Turkish journalists now queue for jail: ‘We are not afraid, we will criticize…’

Turkey freed noted editor & novelist Ahmet Altan at dawn after 12 days in jail, only to re-order his arrest before he spends a night at home. Read Yavuz Byadar on the plight of Journalists in Turkey

TEMPORAL

Update:

An arrest order was issued Thursday night on Ahmet Altan, who was released after almost two weeks in police custody.


Another dark page in the post-coup Turkey was unfolded early Thursday morning, with the Kafkaesque trial of two prominent liberal dissidents.

After being held under murky circumstances in police custody for over 12 days, the author and journalist Ahmet Altan and his brother, Mehmet Altan, who is a scholar and a commentator, were under spotlight.

The long night ended with one of them being sent to pretrial detention, while the other released conditionally, with a travel ban.

What we observed after the event was two-fold:

One, given the absurdity of the accusations, nobody any longer will feel safe in Turkey.

Second, there is groiwng belief over something very fishy about the essence of the July 15 coup attempt.

altans

For the monitors of the country, these dark days it is a…

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Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 37 ( Sept 12-18)

Top headlines

  • Mexico reaches compensation deal for victims of 2015 bombing in Egypt
  • TNT traces on EgyptAir plane debris split investigators
  • US Congressmen call for Aya Hegazy’s release from prison
  • Egypt freezes assets of several human rights advocates
  • Clinton to meet with presidents of Egypt, Ukraine next week
  • Sisi and Trump to meet for first time on the sidelines of his visit to New York

 Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

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 Good reports

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Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 36 ( Sept 5-11)

Top Headlines

  • Egyptian police ‘investigated’ Giulio Regeni days before his murder
  • Egypt names six provincial governors, mostly ex-generals
  • A newly-established militant group published a video of footage from a an attack against a security checkpoint in Menoufiya governorate
  • Court orders release of 5 activists accused of attempting to overthrow the state
  • Egyptian lawmaker Elhamy Agina: Female genital mutilation needed because Egyptian men are sexually weak

 Main Headlines

 Monday 

 Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

 Sunday

  • Activist and a legal adviser for the family of murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni Ahmed Abdullah walks free
  • “street children” are released 4 days after court order
  • Online petition supports detained journalist Mahmoud Al-Saqa

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Muslims, France, and the war on shorts

 

woman-shorts

Photo via UK’s Independent/ Getty Images

In the wake of the Burkini war, a violent skirmish of altogether different proportions has surfaced in France. In the southern French city of Toulon, two women wearing shorts were verbally assaulted as they made their way through an eastern neighborhood. Ten young men — allegedly Muslims — began insulting the women, who were out biking and rollerblading with their families, calling them “whores.” When the women’s spouses confronted the men, fighting broke out and the husbands and a male friend were severely beaten. One of the victims sustained severe facial fractures and another a broken nose.

Although two of the attackers were later sent to jail for their part in the brawl, the incident gained prominence on social media under the hashtag #TousEnShort, suggesting a link between the assault and Islam. Adding fuel to the fire was a statement by Julien Leonardelli, Department Secretary for the far right National Front Party in Haute-Garonne. He wrote on Twitter “Again, our freedoms are being severely attacked. Sharia is already installed.”

In early June, an 18-year-old girl named Maude Vallet said she was insulted, threatened and spat on by a group of girls while on a bus in Toulon. Another report claims a Muslim woman assaulted another young woman for bathing topless in Chateauneuf-sur-Charente on August 25.

Ironically, none of the above incidents triggered the attention and global outrage that greeted the Burkini ban. Supporters of conservative Islamism now rush to praise every hijabi achiever, and stand against injustices inflicted against them, but act with indifference when cultural clashes spin out of control and result in such criminal acts as those described in the above incidents.

