Condemnation of the Adana Massacre (1909) by Shaykh al-Azhar Salim al-Bishri (d. 1916)


On the Centenary of Armenian genocide/ mass killing. this piece. It is remarkable to see how Al-Azhar of the past stood by what is right and ignore religious loyality to Sunni Ottomans. courtesy to Mohammad Fadel.

Originally posted on Ballandalus:

In April 1909, there was a major wave of massacres in the Cilician city of Adana (modern-day southern Turkey), in which over 20,000 Armenians were murdered and thousands of homes destroyed. Although these attacks on Armenian communities in Anatolia had intensified nearly a decade earlier during the Hamidian massacres between 1894 and 1896, in which between 90,000 and 300,000 Armenians, civilians and nationalist dissidents alike, were indiscriminately killed by Ottoman forces and mobs, the massacres of 1909 would foreshadow the even more heinous genocidal massacres of 1915–1918.

In response to the massacres, the Grand Shaykh of al-Azhar (the leading religious institution of Sunni Muslims in the world) Salim al-Bishri (who held the position from 1909 to 1916) issued a strongly-worded condemnation of the perpetrators of the massacre and all those religious authorities in the Ottoman Empire who had incited or endorsed the massacre (for more on Shaykh Salim al-Bishri, read…

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Women with or without headscarves should be accepted and respected in Egypt

Initially published in Egypt’s Ahram

A call by Egyptian journalist Cherif Choubachy for veiled Muslim women to take off their headscarves (hijab) has stirred widespread controversy in Egypt. Choubachy has also proposed a “take off the veil” rally to be held at Cairo’s Tahrir Square. While some have welcomed Choubachy’s proposal, others vehemently oppose the idea. A senior official at Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest Sunni Islamic institution rejected the call, stressing that the head-cover is a religious must for female Muslims once they reach puberty.Heated discussions spread to talk shows, and social media, with pro- and anti-veil trading accusations and counter-accusations.

The responses to Choubachy’s proposal have exposed the shallow, mediocre approach to contentious, sensitive topics, and the inability of society to tackle different viewpoints in a constructive manner.

The debate about Islamic dress code for women is not new. On a personal level, as for any Egyptian female, this issue has been a regular facet of my life since childhood. Family friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers preached about the “mandatory” headscarf, even before I reached puberty.

At university, I was one of a small group of females who did not wear a veil. Dressing modestly in a non-revealing garment, avoiding tight jeans and make-up was not enough to protect me from the avalanche of criticism. Almost daily, I heard comments like, “Go and cover that hair,” “That wild hair will put you in hell.” Islamists used to offer non-veiled students books about the “right” dress code that were filled with threats of punishment in the afterlife for staying un-veiled.

I decided, however, that a dress code should not be allowed to shape my identity or the depth of my religiosity, and opted not to wear a headscarf. Social coercion is not pretty, but it is still manageable in Egypt; if the woman is willing to persevere and ignore the noise.

The wearing of an Islamic veil has fluctuated in popularity throughout the last few decades. In the seventies and eighties a strict Islamic dress code started to sweep society, with some popular female celebrities joining the wave and declaring their “repentance” for their past without the veil. Moreover, covering the face as well as the head (niqab) and long headscarves covering the chest (jilbab), mostly in dark plain colours started to also make a strong appearance in Egypt.

Later in the nineties, creativity dominated the scene with a flurry of various headscarves that started to appeal to younger generations.

During and after the January 2011 revolution, Egyptian women have displayed a wide variety of dress codes during protests, from no veil at all, to the full niqab.

This plurality in display was a healthy sign of a society embracing freedom and change.

In fact, the last few years of upheaval in Egypt have exposed the flawed line of demarcation between religion and politics in Egypt. Not all religiously conservative women have backed the Muslim Brotherhood and president Morsi.

