Egyptian Aak 2017- Week 3 ( Jan 16- 22)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt court upholds ruling halting transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia
  • Egypt extends participation in the Saudi-led coaltion in Yemen
  • 8 policemen killed, at least 3 injured in armed attack on Western Desert checkpoint
  • IMF says Egypt is progressing well with economic reform plan
  • Egypt to allow Italian experts to examine CCTV footage in Regeni murder investigation
  • Israel raises height of fence on Egypt border
  • Egypt puts a retired football star on terrorism list

Main Headlines

Monday

 Tuesday

 Wednesday

Thursday

 Friday

Saturday

Sunday

 Good Reports

Good Read

And hope you read my piece on the Red Sea Islands

Twitter

 

Plus

  • An Egyptian film “Mawlana” (The Preacher) tackles Egypt’s thorny issues on the big screen.

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Women’s March and the Selectivity of Anti-Trump Feminism

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Women’s march in Washington

Photo via Slate magazine

Hundred of thousands of women in America and other countries are protesting against Donald Trump’s presidency. It is refreshing to see women from all walks of life, including many celebrities, standing up against Trump’s abhorrent misogyny and sexism; it is frustrating, however, to see how these actions for women rights is limited to Trump. Women activists have systematically ignored the misogyny against women by Islamists and their supporters around the globe. As a liberal Muslim, I see today’s outrage as selective and biased. Women’s rights are universal values that face threats from many directions, not just from Trump.

For decades, headlines of discrimination against women in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other countries have flooded media outlets. The abhorrent news of honor killings, child rape, underage marriage, torture of female prisoners, and forced veiling, even for children, are not unknown to the world. None of these events have triggered global marches.

As a matter of fact, there have been no global marches against non-Western leaders’ misogyny: There were no marches against the Turkish president Erdogan when he said childless women are “deficient and incomplete”, nor against Iran when the chess governing body awarded the world championship to the Islamic republic, forcing non-Muslim female players to wear the veil. When American chess player Nazi Paikidze announced her decision to boycott the competition, a stream of articles published criticism about her decision and her launch of an online petition to challenge the chess federation’s action. Silence was also the response when Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, while still in power, has rejected a UN declaration calling for an end to violence against women, claiming that it will lead to the “complete disintegration of society.”

While turning a blind and cowardly eye against the systematic discrimination against Muslim women, Western activists [rightly] went wild when a region in France banned the Islamic swimsuit, the Burkini, and are now protesting against Trump.

It is important to understand that both “Trumpism” and Islamism are regressive political movements that are mutually feeding upon each other. Trump is taking advantage of the rise of militant Islamism to spread fear, hatred and prejudice, while Islamists are using the rise of Trump to justify terrorism and lack of integration. Needless to say, both are equally misogynistic. In fact, many smart suit Western-based Islamists are using Trump’s misogyny as a distraction from their own communities’ discrimination against women.

Liberal Muslim women have had to endure not just discrimination by Islamists, but also the silence on the part of some Western women’s rights advocates regarding their ordeal. When Obama was inaugurated, liberal Muslims assumed (wrongly) that he would stand by them, only to be disappointed later by his reluctance to confront Islamism and his underestimation of its dangerous impacts. Again, with the same distress, liberal Muslims have followed the rise of Trump and his blanket characterizations of all Muslims as terrorists.

Now, liberal Muslims feel alienated again. Those who are marching against Trump are selective liberals. They remember liberalism when a white man like Trump is the culprit, but happily defend the illiberalism of non-white authoritarian regimes and ideologies.

My message to all social activists marching in America is simple: Feel our pain, and stand with our common values. One cannot stand against Trump’s misogyny while condoning or ignoring others’ misogyny as ‘cultural” or “religious.” Such selectivity is what led to the rise of Trump in the first place. Women’s rights are for all, not just for American and other Western women.

 

 

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On the Red Sea islands dispute

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Egyptian lawyer Khaled Ali celebrates outside the courthouse in Cairo after the verdict. Photograph: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA- via the Guardian

The unseasonably warm weather in Cairo, with temperatures of 20°C has been coupled with spring-like excitement. Egypt’s State Council Supreme Administrative Court, in a final ruling, rejected the transfer of two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia. An enthusiastic crowd outside the court chanted “bread, freedom, the islands are Egyptian,” summing up a sense of nationalistic pride and celebrations around Egypt.

