CAIRO: In Sunday’s parliamentary session, MP Ziad El-Eleimy, representing the Social Democratic Party, refused to apologize for allegedly using offensive language to refer to the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
In a speech he made in Port Said on Friday, El-Eleimy accused SCAF of responsibility for football violence that left 71 dead, referring to Tantawi using an analogy broadly seen as offensive.
He used an Egyptian idiom which critiques the systematic tendency to scapegoat lower-ranking officials, while leaving the real perpetrators unpunished, namely SCAF.
"[The people] let the donkey go but grabbed on to the saddle," Eleimy had said, quoting a widely-used Egyptian idiom.
In a TV interview on Saturday, El-Eleimy said he used the idiom because it was common among Egyptians and easy to understand, while stressing that he wasn’t indicating that the head of SCAF was a “donkey.”
"We are in the middle of a revolution, we can’t shy away from facing the truth and clearly stating it so we can fix the country," he said.
As a reaction, the administrator of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) Facebook page on Saturday slammed El-Eleimy, accusing him of slandering Tantawi.
The statement said that El-Eleimy’s critique of SCAF went beyond manners and ethics and was unacceptable, especially given that he is a Member of Parliament.
On Sunday, PA Speaker Saad El-Katatny denounced the use of such language and stressed that this has become a public opinion issue, noting that tens of citizens have sent telegraphs condemning El-Eleimy’s conduct and that other MPs have also denounced his statements.
El-Katatny said that while the right to freedom of opinion is respected, El-Eleimy must apologize outright for what he said, hoping to end the issue once and for all. He also warned that otherwise the PA will have to escalate the issue by referring it to a special PA committee for deliberations.
El-Eleimy however refused to apologize, insisting that he used the idiom metaphorically and that he only apologized to anyone who misunderstood it.
The PA voted in favor of referring the issue to a committee, at which point El-Eleimy stormed out of the session.
Mohamed Abbas, member of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition and the Egyptian Trend Party, supported El-Eleimy, saying that he was a prominent revolutionary figure and an MP who garnered the votes of millions of Egyptians.
“The revolutionaries are the ones who gave SCAF legitimacy to rule the country during the transitional period and they are the ones who can take it back,” said Abbas.