In a move almost expressly designed to humiliate the already beleaguered Muslim Brotherhood, well-known Egyptian belly dancer Sama El-Masry has announced her bid for a parliamentary seat representing the Sharqiyah governorate — the home district of ousted Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi. The performer has become famous for her outspoken anti-Brotherhood politics, especially following the July coup after which a video of her criticizing U.S. President Barack Obama for his alleged support for the group went viral. Since then, El-Masry has become a full-fledged media personality in Egypt, even inaugurating her own television station which is set to air the first episode of her new comedy show this week– something her parliamentary gambit will no doubt help to promote.
Indeed, El-Masry’s political ambitions seem almost singularly motivated by her Brotherhood-baiting media career, according to Al-Arabiya:
“I will run the elections and I will hopefully win them so I can show the Brotherhood every day who they really are,” Masry told the Egyptian daily news website al- Masry al-Youm.
Masry also said that she is planning a special surprise for the Islamist group and that she will unveil it on her new show “Ayouh baa.”
“The end of their group will be on my hands, my program will uncover all the traitors and agents,” she said, referring to members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is almost self-explanatory why a belly dancer would nurse a vendetta against the Islamist group, which made many enemies among entertainers and Egypt’s cultural elite during their time in power. But her “comedy” program seems as much geared towards vilifying the group as pushing support for the country’s military-led government. Her channel’s name, “Feloul,” which has been used since the 2011 revolution to refer to the remnants of the Mubarak regime, re-appropriates the word to refer to the Muslim Brotherhood instead. And the subject of her first episode, liberal ex-politician Mohammed ElBaradei, only goes to show that beyond targeting the Muslim Brotherhood, El-Masry is out to denounce any enemy of the military establishment, regardless of their political affiliation.
Despite the undeniable stigma around belly dancers that remains in conservative Egyptian society, it is clear that El-Masry has nonetheless found a considerable cultural opening for her unique political schtick. And she serves as a convenient sort of signifier for a political-media establishment fixated on highlighting the so-called liberties under the country’s “new” post-Brotherhood state. (The inordinate attention paid to the women’s rights gains in the new constitution — a document which also reinforced Mubarak-era practices like military trials for civilians — is another piece of this strategy).
Even if El-Masry were to win a seat in parliament — and given the bizarre, alternate political reality Egypt seems to be operating within at the moment, this is not out of the realm of possibility — there should still be no illusions about the country somehow becoming more progressive now that the military is in power. El-Masry is, after all, announcing her run on the day that Ziad Bahaa Eldin, the last liberal politician left standing since the coup, is officially resigning from government. It is likely only a matter of time before he also finds himself among the Islamists in El-Masry’s crosshairs.