The Big Pharaoh: 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005
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Monday, February 28, 2005

Egypt’s Elections!

I still cannot comprehend what compelled president Mubarak to take this step. Yesterday the Egyptian media went on a crusade to inflate the president and comment on how history will remember him as the first president who introduced a new way of electing the country’s president. Even though Mubarak’s decision was a huge surprise, I think many outside factors forced his hand.

Before this decision was announced, Mubarak and his party ruled out the fact that the constitution can be amended to allow more than one candidate to run for office. His party, the National Democratic Party, summoned nearly all legal opposition parties and they reached a decision to postpone the opposition’s demand for this amendment. Mubarak also arrested the liberal Ayman Nour 2 days after the former met with Madeline Albright in Cairo. Albright was on a fact finding mission on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations. So what forced Mubarak?

Mubarak is a very smart politician who knows where the wind is blowing. He is not stupid like the dictator of Damascus and Beirut. Mubarak knows very well that Bush has a very stubborn head and he is bloody serious about reform in the Middle East. Condi Rice’s decision to cancel a trip to Egypt was another indication that the US will not play by pre-911 rules.

He is also very sensitive to foreign media. Whenever the Washington Post or the New York Times writes an editorial that is critical of the Egyptian government, state employed journalists start to babble about how the “Jewish Zionist lobby forced the Zionist owned New York Times to publish an anti-Egypt editorial”! After the arrest of Ayman Nour, the western media aimed at Egypt and this made him uncomfortable. We’ll still have to wait and see if Nour will be released. In addition, the western media and Arab satellite channels have focused on the small demonstrations that demanded a constitution amendment. Even though I would never want the type of people who went to the rally to rule my country, the media attention they got elevated their demand in front of the world.

Hafez Asad's Statue Pulled Down!

A group of Lebanese pulled down the statue of the late Syrian president Hafez Assad. The statue was in Lebanon!

This reminded me of another statue that fell in April 9, 2003!

Coptic Riots Again!

A thousand Coptic Christians held a peaceful demonstration inside a church. They claimed that 2 young girls were "kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam". Well, I don't believe them this time. I believe the 2 girls might have willfully converted to Islam as a result of one of these scenarios:

a. The girls fell in love with 2 Muslim guys and ran away with them.
b. The girls were blackmailed by something.
c. The girls wanted to become Muslims.
d. The girls were offered money.
e. The girls wanted to escape from their daddy's house and so decided to change their religion.
f. There are many other scenarios.

I feel so sorry for Egypt's Christians. A Christian who becomes a Muslim for whatever reason on this crazy planet is hailed as a wonderful juicy lucy soul that was snatched out of the infidel world of Christians into the marvelous light of Islam. Here, a convert is a saint regardless of what forced him/her to become a Muslim. Mike Tayson is hailed as a brave "former Christian" who saw the light of Islam right in the middle of the darkness of the US of A. It doesn't matter if he cut off his opponents ear with his teeth or raped a woman.

Well, what happens if an Egyptian Muslim decided to become a Christian? If he managed to stay alive, he will definitely not get the media attention that those 2 girls got nor will he get the police protection that they are enjoying right now. He'll end up with the notorious State Security Police or if he's lucky he'll manage to stay ungrounded or escape to a western country.


It's gonna be a looong journey my friends.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Earthquake in Egypt!!

I never imagined what President Mubarak said today. He asked the parliament to amend the Egyptian constitution to allow multiple candidates to run for the presidency. This means that Muabark will have opponents running against him.

Now, I am not stupid nor am I living in la la land. Mubarak's decision today came after immense pressure from the US and the current earthquakes (the purple revolution in Iraq and the Hariri revolution in Lebanon) that shook the region days ago. However, I credit US pressure as the number one reason. Condoleezza Rice cancelled a trip to Egypt scheduled for next week because of the arrest of Ayman Nour and Mubarak's failure to "change". Well, it seems that Bush turned out to be bloody serious about this democracy in the Middle East thing. It also seems that Bushie will in fact make it to the history books that my grandchildren will be reading at school 50 years from today. If Syria or Iran fell, Bush can rest assured that he will add his name to the Lincoln-Wilson-Roosevelt-Reagan quartet.

Well, what do I think about all this? I mentioned before that I didn't want Egypt to rush to the ballot box. I wanted Mubarak to be pressured to open up the civil society of Egypt so that alternatives to his rule start to pop up. We simply do not know better and we needed time in order to see the alternatives and decide who is better.

