It is well known that the assault on Lara Logan was no isolated incident where sexual harassment and abuse are concerned; nor was it an isolated incident with respect to antisemitic paranoia and hatred directed against foreigners, as Logan herself was assaulted to cries of “Jew! Jew!” Many in the West and in the mainstream media may blame Egyptian antipathy toward the modern State of Israel, disregarding the fact that the roots of that hatred and of Islamic antisemitism trace back 14 centuries to the Qur’an and the words and example of Muhammad himself. Among others:
“Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews…” — Qur’an 5:82
“Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.” — Sahih Bukhari 4.52.177
“How I was the subject of anti-Semitic abuse in Cairo,” by Thomas Dinham for BBC News, September 15:
Relations between Israel and Egypt have become increasingly strained in recent weeks, and in the Egyptian capital there is a mounting sense of tension, including incidents of anti-Semitism.
Suspicion is a feature of everyday life in Egypt, and a fondness for conspiracy theories is as much a part of the landscape here as the constant traffic jams and their accompanying symphony of blaring car horns.
With the democratic certainties that greeted the immediate aftermath of January’s revolution having faded, however, the climate of mistrust and unease about the hard-won gains of the revolution is becoming increasingly palpable.
As disquiet sets in, so does the fear of foul play, backroom deals and, increasingly, malign foreign influences.
I noticed this tendency towards cynicism while enjoying some of the incredible food on offer in Cairo.
The streets here are dotted with makeshift, roadside restaurants where in the mornings you can pick up a veritable feast of quintessential Egyptian dishes that, thanks to a weak Egyptian pound, will only cost you around $0.80 (50p).
As dishes of seasoned aubergine, heavily spiced beans, salad, fermented cheese, chips, tamea [falafel] and gorgeous wholegrain Egyptian bread were laid out before me, I realised I was beginning to attract attention, and not just because of my appetite.
A group of old men slurping tea mixed with incredible quantities of sugar was studying me.
Eventually one of the men struck up a conversation, revolving primarily around what exactly I was doing in Egypt at a time when most foreigners had left.
This atmosphere also helps to explain the detention of various foreigners as “spies” since the revolution.
My answers met with furrowed brows and clearly dissatisfied shakes of the head, when suddenly, raising his hand in front of his mouth in a conspiratorial gesture one man shot, “I bet he’s from Israel” into the ear of his friend so quickly as to be barely discernable.
I was shocked. In nearly six months of living in Syria, where orchestrated hysteria about Israel is integral to the very identity of the state, I had never heard the accusation surreptitiously levelled against me.
Neither am I from Israel, nor am I Jewish, but as someone of unmistakably European appearance, I have found myself constantly associated with Israel in Egyptian eyes.
A few days later, while sitting with the same group of men in the cafe, a bridge in a nearby neighbourhood collapsed with an incredible “boom”.
State media reported five people killed. My new friends exchanged knowing glances, apparently linking my appearance in the neighbourhood a few days earlier to an otherwise inexplicable calamity nearby.
Israel is just one of a panoply of worries that exercise the conspiracy theorists that frequent Egypt’s cafes.
The standard fare of political gossip tends to revolve around the trial of [former President Hosni] Mubarak, internal corruption, and the causes behind the dire economic woes Egypt is currently experiencing.
A prosecuting lawyer at Mr Mubarak’s trial even introduced the novel idea that the ex-president had died years ago, and that the man on trial was none other than an impostor. [...]
While walking in the street someone pushed me from behind with such force that I nearly fell over.
Turning around, I found myself surrounded by five men, one of whom tried to punch me in the face. I stopped the attack by pointing out how shameful it was for a Muslim to assault a guest in his country, especially during Ramadan.
Relieved that a seemingly random assault was over, I was appalled by the apology offered by one of my assailants. “Sorry,” he said contritely, offering his hand, “we thought you were a Jew.”
Shaking his head in disbelief on hearing the news, an Egyptian friend sympathised: “That’s stupid, you are obviously not a Jew.”
The chilling implication I was left with was that, had I been Jewish, the assault would have apparently been justified.