Re-blog: The Battle of the Archives: What Egypt’s Intellectuals and Muslim Brotherhood Lost : The New Yorker

From The New Yorker:

The Battle of the Archives: What Egypt’s Intellectuals and Muslim Brotherhood Lost

It was mostly coincidence that drew Khaled Fahmy into the fight over the Ministry of Culture. It was early June, less than a month before a mass protest movement, and then a military coup, would force the Muslim Brotherhood and its President, Mohamed Morsi, out of power in Egypt. Over the previous week, the Brotherhood had undertaken what would be its final project of “Brotherhoodization”—the process of stacking major government posts with friendly or Brotherhood-aligned officials. This time, the target had been the Ministry of Culture and several of its constituent bodies: the opera, the ballet, the national archives and library. Ahmed Megahed, the director of Egypt’s government publishing agency, found out that he’d lost his job when he read a form letter that had been left on his desk on a Sunday. Iman Ezzeldin, who runs the National Library, learned the news when she received a phone call at her home, at 11 P.M., from a secretarial assistant. “I’m sorry to tell you this,” the nervous voice on the other line said, “but you are no longer the director of the library.” The next day, there was a wax seal on the door to her office.

“I started getting all of these phone calls,” Fahmy said the other day from his home in New York, where he is teaching a course at New York University. Fahmy is a professor of history at the American University in Cairo, and in June he was conducting research at the National Archives on the historical use of Islamic law. By chance, the man that the Brotherhood chose to take over the administration of the archives and library was also named Khaled Fahmy. “Some of them were calling to congratulate me, some of them were confused and calling to ask did I really accept this job?” he recalled. “But those who understood what was going on started to phone me in alarm: ‘We have to do something about this. They appointed a Brotherhood person who will try to destroy the cultural heritage of Egypt.’”

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