Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Letters from Egypt: Visiting My “Muslim Brotherhood” Dentist

Most of you should know by now, but just in case you don’t, Egypt’s top general Abdul Fatah al Sisi announced a few hours ago that he was holding a “my d*** is bigger than yours” contest. The event, to be held this Friday (July 26), will serve to get all Egyptians out on the streets to give Sisi and the military the mandate to “stop terrorism” (aka the Muslim Brotherhood). He is clearly trying to show the MB that there are more people against them than with them.

So what happens when you have a dentist appointment after such an announcement is made? Well, you’d probably just have your teeth cleaned unless you’re me. My dentist is a very nice, religious man. His wife wears a niqab and he has one small son, age three. Sometimes he leaves me in the dental chair midway through work to go and pray which is a bit strange because he could just finish up with me and then pray. But hey – that’s a small annoyance and I like my dentist. He’s an honest man, does a good job and has a clean/hygienic office (for those of you thinking that should be a prerequisite, let me just remind you where I am located and that sometimes hygiene isn’t the easiest to find).

My appointment was at 1:30 pm and Sisi’s announcement was made around noon. While I waited for the doctor to come back from midday prayer and another patient, I just watched National Geographic in the lobby. He’s usually playing the Saudi haij network so I thought it was a nice change. Again, pick your battles (besides, he always plays Nat Geo for me when I’m inside the room getting work done). This time when I entered into the room, he sat me down and we chit-chatted about how each other were doing. You know, the usual small talk. He asked me if my embassy had requested I leave and I just veered away from that subject by telling him that I just wanted my teeth cleaned for this visit.

When I initially made the appointment, a friend who also uses this same guy said: “I bet he’s at the Rabaa el Adwaya protesting.” Rabaa el Adwaya mosque is located in Nasr City and where the MB supporters have been meeting. My friend said, “You know he’s Ikhwan.” I screamed, “HE IS NOT IKHWAN, SHUT YOUR MOUTH!” And we both laughed. I seriously didn’t think he was Muslim Brotherhood. Just because you are religious and with a beard (and with a fully veiled wife) does not mean you are MB. It’s like so-called Christians only doing right while in church on Sundays, doesn’t mean they live by God’s word every other day.

So I go to the chair and prepare for the discomfort that comes with visiting a dentist. Instead, the doctor began talking to me about politics and religion. He has NEVER done this before. We have always maintained an understanding that these topics were off-limit. He rambled on for an hour discussing how he had been going daily to Rabaa el Adwaya and how upset he was at the lies being told, especially by the media. I just listened as he repeated his stance on Morsi’s rightful place as leader. He continued by saying that people were getting killed by the military, including women and children. He said this is the reason that he was going daily because he couldn’t sit by and do nothing. I asked him if he went out during Maspero, the demonstrations by Coptic Christians over a church in Upper Egypt being demolished, which resulted with 20-something people dying and over 300 injured. Of course he didn’t participate in those demonstrations because it didn’t concern Islam.

Did I mention I really like my dentist? There is a reason you don’t have these conversations with just anyone because now I’m not so keen on my next visit (which is Monday). Not that I was ever keen on going to the dentist in the first place, but this just throws a whole new wrench in going to get my teeth cleaned. He mentioned how the MB figurehead, Shatar, was arrested while he was in bed with his wife. I responded, “Because the MB never arrested or tortured anyone…” He went on about Sisi’s announcement and how MBs were dying every day when they weren’t terrorists. He insisted that he was not Ikhwan, but didn’t want to see his brothers and sisters killed. And he continued on his rant.

He said he was trying to talk to any foreigner he could to help spread the truth and encouraged me to write to my embassy. I said, “Listen, now I’m angry. Why should I write to my embassy when you just talked about my former president in such a manner? Why should I write to my embassy when this is Egypt and in it being Egypt, it is an Egyptian problem – not an American problem. So now you want help from my embassy and for what – so you can blame the US when it doesn’t go your way? No thanks. Your problem and you deal with it yourself. End of discussion.”

There were many other things that he said all the while my discomfort grew. He used the word “hate” so much in his rhetoric that finally I said, “Doctor, you’re a man of God right? Well, God doesn’t want you to have hate in your heart. He doesn’t want you to have such anger and animosity. He wants you to forgive and He will give the final judgment.” The doctor’s response was that the doctor could find forgiveness for himself which told me he clearly missed my point. I’m going to chalk it up to the language barrier.

At the end he said, “The military actions right now are what breeds terrorism.”

My dentist is a good man despite whatever you feel that you’ve read between the lines of the above conversation. I could care less what religion he falls into as long as he’s honest and respectful, which he has been. He calls to check on me after operations and I’ve been seeing him for over two years now. I feel that he is just an example of being brainwashed. And after all of that, he still didn’t clean my teeth.

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