It is a confusing question: Who is responsible for Egypt’s image? Perhaps the mystery lies in Egypt’s “important cards”, which are capable of producing a “wonderful image”, but the new image of Egypt is usually “temporary”.
The investment conference in Sharm El-Sheikh created an “attractive atmosphere”, however the Egyptian government did not complete it. The same thing happened with Lionel Messi when he came to Cairo to promote the treatment of Hepatitis C in Egypt. Finally, Pope Francis’ visit to Egypt shed light on Egypt’s efforts in religious tolerance. After the visit, we were very happy and exchanged congratulations, but we did not realise, as usual, that the difficult part would be in the next day. It leads us to the same question: Who is responsible for Egypt’s image?
Despite the danger of terrorist threats, they offer an opportunity for Egyptians to set a model of cohesion and coexistence. In the midst of these terrorist tragedies, the world is looking for a “light of hope.”
Recently, the Christian Science Monitor published an article about Egypt’s goodwill, in which the American newspaper pointed out that Egypt sets a model of goodwill among different religions.
It added that the coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Egypt is a result of the great efforts exerted by the two major religious leaders, Imam Ahmad al-Tayeb of Al-Azhar and Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II. The newspaper pointed out that the two leaders launched the “Egyptian Family House” body to reform the religious teachings about others. The rest of the Middle East needs similar models of religious harmony among Egyptian society, because it creates a soft and powerful weapon against the hatred and violence of terrorist organisations like the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda.
I think that Pope Francis’ II visit was successful, as international media covered it very well. Hence, it seems for me that Egypt has already adopted a “different policy” created by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi regarding the renewal of religious discourse and the comprehensive confrontation of terrorism.
Being a symbol of the state and its leader, President Al-Sisi can guarantee coexistence and harmony within the society and ensure the security of both Christians and Muslims.
We cannot forget the role of the great national institution—the Egyptian military—in protecting Egypt and its people from the terrorism threat. However, these different efforts need to be used in building something more, and in linking the internal community with foreign media and communities.
Nart Bouran, CEO of the Sky News Arabia channel, once said, “There is no international channel capable of competing with the Egyptian media in its country.” I guess he meant that we have a powerful local media.
When Bouran is besieged, “Do the Egyptian news channels live up to the international competition?”
The man said that the competition is available, but honestly I did not see any of the institutions developing a plan to compete with Sky News Arabia or any other channels. I think that the answer is clear, but the man is back to ease the harsh reality.
Competition is no longer just on TV, and Egypt is distinct and a strong competitor to international sites, but it doesn’t communicate with the world using its language to increase the impact. I think the problem is that we are talking to ourselves, and we haven’t gotten tired of self-flagellation and complaining that others do not appreciate what we are doing, or talking about the wonderful things that we have. In addition, we haven’t realised that the battlefield is outside, and that the process of making the image of Egypt is the essence of the Egyptian soft power, which has become one of the most important challenges of the Egyptian national security.
Weapons are diverse in the hands of nations, and they fight their battles with soft power—most notably media, cinema, drama, and documentaries.
In addition, science has now given us the “new media” and the means of social media communication, and it is enough to refer to the Australian film “Walk like an Egyptian” [this film is available on YouTube]. The film is about an Australian man, his fiancée, and his friends visiting Egypt as tourists, and the film has half a million views.
To be honest, its more impressive than most of the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism. We have already discussed the importance of tourism, and here we pointed to the need to work on the Chinese market and attracting 5 million Chinese tourists. Efforts come from 300 Egyptian tourism companies that attend a tourism conference to support Egyptian tourism in the Chinese market, and they are doing this under the title “The campaign of one million Chinese tourists to visit Egypt”.
I think that president Al-Sisi needs the unity of the Egyptian soft power. This unity must be formed as soon as possible, and it should work on developing perceptions and strategies for making the image of Egypt. However, the starting point is to focus on communicating with the international world and moving in three directions. The first is highlighting the Egyptian uniqueness of experience in the harmonious religious coexistence and the efforts of the president and the religious establishments in combating extremism and renewing the religious discourse.
The second point is to communicate with the foreign media as Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and Malaysia do.
The third point is to highlight Egypt as a promising region with investment and serious openness to the world, and perhaps the project of the century is the “Suez Canal Economic Zone.”
These are just points, therefore all the Egyptian minds should be activated, and efforts should be coordinated.
I think that this dispute and the conflict of competencies is the last thing that needs to be resolved, and to make a stable image of Egypt, we need to cooperate with others to make the image of Egypt, not to be coordinated by the ministers themselves.
Mohamed Sabrin is a journalist at Al-Ahram