In today’s world almost everyone is invited to speak his or her mind, which has brought about several issues in public affairs that have threatened national security.
I believe that public affairs is very much part and parcel of national security, which in practice means that our security is not a static concept that exists in a vacuum but should rather be seen and defined within the context of the local, regional and international environment.
Therefore we should consider the fact that the international and regional arenas are in constant change and what we have been through in Egypt should actually help us extend the concept of national security issues to include social, cultural and religious issues.
In fact there are two well-established definitions of national security. The first was introduced by Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state, who said that national security is the behaviour of a society through which it will secure its right to survive.
The second definition is by Robert McNamara, the former US defence minister, who said that national security is about development and without development, there will be no security, and the states that are not developing are in fact unable to remain secure.
In light of these two definitions of national security, the state is obliged to preserve the culture and traditions of the society and such acts should fall within the concept of maintaining the national security. Protecting society from attempts to penetrate the spheres of its culture, channels of communication and veiling its religious speech with a phony version should also fall within the issues of handling national security. Therefore, spreading inaccurate information, or what we call rumours, is a threat to national security.
Recently, Al-Ahram hosted a roundtable discussion in response to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s call to build awareness on how to deal with public affairs questions.
The discussions on that issue were not limited and did not target certain aspects or institutions, but rather included all types of the country’s elite, be it the intellectuals, the politicians, media people and certainly the men of religion.
Despite the fact that the meeting, which was co-sponsored by the religious endowments ministry and the national press council, the meeting was not about those involved in the two institutions, as El-Sisi said: “I am not talking about clergymen, politicians, media people or economists, but about all those concerned about the development of our society.”
He added that“we need to speak a lot with our people on different topics… we should give everyone the chance to express himself… and we should all listen.”
What the president was looking for is to introduce the issues of concern to the public with the most authenticated information and with adequate knowledge. We should stress the fact that since President El-Sisi took power the state has been working within the context of “smart protection” of national security, which brought to the fore the concept of “development” as the royal gate to security, because the main target of development has always been to protect the state from traditional and non-traditional threats. Improving the people’s standards of living through development is a way to pursue national security by tools of “smart protection.”
Most people agree that security in general refers to the physical and psychological well-being of human beings. Feeling secure is a global human value, as expressed in the Quran. Therefore, the role of those interested in the public affairs is to enhance the feeling of being secure as against the desperate attempts made by the “others” to spread feelings of panic and fears among the people by questioning the capabilities of the state’s institutions.
Dealing with issues of public interests by the “non-concerned” has spread chaos and a state of imbalance which in turn created an unhealthy environment for public security.
With the advent of modern tools of social media which introduced unprecedented opportunities for people to express their views and echo other’s opinions, there has been a state of sweeping generalisation and a cloudy vision that negatively affected almost all topics handled on social media.
What is more important is that most of the information presented is either distorted or false depending on the tools of selection or the data analysis. In most cases that information, be it true or false, has always found interested parties who have their own anti-state strategy.
Therefore, the efforts made by the religious endowments ministry will become the locomotive that leads those interested to mark the road dealing with public affairs issues without negatively affecting national security.
However, those “marks” should not limit freedom of speech and the people's interest in handling, discussing and expressing the pros and cons of certain public affairs issues.