The world’s failed war on terrorism

Initially published in Egypt’s Ahram

 

 

 

image

This Cartoon by Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

sums up my thoughts about our disunity in fighting terrorism

 

Sinai, Beirut, Paris, Bamako, and Tunis: the latest terror attacks across three continents are a rude reminder to our global community that vicious anti-modernity bullies continue to foment hatred and violence.

By slaughtering innocents, regressive radicals attempt to force brutal barbarism onto the world as a new norm. Are we ready to fight such ruthless evil? Judging by the array of responses to the recent terror attacks, the answer is undoubtedly ‘no.’

The global community is not united against terrorism. While we may be united in condemnation, we differ on everything else.

Whenever there is a major terrorist attack in a Western city, an updated version of Godwin’s law (as a discussion gets longer, inevitably someone will compare the situation to Hitler or Nazism) usually applies, in which the subject is Islam instead of Nazism.

In contemporary terror events, after the initial shock, a futile and mushrooming dialogue emerges, comprised of clashes, conflicting opinions, bitterness, victimhood, and finger pointing that eventually leads to Islam.

Two camps typically emerge. One defends Islam and is composed mainly of Muslims and leftist, liberal Westerners. A second cluster ruthlessly bashes and demonizes Muslims.

The overall result is a pointless zero-sum outcome that does not effectively confront terrorism or minimize the growing Islamophobia in various Western societies.

Our collective failure to fight terror effectively stems from our own inability to focus on the task. Instead, we engage in nonsensical bickering over semantics. Is it Islam or not? Is it politics or religion?

The futile judging of “Islam”

Unlike what many Muslims and the liberal western elite emphasize, contemporary terrorism undoubtedly has a religious element to it. It is frankly disingenuous to deny this reality. It is also futile, however, to judge Islam. Islam is not an entity, a specific institution, or a state.

Like other religions, Islam is not what is written in texts, but what people opt to apply in their life.

Radicals have simply resurrected older interpretations of Islamic texts and twisted such concepts in cynical farcical ways to validate their gruesome actions. Their behavior is actually a reflection of the broader cultural suicide of the Muslim world, and not on the Muslim faith per se.

It is about time to admit that we have failed to establish a modern Islamic culture that engages our youth and prevents them from drifting toward radicalism. Our Islam struggles to survive because various actors politicize Islam and become agents of death who sell the afterlife as the ultimate alternative.

Our current cultural bankruptcy has led even mainstream religious institutions to glamorize the past. Our text books have whitewashed the past–Andalucía, the Ottoman Empire, the Abbasid Caliphate, Salahdin, and many more–of all negative aspects.

Instead they offer fairytales to our youth. This results in a rise of escapism as an antidote to modern challenges. Our Islamic past has become an opiate for many Muslims aspiring to a better life. It is no wonder that ISIS and Co. attract many disenchanted youth, including losers like Salah Abdesalam, the mastermind of the Paris attacks, and his gang.

Some argue rightly, that Islamic teaching needs reform with more liberal interpretations. This is indeed true. Nonetheless, radicalism is not just about what is written in text, but also about one’s susceptibility toward accepting religious regression.

Without confronting our escapism to the past and glamorization of past figures, some youth will dismiss liberal interpretations and only dig deeper in search for past heroes.

Our Muslim communities urgently need a dose of realism about Islamic history. None of our Islamic heroes was an angel.

Islam teaches us that no human is perfect, so why do our scholars insist that our past leaders were perfect? Our youth need a clear mirror that highlights how our past included colonialism and imperialism that were neither fair nor just.

Our past wars were as savage as the current war in Syria—and even worse. Our ancestors were not perfect. Only with a clearer historical periscope can our youth reject the backwardness and medievalism promoted by the Islamic State and other radicals.

Abusing the war against terrorism for political reasons

With respect, I doubt that the right and left in the political sphere are giving the current terror attacks the seriousness they deserve. Decades after WWII, it seems we have lost our ability to appreciate global threats and instead constantly frame them within our narrow political interests.

In America for example, Obama is now more concerned about his own legacy than the impact of his timid foreign polices. In comparison, Republicans are demonizing Syrian refugees to look tough on terrorism.

