Homosexuality and Egypt’s farcical moral code

Here is an English version for my Arabic piece for Al-Hurra

 

Gay flag Al-Hurra .jpg

He was shy and introverted, yet polite and respectable, but there was something intriguing about my acquaintance I could not quite figure out. The intrigue ended one day when I witnessed an altercation between him and two of his relatives. They initially bickered about a possible joint business project, but the argument quickly disintegrated into a fierce exchange in which the sexual orientation of my acquaintance was revealed in an ugly way. He was gay. And sadly, his relatives, provoked by the heated exchange, found it necessary to refer to his sexuality when he refused to give them the money they wanted.

In Egypt, gays have known for a long time that their sexual orientation is a powerful and dangerous card that can be used against them, even if they have kept their sexuality strictly discreet. However, in the 90s gay people wrongly perceived a shift in public attitudes toward them when a number of bars, restaurants, and public spaces across the city were friendly towards them. Unfortunately, this sense of freedom was only skin-deep and reflected a cycle in the political and social life of the Muslim world, in which eras of mild tolerance (as in the 90s) transmute into other eras of excessive crackdowns and intolerance. This is exemplified by the introduction of extraordinary measures to crack down on Egypt’s gay community: summary arrests, forced anal examinations and possible prison sentences. At least 33 people have been arrested since September 23, a day after a group of people were seen raising the rainbow flag, a rare public show of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the conservative Muslim country.

The flag appeared during a performance by the popular Lebanese band, Mashrou’ Leila, at the Music Park Festival in Cairo. Conservative Egyptians are happy to listen to the music of the band, provided the awkward word “gay” is not mentioned or displayed in any way, shape or form. For them, displaying the rainbow flag is a dangerous red line that must not be crossed.

It is true that it is the authorities that arrest and humiliate gays, but it is important to understand that various sections of Egyptian society support these violations of individual rights, regardless of their political affiliation, class and religion.

The whole episode sums up what is wrong with Egyptian society and the wider Middle East.

First, confusing crimes with sins:

The issue here is not the religious stance against homosexuality. For many Egyptians, the fault line between what is a religious sin and what should be considered a legal crime is so blurred, especially in relation to controversial topics such as homosexuality. Pious Egyptians are entitled to consider sexual relationships between men as grave sins, but they should not expect or demand an earthly legal punishment by the state for such sins. That is not and should not be the job of a civilian government. Authorities have no right to question the sexual orientation of those gays who attended the concert, simply because they did not commit any sexual act in public. The only illegal act in the concert was perhaps raising “an unauthorised flag,” a crime that only deserves a fine, not imprisonment and anal examinations.

As for homosexuality, only God can punish or forgive. Governments are not the Almighty’s representatives on earth, and they have no right to behave in that way.

Second, toxic discreetness

In our society, openness is the utmost sin. Everyone is expected to conform and go with the flow. Openness is viewed as dangerous defiance. The basic belief is that anything outside of what is considered a social norm should be uttered with utmost confidentiality. The sad thing is, many Egyptians, no matter how educated, consider such discretion as healthy. But it is not. In fact, it is very toxic and destructive.

Egypt is now a society in which social injustice and the suppression of individual rights are pervasive; it is a society in which many of its citizens are suffering physically and mentally as a result of this obsessive discreetness. Many consider homosexuality as an illness, but in reality, it is oppression that pushes many gays into mental breakdown.

The hysteria about homosexuality is an appropriate reflection of the inverted pyramid of priorities in Egypt. In a society struggling with overpopulation, a struggling economy and terrorism, raising a gay flag should be right at the bottom of the list of priorities. No one expects Egypt to allow homosexuality; nonetheless, it is about time to focus on the real challenges, to stop judging other humans and to leave the Almighty to judge human behaviour.

 

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

This Week in Egypt: Week 42-2017 ( Oct 9-15)

Top Headlines

  • Several armed attacks in Egypt’s Sinai
  • Egypt extends state of emergency for three months
  • Coptic priest stabbed to death in Egypt
  • Egypt loses in UNESCO runoff vote to French candidate

Main Headlines

Monday

  • Sisi rewards each player of football team LE1.5 million for qualifying for World Cup
  • Fatah and Hamas delegations meet in Cairo in order to push towards reconciliation
  • Egypt to construct two ports in disputed Halayeb Triangle with Sudan

Tuesday

 Wednesday

 Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good reports

Good Read

 From Twitter

 

 

 

Podcast

Archive

  • Sadat’s ghost haunts Mubarak’s dreams for Egypt –archive 1984
  • A glimpse of Egypt under the rule of its last monarch

Plus

  • The tribulations of Sheikh Jackson film
  • Uber to invest $20 million in Egypt’s newly inaugurated Centre of Excellence
  • Czech excavation uncovers temple of King Ramses II in Abusir
  • A granite pyramid peak was unearthed in Saqqara

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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A Muslim woman’s choice

I wrote this piece for British newspaper I News

“Is that your husband? He is English?” Of the millions of Egyptians in the world today, you opted to marry an Englishman?”

