Who’s Afraid of Art?


On Friday, May 9th, a television show called “Al Raees Wel Nas” (The President and the People), hosted by TV personality Osama Kamal, accused me of being recruited by the Muslim Brotherhood. As you may already know, the Muslim Brotherhood has been officially designated as a terrorist organization by the state of Egypt. Those accused of being affiliated with The Brotherhood are being sentenced to death in mass trials. Needless to say, these are very serious accusations, ones that should not be thrown around so lightly. Mr. Osama Kamal’s accusations are as much a mockery of journalism as recent trials in Egyptian courts are a mockery of justice.

[Osama Kamal: Al Raees Wel NasWatch from minute 7:48]

Osama Kamal’s show appears on a television network called “Al Kahera Wel Nas,” owned by advertising mogul Tarek Nour who made his massive fortunes during the Mubarak regime. 

Everything said on Tarek Nour’s network is very much pro-Sisi. Sisi being the presumably retired Minister of Defense and Ex-Deputy Director of Egyptian Military Intelligence, now running for the position of Egyptian President. This very obviously indicates that Mr. Sisi is nothing but a continuation of the Mubarak regime, one that is very authoritarian and in favor of safeguarding Mubarak’s police state, and one that is bent on eradicating the nation from any and all of its revolutionary aspirations.

As such, it should not come as a surprise that artists who have taken part in the Egyptian revolution and who are critical of Sisi are not favored by the likes of Mr. Osama Kamal. Myself, being one of such artists, am not surprised of being brought to the attention of Mr. Osama. What does come as shocking to me, however, is that Mr. Osama would so confidently jump to the false conclusion that I am affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. In his report, he claimed that “Political Analysts” say that I am affiliated with the Brotherhood. He did not refrain from mentioning my name, and showing my picture, but he did not mention the name of one actual political analyst who has drawn this outlandish conclusion. This leads me to believe that said “Political Analysts” do not exist, and that the false conclusions drawn are Mr. Osama’s alone. Being anti-Sisi in itself is not a crime. So I guess Mr. Osama thought it necessary to attach a fictitious crime to my name.

I understand that Mr. Osama Kamal may see that he has some kind of responsibility towards Sisi, being such an obvious supporter of his future presidency. I would, however, like to remind Mr. Osama of his responsibility towards the Egyptian people. As someone who is watched by millions of people everyday, he should understand that everything he says has a deep impact. And it is very unfair of him to falsely accuse someone of being affiliated with a “terrorist organization” just because that someone draws pictures that are not supportive of Sisi. Such ridiculous accusations could very easily get that someone killed. Does Mr. Osama really want to see me hang for my art?

Perhaps Mr. Osama merely wants to send a little scare down my spine so I can alter my positioning? 

Well, Mr. Osama, if you’ve ever known an artist in your life, you would know that the only thing artists respond to is their conscience. Unlike journalists who may fear losing their jobs, or NGO’s who may fear getting shut down, or political parties who may fear being banned from activity… I, Mr. Osama, only fear making art that is irrelevant. Your statements about me, however, have only proven the significance of my work. Nice going.

I know exactly what’s going on here. Mr. Sisi has managed to effectively end the surfacing of any opposition against him; NGO’s have been accused of conspiracy, Muslim Brotherhood declared a terrorist organization, April 6 Youth Movement standing trial, journalists imprisoned and others fired, while demonstrations banned and cracked down on by an extremely militarized police force. The methodology of doing so first involved massive defamation campaigns throughout Egyptian media, followed by brutal crackdowns cheered by media-zombified masses. And now as the only remaining unrestricted voice on the scene, Egyptian street-artists are the State’s next target.

Dear Mr. Osama Kamal, I should point out to you that what you’re doing is in all actuality not in Mr. Sisi’s best interest. What you’re doing makes him come off as a man who is very afraid of the impact of art. Rather than see us as a threat to the State, critical artists should be seen as a source of information to the State. By paying attention to what we do, perhaps the State can better understand popular grievances and adjust its policies and governance accordingly, rather than invest so many resources into trying to shut us up.

After your allegations on May 9th, I predict that the artistic backlash from the intellectual community against you and the man you love (Sisi) will very likely be a big one. I think, in order to keep that from happening, a public apology from you, Mr. Osama Kamal, on your show next Friday (May 16), would be a good place to start. After which, Tarek Nour should cancel your show from his network, and terminate all future dealings with you. Simultaneously, I reckon the State should shut down the newspapers Al Youm 7 and Al Gomhouria for publishing articles in the same vein as Mr. Osama Kamal’s report: full of false and baseless accusations.

Now finally, as a message to the international community, I will let someone far more relevant than myself tell you something.

P.S. I will not be doing any interviews or responding to any requests from journalists. This here post is the only thing I have to say on the matter.