In the Biblical story, God sent ten plagues to Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. The news from Cairo today suggests that at least one of those plagues — the plague of darkness — is back.From the Associated Press:
A mob of hundreds of men assaulted women holding a march demanding an end to sexual harassment Friday, with the attackers overwhelming the male guardians and groping and molesting several of the female marchers in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.From the ferocity of the assault, some of the victims said it appeared to have been an organized attempt to drive women out of demonstrations and trample on the pro-democracy protest movement.
The attacks were brutal, cowardly and horrific.
After the marchers entered a crowded corner of the square, a group of men waded into the women, heckling them and groping them. The male supporters tried to fend them off, and it turned into a melee involving a mob of hundreds.The marchers tried to flee while the attackers chased them and male supporters tried to protect them. But the attackers persisted, cornering several women against a metal sidewalk railing, including an Associated Press reporter, shoving their hands down their clothes and trying to grab their bags. The male supporters fought back, swinging belts and fists and throwing water.
Every country has thugs and no country or culture deserves to be judged by the actions of a few. Here in New York we remember occasions of “wilding” when groups of young men stormed through Central Park and other public places, attacking and harassing women.But in Egypt today, unevolved and badly brought up thugs like this can claim the approval of certain misguided and bigoted religious “authorities,” and there are those who say that assaults on women protesters are a virtuous act.When religious authorities confuse evil and good in this way, they are under a true curse — a plague of darkness. They are blind guides; those who follow them will fall into a ditch. It’s likely that most of the men attacking those women in Cairo are not going to find much prosperity or dignity in this life, and as long as they take the advice of delusional “sheikhs” and radical political leaders they will wander helplessly in the dark, victims and puppets by turns manipulated and cast aside in a political game they will never understand.This is no consolation to the women or to those, like Via Meadia, who want Egypt to find the democracy and prosperity it so desperately needs. By itself, one incident like this doesn’t say much about the future of a country, but there are enough grim stories coming out of Egypt these days to make it clear to realists that the country has a long and hard road ahead.Education, emphatically including the education of women, offers the best hope that future generations of Egyptians will have better choices than the country currently enjoys. This won’t yield political or economic miracles overnight — but it looks increasingly likely that nothing else will produce miracles of growth and development in Egypt today.