The situation in Europe is not better. It was painful to read in July how Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, argued that the Iran agreement is a disaster for ISIS.

Events this November have proven how this opinion was merely wishful thinking. Many in the West are falling into the Islamists’ narrative that Muslims are one nation.

Sadly, we are not. A deal with Shia Iran only helped Sunni, Jihadi groups like ISIS. Such groups consider Shia as apostates and flourish among disfranchised Sunnis. These conflicting views have accelerated the on-going cold war in the Middle East between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Another argument links political oppression against Islamists with the rise of radical Jihadists. Advocates of this argument conveniently ignore the repeated terror attacks in Tunisia, and claim that Islamist youth turn violent only because democratic channels are closed in their faces.

This argument may sound logical as the oppression of any group is counter-productive, but this perspective is problematic. It essentializes political Islam as an ideology that considers violence as its reflexive plan B to any conflict, and indirectly sanctions uncontrollable anger as the normal reaction to injustices. Both are wrong in Islam.

Islamic teaching asks Muslims to be patient and resist anger. Saber “patience” is a basic Islamic tenant. After his mistreatment in Mecca, the Prophet did not embark in a campaign of beheadings of his opponents and killing of innocents in Mecca. In fact, the prophet never adopted anger as his prime reaction. Ironically, Islamists and their Western supporters conveniently ignore this simple fact.

Moreover, some liberal and leftist pundits, and human rights advocates on both sides of the Atlantic, ignore the main task of how to fight ISIS and instead focus on judging how their political opponents will fight ISIS.

Our intellectual elite are comfortable to play the arbiters of the war on terror but are not willing to step down from their idealism to confront and handle the practicalities of a painful reality.

The Arab and Muslim world continue to send the West mixed signals. Syria is a glaring example. We denounce the West for not solving the mess (which is fundamentally ours, by the way), and then we curse foreign interventions citing the doomed Iraq war against Saddam Hussein. What, exactly, do we want? “The Perfect Intervention” may be an ideal computer game, but that is not real life.

Meanwhile, our quest for the perfect solution is paralyzing our thinking process even as we watch as our lives and freedom are hijacked by terrorists.

It’s about time to update our strategic software and start to triage a clear approach to the complex challenge of terrorism. Both the Muslim world and the Western world have to unite to face the challenge of terrorism. Currently, we are not fighting the terrorists; we are only fighting each other.

Posted in Best Read, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Sisi’s red carpet saga

A massive red carpet that was laid over public roads for Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s motorcade during a trip to open a social housing project in a Cairo suburb has triggered ridicule and criticism, especially after Sisi’s call for economic austerity.

Egypt under Sisi has never been short of controversies, but the red carpet story is different and is a testimonial about not just Sisi, but of Egypt and of Egypt’s observers.

“Auntie, can I borrow your rug?” Sisi’s red carpet story reminded me about an odd request that I witnessed years ago, when a relative asked to borrow one of our carpets. The young woman had started working at a posh company and invited her boss and others to her home for dinner. Her home, however, in her view lacked a nice rug. To my surprise, my mother agreed.

The young woman described how our rug would add “joy” to her home, and how she wanted to organize the dinner in a “proper manner.” Sound familiar? Indeed. After Sisi’s carpet controversy, the military provided a rare public response to the furor over the carpet. Brig. Gen. Ehab el-Ahwagy explained on several talk shows Sunday night that the carpet was not purchased by el-Sisi’s administration and had been used for more than three years on similar occasions: “It gives a kind of joy and assurance to the Egyptian citizen that our people and our land and our armed forces are always capable of organizing anything in a proper manner,” el-Ahwagy told prominent TV talk show host Amr Adeeb.

The obsession with external image and “proper manner” is common in Egypt, and has been portrayed in many classic Egyptian movies. For example, in the film Umm Al-Arousa or “The Mother of the Bride,” the family borrows several household items from various neighbors, including teacups and dinner plates, before the first visit of her daughter’s groom. Again, this is done because in this way of thinking, the house has to look “proper” before strangers are allowed to enter.

