Sunday, January 30, 2005
UPDATE: This is powerful. Pass it to others.
I have nothing else to say except that I feel very humbled for what millions of Iraqis did today. I bow in recognition for what happened today. I believe that not only us the non-Iraqi Arabs should learn from what Iraqis did, but all democracies around the world should look at Iraqis and learn something. All those who are taking their democracy and elections for granted should pause a little and learn. Behold a people who defied suicide bombers and mortar attacks and left their houses and went to the polling stations by the MILLIONS. Today I admit Iraqis are made of steel and I feel so proud of them and I feel honored to share this region with such people.
As we said before, today’s elections are only the beginning. Suicide bombers, car bombers, and terrorists will still be with us tomorrow morning. Innocent people will die tomorrow morning as they died today. Political problems will not vanish. However, today’s baby step had to be taken and it was taken by a proud nation determined to turn over the page of tyranny and fear.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Did you ever see someone weep as he is casting his vote? Well, you've just seen one. An old Iraqi man weeps before putting the ballot in the box. For how long did this grandpa wait for this day?
Friday, January 28, 2005
I was going to write a post about my expectations regarding Iraq's elections. I admit that I didn't have the energy to write it. I feel it won't be appropriate or even useful.
This coming Sunday, Iraqis from all over Iraq will head to the polls. This will take the first baby step towards a more decent future. Many will return home safely, others might not. Yet the journey to the polling stations must be taken. It was taken by all those who wanted a more pluralistic and freer future. Sunday January 30th will not be the end of the tunnel; it will be its beginning.
We have talked and discussed much. I believe it is time for us to rest and leave it between the hands of the Almighty. In the meantime, you can do something great for Iraq: you can pray.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
The story exploded because of 3 reasons. First, we all know that sex sells! Second, the young man is a famous actor born into a family of famous movie stars. Third, he is associated with Amr Khaled, a rising Muslim preacher who wears a suit and tailors his messages to Egypt’s upper class. Khaled lives in London now after the government presumably forced him out of the country after being alarmed from his rising popularity and influence over Egypt’s most critical segment of the society.
Views on this story vary considerably here. Some side with the girl saying that she was a victim. Others decry her immoral behavior. In our Eastern countries, more blame tends to fall on the girl’s shoulders (you know, the Pharisees brought the adulteress to Jesus and left the adulterer behind). Fans of Ahmed El Feshawy say that this was a set up aimed at tarnishing his reputation. Other conspiracy minded Egyptians claim that the government was involved in this scandal to indirectly hit Amr Khaled and other young hip Muslim preachers who are becoming very popular with Egyptian youth.
I believe we will never know the truth! Ahmed refused to have a DNA test when the baby girl arrived last October citing that he is not the husband and so he won’t submit to the test. I believe that somehow the couple will reach a deal whether the girl turned out to be his daughter or not. In addition, Ahmed might have decided to continue through the long judiciary process because he knows that he might get out of this scandal one way or another. I don’t know, I might be wrong, but I just can’t believe that we will know the truth so easily.
Monday, January 24, 2005
Today I woke up a little bit late since I took Sunday off from work because of the Eid. I grabbed the paper and sat down to read it while having my morning coffee. They had a report about next week's Iraqi elections on double spread pages. The main headline said: Iraq's Elections, No Legality, No Authenticity, No Democracy. There was a huge picture of Ayad Allawi sitting on a throne. Bush's face was above the throne and his hands were holding it. The picture meant that Bush will eventually enthrone "his candidate" on Iraq's throne no matter what the elections results turn out to be.
I got furious and did something that I really wanted to do for a long time. I jumped out of my table, grabbed the phone, and called the paper! I asked for Mrs. MN, the reviewer of this report.
GM: hello, can I speak to Mrs. MN?
Operator: Just a second.
GM: yes, can I speak to Mrs. MN?
Man: I am afraid she's not in the office at the moment, who is with me?
GM: I just wanted to talk to her
Man: Do you have a comment on today's page sir?
GM: Yes. In today's report the headline said that Iraq's elections won't be democratic or authentic or legal. My question is: why was Palestine's election considered democratic, authentic, and legal by your respected newspaper? Why the double standards?
