Mohsen Hosny is on a mission. The soft-spoken journalist and United Kingdom correspondent for one of Egypt’s most popular dailies, Al-Masry Al-Youn [The Egyptian Today], swapped his homeland in 2014 to relocate to Acton in west London with a singular purpose: to redress the imbalance in the coverage of the Middle East. He has set up a think tank, the Middle East Forum in London (Meflo) which already provides an objective analysis of the events unfolding in one of the world’s most volatile and misunderstood regions.
He spells out Meflo’s primary goals: “Our main objective is that our discussions, research and seminars result in clarifying the picture and thus the possibility of finding solutions, even partial, to the problems of these countries, in order to engender a conducive political, economic and social environment, eschewing all forms of extremism.”
Hosny, 39, is quick to point out that Meflo is apolitical, not favouring one party over another. The organisation will not be taking sides nor campaign for the toppling of any regime. He strongly believes citizens should have the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights at the ballot box.
He still remembers the Arab Spring which spread to Egypt from Tunisia on 21 January 2011 and ousted former president Hosni Mubarak. “I witnessed 99 percent of the unfolding events from my office in Tahrir Square,” he recollects. He thinks one revolution is sufficient in seven years and advocates for a calm interlude when his homeland searches for workable solutions. He expresses his admiration for the British parliamentary system where Members of Parliament chosen by the electorate also run the affairs of state. “You should vote for politicians because they are competent and not based on their religious beliefs.”
He hopes the forum will be the nucleus of building a large centre of studies in the UK which will help researchers to understand the undercurrents of Middle East politics. He stresses: “We will strive to build a bridge of dialogue, coexistence and communication between the East and the West.”
He has gone to town with this clarion call presenting a weekly programme, The London Talk on the Asian-Iraqi channel, Asia TV where he dissected the most important developments and events in the Middle East, and hosted a large number of British and Arab politicians, diplomats and parliamentarians. He has also contributed to several Arab newspapers and television stations and has worked on many research papers using National Archive documents.
Freedom is the first word that comes to his lips, when describing his perception of Britain. “Freedom of speech and association was one of the reasons I chose to come to England,” he explains. He believes many Egyptians share his opinion and also think very highly of the British educational system, Medicine and the Premier League. He beams with pride when he mentions compatriot Mo Salah, the Liverpool striker.
He was pleasantly surprised when he saw a female driving a London bus and would want the same opportunities and equality for women in Egypt where that would be a rare sight. But he is pleased to see more women holding political office in the governorates in Egypt. He enjoys the cosmopolitan nature of London and likes to tuck into a traditional English breakfast every now and again.
The quaint English etiquette of queueing and politeness have however left the biggest impressions. ” Please, would you (?), excuse me and sorry are words and phrases I’d export to Egypt,” he says. His son who has just started school already uses them and he notices a visible change in him whenever he utters any of the words. “He is more patient, it’s all about respect.”
- Mohsen Hosny is the founder of Middle East Forum in London