Tensions rise in Egypt as President Morsi stands firm despite 22 million purported signatures demanding his resignation. Huge crowds of demonstrators in Tahrir Square and elsewhere protest about food and petrol shortages as well as the undermining of secular rights by creeping Islamism. It’s a very dangerous situation with the Army yet to say what side they’re going to be on if push comes to shove.
So I decided to ring my old mate Sheik Halili to ask him what his take on the matter might be. Will the Muslim Brotherhood agree to another election? If they don’t, will this likely lead to Civil War? Will the Army decide enough is enough and stage a coup? Is the IMF likely to rescind its promise for a 4.8 billion dollar loan if Morsi continues down the same path?
But after all these years of knowing him I still can barely understand a word the Sheikh says. Perhaps it’s his age and forced retirement in 2007 that has contributed to him becoming almost completely incomprehensible. I do however catch a few garbled English references to rape and what sounds like ‘uncovered meat’ to which I repeatedly respond, “No, FOOD shortages, NOT meat shortages,” but he babbles on regardless. There must be something in Shariah law somewhere which tells you how you hang the phone up on somebody but I can’t be bothered looking it up. I decide instead to very careful and very gently replace the receiver, so as to cause as little offence as possible.
Getting an angle on the worsening crisis in Egypt from an Australian muslim is not as easy as I would have thought. Trying the next person on my list, Keyser Trad from the Islamic Friendship Society, proves just as useless. All I get is someone claiming to be, quote, his gorgeous pouting secretary, unquote, who told me, quote, he was off sick today and to please use Google, unquote.
I’ve been getting this exact same response from Traddy since the Sydney Riots last year and I wonder if it’s because I’m ringing the wrong number, or maybe he’s just trying to avoid me. Perhaps an inventive member of his Islamist community has come up with a more creative response to the last one, which had Keyser personally telling pesky reporters – no matter what their question might be – that there is absolutely nothing wrong with institutionalised polygamy and to please f*** off.’ Even though I’ve similar views to Traddy on this particular aspect of matrimony, I’ve nevertheless found his standard response somewhat rude and would normally welcome any improvement.
But not this time.
Undaunted, I decide to email Uthman, my confidential and highly reliable source inside the very secretive Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Since being elected spokesman for the Melbourne-based group some time back he’s had a lot less time to hobnob and socialise with many of the infidel mates (that I suppose) he has inside The Greens, on the board of the New Matilda and in the Sydney Peace Foundation, for example – but not when it comes to dealing with me. Despite being flat-out, constantly appearing on the media, ranting on with the usual nonsense about American imperialism, apartheid in Palestine, jingoism of Anzac-day celebrations and the like, he has always found time to send Susan flowers and a card on Mother’s Day and quick to lend me a DVD from his old Rambo collection whenever I ask for it. If he can’t enlighten me about what’s likely to happen in Egypt, I may as well give up now.