In 2013, many women in strict Islamic dress joined anti-Morsi protests to the shock and dismay of the Islamists. On the other hand, the pro-Morsi camp was keen to demonstrate that some non-veiled women, albeit only a few, were among their supporters.

Nearly two years later, Egypt is still tense and polarised. The Muslim Brotherhood may have vanished from the political scene, but ordinary Egyptians are still feeling uneasy about their faith, which they care about dearly, and its place in public life. This is precisely why the bickering about headscarves is not helpful.

In Egypt, headscarves are not imposed by the state, therefore, the call for a rally to remove the scarves, even if it is well intentioned and with valid reasons, is misguided. President El-Sisi’s wife and daughters (who have only appeared in public during his inauguration) are religiously conservative and wear headscarves. Calls to remove the headscarves will only trigger resentment and elicit a stubborn response. In fact, it will provide Islamists with the victimhood environment that they desperately need to re-kindle their social popularity among conservative Egyptians.

With this said, it is also time for Egypt’s Muslim clerics to stop treating the way a woman dresses as if it is a fulcrum of the faith. It is not. This misplaced priority is rather alarming. Moreover, Islam has always been a faith with diverse views and interpretations of sacred text. The current totalitarian approach to any religious controversy needs to stop. Diversity and tolerance are the two essential ingredients for a healthy society.

In sum, it is about time to respect the basic right of a woman to choose her own manner of dress without angry bickering and petty debates. Women with or without headscarves should be accepted and respected in Egypt.

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

Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 16 ( April 13- 19)

Main Headlines








 Good Reports

Good Read



 From Twitter



  • Baseera: 90% Egyptians send Christians holiday wishes

 Photo Gallery


  • President El-Sisi cautions against individual efforts to ‘renew religious discourse’ says process should b thru state institutions (Arabic)
  • Kite surfing in Egypt

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Egypt and Working Mothers

Lamia Hamdin ( Photo of journalist Lamia Hamdin via Twitter)

On the streets of Cairo, Lamia Hamdin, an Egyptian journalist for private Egypt station ON TV, was photographed holding her baby while doing interviews. The photos went viral on social media and triggered a flurry of responses. Some praised her as an ideal mother, while others called her behavior unprofessional. Hamdin said, “I was struggling and he had to go thru this with me, it was no picnic.”

 The story of Hamdin and her son has evoked many of my own childhood memories. For years, I was in the same position as Hamdin’s baby, accompanying my mother to work. And yes, it was no picnic. In an over-populated country like Egypt, with very few kindergartens, and even fewer babysitting services, mothers have always been torn between their motherhood duties and work obligations. Following the sudden death of my father, my mother faced the same dilemma; she had to work (spouse pensions were peanuts), but also had to look after me. My grandmother helped initially, but fell ill. With a limited support network, my mother opted for a bolder move; she took me with her to work when help was not available.

 The details are still vivid in my memories. It always started and finished with a dreadful bus/or metro journey from home to work and back. I used to count the stations, memorize their names, and ask my mother endless questions about their meanings, which she patiently answered.

 The tricky part was during working hours. It was no fun for a young child, but children can also adapt quickly. Like Hamdin’s baby who clearly did not scream or fuss during the interview, I also learned not to moan while my mother was working. In return, my mother tried everything she could to keep me entertained and occupied. She supplied me with drawing pens, paper, and many books. After she noticed that I enjoyed reading, she joined the nearby public library to secure a good supply of books. In addition, she used to give me blank paper, encouraging me to write my thoughts about every book I read, and to reflect on what I had learned.

 Just as Hamdin faced criticism and harsh remarks with the circulation of her photos, some too were unkind to my mother. The blame was mainly focused on her staying single, and not finding a husband that can “save her the hassle.” My mother, however, was defiant, graceful, and always stood her ground.