 

My printed piece.jpg

The Syrian passport control officer glared at me after I crossed the once peaceful Lebanese-Syrian border seventeen years ago. He shook his head, and interrogated me with a fusillade of awkward questions after I had submitted my passport. “Yes, I did marry a blond English man,” I said, looking the officer straight in the eye. “Not only that, but we are also planning to travel around the Middle East together.”

Eventually, Bashar al-Assad’s perplexed official allowed us to enter the country. Little did I realise it was only the beginning of a relentless journey of “honour proving” – a struggle to prove my Islamic bona fides whenever and wherever I travelled. And through it all, one thing eventually became clear: my Islamic marriage certificate was more important than my passport. To continue reading the extended version of my piece click here

Posted in Egypt, Islam, Tunisia | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

This Week in Egypt: Week 41-2017 (Oct 2-8)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt qualifies for World Cup after a 28-year absence
  • Libya extracts remains of 20 Egyptians beheaded by IS in 2015
  • Egypt to extend buffer zone with Gaza Strip
  • Egyptian Intelligence Chief meets Palestinian PM
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniya: ‘We want to open a new page with Egypt
  • Egypt arrests dozens as part of a crackdown on gays
  • 13 defendants in trial of ‘Ajnad Misr’ terrorist group are sentenced to death
  • Egypt’s state security prosecution orders detention of 13 suspected Hasm militants

World Cup 2.jpg

 Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Mohamed Salah.jpg

Sunday 

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

 

Photo Gallery

Plus

 

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This Week in Egypt: Week 40-2017 (Sept 25-Oct1)

Top Headlines

  • Egyptian air force strikes arms convoy at Egypt’s western border with Libya 
  • Libya arrested perpetrators of beheading of 21 Copts in 2015
  • Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide sentenced to life in prison in ‘Beni Suef riots’ case
  • Egyptian police arrested seven people on Monday after they were seen raising a rainbow flag at a concert
  • IMF: Egypt has made a “good start” to its reform programme despite a deeper-than-expected currency depreciation
  • Egypt Air to suspends flights to and from Erbil airport from Friday
  • Egyptian militant group claims attack on Myanmar embassy in Cairo
  • Coptic church organizes ‘Volcano of Homosexuality’ conference

 

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday 

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Plus

  • Lebanon’s Ziad Doueiri talks about his new film The Insult after El-Gouna Egyptian premiere
  • Hurghada receives 133,000 tourists in September, , Germans rank first on the list
  • Menasche Synagogue in Alexandria to be added to Egypt’s heritage list
  • US Congress considers awarding its Gold Medal to late President Anwar Sadat’s name in 2018
  • Azhar professor suggests imposing tax on dog owners
  • American actress Vanessa Williams visits Giza Pyramids

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Twitter Thread: Iraqi newspaper and Arab’s racism towards Kurds

I wrote in my latest piece on how I encountered racism against Kurds during my travel in the region. Here is  the latest example of this ugly racism.

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Why I support Kurdistan’s independence referendum

Here is an English version of my latest article in Al-Hurra  

Kurdistan

( photo via the Guardian)

 

In 838, a Kurdish leader based in Mosul named Mir Jafar Dasni revolted against the Caliph Al-Mu’tasim. After a series of armed confrontation between Arabs and Kurds in difficult terrain, a (non-Arab) commander of the Arab Caliph, Itakh, won the war and executed many of the Kurds, but Mir Jafar Dasni committed suicide to avoid capture.

Many opponents of the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum may not be aware of the region’s medieval historical conflicts, but undoubtedly they hope that history repeats itself and that the Kurds will be defeated once again, but this is unlikely. Their abundance of foes has united the Iraqi Kurds in support of the referendum. Never in their history have the Kurds been as focused and determined as they are today.

It is easy to join the chorus of opponents of the Kurdish referendum; however, I have humbly decided to stand with the brave Kurds in their quest for nationhood for many reasons:

First, because it is a just cause.

Growing up in Egypt, and despite avidly following regional politics from a very early age, I have never heard the word “Kurd” except briefly and ambiguously when Saddam Hussein butchered them with chemical weapons in Halabja in 1988. Still, many Arab apologists denigrated the Kurds and portrayed them as agents of foreign powers. My later travels in Syria, Iran, and Turkey opened my eyes to the depth of denigration, even racism, against the Kurds and it was frankly shocking. Regional powers have systematically lost their moral high ground in their repeated abuse of the Kurds; therefore, they cannot lecture the Kurds now about what should or should not be done.

Second, there will never be a “right time”.

Kurdish independence has been postponed several times, a dream that they have patiently waited to fulfil over the past 100 years. But apparently a century is not long enough, as the Kurds were asked to postpone again. “Timing is not suitable,” is one of the justifications given for this anonymous rejection. The Kurds, however, have learned one lesson from their century-old struggle for independence: there will never be a “right time.” The fragility of Iraq and Syria is not a product of Kurdish nationalism, and will continue regardless of Kurdish aspirations. Blaming the Kurds or asking them to wait is a disingenuous delay of the inevitable.

Third, an independent Kurdistan is a balancing state.

Amidst many competitive groups in the Middle East with Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia competing for power and dominance; Kurdistan could be the buffering zone that stops the fiery ambitions of both Turkey and Iran; both have issued emphatic statements against the referendum. “We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq,” pro-Iran, Iraqi Vice President Nuri al-Maliki said. Moreover, a number of Turkish media outlets supportive of President Erdogan have spread false news reports claiming Kurdish groups entered into a secret deal with Israel to resettle Jews in the region. It is true that Israel backs the referendum, but the Kurds have stronger and deeper reasons to pursue their aspirations for independence, regardless of Israeli support.

In the Middle East, a good Kurd is either Arabized or Islamized, but never a Kurdish nationalist. The demonization of the Kurds only reflects the ugliness of all the dominant ideologies in our region, whether Islamism with its Sunni and Shi’ite branches, or Arab nationalism. This is precisely why, as a liberal, I stand against this ugliness and stand for the referendum.

Regardless of the referendum circus, I support the right of the Kurds to self-determination. But this support is conditional, as I expect the Kurdish region to embrace more liberal and progressive values. I look forward to a less autocratic and more inclusive administration in Kurdistan that wins the hearts and minds of Arabs and Turkmen living under Kurdish control. I trust the Kurds to provide a positive example for the rest of the region, and I hope they will not betray my trust.

 

Posted in Middle East | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

This Week in Egypt: Week 39-2017 ( Sept 18-24)

 

Top Headlines 

  • Irish-Egyptian Ibrahim Halawa acquitted of all charges in Fatah mosque case, expected to be released within days 
  • Egypt’s Sisi, Israel’s Netanyahu meet for first time in public
  • Trump: U.S. will consider resuming halted military aid to Egypt
  • Muslim Brotherhood’s former supreme guide Mahdi Akef dies at 89
  • Egypt jails 14 over deadly stadium stampede

 Main Headlines

 Monday

  • Irish-Egyptian Ibrahim Halawa is acquitted of all charges in Fatah mosque case, expected to be released within days
  • Egyptian president Sisi is in New York this week to attend the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)
  • Cairo criminal court orders 215 defendants in ‘Helwan militant Brigades case’ to be added to the terror list
  • HRW considers Egypt’s media attacks on its report is misleading
  • Businessman Salah Diab is acquitted of unlicensed firearms charges
  • Egypt to reduce LNG imports as Zohr gas field nears production
  • Al-Azhar professor says necrophilia between spouses not a sin, sparks outrage

Tuesday

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday 

Good Reports

Good Read

 From Twitter

 

Interview

  • Fox News ‘s interview with Egypt’s Sisi

 Plus

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This Week in Egypt: Week 38-2017 ( Sept 11-17)

Top Headlines

  • Militants attacked a security convoy in Egypt’s Sinai, killing at least 18 policemen
  • Two Egyptian soldiers, 5 militants killed in North Sinai shootout in North Sina
  • Egypt’s Court of Cassation upholds ousted president Morsi’s life sentence
  • Egypt detains lawyer investigating enforced disappearances

 Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday 

Thursday

  • Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia experts meet Thursday to discuss Nile dam studies to discuss Nile dam
  • Egypt and Italy sign joint training to combat organized crime, illegal immigration

 Friday

  • Trump to meet Sisi, Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah at UNGA in New York
  • Egypt new ambassador to Italy heads to Rome
  • Fatah delegation arrives in Cairo to discuss Palestinian reconciliation
  • Military drills between Saudi and Egyptian air forces is underway

Saturday

  • Egypt’s Court of Cassation upholds ousted president Morsi‘s life sentence over “Qatar document leak”
  • Preliminary death sentences for 7 members ISIS affiliate charged with participating in the beheading of 21 Egyptians in Libya
  • Hamas to open an office in Cairo for security coordination
  • Fresh round of negotiations between army and Warraq residents

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

 

Plus

  • Director Amr Salama’s movie Sheikh Jackson has been nominated to represent Egypt in the foreign films section at the next Oscars 2018
  • Egyptian woman to sue father over ‘unprecedented staleness,’ lack of tenderness
  • Cairo’s white taxi drivers enter digital world launching “WhatsApp taxi”

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Twitter Thread: Al-Jazeera’s Ahmed Mansour and Hurricane Irma

Al-Jazeera anchor Ahmed Mansour has created contraversy after his Arabic tweets on Hurricane Irma. He apologised  for his Arabic tweets that were considered offensive. Here are few tweets by others who challenged his views and his later apology (in English).

 

 

 

 

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