformation. We know how long these epochs lasted in Europe and how long it took for their fruits, which we are using now. However, modern times are dynamic, the world is a technologized "global village," so perhaps the process of "detraditionalization" and enlightenment in the Arab world will be shorter than in the Western world.


The Tunisian and the entire Arab tourism sector will suffer greatly from terrorism, not for the first time, and as a consequence, the already low standard of living in Egypt or Tunisia will decline. This will transfer to the public mood, frustrate poor societies, turn their reluctance towards their own governments, some -  mostly young -  it will push into the hands of the radicals, and this is what Islamic terrorists mean.


Why do you think this attack took place right now?


- The West has made a whole host of terrible mistakes in the Islamic world for decades, if not longer, and it is now taking revenge. For years we have supported bloody dictators for oil and for peace. It was a short-sighted policy. Now we have bearded demons that breathe hate at an unprecedented level -  since the inquisition - the scale and hundreds of thousands of immigrants whom we will soon have to accept. If Europe does not meaningfully solve the problem of immigration, then we will  problem, very big problem. The cities of our children and grandchildren will be Euro-Islamic cities.


I say this with full responsibility, although I am aware of the "political incorrectness" of my words. All the more let us learn this world, its customs, languages, cultural secrets and, above all, religion. Let's get to know this world sensibly, substantively and deeply, without nervous prejudices and stereotypes, but also without fascination and infatuation, coldly. This can be very useful to us, and it will certainly be useful to our children.


Piotr Ibrahim Kalwas  (born 1963) - writer, journalist, author of reports and books, incl. "Salam", "Czas", "Międzyrzecz". In the past, also known, among others, as a vocalist of a punk band and screenwriter of a popular TV series. In 2000 he converted to Islam, and in 2008 he moved to Egypt for good. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and 12-year-old son.


Anna Sańczuk.  An art historian by education, a journalist by profession, sometimes she also deals with cultural PR. Co-author of the book "Warszawa. In search of the center. Together with Maciej Ulewicz, he runs the "KULTURA DO KWADRATU" program on Polsat News 2. He designs and sews jewelry under the SANKA brand. He lives in Warsaw in Stara Ochota.

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