Unless I am 100% sure that one of the candidates who will compete with Mubarak will be better than him, I'll probably vote for Mubarak next October whom I believe will win because of the resources he has as the country's sole authority.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I Have a Dream

I have a dream. I am obsessed with this dream. Everyday I search the news for any indication that my dream will ever come true. It is my euphoria, my ecstasy. Ohhhh, how sweet is this dream. If it came true, it will resemble a massive earth quake that will shake the Middle East. I believe it will have greater effects than the purple fingers revolution in Iraq or the Hariri revolution in Lebanon.

Now, for just a couple minutes, let us forget reality and imagine if we actually saw the below sequence of headlines:

Millions march through Tehran demanding freedom

Riots all over Iran

Student protesters occupy Tehran TV station

Government of Iran losing control

CNN’s Christian Annampour: These riots and demonstrations exceeds what we saw in 1979. The Revolutionary Guards of Iran fired live ammunition on the rioters to disperse them but the throngs are getting bigger and bigger.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech promising reform and free elections. Students call for the government and the cleric based council to step down.

Iranian regime falls as military takes a neutral position

Iraqi and US forces seal of Iranian borders to prevent Iran’s deposed rulers from infiltrating inside Iraq


New Iranian leaders cut aid to Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian groups.

Lebanese opposition figures travel to Iran to forge ties with new Iranian officials.

Iran demands a withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and an end to the Syrian intelligence apparatus on Lebanese soil.

Iraq’s Muqtada Sadr dissolves his militia after losing his Iranian partner.

Middle East expert: the revolution in Iran is an indication of the failure of any religious based system of government.

Ohhhhh, please do not wake me from this dream. It is sooooooooo sweet. I have a dream.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

How Iraq is different

Omar presents a very interesting analysis of the difference between Saddam's regime and several of the other Arab regimes in the region.

They're Getting Smaller

Anti-Bush protesters in Europe are getting very very small.

How many were they?

"Belgian police fired teargas at hundreds of demonstrators protesting the visit of President Bush"

They're not thousands.

And who were this bunch of hundreds?

"A female police officer was injured and skirmishes broke out between the leftist protesters and police.
Two previous protests against Bush's visit Sunday and Monday passed off peacefully with relatively small crowds. "

There you go. There is even a pro-Bush demonstration waiting for him in Germany.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Hundreds Tell Mubarak "Enough"

I have to admit that I never witnessed such unprecedented demonstrations in Egypt. Here the figure of the president is revered and no one dares to cross this red line. The president in Egypt is like the pope to Catholics or the Imam to Shias, he's infallible and he's eternal. This is the reason why I am very surprised that the issue of Mubarak's fifth term is actually being discussed inside and outside Egypt.

Even though I do respect the courage of today's demonstrators, I'll still vote for Mubarak's fifth term next October! You all know where I stand on this issue. There are currently no alternatives to Mubarak's regime and my president must be pressured to liberalize the political discourse in Egypt so that alternatives start to pop up and then we can be prepared to vote, and not the other way round. Today's demonstrators were composed of leftist radicals, Islamists, and a number of liberal figures. Again, I respect their courage and initiative but they're definitely not my cup of tea.

When people outside Egypt see such demonstrations, they think that the entire Egyptian population is asking Mubarak to step down. This is not true. While millions of Egyptians are dismayed at the state of the country, they are living in political stagnation because they're busy striving to put food on the table. They simply don't want troubles.

Nevertheless, something is beginning to happen in Egypt. In fact, something is beginning to happen all over the region, from the revolution of the purple fingers in Iraq to Lebanon's anti-Syria red demonstrations today. The enemies of freedom as well know that something is happening and they are trying to stop it. They used a mentally retarded Iraqi child in order to blow up a polling station in Baghdad and they used over 300 kilos of explosives to kill the builder of Lebanon Rafik Hariri. An Egyptian columnist once wrote: "50 years from today, our history books will mention that an American president with limited intelligence managed to change the entire political landscape of the Middle East".

UPDATE: I think it is very naive now to call Bush a man with "limited intelligence". From what we've seen so far, I do not consider Bush to be the smartest US president ever nor do I consider him the most stupid. Mick in the comments column solved this dilema. He said that Bush is as stupid as a fox! Well said Mick.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

We Brought It Upon Ourselves

Two years ago I was following the aftermath of a suicide bombing in an Israeli café. As I was watching the carnage, my mind started to ponder upon something. What if the notion of suicide bombings was exported to countries outside Israel and Palestine? I asked myself. What if groups that doesn’t have anything to do with the conflict started utilizing the same weapon that we legitimize in Israel against their perceived enemies? Was our media and religious establishment opening a can of worms by justifying suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and blessing the perpetrators with martyrdom? I am afraid the answer turned out to be yes.

Suicide bombings jumped out of the Israeli and Palestinian territories and became the terrorists’ most deadly weapon today. Suicide bombers were used to try and assassinate Pakistani president Musharaf and other leaders across our region. They were used to bomb Shia mosques in Pakistan, Shia mosques in Iraq, and polling lines in Iraq. A suicide bomber also blew up the Saudi ministry of interior.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am worried!

I am worried because if someone managed to convince a person to sacrifice his life just to kill a number of Iraqi Shias in a wedding party then someone else can convince another person to sacrifice his life in order to kill Egyptian movie goers. The sky is now the limit and our media and religious establishment helped in creating this limit by not rejecting all forms of suicide bombings. I am not discussing the reasons that compelled a number of Palestinians to bomb themselves or what motivated them, all what I am referring to is accepting the notion of suicide bombings to be a phenomena in our region.

We’re now reaping the harvest that our media and religious clerics helped in sowing. By the way, I want to apologize for something. I forgot to tell you that it is very probable that Rafik El Hariri was killed by a suicide bomber as well!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Joke of the Day

I have a lovely habit. Every morning I pick up my Al Ahram paper, the number one paper in Egypt, to see how they prioritize their headlines on the front page. This tends to give me an indication of what the paper wants to convey as "important" and as "not very important".

The major headline today went to the security conference in Germany! (did anyone hear about it??). Then a headline a little bit underneath announcing the score of a major soccer game yesterday. Underneath was a headline announcing that Israel will withdraw from Jericho during this week. At the bottom of the page I read the headline about Iraq's election results.

Ummmmm, very interesting. My dear government financed daily newspaper thinks that the security conference in Germany, the soccer game, and Israel's decision to withdraw from ONE Palestinian town is more important than the results of the elections that rocked the world.

My mind went back to a major headline I read days before the elections. The headline that was across the front page announced that "militants threaten to fill the streets of Baghdad with the blood of voters”.

When it turned out that the streets of Baghdad were not filled with blood, when it turned out that the only stain on that day was on the voters’ fingers (and it was purple and not red), my dear newspaper threw Iraq’s landmark elections to the bottom of its page. What a shame.

Why are they afraid of Iraq’s elections? Are they afraid to show that America’s plan might look as if it is working? Are they afraid lest people recognize that they were ranting on the wrong side ever since Saddam’s statue fell? Or are they afraid to show that yesterday’s winners did not win by 99.99999%?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Please send your condolences to Mithal

I just feel I have to do this. Please take a couple of minutes to send a message of condolence to Mithal Al Alousi, the brave Iraqi politician who lost his 2 sons as a result of a terrorist attack on them. Mithal is the type of politician who builds nations up. He faced terror, intimidation, and criticism (as a result of his visit to Israel) yet he didn't relent nor escape. He vowed to continue his journey for his country even after losing his most precious.

His party's email:
Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Why Allawi Must Lose His Job

The anticipated winners of the Iraq elections are currently undergoing ongoing political discussions to try and form coalitions. Allawi is trying to forge alliances with President Yawer, the Kurds, and other secular lists in order to face the "Shia list" that is expected to win from 45% to 50% of the total vote.

I personally do not want Allawi to remain as prime minister. I admit that I think he is the best candidate for the job. First, he is secular. Second, he can talk with the Sunnis much better than the "very Shia" list. Third, he has good relations with the Arab countries. Fourth, Allawi turned out to be a powerful political figure inside Iraq. His list is expected to be the third winner after Sistani's and the Kurd's lists.

However, outside Iraq, millions of Arabs believe that the US will manipulate or forge the results to install its puppet Allawi. An unprecedented event will happen if someone else took office which is the removal of an Arab head of state by the election process.

Those who know me know that I don't care much about what non-Iraqis think about Iraq's business. Also I tend to believe that if God himself left his heavenly throne and became the prime minister of Iraq, the Arab world's intellectuals and media will still brand him as a "US puppet" who reached power after the US forged Iraq's elections. Nevertheless, I hope some Arabs will silently say to themselves: wow, an Arab head of state was removed from his office after over 8 million Iraqis went to the polls and the winning list decided not to keep him.

Please contribute to the Abdul-Hussein and Mohammed Khazal Memorial Fund

Abdul-Hussein and his 3 years old son were gunned down by terrorists in the southern city of Basra. He was a reporter for Al Hurra channel and also a member of Al Dawaa party. A memorial fund was created in order to support the family he left behind. Please consider contributing to the fund.

