Saturday, December 31, 2005
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
My wishes for 2006 (not ranked).
-Violence ends in Iraq. Iraqis manage to form a working government.
-Seculars and liberals move their asses to salvage whatever remaining to be salvaged and try to reach the Egyptian people. Government would be kind enough to back off and leave them alone.
-Revolution in Iran. Secular state established.
-Bin Laden caught or pronounced dead. Zawahri dies from a hellfire missile fired towards his anus.
-Condoleezza Rice announces she is running for president if Hillary stated she will run in 2008.
-Internal coup in Syria. Sensible figures within the Baath party take control without a collapse in the Syrian regime. They stop car bombs from going to Iraq and they leave Lebanon alone.
-Religious reformists find a voice across the Arab/Muslim world.
Last but not least,
-The Big Pharaoh gets a new template and continues his role within the blogosphere.
I am not wishing for much huh?
Friday, December 30, 2005
CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- Ten Sudanese refugees died and 30 others were injured in clashes with Egyptian security forces Friday, an Egyptian Interior Ministry spokesman said.
Three Egyptian police officers and 20 Egyptian soldiers were also injured in the clashes, which took place in an upscale Cairo neighborhood.
Hundreds of Sudanese had been living in the camp since it was set up September 29 as a protest against the U.N. refugee agency, whose offices are nearby, AP reported.
Their protest had been going on for over 3 months. I have seen their protest camp. Men, women, and children refused to abandon their camping area unless they know their final status as refugees. They just stayed there in the open air for 3 whole months! Thousands of Sudanese fled to Egypt during the civil war and the current Darfour crisis.
Update: Over 20 Sudanese refugees were killed, many of them children. It's so sad that their ordeal ended this way.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
DUBAI (AFP) - An Iraqi rebel group claimed the kidnapping of French engineer Bernard Planche, threatening to kill him if France did not "end its illegitimate presence in
Iraq" in a video broadcast by Al-Arabiya television.
The group, calling itself the Battalion of the Look-out for Iraq, claimed the kidnapping and "threatened to kill him if France does not end its illegitimate presence in Iraq," said the channel's presenter.
French troops should end their occupation of Iraq NOW!
See, opposing the Iraq war brought France protection from terrorists and peace in its Paris suburbs!
There is an underground unarmed civil war between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. The tension and misunderstanding between the 2 communities are increasing at an alarming rate. I have mentioned before that the social fabric of the country has already been torn apart. As Muslims get more religious, Christians reciprocate with the same religiosity leading them to be cocooned within their community and religious establishment.
It’s interesting to note that harmony existed between the 2 communities when they both concentrated their efforts on a common enemy (British colonials and later Israel) and when religious was not such a huge opium as it is today.
Egypt current civil war has manifested itself in the recent issue of what came to be known as “the Islamization of Coptic girls”. There has been a number of cases where Christian girls left their homes and converted to Islam without notifying their parents. A male was involved in most of those cases. Muslims claim that the girls found the “light of Islam” and they applaud the men for “showing them the true religion”. They also call for government protection over these girls that will prevent their handing over to their parents or the church. Christians, on the other hand, claim that there are organized and well financed attempts by some groups to kidnap/coerce/blackmail young Christian girls into marrying Muslim men and thus converting to Islam.
While not ruling out the fact that there might be an organized effort by Muslim groups to convert young girls, the current 2 well known cases involve 3 Christian females who willingly left their home and converted to Islam with the help of their male partners. The latest among those cases involve 2 teenage girls who ran away from their abusive parents two and half years ago. Christine and Marian were 15 and 17 when they converted to Islam and married Muslim men.
The girls’ mother appeared on a TV show claiming that her daughters were kidnapped and coerced into converting. She stated that it is against the law for an underage girl to change her religion and marry without her parents consent. The case of Christine and Marian caused a massive controversy that forced President Mubarak himself to order the search for the 2 girls. When found, the girls announced that they willfully converted and got married. They asked to be left alone and not returned to their parents.
Well, I don’t feel sorry for the girl’s abusive parents but I do feel pity towards the Christian community that lives in the girls’ poor rural town. In these areas, females resemble the family’s and the community’s honor. A girl would bring shame and dishonor to her family if she had sex before marriage or ran away with her lover. Girls in these areas are expected to stay virgins until their first day in bed with their husbands. Many, if not most, newly wed Egyptian girls would freak out if no blood came out on their first marriage day lest their husbands think they took a broken hymen. As a result, the Christians in this areas must be feeling so humiliated, the “other camp” took 2 of their vaginas.
The funniest thing is the way many Muslims are reacting. I talked to a number of my friends about this case. Suddenly, they all turned into fervent believers of the values of liberal democracy. “The girls are free to become Muslims”, “they have the freedom to chose the religion they want to follow”, “they should be protected and not handed over to the monastery. They will torture them in the monastery” they all said.
I took the discussion a little further. “OK, great, well, what if an underage 15 years old Muslim girl ran away with her Christian lover and converted to Christianity? Should she be left alone as well? And why is it so easy for a Christian to become a Muslim and its impossible for the other way round?”.
All what I got were stammering tongues.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
AZA CITY (AFP) - Several gunmen have kidnapped three Britons in the southern
Gaza Strip town of Rafah, local security sources and witnesses said.
Witnesses said Wednesday that gunmen snatched the woman, her father and mother, and bundled them into a white Mercedes near the border with Egypt.
I blame Israel. I blame Bush. I blame Karl Rove!!
I have stated countless times on this blog that I consider religious reform to be the most crucial element in our development as nations. I’ve said that just like other faiths, Islam should undergo reform in order for it to sign a peace agreement with the principles and values of the 21st century. By reform I mean a reinterpretation of historical texts that is based upon the historical context of those texts.
I believe religious reform supercedes the importance of democracy. Without religious reform, democracy would be like a nice carpet on a heap of dust. Take a look at Europe, it only progressed after it reformed religiously. It started with the protestant reformation and ended with the development of the notion of separation of church and state.
Now we do have a huge problem in our region. The established religious order and leadership stand in the way of any serious attempt of reforming Islam. Islamic thinkers who dare to cross their established “red lines” were persecuted and libeled. A number of them were even called “Kufaar” or “infidels” by the religious establishment.