Man: So do you agree with this election?
GM: It is not me who agrees, it is the majority of Iraqis. The majority of Shias, Kurds, and many Sunnis want this election. My question is: why treat Iraq differently? Palestine is under Israeli occupation and your newspaper said absolutely nothing about the legality or the authenticity of the elections there.
Man: Oh sir, we just looked at the issue from a western point of view. We said that America will install its own ruler.
GM: Well, why look at it from a western point of view, why not from an Iraqi point of view!!!! Iraq's major Shia religious establishment is behind this election and they want it. It's not a matter of America wanting it or not, it's a matter of who wants it in Iraq. The Shias, who are a majority, all Kurds, and many Sunnis, want this election. Who are we to tell them what they should want???
Man: So you do you think will win? Allawi?
GM: I don't think Allawi will be a big winner because many are disappointed with the performance of his government. However, it is very clear that Sistani's list will win big time.
Man: Well, please give me your name and phone number and I will pass your comments to Mrs. MN. Next Sunday we will have another report on the same topic. We might call you to get your insights.
GM: I'd be happy to do so. Thanks a million for giving me your time.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
You can view the election ad I mentioned in the previous post from here. You can also watch other ads and read their english transcripts.
5 out of Iraq's 18 governorates will be insecure for January 30th elections. Below is Iraq's "threat codes"
Sever: Salah al Din, Al Anbar
Worrisome: Baghdad, Diyala, Ninewa (where Mosul is)
Stable: Basra, Najaf, Thi-Qar, Wassit, Qadissiya, Missan, Babel, Karbala, Muthana, Tameem
Very Stable: Irbil, Dahuk, Sulaymaniyah
You will notice that the 5 dangerous governorates have significant Sunni populations in them. It will take time until major Sunni players suddenly realize that they are not the monopoly in Iraq. I think the elected National Assembly, with its Shia majority, must reach out to Sunnis.
The "Sunni problem" is very complicated because of 2 reasons. First, the Sunni Baathists and aristocracy lost power and they simply want it back. I am not sure whether they will settle for a compromise. Second, the Sunni barbaric animalistic Wahabis/Salafist will never sit with the Shias on the same table and share the country. In other words, you can't negotiate with those guys.
Yesterday one of those animals packed an ambulance with explosives and rammed the vehicle into a Shia wedding party. The bride and the groom were killed along with scores of other people. What kind of person will sacrifice his own life just to kill a number of Shias??!!
Was I surprised when that happened? No. Not longtime ago, a person in Pakistan who adheres to the same ideology as his buddy in Iraq packed his own vehicle with explosives and slammed it into a Shia mosque. So, killing Shias appears to be one of the Sunnis Wahabi/Salafists favorite shortcuts to the path that leads to the virgins in paradise.
Will this elections cause civil war? The answer depends upon the following:
-The level of attacks against Shias in Iraq
-Will Shias suddenly say "we had enough" and carry the gun?
-How will the new Shia dominated national assembly reach out to Sunni Baathists and tribal Sheikhs and how much leverage do these 2 entities have over the Wahabists/Salafists?
-If Sunni Baathists and other prominent Sunnis accepted a compromise, will the Salafists/Wahabists abandon the jihad against America and against the expected Shia dominated government?
Friday, January 21, 2005
I found this picture on an Iraqi news website. The ballot box with the tick on tick on top represent "The Palestinian General Elections". The ballot box with the wrong sign on top represents "The Iraqi General Elections". The author of the article asks the question: Why do Arabs and their media treat the Palestinian elections very positively, while they are passive and negative with the Iraqi elections?
Thursday, January 20, 2005
I remember last year I asked my readers about how to download the ads of the US elections. I said that I just love to watch political ads. A reader in the comments column wrote "I can't believe you like those ads, they pollute our TV channels".
Now I know why this reader said so. The TV channels I watch on satellite, whether Iraqi or non-Iraqi, are now "polluted" with the Iraq's elections ads!! However, I still love to see those ads. In fact I downloaded some of them from here.