Historically, however, the Egyptian leadership did not need such fake beatification. In pre-1952 Egypt, the Royal Family was rich and elegant, unlike the vast majority of Egyptians. While many Egyptians were illiterate, living in poor huts in rural villages, the Royal Palaces were spectacularly beautiful in a breathtaking manner. The gradual decline of Egypt afterwards, especially after the 1967 defeat has created a different psyche inside its leadership. The desire for fake beatification has started to creep in, especially during Sadat’s era. Cheap and cheerful red carpets have started to emerge whenever the president has opened any national projects. Egypt ____ a country that has always been proud of its old glory, feels the need to project an image of a prestige, at least of some sort.

Reports say that Sisi’s red carpet was four kilometers in length. That is not short, but it is definitely not as expensive as costs that the Daily Mail provided ___ without much evidence____ of an over-estimated value of £140, 000. That is simply ludicrous. In actuality, this type of red carpet would be manufactured in Egyptian army factories at a fraction of the above estimate.

So why has Sisi’s red carpet created such uproar?

The red carpet is a product of the mindset of certain generations in Egypt’s army and their outdated approach to public relations. It was not necessarily due to Sisi and his autocratic presidency. The real problem, however, is neither in the carpet, nor in its cost, but in the man who has used it. The red carpet saga has exposed how Egypt’s Sisi is under intense scrutiny, and how his enemies hate him with a vengeance. Even if Sisi abandons his motorcade and red carpets, and instead uses public buses, his enemies will find something else to cement the perception that he is a North Korean dictator on the Nile.

Indeed, there are good reasons behind such deep hatred. Egypt is facing an unprecedented wave of unjust arrests, harsh prison sentences, abuses, and rouge police behaviors. The Egyptian president needs to take notice and diffuse this collective anger against him, which if allowed to continue may lash out at him, with dangerous ramifications for the country. Moreover, the Egyptian army should understand that carpets would not cover up Egypt’s mounting problems.

Nonetheless, Sisi’s opponents also must take notice and should resist the temptation to hype trivial matters, otherwise they will feed Sisi’s supporters’ paranoia and sense of victimhood. Fake beatification has existed in Egypt well before Sisi and will probably continue after him. The same red carpet might be rolled out again the day after Sisi is gone, but this would probably be met with less fury and scrutiny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, Short Comments | 1 Comment

Irreparable crack develops in the AKP

Re-blogging Yavuz Baydar’s piece on the irreparable cracks inside Turkey’s ruling party, and how t

he outcome of any rift within the AKP will define the destiny of Turkey, since Erdoğan is currently facing no other challengers.

Definitely worth reading.
Source: Irreparable crack develops in the AKP

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Egyptian Aak 2016-Week 5 ( Feb 1-7)

 

Top Headlines

  • Italian student found dead in Egypt. Thursday
  • Italian foreign ministry calls for joint investigation into student’s death
  • Cessation Court accepts appeal against 149 death sentences in the Kerdasa massacre. Wednesday
  • Police kill 2 alleged members of Ajnad Masr. Thursday

 

giulio-regeni-2

Giulio Regeni, Italian student found dead in Cairo- via Il Manifesto

Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday 

 Sunday 

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

 Plus:

Photo Gallery

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Obama’s misguided cropped image of Islam

 

 

Obama mosque kids 2Obama’s visit to the Baltimore Mosque. Via White House

Amidst the rising global hatred against Muslims, American President Barak Obama visited a mosque in Baltimore. President Obama delivered a speech calling for harmony and religious, but during the same day, a Pew Research Centre study was published, reporting that many Americans think a substantial segment of the U.S. Muslim population is anti-American. This data may prove disappointing to Obama’s supporters who see him as an advocate against bigotry and racism, but as an outsider, a non-American Muslim, I can see why the American president’s gesture has failed to minimize polarization.

The leader of the West’s strongest nation has opted to strip Islam from its centuries-old, colorful diversities and frame it within a monochromatic conservative style—a self-defeating approach from a man who advocated for diversity among weary Americans who wish to shelter their country from the turbulence of the Middle East.

To understand my point, have a look at the White House’s published photos of the visit. Those photos represent neither America nor Islam.

