The Liberal “We” and The Isolated Islands

by Maha Al Aswad

The Liberal “We” and The Isolated Islands

By Maha Al Aswad

There are voices in the world oppose the idea of the universality of human rights, not only Islamists or extreme nationalists, but also western scholars.

Current debates in the feminist arena question the whole “we” notion. Is there really a feminist “we”? Do females share common backgrounds, problems, and demands, enough to call it the “international feminist movement”?

In both issues, the argument of “cultural identity” takes place.

Regardless my opinion in the above debates, I think that Liberalism share the same status of doubt and questioning.

Is there a universal liberal “we”? Are liberal values universal? Or are they relative?
Are we mistaken if we said that there is an “Egyptianized” version of liberalism? And so the “Egyptian liberal parties” should not be blamed for following that version?
That of course if we supposed that the Egyptian liberal parties actually raise that notion of cultural identity, admit raising that notion, and have clear and logic critical reasoning for such stance, not just using some slogans to gain public ground, and attract voters.
Nevertheless, fairly enough we have to agree even with a grain of salt, that parties generally are products, seeking merchandising. Politicians are always looking for tools and innovative methods to reach their target audience, i.e. voters.

The question is however, can letting go of a core principle of the foundational brick stones of their ideology be considered an acceptable “merchandising tool”? Again, do all liberals agree on those brick stones? Because if this is the case, a liberal “we” or “liberals-united” notions can be justified and logically understood, more concretely, as represented in the Liberal International Federation.
It must be really honorable, prestigious to join such entity, or else how can we explain the urge of the Egyptian parties to join? Yet, does this observed keenness result from a deep belief in the universality of liberalism? Or is it different in this context, as it can be considered a mere strive for international support as a desperate way to empower themselves against domestic obstacles like the tyranny of the ruling party, or maybe Islamist groups?

If we are to argue that Liberalism itself in its core values accepts diversity and emphasizes individuality as a life style, then we can also accept that it accepts different interpretations for its own principles and notions. Means that it accept different forms and versions of liberalism. Or this is not the case?

This article doesn’t offer answers, yet it is inspired by answers in the recent debates between my liberal friends, and what they represent of Egyptian liberal institutions. Those questions were not explicitly raised though in their debates, actually, we are not much mistaking if we replace debates with attack/defense monologues.

My liberal friends seemed to be living in a world of isolated islands, among which there are no bridges whatsoever. But isn’t the “bridging” notion is what liberalism all about? Isn’t it a rich raw substance that can include different stances as a part of accepting the other?

The current debate can appear in conformity with principles of liberalism, in the context of freedom of expression and thinking, yet it questions the whole idea of liberalism itself, since the debate includes mutual accusations of misunderstanding for the” true liberalism”, as if there is such thing, assuming that liberalism is a homogeneous pattern.