The Big Pharaoh
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Sunday, October 10, 2004

An Antidote to Terrorism

Last spring I was enjoying the sun in Sharm El Sheikh, the most important resort on the Red Sea Riviera. As I was walking along the long golden bay, I turned to my mom and told her "mom, do you know what a main antidote to terrorism is? Sharm El Sheikh."

Sharm El Sheikh, or Sharm as Egyptians and other Sinai lovers love to call it, is a huge compound inhabited by tourists from all over the world and Egyptians working frantically to put a smile on their faces (and get paid for that!). You can find all sorts of Egyptians in Sharm, from the poor spices seller who hails from southern Egypt, to the waiter at the Four Seasons, to the multimillionaire who just opened a discothèque overseeing the Red Sea. Tourists dive, sunbath, and relax. Egyptians work, work, and work (not mentioning befriending Russian beauties at the end of the day!)

I remember looking at the face of a waiter while I was having a midnight dinner. He was having hard time forcing his eye lids to remain open. A short conversation with him revealed that he works two consecutive shifts in a row. I don't think the young man was complaining, millions of young unemployed Egyptians dream to be in his place.

The reason Sharm is an important antidote to terrorism is that it gives some hope and dignity to young Egyptians. Salaries are OK in Sharm and they feel proud to tell their friends back home that they found a job in the Italian/Russian colony on the Red Sea. In addition to that, they don't have time to go and listen to the crazy cleric preaching in the mosque downtown. They don't have time to switch on Al Jazeera and check out Qaradawi's latest fatwa (religious edict).

Terrorism is not caused by poverty but it thrives in it. Terrorism is caused by the barbaric Wahabi/Salafi version of Islam, period. However, Osama Bin Laden and Co. are just like bacteria, they need a suitable environment to survive in. One of those environments is the HPU cocktail: Hopelessness, Poverty, and Unemployment.


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