Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Next Saturday I'll complete 2 years of blogging. I would have loved to celebrate my birthday with you but things grow up and life changes and I am sure you understand that very well.
For the past 2 years you gave me a blog for free and enabled me to voice my opinions to the world. The Big Pharaoh started as an attempt by an Egyptian to make his voice heard to the few who were generous enough to spend a few minutes reading his blog, it ended up to be something that totally changed the life of this person. I want to thank you for that.
Thank you Blogger, thank you Google.
And now ladies and gentlemen, The Big Pharaoh got a new temple:
Inspite of everyone anticipating otherwise. Inspite of opinion polls that predicted he will lose. Italy's Silvio Berlusconi might still keep his job.
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's longest-serving premier since World War II, was locked in a battle for power Monday with center-left challenger Romano Prodi as vote projections from parliamentary election returns swung dramatically back and forth.
After a campaign dominated by economic issues, projections based on 98 percent of pollster Nexus' sampling of votes cast gave the flamboyant billionaire's center-right alliance 158 seats in the Senate compared to 151 for Prodi's coalition.
Frankly speaking, I want Silvio to win. This guy has huge cajunas. Gigantesco Cajunas!
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Indonesia just got their "tamed" version of Playboy.
Playboy magazine may no longer rate on the sexual cutting edge in some places, but the first edition in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, caused a stir Friday.
Although the pictures inside showed less skin than U.S. issues 50 years ago, copies were being passed from desk to desk in Jakarta offices, high demand was reported, and newspapers and broadcasters dwelt at length on the Indonesian issue.
Despite regular campaigns against pornography, many sidewalk vendors in Indonesia stock sexually explicit movies and the country has a flourishing sex industry.
We have the same thing in Egypt. Sidewalk vendors sell everything from pirated uncensored movies to pornography.
Iraqi government denounced statements made by President Mubarak in an interview on Al Arabiya.
The Iraqi government has denounced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's comments that Iraq was in the throes of civil war and its majority Shiite population was under the sway of Tehran.
On Saturday speaking to Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television channel, Mubarak warned Iraq was in the middle of a civil war that threatened the Middle East and expressed alarm about Shiite
Iran's influence in Arab countries.
"There are Shiites in all these countries (of the region), significant percentages, and Shiites are mostly always loyal to Iran and not the countries where they live," he said.
"Naturally Iran has an influence over Shiites who make up 65 percent of Iraq's population."
There is much truth in what Mubarak said. Maybe Iraq might not be in the middle of a full fledged civil war, but the influence of Iran is a reality and has alarmed Arab states, most notably Egypt and Saudi.
While you have to take a grain of salt when reading anything Seymour Hersh writes, I'll still consider what he said was true. His recent article mainly says that the Bush administration is looking into plans of a major air attack and increased clandestine activities inside Iran.
First, I am totally against any form of military action against Iran. The Iranians hate their rulers but they won't hesitate to rally behind them when their country is under attack. Besides, looking at the mess in Iraq, very few Iranians would want to experience regime change Iraq style. So, the military action should be off the table.
Now, the clandestine activities. I wrote before that the US and the UK could open secret channels with Iranian minorities, arm them, and relax back and watch the Mullahs as they get busy worrying about their own house instead of exporting their evil to Iraq and Lebanon. This option does not lack risks namely the possibilities that these rebel groups would engage in terrorism. But if the diplomatic option didn't work and China and Russia protected the Mullahs from the UN, then this option might be the only good one left.
The Mullahs are experts in using surrogates in other countries to cause trouble as well as extend their influence outside their borders. Why not make them taste their own poison?
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Nations develop only when they ask thenselves the right questions and find the right answers to these questions. All nations that progressed asked questions such as "what went wrong?","why are we in such a situtation?" and "what can we do to get out of what we're in?"
