Thursday, December 20, 2012

Postcards from Egypt: Haircut Morsi style


It’s hot here and the end of the year, so a haircut seemed in order. The two of us, Ken and I, have reached that time in life when hair is rare on top, but bountiful in all other facial orifices. After striking a deal (way over the odds at £1.50 each) I sat down in a chair which had stuffing erupting from its own orifices. Amed, the Barber, started by lighting up a cigarette, then after a long studied draw, lifted the scissors and went at me like Edward Scissorhands, boy was he fast. Then the cutthroat razor, flicked open casually, like a Glasgow gang member, for edges, sideburns and nape of the neck. So far so good, but there was something far more painful coming –  threading. A twisted thread snags individual hairs and the end held in the mouth. He flicked his head to one side and plucked them out. He started on my forehead, then down my nose, across both cheeks, then both eyebrows. Finally, the coup de grace - my ears. Now that was pain. Gil, my wife, was in stitches, every laugh visible in the mirror. The only saving grace was that Ken had yet to have his time in the chair of pain.
Morsi haircut
Now when we went in Ahmed was watching, on TV, prayer from a Mosque. I asked him about the referendum and Morsi was his man. Many I spoke to liked Morsi, head of the Freedom and Justice Party and a man respected for his strong line on corruption, nepotism and economic fairness. They want an Islamic influenced state , if not a full blown Islamic state, and see him as a champion of the poor. However, he made a grave error in trying to grab too much executive power and split the country. Nevertheless, he has emerged as the winner in the referendum. Winning the presidential position was the haircut. Unfortunately, he wanted to cut off more than the customer wanted with almost absolute power.
Morsi razor cuts
Others liked Morsi, but were fearful of the Muslim Brotherhood and felt that he would be straight-jacketed into implementing Islamic law and cultural norms that would be restrictive and regressive, especially for women. However, they were willing to give him a chance and I heard many say ‘he needs time’. This is the razor –shaving away the peripheral power of the military and remnants within the judiciary that will hold him back from reform.The thing about hair is that it grows back and at some time you’ll need another haircut. He can be voted out in four years’ time.
Morsi threading
There were also many genuine, floating voters, who were reading the constitution and making their minds up. It is a long document and at times, complicated. Like any long list of rules, it’s hard to agree with all of them and some of the Islamic insertions seem very odd to Western eyes. Then again having scores of Bishops (none who can be women) in the House of Lords, would seem odd to them. It is certainly odd to me. Lots of groups of hairs sprout from ears, nostrils and on the face. These have to be dealt with. Unfortunately, it looks as though Morsi will have little time for the Coptic minority, secularists and other western-orientated citizens.
Beards in and hair covered
But there were also people who were absolutely against Morsi. ‘Morsi no’ they exclaimed, wagging their fingers. They did not want the constitution to be passed. They had read it and didn’t like the retention of the military right to try civilians. Nor did they like the absence of women’s rights. They saw him as the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, not the President and thought he would be guided by the Brothers not the voters. Morsi will demand short haircuts, precision razor cuts to peripheral groups and the rooting out of dissenting voices.
Some liked the Christian woman I spoke to (Copts are 10% of the population), were ‘really, really scared’ and saw trouble ahead for religious minorities and moderates. They claim he believes in ‘girls marrying at age nine, curfews for women and the compulsory wearing of the veil.’ They have already witnessed the burning of churches, murderous attacks and were fearful of more. The enshrinement of Sunni Muslim doctrine in the constitution is indeed worrying for these minorities. Their great fear is that Morsi will allow the Islamic beard to grow but will demand that men conform to one hairstyle and that all women will have to cover their hair.