The Abdul-Hussein and Mohammed Khazal Memorial Fund
P. O. Box 5600
Springfield, Virginia 5600-22150

Friday, February 11, 2005

Saad Eddin Ibrahim in Wapo

Here is a very interesting article by Egyptian-American human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim that appeared in the Washingon Post today. Ibrahim stated eloquently that the closed political system that Mubarak maintained helped in the rise of the Islamist forces. He wrote:

"Why does the Mubarak regime continue to resort to these heavy-handed tactics against its peaceful opposition? Here is an attempted answer. Over nearly a quarter of a century, it has perfected the art of scare politics, at home and abroad. Those in Mubarak's regime argue that if he allowed democratization to proceed unchecked, with fair and honest elections, Islamists would undoubtedly take over.

None of his Western listeners ever answer this argument with some very pertinent questions: What, Mr. Mubarak, have you done to preserve the popularity of non-Islamist forces in the country? What has your regime done with more than $100 billion in foreign aid and remittances from Egyptians working abroad? Why has Egypt's ranking during your rule steadily worsened on every development index -- from that of the U.N. Development Program to the World Bank to Freedom House? And why does Egypt now rank with Russia, Syria and Nigeria among the most corrupt countries in the world?
Isn't it these dismal failings that feed popular discontent and contribute to the Islamists' growing numbers? And isn't it Mubarak's repression of secular civil forces that has kept the field empty for the Islamists in Egypt, where there are now more than 100,000 mosques where they can freely preach their message -- but only a handful of registered political parties and human rights groups?"

I totally agree. This is why I reiterate that Mubarak must be pressured from the world community to:

a) open the political system and cease the intimidating of his security apparatus.

b) Hold elections once we have secular alternatives along with the Islamists we have today.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Today Max Boot wrote :"But there is little evidence that Islamists are popular enough to win a free election in Egypt. They have flourished mainly because little mainstream opposition is allowed."

In light of the absence of any fair opinion poll and studies, I cannot take his first sentence for granted. I hope Boot turns out to be correct and that Islamists are not popular enough, but with their excellent grassroots efforts and financing, I am just too scared to ask for the ballot box before other opposition entities show up on the political stage.

I do agree with his second sentence. The intimidation and restrictions placed on the political discourse in the country allowed Islamists and other radicals to be the most vocal.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

My Mubarak is Doing All This?

For the first time since he became the prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon received an invitation from President Mubarak to attend the historic summit in Sharm El Sheikh. The summit resulted in a much anticipated cease fire agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis with both Egypt and Jordan pledging to return their ambassadors to Tel Aviv. News is now circulating of a possible unprecedented visit by Mubarak to Israel.

Well, why is Mubarak doing all this? I am sure that Egypt and the entire region will benefit from a cease fire in Palestine and Israel and peace talks today doesn't seem to be an impossibility as they were when Arafat was around. However, I believe Mubarak's actions result from much broader intensions. I think Mubarak is trying to send a message to Bush by telling him: I'm doing everything to help you in this messy issue and I might even go to Israel and use the entire leverage of Egypt in order to revive the peace talks again, all what I am asking from you is to keep your Texan mouth shut.

See, Mubarak's term will end this year and he is eyeing a sixth term. He wants to enter into his new term with as less fuss as possible. With the elections festival in Iraq and President Bush determination to push democracy in the region, Mubarak wants to decrease the pressure on him by turning himself into an Anwar Sadat.

What should Bush do? Well, I am sure many Egyptian won't agree with me, but I personally think Bush should do almost all of what Mubarak wants him to do. The Palestine/Israel issue is a massive pain in the butt and I really want to decrease this pain in the region. So Bush and his state department should not complain much about Mubarak's sixth term, but they should continue pressuring him to liberalize the political arena in Egypt. As I mentioned before, I believe we are not ready for the ballot box yet simply because I don't see good alternatives for Mubarak. Alternatives will only pop up when the political atmosphere here has less restrictions and intimidations. This is what the world must ask President Mubarak to do.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Poll Results

How did you react to Iraq's elections?

I shed tears....... 36%

I has watery eyes...34%

I was happy from the inside... 28%


Wow, 70% had water in their eyes. I am not surprised. Sunday January 30th 2005, will be an important day in the coming history books. It is the day when the purple fingers overcame the knives covered with the red color of innocent blood.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

We Need Political Discourse Before the Vote

I want to comment on yesterday's editorial in the New York Times.