 The images of mothers, carrying their children to work symbolize a bold type of feminism that some do not find acceptable. The images of Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli in Strasburg parliament reflect a unique sort of defiance from a woman proud of both her baby and her career. For some, that is too much, they want to force women into an unpalatable either/or choice. That should not be the case. Our society should be supportive to its women, without bullying, criticism, or social pressure to stay at home.

 Egypt has always had tenacious women that have defied stereotypes, and in particular many fought hard to support their families. Last month, Egypt honored a woman, Sisa Abu Daooh, from Upper Egypt who, after her husband died, disguised herself as a man for 43 years in order to make a living for her daughter. From street vendors to top professional jobs, women are everywhere in Egypt fighting to earn a living and support themselves and their families.

 With hindsight, my days at work with my mother have shaped my life immensely and in a positive way. I gained knowledge, and learned to reflect. It has also helped me to be observant of _ frankly everything _ from nature and architecture to people and their social behavior. More importantly, it helped me to develop a sense of responsibility at a very tender age.

 The newspaper, Al-Watan, has quoted Lamia Hamden as saying that she has received a supportive phone call from the presidential team. Another report suggests that the president may meet Hamdin soon. That is encouraging, however, a small social gesture is not enough to help millions of hard-working Egyptian women. More needs to be done to support working mothers, from better maternity-leave contracts to various social support programs sponsored by the government and private institutions. It is about time that Egypt invests in its working mothers, as they are tremendous assets to the society.

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

Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 15 ( April 6-12)

Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie flashes the Rabaa sign as he stands behind bars during his trial with ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and other leaders of the brotherhood at a court on the outskirts of Cairo(Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide sentenced to death in Egypt – Photo via reuters)

Main Headlines

 Main Headlines 








Good Reports

  • A freelance photojournalist forgotten behind prison walls. Mai Shams El-Din
  • No united front: Mixed messages from the Muslim Brotherhood on violence. Omar Said
  • American Civil War vets found success, blame during unique service in Egypt. Betsy Hiel
  • In Egypt, ex-military men fire up Islamist insurgency. Yara Bayoumy
  • Egypt’s ambassador to Yemen won’t rule out ground troops. Enas Hamed

Good read

 Photo Gallery



Egypt in Tweets





Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

In Photos: The hidden beauty of Iran

Away from politics and  the intense debate of the Iran provisional nuclear agreement, here is some of my collection of  photos from my visit to this fascinating country. And yes, I  felt more comfortable outside Tehran 


Pink roses are particularly dominant in Shiraz’s architecture.

Iran 2005 part 2 135

The romantic tomb of the great Iranian poet Hafez


An old bath turned to a resturant

Iran 2005 part 3 109


Iran 2005 part 4 040

Ali Qapu Palace In Isfahan

Iran 2005 part 4 004

A Closer look at Isfahani architecture 

Iran 2005 part 5 010


The best old and inhabitant city of Iran and an important centre for Zoroastrianism.

Its ancient mud-bricks houses are special insulation design.

Yazd 1

Remnants of Zoroastrian buildings

Z tomb


A breathtaking, unspoiled mountain village in Gilan province. It is formed by several irregular levels of terraced houses. It has few alleys, most are absent, and instead the flat roof of houses form a pathway for the level above.

Iran 2005 part 4 083

Persian History 

Naghsh -e Rostam: An ancient necropolis 12 km northwest of Persepolis.

Iran 2005 part 2 016

I refused to visit Imam Khomeini grave, but here one of many placards about him in Tehran

Iran 2005 part 4 049

Gorgeous little Hijabi girls 

Iran 2005 part 4 010

 Alamut Castle ( death castle) that witnessed the intriguing history of Shia Nizari Ismaili, allegedly the first inventors of suicide fighters. 


The magnificent spring blossoms and the snowcapped mountains 


Shia Islam

Shia do not mind depiction of the Prophet’s  male relatives

Iran 2005 part 3 024

Tribal ladies 

Iran has many tribes, many of them produce distinctive rugs

Iran 2005 part 3 049All photos are mine. All rights reserved

Posted in Iran, Photo Essay | Tagged | 4 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 14 ( Mar 30 – April 5)


Al-Sisi says securing Yemen’s key strait a top priority, via Egypt Independent

 Main Headlines








 Best Reports

Good Read

Tweets of the week 




Pyramids turns blue for world autism day

Pyramids turn blue for World Autism Awareness Day

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

“New” Turkey has blocked my tweet

FullSizeRender Yesterday, I received a notice of withholding from the Twitter legal team via e-mail. My understanding from the e-mail, which was written in Turkish, is that one of my tweets was banned in Turkey by a court ruling. Twitter gave me a 48-hour notice to appeal the verdict. On March 31, a Turkish prosecutor was held hostage by a far left banned Turkish group, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). He later died from his wounds. I simply tweeted the news about his kidnapping.The prosecutor was looking into the death of teenager Berkin Elvan. The 15-year-old died 269 days after being hit by a tear-gas canister and left in a coma following the Gezi protests in June 2013. The PDF attachment included in the e-mail has a list of 166 banned instances of content. My tweet is number 81 on this list. FullSizeRender 2 I do not live in Turkey, and I will not engage in a legal battle over this, however, I am deeply saddened by the whole matter. The fact that someone in Turkey wants to ban a tweet about accurate news that has happened in Turkey is frankly tragic. Mainstream Turkish newspapers such as Hurriyat have been condemned by both President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu for merely publishing a photo that the DHKP-C militants released when they were holding the prosecutor hostage. It is worth noting that there was nothing in my tweet that endorses or supports the banned Turkish Marxist group, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). In fact, I have never supported them or any other political group in Turkey. Moreover, on the same day, I tweeted a condemnation of their terror and stated that this is this is not the way to react to the killing of the Turkish teenager, Berkin Elvan. Some Turkish leftists criticized my comments, but I stood by my views, as I believe everyone should condemn terrorism. Interestingly, out of the 166 names included in the Turkish court list, I am the only non-Turkish individual. The rest are either Turkish national or main stream mews outlets. I do not work for any outlet or organization. This begs the question, why me? Thousands have tweeted the same photo. As an independent blogger, I comments on the entire Middle East, not just Turkey. Some Turkish troll on Twitter have written intriguing abusive messages. Regardless of the answer,I will not let anything tamper my passion and love of Turkey. I have followed Turkish politics since a very young age and I have no plan to stop now. If they stop my tweets, I will still continue blogging and writing about Turkey, a country that I simply adore. 

Post Script

Here is a report about the incident.

Posted in Best Read, Middle East, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 13 ( March 23-28)


Qatari emir in Egypt

( Egypt’s El-Sisi receives Qatari Emir ahead of Arab summit via Ahram)

Main Headlines 








 Good report

Good read



Photo Gallery

Tweets of the Week



Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Any Vietnam in Yemen will not be Egypt’s Vietnam

Civil War In Yemen In 1962

( Yemen ‘s sixties civil war- gettyimages)

After Saudi Arabia and its regional allies started their air strikes against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, it did not take long for Egypt to announce its military support for the Saudi operation “Decisive Storm.” Egypt’s involvement in Yemen has concerned many, rekindling memories of President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s involvement in Yemen in the 1960s, which drained the country’s military and financial resources.

 In 1962, Egypt’s Nasser made a bold decision to send Egyptian troops to Yemen to support the Yemeni Republican coup d’état against the ruling Imam, who was backed by Saudi Arabia. Yemen’s war between the royalists and nationalists continued for years, draining Egypt’s military and economic capabilities and deepening the animosity between Nasser’s regime in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which rejected his socialist agenda.

 Like any military intervention, Egypt’s involvement in Yemen poses explicit risks and raises valid reasons for concern, but that is where the comparison with the past ends. The current confrontation in Yemen involves different players with different dynamics and contrasting objectives. These differences are too substantive to make any comparison between Egypt’s previous involvement in Yemen and its current participation.

 First, this is not Egypt’s war. The declaration of war was initiated by Saudi Arabia, not Egypt. The Saudis have clearly opted to take the lead in this war, thus assuming responsibility and bear the brunt of any consequences. They have managed to garner a huge coalition, including the rest of the Gulf Union, excluding Oman, Jordan, and Morocco. They also have logistical support from the U.S. and Turkey. Egypt is just one of a long list of participants. As Simon Henderson has written, this is Saudi Arabia’s big gamble. Therefore, victory or defeat will be mainly for the Saudis to claim. Analysts have labeled Nasser’s war in Yemen as “Nasser’s Vietnam.” Now, a new Vietnam in Yemen will be Saudi Arabia’s Vietnam, not Egypt’s.

 Second, Egypt is not fighting the Saudis in the current war in Yemen but fighting with them. Does it matter? Off course it does. The main challenge that faced Egypt in its past war in Yemen was the endless supply of arms and logistics, which the royalist camp comfortably received from Saudi Arabia along the 1,800 km border between the two countries. In contrast, logistical support for the Egyptian troops had to come all the way from Egypt. The situation has now been reversed in Yemen. The Houthi rebels are the ones who are relying on supplies from far away Iran. The air and naval siege imposed by the Saudis will compound their vulnerability.

 Iran may criticize the Saudis’ interference in Yemen, but it would be suicidal for the Iranians to embark on an open confrontation in Yemen, while they are already deeply involved in Syria and Iraq. Logistically, moving their military from the Persian (Arabian) Gulf into the Red Sea is a hazardous journey that is vulnerable and risky. Moreover, in the past, Iran has opted not to get directly involved against the Saudis. Bahrain is just one example. In March 2011, Saudi Arabia mobilized its troops in support of the Sunni Bahraini king, while Iran opted to stay silent and watch the oppression of Bahrain’s Shias. At this crunch time there is no reason to believe the Iranians will change this policy of silence against the Saudis. Yemen may be a desired trophy for the Mullahs, but not the main crown they are after.

 Third, the rationale for Egypt’s current military participation in Yemen is not ideology or risks to the Suez Canal, as some have stated; it is more a simple acknowledgment that the leadership in Cairo cannot afford to say no to Saudi Arabia. Let’s face it, Egypt has already received billions in support from the Gulf States, mainly Saudi Arabia, which saved it from bankruptcy, following the removal of ex-President Morsi and the instability that followed that almost crippled Egypt’s economy. Other factors may have contributed to Egypt’s decision, namely the desire to regain its regional importance, revive its naval power, and give a strong message to its enemies elsewhere that it is not shying away from using its forces. Nonetheless, the core reason behind Egypt’s participation is its membership within the Saudi camp.

 Decisive Storm is not an operation to stabilize Yemen; it is an operation to restore the Saudis’ eroded pride in the face of Iran’s growing dominance in the region. That does not make Egypt’s new Yemeni adventure right or acceptable; it just differentiates it from past experiences. Like any war, there are risks. Civilian and military casualties, friendly fire, guerrilla warfare, and mission creep. All are valid risks that should be discussed, but without cherry picking past events that can cloud our judgment of the present challenges.

 Therefore, it is important for President Sisi to be unambiguous with the Egyptian public and clearly explain what the goals in Yemen are and how they will be achieved. Egyptians have already witnessed instability and death of their loved ones in both Sinai and Libya; they do not need more body bags coming back from Yemen. It is paramount for Egypt to acknowledge the asymmetry between its goals in Yemen and those of the Saudis and maneuver a policy that make Saudi Arabia’s “Decisive Storm” less stormy for Egypt.

Post script

This piece is quoted in the Washington Post’s piece: How Yemen was once Egypt’s Vietnam Egypt’s Vietnam by Ishaan Tharoor

Posted in Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments