Egyptian Aak 2016-Week 47 ( Nov21-27)

Top Headlines 

  • An Egyptian court revokes the death sentence of Egypt’s ex-president Morsi
  • Egypt’s Sisi expresses support for Syrian military
  • Egypt denies sending military troops to Syria
  • The US State Department removed Egypt from its travel warning list
  • Egypt and Jordan send firefighting help to Israel
  • Al-Jazeera documentary on Egyptian conscripts reignites media war with Qatar
  • Number of Egyptians worldwide reaches 100 million

 Main Headlines

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  • As Egypt quarrels with Saudi Arabia, it is finding new friends. The Economist
  • 1st lesson learned from Ahmed Naji’s jailing: Nael El-Toukhy

From Twitter

Timeline

Travel

Interview

  • Free from prison, Mohamed Fahmy fears for journalism and says it’s time to take a stand for freedom of the press. Travis Lupick

Video

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Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, Israel, Syria | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fidel Castro: Glamorizing Tyranny

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Fidel Castro ( Getty Images)

Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro has died at the age of 90. The legacy of Castro, the “commandante” is not just his revolutionary communism, but a grand and more disturbing stance, one that was characterized as an anti-American charismatic tyranny.

For years following the collapse of colonialism, communists, socialists, and radical Islamists have committed abhorrent crimes that have systematically been watered down by their supporters, under the pretext that America and other Western powers are worse. The depth of anti-Americanism has caused many to lose their moral compass. In the latest responses to Castro’s death, we see how many have turned a blind eye to Castro’s abhorrent, systematic repression of his opponents.

This has occurred not just for Castro, but also for Nasser of Egypt, Saddam of Iraq, and even the Assad regime of Syria. All still enjoy a good dose of popularity among many supposedly rational intellectuals, despite their remarkable failure, crimes, and dismal record in governing their respective countries. In the Middle East, many leftists and Islamists justify oppression, as long as it has been committed in the name of an anti-American leader. Hating Uncle Sam appears to be a blessing act that cleanses other sins.

Perhaps romanticizing Castro is understandable among his supporters. After all, supporters are by default biased and apologetic. More worrisome, however, is the response to Castro’s death from some of his natural opponents____ the [supposedly] progressive liberal leaders of our time.

In a statement by the European Commission , Castro was described as a” hero to many.” The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went a step further by describing Fidel Castro as a legendary revolutionary and orator, “who made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.” Even American President Obama didn’t just offer his condolences, but almost praised Castro, by noting the “enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.” Other world leaders joined in, showering Castro with praise.

Indeed Castro was a “hero to many,” with “legendary” credentials, and had an “enormous impact” on the people and the world around him, but so did Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Iran’s Khomeini, Al-Qaeda’s Osama Bin Laden and even ISIS’s Baghdadi. Judging with European, Canadian, and American leaders’ logic, followers of all those mentioned names should feel slighted, and wonder why Western leaders fail to acknowledge the “heroism” of their leaders? Where do Western leaders draw the line between various shades of oppression?

The responses to Castro’s death is yet another example of the crisis of the liberal western world and the moral bankruptcy of the global order in general. Glamorized regression is now branded as the new progressiveness.

The same leaders who claim to advocate for liberty, equality and human rights are now courting oppressive regimes like Iran and Cuba, failing to see how their policy is good news to every radical Islamist hiding in a bunker in the Middle East. Yes, communism is almost dead, but for the rise of radical Islamism, which is flexing its muscle around the globe, the lesson of Castro’s life and death is simple: live long, play hard to get, and the West will ultimately soften their stance and legitimize the illegitimate. The Cuban revolution has succeeded in winning Western appeasement, despite its failure to bring a promised utopia to many Cubans. Iran has already succeeded in gaining western concessions. Meanwhile, other Islamists, regardless of their style and affiliation, also dream to achieve similar gains.

 Castro is dead, but the current misguided Western response to his appalling record means that his legacy will continue to haunt the Western world. Hasta la victoria siempre or should I say, “Hasta el Islamismo victorioso siempre?”

Posted in Politics, Short Comments | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2016- Week46 ( Nov 14-20)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt court overturns death sentence against ousted ex-President Mohammed Morsi
  • ISIS’ Egypt branch executes 100-year-old cleric
  • Egypt clears way for former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq to return home
  • Egypt lifts assets freeze of anti-torture NGO

   Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

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 Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports 

Good Read

 From Twitter

Interview

 Video

  • American University in Cairo students protest increase in tuition fees

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 45 ( Nov 7-13)

Top Headlines

  • IMF approves 3-year, $12 billion loan for Egypt
  • Administrative court rejects government appeal over Red Sea islands deal, confirm Egyptian sovereignty
  • Saudi oil shipments to Egypt have been halted indefinitely
  • Egypt’s Sisi invites Trump to Cairo

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

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Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

From Twitter

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Plus

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

Reflection on Trump’s victory and the crisis of the liberal camp

“To the Egyptian lady sitting in the last row, if you want Trump, you can have him.”

I was attending a political conference that featured a heated debate on the US presidential election, and these words from an American delegate surprised me. He was reacting to my suggestion that Americans should learn from Britain’s Brexit vote and not underestimate Trump’s chances of becoming president. But instead of rationally addressing my concerns, he reacted angrily and bitterly. Later in the year, this bitterness surfaced again when I had the opportunity to meet two American politicians in a symposium, a Trump supporter and a Clinton supporter. An argument erupted between them when I rather naively asked about the American election and Trump’s chances of winning it.

The two incidents were eye opening for me. America, like Britain, Europe, and the Middle East, is not just deeply divided, but is facing winds of change in a post-liberal world. The crisis of the liberal Western order and the rise of post-liberal tendencies, as Ross Douthat put it, should not be seen only as an economic phenomenon, but also as a crisis of culture and values.

Liberals have increasingly lost sight of the essence of liberalism. Instead of liberty, equality, and individualism, the neo-liberal order revolves around shaming opponents, tribalism, and even endorsing illiberalism (as some ethnic minorities do). Liberals have become more or less of a cult, praising and celebrating each other, dismissing dissent, and showing scant interest in winning hearts and minds. Their unwritten motto is, “We are too good to defend our values, too powerful to reflect on mistakes, and yes, we can take people for granted.”

In a recent piece, Michael Lerner stated how shaming opponents is not a good political strategy. He rightly said, “Instead of challenging this ideology of shame, the left has buttressed it by blaming white people as a whole for slavery, genocide of the Native Americans and a host of other sins, as though whiteness itself was something about which people ought to be ashamed.” This is not just a bad strategy, but is tantamount to a cultural betrayal of an important segment of Western society that feels isolated and vulnerable.

For months before the election, all Trump supporters were branded as ignorant and hateful, which is simply not true. As a Muslim, I have always welcomed how Western liberals have rushed to defend Muslims against repeated blanket accusations of terrorism. Nonetheless, I fail to understand the consistent mocking and demonization of millions of white working-class Westerners, simply because they voted for Trump.

Some suggest that many voted for Trump out of fear. That is partly true; Asra Nomani, an immigrant Muslim woman, voted for Trump. Asra represents many liberal Muslims and non-Muslims who have become increasingly disenchanted by the perceived appeasement of regressive Islamism by many in the corridors of power in the Western world.

But to many witnessing the unfolding post-election era in the US, the liberal camp has become scarier than Trump ____ it is perceived as a generic camp that has lost its authenticity and reduced liberalism to tick-box exercises. The “first black” and “first women” have become “the” goals. Those who dared to oppose those goals were labeled “enemies,” as if liberalism is a tribe that needs defending; not values that ought to be spread. Winning hearts and minds has dropped from the liberal agenda and been replaced instead by a self-righteous attitude that dismisses skeptics as ignorant fools.

The dismissive behavior of the liberal elite has forced many to drift away from the center and move further to the right. As Amber Jamieson reported, many secretly voted for Trump as a silent protest against the behavior of the Democrats: “As a gay Muslim, the Republican Party has not been kind to me, to say the least. However, the Democrats almost arrogantly expect me to hand my vote to them because of who I am, which insults me.”

To the American gentleman who ranted at me during the Trump debate I explained how I would never vote for Trump,, but unlike others who have arrogantly dismissed him, I understand how Trump’s ascent to the presidency could not be stopped by underestimating him or belittling and attacking his supporters.

The American who was so dismissive towards me during what should have been a rational and tolerant debate is not the only one whose vision and objectivity have been constrained by an emotional straightjacket. Throughout the election campaign, it has been painful to see Americans behave like angry Arabs, indulging in emotionalism and self-pity. Now the election is over, the liberal camp urgently needs humility and reflection; more importantly, this camp must stop blaming others for its own failures. As William Dalrymple tweeted, “This was not a Trump revolution but a Clinton collapse.” The sad reality is that sobbing and rioting will not change it.

Posted in Best Read, Islam, Politics, Short Comments, women rights | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2016- Week 44 ( Oct31-Nov 6)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt allows its currency to float freely, meeting key IMF demand
  • OIC secretary general resigns following criticism after he mocked the Egyptian president
  • Egyptian army brigadier general shot dead in North Sinai
  • A car bomb in Cairo unsuccessfully targeted a senior Egyptian judge
  • Egypt’s oil minister makes rare trip to Iran for oil talks after Saudi suspension
  • First German passenger flight arrives in Sharm El-Sheikh after 1 year travel ban lifted

 

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Photo via Mada Masr

Main Headlines

Monday

 Tuesday

Wednesday

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Friday

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Good Reports

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From Twitter

Timeline:

Plus

  • Egypt’s All-Woman Roller Derby team is skating past stereotypes
  • ‘Egypt is Safe’: UN World Tourism Organization Meeting Opens in Luxor

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

Sharia Courts in UK – A Minefield

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A meeting of the Sharia Council of Britain at its east London headquarters Getty

Yesterday, I spoke briefly on BBC World Service Radio about Sharia Council courts in Britain, which coincided with an inquiry started by the Home Affairs Select Committee in Westminster on those councils. I thought it was worth further explaining my views in a post to engage the readers of my blog, and hopefully, the wider public.

The idea behind Muslim Law Councils (Sharia Courts) may sound reasonable and fair, as it offers religiously permissible solutions to resolve domestic issues and social dilemmas that affect the British Muslim community within an Islamic framework of Islamic Sharia. The question begs, however, which community shall this be applied to? And which Sharia? Advocates for such councils portray the matter as if there is one Sharia framework that has simple clear concepts, which can be easily applied in practice. They also portray Muslims as if they are one unified happy community. But the truth is far from that.

First, there is no monolithic community. British Muslims are tremendously diverse with a wide variation of cultures and beliefs that are intertwined with Islamic laws. In fact, some lifestyles are not necessarily Islamic. Each community has transplanted ideas and practices from their native countries and would like to implement them to varying degrees here in Britain.

Second, if we surveyed Muslims about their understanding of Sharia, the results will actually surprise many. The concept of Sharia varies even in native Muslim countries. The legal codes of countries that identify themselves as “Islamic,” such as Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan and Saudi Arabia vary considerably in actual practice. Meanwhile, some Muslim countries opt for more lenient interpretations of Sharia based on the goals of Sharia, known in Arabic as “Maqasid.” As such, there are many legal and religious pitfalls, even with the concept of Maqasid from Sharia, as I explained in this post.

Third, pious British Muslims simply do not know how those councils would implement their faith. It is estimated that around 20 to 30 of the councils operate across Britain, which settle disputes using an Islamic religious law. Nonetheless, those councils do not declare many important details. For example: What version of Islamic law, what school of Islamic jurisprudence do they follow? What are the rights guaranteed to women in divorce and inheritance cases managed in those councils?

In short, some Muslims may want the psychological comfort that their social and domestic issues are governed by the guidance of their faith, but they fail to realize the complexity of translating their intention into a solid, transparent, and fair practice in Britain. There are many, often conflicting, interpretations of Sharia. Implementing a modern version of Sharia is a minefield even in native Muslim countries. Therefore, it is disingenuous to play the anti-Islam card while campaigning for Muslim law councils in Britain. The last thing Muslims want are courts that rubberstamp regression under the auspices of Islam.

Posted in Islam, Politics, Short Comments | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 43 ( Oct 24 – 30)

Top Headlines

  • At least 22 people were killed and 72 injured in flooding in parts of Egypt
  • Egypt condemned the Saudi head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for mocking its president Sisi
  • Four policemen remanded into custody over Ismailia prison break-out
  • Egypt bans TV interview with corruption critic
  • Egypt’s Sisi says military economy just 1-1.5% of GDP
  • Four policemen are remanded into custody over Ismailia prison breakout

Mideast Weather

An motorcyclist rides through floodwater after a heavy rainfall in the coastal city of Alexandria, Egypt, Photo: AP

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Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt’s New Terrorist Groups

I was planning to write something completely different this weekend, but the events in Egypt have dictated my choice.

 

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An Egyptian policeman gestures from an observation in the Sinai peninsula, February 10, 2016, and an undated photograph of Brig. Gen. Adel Rajaei.Amir Cohen, Reuters
via -Haaretz

Cairo—Brig. Gen. Adel Ragai, commander of the Egyptian Army’s Ninth Armored Division, was assassinated in broad daylight in Cairo. Brig. Gen. Adel Rajaei, 52, had commanded Egypt’s counterterrorism operations in Sinai, his brigade was also working to destroy smuggling tunnels that have been built under the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip. This assassination came after last week’s murder of 12 Egyptian conscripts in an ISIS attack on security checkpoint in central Sinai, and three  Egyptian soldiers were killed this week.

A little known terrorist group Liwaa al-Thawra has claimed responsibility, highlighting an evolution of new terror groups, well trained and capable of targeting senior figures in Egypt’s powerful army. Although there have been several attacks in the last decades against Egypt’s police, attacks on army leaders are rare in Egypt. In fact, I have no recollection (although I stand to be corrected) of any attacks on army figures since the assassination of President Sadat in 1981.

Several new violent groups have emerged in Egypt since the ousting of Morsi in July 2013 and the rise of army leader and the current president Abdul Fattah el-Sisi—groups such as Molotov, Hazmoun, lone wolves, Helwan Brigade, and others.

Two groups, however, have captured the attention of media and antiterrorism observers by their upscale attacks: Hasm and Liwaa al-Thawra.

Hasm

Hasm, whose name means “decisiveness” in Arabic, emerged in October 2014. The group’s first statement claimed that it is committed to “creative peacefulness,” a term invented by some Muslim Brotherhood’s youth, and was backed, according to the Arabic version of Ahram, by many anti-coup Islamists figures, such as New York- based Egyptian American activist Ayat Oraby, Bassem Khafagi, a previous American Islamic CAIR group’s “community affairs director” and the previous owner of Sharq TV, and Moataz Matar, a TV presenter on the same channel, who was sentenced in Egypt for 10 years in jail in absentia.

The group also was believed to be behind the failed assassination attempt of Egypt’s former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa last August. Later, in September, the group claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of the assistant prosecutor general Zakaria Abdel Aziz who, along with his entourage, escaped unscathed. On October 19, 12 members of Hasm were arrested in Qalyubia Governorate, accused of belonging to an illegal group, according to Shorouk News.

Hasm also released a statement praises Adel Ragai’s assassination operation by Liwaa al-Thuwra. Moreover, according to Mokhtar Awad, a research fellow in the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, Hasm uses in its propaganda some of Hamas’s propaganda songs (Nasheed); further the group hinted in one of its videos that it has training camps, which, if true, would mean a huge upscale in the group’s skills and capabilities.

Liwaa al-Thawra

Last August saw the launch of Liwaa al-Thawra, “the Revolution Brigade,” which was, interestingly, by the Hasm group. The group claimed responsibility for an armed attack in the Nile Delta governorate of Al-Menoufiya, which killed two security personnel and injured five others, including two civilians.

On October 4, Egyptian security forces raided an apartment in Cairo’s southern Bassateen district and killed a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Kamal, 61, a member of the group’s top leadership council, and another Islamist Yasser Shehata. What is significant in Liwaa al-Thawra’s statement, claiming responsibility for the murder of Brig. Gen. Adel Ragai, is reference to late Brotherhood leader Mohamed Kamal. For the first time a new group made an open direct link between the Brotherhood as a group and the violence, i.e., target assassinations on the street of Egypt. The statement also makes a clear reference to Egypt’s destruction of the tunnels in Sinai near the border of Gaza. The significance of all those links were highlighted, again, by Researcher Mokhtar Awad in a string of insightful tweets.

 

 

Furthermore, other regime opponents such as international lawyer Mahmod Refaat (with 341 thousand followers on Twitter) claimed that the Sisi regime, in cooperation with Palestinian politician Mahmoud Dahlan, is behind the assassination of the army general. Such a ludicrous claim is not new from the anti-regime opponents camp, which always rush to a knee-jerk denial every time there is a major attack on any regime figure. Nonetheless, a closer look at many Islamist social media, the gloating and celebratory mood cannot be ignored.

The murder of army general Adel Ragai is a new turning point in the history of Egypt’s insurgency. Its slick professional finish suggests a high level of training. No wonder some Egyptians suggest that it could be an intelligence job from a foreign country and not just a small angry group of youth. The challenge now for the Egyptian authority is to bring the killers to justice and to prevent any future attacks, without looking desperate or paranoid. Fighting insurgencies can take decades and be tricky in a country with an ailing economy, weapons smuggling, limited freedom of expression, and many desperate angry youth.

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, Gaza, Sinai, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Egyptian Aak 2016- Week 42 ( Oct 17-23)

Top Headlines

  • A senior Egyptian military official was shot dead outside his home on the outskirts of Cairo
  • Little-known group Liwa Al-Thawra claims responsibility for assassinating army’s 9th armour division head
  • Saudi ambassador returns to Cairo after recall to Riyadh
  • Sisi’s satisfaction rating among Egyptians falls to 68%: Baseera poll
  • Egyptian high court reverses14 death sentences against Islamists; Cassation Court upholds 20-year sentence for Morsi

 Main Headlines

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  • Photo Gallery: Egypt’s parliament turns 150

Finally, here are Jason Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment