05 June 2009

Misuse of Ancient Egyptian History

Egyptology is a hobby of mine.

Now, allow me to set the record straight. I'm not an "Egyptologist" by any means. I don't have a degree in said discipline. I don't even have a degree in archaeology or anthropology. But, I do have an Associates degree in "Recognizing Stupidity." And this just jumped out at me yesterday:

OK. First of all. The Christian-right-wing web news-blogger sites had a field day with the above picture of an Egyptian man holding this sign during President Obama's trip to Cairo. Oh! This just proves that Obama is a Muslim! This just proves that he's the Muslim World's best buddy! This just proves that he's taking all us non-Muslim Americans to Hell in a hijab!

Seriously? Because some random guy puts Obama's mug on a golden cartouche with a nemes headdress around his head... he's suddenly a Muslim? Wha? Did I miss something? Doesn't he attend a Christian church? And why would it be bad if he is a follower of Islam? I mean, what, no national Christmas tree for four to eight years? I think we'll all survive. If anything, the above sign just gives President Obama a great Halloween costume idea and? Declares our president as a worshiper of Amun, Horus, Seth, Osiris, Isis, Ra, Ra-Horakhty, etc., blah, blah, ad infinitum.

If this is the case, sounds like a temple to Thoth, the god of scribes and knowledge (read: the ancient Egyptian god of geeks), is in order for our nation's capitol.


Secondly, the sign declares OBAMA: New Tutankhamon (sic) of the World. Now, what I'm guessing is that this sign is trying to say that Obama is a visionary of change. A change from the old guard. A change from the last eight years of America's government.

Um, nice, well-meaning Egyptian man? Tutankhamun was not a change. He wasn't a breath of fresh air. Not in the slightest. He was actually an instigator of the old guard politics. Now, Tut's father? He was a man of change. He was Akhenaten and he tore down the old politics of Thebes (the seat of the priests of Amun, the real power in ancient Egypt, and the old gods) and created a new religion (worship of the sun-disk Aten), built a new city (Akhetaten), and ushered in a new era of more realistic art. He was change. Tutankhamun? Not so much. He was a child-king, ruling for just ten years (age 9 to 19), and doing what the old-guard Amun priests told him to do: put the old religion and the old gods back into place, give us back our power, and we'll allow you to be pharaoh.

Definitely not change.

So, now that we've got that squared away, let's summarize:

1) Putting Obama's face in a pharaoh's headdress does not pronounce him a Muslim. It, in fact, simply proves he looks damned good in a nemes.


2) Obama = Change. Tutankhamun = Wuss. Akhenaten = Change.
Therefore: Obama = Akhenaten.
Therefore: The sign should have read OBAMA: New Akhenaten of the World!

Simple math and history, people. You're welcome. Now quit mangling my ancient Egyptian history and I won't have to make like Ammut and eat your dishonest hearts.


Anonymous said...

"Oh! This just proves that Obama is a Muslim!" Don't they realize that King Tut lived something like 2,000 years before the founding of Islam? Might as well say that King Arthur was a Scientologist. Or that President Obama is a Frisbeetarian (a religion that will emerge in the year 3650 after some serious distortion of the truth about the Frisbee).

As for whether it would be a bad thing if Obama were a Muslim...well, we did have a remarkably bad experience with a handful of Muslims about eight years back which has left many of us wary of the religion. Yes, I realize that the terrorists and extremists don't fairly represent the religion, especially as it is practiced here in the US, and it's certainly true that people of all faiths and any other way you can classify people (Muslim, Christian, atheist, plumber, web developer, lefty, bass player, dentist, lawyer, motorcyclist, Egyptologist, etc.) are capable of great good and also great evil. But some of the followers of Islam, even if it's only a minority of them, and even if what they do goes against many others' interpretation of the faith, have been responsible for some seriously bad shit in the past few years. Even if their actions are more truly a reflection of political ideology than religious faith, these Muslim extremists have colored our perception of Islam. Whether this is right or wrong, it's an understandable and natural reaction. I can see why we would view someone in a position of high authority who has Muslim connections with a certain amount of suspicion.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Yep. True. 9/11 was carried out and executed by some Muslim extremists. And I also seem to recall a couple of days ago, an abortion doctor being gunned down, in church, by another Christian.

Christianity has as much capability for violence as Islam. Crusades? Anyone?

Anonymous said...

The Crusades were more than 500 years ago, and not nearly as relevant to a discussion of current views and practices as something that happened less than a decade ago. I do not believe anything like the Crusades would be--could be--perpetrated by Christians today.

The abortion doctor was just one person killed by one other person. Tragic and sad, yes, unquestionably wrong, yes, clearly motivated by religious fervor, yes, but not nearly comparable to 9/11 or, say, the murder/beheading of Daniel Pearl or any of a handful of other atrocities from the last few years.

Yes, I know that the nut who killed the abortion doctor doesn't represent Christianity any better than the Muslim extremists represent mainline Islam. But the Muslim extremists have been more visible in violently (and fatally) translating their extreme views into action. That's why we're more wary of Islam than of Christianity (though plenty of us are wary of Christian extremists or even fundamentalists, even if they mostly just talk but don't actually do all that much).

Look, I'm not saying it's right that we would collectively (though of course not each of us as individuals) be wary of a Muslim presidential candidate. But right or not, it's how we as a country would react; no Muslim could possibly succeed in that capacity today, or probably for a very long time.

No, I'm not saying it's right or commendable or in keeping with our ideals, but it is nonetheless a fact.

That One said...

Ooh! Great post...and great comments.

Jeni said...

In a world and time when it should be not just acceptable but necessary for our government officials to reach out to all other countries and people of other religious beliefs as well, how does simply meeting and talking to people who worship differently make our president to be automatically one of them, a believer, etc.? I fail to see the connection there. But I get equally irritated when people slam Christianity too for the acts of one or a few -i.e. the man who killed the doctor recently. Seems too many here have forgotten that in America we DO have freedoms and freedom of choice and religion is one of many we have and which we should cherish that no where in our Constitution or Bill of Rights does it specify that all must worship -for openers -much less that we must all be of the same faith. One blogger I follow from time to time has a penchant for stating all sorts of derogatory things about President Obama, beginning each tirade by spouting off all kinds of lies about him such as that he is "illegal, Kenyan-born" and tripe like that. What really irritates me is that some people actually believe this garbage and pass it and various other untruths on, over and over, ad nauseum.
I found this post to be a very good comparison of leadership separated by centuries of learning more and more about the world and the people who inhabit it. Great job.

Patois42 said...

The things I learn over here!

Not Afraid to Use It said...

Wow. The stupidity of some people. To not know that the ancient Egyptians weren't Muslim? What rock have they been living under?

As for Anonymous, if s/he didn't like your Crusades analogy, let's try Oklahoma City on for size and see how they can excuse that one away. Both 'sides' have committed unspeakable acts. Period. I thought one of the fundamental reasons for people coming to 'The New World' was to break the cycle of being held accountable for the actions of your family/religion/trade. When did we lose that goal?

Anonymous said...

The Oklahoma City bombing, horrific though it was, isn't particularly relevant; it was carried out by militia nuts, not religious nuts. Nichols and McVeigh weren't on either "side" being discussed here. Furthermore, it was perpetrated by only two people, and killed less than two hundred. Terrible as that is, it's nothing like the Crusades or the attacks of September 11, 2001.

But your main point is quite correct; all sides, human beings of all descriptions, have been responsible for unspeakable acts. I believe that in most cases religion doesn't truly cause these horrific acts--though religion may be used as a handy justification or defense for the acts--and, unfortunately, doesn't always prevent them either.

The problem is that we human beings can be, at our worst, a vicious, violent, unthinking people, and we are all too often at our worst. Yes, we often rise above that base nature, but we also give in to it too. And that's true whether you're Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or Jewish or white or black or Asian or liberal or conservative or anything else. "We have met the enemy and he is us," as Pogo put it.

This is something I've given a lot of thought to, and I've decided that ultimately the problem may have been that there was a Stonehenge monument on stage that was in danger of being trampled by a dwarf!

When things get too serious, throw in a Spinal Tap reference. Now I'm going to shut down my computer and have a donut.

Faiqa said...

I laughed at "hell in a hijab." Did you make that up?! Genius.

As a Muslim American, I want to thank you very much for saying it wouldn't matter if our leader were Muslim. I wish more people were like you. What astounded me most about this past election year was the number of people who did not say that. I felt... well, betrayed.

I understand the sentiment behind the comments that Anonymous has made, but I wonder if people like this have ever been on the receiving end of this type of sentiment.

*Nothing* has been more heartbreaking than having another American imply that I might not be as worthy to lead as they are simply because of I worship differently or because certain groups within my religion, which happens to be the second largest faith in the WORLD, have politicized that faith.

As for Anonymous' well reasoned comments, I would just like to say that being wary of the commitment of Muslim Americans to this nation based on the actions of a "handful of Muslims" might certainly be understandable, but it does not make it any less exclusionary, bigoted or wrong. It is, in the strictest sense of the phrase, against everything that this nation stands for. Americans fight for justice and truth. Rationalizing the sentiment that casts suspicions on the motives of fellow Americans is antithetical to both of those ideals.

Muslims have fought and died for this country. They pay taxes, they work hard, they work in civil service, they are among the wealthiest and most educated individuals in this country, and, yes, some of them even cry when they hear the Star Spangled Banner.

How sad that there are people in this nation that would be wary of us based on the "bad shit" that people who were NOT Americans perpetrated. How sad for *all* of us.

Finally, just because one understands where people are coming from, it doesn't necessitate that justification of that behavior.

And, oh? If *I* were president of the United States, I would totally have a Christmas tree. As a matter of fact, did you know that in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, there has always been a Christmas tree in the capital during Christmas?

True story.

(Sorry this was so long.)

Anonymous said...


If you re-read my comments carefully, you'll see that I wrote, "Look, I'm not saying it's right that we would collectively (though of course not each of us as individuals) be wary of a Muslim presidential candidate. But right or not, it's how we as a country would react.... No, I'm not saying it's right or commendable or in keeping with our ideals, but it is nonetheless a fact."

I'm sorry that's the way it is; it shouldn't be that way, and we would be a better nation if it didn't matter. I never said it mattered to ME, but I'm not going to pretend that it doesn't matter to many, many Americans. It is, as you say, sad. More than that, it is shameful.

But please don't believe that anything I said was an attempt to "justify" the behavior. I never said that bigoted and prejudiced reactions could be justified; what I said was they are understandable--which is not the same thing at all. Whether or not we like the way that many Americans react to Muslims, or to the suggestion (which I and most people never took seriously) that Obama was a "closeted" Muslim with some hidden, nefarious agenda, it is nonetheless the way our nation has reacted. We can say, "That isn't right! It shouldn't be that way!" all day long, and wax poetic about why, but that won't change the facts.

But if we can think about and discuss the reasons for these reactions--and thinking about and discussing them doesn't mean we agree with them, and doesn't make them our reactions--then maybe it can help us...not accept them, but at least live with them for now, and possibly give us insight into how to improve things.

Anonymous said...


One more thing: I've just spent a few minutes reading your blog, which I find interesting and well written.

I find it funny, however, that the same person who can argue so well for understanding and acceptance just a few weeks ago wrote, "I hate Wal Mart because it’s dirty. And shady. And just gross. And no matter how respectable and dignified a person might think they are, the moment they walk into a Wal Mart they become human trash...."

You see, we all have reactions that are "exclusionary, bigoted [and] wrong." I certainly do. Sometimes I even think of my fellow human beings as "human trash."

Whether our prejudices are based on a person's religion or the place he or she shops, they're hard to escape, aren't they?

Anonymous said...

After thinking about it, I realized it wasn't fair for me to call Faiqa to task for her comments on her blog about Wal Mart. For one thing, in writing about Wal Mart, she was obviously expressing some serious beliefs about that corporation (many of which I share, by the way, though I do shop there), but beliefs which are certainly not on the same level as her views regarding her religious faith. It therefore wasn't really right for me to bring it up.

Furthermore, I doubt she really meant what she said when she wrote that about people who shop at Wal Mart becoming "human trash" when they enter the store. I'm sure she was engaging in hyperbole to express her dismay at people who tacitly support (or who are completely unaware of) the sometimes questionable and even downright abhorrent business practices of Wal Mart, and at people (*sigh* sometimes like me) who are willing to settle for their often crappy products just to save a couple of bucks.

So Faiqa, I apologize.

(I came to this realization while I was working on the syllabus for a graduate-level research class I'll be teaching this summer. I was making notes for my discussion of fair and accurate use of sources, and intellectual integrity, and I started to feel like a hypocrite.)

(I also realized I'm writing all these long comments because I don't really want to teach this summer, and would rather spend all day reading blogs and writing comments.)

Gypsy said...

My mother went to Egypt recently and rode a camel named Alaska. True story.

Faiqa said...

Anonymous I appreciate your response & subsequent clarifications regarding my statements about Wal Mart. I understand that you don't feel that way and appreciate that clarification. I think people should wax poetic about how it's not right, though. If people don't complain about what's wrong, then how will we fix it? Identifying and discussing social injustice is the most basic step to rectifying it. I understand that you weren't justifying the whole Obama thing, I should have clarified that my criticisms applied to the people who actually felt that way.

Oh, and you were dead on about my engaging in hyperbole. I wasn't really expressing animosity towards the *people* who sop at Wal Mart, but at Wal Mart itself. You can't really blame people who want to save a couple of bucks - especially these days. :)

A Free Man said...

Jesus Christ, CMGD, I thought this was a pretty innocuous post, but you got all sorts of stupid drama - well done. People are morons. Particularly anonymous blog commentators.