The lack of non-Hijabi women among the attendees, even among the children, is striking. Do all American Muslim women wear Hijab? Certainly not. Many Muslims left their oppressive native societies that enforced strict dress codes in America—the land of freedom. Moreover, in addition to non-Hijabi Muslims, there are many gay and lesbian Muslim Americans too. How about Sufi Muslim, a peaceful mainstream sect that is more tolerant and accommodating than other orthodox sects of Islam? Why has it been ignored?

Why has the American president opted to provide America with a cropped image of Islam?

While conservative America is demonizing Muslims as terrorists, liberal progressive America is courting conservative Islamist Muslims and portraying them as mainstream Muslim Americans. This absurd selectivity is simply baffling. How can a president who fights for freedom alienate those who advocate freedom in Islam?

Non-Islamist Muslims exist in America as well as in their native countries. Iranian Americans, for example, will undoubtedly tell the president tales about oppression, dress code, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Other liberal Muslims fight against segregation, enforcing Hijab upon children. Almost all Muslim mainstream Muslim scholars agree that Hijab for pre-puberty children is not obligatory. The American leadership that fights the Islamic State’s oppression, however, seems tolerant of such indoctrination of children.

As Asra Nomani and Ify Okoye wrote, “President Obama should be aware that on any given day, a woman or girl worshiping in the mosque would be dispatched away from the musallah (prayer hall) where he will stand to speak out against Islamophobia, to the “prayer room for females,” as one worshipper described it.”

I may not agree with all of Asra Nomani’s views, but I share her concerns on enforcing segregation. It is a revolting feature in modern-day orthodox Islam, which does not even exist in Islam’s holiest place of Mecca. Before the recent rise of political Islam, women were allowed to pray in the main hall inside many mosques throughout the Muslim world. I personally had the privilege to pray the al-Asr prayer inside the stunning Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, albeit in the back behind the men. The same practice existed until recently in Bosnia and most the Balkan mosques. In Cairo, women and men separated into groups, but they pray together in Eid prayers.

Courting conservative Islamist Americans will not ease the tension and hatred about Islam in America or in the rest of the world. In fact, the opposite is true. This visit will only entrench the current polarization, because it ignored those who can bridge the gap between Islam and the West. Obama presented to America a badly cropped image of Islam during a time when the wide panoramic view is needed. This was certainly a missed opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Best Read, Islam, Short Comments | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2016- Week 4 ( Jan25-31)

Top Headlines

  • Amid heavy security, Egypt marks 5th anniversary of uprising. Monday
  • Egyptian F-16 aircraft crashes, killing crew. Thursday
  • Charges lifted for 73 security officials in illicit gains case against Mubarak’s El-Adly. Thursday
  • Egypt refutes reports claiming those responsible for downing plane over Sinai were arrested. Saturday
  • Egyptian-German researcher Atef Botros is banned from entering Egypt
  • Popular Egyptian cartoonist Islam Gawish is arrested
  • Egypt increases tariffs on range of imports. Sunday

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

 Sunday

 Good Reports

Good Read

And you may be interested to read my piece: Egypt’s nonsensical heroism

 

From Twitter

Plus

Photo Essay

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

 

 

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Egypt’s nonsensical heroism

 

A video of two young men, Ahmed Malek, an aspiring actor and his friend, satire show reporter Shady Abu-Zaid, handing out condom balloons to police on the fifth anniversary of Egypt’s uprising has gone viral, triggering an ongoing flurry of heated argument among Egyptians. A later apology by one of the actors, Ahmed Malek, has failed to calm down the saga.

A clear fault line has emerged between two opposing camps in the “battle of the condom” as Hudson Institute’s Samuel Tadros aptly described in one tweet.

One camp strongly supports the activists, including prominent satirist Bassem Youssef and other revolutionary activists, who defended the two young actors, praising their clever satire, justifying their acts as out of frustration from the daily ruthless oppression by police. Many Islamists have also joined in, despite their traditional antipathy to any sexual references, including condoms, and have praised the actors.

