This article is a part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020
By Arthur F. Beaugeard
The Ascent News has managed to nab an exclusive interview with a reclusive Egyptian visionary who is now studying veterinary medicine on America’s West Coast. Although reluctant at first, saying that “he doesn’t do interviews,” he agreed to answer the questions anonymously.
As an active participant in the Egyptian Revolution, he says that “My main part was an on-site triaging center that we put together to take care of various injuries that protesters had that resulted from tear gas, cartridge shots, bullets, and being trampled by mobs. We provided first aid and transportation to the nearest hospital. I ended up spending all my time either helping with first aid at our triaging center or helping the patients we transported to the hospital who were being treated for trauma.” He once had to pretend that twelve dead people were alive and he transported them to the hospital, because “the friends and family members were about to make the very reckless decision of attacking an army tank which could have escalated into hundreds of deaths. We transported the dead protesters and waited for the situation to de-escalate before pronouncing them dead.”
He says that “Being an atheist in Egypt is like being an atheist anywhere else. You live your life just believing what you believe and when it’s time for Sunday prayer, you just don’t go!” It doesn’t register with people as a belief with people but as a lack of faith in their beliefs. “People register it as me being in a phase of being a bad Christian and say they are praying for me to come back to being a good Christian.” Although he and a range of liberal Christians, Muslims, and Atheists from a variety of backgrounds ran a journal publicizing secular ideas, he says that “My primary objective was not to promote my beliefs but it was important to me to contradict people making their beliefs into laws and the theocracy in Egypt.”
He was raised in the Coptic faith, the followers of which make up 10% of the Egyptian population. He generously explained that “Coptic Christianity dates back to one of Jesus’s disciples, Mark, and one of the first places he visited was Egypt. At that time, Egypt was part of the Roman Empire and preaching Christianity was prohibited. The first church started in Egypt in someone’s house and grew out of Alexandria. Part of their message was to fight against the injustice of the Roman Empire. The Coptic church is considered one of the oldest churches on Earth.” Unfortunately, “Like any minority in a country that identifies itself” in a Muslim nation-state, Coptics have had to fight against discrimination, but “They have never failed to reach to the top whenever bias was not a factor. So they succeed in situations where applications are anonymous and interviews are not part of it. That’s why there are many Coptic lawyers and doctors. One of the richest families listed in Forbes is Coptic Egyptian (Sawiris family).”
After his multitude of adventures, he decided to live the American dream by coming to its shores and pursuing an education in medicine, but he says that
“My story is not a special story. It’s similar to every immigrant who comes here for opportunity and growth fleeing from an oppressed, less developed society. Why did I choose America when the rest of the world is likely to welcome someone with my credentials? I felt that America has boundless opportunities that match my ambitions.” He still misses the “memories/friends I made growing up in Egypt and the family I left behind.”
Although his values are always changing, he says that “One value I have always stuck to and I think I got it from my practice and that is ‘First, do no harm.’ It pertains to my work but I also apply it broadly to my life.” He also cautions us: “’Don’t trust politicians,’ ‘Always check people with authority’ and “Blame the religion, not the people.” That’s what I live by and that’s pretty much it.”
The Ascent extends their deepest thanks to this titan of history for sharing a bit of his vast wealth of knowledge. We only hope that our readers do no harm and distrust authority.