As far as I know, the ads are divided into 3 groups: ads educating Iraqis about the elections, ads encouraging them to vote, and ads from Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's own campaign. I think Allawi is extensively using both Iraqi and non-Iraqi satellite channels to reach Iraqis voters outside Iraq who are more secular and might prefer his list than Sistani's. Also, those channels are widely viewed in Iraq as well. Ahmad Chalabi who is on Sistani's list complained that Iyad Allawi is using Iraq's channels as publicity pundits because of his position in the government.
I especially love the ads that encourage Iraqis to vote. They are very emotional. Tears filled my eyes when I saw one of them. The ad opens to an old Iraqi man walking between ruined buildings. He looks like a university dean or professor. Then a group of young men wearing ski masks and carrying guns appear from behind a building and block his path. The old man looks at them. Then a young lady (probably his daughter) comes up and stands behind the man while clutching to his arm. Then multitudes of people appear and line up behind the man in a act of defiance. The young men wearing the ski masks turn their eyes to the ground and run away. The screen cuts showing someone pulling down a poster threatening Iraqis who will vote.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Several people emailed me this story and asked for my comment. Well, it is a very disturbing story indeed.
I really do not want to jump into conclusions and say that the murder was religiously inspired. The investigations are still underway and I believe we have to wait and see the results.
However, New Jersey's large Coptic community are not willing to wait and they are already blaming radical Muslims. They claim that this might be a possibility given the fact that the father used to enter into very heated debates with Muslims over the Paltalk.com program and he got threats for that. In addition, they say the killers cut the wrist of his older daughter. She had the traditional tattoo of a Coptic cross on it.
A Christian friend told me that he heard the funeral mass live over PalTalk. It was in the murdered family's church in New Jersey. He told me that emotions were running high during the funeral procession. A local Muslim cleric tried to enter the church to pay tribute to the family but the congregation roared. I feel so sorry for him.
This incident proves the level of Muslim-Christian tensions in Egypt. It seems that the emotional high fever reached America's east coast as well. I am very worried about the future really. The Christians are getting very extremist because their fellow Muslims have their own share of extremism as well. I believe the Christians feel threatened from the rising level of Muslim extremism in Egypt and their inability to feel that they are equal citizens.
It wasn't like that 50 years ago, not during the monarchy nor even during the Nasser era. When Anwar Sadat came to power, he had to offset the power of his predecessor remnants and of the communist and so he unleashed another power that Nasser brutally suppressed: the political Islamists. As a result of the rise of political Islam and the lack of Coptic rights, Christians became very self-conscious and here we are today.
Monday, January 17, 2005
I will never forget an article written by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman written right after the Afghanistan war started. Friedman started his article by asking his readers: do you want to know why we are hated in the Middle East? Then he instructed them to read the recent column written by Ibrahim Nafai, the editor in chief of the largest newspaper in the Middle East, Al Ahram.
Friedman was correct. I read the article as soon as the paper arrived on my breakfast table and my jaws literally dropped. Ibrahim Nafai, one of Egypt’s and the Arab world’s most reputed journalists, accused the USA of dropping Genetically Modified Food on the poor Afghans and claimed that this type of food is poisonous and hazardous to humans!
Nafai read Friedman article and then wrote a response that made him look as if he was a 12 year old boy caught by his mom touching his peter.
Now, I have discussed media biases before, whether in the Arab world or the West. Why am I bringing this up? Well, today I logged on Al Hayat newspaper website and found this photo.
The caption beneath the photo says so in Arabic: Iraq boys pelt British soldier with stones. Now, if such a large number of boys are throwing stones at the British soldier, I bet he wouldn’t be standing like that on his vehicle. There is in fact a stone that missed its target, however, we do not know why this stone was thrown. If I went to a rural area in Egypt, I’ll find kids running after my car, someone will throw a stone or something at me, you know, the normal kids stuff. When I was a kid I used to throw cubes of ice on passersby from my window.
Anyway, let us assume those Basra kids were angry with the British soldier and they threw him with a SINGLE stone as we clearly in the picture, why didn’t the paper also publish these photos that were taken by the SAME PHOTOJOURNALIST ON THE SAME DAY: this and this and this
The answer to this question is that even though Al Hayat is a very sensible and professional newspaper, some of its employees just cannot get rid of the anti-Americanism that runs through their veins and report the full picture as it is in Iraq.