The second camp supports the police, including many pro-regime commentators who not only praised the police, but indulged in postulating various conspiracy theories and even attacking the actors’ (mainly Shadi) sexual orientation. Several complaints have been filed against Abu-Zaid and Malek, including a complaint to the general prosecution by lawyer Samir Sabry, who is known for multiple controversial lawsuits aimed at litigating social morals.

Activists did not back down from attacking their opponents, describing those who oppose them as lacking morals and respect. An Islamist journalist ran a twitter poll, asking a devious question: Which is worse Shadi’s condom or the police’s bullets? As if Shadi’s condom would be welcomed if Morsi were still in power.

Lost in this nonsensical battle is the way that Malek and Shadi conducted their satire. The two young activists decided to drain their anger and frustration from police brutality, not on Sisi or the Minister of the Interior, but on the lowest police ranks and the staff most mistreated by senior police cadres____ the central security officers (CSF).

CSF soldiers are men called up for Egypt’s obligatory military service, usually drawn from the most disadvantaged social backgrounds. They lack the educational qualifications eligible for army service, so instead they are allocated to the police. Humiliation and abuse from their senior commanders are part of their daily routine. In fact, their food ration is appalling, even by ordinary Egyptian standards. For the most part, their job involves standing in one place for hours on end.

Being at one of society’s lowest rungs can be oppressive. On February 25, 1986, a day that I will never forget, around 25,000 Egyptian conscripts of the CSF staged violent protests in and around Cairo in reaction to a suggestion that their three-year compulsory service would be prolonged by one additional year without any additional benefits or rank promotion.

The entire public transport network was halted. Queues of baffled citizens, including my mother and I, were forced to walk back home. It did not take long for rumors to spread about the CSF mutiny, and how some of them targeted tourist areas. The incited conscripts targeted tourist areas and destroyed two hotels. Cairo was abuzz with leaked reports about how the army was hunting down rebellious conscripts even if they were unarmed. This was Mubarak’s era, portrayed by some now, as “less authoritarian than Sisi’s regime.

That was 1986, which is ancient history as far as Shadi, Malek, and their supporters are concerned. Many of them were not even born when the CSF’s revolt happened. Their memory, instead, is solely based on police brutality that has been going on since January 2011. Many Egyptians ___ myself included ___ are disgusted by the state and police repression, with its long list of brutal actions with forced disappearance, torture, murder, and unjust imprisonment of activists.

Many, however, are struggling to sanction Shadi and Malek’s satire despite its relative benign nature. There are many reasons:

First: Collectiveness is wrong. To consider the unjust police force as one entity fails to differentiate between the lower-ranks and senior police management. In other words, between those who have a choice, and those who do not. As I explained above, those low-rank Central are in mandatory service, unlike their senior commanders. This collectiveness is also dangerous, as it ignores the distinct difference between the regime and the state____ one of the biggest mistakes of the whole Arab-awakening wave. If activists see the entire police force as evil, then a total purge would be needed for justice_____ a goal that would be impossible to happen without weakening the state to a dangerous level.

Second: Elitism. The satire was not just for a casual observer, but involved humiliating another human being. Although satire is lawful against the regime, exploiting poor, ignorant and naïve lower-rank policemen is not in good taste. A prank video taking advantage of uneducated rural men, who have probably never seen a condom in their life, and who are not online with Facebook accounts to fight back against those who mock them, is sheer elitism.

Shady and Malik opted for an easy option, abusing the weak, to protest against the actual tyrants. In a Facebook post, Professor Khaled Fahmy, professor of history at the American University in Cairo has rightly pointed out that the dismal state of the CSF officers is the responsibility of the regime. Indeed, however, that does not give the pro-democracy activists the right to contribute to the officers’ misery.

Third: A slippery road. If non-Islamist activists see lower-rank officers as a legitimate target, how about violent attacks against the police? Did the activists ever wonder why Islamists decided to passionately support them? Logic that sanctions mocking others, such as against “evil” officers could also accept violence, even murder as legitimate.

Nonetheless, imprisoning those two young Egyptians would be a grave mistake. The tense polarized divisions must be healed; not aggravated. Ahmed Malek has already apologized, and I hope his apology will be directly delivered to the policemen that appeared in the video. A brother of one of the policemen has stated the obvious that his family is too poor to take legal action.

