Egyptian Aak 2016- Week 6: Feb 6-12

Top Headlines

  • Egyptian pound strengthens as foreign investors return
  • Egypt shows early signs of economic turnaround
  • Police seals shut Al-Nadeem Centre for victims of violence and torture
  • Egypt’s Al-Azhar entirely rejects proposal to end verbal divorce
  • Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway remove travel restrictions to Egypt’s South Sinai
  • US Congress delegation visiting Egypt meets President Al-Sisi and Defense Minister

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

 Friday

 Saturday

 Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Travel

Plus

Finally here are prayers for Egypt

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The New York Times And The Muslim Brotherhood

On February 9, The New York Times (NYT) published an editorial titled “All of Islam Isn’t the Enemy.” The article suggests that an order issued by the American President, Donald Trump, designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, would “be seen by many Muslims as another attempt to vilify adherents of Islam.” The article then argues that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a terrorist group, and, based on this one analysis, it claims “there is no evidence that senior Brotherhood leaders ordered any violence or carried out any of the recent major terrorist attacks in Egypt.”

As a devout practicing Muslim, I find the editorial troubling, to say the least. It not only desperately defends a secretive group like the Muslim Brotherhood; it also asserts, without sound evidence, that the Brotherhood is a representative of adherents of Islam – an assertion that is fundamentally flawed. It is unfortunate that such a prestigious American publication as the New York Times has adopted this shallow and biased approach toward a very complex topic.

The parent Muslim Brotherhood group and all other movements, parties, and associations formally or informally linked to it, represent only themselves; they do not, by any stretch of the imagination, represent the billion Muslims around the globe. There are millions of pious Muslims who adhere peacefully and faithfully to the precepts of Islam, and who do not subscribe to political Islam. In fact, many consider the Brotherhood to be a secretive, cultish group that has hijacked their religion and ultimately paved the way for more radical groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS).

It is baffling to see the New York Times, among others, defend a group that still uses two swords as part of its logo (on its Arabic sites), refuses to disown the intellectual godfather  of radical Islam, Sayed Qutb and declines to fire any of its members who flirt with violence in Arabic posts, then condemn it in English ones.

The New York Times editorial is an unfortunate example of the current polarization in American politics that is using Islam as a weapon in their infighting. While the new Trump administration opts to brand all Muslims as potential terrorists, many liberal elite blur the difference between Islam and Islamism, and falsely portray groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood as representative of pious Muslims.

Both camps are wrong. Islam is much, much bigger than a group like the Brotherhood. The New York Times’ editorial board has clearly not been following the discourse on the Brotherhood closely, particularly during the past three years. The group has lost its popularity among millions of Muslims and is divided internally into subgroups fighting among themselves about vision and an approach for the future. The analysis cited by the New York Times was written by Nathan Brown and Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. I respect both authors but I disagree with their analysis, which ironically acknowledges that “there are reports that some of the small groups that have carried out attacks on Egyptian police stations and infrastructure may have young Brotherhood members among them.” Even Tunisia’s Ennahda Party has opted to distance itself from Islamism and label itself as “a Muslim Democratic movement.”

America needs a new centrist approach to terrorism that abandons the current platitudinous attitudes toward Islam and Muslims – an approach that stops glamorizing Islamism and demonizing Muslims, a realistic approach that defines and rejects the ideology that sanctions violence. Such a complex task is indeed not easy; nonetheless, defending an opaque and mercurial group like the Muslim Brotherhood is certainly not the way to achieve this.

The New York Times in its defence of the Muslim Brotherhood, could be likened to a lawyer who bases his defense on improper legal procedures rather than the client’s actual guilt. Moreover, the Times has no right to equate the Brotherhood with Islam and use the faith of millions of non-Brotherhood Muslims as a pawn in the newspaper’s battle against the Trump administration.

Posted in Best Read, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Politics, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2017- Week 5 ( Jan 30- Feb 5)

Top Headlines

  • Louvre attacker refuses to speak to investigators
  • Islamic authority rejects Egypt’s move to reform divorce
  • Egypt court acquits 12 lawyers accused of ‘spreading false news’ on Red Sea island deal
  • Cairo airport to allow barred travelers to board US bound flights after Trump ban blocked
  • Egypt allows passage of goods through border crossing with Gaza
  • South Sudan rebels accused Egypt of carrying out bombing raids against their position
  • Egypt’s foreign reserves climb to $26.3 billion at the end of January
  • Cameroon fights back to beat Egypt 2-1 in the African Cup of Nations final

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Photo Gallery

Plus

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

Egyptian Aak 2017- Week 4(Jan 23-29)

Top Headlines

  • US is committed to its military aid to Egypt, Trump tells Sisi
  • Egypt is among countries exempted from Trump’s immigration ban
  • Germany lifts last restriction on tourism flights to South Sinai
  • Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniya praised improving ties with Egypt
  • 20 militants, four army personnel were killed in security raids in North Sinai
  • Egypt beats Morocco for the first time in 30 years, to reach the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final.

 Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

Sunday

 Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Interview

  • The call of January 1977 still echoed in January 2011, says political activist Said Abu Taleb

Video

  • Egypt’s Sisi rides on horse carriage with wife around Aswan

 Plus

Finally, here are Jason Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

Reblog: Women’s March: Why use the Headscarf (Veil) as a Symbol for Islam?

In an article published in the Huffington Post, writer and academic Elham Manea, addressing the Women’s March asked a valid question: Why use the Headscarf (Veil) as a Symbol for Islam?

She wrote: “Given the complexity of the headscarf (veil) and what it represents, your choice of it as a symbol for the Islamic religion and the minority of Islamic faith was ill advised. Why choose a symbol – considered a tool of oppression for many women in different parts of the world – as a symbol of a rich and diverse religion like Islam? It is not only misguided, it is an insult to all of these women, who have to wear it and bear the psychological scars of that imposition.”

She also added, “If you are marching for equality, then I suggest that you stop patronizing those women of Islamic faith and heritage. Not all women of Islamic faith wear the headscarf, nor are all convinced that this is THE symbol of Islam.”

I completely agree with her views. You can read Elham Manea’s article in full here

Posted in Short Comments, women rights | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

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

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

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.

 

 

Posted in Best Read, Islam, Politics, Short Comments, women rights | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

On the Red Sea islands dispute

khalid-ali

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.

 

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

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

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

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.

 

Posted in Middle East, Syria, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment