Monday, May 30, 2005
Mona Makaram Abeid, one of Al Ghad party’s pillars, resigned from the party a few days ago. Along with Ayman Noor, she was instrumental in the formation of this party. I don’t have enough information as to what lead her to do that, but I know that several of Ayman Noor’s associates decided to break away from him. I remember reading opinions about Noor’s dictatorial style of management, however, I am not sure that was the cause of their departure.
Abeid’s decision is a huge blow to the party. I feel devastated. Just as we thought that at last a single progressive party started to appear on Egypt’s political scene, it gets one blow after the other. What a shame.
The party’s newspaper does enhance the perception that Noor is very self centered. The paper reserves huge space for his activities and opinions as if Al Ghad party is Ayman Noor and Ayman Noor is Al Ghad party.
The progressives are breaking apart while the Muslim Brotherhood are spending millions on social services in order to increase their already wide popular base. What a shame.
Black Day in Egypt
An unknown group called “The Egyptian Mothers” started to spread the word urging all Egyptians to dress in black next Wednesday in order to protest against what happened to a number of protestors during the referendum last Wednesday. I just received a chain email urging me to do that. The group’s appeal was also posted on the Kifaya movement website.
I don’t think many people will heed their call for 2 reasons. First, It is impossible to reach a wide audience without using the government owned media. Second, the vast majority of Egyptians are not involved in the current political upheavals we have been witnessing so far.
A Few Brave Voices
I’ve stated before that terrorism will never end and we will never witness peace and tranquility of mind until Islam enters the furnace that all major religions entered which is the furnace of reform. Without religious reform, all other stuff such as spreading democracy, eradicating poverty, and ending dictatorships will be like as if you cut a tree but left the roots deeply entrenched in the earth.
If Islamic law was not reformed to suit the 21st century, the words “islamic law” or “sharia law” will still struck fear in the hearts of nonmuslims and muslims alike.
Few voices understand this fact and they are willing to stand up and sound the alarm to find themselves being silenced by the radicals and the official religious establishment. Among those brave voices is the great Islamic scholar Gamal al-Banna who put it so eloquently when he said: Look at Europe; when Europe began to progress, the first progress was religious reform. It came before all the other reforms. Why? Because it liberated the soul, the conscience, the mind ... this is a necessary element for political and economic reform.
This morning, please take a few minutes to read this excellent article that gives you an idea about what I am talking about.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
A friend and I went to a nice Cairo pub last Thursday. We sat at the bar and enjoyed 2 bottles of Egypt’s special Stella beer. We talked about work, life, and then ventured into politics. My friend is rich, very patriotic, and he wants an end to the Mubarak regime. He believes that even though Mubarak is a man of peace and wise, his time in power should have ended long time ago.
We started talking about the recent developments in Egypt and he expressed his uttermost admiration for the Kifaya movement. I shared with him that I too admire the courage of Kifaya, however, I believe Egypt is not ready at all for full fledged free elections this year and I am not the kind of person who equates Mubarak with Saddam or the Taliban. I told him my opinion about the current weakness of progressives/secularists and the power of the political Islamists, and how I believe that more time is needed until Egypt can have another political force that can counter the islamists. In addition, I told him that I believe that we can witness the rise of a progressive/secular political force within the coming 5 years, and if I felt that this force will never really compete with the islamists then I’ll know it’ll be time for me to say goodbye to my native land.
“We should respect the will of the people even if they chose a religious system” he said.
“Well, if that happened then I guess we’ll have to say goodbye to this nice pub and to these nice green bottles of beer” I said.
“Is that all what you care about?! Beer! I am willing to sacrifice that in order to live in a country free of dictatorship, corruption, humiliation, etc” he immediately shot back.
I took a sip and spoke smoothly “OK, let us imagine that we had a free election next September, what would the future headlines of Egypt’s newspapers be like?”
“I don’t know” he answered.
“OK, let me tell you dear”.
Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties become powerful after Egypt’s landmark elections. Condi Rice admits that she is not afraid, Bush admits he won’t hide under his Abraham Lincoln’s bed.
Sheikh Yousef Qaradawi returns to Egypt, become country’s official cleric.
Parliament bans alcohol sales for Egyptians. Foreigners can drink alcohol because they are tourists and Egypt will starve if tourists stopped coming.
All pubs in Egypt are closed. Only 5 stars hotels are allowed to serve alcohol (to foreigners only)
Movie actresses wearing tight clothes are banned. Belly dancers are banned, Arab tourism is down.
Egyptian pop star Ruby immigrates to Lebanon.
Egyptian artists cite immense restrictions on their work.
Egyptian parliament forms a committee that oversees the publishing of books and the importation of foreign magazines in order to protect the Egyptian people from vice and other western Zionist Neocon corrupting influences.
Young man stabs a policeman after he asked him to stop holding the hands of a girl.
Books by Islamic thinker and reformer Gamal al-Banna are confiscated from the market.
Secular author Sayed el-Qimni arrested after defaming Islam.
Mixed schools banned in Egypt.
“OK, OK, I get your point. Well, if they did that we can vote them out” my friend said.
“And do you guarantee that there will be a chance to vote them out? Plus, what guarantees you that the majority of Egyptian people who are getting religion won’t mind these types of rules?” I asked.
“And what guarantees you that progressives/secularists will get more powerful in the coming 5 years and that they will garner a base in Egypt?” He asked me.
“You are right. I cannot guarantee this. This is why I am looking into all options including leaving the country” I said.