I believe the Arab/Muslim world have to find the right answer to a question that it didn't even ask itself: what makes hundreds if not thousands of young Muslims willing to blow themselves up in order to kill other Muslims who happen to belong to a different sect of Islam?
It's a real pity the Arab/Muslim world is not even thinking about asking itself such a crucial question. The mere fact that this question was not asked so far indicates the pretty long haul we're in.
Right after the cartoons controversy, 2 schools of thought emerged. One called for a hardline stand and the other opted towards dialogue with Denmark. The latter was head by superstar Islamic TV preacher Amr Khaled who organized a Danish government financed conference in Copenhagen.
We all know now the conference turned out to be a colossal failure mainly due to the clumsy rhetoric of one of Khaled's companions, Sheikh Al-Suweidan who kept attacking the Danish government (who financed the thing!) and rebuked it for not apologizing. However, I still supported the conference and hailed it as a good step forward. Nobody hates dialogue.
Here is an interview with Amr Khaled about the conference. Khaled said that "Danes respect Muslims now" after his group went to this conference. Even though the conference was a good idea, I don't think Muslims earned any respect after what happened.
I have said before that the Arab/Muslim world had a golden chance to show the world how grown up they were. Unfortunately, they blew this chance off. Instead of writing angry letters to the editor and boycotting companies that advertise in J-Posten, they boycotted an entire nation and vilified an entire people. They demanded the Danish government to apologize for something it didn't do and something it had zero control over. Not to mention the flag burnings and the embassy firebombings.
Sorry, no respect earned here but more self inflicted tarnishing.
Friday, April 07, 2006
The Egyptian parliament has just passed a law that allows the judiciary authorities the right to pursue and try those who "insult or defame" religion and religious symbols. I believe this came after the cartoons controversey.
This is a very troubling development because it opens up a pandorax box. Now anything that doesn't please the religious authorities here might be considered an insult to religion. This is the reason why I hope the Europeans won't cave in to and adopt a law that "protects religion."
The law, which was formulated by Muslim Brotherhood members in parliament, received support from Muslim and Christian leaders. I just don't understand it, does God need protection? This is the reason why I hope the Europeans won't cave in and adopt a law that "protects religion." God does not need protection.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
From Salameh to Rantissi
When I saw the movie Munich, I decided to look into the life of one of the Palestinians who was featured in the Spielberg film. Ali Hassan Salameh, a.k.a the ped prince, was believed to be the mastermind behind the Munich massacre and he topped the Mossad's hit list during the 70s.
As I read more about Salameh, the difference between the nature of the Palestinian fight back then and now started to crystallize in front of me. This difference can be personified in the life of two Palestinian militants: the red prince and Abdel Aziz Rantissi.
Ali Hassan Salameh was a leading militant in Fatah. He was a category on his own. Salameh had popular appeal among Palestinian youth, not just for his fight against Israel, but for his extravagant lifestyle. He was surrounded by beautiful women, expensive cars, and later married Georgina Rizk, Miss Universe in 1971.
Israel believed Salameh was the mastermind behind the Munich massacre as well as other attacks on Israeli civilians. There is no doubt the red prince did in fact kill people. However, this fact was not enough to prevent the CIA from opening a backdoor with Salameh. As a result of the brilliant work of CIA agent Robert Ames, Salameh assured the US that Americans in Lebanon are literally under his protection and no American citizen would be touched by his group. In Spielberg movie, we see the CIA saving Salameh's life from the Mossad agents.
Salameh was a pragmatist. He was driven by nationalistic fervor. He wanted to fight yet still return home to Georgina Rizk.
Unlike Salameh, Rantissi involved God when he killed. He thought that his killings did not just exist in the realm of a political struggle, but they were mandated commands from the guy upstairs. Rantissi thought that those who were killed while fighting the Israel army or blowing up a cafe went straight to heaven. Salameh didn't think much of heaven. He was a fighter on earth and for earthly reasons.