This surreal war has exposed the shallowness of both camps____ from the holy praise of police, to the equal fawning over the activists and their nonsensical heroism. Both sides demand total loyalty and reject reflection. Such an attitude is perhaps not surprising from hard-core regime supporters, but rather disappointing from those who claim to be democrats. Fighting authoritarianism neither provides immunity from criticism, nor does it sanction elitism and exploitation. It is unlikely that the condom prank sage will entice ordinary apolitical Egyptians to defy oppression and rekindle another January 25 revolution____ in fact, the opposite is true, it will make them stick to the devil they know.

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Italy’s shambolic appeasement of Islamism

Statue Nude 2

Plywood boxes concealed the nude statues at the museum in Rome

Photo via BBC

 

Iranian President Rouhani is in Europe seeking to boost economic ties after the implementation of the Iran deal and the lifting of sanctions on his country. In Italy, Renaissance art of nude men and women were covered up to avoid any possible offence to the Iranian President during his visit to the Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums) while accompanied by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Not surprisingly, the decision has stirred anger inside Italy, where politicians on the left and right have both said that Renzi “surrendered” Italy’s cultural identity by hiding the nude statues. Many on social media expressed their dismay about the Italian decision and a hashtag appeared on twitter, #Statuenude, mocking the situation. Facebook page Journalism is not a crime wrote: “Italian officials showed their respect for the visiting Iranian president Hassan Rouhani by covering up classic works of art in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Meanwhile in Iran, the government executes dozens of people in public or publicly administers lashes as punishment. But none of this seems to bother the Iranian president as much as the sight of a penis or a breast made of stone.”

This is not the first time, however, that this has happened. Italian PM Renzi met with similar criticism last year when he covered up nude paintings in the renaissance town hall of Florence, the city where he used to be mayor, on the occasion of a visit by the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates.

Should a sovereign non-Muslim nation sacrifice its historical legacy to please foreign dignitaries? The answer is simply no. There should be a line of demarcation between hospitality and cultural appeasement. It is alarming that the Italian PM fails to understand the difference, and how his seemingly benign gesture has more troubling implications. Does the Italian PM understand that his gesture will be interpreted in Iran and among other Islamist groups as the West bowing down to them and their beliefs? How can Italy or other Western nations expect Iran to be a partner against ISIS, while Iran shares a basic common value with ISIS____ the rejection of art and Western values?

The question of nudity and Islamism is not new in the Middle East. Western observers fail to understand that rejection of Western arts is an essential pillar of political Islam, whether Sunni or Shia. For the Islamists, rejecting nudity is crucial to their identity and their quest for empowerment. To do this, they reject Western modernity, particularly the Renaissance era.

I learned from very early days in my secondary school how Islamists despised Italian renaissance art. A slide show of photos from “Michelangelo & Sistine chapel” in a history lesson was enough to stir the anger of Islamist students who shouted against the teacher and the presentation, cursing “this Angelo” “who will go to hell.”

In another example, the Mermaid statue in Alexandria, constructed by my uncle Fathi Mahmoud, depicting a Greek God in the form of a bull hugging a beautiful mermaid as symbol of Mediterranean Alexandria and its Greek heritage, is one example of piece of artwork that is considered by Islamists as offensive nudity, prompting some Egyptian Salafis to temporarily cover it up during their election campaign in 2012. Later, in the same year, it was vandalized by “unknown assailants.” Moreover, during Morsi’s tenure in Egypt, Salafi Nour Party M.P. Gamal Hamed called for the abolition of ballet performances in Egypt, describing it as “immoral” and a form of “nude art.”

Nonetheless, in Egypt, at least up till now, it has been unthinkable to hide statues of semi-nude Pharaonic women to please visiting Arab or Muslim leaders. Although Egyptian statues do not depict a person’s genitals, there are many semi-nude Pharaonic women statues that would certainly offend some. The unwritten practice in Egypt is as follows, if anyone is unhappy about Egypt’s ancient monuments, then a visit to the ancient sites should not be included in their visiting programme.