“OK cheers to Hosni” he said raising his mug.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Friday, May 27, 2005
Today I saw the demonstration that the Muslim Brotherhood organized to protest against the "desecration of the Quran". Hundreds of protesters carrying Qurans and banners were surrounded by thousands of security policemen. They chanted slogans against the US and carried banners with the words "The desecration of the Quran is an unforgivable sin" written on them. Several Arab/Muslim countries witnessed the same protests today. It is very interesting to notice that in nearly all those countries the demonstrations were organized by Islamist parties who wanted to seize the "Quran into the super Gitmo toilet" story in order to flex their political muscles in their countries.
So, today thousands were angry because of the story that turned out to be untrue. Ummmm, interesting. Well, take a look at the above picture. It shows a group of radical Indian hindus burning the Quran in front of a camera. So here you go, a Quran getting burned on camera for the entire world to see. Isn't that more serious than Newsweek's story?
Why didn't the Arab/Muslim world erupt in flames? Where was the outrage against hindus? Why didn't we see Indian flags getting burned? Why didn't we see pictures of hindu gods getting "desecrated"? Well, you know the rule: the US is guilty even if proven innocent. Add to that the hypocrisy of those who call themselves Islamists. Those who see hindus (as long as they are not American hindus) burning Qurans and do not give a hoot. Those who see Iraqis getting killed by fellow Muslims and they do not give a hoot as well.
Update: In a show of political power, Pakistan's Islamist political parties amassed thousands today to protest against the "Quran into the super Gitmo toilet" story. No mass demonstrations against the suicide bombing that killed 18 Pakistanis (a.k.a Muslims) in a Sufi (mystic Islam) shrine today? No. Why? Because of H.Y.P.O.C.R.I.S.Y
Update: Egyptian Sandmonkey shares his mind on the H factor. Check it out.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Yesterday I entered a polling station for the very first time in my life. Regardless of what I and others think about this whole issue, I consider what happened yesterday to be historical as far as I am concerned. Little me left work early to go to vote on the constitution changes!
Let me tell you what happened before explaining why I actually made the decision to go and vote even after receiving countless ridiculing from my colleagues and the possibility now of being labeled as a “traitor” and “someone who sold off” by several Egyptian bloggers.
I felt a little bit apprehensive when I entered the premise. However, the place was organized and tidy with average attendance. I took out my ID and wondered around not knowing where to go. I saw a lady standing in front of a polling station, I reckoned that she was among the poll workers and so I approached her for assistance.
“Good evening, where do I go to vote?” I asked
“Do you have a voting card?” she asked
“No, I heard that we can vote with our normal ID” I replied.
“Well, it is a must to have a voting card but today we allow voting with ID because you know it is just voting on the constitutional amendment, but you have to get your voting card for the presidential elections. Now stand in this queue because this polling station is for women only” she said.
“But I can’t see any women, don’t they want to vote?” I laughed.
“No, women came in the morning and it is your (i.e men) turn to vote after returning from work” she answered.
I stood in the queue and discovered that nearly all those who were standing with me were carrying a purple voting card. I didn’t want to stand all this long and later discover that what the lady told me was not correct and so I flashed my ID card and asked the judge inside in a loud voice “Can I vote with my ID, I don’t have a voting card?”
The judged looked at me and stayed silent for a few seconds before telling me that the voting card is a must. “Welcome to typical Egyptian contradictory information” I told myself.
I sensed someone tugging on my shoulders. I turned and saw a guy who told me “go downstairs, there are several empty polling stations, you will vote there”
I went downstairs and entered an empty polling station. I then approached the judge who was supervising the ballot box and handing out the ballots.
“Good evening, I want to vote with my ID because I don’t have a voting card” I said.
The guy stayed silent for a few seconds (just as the judge upstairs did) before requesting to see my ID.
“Your name starts with a G, sorry you cannot vote” he answered with a sad look on his face.
“Sir, does that mean that all those with G names will not vote??” I asked.
“No they will. OK, go to the next poll station. G is there” he answered.
I took my ID and my “G name” and went to the other poll station. I had the same conversation with the judge there before I asked him “Sir, can I vote with my ID or not?”
“ummmmmmm, No” he answered. “OK, bye” I said. I left because I finally knew that everyone was throwing the responsibility on the other.
Why didn’t they accept ID even though I am sure that several voters managed to vote without owning a voting card? I have no clue. At least I had the intension of voting and I actually saw a polling station! That’s an achievement.
Why I tried to vote?
-I believe it was a major first step no matter what you might think about the actual amendment.
-I am against regime change in Egypt at the current moment but I am for pressuring the regime to lift its hands off opposition figures especially the liberals/progressives/secularists. My only hope is to see this group garner a popular base in Egypt in order to somehow counter the influence of the islamists, if that didn't happen within the coming few years, then I am definitely out of the country.
-Voting is fun, I wanted to try it.
Now I didn't know of the anti-Mubarak demonstration and what some Mubarak supporters did until I went home and switched on the TV. I was shocked really and I am totally against what happened. Beating demonstrators in front of live TV surely tarnished the image of all Egypt besides that this was just plain wrong. However, I still believe I made the right decision by going to the poll station with the intension to vote "Yes" for the constitutional changes.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Next Friday, the Muslim Brotherhood will hold a demonstration after prayer. They will protest the "desecration of the Quran" at Gitmo!
OK Guys, this is really getting on my nerves. If the Muslim Brotherhood and the powerful Saudi clerics won't say a word about those Iraqis getting killed, why not do something creative ourselves? So what are we gonna do? Let me tell you.
Saudi Arabia arrested 4 Egyptians because they had something very dangerous, something that would harm Saudi's national security. Guess what this something is? TNT? no. Cocaine? no. A Pamela Anderson porn movie? nope (it's already there in Saudi). Bible? Yes. Saudi authorities arrested 4 Christian Egyptian workers because they carried a Bible and we wonder what the Saudis did with the Christian holy book!! They probably MISHANDELED IT! So let us give the Saudi embassy in the US (that cares so much about saudi's image in America) a little bit of headache.