The life of the two militants portrays how the Palestinian struggle was transformed from a purely nationalistic movement to a sickening death cult that involves the divine in bloodshed. And we, the people of this region, paid dearly for this transformation.
In 1979, in Beirut, Ali Hassan Salameh was killed when a parked car blew up as his convoy passed beside it. The bomb in the car was detonated by Erika Chambers, an English lady recruited by the Mossad. In 2004, Rantissi was killed when a hellfire missile struck his car.
I don't know about you but I prefer the days of the red prince. Rantissi's days are just too disgusting.
We Arabs always say that we will never unite or even agree on something. This is not true. Two things managed to unite Arabs so far. Um Kalthoum and LBC's Star Academy.
Um Kalthoum was an Egyptian singer who died over 30 years ago. Whenever her live concerts were aired, millions would tune in from Morocco till the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf for you Iranians out there). Her funeral was one of history's largest gathering of people.
And now Star Academy. A TV reality show that airs on Lebanon's satellite channel LBC. The show features a group of young male and female candidates from across the Arab world who compete in singing, dancing, and acting. Millions would then vote for the winner via telephone, SMS, and the internet.
The show was harshly attacked by religious leaders (who else) from across the region. They were not bothered by the singing and dancing as much as they were unhappy with the fact that the candidates had to live together in the same academy in Beirut.
Fatwas were issued, a Saudi mobile phone company banned its subscribers from voting, and the Algerian government stopped the show's airing on the local channel, yet all that didn't stop the 19283645 emails and SMS I got urging me to vote for the Egyptian candidate Hani!
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
A ban has been lifted on Palestinian policemen growing beards by the Hamas government. Some believe that growing a beard would make God a happier person yet most Islamic scholars don't say it's a religious obligation. Of course, men are not obliged to do anything with their bodies, only women are obliged to cover up.
Anyway, beards are also banned in the Egyptian army. I remember when I went to check my military status, I saw a long queue of newly enlisted soldiers waiting to get their shave by a guy holding a single razor. Yes it was just a single razor. And there was no shaving cream around.
Rep. Cynthia McKinney thinks that by using allegations of racism, she will be able to get away with breaking the law. Thankfully, not all black leaders agree with what she's doing.
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of BOND (Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny) issued the following statement regarding this matter:
"This situation is an example of a black liberal Democrat using allegations of racism in order to get away with breaking the law. It's disgraceful that Cynthia McKinney would charge the Capitol Police with racism for trying to do their jobs. Charges of 'racism' and 'racial profiling' by McKinney and her attorney are code words often used to intimidate white Americans and get black racists off the hook."
The Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND) is a nationally respected nonprofit organization founded for the purpose of "rebuilding the family by rebuilding the man."
Black leaders like Jesse Jackson and Sharpton want to keep African Americans enslaved by the past. The past is gone, gone forever. Today's black Americans can be Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, and Condi Rice.
A word for Cynthia: you fail to stop when the police officer asked you to stop three times, you're in trouble. You struck the officer after he asked you to stop 3 times, you're in deep trouble. These simple laws will work if you're white, black, yellow, or purple.
Why the Iraqi ballot box is scary:
Why Afghanistan is not really a democracy and it's not really free:
Why Palestine's ballot box is not so cool:
Why I loooooove Lebanon's ballot box:
Monday, April 03, 2006
Women in Saudi Arabia can't drive and they have to cover up while outside their houses. A number of Saudi women decided that, in Saudi, life as a male is much more fun and free. So they changed their gender.
A Saudi paper reported that 5 Saudi girls underwent gender transformation operations outside the kingdom and they did so without a particular health reason. They just wanted to be men, bossy men.
Source: Al Arabiya (Arabic)
Sunday, April 02, 2006
The Egyptian weekly newspaper that published the J-Posten cartoons back in October decided to redeem what the did and printed a series of counter cartoons in their latest issue. Unlike the Iranian cartoons, they were not about the Holocaust and the Joooooz. Check them out.