That is precisely what the Italian president should have done. If the Capitoline Museum is too much for the sensitivities of Rouhani, then he should not visit it. For example, in France, Rouhani is expected to attend a dinner for Iranian expatriates in Paris, but a lunch reception at the palace, which is usual for state visits, is unlikely to take place because of Iran’s insistence on a longstanding diplomatic protocol that its officials should not participate in events where wine is served _____ a fair enough mutual arrangement.

Yes, while Iran is a lucrative emerging market, and many countries are keen to strike deals with it, it is baffling to see Western nations bending over to please the Iranian Mullahs. Italy could have easily welcomed the Iranian President, clinched the business deals, and done so without going too far in empowering a medieval ideology that rejects Western modernity.

Sadly, it opted not to do so and instead, decided to give the Islamists more legitimacy in their argument to destroy art. After all, if the birthplace of the Roman Empire is hiding its statues, as if they are shameful or improper, why should others respect them or take notice? Empowering medieval ideologies is Europe’s latest error of judgment and there will be a hefty price to pay down the road.

 

Posted in Egypt, Iran, Islam, Middle East, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Reblog: EU commission letter to Turkey on renewing accession negotiations

The letter on the deal the EU made with Turkey has finally been made public. Member of the European Parliament Marietje Schaake has published it together with her thoughts on the situation in Turkey.

This paragraph, in my opinion, sums- up the situation in Turkey:

“While the EU seemed to be focusing only on the refugee crisis, over the past few months, the situation in Turkey has slid to worrying proportions. Leading journalists have been arrested, there have been a number of high-profile terror attacks and the government is intensifying its campaign in South-East Turkey against the PKK. This fight against terrorists has led to many civilian casualties and a curfew being enforced for many weeks.”

You can read the whole blog, including a copy of the letter in Marietje Schaake’s blog here

 

Posted in Turkey | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 3 ( Jan19-24)

Top Headlines

  • Giza blast kills 7 Egyptian policemen and 3 civilians. Thursday
  • Chinese president arrives for Cairo visit, set for bilateral talks. Thursday
  • Two Egypt-based militant groups claim responsibility for ‪Giza attack. Friday
  • Egypt denies reports of mediation efforts with Turkey to ease ‘crisis.’ Friday
  • Egypt’s President Sisi praises 25 January revolution ahead of 5th anniversary. Sunday
  • Tight security ahead of 5th anniversary of Egypt’s January revolution. Reports

 Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

 Sunday

 Good reports

Good Read

From Twitter

 

 

 

Plus:

Photo Gallery

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers of Egypt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The anniversary of the Revolution and the need for truth and clarity

 

Shafiq Morsi

Egypt’s 2012 election, Ahmed Shafiq versus Mohamed Morsi. Via Ahram

An Egyptian proverb claims that Egypt was built by a “Halawani” sweet maker, a reference to the Egyptians’ addiction to sweet deserts and sweet talk too. The making of modern Egypt, however, has always been engineered by mediocre officials with sour taste, men who have been obsessed with blurring reality and evading facts.

Now, on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 revolution, it is opportune to reflect on the diverse views of events over the past five years, and what went wrong (or right). Despite the differences in views, it is hard for anyone to deny how truth was the first victim of Egypt’s chaotic post-Mubarak transition. Egypt’s 2012 election, a crucial event in post-Mubarak’s Egypt, is just one example.

Last Tuesday, an Egyptian court annulled a former gag order imposed by General Prosecutor Hesham Barakat in October 2014 on all publications and broadcasts discussing allegations of rigging in the 2012 presidential elections.

The 2012 Presidential Election was a direct outcome of the January 2011 Revolution. It aimed to elect Egypt’s first civilian president since 1952. Five major candidates competed in the first round: Ex-FM Amr Moussa, Socialist Hamdeen Sabahi, ex-Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsi, and Ahmed Shafiq, the last Prime Minister of the Mubarak era.

It was an exciting, albeit tense drama. After a dull era during Mubarak’s tenure, Egyptians were engrossed in the charm of their country’s new political scene. They felt their vote was crucial to shape the country’s future. Many predicted that Amr Moussa and Aboul Fotouh would gain the highest votes, but most of the predictions and opinion polls were wrong.

In the first round, with a voter turnout of 46%, the Brotherhood’s Morsi got 25% of the votes and Mubarak’s last PM man, Ahmed Shafik, got 24%. Aboul Fetouh won 17%, and Moussa 11% of the votes. I was one of the very few who suggested Morsi and Shafiq were the strongest candidates. This was not because I had a crystal ball, but simply because I acknowledged that networking, particularly in the rural areas, was crucial for winning, and it was a game both Mubarak’s men and the Muslim Brotherhood had mastered.

The second round was harder to predict. The elections turned toxic as the electorate was forced to choose between an Islamist and a symbol of the old regime. A Guardian report had captured the voters’ dilemma. One voter explained why he planned to vote for Shafiq. “We can easily get rid of him if we want to, but not the Brotherhood, which will cling to power.” Another Islamist voter told the Guardian reporter, “If Shafiq wins, we will return to the street.”

Indeed, ahead of the announced day, Islamists gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo, while their backing TV channel, Al-Jazeera, started to announce its own alleged “exit polls,” claiming that Morsi was the winner. When Shafiq also declared he was the winner, the country’s ruling military council criticized the two presidential candidates for making premature claims of victory. After a delay announcing the results, a tense, gloomy-faced election committee declared that the Brotherhood’s Morsi had won by a very narrow margin. According to the formal results, Morsi received13.2 million votes out of 26 million; Ahmed Shafiq received 12.3 million

The formal results, however, never settled the alleged rumor that Shafiq was indeed the winner, not Morsi, and that “something” had happened in the last few hours before the results were declared to force the election committee to change the outcome.

Last June, in an interview with Al-Watan newspaper, a senior cadre in Egypt’s military intelligence, General Walid Al-Nimr, claimed that Shafiq had won Egypt’s 2012 presidential race. Following last Tuesday’s lifting of the media gag, the same newspaper, Al-Watan, published more details of what it alleged as fraud in the 2012 election. TV anchor Amr Adeib also voiced his concern and claimed widespread irregularities in a recent episode of his program. Amr Adeib also claimed that all his sources had indicated Shafiq was the winner up until the results were declared.

Does it matter what happened in 2012? Some may argue that the truth concerning the events of 2012’s election are irrelevant following Morsi’s ousting by the army under Abdel Fatah el-Sisi in July 2013.

But the events of the 2012 elections do matter. If Shafiq was indeed the winner, then the Brotherhood would have had two options: Either accepting the results, which would have saved them all the turbulence of 2013, or rejecting the results and embarking on violence. The latter course of action would have ruined their “alleged” popularity both inside and outside Egypt. After all, Morsi won only 25% of the vote in the first round of the election, and not an overwhelming majority.

One theory suggests that the military council feared anarchy and destruction if the Brotherhood supporters rejected the result, and there were divisions among the military council on what to do next.Egypt, however, does not need theories; it does need the truth.

Now, a court verdict in favor of Shafiq will strip the Brotherhood of their claim that the election was free and fair, a crucial part of their narrative. On the other hand, if the court affirms the 2012 result, then Shafiq’s future career will definitely be over, as he invested so much in this court case.

It is good to see the court annulling the previous gag order. Hopefully it will also call all involved players to testify too. All the witnesses of the 2012 election are still alive, from members of the military council to members of the election committee. That is crucial to prevent further rejections, rumors, and disputes concerning the court’s verdict.

Egypt has always had an opaque political scene. Clarity, accountability, and honest testimonies from major players have always been missing ingredients from Egypt’s modern history. Many disputed narratives have affected Egyptian perceptions of their previous rulers, from King Farouk to the Brotherhood’s Morsi.

As we lament the loss of our dreams and the revolution that once inspired the rest of the world, it is crucial to understand that democracy and opacity are mutually exclusive. A society that indulges in rumors, myths, and half-facts cannot achieve justice or freedom. We should demand to know the truth of what has happened since the day Mubarak stepped out of power. The Truth is never irrelevant; it is healthy and essential.

 

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, June30, Middle East | 1 Comment