Haikal: larger than a life’s experience [Archives:2005/883/Opinion]

October 6 2005

Mohammed Hasanien Haikal is an Egyptian writer and intellectual who has contributed for many years to Arab and Western media on various occasions. He is a prominent figure in the Middle East and has achieved high reputation around the world for his astonishingly frank and far sighted visions, reading through history and between the lines of time. Al-Jazeera TV has created a number of interviews with Haikal in which he talked about his life journey as a human and observer of how history is made through 60 years of work in the media and in politics. The Yemen Time selected a number of his interviews and translated them in order to share his openness with our readers.

He says:

First of all I would like to emphasise that this is not a narration of history. It is rather sharing a human experience; how societies were born, grew and progressed, the story of the ever-ending struggle between nations to survive, mature and conquer. We are talking here about life and events that marked history and not numbers. I want to talk about my experience as a journalist who was closely related to politics throughout 60 years starting from the second half of the forties to this current post the cold war period. During these 60 years the world went through a violent series of events; the rise of the nuclear powers, the cold war, the breakdown of USSR, the fall of legendary kingdoms and the advancement of the United States to lead the world of today

During my recall of my experience through life I will not limit my memory to the chronological order of time, rather I would like to divide my talk into different stages and naturally the first stage would be to mark the start of this journey and describe the environment and circumstances of that time.

There is nothing to compare with being there

It was 1942, when I was just a young man starting my career as a journalist under training at the Egyptian Gazette. My generation was one that was aware of what is going on around it, and was clear about the generation's demands and priorities of their time. Basically, there were two issues of concern then: independence and progress. The first issue was the struggle to out throw the British occupation of Egypt, which lasted for 70 years, and the second concern was the way forward and at that time eyes where directed towards Europe which was an inspiration for many Egyptian intellectuals at that time. Unfortunately today's generation is lost doesn't know what it needs and doesn't know the options it has. My generation had clear intellectual choices and the orientations that were offered for adoption were either the liberal school of thought represented by al-Wafd political party or the Islamic trend represented by Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (Muslim Brothers) or the Marxism movement as expressed by the communists. In terms of identity there were also two clear choices either the Arab nationalism with the affiliation to all Arab nations or else the Egyptian nationalism considering Egypt as an isolated priority for the Egyptian people. In other words there was no confusion of identity or priorities, however today things got terribly mixed up and the current generation does not know what the issues of discussions are. For example, I clearly remember in 1963 Mustafa al-Nahas Basha was talking to Sir Mice Larson the British Ambassador then and conveyed to him that the “Egyptian people will not accept the establishment of a jewish state at its boarders, I am here talking for the Egyptian's people and not just for myself.”