What makes matter worse is that our “secular” government, in its attempt to portray itself as the guardian of our faith, joins the religious establishment in silencing and intimidating Islamic reformists. A good example is the case of Dr. Ahmed Sobhi Mansour.
Dr. Mansour was a professor at Al Azhar University, the world’s leading Sunni Islam institute. He “fell from grace” when he stated that the Muslim world need a serious reconsideration of the authenticity of the Hadith, collections of the sayings and doings of the prophet Muhammad written many years after his death. He said that Hadiths that contradict the Quran and do not have a sufficient “Quranic” basis should be disregarded.
As a result of his research, Dr. Mansour was fired from his job and got arrested in 1988. The official media smeared his reputation and terrorists organization threatened to kill him. We are yearning for Islamic reformers and free thinkers yet our “secular” government joins the stagnant religious establishment in silencing those people. It doesn’t really matter whether Mansour was correct in his thesis or not, reform will only come when thinkers have the freedom to think and present their findings freely.
Ahmed Sobhi Mansour is currently living in the US and he’s a member of Free Muslims Against Terrorism.
Monday, December 26, 2005
DUBAI (AFP) - A former German hostage who spent 24 days in the hands of unknown captors in Iraq said her kidnappers were not criminals and had demanded humanitarian aid for Sunni Arab regions.
I thought they wanted the German government to stop training Iraqi soldiers outside Iraq. I personally didn't hear of any "humanitarian" demands..did anyone hear such demands ladies and gentlemen?
Speaking to Doha-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera
Yea who else!
Susanne Osthoff said her captors told her not to be afraid as her kidnapping was "politically motivated."
OK Mrs. Osthoff, now I'm a little confused here. I thought they demanded "humanitarian aid"!
"Do not be afraid. We do not harm women or children and you are a Muslim," she quoted them as saying.
Yes yes, they harm no Muslim, only non-Muslims.
"I was so happy to know that I had not fallen into the hands of criminals," she said.
Ummmm, let me get this here. A group kidnapped you, threatened to kill you, scared the sh*t out of you and they are still not criminals. What are they then I really wish to know?
Osthoff, a Muslim convert and fluent Arabic speaker, said her captors demanded German humanitarian aid for Iraq's Sunni Arabs and stated clearly that they did not want a ransom.
Right. That's why the Hezbollah guy was freed days before your release!
"They said we don't want money... Maybe we want from Germany ... hospitals and schools in the Sunni triangle (area northwest of Baghdad), and they would like to get money in the form of humanitarian aid," she said.
Again Mrs. Osthoff. I don't recall them asking for hospitals and schools at all! Their public demand was crystal clear. I don't give a rat's ass about what they told you in private. Their public demand included no schools nor hospitals. Besides, don't you agree that this wasn't a good way to say "thank you" to Germany for opposing the war?
She described her captors as "poor people" and that she "cannot blame them for kidnapping her, as they cannot enter (Baghdad's heavily fortified) Green Zone to kidnap Americans."
So, if I can't kidnap Americans, I kidnap German war opposing people like yourself. Ummm, interesting!
You know something Mrs. Osthoff. I really hate to say it but I can't help saying: I really wished you stayed with your "poor" friends.
Ruby, Egypt's top pop star, shows off her new looks.
Ruby expressed her concern at the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood during the parliamentary elections and the possible repercussions on art and artists. You're not the only one concerned here Ruby!
Jokes 4 the Season:
A cabbie picks up a Nun.She gets into the cab and the cab driver won'tstop staring at her.She asks him why he is staring. He replies " I have a question toask you, but I dont want to offend you".She answers, " My son, you cannot offend me.When you're as old as I am and have been a nun as long as I have , youget a chance to see and hear just about everything. I'm sure thatthere's nothing you could say or ask that I would find offensive.""Well, I've always had a fantasy to have a nunkiss me."
She responds, "Well, lets see what we can doabout that:1. you have to be single and2. you must be Catholic."The cab driver is very excited and says " Yes, I'msingle and Catholic!"
"Okay" the nun says. "Pull into the next alley"The nun fulfils his fantasy with a kiss thatwould make a hooker blush.But when they get back on the road, the cabdriver starts crying."My dear child" said the nun, "Why are you crying?""Forgive me, but I have sinned." sobbed the cab driver, "I liedand I must confess, I'm married and I'm Jewish."The nun said "That's okay, my name is Kevin andI'm going to a Halloween Party."
The Cab Driver
A woman and her son were taking a cab in New York City.
It was raining and all the prostitutes were standing under the awnings.
"Mommy," said the little boy, "what are all those ladies doing?"
"They're waiting for their husbands to get off of work," she replied.
The cabbie turns around and says, "Geez lady, why don't you tell him the truth? They're prostitutes. They have sex with men for money."
The little boy's eyes get wide and he says, "Is that true, mommy?"
His mother, glaring at the cabbie, answers in the affirmative.
After a few minutes, the kid asks, "Mommy what happens to the babies those ladies have?"
"They mostly become cab drivers," she replied.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Nour supporters weep after hearing the court's decision.
Ayman Nour has just been sentenced to 5 years in jail. I admit I never expected such a sentence given the attention that Egypt's regime is getting from the international community.
This ruling is such a shame for the simple fact that we are in a dire need for any liberal or secular opposition figure. Any liberal or secularist opposition figure for God's sake.
Now the issue is between the Egyptian government and the US administration. There is a lot of similarities between Nour's and the Saad Eddin Ibrahim's case, the human rights activist who was sentenced to 7 years behind bars yet was released as a result of US pressures. The judge who sentenced Nour today is the same guy who sentenced Ibrahim. And Ibrahim was released when he appealed. So the question is: will the US administration act in the same manner so that Nour might get released when the verdict is appealed? That's what many Nour supporters are hoping for even if they don't publicly admit it.
Friday, December 23, 2005
CAIRO, Egypt - The leader of Egypt's main Islamic opposition group said Thursday the Holocaust was a "myth," and he slammed Western governments for criticizing disclaimers of the Jewish genocide.
