Young people in Egypt cannot remember that they ever followed a US presidential election with the anxious anticipation with which they did the most recent one. And for good reason. The Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton was for them a major propeller of the Arab Spring which has wreaked havoc with their lives since 2011, and a supporter of Islamist terrorist groups such as Daesh which Egyptians see as a bloodthirsty, ruinous force in the region. The Republican candidate—now president-elect—Donald Trump said he distrusts Muslims and vowed to exterminate Islamist terrorism; he also promised policies that went contrary to those of the Obama administration. Even though the first part of his declarations bred hostility among Egyptians, the majority of whom are Muslim; the second was very much to their liking.
Modern technology and open skies made it possible for Egyptians, especially the younger generation, to track minute by minute the results of the election as they unfolded. When finally Trump emerged as the winner, social media erupted in a crescendo of comments. The majority were happy that Clinton, whom they described as the sponsor of terrorism, had missed the White House; but a few expressed wariness at Trump’s seemingly unbridled talk and rather vague, heedless intentions which they said could lead the world to ruin.
Go away, Clinton
“US policy does not change much with every president in the White House,” General Khaled Hosny Qattan wrote on his Facebook page. “There never will be an American president sympathetic to Arabs or Muslims. But I feel comfortable that Trump won and that that supporter of terrorists, Clinton, lost.”
“We don’t know much about Trump,” wrote Salah Fattouh, a teacher. “But it’s hard to imagine anyone worse than Obama.” Journalist Mervat Ayoub posted: “Welcome Trump. To hell, Clinton, sponsor of terrorists and terrorism.”
“Every Arab who supported Clinton belongs to the frontline of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB),” Michael Girgis, a graphic designer, noted. “Trump is very straightforward in his talk against terrorism and especially Daesh, and any alliance with Russian President Putin would benefit Egypt.”
“Trump is over-confident; he will get a nasty surprise when he finds out that there are pre-drawn strategies led by the Zionist lobby which already has the upper hand in American decision-making, and aims to unravel the Middle East,” posted Walaa’ Muhammad, a lawyer. “As far as we Egyptians are concerned, he said he respects Egypt and our President Sisi.”
Whereas politician Abdullah Mubasher wrote: “President Sisi always bets on the winning horse [President Sisi was among the first to congratulate Trump who had in turn described Egypt’s President as a strong leader].” Homemaker Isis Bassili thought of an ominous scenario: “What would happen should Trump deport all Islamic terrorists from the US and they go back to their home countries among which is Egypt? Did anyone pause to think how would we then fare?”
Trump: From outside the establishment
“I guess it was not at all expected that Trump would ever make it to the White House,” Peter Sami, a university student, posted in English on his page. “Even though I see him as racist, sexist, and one who has no experience whatsoever in how to run even a city not a country, he’s different than all previous presidents in so many ways. He’s no member of the presidency club; he’s an outsider who won’t follow what others started. Hillary would have followed, that’s why she had the support of Obama; she’s not an outsider; it’s like she’s the rightful heir, and some stranger came and stole that away from her. I never wanted Hillary to be president, I don’t really care whether or not she would have made America great, what matters to me as a non-American is her foreign policy especially regarding the Middle East. She would have continued the detrimental policies of her predecessor and would have made everything worse for us. Trump promises to be different, and I’m interested to see his promises kept, such as destroying ISIS for a start.”
“It really makes no difference who won the American election,” Dr Saeed al-Ghareeb commented. “Clinton or Trump would accomplish what Bush had started: invasion, killing and displacement in the Middle East.”
Ayman Ghoneim, for his part, thought the Trump win, no matter how little expected, particularly telling in that it exposes the racism and aggressiveness innate to the American people. And Muhammad Mahmoud was sarcastic: “This is the happiest day in my miserable life on earth,” he posted. “It has been my dream to see this planet go up in flames. Now Trump will make my dream come true.”
“All we want is peace”
There were of course those bloggers who felt the American election was none of our priority concerns. A Facebook blogger who calls herself Princess Mariam criticised Egyptians who were overly interest in the US election, “I want to tell those who have nothing to write about except the American election: there are many other more vital issues to talk about: floating the Egyptian pound, the rising prices of medicines and transport…”
Because the social media does not represent all sectors of the Egyptian community, Watani asked the people on the street what they thought of Trump winning the US presidency.
Amm Sayed, a guardsman to a building in the overpopulated Giza suburb of Imbaba said, “I do not understand American politics. But my son, Muhammad is a soldier in the army, and he told me that the US is behind Daesh, and behind the war in Libya and Syria, and that they support the MB who are behind the terrorist attacks in Sinai. He said Trump would fight Daesh and all the terrorists.”
Islam Mekki, who works in a clothespress, told Watani “I do not know why people are so elated about Trump’s victory. He wants to deport the Muslims in his country, and intends to ruin Muslim lands.”
Tuk-tuk driver Muhammad al-Tabie said: “I don’t care who won; they are all the same. I just wish they’d leave us alone; all we want is to live in peace.”
It’s about common interests
On another level, a conversation took place between a Watani editor and a British friend. Our editor explained that most Egyptians are happy that Tump won. “Egyptians hate Clinton for being a pivotal figure in an administration that supported the Islamists and nurtured Islamist terrorist groups. Some are wary of Trump’s anti-Muslim declarations, but obviously they believe this to be the lesser evil.”
For the British friend, however, matters were not that straightforward. “I am really astonished,” she said, “that Egyptians can be happy with a climate change denier and white supremacist who wants to ban public health care and lower taxes for the rich. If you think he cares two hoots about Egypt, think again.”
The reply: “Egyptians don’t expect Trump, or anyone else for that matter, to do anything at all for Egypt. No politicians do anything except if it serves their interest, so our best chance is with someone who shares with us common interests. Clinton belonged to an administration that promoted the Islamist terrorists who were out to destroy us in all possible ways. Trump says he will work to destroy Islamist terrorism. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t…this is something no one can predict; but he doesn’t say the Islamist terrorists or the MB are ‘benign and peace-loving’. He knows them for what they are and says he’ll fight them. He never said he’d do this for Egypt, or for Syria, or for anyone at all. He’ll do it for America. If he keeps his word he’d benefit Egypt in the process.
“So the entire matter has nothing to do with who Trump is or who Clinton is. It’s only how their policies might affect our most basic needs.”
16 November 2016