This Week in Egypt: Week 11-2019 ( March 11-17)

Top Headlines 

  • Four Egyptians among casualties of New Zealand terror attack
  • Egypt condemned the terrorist attacks that targeted two mosques in, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Ankara prepares to deport 12 Muslim Brotherhood members to Egypt over violations
  • Egypt returns to LNG exports club seeking to sell cargoes
  • Pipeline snag to delay Israel gas to Egypt for 3 month
  • Egypt joins wave of countries banning Boeing 737 MAX jet from airspace

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Human Rights Watch, Egypt, and the Oscars

Rami Malek

 

International human rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a recent article titled: ‘Egypt should win an Oscar for hypocrisy over praise for Rami Malek.’ Neela Ghosal, a senior researcher in the organisation, wrote that Egypt’s positive reaction to Egyptian actor Rami Malek winning the Oscar for his role in the film “Bohemian Rhapsody” as gay music legend Freddie Mercury of Queen, was hypocritical.

Ghosal, who described Mercury as “unabashedly, flamboyantly queer,” cited a quote from Malek’s acceptance speechin which he said, “We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself.” To support her claim that Egypt was being hypocritical, Ghosal said that if the Egyptian government and its apologists “want to own a piece” of Malek’s Bohemian Rhapsody triumph, they should “own up to the facts” about the appalling treatment of homosexuals in Egypt. In her view, Rami Malek “gave life, joyfully, to a queer icon,” but Egypt, under President Sisi, would not allow either Freddie Mercury to thrive on its soil, or a Malek to celebrate him.

Even if we acknowledge the writer’s view that Mercury’s sexual orientation was the core part of the film, the researcher’s argument is still deeply flawed.

Firstly, the celebration of a young man of Egyptian origin, who was passionately proud of his Egyptain roots, is not hypocritical and has nothing to do with homosexuality. Secondly, the idea that the Egyptian government has no right to celebrate Rami Malek’s Oscar, unless it recognizes homosexuality is frankly absurd. By that logic, the Egyptian government must recognise prostitution, sex outside marriage, and all other taboos in Muslim societies in order to celebrate any film that addresses those issues with any degree of positivity.

Perhaps the researcher did not follow the history of Egyptian cinema. For over a century, Egyptian film-makers have challenged taboos and produced daring movies about various controversial topics, including homosexuality. Films such as “Cat on Fire” and “The Yacobian Building” bluntly deal with homosexuality, and despite creating an uproar and controversy, both were eventually approved by the governent censorship authority. Furthermore, film critics and the vast majority of Egyptian audiences praised both Nour El Sherif, the main actor in Cat on Fire, and Khaled El Sawi for playing the daring roles of gay men. Along with homosexuality, Egyptian cinema has addressed other social taboos, such as sex workers, and even portrayed them as victims.

In fact, The Yacobian Building movie was approved in 2006 during Mubarak’s era, despite several crackdown cases against homosexuals throughout his tenure. In 2001, 52 gay Egyptian men went on trial for offending religion and practising debauchery. In 2004, HRW reported how a 17-year-old private university student received a 17-year sentence in prison for posting a personal profile on a gay dating site.

Moreover, it is no surprise that the current Egyptian Immigration Ministry celebrated Rami Malek’s Oscar and tweeted a quote from his Oscar acceptance speech. Since the current Immigration and Expatriates Affairs Minister, Nabila Makram, started her term as one of eight female ministers in the Egyptian government, she has taken an open approach to Egyptian expats, irrespective of their different moral values. Therefore, celebrating Rami Malek is consistent with her own style, regardless of the regime’s treatment of homosexuals.

It is indeed true that the current government has increased the crackdown on homosexuals. However, authoritarianism alone is not the main reason behind Egypt’s anti-gay crackdown. According to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center, 95% of Egyptians believe society should not accept homosexuality. This simple fact is clearly inconvenient for HRW to acknowledge.

This anti-gay hysteria can be traced to the rise of social Islamism since the 1970s. It has left its mark on the whole society and blurred the differences between religious sins and illegal crimes. Regrettably, successive Egyptian regimes have tried to match Islamist movement regression by cracking down on unpopular groups, such as gays, to cater for its increasingly conservative subjects.

Such a policy , from the current Egyptian leadership, is shortsighted, to say the least, especially from the current leadership that consider fighting radicalism its top priority. Homosexuals are the least dangerous group to the Egyptian state. They may be guilty in the eyes of religion, but they have not conspired against Egypt or terrorized Egyptians as those radicals who claim top masculinity and honor have done.

To trace the link between social Islamism and anti-gay attitudes, one should look beyond Egypt. Malaysia, supposedly a democratic country with an increasingly Islamist tune, does not recognize the LGBT community and has denied the existence of gay people in the country. Moreover, in Britain, Muslim families have withdrawn 600 children from their schools, claiming their kids were being brainwashed over gay lifestyles. Those families are neither Egyptians nor Sisi supporters. I doubt, however, that HRW will accuse those families of hypocrisy for voluntarily living in an open liberal society, while rejecting its values of equality and diversity.