I remember a story that happened with Abdul Rahman Al Rashed, Al Sharq Al Awsat’s former editor in chief and the current manager of Al Arabiyah news channel. Al Rashed said: when I was the editor in chief of the newspaper, an employee wanted to publish a photo of an American soldier talking with an Iraqi girl on the street. Do you know what his caption was? “American soldier solicits sex from an Iraqi girl” If I didn’t personally see this picture, the photo and its caption would had been published in my newspaper".
Sunday, January 16, 2005
I bumped into an Iraqi I don’t know on the internet yesterday. Here is a rough transcript of our conversation. I’ll call my friend AB.
GM: Hi, are you Iraqi?
GM: Great, whom will you vote for?
AB: I will not vote. They are all against my people.
GM: who are they?
AB: The people in this elections, they are agents of America and Israel.
GM: Well, I think that Israel is much better for Iraq than Syria and Iran!
AB: Where are you from?
AB: Egyptians are Sunnis, I am a Sunni too and all those people in this election are against Sunnis. See what they did to our people in Fallujah.
GM: Allow me to disagree with you. Those who are against Sunnis are those Baathist/Wahabi/Salafi terrorists who are killing their fellow Sunnis just because they want to vote. Many Sunnis want to vote but they are afraid lest those criminals kill them. As for Fallujah, I do not blame the Americans or the Iraqi government for what happened, but I blame the Baathist/Salafist/Wahabi terrorists who turned this city into a base to kill fellow Iraqi policemen and slaughter innocent people. Sunnis should not repeat the mistake that Shias did over 80 years ago.
AB: What did the Shias do 80 years ago?
GM: Right after the 1920 revolution, Shias decided to stay away from the political process, they boycotted the whole thing. As a result, they were kept from power until the day Iraq was liberated from Saddam. Do you want Sunnis to fall into this trap? Now the terrorists want you to stay at home on January 30, will you listen to them? The vast majority of Iraqis believe in this process and it is time for Sunnis to know that their total control over Iraq is over and they have no other option but to share Iraq with the Shias and Kurds.
AB: You know, you convinced me to vote. I live in a Shia dominated area and I will vote.
GM: Good. It is good that you live in a Shia area because it will be more secure.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Everyone here is proud of the Palestinians. They managed to conduct an OK election under difficult circumstances. Even though radical groups such as Hamas and Jihad disputed the results (so that they can be free to kill Israelis and blackmail Abu Mazen's efforts), the Egyptian media rightfully showered the Palestinians with praise.
The Egyptian media and intellectual establishment are not the only ones happy, the UN is happy, the EU is happy, the Arab League is happy, and Jimmy Carter is happy as well.
Yesterday I picked up an Egyptian newspaper that is ferociously anti-America and read this headline: Palestinian Democracy Under Occupation. The newspaper wanted to say that despite the Israeli occupation, the Palestinians managed to carry out a good election. This is so interesting because the same praise is never and will never be directed towards Iraqis.
The majority of Iraqis will participate in the elections, the vast majority of Iraqis believe in this process, and many average Sunnis will stay home on January 30 not because they are boycotting the elections but because they are afraid lest Baathists/Salafists/Wahabi animals plant a car bomb into their polling line, yet our Arab media still disputes the Iraqi elections and prophecy that America will manipulate the results and install its "puppet".
Why are Iraqis treated differently from their Palestinian counterparts? Because America is involved in Iraq and America has the same interests as the average Iraqi on the street. If George W. Bush woke up tomorrow morning and demanded that the Iraqi elections be cancelled, all Arab journalists and "intellectuals" will suddenly support Iraq's elections!
Palestine is under occupation and Iraq is under "occupation", why accept the elections in Palestine and ridicule the one in Iraq?
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
I was delighted by the landslide victory of Mahmoud Abbas or Abu Mazen in Palestine last Sunday. The world was right to smell optimism by this victory. I always liked Abbas because of his belief in nonviolence and his role in the Oslo peace accords.