If you are an American, please go to your phone and call the Saudi embassy and ask about those 4 workers: Nabil Wasef, Hani Wasef, Youssef Wasif, Habeel Hana. Kindly tell me what happened by email or via the comments column. A phone call to the Saudi embassy won't cost much especially if you are in the US. I am waiting for stories!
Embassy of Saudi Arabia in the US:
Please be very polite.
It seems that Mrs Bush knows a lot more than chocolate pudding and children books. Today, the first lady of the US endorsed president Mubarak's decision to ammend the Egyptian constitution citing that reform should come slowly. Her statement infuriated Egypt's opposition with a muslim brotherhood spokesman saying that "Mrs. Bush statement does not represent the US administration". Ummmmm, a muslim brotherhood member is defending the US administration, that's pretty interesting!
I am not sure if Laura was voicing her personal opinion or speaking on behalf of the government, but I tend to agree with her for reasons I already mentioned before.
I hope Democrats won't tell Bush "hey, did you fire Condi and replace her with your wife?"
Martin Kramer tells the world that I am real and that I am an Egyptian and not a CIA agent pretending to be an Egyptian! (N.B I am NOT the guy in the Pharaoh pic)
Monday, May 23, 2005
Thomas Friedman wrote a couple of editorials expressing his surprise that riots would erupt after the Quran issue while no one moved when thousands of Iraqis were killed and maimed by terrorists in Iraq. When I said that leaking Saddam’s pictures would infuriate the Arab/Muslim world, a number of readers lashed out at me screaming “big deal, a dictator in his underwear, what about those who were deliberately killed in Iraq and the heads that were chopped?”. I fully agree with this rationale and I want to try to offer my 5 cents regarding this particular issue.
The whole idea revolves around the radioactive level of anti-Americanism here. I once said on this blog that here a corpse with an Israeli or an American bullet in it is worth much more than 100 bodies that were torn apart by a suicide bomber in Iraq. This is so evident in the reaction towards the massacres of both the southern Lebanese city of Qana in 1996 and of the Iraqi Shia dominated city of Hilla this year. In Qana, over 100 Lebanese civilians were killed when an Israeli artillery shell hit a UN shelter (Israel said it was a military mistake). The entire region erupted in flames when this tragedy happened. On the other hand, more civilians were slaughtered in Hilla, yet unlike Qana, very few Arabs or Muslims are actually aware of where Hilla exists. Qana happened 9 years ago, Hilla happened 3 months ago. You see the trend? The Qana civilians were killed by Israeli soldiers so we shout and foam at the mouth, the Hilla civilians were killed by a Jordanian terrorists so we go along doing our normal business.
Are we heartless? No. Are we senseless? No. Then why this awful indifference to the lives of the same Iraqis whom we pretended we cared about when we demonstrated against the war in Iraq? The answer lies in the level of media induced Anti-Americanism that anesthetizes our feelings and prevents us from seeing the actual picture of Iraq.
The anti-Americanism* that is running like a drug in our blood stream cripples our ability to rationalize and view Iraq from an Iraqi and not of an American prism. Whenever the word Iraq is mentioned, we tend to think about the “brutal occupation” and how the US is trying to “install a puppet there”. We don’t think about the different sects of Iraq, the perception of each sect towards what happened, the Ayatollahs of Najaf, who supports the US in Iraq, who is against the US, the elections, why did 8.5 million Iraqis go to the booths if it is all an American ploy, etc. The extremely complicated mechanism of Iraqi politics and society is nonexistent in our psyche, to us Iraq is just composed of an American army and “Iraqis” fighting it. This level of anti-Americanism leads to 2 things: either we ignore the terrorists in Iraq and pretend that they are not there or we accept what the terrorists do as legitimate form of “resisting the occupation”.
We cannot talk about anti-Americanism per se without mentioning its main vehicle and enhancer which is our media. The media here talks about how the US is biased towards Israel while it never mentions that Bill Clinton met Yasser Arafat more than any other leader in the world. The media tells us that 911 happened because of the US’ bias towards Israel while it never mentions that the 19 terrorists were in their Florida flight schools while Bill Clinton was in Camp David trying to create a Palestinian state. Victims of American military action in Iraq are paraded on our TV screens and newspapers while victims of Zarkawi and the Sudan regime receive very limited media coverage.
So, Next time someone from the Middle East tells you that he hates the American government because of “Israel’s killing of women and children in Palestine” and the occupation of Iraq”, look him in the eyes, take a deep breath, and say BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
* Here our officials tell the west that the hate is directed against the US government and not the American people as a whole. Even though I am not a big fan of what our officials say, I tend to believe this is true. I once said that an American tourist might be more warmly welcomed in Cairo and Amman than Paris and Berlin. On a personal level, I believe we are fond of Americans as people and just like to stick around them.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Darn!! I'm not happy. That would have been the talk of the town in Kabul and quite a boost for Afghanistan's Baseball Federation! lol
Saturday, May 21, 2005
This post caused a lot of uproar. While many people did not defend printing Saddam's pictures, they voiced their astonishment as to how people might get upset from Saddam's photos while it seems that no one gives a hoot about the daily massacres in Iraq, the head chopping, etc. I fully agree with this and I will dedicate a full post to share my point of view regarding this issue.