In its desperate attempts to control the narratives and pinpoint authoritarianism as the mother of ills, HRW has dragged Rami Malek’s Oscar victory into a deeply complex social morass. HRW has every right to oppose the appalling persecution of homosexuals in Egypt, but has no right to spin Egypt’s sincere delight for Rami Malek as “hypocrisy.” There are many reasons to criticise the Egyptian regime, but celebrating Rami Malek is not one of them. The same organisation, and probably the same researcher, would curse Egypt if its leadership rejected Rami Malek and his Oscar film. Such dualism from a supposedly neutral organisation is the ultimate example of hypocrisy.

 

An Arabic version of this article was published in Al-Hurra

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This Week in Egypt: Week 10-2019 ( March 4-10)

Top Headlines 

  • Six Egyptians are killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash
  • Egypt’s Sisi appoints close military ally as transport minister
  • Egyptian photojournalist Shawkan is released after five years in prison
  • Malaysia deports 6 Egyptians allegedly affiliated with Ansar al-Sharia radical group to Cairo
  • Egypt’s annual urban consumer price inflation increased to 14.4 percent in February
  • Egypt destroys nine tunnels near Gaza border
  • Fears for transgender Egyptian woman held in men’s prison

 

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Egyptian activists and media are targeted by phishing attacks – Amnesty
  • Egyptian authorities have arrested another five people over deadly train crash
  • Egypt’s PM urges stiffer penalties against drug abuse by government employees
  • Egyptian delegation calls on UNHRC to investigate ‘Qatari aid of terrorism’ in Libya
  • Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo

Thursday

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Sunday

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My Twitter Thread on Women’s Day 2019

I do not usually re-publish my own Twitter threads, but this particular twitter thread is important to me as it reflects on my views on various issues related to women rights. I share it here for followers who are not on Twitter.

 

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Twitter Thread: Ilhan Omar and Israel

U.S. representative for Minnesota’s 5th congeressional  district, Somali -American politician Ilhan Omar has stirred several contraversies recently. The latest was her fued with fellow Democrat Nita Lowey over support of Israel and alleged anti-Semitic comments. Ilhan’s controversial comments has prompted the Anti-Defamation League to send a letter urging Democratic leaders to consider a resolution condemning Omar’s remarks. That vote will apparently happen tomorrow in the Congress.

In view of the above, I wrote a thread on Twitter summing my views as a liberal Muslim on Ilhan Omar and why I find her views disturbing. I herewith share it with my followers who are not on Twitter.

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Reblog: Russian missiles separate NATO allies U.S. and Turkey

If you are interested in the Turkish-Americas relations, then you need to read this blog by Murat Yetkin. Enjoy…..

What would President Trump ask from Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan if he were allowed to ask for one thing only? An American official talking to a group of Turks on condition of anonymity recently asked that rhetorical question and continued without waiting for the Turks to answer: it would be to cancel the Russian S-400 air defense missiles.
All other problems on the agenda would be secondary in American eyes today: from the serious discrepancy in Syria to the sanctions on Iran, from the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher accused of masterminding a coup attempt in Turkey to the release of American employees and citizens from Turkish jails.
The U.S. escalates pressure on its NATO ally Turkey to cancel the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense missiles amid diplomatic traffic over the cooperation against terrorism in Syria, which might further delay the American troops’ withdrawal. The Donald Trump administration threatens Tayyip Erdoğan’s…

View original post 879 more words

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This Week in Egypt: Week 9-2019 ( Feb 25-Mar 3)

Top headlines

  • Dozens killed and injured in crash and fire at Cairo’s main railway station
  • Cairo crash driver left train with brakes off during row
  • Egypt’s transport minister resigns after deadly Cairo train crash
  • Hamas members arrested in Egypt in 2015 sent home to Gaza
  • Egypt rebukes Turkey in spat with EU after executions
  • Grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar calls polygamy an ‘injustice’

 

train crash19

 Photo via AFP

Main Headlines

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10 natural and historical sites in Egypt that most people have never heard of

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Twitter Thread: Palestinian fighters from Gaza who joined ISIS branch in Egypt’s Sinai

This is an important thread by Mahmoud Gamal on Palestenian fighters who joined ISIS’s Sinai branch:

 

 

 

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This Week in Egypt: Week 8-2019 ( Feb 18-24)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt executes nine over 2015 killing of public prosecutor
  • Suicide bombing kills 3 policemen near Cairo’s famed bazaar
  • Egypt hosts milestone summit for Arab-European ties
  • Egypt turns Back veteran New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick
  • Saudi King arrives in Egypt on an official visit
  • Egypt rejects UN criticism of trials for hanged convicts
  • Egypt seeks death sentence for two monks over Bishop’s murder  

Main Headlines

Monday

  • Suicide bombing kills 3 policemen near Cairo’s famed bazaar
  • Thousands of Egyptians attended the funeral of 15 Egypt’s Armed Forces who were martyred during last week’s terrorist attack in Sinai
  • After five years of imprisonment, the Egyptian authorities have startedprocedures to release photojournalist Shawkan
  • Egypt announces high alert to confront desert locusts

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

Sunday

Reports

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  • Moment of deadly suicide bombing caught on security camera in Cairo

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What after the Pope’s visit to the UAE?