Abu Mazen’s biggest challenge will not be in negotiating a peace agreement with Israel as much as it will be in taming the endless factions and corruption (i.e. Arafat’s heritage) that rule the Palestinian areas. His challenge will be in convincing horrendous groups such as Hamas to drop the gun and join the nonviolent bandwagon towards the state of Palestine. This won’t be easy because convincing Hamas to stop terror is just like convincing McDonald’s to stop serving hamburgers. Hamas lives on its terror activities which give it its political points and playing cards. In addition, it will be hard to convince Syria and Iran to halt Hamas activities because those two countries also want to maintain their “Hamas/Jihad” playing cards on the Palestine Poker Table.
I just hope Abu Mazen can make the life of the average Palestinian better and I pray that the US and Israel will help him in this endeavor. Only then can Abu Mazen gain credibility and trust among his people and pull them towards his vision and agenda. I just hope this new leadership can change the image of the Palestinian from the suicide bomber to someone who wants to live a decent life with a decent future.
Israel must take steps towards helping Abu Mazen. Releasing prisoners is a good start. The key to solving this conflict is to make the majority of both parties believe in the peace process one more time.
Monday, January 10, 2005
I just cannot believe what a number of US soldiers did on Iraq’s streets. The situation exceeds what happened in Abu Ghraib to a number of prisoners by a number of US soldiers. I can’t believe how low the American soldiers can reach and why the media did not adequately make a huge bomb out of this terrible story.
Recent reports coming from Iraq indicate that US soldiers lured Iraqi girls as young as 12 years old into having sex with them. They manipulated those kids by offering them American made cookies and single dollar bills. Several preteen girls reported how they were forced to have sex with the soldiers in exchange for those goodies. It is a shame that the worldwide media is not exploding these stories into the face of the Pentagon. For how long will America be shielded from the holy watchful eyes of the mass media.
What happened was so appalling and…………………………what? What? I can hear someone telling me that I’m not reporting the true story. Oh I am sorry friends. The location of the scandal is not Iraq but Congo, and the perpetrators were not US soldiers but UN peacekeepers.
I apologize for the misinformation. However, I did mention one correct thing which was that the media treated this sex for food scandal as if it was reporting a car accident that an 80 years old Indian man had in Calcutta India. Well, I shouldn’t be that harsh on the media, after all, the UN has “moral authority” remember!
US soldiers mistreat a number of prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison ...PRICELESS
US soldier shoots an injured insurgent…………… PRICELESS
UN soldiers sexually exploit preteen Congo girls --------WORTHLESS (who cares about black African girls anyway!)
Sunday, January 09, 2005
I watched the Uday/Al Jazeera tape last Friday on Al Hurra. The from what I heard, there were many such meetings between Uday and Mohammed Jasem, the former AJ manager who was fired by the Emir of Qatar right after the Iraq war (i.e right after the dirt came out of the closet)
Al Arabiyyah, AJ's rival and a more moderate channel, discussed the tape on one of its programs that deals with American affrais. The issue was presented as the relationship between the US and Arab media and not as a cozy meeting between the Middle East's most popular news channel and the son of the Middle East's most brutal dictator. This is the reason why I wanted an Iraqi channel to broadcast this tape.
One of the guests on the Al Arabiyah program mentioned that we need to know the context of this meeting. Well, that is very interesting since up until today I am waiting to hear the "context of this meeting"!
Thursday, January 06, 2005
No, I didn't lose my mind. Today is Christmas eve for Egypt's Christians and the Christians of the East. Their Christmas is on January 7. I don't know much about what caused this difference. All what I know is that Christians around the world celebrated Christmas at the same time. A king called Gregory abopted a new calendar that eastern Christian didn't adopt.
Today millions of Christians in Egypt go to the Christmas mass in church. January 7 became a national holiday 3 years ago. The main mass is broadcasted live to Egyptian national TV and Radio. Government officials, prominent people, and foreign delegates attend this mass that is conducted by Pope Shenouda. Gamal Mubarak (the Prez's son) also attends both the Christmas and Easter masses.
Joke of the day
Since it's Christmas here, I'd like to tell you a real joke. A students was harassed by his professor for writing an essay that praised the founding fathers of the USA. Well, this student is not an ultraconservative, right winger, redneck, etc.. He is not even an American! He is a Kuwaiti
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
3 famous Egyptian personalities want President Mubarak’s job next September. Egypt’s top women rights defender Nawal El Saadawi, democracy and human rights advocate Saad El Din Ibrahim, and a businessman announced that they would challenge Muabark this coming September. The funny thing is that what they are doing is totally against the constitution. The constitution states that the candidates can run for office only after a sitting president fails in the national referendum. In addition, the candidate must receive two thirds of the votes in the Egyptian parliament. And since the NDP, Mubarak’s party, controls about 95% of the parliament, no one from Egypt’s 70 million population has a chance.
Well, what do I think about all this? First, the 3 “dreaming candidates” announced their bid just to rock the boat. Critics of the government demand that the constitution should be amended to allow more than one candidate to run at the same time.
Well, very few Egyptians are paying attention to these recent developments. In fact, very few do even participate in these referendums. They are busy putting food on the table.
Monday, January 03, 2005
Yesterday I was the last one to leave my office. When I finished work I switched off my computer and packed my stuff and got ready to leave. Two of the office boys that work in my floor entered my office with a request.
“Mr., show us the Abu Ghraib pictures on the internet please” they demanded.
“Sorry folks, I just switched off my computer and I’m ready to leave” I answered
“Please, please, switch it back on. We always get you your morning coffee on time, now do us this little favor” they said.
I switched my computer on and logged on to my blog. I showed them the picture of the terrorists who shot 2 Iraqi election workers on Haifa street in Baghdad.
“Here” I said.
“This is not the Abu Ghraib pictures” they said in a dismayed way.
“What do you see? Who is this man with the gun and who is he killing?” I asked.
“He is an Iraqi. He is killing another Iraqi from a different race. Now show us the Abu Ghraib pictures” one of them answered.
“He is a terrorist and he is killing 2 election workers who are organizing an election that the vast majority of Iraqis want. To me, this picture is much more important than Abu Ghraib because in this picture we can see 2 terrorists trying to destroy the future of millions upon millions of Iraqis” I answered back.
I switched off my computer and left my office. They were upset and told me that they won’t make me coffee tomorrow morning.
My friends are innocent. They are victims of a crazy media that publishes endless Abu Ghraib pictures yet treat those 2 Iraqi heroes who gave up their lives on Haifa street as 2 street cats that got crushed by a speedy car in downtown Cairo.
Sunday, January 02, 2005
The respected pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat said today that it saw a video showing Saddam Hussein son Uday in a meeting with the former general manager of Al Jazeerah Mohammed Jasim Alali! In the tape that was taped in 2000, Uday commented on the positive performance of the channel and Mohammed Jasim responded by telling him that “this is your channel” It is worth mentioning that the Emir of Qatar fired Mohammed Jasim right after the Iraq war!!!!
Uday also mentioned the name of Ahmed Mansour, the famous Muslim Brotherhood members who works in Al Jazeera. Mansour was the spear head of Al Jazeera’s propaganda during the first Fallujah invasion last April.
Al Sharq Al Awsat saw the video tape at the US sponsored Arabic news channel Al Hurra. Al Hurra will show the tape in its entirety next Thursday.
A lot was mentioned in Al Sharq Al Awsat’s report today. I just cannot mention everything here. I hope the western media picks up this mega story and reports it. If you can understand Arabic, you can read the full article here
I do have a comment on this issue. I really don’t want Al Hurra to be the channel that shows this video. Al Hurra is viewed with immense skepticism in the Arab world even though I personally believe that it improved a lot as far as professional journalism is concerned. In addition, many Arabs will think that this video was fabricated at Langley, VA (i.e the CIA). If there was a channel that really ought to show this tape, it is any channel in Iraq. I really recommend giving this tape to Al Fayhaa or Al Iraqiya so that they broadcast it inside Iraq. Foreign channels will pick the story from them. This tape was found in Iraq, it is an Iraqi property.
Are we witnessing the end of the radical gang that controls Al Jazeera? I hope so. See I would be very disappointed if Al Jazeera went off air. I don’t want that. I just want a “regime change” of Al Jazeera’s top management a la Al Arabiya.