'What did Shah ever do for us?'
A feeling of outrage persists in and around Egyptian universities about the presence of the deposed Shah of Iran in this country. Faculty members are reported to be unhappy, the students angry and confused.
"What did the Shah ever do for us?" asked one Cairo University professor. "He supported Israel for 30 years."
Such sentiment bubbled over into the first public anti-Shah demonstration in Egypt on March 26 by a militant Muslim student organization at Cairo University.
Although the demonstrators disbanded quietly after several hours, one immediate result was a tightening of security measures around the Shah's hospital by the government.
A day before the demonstration, the Islamic Society, which headed the demonstration, directly criticized the government in a leaflet entitled "No welcome to the killer Shah."
"How can the Egyptian government be free to defend the Shah while material pressures are breaking the backs of the people? And fiercely rising prices and the boycott against Egypt cannot be ignored," the leaflet said.
The Shah's presence in Egypt has put the Islamic group here in a very awkward position. Muslim activists who have been given a boost by the iranian revolution's attempt to put into practice the idea of an Islamic state, and who preach Muslim solidarity against Western encroachment, now find Egypt's leadership giving sanctuary to the Shah and in this sense directly opposing the will of the Iranian people.
Presidnet Sadat seems confident enough of his strength to have invited the Shah here, and to have urged him to reside here permanently as well. The March 26 demonstration was closely monitored by security people, and some tension probably was defused by allowing students to air their views.
But frustration is voiced by both students and faculty at their inability to rationalize their government's policies or to express their political views more openly and without fear.
"I don't understand my government's politics," says a second-year Cairo University political science student. "In the '60s, we grew up with the idea of Arab nationalism, Arab rights. There was the Arab world, the Western bloc.
"I don't know what our ideology is now. I don't know where we are, or what is going on."
Carrying signs announcing "a meeting to reject the coming of the Shah," a crowd of between 1,000 and 2,000 right-wing demonstrators chanted "Shah go home" on March 26. They also made indirect references to President Sadat, saying, "The head of the household [meaning Sadat] is not respected."
The main university campus was sealed off as the demonstration headed by the student Islamic Society began, but when a large delegation of medical students started to protest outside the gates, they were finally allowed to join the others inside.
The area was swarming with plainclothes security police, who at one point tried to drag a student into the administration building. The Islamic Society had asked the government for permission to march to the People's Assembly, but had been refused.
The Islamic Society, although its members are a minority among students, has increasingly come to dominate student life on Egyptian campuses. Last year, university authorities, worried about the increasingly political activities of the group, issued a rule forbidding student organizations, based on religious grounds.
The society, however, has remained a strong presence. Members have been responsible in the past few months for several demonstrations within the university against the normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel and the exchange of ambassadors.