Op-ed: My ‘neo power marriage’
BY ETHAR El-KATATNEY
I got married yesterday.
It was kind of a big deal. You know, worrying about my dress and my shoes and my makeup and this lifetime commitment and things along those lines.
Oh, and also if the President was going to make it, or if he was planning on canceling, and if I was going to be called a traitorous, lying, power-hungry, conniving rhymes-with-witch by the internet trolls. All in a day’s worth.
As a journalist, it shames me to see the kind of shoddy journalism and sensationalist tabloid trash that’s been swirling around the country ever since my engagement went public a month ago. To see how little anyone cared — least of all the journalists themselves — about verifying facts.
So, let’s set the story straight. As journalists, that’s what we’re supposed to do — I think.
My name is Ethar Kamal Kamel Shaker El-Katatney. I’m a 25-year-old award-winning journalist with two masters degrees. I also happen to be the daughter of one of Egypt’s businessmen. My father works in real estate and has never joined any political party or participated in politics in any way. My mother is a non-practicing pediatrician and my four siblings are in college and school. We are a conservative family, but none of us are affiliated in any way to any political party — religious or otherwise.
The Katatney family is a big family, and hundreds of us share the same last name all over the country. My father was born and lived half of his life in Gerga, Sohag.
Mohamad Saad Tawfiq Moustafa El-Katatny [his name is not spelt in the media the same way as my byline], the former People’s Assembly Speaker, is not my father, uncle or cousin. He is not my father’s first cousin. He’s a relative, but in the rhetoric of everyone who comes from Upper Egypt though, he’s a “cousin” — someone you respect and “know”. My father and Saad El-Katatny affectionately call each other cousins. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I love the fact that family bonds are so important, even with extended family.
I have spent my entire professional career (especially when I got involved with ‘Islamic’ activities such as being a contestant on Dr. Amr Khaled’s reality television show “Mujaddidun,” or when I did a stint as a researcher with Islamic preacher Moez Masoud) denying my involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood. Simply put, I did not want an affiliation I did not subscribe to, and because I want to keep my own views about politics and religion private.
This also applies to my relationship with Saad El-Katatny. I respect him very much, as I do the Muslim Brotherhood. But there is no direct affiliation between him and I, or the Muslim Brotherhood and myself. And there is absolutely nothing wrong if there had been, but there simply is none.
The even harder-to-believe part is that when I was born, my father decided to name me Ethar after my mother. Three weeks later, Saad El-Katatny became father to a baby girl. He also named his daughter Ethar.
Yes, you read that right. Saad El-Katatny also has a 25-year-old daughter named Ethar, who happens to also be a journalist. But she is the Ethar which Rosa El-Youssef publication first wrote about on their front page, the one who graduated from Cairo University and who works as a producer on Jan25 television channel.
My picture and the news of my marriage were published with her name and information instead.
I know, it’s hard to swallow. But there you have it.
So, here comes the even funnier part. My fiancé (technically husband) is the son of Major General Mamdouh Shahin, member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
And voila: ‘The Return of the State of Ahmed Ezz! The Daughter of El-Katatny Marries the Son of Shahin!” read one particularly provoking headline in Sout Al Omma tabloid, which devoted a full page to ‘the blood of the martyrs’ and purple prose in that vein.
I must admit it’s a juicy story. Very juicy. SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood? Power and money? O la la.
But the same journalist who managed to track down my house to take a picture of it, and then a picture of the compound’s average-sized communal garden and tried to pass it off as “the Katatney family’s five-acre garden, meters away from Amr Moussa’s home” could have, you know, taken the trouble to at least google me.
My views and my family’s views on SCAF are irrelevant here. The story is simply this: I met a doctor. He was a nice guy. It turned out his father was Mamdouh Shahin. And it just so happened that my last name is the same as the man who became Egypt’s first Islamist People’s Assembly Speaker.
My marriage has nothing to do with politics, or Egypt, or pretty much anything else.
I understand the curiosity about the inner politics of this relationship, what would normally fall under the personal details that make up a relationship. But I have been very, very careful all my life to never let my personal viewpoints on anything interfere with my career, or filter in to my writing or television appearances. Whether it’s when I traveled to Denmark during the cartoon crisis, when I wrote about homosexuals in Egypt, when I commented on the military and the Muslim Brotherhood to CNN and MSNBC and Charlie Rose — my own personal views I try and keep just that, personal. It’s a personal decision, and I ask that everyone try to respect it.
My katb kitab yesterday was big. My family and I had every right to invite whomever we wanted. Yes, as many, many people have commented, guests attended from all over the political and religious spectrum. Salafis and Sufis and bloggers and liberals and Muslim Brotherhood members and army generals and businessmen and revolutionaries and media personalities, even some spies — you know, all those ‘foreign’ friends of mine.
And I’m totally happy with that. I’m totally proud that I come from a family where we associate with everyone. I’ve always been a proponent of dialogue and of the respect and acceptance of everyone’s views, whatever they may be.
So yes, I’m proud Dr. Ali Gomaa was there. Former Military Chief of Staff Sami Anan, Dr. Amr Khaled, Sheikh Mohamad Hassan, Dr. Saad-El-Katatny, former MP Mohamad Anwar Al-Sadat, and dozens of other ‘VIPs’, as some put it.
But also the security guard at my house. A friend who flew over all the way from America. My old university classmates. Our friends and family and loved ones. Hundreds of guests who came to share this special day with Mohamed and I.
So, I hope I’ve made myself clear.
Now, excuse me while I go drink my ‘jasmine tea’ in my ‘5-acre-garden’ waiting on my “LE5-million-dowry.’
Ethar El-Katatney is the first Egyptian to win a CNN African Journalist of the Year Award in 2009. She was also awarded the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Award in 2009 and the Samir Kassir Freedom of the Press Award in 2011. Her first book, Forty Days and Forty Nights in Yemen, was published in London in 2010. During the Jan25 revolution, she was a frequent commentator on CNN. She has an MBA and an MA in television and Digital Journalism from the American University in Cairo. You can follow her @etharkamal.