Cairo -- Grim satisfaction and quiet ambivalence are the predominant reactions on Cairo streets as the dust and debris settle following last week's horrendous suicide attacks in New York and Washington.
The Egyptian government's ministry of information quickly scrambled to sanitize public opinion. As the liaison between the Middle East Times, a regional English weekly, and the Egyptian state censor, I was informed that three articles and a letter to the editor were unfit for publication.
Quoting Egyptian opinions that ran contrary to the government's official position of condolence on the tragic events was apparently inappropriate.
But the truth is that many Egyptians, from cab drivers to university students, are quietly pleased that the U.S. has finally got its just deserts. This widespread sentiment isn't because Arabs are terrorists or because they hate western values of democracy and freedom of expression.
On the contrary, many Egyptians have felt the horror of Islamic extremism first-hand. An Egyptian colleague of mine remembers vividly when a family friend was killed in the mid-90s by a bomb planted by Islamic Jihad in a middle-class Cairo neighbourhood. In a twisted plot, the terrorists timed the detonation to occur as people were leaving a mosque after evening prayers.
Despite a firm distaste for the ideological motives that inspire the likes of Osama bin Laden, many of my friends and co-workers are equally appalled by American foreign policy in the region.
The oppressive conditions of the average Palestinian and Iraqi are pointed to as the results of U.S. activity. And let's face facts: mainstream North Americans don't get particularly grief-stricken when "collateral damage" occurs in the Middle East, so why shouldn't the feeling be mutual?