The root cause behind such attacks is the self-righteous Islamism that promotes conservatism as a tool to maintain Islamic identity among Muslim communities in Western countries. It is hard to teach Muslim youth to respect others’ dress codes while indoctrinating them with the idea that covering the flesh is morally superior. This is a conundrum that will haunt Muslims, as their second-generation youth grow more defiant and detached from their local Western communities.

Some Muslims might find it unpalatable to admit, but this self-righteous Islamism will bring nothing but trouble to Muslim communities, not just in France, but in the wider Western world. Yes, Muslims have won the Burkini Battle, and got support even from the United Nations, which condemned the Burkini ban for “fuelling religious intolerance and the stigmatization of Muslims in France.”

The deafening silence surrounding attacks against local non-Muslims for their non-conservative attire, however, will equally fuel religious intolerance and the collective stigmatization of all Muslims.

Tension in France is already high, and Muslims bear considerable responsibility in helping diffuse the flames of hate. Muslims should stand for freedom and respect. There should be zero tolerance for any attack on non-Muslim women. If the Burkini has to be accepted in the Western world, then shorts, and even nudity, have to be mutually accepted by Muslims living in non-Muslim societies.

 

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Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 35 ( Aug 29 – Sept 4)

Top Headlines

  • Egyptian parliament passes bill designating FGM a felony imposes stricter penalties
  • Egyptian parliament approves new church building law
  • Administrative Court rejects banning social media
  • Egyptian army to sell baby formula to fight monopoly practices
  • Egypt announces postponement of signing of GERD impact studies contracts of Ethiopian dam due to” unresolved issues”

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

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Essentializing Islam will not stop Islamophobia

Niqab Photo 2

( A woman wearing Niqab in France- Via AFP)

The cynical glee with which the Western media publicly flaunts — and generalizes — the practice of Islamic customs has become a disturbing pattern. The Hijab, Nigab, and Burkini have now become synonymous with Muslims, a perception that not just narrows the much more diverse reality of Muslims in Western countries, but reinforces a dangerous perception that all Muslims are a homogenous community; that they are all conservative; that all of them are Hijabi, Niqabi, or pro-Burkini. Such media misrepresentation is a dangerous farce that will only encourage Islamophobia, not defeat it, in non-Muslim societies.

The toxic debate about the Burkini ban on some French beaches was painful to watch — a zero-sum narrative on an empty stage that served only to deepen the divide between supporters and opponents of the ban.

Meanwhile, as the simmering outrage over France’s Burkini ban continues, history has been made in Denmark, where two female imams, including a non-Hijabi Danish woman, Sherin Khankan, led Friday prayers for the first time recently. This news from Denmark, however, has not attracted much attention, compared to the global fury unleashed by France’s Burkini ban, which the country’s highest administrative court subsequently suspended.

In America, Ibtihaj Muhammad, a Muslim woman from New Jersey, won a bronze Olympic medal in fencing. Ibtihaj was not the only Muslim woman to win an Olympic medal. Another black Muslim American woman, Dalilah Muhammad, won the gold medal in the women’s 400 m hurdles, albeit with a rather muted celebration of her achievement.

Ibitihaj’s achievement was celebrated roundly, and hailed by politicians and commentators globally, not only for the sporting honors she gained for her country, but also because she became the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing an Islamic headscarf (Hijab). Dalilah Muhammad’s gold medal was another superb achievement from a black Muslim woman. However, the media — and some members of the public at large — did not consider her achievement, as newsworthy as that of her Olympic colleague because she is a non-Hijabi woman.

Another sportswoman, Egyptian Doaa Elghobashi, made more headlines than Egypt’s synchronized swimming team by wearing a Hijab during the Olympic beach volleyball contest, while most of the other girls on the team are also Muslims.