Update: I apologize. More than one cartoon did depict the Jews. I thought that the cartoonists did an unprecedented thing by refraining from dragging the Jews into this. I was wong. Sorry Jews, we see you behind every stone even if you're not there.
This is unbelievable! Iraqi police discovered 14 bodies of Sunni men in Baghdad. All were shot in the head and the 14 had the name "Omar". It seems the only "crime" they committed was their name!
The dead Sunnis were named after Omar Ibn Khattab, the second Caliph to rule the Muslim world. He was rejected by the Shias who favored Ali. Hardline Shias today have no problem cursing the 3 Caliphs before Ali even though they were among prophet Mohammed's closest companions.
The police said that the murdered men had their ID cards on their chest. A police officer said that a number of them received warnings demanding that they change their names!
A Shia politician said that it's impossible for Shia militias to do such a thing. It would be very obvious that they're the perpetrators. He believes the terrorists are killing Sunnis to incite sectarian tensions in Iraq.
A Sunni student said that he will carry 2 IDs. "My name will be Ali in the Shia areas, and Omar in the Sunni areas."
Source: Al Arabiya (Arabic)
Twenty-three people have been injured in clashes between rival factions of Egypt's opposition Wafd party in the capital Cairo, police have said.
The violence erupted after deposed Wafd leader Nomaan Gomaa occupied the party headquarters and supporters of the new leaders tried to gain entry.
Eight people were reported to have been shot and 15 others injured, and the building was set on fire.
Mr Gomaa, 71, and six of his supporters were detained by police.
Al Wafd party is considered the main secular "liberal" party of Egypt. Look what's happening with them. If the secularists are doing this then we're definitely between the hammer of the Mubarak regime and the anvil of the Muslim Brotherhood.
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany - Protected by the U.S. military and far from the country where she had been held hostage, Jill Carroll strongly disavowed statements she had made during captivity in Iraq and shortly after her release, saying Saturday she had been repeatedly threatened.
"During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me I would be released if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. So I agreed," she said in a statement read by her editor in Boston.
"Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not."
"I want to be judged as a journalist, not as a hostage. I remain as committed as ever to fairness and accuracy — to discovering the truth — and so I will not engage in polemics. But let me be clear: I abhor all who kidnap and murder civilians, and my captors are clearly guilty of both crimes," she said.
Jill, I tip my hat for you.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
Who said the religious police are only in Saudi Arabia and Iran? They're alive and well in France too. A group of French cartoonists poking fun at all religions in a exhibition had to censor their work because they were threatened by gangs wielding iron rods. Apparently, these gangs left their native countries and are now working on forcing their own laws on other countries - and by force if needed.
PARIS -- A gang of young Muslims wielding iron rods has forced a Paris cafe to censor an exhibition of cartoons ridiculing religion, the owners of the establishment said on Friday.
Some 50 drawings by well-known French cartoonists were installed in the Mer a Boire cafe in the working-class Belleville neighborhood of northeast Paris, as part of an avowedly atheist show entitled, "Neither god nor god".
The collection targeted all religions - including Islam - but there were no representations of the Prophet Mohammed such as sparked the recent crisis between the West and the Islamic world, according to Marianne who is one of the cafe's three owners.
Later the cafe-owners were approached by a group of older youths. "They said they did not approve of what the youngsters had done. But what we were doing was unacceptable, too. They warned us that if we didn't take down the cartoons they would call in the Muslim Brothers who would burn the cafe down," said Marianne. "They kept saying: 'This is our home. You cannot act like this here'," she said.
The cartoonist responded so well
Refusing to dismantle the exhibition, the owners have placed white sheets of paper inscribed with the word 'censored' over the cartoons that were targeted by the gang.
"To take down the cartoons would have been a surrender. But on the other hand we cannot expose ourselves to this kind of violence. This way you can still see the pictures if you lift the paper," said Marianne.