+002 02 27510268   info@cawu.org

Conduct for Stability and Mutual-Understanding

You are here

This text contains the personal opinions of CAWU co-founder and current Vice-President Cornelis Hulsman, a driving force behind the organization. It seeks to explain some of the rationale underlying the actions and purpose of CAWU. In addition, it highlights some of the reasons why misunderstandings between the Arab World and the West occur and how, through awareness of media bias and other factors, some of these reasons can be overcome and Egypt’s stability can be encouraged.

Media, in all its new forms, has a scope previously unthinkable; however, this ability to enlighten also comes with the ability to manipulate political outcomes either by accident or deliberate means. There are two aspects of media which cannot be overrated; namely, the importance of factual accuracy and the placement of events in their proper context. Facts used in reporting must be verified and they are strengthened when sourced through a number of means. If we have insufficient facts we risk drawing the wrong conclusions. Since the 1990s, I have personally investigated numerous inter-communal incidents in Egypt and have observed firsthand how negative reporting in addition to poor governance is capable of deepening existing tensions and even creating rifts where they did not previously exist . 
 
The use of violence, incitements, manipulations and other efforts to advocate particular interests are a factor I strongly oppose. Egypt’s domestic political environment has polarized drastically since 2011 because of the increase of such actions by a number of political actors. Freedom of expression and religion are important, but the discussions surrounding them should be transparent to all. At CAWU we aim to facilitate this through producing materials for the online-publication Arab West Report and encouraging debate.
 
During my time in Egypt, I have written a series of critiques on media reporting on Muslim-Christian issues and am extremely cautious regarding the objectives and reporting of political activists, regardless of their political color. For an overview on my opinion on Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt please read my lecture at Cairo University.
 
Transparency is a key factor in addressing socio-economic problems and tensions in society (see Education for Peace). Therefore, I advocate the full transparency by Western governments and civil society groups working in Egypt (something which is not always the case) in addition to full transparency of Egypt’s government and civil society groups. Transparency in reporting means the careful documentation and referencing of all sources.
 
Many audiences do not have a holistic overview of developments in Egypt and opinions are often based on incomplete sources of information. In my opinion, Western audiences should make a greater effort of listening to the many arguments in Egypt before joining the debate. This call also applies to Egyptians who need to make a greater effort to explain their views to a non-Egyptian audience. Any project that works towards facilitating this dialogue is welcomed and can make an essential contribution to Egypt’s stability. We should rather help governments in addressing its weaknesses instead of exacerbating local tensions.
 
In regards to the Arab World, there is also a distinct feeling of superiority in the West. Some countries in the Arab World are poorly managed, but external interference for partisan interests has only served to worsen these internal tensions. Thus, I strongly oppose partisan foreign intervention in Egypt. Many Western advocates of interventionism have often based their decisions on biased or false reporting, or the vocalizations of zealous activists. 
 
Empirical reporting making use of statistics and hard evidence carries more weight than scoops provided by rumors and conspiracy. Conflicting evidence facilitates the need for verification to be sure of the facts involved – I therefore personally verify single pieces of information as much as possible. Generalizations and information out of context raise my level of skepticism and should do the same for any other media professional, because of this, a descriptive methodology is applied to my work and conclusions are drawn with caution in mind.
 
These aspects are key to raising Egypt and promoting stability and national unity – both of which are essential for encouraging economic growth and prosperity for the Egyptian people.