It is hard to imagine how the Egyptian leadership will survive such crisis unscathed. Regardless of what’s next, it has become embedded in the minds of many Egyptians that their leadership is selling their lands.

The dispute started on April 8th, 2016, after Egypt hastily signed a maritime border demarcation that would transfer Egypt’s sovereignty of the two islands to Saudi Arabia. Egypt has been controlling those strategically placed islands in the Strait of Tiran, near the Israeli border, for more than 60 years. The agreement was immediately followed by a legal contest filed by a group of lawyers, including ex-presidential candidate Khalid Ali. The legal battle has continued until Monday’s verdict.

As I wrote before, the idea that the people of Tiran and Sanafir are not Egyptians is difficult to sell, especially for the many Egyptians who lived all their lives with the story of the Straits of Tiran and the 1967 war as an integral part of their memory. The slogan, “Awad sold his land,” surfaced in Egypt following the signing of the agreement with Saudi Arabia to transfer the two Red Sea islands to Saudi sovereignty. Awad is the name of a farmer in an old Egyptian radio soap opera who sold his land. Opponents of the Saudi deal resurrected Awad’s story in angry protests against relinquishing the two islands to Saudi Arabia. Monday’s verdict enshrines the image of president Sisi as the new Awad who is willing to sell his land.

Beyond the legal side of the dispute, the controversy is pitting Egypt’s pillars of the state against each other. While the government, along with the army and the various intelligence bodies back the deal, the Judiciary and a substantial section of the public are against it. It is also clear that such controversy on a very patriotic issue is damaging the already eroding popularity of the Egyptian president.

Since the verdict, Egyptian politicians and lawmakers have bickered on various talk shows about what should be done next. Members of parliament insist that they should discuss the deal and vote accordingly; some have even suggested a referendum. Others have urged the government to resign. Such infantile bickering will only compound the deep sense of confusion and mistrust among the public.

The crisis has triggered an environment in Egypt similar to 1979, when late president Sadat signed the Camp David peace accords with Israel, which was unpopular among many sections of Egyptian society. Many at that time tried, but failed, to legally challenge the peace treaty. The difference, however, is how Sadat signed a treaty to regain Egyptian land. The current Egyptian leadership is trying to surrender two islands that have been under Egyptian sovereignty for decades to another country (Saudi Arabia).

There is no doubt that this verdict is a huge slap on the face for Egyptian leadership, and it should be taken as an urgent wakeup call. Egyptians can put up with autocracy and harsh economic conditions. Egyptians, however, would struggle to accept a leadership fighting its judiciary to prove that part of their land is not actually their land.

As the anniversary of the January 25th revolution approaches, the Egyptian leadership must embark on a damage limitation path. It is time to accept that this Red Sea  islands transfer deal has proven to be a huge error of judgment. If the choice is between losing Saudi patronage or the Egyptian public, there should be no hesitation____ the Egyptian public must be the choice. Egypt cannot afford another upheaval.

 

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Egyptian Aak 2017-Week 2 (Jan 9-15)

Top Headlines

  • Militants attack checkpoint in Egypt’s Sinai, killing 8
  • New restrictive measures to enter Sinai
  • Al-Sisi: Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts is staking a heavy toll on state sources
  • Cabinet creates protests-free zone around vital facilites
  • Egypt slams EU, UK for criticizing ruling on activists
  • Egypt’s cost-of-living soars as currency dives
  • Egypt drops case against mob that attacked a Christian woman

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

 Sunday 

Good Reports 

Good Read

Twitter

Timeline

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Assad, Isis, and Turkey

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Portraits of Putin, Assad, Khamenei and Nasrallah in Aleppo -via Twitter

In a TV interview on a Syrian state TV channel, Secretary of the Syrian Parliament Khaled Abboud alluded that the government has been redirecting the Islamic State (Isis)’s attacks, “The Syrian security establishment and the Syrian intelligence services have infiltrated these networks [Islamic State and other militant groups in Syria].” He added, “Why have there been no bombings in Damascus? But there have been attacks on Turkish cities [instead],” he said, hinting at the link between the infiltration of Isis and the absence of attacks on the capital, which is the government’s stronghold.

