The Sleeping Salafi

This photo of the "sleeping salafi" from the opening session of Egypt’s new Parliament burned like wildfire through the Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of my Arab, Egyptian and Middle East watcher friends. The overwhelming tone of the comments was high snark, as liberals fell over themselves snickering at the dozing beards. The image played ...

631743_sleeping_salafi_625_0.jpg
631743_sleeping_salafi_625_0.jpg

This photo of the "sleeping salafi" from the opening session of Egypt's new Parliament burned like wildfire through the Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of my Arab, Egyptian and Middle East watcher friends. The overwhelming tone of the comments was high snark, as liberals fell over themselves snickering at the dozing beards. The image played to every prejudice which has greeted this new wave of salafi Islamists. 

There's just one problem.  The iconic figure in the lower right corner of the photo wasn't sleeping. He's blind.  

Dr. Wageeh el-Sheemy is a university professor and new parliamentarian from the Salafi al-Nour Party. As the We Are All Khaled Said page explained yesterday, el-Sheemy is "the first blind person to become member of the Egyptian parliament thanks to the #Jan25 Revolution. In fact, he is the first ever disabled member of the Egyptian parliament." That's really impressive, and a great story. Congratulations to Dr. El-Sheemy -- and to the Nour Party for putting him forward as a successful candidate. 

This photo of the "sleeping salafi" from the opening session of Egypt’s new Parliament burned like wildfire through the Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of my Arab, Egyptian and Middle East watcher friends. The overwhelming tone of the comments was high snark, as liberals fell over themselves snickering at the dozing beards. The image played to every prejudice which has greeted this new wave of salafi Islamists. 

There’s just one problem.  The iconic figure in the lower right corner of the photo wasn’t sleeping. He’s blind.  

Dr. Wageeh el-Sheemy is a university professor and new parliamentarian from the Salafi al-Nour Party. As the We Are All Khaled Said page explained yesterday, el-Sheemy is "the first blind person to become member of the Egyptian parliament thanks to the #Jan25 Revolution. In fact, he is the first ever disabled member of the Egyptian parliament." That’s really impressive, and a great story. Congratulations to Dr. El-Sheemy — and to the Nour Party for putting him forward as a successful candidate. 

It should also be a lesson to all. For all the legitimate concerns about where the newly empowered salafi trend will take Egypt — and there are many —  it is far too easy for people to leap to unwarranted conclusions about them. In the coming days, it will be useful for all Egyptians, and those watching Egypt, to take a breath before rushing to judgement.  

We can’t help you with that guy in the third row though…

Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).

He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements. Twitter: @abuaardvark

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