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banner Friday, 26 October, 2001, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Breeding Terror
Nawal El Saadawi
By Nawal El Saadawi.

In Montclair and in New York which is only a short distance from where I am staying it is a beautiful, sunny day. It reminds me of the autumn sun, back home in Egypt. But when I look at the sky there is that empty space left by the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, a void which clutches at the heart with a dark foreboding.


I believe in peace. I hate war, hate to see people killed, to see women and children die under bombs whether in Egypt, or in Japan or in the United States

Nawal El Saadawi

I came to New York and New Jersey a few days before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and the building of the Pentagon. I did not watch on the television screen as the buildings took fire and collapsed did not see the planes crashed into them, did not follow the tragedy being broadcast in detail hour after hour.

No more war

I do not want to watch any more tragedies. Living in the Middle East as it is called I have seen enough of them, seen enough buildings collapse, enough people killed or maimed for life, enough massacres in Palestine, in Iraq, in Algeria, in the Sudan, in Somalia, in Iran and even in Egypt.

I believe in peace. I hate war, hate to see people killed, to see women and children die under bombs whether in Egypt, or in Japan or in the United States. I was surprised when journalists asked me whether I had felt pain for the thousands of civilians who had been killed in the 11 September terrorist attack. To me it was a strange question, for how can one not feel pain at knowing that 1000s of innocent people were killed like that?

Iraqi women
Iraqi women mourning the death of their children

But what was even stranger to me was the fact that no journalist had ever asked me whether I had felt pain when hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were being killed, or when half a million Iraqi children had died of malnutrition and disease because of the economic embargo.

Or when young Palestinians were being massacred every day by Israeli soldiers because they need a land on which to live. Could it be that there is a hierarchy of human life, that human life is valued according to its position in the hierarchy of money and nuclear power?

The American war machine

The massive mobilisation of the American war machine is too great to be directed only against Bin Laden and the Taleban, or against other terrorist groups dispersed in different countries of the world. It is meant to be used against all those who oppose the policies of the United States - primarily in the Arab region - but also in the rest of the world including the United States itself. It is being directed to deprive the American people of their freedom and their human rights.


I wonder how many bombs will be needed, and how many innocent people must die in order to ensure that the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq will begin to climb once more

Nawal El Saadawi

Bush has declared that he will take all the measures necessary to defend the "security" of the United States against the "enemies who hate American democracy and the American way of life," and these measures include a whole range of incursions on individual and community freedom. This war on terrorism is being used to halt the rising wave of opposition to unbridled transnational exploitation of nature, human resources and human life.

In the global patriarchal capitalist system war has been and remains the economic stimulus required to stave off recession and protect accumulation and profits. But I wonder how many bombs will be needed, and how many innocent people must die in order to ensure that the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq will begin to climb once more.

My battle

Throughout my life I have fought against violence and racism for peace. Throughout my life I have suffered as a woman from religious fundamentalism. After the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan at the hands of the Muslim Mujahideen, the Afghan Arabs of Bin Laden as they are often called, transferred their operations to other parts of the world, and especially to the Arab Region. They too have started to operate globally but in dispersed clusters. In 1991 my name figured on a fundamentalist death list and I was obliged to leave Egypt and live in exile for five years.

From March to July 2001 I faced another fundamentalist threat. I had given an interview to a newspaper in Egypt in which I said that the veiling of women was not Islamic in origin and dated much further back to Judaism, and that the kissing of the Black Stone during the pilgrimage was a vestige of pagan pre-Islamic practices. Both of these are historically recorded facts.


But religions like any other ideologies or beliefs have negative as well as positive aspects and must be examined with a critical mind

Nawal El Saadawi

But a lawyer named El Wahsh, which means the beast or monster, filed a case against me in front of a religious Personal Law court demanding that I be separated from my husband on a charge of apostasy. He considered himself a representative of God and of the nation of Islam and had risen in defence of their rights according to an old, obscure Islamic law called Hisba. With the help of a wide solidarity campaign in Egypt, the Arab countries and abroad as well as legal support from a group of lawyers, after five months we won the case.

Religion

Religions
Religions have negative as well as positive aspects

I was brought up to believe in the basic human principles of the three monotheistic religions. But religions like any other ideologies or beliefs have negative as well as positive aspects and must be examined with a critical mind. Faith can lead to a blind belief, can lead people to kill others who do not believe in the same God or the same prophet, or the same way of seeing things.

The wars waged by Bush the father or Bush the son are not very different from those of Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden. All of them claim higher, eternal principles with strongly religious overtones, all of them lead to the killing of innocent people, all of them do not solve any of our problems or help to make the world a better place. State terrorism is the elder brother of individual terrorism except that it claims the legitimacy of laws upheld by a powerful few.

A global world

The world will change when people are able to globalise from below in the struggle for peace against racism and war, in the struggle for justice against all forms of discrimination, when people cooperate together against those who divide and use attractive words to conceal what they are really doing, words like security, or patriotism, or civilisation. We must struggle for what we have in common, for our humanity. We must fight to unveil our minds.


The envelopes that contained anthrax sent to NBCs Tom Brokaw

An American woman friend of mine phoned up to warn me against opening any mail coming from Egypt or any other Muslim country. I explained to her that the employee of NBC who had been infected with anthrax had received it in a letter that had been mailed to her from New Jersey. "My God!" She exclaimed, "Then it's right here at home!"

Fear is the greatest of our enemies. It can make us panic, make us blind, force us to forgo the little but important freedom that we enjoy, make us accept almost anything in the name of security or of the war against terrorism. Fear can help the Big Brother to drive us with a big stick into an Orwellian world.

This is an extract from a longer article by Nawal el Saadawi

No compromise: Sunday 28th October 2001 at 1915 on BBC Two

Reporter: Samira Hepburn
Producer: Fiona Lloyd-Davies
Deputy Editor: Farah Durrani
Editor: Fiona Murch

See also:

24 Apr 01 | Middle East
Egyptian writer faces apostasy trial
09 Jul 01 | Middle East
Court to hear Egypt apostasy case
09 Jul 01 | Latest News
Court to hear Egyptian apostasy case
09 Jul 01 | Middle East
Egypt apostasy trial adjourned
30 Jul 01 | Middle East
Egyptian 'infidel' case dismissed
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