 Abboud’s statement has understandably supported the argument among many Syria observers that the Assad regime may have helped create ISIS and kept it in power. Abboud’s claim, however, is not entirely accurate. In January 2016, Isis killed at least 60 people in a triple suicide bomb attack near the holiest Shia shrine in the Syrian capital of Damascus. In other words, Abboud’s claim is factually incorrect.

Nonetheless, regardless of the myth or truth behind Abboud’s assertion, his words should be taken with caution. The focus should be on its aim; not its factuality.

The reason for this is that after neutralizing all Arab patrons, Assad and his allies are now focusing on Turkey, the remaining backer of the Syrian opposition. Abboud’s words are not being said in isolation, but are part of a collective charm offensive by Assad and his allies that is aimed at Turkey. This follows the ceasefire plan for all of Syria mediated by Turkey and Russia.

Prior to Abboud’s remarks, as I wrote in my latest piece, and a day after Assad’s Syrian government declared it had regained full control of the Syrian city of Aleppo, Hezbollah leader and Assad’s partner in the Syrian civil war, Hassan Nasrallah, delivered a speech that reflected a conciliatory stance towards Turkey, and roundly condemned ISIS’s brutal murder of Turkish soldiers.

Assad and Co. are watching Turkey carefully and sensing its emerging vulnerability and confusion. With 2017 just 75 minutes old, a gunman opened fire on New Year revelers at Istanbul’s iconic Reina club, killing at least 39 people. Isis claimed responsibility for the mass shooting. That was not the first time the terror group attacked Turkey. Last June, gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs and suicide vests, stormed the entrance to Istanbul’s Atatürk airport, killing 36 people and injuring 147. Turkey blamed ISIS for that attack. Last December, Isis militants released a video purporting to show two captured Turkish soldiers being burned alive. Moreover, Isis in its latest magazine directly targets Turkish President Erdogan, and encourages assassination in Turkey.

The Turkish response to the Isis offensive was puzzling and alarming. Turkish President Erdogan accused the U.S.-led coalition fighting in in Iraq and Syria of supporting the Islamic State Isis, an accusation that was vehemently denied by the American administration. This accusation, however, has been received warmly in Damascus and encouraged the current charm offensive towards Turkey by Assad and his allies.

Currently, Turkey is the most effective patron of the opposition groups. Therefore, for the pro-Assad quartet (Assad, Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia), neutralizing Turkey even partially is a must step that can enhance the regime’s survival. They are pursuing that goal by hyping their intelligence ability, and feeding inaccurate information to their Turkish counterparts. This is aimed at compounding Turkish paranoia and encouraging Turkey to drift away, even from the United States.

It is rather ironic that the same Assad officials who lied repeatedly about the Syrian revolution are now taking Isis seriously. The Assad regime’s access to Isis is not exclusive. While it is probably safe to assume that Syrian intelligence has at least attempted to infiltrate Isis, it is doubtful that this infiltration is effective or reliable. Turkey and other western intelligence agencies have also probably infiltrated the group.

Within the Syrian dirty war, there is possibly a dirtier intelligence war going on that we may not know about until decades in the future. With all left said and done, Abboud’s words should be taken with a huge pinch of salt. Behind the gloating hype is a propaganda war___ a tool that has been used effectively for years by Assad and his allies.

 

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Egyptian Aak 2017- Week 1 ( Jan 2-8)

Top Headlines

  • Al- Sisi pledges to construct large church in the new capital
  • Fearful Egypt’s Copts mark Christmas after church bombing
  • April 6′ youth movement co-founder Ahmed Maher is released from prison  
  • The Egyptian pound strengthened slightly at banks as demand for dollars by importers eases
  • Islamist murders Christian for selling alcohol in Alexandria
  • Egypt establishes highly-trained special navy forces brigade in Red Sea
  • First Israeli tourist group since 2015 visits Egypt

 

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Egyptian Coptic leader Pope Tawadros II leads Christmas celebration at the St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral  on January 6, 2017. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday 

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports 

 From Twitter

https://twitter.com/fqadi/status/816341110675144706

Video

Timeline

 Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Syria: The New Arab Nakba

 

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Syrian pro-government forces walking in the ancient Umayyad mosque in Aleppo

Photo via Daily Mail, AFP/ Getty Images

 

A day after Assad’s Syrian Government declared it had regained full control of the Syrian city of Aleppo, Hezbollah leader and Assad’s partner in the Syrian civil war, Hassan Nasrallah, delivered an interesting speech. He bluntly admitted that the retaking of Aleppo was not a final victory for Assad, but an open door for a political settlement. Importantly, Nasrallah’s speech reflected a conciliatory stance towards Turkey, and roundly condemned ISIS’s brutal murder of Turkish soldiers.