 

Pope:Azhar

Pope Francis and A-Azhar Grand Imam in UAE

“Your family could not find an Arabic name for you?” My teacher looked at me with disdain as he was trying to prnounce my “foreign” name, “Nervana.”

Moving to a public school in Cairo from a private nun-run Catholic school was challenging for me. I shall never forget the disdainful looks of my Arabic and religious studies teacher, especially when he knew I had previously been in a Catholic Italian school. He had a particular issue with Catholic schools. The idea of allowing nuns to run schools, and display the cross on their walls was abhorrent for him, in spite of the fact all those schools were following the same national curriculm as other public schools in Egypt.

I could not help but remember my old heated debates with my schoolteacher as I eagerly followed Pope Francis’ visit to the United Arab Emirates. Only those who have encountered the ideology of extremism and the doctrine of hatred can truly appreciate the religious significance of the Papal visit.

My teacher described Catholic schools as “satanic” tools used by “the colonizers” to fight Islam and brainwash Muslims. Even hospitals, such as the Greek and Italian hospitals in Cairo were not immune to his criticism. “Patient admitted for treament and discharged accepting the cross ,” he used to say.  The collision between him and I was almost regular; he used to label me as “argumentative” because I simply rejected his theory that accepting other faiths could weaken one’s Islamic faith.

My personal experience was not an isolated incident. I encountered many similar cases. Moreover, in 2017, Egyptian writer Fatima Naoot openly described how a  Salafi Sheikh mocked “Christian schools.” Over the years, I realised how my teacher’s views were not eccentric, but common among many followers of political Islam.

But it took me a while to understand the mindset of Islamists and their reasons for hating Catholism in particular. After endless debates with many Islamists, and listening to their lectures, I realized how Islamists divide Christians into two broad sections:

First, there are the Eastern Christians from Muslim-majority countries, whom they consider as a minority that should accept Islamic laws____even with force.

Second, there are the Western Christians, or “the Crusaders and Colonizers,” who are working to “undermine Islam.” Islamists consider Catholics as competitors who are trying to weaken the faith of native Muslims and prevent Islam from spreading globally.

To back their claims, Islamists cite a long history of conflict between medieval Muslim caliphates and their rival European Christian kingdoms, particulary in Andalusia. Furthermore, Islamists blurred the theological differences between Catholism, Visigothic Christianity, and Arianism, and simply divided the Christians of Spain into “monolithics” – “good Christians” who pledged loyalty to the Muslim conquerors, and the “bad trinity worshippers,” who opposed Muslim rule.

Islamist scholars, such as Egyptian Mohamed Emara, portrays the invasion of Andalusia as an effort to save the “monolithic local Christians” from the tyranny of their rulers who followed the ‘Trinity doctrine.”  The goal of such ludicrious historical revisionism was to create the impression that the “true people of the Bible” had vanished following the victory of Catholicism in Andalusia and elsewhere, and that the new generations of Christians were simply total infidels.

Such historical context is crucial to understand the religious ramifications of the Pope’s visit to Arabia. Regrettably, we have two competing versions of Islam. One  that indulges in in hatred and cynicism towards other faiths, and another that is willing to move on and embrace a future of harmony and tolerance, as demonstrated in the UAE’s Year of Tolerance and the Pope’s visit.

But to defeat the hate doctrine, the UAE cannot just rely on its domestic front; it also needs to spread concepts of tolerance and harmony among its allies___ particulary Egypt. Despite uprooting Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt is still struggling with a deeply entrenchened social Islamism.

Egypt’s Grand Imam of al-Azhar was also invited to Abu-Dhabi, and he signed the historic Human Fraternity Document with Pope Francis. Therefore, he has now a duty to implement this document in Egypt.

Egypt is currently debating many constitutional amendments. Most observers are concerned about the proposed extension of presidential terms. However, the civil nature of the Egyptian state, and who should guard it are crucial aspects that are currently absent from the debate. The current constitution entrenches the rule of Al-Azhar, as mentioned in both its second and seventh chapters. Such rule should be clarified in any new amendment. We also need to amalgamate the signed Fraternity document in the proposed amendments.

Let’s be honest, no army can be the guardian of Egypt’s civilian state; only reformation of religious thoughts and the adoption of concepts of fraternity, tolerance, and harmony can stop Islamism from creeping into Egypt’s political scene again. It is about time for future generations to have different teachers than the one I had. Egypt needs an army of teachers, preachers, and social servants who can teach tolerance instead of hate, nurture harmony instead of divisions. If Egypt and the UAE can work together, follow through from the Pope’s visit and implement the Fraternity document, their rival Islamists stand no chance of winning anywhere else in the Middle East.

An Arabic version was earlier published in Al-Hurra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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