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Sunday, June 29, 2014

CDA of Different Inaugural Addresses in Egyptian Presidential Speeches

CDA of Different Inaugural Addresses in Egyptian Presidential SpeechesBy Mohamed Kamel Abdel-Daem


This study tries to apply the assumptions of critical discourse analysis (CDA) to the inaugural addressing phrases said by presidents to greet the Egyptian people, attract their attention, and direct them to adopt certain political or social views, at the beginnings of any speech delivered. Nasser’s “O Brother Citizens!”, Sadat’s “ O Sons and Daughters”, Mubarak’s “ O Brothers and Sisters” and Morsi’s “ O my Relatives and Clan” were all used for different purposes and in different phases of modern Egypt’s history. The present discussion does not look at the content or message of each president’s speeches; rather, these addressing greetings are scrutinized from a CDA angle of vision with reference to socio-political backgrounds that have affected such speeches.

Keywords: addressing, greetings, discourse analysis, brotherhood, militarism, ideology



The relationship between authority and public speech is one of the important study areas of critical discourse analysis (CDA ). CDA looks at “power in discourse”, “power over discourse” ( Fairclough & Wodak, 1997:273), and also gaining authorial control through speech, how discourse is “constituted” by public views and cultural stance and how society “ constitutes” it (278). Examining power speech helps develop and interpret various forms of linguistic interaction (Thomas, 1985). The relationship between addresser and addressee often depends on a scale of supremacy since “two people cannot have power over each other in the same area at the same time” (Fasold, 1990:4).

On this basis, CDA is particularly concerned with studying political discourse, as it is always determined by participants’ ability to justify, persuade, resist, protest, impose … etc. ( Kramarae et. al., 1984). This paper attempts to analyze the Egyptian presidents’ addressing expressions when they start their speeches to the people. The scope of this analysis does not include the interpretation of socio-political or economic statements in a presidential speech, but it is only based on a discussion of the various uses of inaugural greetings.

President Nasser enjoyed great public support as he had been one of the leaders of the 1950s Revolution which ended the British occupation of Egypt, and started the elimination of social injustice and corruption seen during Mohamed Ali’s descendant and last successor, King Farouk I. On the national level, Nasser was opposed both by the feudalist landlords ( mostly with non-Egyptian roots ) and by the (Muslim) Brotherhood – who started their activity towards founding an Islamist nation since the 1930s, and who shared Nasser a great deal of public sympathy for their efforts in resistance to the British occupation and their work in communal integrity (Marsot 1985:107-131).

When President Sadat took over (Marsot 1985:132-47), he was resisted by the high-class members or the so-called Power Axes. He could gain control over them, and was also able to knock out Communist activism with the help of the (Muslim) Brotherhood whom Sadat had released from Nasser’s prisons. After his victory in the 1973 Egypt-Israel war, Sadat restored great public support and the Egyptian people regarded him as a leading champion as Nasser. Sadat could gain control over all his opponents, the former powers and the Shiuees (the Communists or Marxists); he completely left Nasser’s Communist policy (resulted from his loyalty to the Soviet Union) for the policy of socio-economic liberation (caused by Sadat’s admiration for the American Capitalist model).

The Copts ( Egyptian Christians ) were variously dealt with during the three militarist regimes (Obucina,2013): Nasser restricted their freedom, Sadat did not give them the rights they called for, while President Mubarak granted them freedom and rights and was responsible for their security ( Indeed, he lit the fuse of Muslim-Christian disputes to save his command). The Brotherhood managed to acquire some freedom, political gains and public support during the last years of Mubarak’s regime though he had previously placed fetters on their liberty and imprisoned many of them (Marsot 1985: 132:47). The Brotherhood and Morsi’s aspiration for restoring an Islamist empire was not welcomed by the Copts (Obucina, 2013). 

The Brotherhood attained the position of Egypt’s ruler when President Morsi won the first presidency elections in the history of Egypt. Morsi, the first non-militarist president, took over after the 2011- Revolution that has tried to put an end to Mubarak’s regime of corruption and social injustice; he comes from a group whose aims are built upon an ideology – i.e., establishing an Islamist empire ruled by a pious Caliph who would restore the Muslim nation’s obedience to the always-just olden Caliphate’s decisions (Shama2013). Morsi was opposed by the anti-Revolutionists, Mubarak’s sponsors, and all those who feel worried about the limits of their freedom – the liberals, the men of art, the Copts ( Refa’a 2012). The post-Morsi phase (from June 30th 2013 and afterwards) has witnessed predominantly-heard lampoon against the Brotherhood as well as many violent actions (Cambanis, 2013).



Nasser often began his speeches with the address phrase:
 “ayuha al-ekhwa al-muwatinoon”
 (O Brother Citizens!).

He employed the derivative from ‘brotherhood’ in order to acquire the support of the Egyptians who got sympathy for the (Muslim) Brotherhood who suffered in the time of the British occupation and afterwards (Marsot 1985:107-131); the Egyptians are also said to be well-known for their religiosity. The word “citizens” was used to assert that the Egyptians had been liberated from the British hegemony, that they became the only owners of their homeland, and that they are related to each other by the bond of citizenship, regardless of their religion, race, class or family considerations. Citizenship means that every Egyptian must act in accordance with their duties, and that he or she is to be given the rights dictated by a ‘Brother’ ruler whose commands, thanks to family ties, are not to be broken (Walker 2011:625-37). The use of the interjection “ayuha” ( Hey, you! or Attention! ) reveals that the addressed people are not close to the speaker, and that he is from a higher rank, i.e, the military corporation.

Both Sadat and Mubarak continued to use the address “ayuha al-ekhwa al-muwatinoon” during the early years of their regimes (and on occasions when the country witnessed some unrest or trouble that affected the two presidents’ self-confidence). Sadat also used the phrase:
 “abna’y wa banaty”
 (O, my sons and daughters)

That was after the 1973 victory, reaching a peace treaty with Israel, as well as implementing the policy of economic liberation; all led to stability and the emergence of wealthy businessmen (Littlefield 1987). Sadat thought of himself as the father who brought these gifts to the Egyptians who would be bad, ungrateful children in case they violate his rules (Mohamed,2013). Mubarak also used the phrase:
 “al-ekhwa wal akhawat “
 (O, Brothers and Sisters)

 This illustrates the higher position women gained during Mubarak’s regime. The last address he had uttered before he was dislocated was:
 “bani watani”
 (O, children of my homeland)

This expression entailed a feeling of sadness and regret, and enabled the old man to arouse some ultimate pity (Allison 2011).

Morsi addressed the Egyptians with the expression:
 “ahli wa ashirati”
 (O, my relatives and clan)

This phrase was used to end the sense of citizenship and patriotism, to get the Egyptians absorb the Brotherhood’s notion of a universal Islamist regime. He either wanted to say something different from what was said by the preceding military leaders ( as they mostly used the term ‘ ekhwan’ ), thus attempting to convince the people that he was a president of all the Egyptians, or he hoped that his instructions would be welcomed by family relations ( Shama2013) . He also used the address:
 [O, my beloved (ones)]

 That was a kind of trying to gain the sympathy of his opponents. However, the revolutionary youth rejected all such addresses of fraternal or parental or kinship or tribal rule (Khafagy 2013).

The term “ekhwan” was disapproved by several classes of the Egyptians, the media, the secularists, the military-regime sponsors, as well as the ordinary laymen who suffered under the 2011-to-2013 economic troublemaking. Yet, the term “ekhwa” is widely welcomed and used though both nearly bear the same meaning. The political usage of the former word deprived it of any connotation of fraternity. Both words are mentioned in Quranic verses, thus:
 (1) “eth kuntum a’da-an fa al-laf bayna qlubequm fa as-bahtum bene’matehe ekhwana” ( “How ye were enemies and He made friendship between your hearts so that ye became as brothers by His grace”) ( Picktall 3:103).
Interpretation: “When you were enemies, and He brought your hearts together, through Islam, so that by His grace you became brothers, in religion and comradeship” (Hamza 3:103).
(2) “in-nama al-mu’minouna ekhwa fa as-lehu bayna akhawykum” (“The believers are naught else than brothers. Therefore make peace between your brethren” (Picktall 49:10).

Interpretation: “The believers are indeed brothers, in religion. Therefore [always] make peace between your brethren, when they fall into dispute with one another” (Hamza 49:10).

Most lexicographers see that the term “ekhwa” is used when we mean kinship or family membership, whereas “ekhwan” refers to intimacy or comradeship (Omar, 2008; El-Jawhary, 1990). Thus, one may suggest that the word “ekhwa” is used to defuse any conflict between people who share the same homeland or region, while the term “ekhwan” may be used to spread love and sincerity between the members of a certain group, who share the same ideas or ideology. Hence, we hear the phrases:
 “al-ekhwa al-arab”
 (brother Arabs)

 But to endow this with more intimacy, we use the phrase “al-ashiqaa” (children of the same parents); we also use the phrase:
 “al-ekhwa al-aqbat”
 (Brother Copts)
And we also hear the Copts say:
 “ekhwatna el-muslimeen”
 (our bro Muslims)

 The casualty cast upon this address makes it much more friendly.

 The post-Morsi-phase leaders’ addressing phrase has been:
 “ ya sha’ab misr al-azeem” or “ ayuha al-sha’ab al-misry al-azeem”
 ( O, great people of Egypt)

This address ends the fraternal or parental or kinship rule. This address recalls the Biblical verse:
 “ mubarak sha’abi misr”
 [ “ Blessed be Egypt my people”] ( Isaiah 19:25).

 But to save the former family intimacy, the militarists – for the first time – used colloquial, and surprisingly romantic ( or sentimental ), discourse and tone (Youssef,2013).



The position of Egypt’s president has been held by, and sought by, both militarists and religious ideologists. The Egyptians have not experienced the rule of an independent, civilian president who owns no authority but that of a majority who aim at turning his elective scheduled program into reality. All the Egyptian presidents addressed the people with affectionate expressions that show love – but not for love’s sake. Using such address phrases has been one aid to inculcating certain policies and carrying out a strategy of brainwashing.



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M.K. Abdel-Daem is a lecturer in English literature, language, linguistics and literary criticism. He has published several critical works on many genres, featuring poetry, drama, novel, translation, literary criticism, linguistics, comparative literature, and postcolonial studies.

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