I am not surprised at Mehdi Akef's statement. His sentiment is shared by many here, both Islamists and non-Islamists alike. What really caught my attention was that now the media calls this man "Egypt opposition leader". The guy who described Mona Eltahawi as "naked" for not wearing the head cover.
Oh my wretched soul!
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Now this is something! A 5 minutes cartoon encouraging children to wage Jihad appeared on several Al Qaeda linked websites. The cartoon, which is named "The Terrorist", features attacks against US forces and suicide bombings.
Extremists on the websites praised the cartoon and commented that future cartoons should depend on dialogues between the characters and clear scenarios.
Isn't it a lovely interesting world!
Source: Al Arabiya (Arabic)
Algerian blogger Nouri has very insightful comments on how he thinks we, Arab countries, will one day or another learn it the hard way.
"Listen to me," I began again, "Algeria is not like Iraq anymore and it isn't like Afghanistan. Things are better there now. The girls aren't looking like ghosts all the time and there are music groups singing without fear. Algeria was not defeated Tahar. It's not an Islamic Republic. It doesn't have to be that way."
"Because Algerians know what Islamism is all about. It isn't abstract for them, it's totally concrete. It's misery and violence, and that's all. That's the fact of it on the ground, thirteen years of bearded bullies. Nobody wants to go back to that," I told him.
Read it all.
Algeria is definitely a country I will begin to study.
There is major anger here directed towards a Danish newspaper that published 12 insulting cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in an unacceptable way. If we needed a reason that the “West is out to destroy Islam” then this paper has already provided a good one. Talk shows and countless paper articles have condemned the Danish government for refusing to act against the paper and called upon Muslims worldwide to voice their anger towards these cartoons.
What is very interesting is that it was our government who instigated this “crusade” against the paper and the Danish government. The foreign minister summoned the Danish ambassador and voiced our government’s disapproval. The national newspapers carried editorials warning about the current “war on Islam” and explaining how the west does not live up to its words about religious harmony and respect. Talk shows on national TV called upon the citizens to send protest emails and callers-in called for assisting the Danish Muslims in suing the government of Denmark and the paper.
Given the fact that this is not the first time that something that Muslims deem offensive arises in Europe, why did the Egyptian government take it upon itself to instigate this particular campaign? I believe our government is trying to portray itself as the “guardian of our faith” especially when it wants to do things that the people are not favorable towards, the current warm relations with Israel is a good example. The regime knows it is hated, it knows the people are getting religious, it is well aware that it is losing grounds to the Islamists, what is a better PR campaign than defending the prophet Muhammad in Denmark?
The above fact raises a concern that I have. How far will the government go in portraying itself as the “guardian of our faith”? Given the results of the parliament elections and the popular appeal that Islamists have, will we see more “religiously inspired” measures and laws initiated not by the Muslim Brotherhood but by our “secular” government? I won’t be surprised if that will turn out to be the case. The government has a long history of appeasing political Islamists ever since the late President Sadat used them against his nationalist and communist rivals. Just 2 or 3 years ago, the government gave the religious authorities that ability to confiscate literature they don’t approve of. The question is: will we see more of these measures as the government tries to portray itself as holy?
N.B. Several other Muslim countries reacted in the same manner, but it was interesting to notice how active the Egyptian government was in this particular case.
Are they equal?
On a different note. Turkish prime minister Racep Tayyib Erdocan stated that “anti-Islamism should be treated as anti-Semitism”. I totally disagree. Anti-Muslims should be treated as anti-Semitism. Anti-Islam is equal to anti-Judaism. Hate speech towards a particular people which might hurt this group of people is quite different than criticisms and mockery directed towards a religion or a historical religious personality.
Even though I believe what the newspaper did was so stupid (even if the editor said “the cartoons were a test of whether the threat of Islamic terrorism had limited the freedom of expression in Denmark." ) the paper had the right to publish cartoons about a historical figure such as the prophet Muhammad.
Another thing. Visit any bookstore in Europe and you’re most probably going to see books lambasting all sorts of religions. So when will we grow up?
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
TEHRAN, Iran - Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's ban on Western music fell on deaf ears Tuesday, as shop owners and music enthusiasts in the Iranian capital continued selling, buying and listening to everything from hip-hop to country rock.
"This president speaks as if he is living in the Stone Age. This man has to understand that he can't tell the people what to listen to and what not to listen to," said Mohammed Reza Hosseinpour as he browsed through a Tehran music shop.
The shop's owner said he did not expect the president's ban to be implemented.
"Clerics and officials speak about imposing restrictions every other day. I don't think it's going to be enforced," said Reza Sadeghi as he counted some bills he received from the sale of an Eric Clapton tape.
Some say Ahmadinajad is the last nail in the Iranian regime's coffin. Others say he is just a jerk, nobody listens to what he says. I really don't know how much of an impact will he have on Iranian internal politics. The vast majority of Iranians I spoke to tell me that life is as it was during Khatami. I was hoping that Ahmadinajad's actions will revive the youth movement again. Am I hoping for the wrong thing? Or is it too early to tell?
BBC has a report on blogs in Africa. This blog was mentioned. Check it out.
Zuckerman, a resident fellow specialising in the impact of technology on the developing world at Berkman Center for internet and society at Harvard Law school in the US, is also one of the main drivers behind Global Voices - an even more ambitious project to follow interesting blogs from the whole world, with a focus on countries often overlooked by the mainstream media.
In recent months, it has covered everything from the Egyptian elections - via the blog Big Pharaoh - to the opportunities of getting rich on the Nairobi stock exchange on African Bullets and Honey.
I had a few minutes to spare during my working day today. I thought it would be a good idea to read Noam Chomsky's interview with Egyptian blogger Karim Elsahy who was interviewing the professor on behalf of Egypt Today magazine. I started reading and reached the sentence where Chomsky said:
I mean the level of religious fundamentalism in the United States is beyond any country I know.
That's when I laughed so hard, stopped reading, and went back to my boring excel sheet!
Iran's President Bans Western Music
TEHRAN, Iran - Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has banned all Western music from Iran's state radio and TV stations — an eerie reminder of the 1979 Islamic revolution when popular music was outlawed as "un-Islamic" under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Today, though, the sounds of hip-hop can be heard blaring from car radios in Tehran's streets, and Eric Clapton's "Rush" and the Eagles' "Hotel California" regularly accompany Iranian broadcasts.
No more — the official IRAN Persian daily reported Monday that Ahmadinejad, as head of the Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council, ordered the enactment of an October ruling by the council to ban all Western music, including classical music, on state broadcast outlets.
How is that good news? Let me tell you. The years of the previous Iranian president, Khatami, have brought political apathy and indifference into the youth movement of Iran. The youth enjoyed the limited freedoms that Khatami gave them (nail polish, head scarves drawn backwards, Eric Clapton) and they got so consumed with this new life that they forgot that only a regime change can save Iran. The talk about reformists, moderates, and reform from within is all crap. A change in the theocratic system is the only way forward.
I hope the crazy actions of Ahmadinajad will trigger the youth movement and revive it one more time to usher in a second revolution.
I know it is cruel to ask for draconian measures upon the Iranian people, but I am afraid I believe that is the only way to brush off political apathy and trigger some sort of uprising against the entire system and not just Ahmadinajad.
Michael, don't forget our trip to Khan Khalili . And the HUGE doors of Bab Zewaila :)
N.B. When I mentioned the word "liberal", I meant liberal by Egyptian and not American terms. This word means many things in different countries. In Egypt, the word is used to refer to someone who believes in ultimate freedom of speech, expression, religion, free market, and who also believes in the seperation between religion and politics.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Prominent Iraqi politician and Islamic thinker Iyad Jamal Eldin survived a failed assasination attempt in Nasiriyah. An armed grouped attacked his convey injuring a number of his guards.
Iyad Jamal Eldin is a member of Iyad Allawi's coalition. He is also a harsh critic of the current Shia parties and of Iran. Iyad belongs to the Shia school of thought that believes in seperation between religion and politics. Words cannot describe how great this man is and how intelligent his thoughts are. I am so glad he survived and I pray he stays away from harm. People like Iyad Jamal Eldin give me hope. If I were an athiest, people like him would make me think twice.
Source: Sot Al Iraq (Arabic)
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Iraqi insurgents are committing war crimes that undermine any claim they may have to be fighting a legitimate cause, Amnesty International says.
Someone pinch me. Someone shakes me. I can't believe it. Amnesty International is calling the terrorists in Iraq "war criminals". Wow, I must be dreaming!!!
Amnesty acknowledges that many Iraqi citizens agree with the aims of the insurgency, to rid their country of the US-led military presence.
And many many many Iraqis don't. What's your point?
It also stresses that the US and allies have themselves committed grave violations, including killings of civilians and torture of prisoners.
"But abuses committed by one side do not and cannot justify abuses by another," the rights group says.
Yea right. The US has deliberately blew up buses carrying Shia pilgrimages to Najaf! Yea, the US deliberately sent suicide bombers to blow up countless Shia mosques, funerals, and Kurdish wedding parties!!! It's interesting how AI is trying to equate the abuses here.
Instead of your useless good for nothing report, why not make yourself useful and direct these question to the Arab/Muslim world: how can countless suicide bombers arise from your midst and get convinced that killing scores of Shia civilians in Iraq will buy them a ticket to heaven? Why not ask the Arab/Muslim world to pause and ponder about this menace of suicide bombers? Where were they indoctrinated? How they were indoctrinated? What mosques did they go to?
Instead of your useless report, you could have sent a letter to the religious leaders of Mecca asking them to demonstrate against what's happening to THEIR FELLOW MUSLIMS in Iraq?
In short, you could have done anything that might wake us up instead of talking about gulags (and retracting what you said) and equating the US with the murderer head choppers of Iraq.
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian opposition politician Ayman Nour was taken to a prison hospital after his health deteriorated on the eighth day of a hunger strike in protest at being detained on forgery charges, his wife said on Saturday.
Nour, who came a distant runner up in September's presidential election, is a diabetic and doctors said the hunger strike could lead to a coma and eventually death as his blood becomes more acidic, compromising his vital organs.The court is expected to decide on Nour's case on December 24th.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Friday, December 16, 2005
The sun could rise in the west yet you wouldn't see this picture in the MSM.
The sun could go on a vacation tomorrow yet you would never see this picture in the Arab MSM.
PARIS (Reuters) - French police have seized large quantities of military weapons and explosives as part of a probe into an Islamic militant group said to have indirect links to al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, officials said on Thursday.
Investigators believe the gang financed Islamic militancy by staging armed robberies and judicial sources said one suspect had admitted planning one such robbery in Beauvais, north of Paris, in October.
Sarkozy told parliament this week that those detained had indirect links to key al Qaeda leaders and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the organization's leader in Iraq.
France should end its occupation of Iraq NOW. The reason France has these terrorists cells is because French troops are in Iraq!
Thursday, December 15, 2005
US ambassador in Iraq and Senator Joseph Biden visited a polling station in Hilla. This city was the site of a terrible suicide bombing that killed scores of people. Others Senators, Democrats and Republicans, were there as well. I'm glad those senators left the comfort of capitol hill and went to a polling station in Hillah instead of staying behind and whine about the war. It doesn't matter now if you supported this war since its inception or not, all what matters is that a decent outcome emerges out of it. An outcome that would be good for Iraq, the US, and the world.
Iraqi Shi'a Demonstrate Against Al-Jazeera
14 December 2005 -- Thousands of demonstrators protested in Baghdad and some Shi'ite cities today over comments in an Al-Jazeera television discussion program that they said insulted Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The protesters were offended by comments by a guest on Al-Jazeera yesterday who reportedly said al-Sistani should stay out of politics. The comments were reported by the Iraqi satellite channel Al-Furat, which is owned by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shi'ite party belonging to the increasingly fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance coalition.
The guest actually said that Sistani was "Mutakhalef" or "backward".
"Al-Jazeera are terrorists," read one banner above about 5,000 protesters in Baghdad's Shi'ite Al-Sadr City district.
Armed police joined the chanting by about 1,000 marchers in the Shi'ite holy city of Al-Najaf, al-Sistani's base, demanding an apology from Al-Jazeera and shouting slogans against Sunni leaders and Allawi.