 Nasrallah’s words not only summed up the current mindset of the Syrian regime, but it also highlighted the prospect of a new, long-term phase in the tragedy of Syria. The revolution, which started as part of the sweeping Arab awakening against authoritarian dictators, has now been reduced to a bloody de-Arabized power game, in which the Syrian people have been used as a tool to serve the conflicting interests of many opportunistic players. Gone are the days of bold ultimatums and vociferous demands; now Syrians are hoping the current fragile ceasefire will hold at least for a while longer.

Much political and ideological rhetoric has been devoted to blaming the United States, Russia, Iran, and Turkey for their contribution to the Syrian tragedy. However, while these nations must bear part of the blame for the human catastrophe in Syria, it is mainly an Arab production, for many reasons:

Underestimating the enemy

From the early days of the Syrian conflict, Arab patrons of the revolution in that country were happy to support the Syrians with money and arms, wrongly assuming that Iran and Hezbollah would do the same. There was never a Plan B. When it became clear Assad’s supporters were willing to offer their own sons to fight in Syria, the Arab states had no answer but to curse Iran___ as if cursing would stop the bloodshed or bring about a solution. The Arabs cynically assumed Iran would drown in Syria, but they had forgotten how the Mullahs have mastered wars of attrition since the Iraq-Iran war. From day one of the conflict in Syria, Assad and his allies fully understood, that they wouldn’t be able to crush the opposition, so they focused instead on saving the spine of the country by controlling the bigger cities, such as Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo. They did this to prevent a major division in Syria and to prevent the creation of a bigger chunk of the country under opposition control. Patrons of the opposition, however, had no answer to Assad’s plan other than ranting, blaming, and broadcasting photos of civilian misery.

Myriads of Militias

Syria is a glaring example that militias do not solve conflicts; instead, they prolong the misery. Unlike Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon, Syria has witnessed the internationalization of the role of militias by opening the door to a global Jihad and accepting anyone from any nationality to join the infighting. According to the head of the United Nations’ Counter-Terrorism Committee, there are up to 30,000 foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. Those fighters not all come from Arab countries, but the core of Jihad is authentically Arabic, re-invented in its modern form as a tool against Zionism, then modified, twisted, and abused by many.

Pathological obsession with America

Whenever there is a crisis in the region, Arabs look to America as the mother nation that should rush to their rescue. On the other hand, the same Arabs rather audaciously and ruthlessly judge the American performance if it fails to produce an anticipated outcome. When it comes to the Arab world, America is doomed whether it intervenes fully as it did in Iraq, partially as in Libya, or marginally as in Syria. One can only imagine the endless number of conflicting messages from various Arab countries, and their lobbies in Washington. It is perhaps not surprising that the Obama administration has lost faith in all its Arab partners.

The Arabic media

For the past six years, Arabic news channels, particularly Al-Jazeera Al-Arabiya, and al-Mayadeen have topped the Syrian misery with a hefty dose of nostalgia, spin, and a whitewashing of mistakes. Facts have been intertwined with fiction, sliding objectivity to a record low. Knowing the facts on the ground has become an impossible task. Moreover, social media, once dubbed the voices of the Arab Spring have become tools to compound the war of misinformation and spin. Even the most intellectual Arabs have joined the tribal and misinformation war.

In the end, the Syrian revolution failed because Syria’s Arab patrons were never democrats or patrons of democracy. They only brought to Syria what they had mastered for decades____ disingenuous support and cynical manipulation.