I would just like to point out that I was very angry at what the Sun and the New York Post did because of 2 things. First, I am sure you know by now that I do support the US' efforts in Iraq. Showing Saddam's pictures in his underwear might put a smile on the face of a Kurd in Irbil but it will definitely play out negatively in some parts of the Sunni triangle and this is bad news for everyone. Second, showing those pictures was wrong period. I am sure many agree with me. So this coming after the abuse scandal and the Quran story will only tarnish the US' image one more time and paint Americans with labels such as "disrespectful, obscene, etc". This is the reason why the US military was quick in denouncing what happened.
I can hear someone yelling "where is the uproar regarding the daily massacre of Iraqis?" Very valid question and I have touched upon this issue before. I will write more about this in the future. I the mean time read this and this (read They Said Terrorists)
As for Rumsfeld, I still stick to my opinion that he should have been sacked long time ago. The awful post war planning and the inability to control the bahavior of a number of soldiers are enough reasons to sack any CEO of a small company.
I respect Al Jazeera now!
I changed my opinion regarding Al Jazeera. Today I declare that I respect this professional channel. You know why? Well, Al Arabiyah, the Saudi owned rival of Al Jazeera, showed Saddam's picture in his underwear but Al Jazeera just told the story without showing the pics citing "ethical and professional reasons".
In addition, I discovered that not only AJ is professional and ethical, but it is also faithful. It is faithful to its previous donor who financed the channel with generous amount of money. They are also faithful to Uday Hussein whom Al Jazeera's previous manager used to visit for instructions. Wow, they are so faithful even if their donor is in prison and their instructor is dead.
OK, now let me think. Ummm, AJ thinks that showing Saddam's underwear is unethical and unprofessional while acting as Al Qaeda's mouthpiece, propagating terror in Iraq and giving a free podium to the head choppers is ethical and professional. Showing Saddam's underwear is unprofessional while it is professional to call the terrorist attacks in Baghdad and Cairo as "bombings" while the ones in Qatar as "suicide terrorist bombings".
Friday, May 20, 2005
I was not going to post today especially after my previous long posts. However, this cannot wait. A group of America or God knows who soldiers guarding Saddam decided to take pics of him in his underwear and give it to the Sun, one of the British newspapers that I think wants to see Iraq a more decent place. However, today, their stupid decision to publish will deal a HUGE blow to the US ONE MORE TIME across the Arab/Muslim world and the Sunni areas of Iraq. Their stupidity is unspeakable and what they did cannot be forgiven.
Now, the bigger problem is not with the Sun because those pics could have been published in any tabloid around the world. The bigger and most serious problem lies in this question: how much control does the Department of Defence has over its soldiers????? From the abuses in Abu Ghraib and Gitmo to taking pictures of Saddam in his underwear, it seems that the DoD has very very minimum control over how thousands of soldiers act around the world. One soldier can bring shame to 300 million Americans and damage the entire policy of the country.
It is understandable that preventing leakages is an impossible task. In Egypt, a tape showing a famous belly dancer and her millionaire husband while they were having sex was leaked out of the Egyptian police and ended up being sold between the Arab community in Dearbon, Michigan. However, a leakage from one of the most heavily guarded prison cells in the world is abhorrent.
I said it before and I say it one more time, the war in Iraq should have resulted in the sacking of both Kofi Anan and Donald Rumsfeld. Anan for the oil for food scandal and Rumsfeld for the awful prewar planning and his inability to control the behavior of 2 or 3 American soldiers. In any company, a CEO with such failures would have gotten sacked immediately, we're talking about the UN and the DoD here!
This coming after the Quran thing, not good at all. America is guilty even if proven innocent, that is the law of the land here. So if the US wants to "win hearts and minds" then stuff like these should never ever happen.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
President Bush says that the way to combat terrorism is by spreading freedom and democracy around the world. Others say that eliminating poverty and unemployment will result in an end to the humiliation that enables terrorists to recruit people. Leftist intellectuals in the west put the blame on US foreign policy, many Arab/Muslim intellectuals agree with them.
There is truth in all the above factors. However, I consider them to be the peripheral factors that miss the core issue which is religious reform, RR. Without RR, spreading democracy, eliminating poverty, and solving the Israel/Palestine issue would be as if someone cut a tree but didn’t pull out the roots from the ground.
Islam needs to undergo what almost every other religion went through. Christianity, Judaism, and even Hinduism had their own reforms that kept the basic beliefs of each faith intact but changed what cannot be applied today. Reform does not aim to change the basic building blocks of a faith but it works on making the faith more compatible with our age.
As far as reform in Islam is concerned, its aim should not be to change a violent Al Qaeda member to the nonviolence of the Muslim Brotherhood, but to bring him into the conviction that he cannot live like the Muslims of the year 640 AD. Basic Islamic tenants such as confessing the faith, prayers, fasting, paying alms, and going on the pilgrimage will always be preserved and followed, but other societal and immensely dogmatic laws should be revisited and reinterpreted taking into consideration the historical context that led to these laws hundreds of years ago.
Egypt witnessed several Islamic thinkers who challenged the status quo and called for reform. The most well known reformist was Sheikh Mohammed Abdou who lived over 100 years ago and was heavily persecuted by the religious establishment. Today’s reformists are branded by labels such as “unislamic”, “wrong thinkers”, “those who went astray”, “those who follow America’s endeavor to alter Islam”, etc. The prominent Islamic thinker Jamal Al Banna (ironically, the muslim brotherhood founder’s brother) found his books confiscated and banned by the Egyptian religious establishment and the secularist and Al Azhar (world’s most prominent sunni Islam university) graduate Ahmad Sobhi Mansour escaped to the US after receiving threats on his life. Unfortunately, anyone who calls for huge reform in Islam is like someone whispering in a discothèque. The radicals such as the Islamists groups are in total control of the “Islamic movement” and the official religious establishment (such as Al Azhar) want to maintain the status quo and doesn’t want anyone to rock the boat so hard.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Last year when the coalition and Iraqi forces were fighting Muqtada Sadr's thugs, one of his militia members held an AK47 empty magazine (where bullets are kept) in front of Al Jazzera's camera and screamed "there are Israeli soldiers among them, Israeli soldiers are fighting us, look at this". There was a blue star of david drawn on the magazine in a very clumsy manner. The idiot used blue paint or a blue crayon to draw it.
Well, people like me won't believe the thug, I suppose that other AJ viewers with some grey cells inside their skulls won't believe it either, but what about the millions upon millions who watch AJ and will believe anything said against the US?
It seems that AJ wants to replace Newsweek after the magazine let it down by retracting its Quran into the super toilet story. A number of angry clerics in Ramadi paraded Qurans with bullet holes in them and crosses drawn across them to AJ's cameras. The channel played this segment over and over and over again. The US army issued a statement denying this report.
And the US base in Doha, Qatar is still there. And Rumsfeld still meets the Qatari ruler. And Qatar still gets pampered by the US. Now millions saw Qurans with "American" bullets in them and "Christian" crosses drawn on them, congratulations.
Zarqawi says it is OK to kill innocents. Oh the animal! Ops, PETA might sue me for saying that, well, oh the subanimal.
George Galloway made a huge show during the senate panel hearing yesterday. Galloway’s performance and attempts to steer away from the topic did very little to eliminate the very foul odor I am smelling coming from this man. I believe the key in this whole case is the Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat who donated about $600,000 to Galloway’s Iraq charity.
Now, let us look at the case from a different angle. George Galloway admitted that Zureikat had “extensive business with Iraq (i.e Saddam)” and that he might have “signed an oil contract”. “It is not my business” Galloway then added. Well, sir, it is your business. $600,000 is a huge sum given that it is coming from a citizen of a country that is poorer than Egypt and into a charity of a controversial British MP! Why didn’t Galloway ask his generous donor about the source of his money given the type of regime that Saddam lead (which Galloway said he opposed)? What if Zureikat was a drug smuggler, would Galloway still say “it is not my business”? Why didn’t Zureikat distribute this huge amount on the thousands of excellent charities that were operating in Saddam’s Iraq if he really wanted to help the Iraqi people? Why Galloway’s charity in particular?
Galloway told Senator Coleman that just like him he doesn’t ask his donors about the source of their money. This might be true if the amount is $1000, $2000, $5000, or even $20,000, but not $600,000!! I believe there is a preconditioned maximum amount to what individuals and companies can donate to a US senator’s campaign. $600,000 is a big number that will pop up the ears of anyone. If Onsi Sawiris, Egypt’s richest man with a net worth of $5 billion, donated this amount to a single charity then I assure you that Egypt’s tabloids will have much to talk about.
Maybe there won’t be any hardcore evidence (the type of evidence that convinces courts) that Fawaz Zureikat acted as a liaison between Saddam’s wealth and Georges Galloway, but this whole thing doesn’t smell nice. Don’t you agree? I hope the issue moves from the US and its senate to the scandal hunting media of Britain. Looking at Galloway and his relations with Saddam’s regime won’t do any good, the key here is Fawaz Zureikat. Will someone in Iraq tell us anything? It was the Iraqi newspaper Al Madaa that printed the list of oil coupon beneficiaries after all.
UPDATE: UK's Charity Commission will start a fresh query into Galloway's charity. It will put more emphasis on the key I mentioned above, the Jordianian businessman Fawaz Zureikan. Ummm, did they read my post this morning?
I told you guys before, Thomas Friedman is reading my blog! I am going to sue the guy for plagiarism. LOL
Monday, May 16, 2005
Country of Origin: Cairo, Egypt
Egypt is a 21 year old university student. He is very religious, prays five times a day, and sports a 3 year old beard. He always carries a small Quran in his bag to read from in the subway on his way to college. Sometimes he reads it out loud so that people around him will listen to Allah’s holy word. He doesn’t mind if Muslims who don’t want to hear and Christian passengers might not appreciate his squeaky voice, he is uttering Allah’s words after all.
Ahmed is active within the Islamist movement on campus. The university security personnel know him by name and they keep a constant eye on the young man lest he decides to do something they deem will compromise the delicate security situation in the university. Last week, Ahmed’s mother had to put drops in his eyes after they got very red and swollen from the tear gas that was used to curb the massive Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations he took part in.
Our friend Ahmed believes that Egypt’s problems stem from its abandoning of the true Islamic law. The full implementation of Islamic law will certainly pull the country out of its miseries, he always admonishes. Ahmed gets very angry when he sees his colleagues not keen on following all the strict religious guidelines he believes they should follow. He wants his male friends to accompany him to all daily prayers and to avoid mixing with the opposite sex, he also demands from them to stop watching Ruby’s promiscuous music video clips.
Ahmed believes that Islam is a religion and a state. The notion of separation between mosque and politics is heresy to him. He wants an Islamic state and so he doesn’t comprehend how Islam can function in a secular society. Whenever he hears the words “separation of religion and politics”, thoughts of gay marriage in the US and free cannabis in Holland rush through his mind.
Ahmed hates the US government with every fiber of his being, but sometimes when he is alone on bed at night, he starts to dream about how President Bush’s sudden quest for democracy in Egypt might help in empowering “noble righteous” men who will implement “the laws of Allah” in Egypt.
Country of origin: Gorgan, Iran
Meet Salman. Just like Ahmed, he is a very religious 21 year old university student. He hails from the beautiful city of Gorgan which is very near to the magnificent Caspian sea. Salman prays 5 times a day and reads his Quran on a daily basis. His mother is so happy that her young man is keen on keeping his prayers on schedule unlike many of Tehran’s youth who lost interest in religion and are just Muslim by name.
Salman hates his country’s rulers so much and he believes that they tarnished the image of Islam. He believes that personal freedom and humanity constitute the basic tenants of Islam. “The problem is in our repressive mullahs and not in Islam” Salman says. He wants his Iranian people to chose their religion and decide whether they want to be religious or not. He is completely against forcing his life style on others.
Salman believes that the current version of Islamic law needs a lot of reform in order to suit the 21st century. The harsh experience of his country taught him that laws that were passed hundreds of years ago cannot be applied today. In addition to that, Salman has no problem with the notion of separation of mosque and politics, he believes that this should be the case in Iran as long as clerics are not banned from going into politics if they wished to do so.
“Religion should not be used to control people. Our mullahs use it for their own personal reasons. It is a personal thing” Salman says. Like millions of Iranians, both observant and nonobservant, Salman longs for the day when his country shakes away the shackles of theocracy and create a secular democracy that will protect religion from politics and protect the people from those who use religion as a tool of oppression and manipulation.
Unfortunately, my compatriot is Ahmad and not Salman. Oh my wretched soul!!
I was reading Martin Kramer's website and I knew that he was coming to Egypt. I emailed him and asked if we could meet. We did and he was kind enough to invite me to dinner today. We had a very interesting discussion about the current developments in Egypt where I also expressed my concern towards moving the country too fast towards full fledged democracy. Thanks Martin for your time and I hope you enjoy your stay here.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
President Mubarak lashed out against his opposition in a very unusual interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper. The fiery interview was also printed in the government owned Al Ahram newspaper. Below are captions of what he said:
On Opposition demonstrations: The demonstrations we’ve seen will force investors away and so lead to more unemployment. The demonstrations don’t have an agenda and they exist only to create disturbances that might harm the economy. I withstood a lot in order to avoid disturbances and when they happen in a havoc way, the investor will come and say “No, I’m not going to invest in this unstable country”.
On the attacks against him: I don’t care about those insults and I don’t read any of them.
On the kifaya movement: I know who is behind them whether Kifaya (enough) or the others. If I wish, it would be very easy for me to organize a demonstration with a little bit of money to chant Mosh Kifaya (not enough)
On America: The Americans receive reports from people who don’t tell them the truth and when you tell them the truth they perceive everything. The US and the EU receive irresponsible reports (about Egypt) that have an agenda and it is our duty to explain to them such reports and what the people behind them really want. Relations between Egypt and the US is strategic and I have a very good personal relationship with President Bush.
On the Muslim Brotherhood: They are seeking power and if they got it, they will rule forever and cause worries. They will start by calming the relations with the government, then they will cause political calamity before jumping to the power seat.
On the US’ dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood: The Americans should understand that I am not sleeping and I receive updates about this dialogue on a constant basis.
The Evolution of My Brother
My brother is the complete opposite of me, he is not into politics and he doesn’t like my occasional pro-US stances. Most of his political opinions, if not all, come from our conversations over dinner. This provides me with the joy of exploiting his mind and messing up with his preconceived ideas.
My bro was so excited when President Mubarak allowed multiple candidacy elections. He told me that he will register to vote in his first elections ever. Upon Ayman Noor’s release, he immediately telephoned his friend to tell him the news. My bro was also so fond of the Kifaya movement and how courageous they were. He still thought that Mubarak should stay for another term, but like me, he welcomed the changes in Egypt’s political atmosphere. Those changes excited him so much.
It didn’t take long for me to lessen his excitement and add a “fear factor” to his life. I simply preached to him what I was preaching lately on this blog. I opened his eyes to the power of the Islamists and the weakness (but getting stronger) of the other political forces that oppose Mubarak’s regime. Now my brother wants to join the pro-Mubarak demonstrations. What a powerful thing fear is.
Am I evil? I don’t think so. Why then did I lessen my brother’s excitement? Well, I am just not the type of person who looks only under his feet. I do welcome what is happening in my country, however, as I said before, it would be a disaster for Mubarak to leave now in light of the weakness and the disarray of the secularist/progressive/nationalist forces.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
It was very interesting to see English banners in a lot of the anti-Mubarak demonstrations we witnessed so far. Even the Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations had banners in English. It was very obvious that those guys wanted to send a message to the outside world and most notably to the US.
Today, there was a Pro-Mubarak demonstration and yes they had banners in English. Check it out. (Source: Arabist.net)
Friday, May 13, 2005
Imagine that you woke up one morning, turned your TV on to ABC, and saw an anchor in military uniform reading the morning headlines.
"Good morning, this is Sergeant John Miller and I am brining news from the Defense Department. This morning, at 7 am, the Free Battalion headed by Sectary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took control of all media outlets, infrastructure, and borders of the United States of America. This blessed revolution is aimed at riding the US of its corrupt special interests system"
America had just witnessed a military coup. Donald Rumsfeld installs his friend George Bush as an everlasting president of the USA. Bush then dissolves the congress, bans all parties, and literally takes control of everything in the US. Then he devises a system that makes it impossible for the American people to choose their own future leader. He also nationalizes all private businesses.
After 50 years
Today the American people got used to the system that the Free Battalion installed in the US 50 years ago. America now is living in dire poverty and lost its superpower status. The average American's main concern is to live another new day and put food on the table. The president is called Martin Obarak. President Obarak is not as ruthless as George Bush was 50 years ago. He allows very limited press freedom, there are opposition parties around him but they are nothing but paper mice (not even tigers), and freedom of speech is granted within limits. Obarak doesn't really care about how Americans live their private life as long as they don't venture into politics and oppose his regime. Unemployment passed 20% and over 50% of Americans are under the poverty line.
President Obarak's main opposition entities are composed of the following: secular democracy advocates, American nationalists, and The Medieval Party of America (MPA). The MPA's ideology is based upon their own interpretation of the Bible and how they regard the medieval period to be the golden age of Christianity. They believe that during the age when the church laws were the laws of the land, vice and sin were nonexistent and the community of believers was stronger. They blame America's forsaking of the medieval church laws as the reason for the country's current problems.
It is impossible to measure accurately the level of support that MPA enjoys within the American population, however, we know that the group is the most organized and the most popular when compared to other opposition entities. We also know that the American population is now turning to God as a result of the bad economic situation of their country and there is a possibility that many of them will find MPA's ideology appealing. Moderate Christians in the US are trying to tell people that medieval church laws were for that period only and they cannot be applied today, and that Americans should follow the basic tenants of Christianity while adopting laws that suit the year 2050. The Christian establishment and MPA condemned those moderate Christians calling them apostates and people who do not want the medieval glory of Christianity to return.
MPA is a nonviolent group but many violent groups emerged from under its ideological umbrella. One of those groups attacked the pyramids of Egypt, the world's superpower today, and caused the death of many Egyptians who were enjoying the sun there. The group claimed that Egypt is an arrogant superpower that persecutes its own Christian minority and works on killing Christians around the world. MPA condemned the attack on the pyramids but blamed Egypt for it.
Egypt is now convinced that it is the dictatorial environment of America that breeds terror. The President of Egypt Gamal Riceallah asked US president Obarak to liberalize the US political arena and allow free elections. President Riceallah is also convinced that MPA and the other nonviolent groups that subscribe to its ideology do have a following in the US and that there is no escape from accepting them into the political life. The aim of Egypt now is to include MPA and the other groups into the political stream of the US in order to minimize the possibility of them turning into violent radicals.
Under immense pressure from Egypt and internal forces, the political landscape of the US started to change a bit. Secular democracy advocates and nationalists are starting to pick up their voices and get their act together; however, it is very clear that MPA is dominating the scene as far as numbers is concerned. While welcoming the current changes in the US, secular Americans, moderate Christians, and American Muslims are concerned about the MPA. Many of them believe that if MPA got powerful as a result of a free election, they will pass laws from the medieval period and curb the limited freedom they were enjoying under President Obarak. They are in a dilemma. They hate President Obarak's dictatorship and the corruption in the US with all their heart, however, they are afraid of MPA & Co. especially when they look at how far behind the other political forces are. Should they embrace free elections now and hope for the best? Should they insist that time is needed for "non-MPA" political forces to get their act together?
What do you think?
Monday, May 09, 2005
(Please read all)
Thanks all for your votes and comments (see previous post). It was a very lively discussion. The results are as follows:
Reuel Gerecht: 22% (24 votes)
Robert Satloff: 61% (61 votes)
I am not sure: 14% (15 votes)
Neither: 7% (8 votes)
I was not surprised to see some voters who didn’t agree with neither Gerecht nor Satloff, others were not sure. This shows that this issue is not clear cut and it should be thought about very carefully. Now, what was my vote? I didn’t vote in this poll because I wanted to vote for both Gerecht and Satloff! I wanted to derive things from both arguments and combine them into one.
Before continuing, I would like to point out that I hate using the word “Islamists” because it gives those people who want to use religion-contaminated politics in order to change my private life (whether through violence or nonviolence) a monopoly over Islam. It makes it as if those political activists are the only pious Muslims around and the liberals/progressives/secularists are infidels. This is not fair for Islam. There is a huge difference between Islam as a personal faith practiced by over 1.3 billion people and between those who want to apply 1400 years old rules today. However, since we don’t have an alternative in the English language, I will continue using this terminology.
Gerecht’s argument revolves around this notion: the US should open a dialogue with nonviolent Islamists so that those nonviolent Islamists would not turn violent and show up in New York and slaughter another 3000 Americans. In other words, the US should help nonviolent Islamists reach their political aspirations before they turn violent and create small Bin Ladens. I fully understand this argument and support it somehow. Islamists are here, they won’t go away even if the US didn’t open a dialogue with them. They have a huge popular base that progressives and liberals envy, and there is no escape from allowing this group to participate in the political life that might lead to their ascension to power.
Satloff’s argument is based upon the fact that violence should not be the litmus test of legitimacy because the agenda of nonviolent Islamists is dangerously horrible. I tend to agree with this point as well. As far as I am concerned, I am not really afraid of guns and bombs as much as I am afraid from someone who might eradicate the limited freedom I have (under Mubarak) in the name of religion. Nonviolent Islamists are just like Nazis and fascists without guns. They are dangerous and they are horrible. They might not show up in New York to slaughter another 3000 Americans, but they will definitely make my life as an Egyptian living in Egypt extremely uncomfortable. In addition to that, there are no guarantees that once nonviolent Islamists participate in politics and become powerful they won’t not turn ruthless in order to enforce their “Islamization” of the society. Khomenei talked about freedom and democracy when the Shah was around, when he took over, he executed his opponents in Tehran’s public squares.
So what should the US do? The US along with Europe should open a dialogue with nonviolent Islamists as well as liberals/secularists/nationalists, however, the West should combine this with what Satloff suggested, which is to ask for more than just cessation of violence. They should make it very crystal clear that they expect those groups to abide by the rules of civil liberties and religious freedom.
Will nonviolent Islamists ever accept civil liberties and religious freedom? No. So why am I suggesting so? Because I have a blog and I am expected to fill it with chitchat. So what do I really think the West should do? I think the West should open two things: they should open a dialogue with nonviolent Islamists and then they should also open their embassies for the asylum seekers who will want to escape from what might happen after this dialogue. Rest assured that I will definitely be among those who will show up at the embassies’ doors.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Please read this and say whom you agree with by clicking the appropriate box in the poll. Do you agree with Gerecht or you think Satloff makes more sense. It is a very short summary of the 2 opinions and it won't take long to read.
N.B. Please do not vote more than once just to know the results. I don't have the option that enables readers to view the results without voting. Results will be posted later when I stop the poll.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
An American living in Egypt was sitting among a group of Egyptians. He said that "Bush is dumb". The Egyptians treated what he said as if he insulted the pope on Sunday. Here is what happened.
Naked in Iran
The paintings of an iranian female university student were refused to be exhibited. How did the girl react? She ran around campus nude. Very creative way of protesting in Iran.
Ruby Power Antidode to Radicalism
Oh, how I wish we get controlled by Ruby Power. If Ruby Power ruled us there will be less hate, less bigotry, less radicalism, and the country will be more fun. We need more RP. Wanna know what is Ruby Power, check out this.
The massacre of the Kurdish youth yesterday and the daily terrorist attacks that occur in Baghdad and the Sunni triangle proves that there is a huge terror network operating inside Iraq with logistical and financial assistance from abroad. We all know who are the terrorist but we don’t know how they can be defeated. I am now convinced of 2 things. Once, the terrorists whether they are remnants of Saddam’s Republican Guards or foreign/Iraqi Jihadis do enjoy considerable support from a good segment of Iraq’s sunni population. Two, this network with such local support can never be defeated by military means alone.
It is literally impossible to organized such a sophisticated network of car bombs manufacturers and suicide bombing recruitment centers without at least the tacit support of the local population living in these areas. Unfortunately, the terrorists became the official spokesmen of a large segment of the disgruntled Sunnis. Faced with the sudden rise of Shia power (and greed) and dismayed by the military actions in their region, those Sunnis who many of them enjoyed a lot of privileges under Saddam have no card to play but the terrorist card.
We have all pampered the Shias and the Kurds because of their long history of suppression until the Baathist regime. The pampering has gone too far and now the powerful Shia politicians are dictating which Sunni should or should not get appointed in the new government. What Iraq needs is not de-Baathification or Baathification but Sunnification. This is something I really doubt under the current Shia dominated government, which means that the terror will continue for sometime and more innocents will die. Only one of those 2 options can happen: either the Shias will concede and share the table with those Sunnis who lost their privileges and compensate them, or the daily massacres will continue. The idea here is to bring those disgruntled Sunnis into the fold of the new Iraq and not into the fold of the diehard Saddamists and Jihadists.
They said “gruesome”
Today I rushed to pick up my copy of Al Ahram newspaper to see how they presented the news of yesterday’s Irbil massacre. Previous massacres against Iraqi police and civilians were usually printed at the bottom of page 1. Today the news of the Irbil suicide bombing was placed right under the first story. The large headline read: A gruesome massacre against Kurdish youth. Ummm, they used the word “gruesome”. Why did it take 2 suicide attacks in Cairo to change the attitude?
I was so glad to hear that Condi Rice called members of Iraq's new government , including vice president Ahmad Chalabi. I am not a great fan of Chalabi. Today, he is now one of Iraq's smartest politicians. I never liked his ways even when he was close to the US administration, but now Chalabi got his new job not from the US but from the landmark elections and the political fight that followed it. Even if Chalabi is a crook, the US can now wash its hands and leave it up to Iraq's new rulers no matter how imperfect they may seem. If they owned it, they will fix it, one day I hope.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
UPDATE (May 4): It seems that Thomas Friedman read what I wrote in my post below!
I once wrote that accepting suicide bombings in Palestine as a "legitimate way of resisting occupation" will open up a pandora's box if the notion of "suicide bombings" got exported and used by terrorist groups around the world. My prophecy is being fulfilled. We are now getting cursed by crime we have legitimized as a society.
Our "intellectuals", media, and "religious" gang tell us that those who blow up themselves in an Israeli cafe are martyrs who will go straight to heaven. They tell us that those palestinians were helpless (how many helpless individuals are living on our planet??) and that blowing up themselves is their only desperate weapon. Those people failed to foresee what could happen if terrorist groups imitated what the Palestinians are doing.
Our "intellectuals", media, and "religious" gang are also indifferent to the daily suicide bombings that killed or maimed thousands of Iraqis. There was no outcry when a suicide bomber struck an Iraqi Shia wedding. And there was no outcry when a suicide bomber slaughtered more than 120 Iraqis in Hilla.
We are now reaping what we had sowed. Last Saturday's terrorist attacks in Cairo were suicidal in nature. In addition, there is another curse upon us right now. When the first female Palestinian suicide bomber blew herself up, we were all surprised and very few of us thought that she will go straight to hell. Now, we have our own female Egyptian suicide killers. The sky is the limit now to what might happen.
Is it about time to speak against suicide bombings? Is it about time to declare that suicide, any form of suicide, is a grave sin in Islam and all other religions? Is it about time to denounce any suicide bombing whether the victims are Israeli cafe goers, American soldiers in Iraq, Shias in a wedding, Iraqi kurds in a funeral, or tourists in Cairo?
I just returned back from the Red Sea. I did serious sunbathing there and I'm now as red as a monkey's butt. I cheriched the opportunity to relax a bit on the beach and get a rest from world news. However, I didn't quite enjoy every bit of it because just as I was on my way to the Red Sea, a friend called me on my cellphone and told me about the twin terrorist attacks in Cairo!
It's getting late here. I'll post tomorrow.