The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq which is on the list 555 is clearly using this incident to indirectly attack their major apponent in the elections Iyad Allawi painting him as a "secularist" and a "friend of Sunni Baathists".
It's funny because when Allawi was prime minister he was the one who shut down Al-Jazeera's offices in Iraq. He also sent a letter to Sistani expressing his anger towards the channel and this particular statement.
Al Jazeera said nothing about those demonstrations. When 1o0 Iraqis demonstrate against the US or the Iraqi government, Al Jazeera puts that on prime time. When thousands demonstrate against Al Jazeera, it just turns a deaf ear.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Police Seize Forged Ballots Headed to Iraq From Iran
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 13 - Less than two days before nationwide elections, the Iraqi border police seized a tanker on Tuesday that had just crossed from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots, an official at the Interior Ministry said.
The tanker was seized in the evening by agents with the American-trained border protection force at the Iraqi town of Badra, after crossing at Munthirya on the Iraqi border, the official said. According to the Iraqi official, the border police found several thousand partly completed ballots inside.
And of course the ballots had ticks on the "555" list. The United Iraq Alliance is composed of Shia religious parties that literally take their orders from Iran.
Agents of the Iranian government are believed to be supporting the two main Shiite political parties here - the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Dawa Party -with money and other assistance. Both parties support a strong role for Islam in the Iraqi state; however, compared with the Iranian government itself, which is a strict theocracy, the Iraqi version is relatively moderate.
And in order to "support a strong role for Islam" you have to do anything even if you forged ballots. Can anyone say "hypocricy". It might be possible for corrupt politicians to forge ballots. But to claim that you're ruling by "God's laws" on earth and still forge ballots, that's what I call ugly hypocricy.
Update: Iraq's border chief denies the story. Is he telling the truth or was he pressured by the Shia politicians who are on the 555 list?
Tearing down posters and throwing paint at campaign billboards are daily occurrences in Iraq. The biggest victim of such tactics is Iyad Allawi and his list who is literally competing with the overly religious Shia list 555 (United Iraqi Alliance). Allawi's campaign headquarters were attacked in several southern Shia cities and Allawi himself was attacked in Najaf. Supporters of the list 555 and/or Muqtada Sadr's thugs were most probably the perpetrators of such actions.
It seems that this thing hit Dearbon today! And in case you didn't know, Dearbon is a city in the state of Michigan that has a sizable Iraqi American population. Iyad Allawi's campaigners in Michigan complained that their posters were being torn down and their billboards tainted with paint.
Interesting. It seems the only difference between campaigning in Baghdad and in Dearbon is the snow in Michigan!
Someone on the Iraqi website Iraqi Dewan said the following:
It might be normal for posters of the list 731 (Allawi's list) to get attacked in a poor neighborhood in Basra or in a local market in Naseriyah or on the walls of Sadr city. Yet it is abnormal for such actions to reach Dearbon, Michigan! Simply because we assume that our sons who are living in this city have learned a simple thing from this country (i.e the US) which is freedom of speech.
However, the people should not be blamed. The ones who are to be blamed are the apponents of the list 731 who want to force their views and exert their control over the entire city and on its kind people. By God, this is disgraceful.
The list 555 do have considerable support among Iraqi Americans, especially the zealots among the Shia. Those who are alarmed at the rise of religious parties in Iraq will definitely vote for Allawi.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Thanks to those who called the Saudi embassy when I posted about al-Harbi's bogus charges.
Just a question your royal highness
Saudi Prince Donates $40M to Universities
BOSTON - A Saudi prince believed to be the wealthiest businessman in the Muslim world has donated $40 million for Harvard and Georgetown to expand their Islamic studies programs, the schools announced Monday.
"Bridging the understanding between East and West is important for peace and tolerance," Prince Alwaleed said in a statement issued by both schools.
Dear Prince Alwaleed,
I am one of your many admirers. I do have a question that's bugging me. I am sure Harvard and Georgetown include Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, athiest, etc students. And these students would definitely benefit from your very generous gift. Now my question is: does King Fahd University include a department for the studies of Christianity, Judiasm, and other religions?
If the answer is yes, then awesome. If the answer is no, then I have another question: don't Saudi students studying in Saudi need to have a "bridge between East and West" as well?!
I thought you were supposed to be Aussie as well
I was disgusted at the behavior of those drunk thugs who attacked people just because of their race. They didn't differentiate between the Lebanese thugs who were definitely bothering people there and between Lebanese beach goers and sunbathers. I am glad Australia's media and public took a stand against their neo-nazis.
On a different note, I noticed something that sheds light on the problem of immigrants in Western countries. I am not an immigrant and I would love to become one especially if the shit hit the fan here in Egypt. However, I am sure I would assimilate in the society I just emigrated to. If I discovered that it is hard to do so because of my culture, religion, beliefs, or whatever, I would simply pack up and leave.
I just read about how some Middle Eastern groups in Australia are planning to “retaliate”. One of them said “"The Aussies will feel the full force of the Arabs as one — 'brothers in arms' unite now”
Well, I thought you were supposed to be an Aussie as well. If I emigrated to Australia and later became an Australian citizen, I would definitely feel proud if people back home called me an “Aussie”. So, if you don’t consider yourself an Aussie, what the hell are you doing in Australia?
Monday, December 12, 2005
Iraq now has an American university, it's in Kurdistan. Iraq's president and the US ambassador laid the foundation for the American university in Suleimania. An American university exists in Cairo, Beirut, and Dubai. The one in Beirut is the oldest, established in 1866.
Source: Radio Sawa (Arabic)
Ayman Noor is on a hunger strike. The court's decision on his fate is very soon. I still think he will be aquitted though. If he was sent to jail, then it would be very clear that the government really really wants to destroy him in spite of international pressures.
Source: Radio Sawa (Arabic)
Iraq's Army, Hospitals, and Prisons Vote
Reader kelly just returned from her trip to Egypt. She left a comment and I thought it would be interesting to share it with you.
HI BP,December 11, 2005
I just returned home from your country tonight. I was in Esna the night the election results were called. Our boat had just docked near the main street of town, suddenly there was a lot of noise and people cheering (it sounded like they were happy) it looked like there were several hundred (or thousand) people (men mostly) in the streets. Our boat pilot moved us to a spot closer to the tourist police and we stayed three nights. I was hopeing that the people were not cheering for the MB, it seems like maybe some were? Most of the other people on the boat had no idea what was going on, but since I read your (and other blogs) I knew exactly what was going on, (well at least i knew that it must have had to do with the election. I enjoyed my visit very much, of course I was on a tour seeing all the monuments, but since the Esna locks were closed we had to drive back and forth between Esna and Luxor each day so I was able to at least "see" from the bus, some of the country side, I saw alot of poverty, (also in Cairo and Giza ans Memphis) but mostly the people appeared to be happy, although it is evident that they work very hard all day, everyday, it seems.I think that doing anything to end, or reduce tourism and the money it brings in would be a huge mistake.
Everywere we went there were "bellydancer" dresses and there are many naked statues on the ancient drawings, do these MB not even see value in the ancient history, or do they just hate everything? I want you to know this also, never once did I, or anyone in my group of 16 travel agents, feel fear for our safty, I never felt as though anyone was trying to pick pocket me or steal my handbag, in fact we all felt very safe. HOWEVER, I want you and everyone to know that when got back to the US, while waiting for a connection flight in San Francisco, I put down my beautiful new book, " Silent Images, Women in Pharonic Egypt" for just a moment and looked away, and it was STOLEN, 10 days in Egypt, and nothing was taken, or even attempted, but I was back in the US for less than one hour and i became the victim of a crime. how's that for a nice welcome home??? anyway, i also wanted to point out that everyone was very kind, and the children were wonderful, always smiling and asking, "hello! what's your name".
Even in the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar, I was not afraid, although it was somewhat overwhelming with all the shops and everying trying to get your attention, (lady,lady, you American? Howdy doodee!John Wayne!)I finally learned to say LA'A very firmly, make no eye contact and just keep walking. I did spend all my money, only about 600.00 US total over all the places we went (i am not wealthy by any means and this trip was what is called in our industry a "fam" trip) God willing, I will be back. It is my prayer that God will not allow the MB to gain any of the terrible things they want to do. Egypt is a treasure for the entire world. I go back to work the day af
oh sorry the last part of my last poost did not come thuougy, I was saying that when I go back to work day after tomorrow,I will be starting an agressive program to sell Egypt. If you are American, and you have ever dreamed of going to Egypt my all means you MUST GO AND GO NOW if you wait it may be to late, if the MB get their way the treasure that is Egypt will be lost to the world once again, we must all work to not ever let that happen.
Thanks Kelly and I'm so glad you enjoyed your stay. Do come back.
The MB will not do anything to the ancient monuments if they took over. They are not the Taliban, yet they're definitely not good enough.
Check out Michael Totten's second post on his trip to Cairo.
Beirut bomb kills anti-Syria MP
A prominent Lebanese anti-Syrian member of parliament and journalist has been killed in a car bomb attack in Beirut.
Since the killing of Mr Hariri, Christian and anti-Syrian areas have been the target of at least 14 blasts, says the BBC's Kim Ghattas in Beirut.
Mr Tueni was managing editor of the leading liberal An-Nahar newspaper, and an outspoken critic of Syria's occupation of Lebanon.
I really don't know who is targetting Lebanon's best anti-Syria journalists. I mean, I find it very hard to believe that Syria is the one doing it given the mess it's in. The world's spotlights are on Syria, can it still go on killing such high profile personalities in Lebanon? I have the feeling former pro-Syria Lebanese entities are involved. These folks lost a lot when Syria abandoned Lebanon.
French target 'Islamic network'
Police investigating suspected plans for attacks in France have arrested at least 20 people during raids in and around Paris.
French troops out of Iraq NOW!!
Police investigating suspected plans for attacks in France
I blame Bush, Cheney, and Rove.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Iraqi insurgents urge Sunnis to vote, warn Zarqawi
FALLUJA/RAMADI Iraq (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein loyalists who violently opposed January elections have made an about-face as Thursday's polls near, urging fellow Sunni Arabs to vote and warning al Qaeda militants not to attack.
In a move unthinkable in the bloody run-up to the last election, guerrillas in the western insurgent heartland of Anbar province say they are even prepared to protect voting stations from fighters loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.
Graffiti calling for holy war is now hard to find.
"We want to see a nationalist government that will have a balance of interests. So our Sunni brothers will be safe when they vote," said Falluja resident Ali Mahmoud, a former army officer and rocket specialist under Saddam's Baath party.
"Sunnis should vote to make political gains. We have sent leaflets telling al Qaeda that they will face us if they attack voters."
That's good news. I hope that the participation of Sunnis will allow for a gradual withdrawal of US troops from the Sunni areas. I hope as well that the Sunni insurgents (mainly the Baathists and Saddamists) have reached the conclusion that they can have a share of the pie and not the whole pie. It would be awesome if those Sunni rebels saw the benefit of political participation coupled with a gradual US withdrawal from their areas. As a result, they would join together in protecting their area and eventually turn against the Jihadis.
Whom will the Sunnis vote for?
1.Tawafoq Iraqi Front
The TIF is a coalition of religious parties and individuals. They are expected to garner the largest share of the Sunni vote. They will fare well in the Sunni triangle where religion is a big thing.
He leads the Hewar National Iraqi Front. He is an Arab nationalist Sunni politician. He might not do as well as the TIF, yet he is expected to get a good share of the Sunni vote. I am so glad Mutlag managed to position himself within the Sunni community because he is a secular.
Believe it or not, Iyad Allawi's list does have some support among Sunnis, especially the educated secular Sunnis in large cities like Baghdad and Mosul.
In addition, Sheikh Ghazi El Yawer, the former president and the leader of the Shammar tribe, is on Allawi's list and so some Sunnis will vote for this list because of the presence of Sheikh Yawer.
Lastly, some Sunnis see Allawi as a former Baathist who, unlike the religious Shias, does not want to implement harsh de-baathification. Also, some see him as a bulwark against Iran and its surrogates in Iraq.
Someone sent me an article that had a list of all the “great” discussions raised by Muslim Brotherhood members in parliament.
-Gamal Heshmat raised the issue of 3 books. The controversy the followed lead to the firing of a number of employees at the ministry of culture.
-Gamal Heshmat raised the issue of prevented a woman wearing the Niqab from entering the library of the American University in Cairo.
-Hassan Ibrahim called for the banning of alcohol and condemning whomever drinks it to receive 40 lashes.
-The MB bloc called for refusing US aid.
-The MB bloc raised the issue of the “Best Model” competition that was held in Sharm El Sheikh. Hussein Hassanein said “aren’t we Muslims? Isn’t Egypt an Islamic country? … naked bodies in Egypt and we are not ashamed of it!”.
-The MB bloc objected to Egypt’s joining of the Children Rights Agreement because this accord allow adoption which is forbidden in Islam.
-The MB members accused the government of limiting the teaching of religion and Arabic language in schools. They also raise their objection to the notion of “religious reform”.
-MB members calls for banning the importation of meat from the US and Europe because the cattle might have not been slaughtered according to the Islamic law (the Muslim Kosher)
-Ali Laban calls for gender segregation in schools.
-Mahmoud Moursi wanted to question the minister of culture because he permitted his ministry to establish a modern dancing school in Egypt.
-The MB bloc called for banning “kissing in movies” and naked statues and models in art schools. They also were against pop concerts in Egypt.
-Now, this is my favorite: An MB member called for the banning of Barbie dolls!
The MB bloc discussed all that while they were only 17 members in the parliament. Now that they are 88, I’m really looking forward to the awesome stuff they’ll raise in our new parliament!
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Stay tuned for his coming posts.
Friday, December 09, 2005
MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Spanish authorities have arrested seven people suspected of financing the activities of Islamic terror groups, a Civil Guard spokesman says.
The raids took place in the Costa del Sol region of southern Spain in the cities Malaga, Torremolinos and Marbella.
Spain should withdraw from Iraq NOW!
Remember when Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq after the Madrid bombings? How do you say appeasement in Spanish?
Suicide-bomber bicyclist kills seven, wounds dozens in Bangladesh
NETROKONA, Bangladesh - A suicide bomber on a bicycle blew himself up in a crowded Bangladesh street, killing seven and wounding dozens in the latest attack authorities blamed on extremists wanting to create an Islamic state.
Hundreds of people had gathered on the narrow street on Thursday in the northern town of Netrokona after police safely detonated another bomb, found abandoned in a building, when the suicide blast sent shrapnel ripping through the air.
Among the injured was another bomber, who police said failed to detonate his explosives.
Bangladesh out of Iraq NOW!
See, terror is all because of US foreign policy!!
Thursday, December 08, 2005
"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them," Pinter said.
Interesting words, especially since they come from a person who supports Slobodan Milosevic's freedom:
His decision to lend his name to the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, a loose coalition of leftwingers, human rights activists and Serb sympathizers formed in March, follows years of criticism of what he sees as the west's selective morality in the Balkans and its "persecution" of Serbs.
Although he believes that Mr Milosevic was "ruthless and savage", he has long argued that he has been unfairly demonized as the "butcher of the Balkans". He blames his former vice-president, the ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj - for much of the ethnic cleansing.
He thinks that he was "ruthless and savage" yet he was "unfairly demonized". I don't get it, how can he be both?
The problem with overly leftist Europeans is that they will oppose anything the US does. And I mean anything whether this thing is in Iraq or Yoguslavia. Besides, who cares about a bunch of European leftists rewarding each other?
A suicide bomber jumped on a bus full of Iraqi shias and blew himself up. He massacred over 30 people.
Will we see demonstrations in Cairo tomorrow? No. Will Al Jazeerah show us gruesome pictures of those Iraqi civilians over and over and over again? No. Will those meeting up in Mecca head to the Kabaa and stage a sit in there? No. Will the Arab/Muslim world move just as it moved during the Palestinian intifada and when the Iraq war started? No.
The third round of the parliament elections ended yesterday. 8 people were killed as the government tried to curb back Muslim Brotherhood supporters in an attempt to hault the organization's tsunami. It worked. The MB only gained 11 seats during this round raising their final seats number to 87. The NDP managed to win 2 thirds of the seats and so retain its control over the parliament.
I am surprised that the MB didn't surpass the 100 seats. It seems the government didn't want them to pass this symbolic number. Now the MB have almost 20% of the parliament seats. We'll still have to wait and see what awesome topics these 87 MPs will discuss!
In reality, the NDP didn't win 2 thirds of the seats. It won far less. However, many independents tend to join the NDP once they get elected and therefore increase the parties share of the parliament.
The secular opposition parties only managed to win 3.4% of the seats. What a disaster.
When I conveyed my shock at the elections results, several readers told me not to worry since elections allow for correcting previous voters’ mistakes. In other words, if the Muslim Brotherhood reached power one day, the Egyptian people can always vote them out if they didn’t approve their performance.
I am afraid this reasoning does nothing to ease my doubts and my concerns. The logic behind this notion is theoretically correct, yet I am very skeptical towards its practical implementation in a country like mine. Here is why.
One: The Egyptian people never ruled themselves and they rarely revolted or changed their rulers. Ever since the time of the ancient Egyptians, Egypt was treated as the private property of whomever ruled over it.
Take a look at the present day. The people already reached the end of their rope yet I don’t expect a mass revolt or a revolution. I believe the majority of Egyptians are preoccupied with meeting their daily needs and living a decent life. Now, what guarantees that the people will turn against the MB if they jumped to power and installed a theocracy? Future generations might hate the Egyptian theocracy just as they are hating the secular dictatorship today, yet if history is a yardstick, the possibility of internal regime change is so slim.
Two: I based my assumption above on the fact that the MB will install a total theocracy upon reaching power. This could not be true. The MB is an organization that learns. They have been around for 80 years and managed to coexist with the existing status quo until they finally became the most powerful political force in the country. So, most probably, the MB learned from the Iranian, Sudanese, and Afghani experience and they will not repeat their same mistake. Instead, they will rule by what I call “Khatami Style” or “Islamist Light”.