2017 may bring many familiar themes to Syria, such as a “long-term lull,” “aid to refugees,” and even the “right of return.” Yes, for anyone who followed the Palestinian conflict, those slogans are eerily familiar. The Arabs’ handling of their regional crises has been unsurprisingly similar. Arabs excel at compounding their own misery and turning their conflicts into Gordian knots, impossible to disentangle. As a result, their journey into the modern era can be summed up as a trail of “Nakbas” or disasters that have presaged an era of insoluble and chronic political chaos and human destruction. Syria is a living example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Egyptian Aak 2016/2017 ( Dec 26- January 1)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt’s government approves deal to hand two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia
  • An Egyptian appeal court backs government in Red Sea islands dispute
  • Prominent journalist Ibrahim Eissa terminates TV show after threats, legal complaints
  • Egypt’s army destroys 1,700 meter smuggling tunnel in Rafah
  • Egyptian Defence Ministry appoints new army spokesperson
  • Egyptian army renovates bombed Cairo church ahead of Coptic Christmas

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday 

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

  • Egypt’s government approves deal to hand two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia
  • Egypt to hand over Egypt Air MS804 victims’ remains next week
  • Egypt’s central bank leaves key interest rates unchanged

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

  • US report: Egypt topped developing countries in arms imports in 2015. Mada Masr
  • In the year of the economy, Egyptians kept their eyes on the dollar. Heba Afify
  • Egypt’s child custody laws: How to reform? Mai Shams El-Din

Good read

From Twitter

Photo Gallery

Plus

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

Happy 2017 to all my readers. Thank you for following my blog 

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

Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 51 ( Dec 19-25)

Top Headlines

  • Death toll of Cairo’s church bombing rises to 28
  • Egypt defends its decision to withdraw anti-settlement resolution at the UN
  • ‘Sinai Province’ admits its former leader was killed by the Egyptian army
  • Egypt confirms Al Jazeera producer’s arrest fo “provoking sedition”
  • Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji is released from prison pending final verdict
  • Split in the Muslim Brotherhood deepens with creation of new advisory council

 Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

 Sunday

Good Report

Good Read

(Posts do not represent my views, but they are definitely worth reading)  

From Twitter

Plus

Finally here are Jason Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah 

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

Saudi Clerics and Christmas

In an interview last November, Saudi cleric Khaled Al-Felaij said Muslims are forbidden from greeting Christians and Jews on their holidays. He labeled Jews and Christians as infidels and explained that their celebration were “based upon falsehood, heresy, and polytheism,” and that it was haram for Muslims to celebrate this, to greet those who celebrate this, or to give or accept presents from such infidels.

Al-Felaij is not alone, another famous cleric Mohamad Al-Arefe (with 16.4 million followers on Twitter) has issued and tweeted similar fatwa. Other clerics, not just in Saudi Arabia, but also in many Muslim countries advocate the same views. I certainly heard similar views in Egypt. The same clerics and thousands of their followers, however, will shudder in anger if anyone ___ rightly___ points to them that those views are remarkably similar to what the Islamic State and other radical Jihadi groups believe.

Moreover, these clerics fail to see how such intolerant views breeds hatred among Muslims towards non-Muslims, and it also creates a deep torment inside many pious Muslims living in the West who are trying to integrate in their societies while maintaining their religion. Considering their non-Muslim neighbors and colleagues as infidels that should not be greeted during this festive time will only alienate Muslims and make them vulnerable to being recruited by terror groups.

Needless to mention, such intolerant views are embarrassing to the Saudi Royal family, which is trying to deal with radical terror groups flourishing inside the Kingdom. The Saudi Kingdom is trying to modernize the country, but that will not happen without uprooting intolerance from its religious doctrine. A country that considers others in bulk as evil, not just different, is doomed to failure___ rather than progress.

Let’s be clear, greeting others during festive times is simply what it is, a greeting; not a conversion or an embrace. There are millions who put a Christmas tree in their homes for non-religious reasons, only to bring some heartfelt festivities to the end of the year.

Infantilizing Islam is the biggest tragedy of the Muslim world. There is more to Islam than who should be greeted and what tree to be ignored. The Islamic faith has a deeper, mature side that is deliberately sidelined by advocates who have thinking that trivializes a great religion. Furthermore, Muslim scholars have to stop their duplicitous approach towards Islam, citing verses of tolerance when it suits and then taking other verses to spread intolerance when it suits. Enough!

Meanwhile, I have happily decided to defy all the clerics of hatred and wish my Christian and Jewish friends happy Christmas and happy Hanukkah.

May peace and tolerance prevail in our dark grim world.

 

Posted in Islam, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Short Comments, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment