Egypt – A Good Man Sometimes Hits his Wife
A magnificent, hilarious and honest book about the impossibility of integrating in an Islamic society
When Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister, was shot dead in November 1995, Egyptian opposition newspapers reacted jubilantly with headlines like ‘Rabin in Hell’ and ‘One More Dead Jew’. Joris Luyendijk’s Egyptian friends at the University of Cairo also spoke in terms of ‘a celebration’, ‘justice’ and ‘just punishment from Allah’. Luyendijk and a Western friend were shocked by these reactions but went against their better judgement by trying to sympathise. ‘We decided that if we had lost family members in a war with Israel, we might think that way too. What are you supposed to do? Find a complete new set of friends?’
After studying Arabic in Amsterdam, Joris Luyendijk went to Cairo for a year’s further studies. He wanted to investigate whether Islam and democracy were mutually exclusive and whether it was possible for a Westerner to integrate in an Islamic culture. He moved into a run-down flat in a working class neighbourhood and enrolled at the university. He soon found a place in a shilla, a circle of friends at the university. Although initially happy with the acceptance of Imad the Fundamentalist, Ali the Worrier, Muhammad the Feminist, Hazem the Liberal and the others, Luyendijk soon began to clash with his friends about their Islamic ideas, in particular their homophobia, their anti-Semitism and their views on the position of women. As the year advanced, he wrestled increasingly with the problem as to whether one can be friends with those whose ideas are objectionable.
The numerous sparkling dialogues between Luyendijk and his fellow students make Een goede man slaat soms zijn vrouw a magnificent, hilarious and honest book about the impossibility of integrating in an Islamic society.