Khatami is the former “moderate” president of Iran who introduced considerable personal freedoms that weren’t there before the masses voted for him. I consider him to be a curse on Iran! He provided “breathing space” to the youth who eventually got busy with listening to pop music, polishing their nails, and covering only half their heads, yet forgot that this system should be uprooted and not accommodated.
The MB could do the same. They could rule by an “Islamist Light” system. They can introduce religious laws that will curb freedoms yet they won’t be bad enough to trigger a mass revolt against the system. The MB will be bad for me, someone who blogs while listening to Frank Sinatra, yet they won’t be bad enough for the poor masses who accommodated Mubarak and is now accommodating the MB.
Three: If the MB managed to reach power, the first thing they will do is change the constitution and the laws of the country. They will reshape the country’s sociopolitical structure according to their understanding of religion yet they will still run the country “democratically”. In other words, elections will still be held provided that all candidates operate within the system that the MB has created. And again, we have no guarantees that this system can be changed.
I might be wrong in regards of the above three points, yet I believe they stem from the existing facts on the ground and very possible scenarios that could happen in the future. I am very pessimistic towards the future of this country and I won’t draw a pretty face just because I am blogging. All what I can do now is to continue speaking my mind, to continue offering possible solutions, and eventually hope for the best.
Why the Muslim Brotherhood Fared Well? - Part 1
What should be Done Now? - Part 2
One of Saddam's seven co-defendants lashed out at conditions of his own detention, saying guards offered only "the worst brands" of cigarettes.
Saddam complained about shower and exercise facilities. And this guy complains about bad cigarettes. Ummm, I suggest moving their cells to the JW Mariott Baghdad. This torture of Iraq's former rulers should end!
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Denmark’s offensive Jewish cookies
A group of Danish Muslims refuse to eat traditional “Jewish” cookies because they feel offended by the name.
According to the daily Danish newspaper B.T., Ole Poulsen, head of the public food consumer department said that the Muslim refusal to buy the cookies could have an effect on sales.
"If this will be the case, then we would be obliged to do something about it," he declared.
Jewish cookies, which are made with cinnamon and hazelnuts and actually have nothing particularly Jewish about them, are very popular in Denmark during the pre-Christmas period.
Denmark’s chief rabbi, Bent Lexner, said that he did not see any problem in a name change. “There is nothing Jewish in it and I wouldn’t mind another name, but I think that it would be better to educate Muslims to respect the culture of the majority in Denmark, if they want the majority to respect their culture".
I believe Denmark should kick out one of its Danish citizens who refused to eat the cookies and take me instead. I eat Jewish cookies, Muslim cookies, Christian cookies, and Zorastrian cookies. However, I don't like Hindu cookies that much because they're hot with Indian spices. Well, I'll still eat them out of tolerance though.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
"Saddam also complained that he had no fresh clothes and had been deprived of shower and exercise facilities. "This is terrorism," he said."
Someone holds me. I'm laughting so hard and about to fall down!
Monday, December 05, 2005
Cartoon 1 (on the right):
A Jordanian student at the American University in Beirut (AUB) observes the March 2005 cedar revolution of Lebanon. Pretty Lebanese babes carrying signs that read: Opposition, Independence, Syria Out.
The student says: I love the opposition, I wish to join the opposition in Jordan.
The student goes back to his country. He discovers that its opposition is a lot different from the one in Lebanon. There ain’t any babes in the Jordanian opposition. Instead, the opposition is composed of …..well I think it’s obvious.
The guy says: Forget it. I backtrack all what I said. Forget that I even opened this subject.
"I demand to be treated the same way I treated MY prisoners"
Sunday, December 04, 2005
What should be done now? This is the question that the regime and the secular opposition parties should be asking themselves.
The Muslim Brotherhood might be the strongest and most organized opposition entity in Egypt for many years to come. They might still be the "black horse" in many of our future elections. Yet inaction is not an option. Something must be done.
The National Democratic Party & the Government
The NDP (Mubarak's party) should meet behind closed doors and say this sentence over and over again: the Egyptian people hate us because we messed up their lives big time, we need to change, we need to change!
The NDP should finally realize that Egyptians are not happy with their life. They are tired of unemployment, tired of corruption, tired of prices that increase when the dollar goes up yet never decrease when the dollar goes down, tired of how the police treat them, tired of how their humanity gets raped by government employees, tired of seeing foreigners being treated more humanely just because they own a foreign passport, tired of many other things. The NDP should simply wake up to the conclusion that they messed up and something must be done about it.
I believe that the NDP do contain good entities who can rejuvenate the party and connect it to the dissatisfied masses. I believe that the only positive thing that these elections produced is the possibility that the NDP will reassess and criticize itself. I won't mind at all if Gamal Mubarak, President Mubarak's son, was the one who lead this rebirth process provided that the party's old guards will give us all a break and back off. The Egyptian people are not asking for much. They are asking for a decent life. They are asking for a piece of bread they'll eat with dignity and not with exhaustion and humiliation. I don't believe it will be that difficult for the NDP, the ruling party, to work towards that goal.
Another thing. I am hoping that the regime will finally realize it needs to lift its hands off the secular and liberal (liberal in the Egyptian sense) parties. The choice we have today is between the despised ruling party and an ideologically crazy religious organization because secular liberal parties don’t have the freedom to operate and reach out to the masses. The ruling party has the media and the government establishments. The MB have the mosques and their tremendous network of social services. The secular parties have nothing. It’s not fair!
The Opposition Parties
These parties need to wake up and start going down the street. I am not sure how many years they need before they make an impact on Egyptian politics, but they better move today than tomorrow.
Faithful members of these parties should revolt against the corrupt and dictatorial leaders who are ruling the parties the same way the NDP is ruling Egypt. These leaders crippled the parties and converted them into private fiefdoms.
The United States
The U.S should understand that democracy is more than a ballot box. Besides its interest in Egypt’s elections, the US should pressure the Egyptian government to allow moving space for secular parties. That should be the first priority on US’ agenda. The regime will not do that by itself. No one digs his own grave.