If you can remember, I posted a comment when Ayman Nour's party was legalized. I said that the agenda of his party sounded attractive to me and I was impressed at the number of women and Christian members who founded the party with him. I also said that I thought about joining this party, an unprecedented move by my side.

I am 99% sure that political motives were behind his arrest. Nour was very vocal against President Mubarak's anticipated decision to run unopposed for office for a 6th term.

I admire Ayman Nour yet there are very few Ayman Nours on the political stage of Egypt today. We still need a lot of political discourse so that many progressive thinkers will start to pop up and compete with the awful old opposition entities we have today. For this to happen, President Mubarak can continue maintaining the lid over the ballot box for the time being, but he must allow more freedom as far as political discourse is concerned. In other words, I am against putting pressure on Mubarak to succumb to a national election, but I am for pushing him towards opening up the political atmosphere of Egypt.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Why I Don't Want Iraq's Tsunami to Hit Egypt Yet?

Several people emailed me right after Iraq's election telling me that they hope that Egypt would one day witness such a day. I too hope this but I have to be very cautious as to when I wish that to happen.

A quick look at Egypt's current opposition entities is enough to install tremendous fear within me. Today there is no viable attractive opposition in Egypt that could replace the rule of Mubarak. I am sure that my country has a lot of capable personalities and political entities who can serve the Egyptian people and somehow pull them a little from the abyss they are in. The problem is that I cannot see them at the moment.

The best organized and the most well financed opposition entity is the Muslim Brotherhood. Those call for democracy yet they don't practice it within their own organization. Besides I'd rather have a million years of Mubarak than one day of the MB. On the other hand, the other small opposition parties do not have enough influence over the public and they are headed by old political figures that stay at the helm of their organizations until the day their spirits leave their bodies.

Egyptian liberals and democrats are very weak. I simply cannot hear their voices and I am not sure of how well they will do if Iraq's tsunami hit Egypt. I have no problem with Islamists or Nasserites (remnants of the Nasser era) joining the political process, however, I am afraid that if they reached power they would remain in power. I just hope the Iraq tsunami will wait until we have decent alternatives.

Iraq is lucky. First, its different ethnicities and religions will prevent a single group to dominate the country forever. Second, Iraq's constituents are multicolored in their ideologies. The coming national assembly will be filled by Islamists, secularists, communists, and constitutional monarchists. Third, there is a powerful secular force in Iraq; the entire Kurdish population is secular in its outlook. Fourth, the most superior religious figure there is a moderate who belongs to the quiets school of Shiism. Fifth, Iraq's road to decency and pluralism is guarded by Abram tanks and AC-130 aircrafts!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

How Arabs are Reacting to Iraq's Elections

You all know I don't care much about the "Arab street opinion". I tend to focus on what Iraqis think and not on what my fellow Arabs believe about the events in Iraq. I sometimes feel guilty for that. I am a not an Iraqi after all and I might never visit Iraq in my life, but I just feel that I'm simply losing time and energy by focusing on what non-Iraqis think about an Iraqi business.

Well, Egypt's official papers commented on the huge Shia and Kurds turnout but stressed on the Sunni "boycott". I am sure you know that most Sunnis didn't get a chance to vote because of the bad security and not because of a political boycott. Even those parties that withdrew from the elections did so not because they didn't want this "zionist, imperialist, American" elections, but because not many of their voters will head to the polls as a result of the bloodbath that the terrorists threatened to do. To sum up, the news agencies here made sure to stress anything negative in the elections just to save face. A famous journalist even wrote that the election was nothing but a "comedy set by George Bush". Ummmm, very interesting, this "comedy" will then be the biggest show in the world since it has over 8 million "actors"!!!!!!

The truth is my friends, despite the few shortcoming of Iraq's elections (hello, it was the first election in 50 years!!), the government of Iraq will have more legitimacy than any member of the Arab League. If the National Assembly elected Iyad Allawi (who did very well in the polls), Shahrestani, or even Pamela Anderson to become the prime minister, he will have more legitimacy than any of his fellow rulers except Palestine's Abu Mazen who took power after an OK election.

Even though very few Arab intellectuals will admit it, Iraq's election last Sunday will definitely slowly rock some boats. I predict muted discussions will start to emerge as Iraq slowly moves evolves into something decent. Not a Denmark, not a Sweden, but something more decent than its fellow Arab states. I believe Arab commentators and thinkers will silently listen to the roaring sound of Iraq’s 8 million march to the polls even if they don’t want to admit it.

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