This article looks at how the discourse of tanwir (enlightenment) has been used, appropriated, and recycled in multiple milieus ranging from state discourse and the secular intellectuals in the process of co-option by the state to the Islamists and the nationalists. Precisely when the government has been trying to sell for the Western “democratic” and free world an image of a civilized “enlightened” government, combating its “dark” opponents, it has itself reinvented practices of harshly disciplining the unruly. By promoting enlightenment from the top, the government attempts to promote the image of an enlightened authoritarian, but “somehow” democratic, state, since Egypt enjoys a multiparty system and there exist various opposition papers and magazines. The article draws attention to “government enlightenment” policies (tanwir hukumi) and focuses in particular on the recent statements on female Islamic attire by the minister of culture, Farouk Hosni, and the tempestuous political crisis that resulted. The portrayal of an “enlightened” artist-intellectual minister who has been counterimaged against the dark Islamists is discussed. The article highlights the dialectical, intricate relationship between the long authoritarian tradition of the state and the way the state co-opts the intellectuals to counterplay opposition.
Mona Abaza; The Trafficking with Tanwir (Enlightenment). Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 May 2010; 30 (1): 32–46. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201x-2009-048
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