One cannot help notice how Muslims have become the frontline for public scrutiny in a subtle, albeit intense fight in an increasingly divided Western world. A closer look at the political landscape in Europe and America makes it easy to spot two major opposite camps: the red and the blue camps. While the red one is raising the alarm about radical Islam and the lack of integration within some in Muslim communities, the blue camp plays the cool progressive by courting conservative Islamist Muslims and portraying them as mainstream Islam. Within this battle, there are other skirmishes: there’s the one mentioned above to ban Burkinis on some French beaches and another to ban the Niqab in a part of Switzerland. And while Olympic bronze medals in general are now a thing of the past, people are still talking about the Hijabi bronze.

Muslims’ attitudes towards divisive trends have also been disturbing. In fact, Muslims are divided between those who immediately adopt a reflexive defensive attitude in justifying practices such as wearing the Niqab, even if they do not agree with it on a personal level. On the other hand, other Muslims quietly agree with the bans on the Niqab and Burkini, but refrain from saying it loudly for fear of looking as if they are betraying their community.

As a result, slowly, but surely, Islam has been essentialized into a religion that is at best benignly conservative, and at worse, rigidly radical. Both the red and blue camp are using the Hijab, Niqab, and Burkini as weapons in their battles, enforcing consciously or sub-consciously the narrative of political Islam, which wrongly portrays itself as the most authentic model of Islam. Yes, the ban on the Burkini has been suspended, but it has left behind an unhealed and divided landscape.

That is neither healthy for the Western world nor for the Muslim communities in the West. In fact, it is profoundly disturbing.

It is indeed great to see Hijabi Muslim women celebrated for their achievements, and Burkini-wearing Muslims defended against an unjust ban, but we should also accept the right of others, including many Muslims, to voice disdain about the Niqab or Burkini. Freedom of expression goes both ways. Expecting that conservative Islam will be loved and embraced by all native Europeans is simply naïve; forcing respect for regressive Islamic patterns on traditional Western communities can be perceived as provocative.

Moreover, while defending freedom, it is crucial not to be an advocate of illiberal multiculturalism, in which Islamist Muslims can demand respect and understanding for their conservative, often illiberal attitudes, while non-Muslims’ illiberalism is damned as sick and unacceptable. It is infantilizing and reductive to portray Muslims as a collective bunch of victims who need more protection and less scrutiny. The notion that Islam is exceptional, and not necessarily liberal, has gained a sympathetic ear from the same people who were outraged at France for its illiberal ban on the Burkini. This hypocritical notion is not just untrue, it will ignite more resentment and anger among many non-Muslims.

The Western world needs a centrist approach to its Muslim communities that acknowledges and highlights their diversity, maintains the rights of conservative Muslims, and addresses the fears (even irrational ones) of local communities. The best way to fight Islamophobia is to show sympathy for local anxieties, celebrate and support Islamic diversity, and encourage liberal Muslims’ voices. Reductive emotional outrage, however, will never be part of the solution.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Islam, Middle East, Politics, women rights | Tagged , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 34 ( Aug 22-29)

Top headlines

  • Sisi will run for re-election ‘if it is the will of the Egyptian people’
  • Egypt’s cabinet approves amendments to law against FGM
  • Coptic Church declares compromise with state over contentious church building law
  • Egypt TV host shuns Twitter after pro-president poll fiasco
  • Egyptian court upholds release of lawyer Makek Adly, turns down prosecution appeal
  • Egypt’s high administrative court accepts recusal request in Red Sea islands case

 Main headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

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Saturday

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 Good Reports

Good Read

  • Exactly 500 Years ago, this battle changed the Middle East forever. Akhilesh Pillalamarri
  • Countering the Pontiff of terror. Yasser Reda

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Egyptian Aak 2016 -Week 33 (Aug 15-21)

Top headlines

  • Egyptian judo athlete reprimanded, sent home after refusing to shake Israeli opponent’s hand
  • Sisi’s approval rating drops to 9 percentage points in two months since June  
  • Moody’s credit rating agency ranks Egypt as stable
  • Gunmen in Egypt kill informer, soldier at checkpoint north of Cairo
  • Two policemen killed in attack on checkpoint in Egypt’s Menoufiya

Main Headlines

Monday

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The Right Not To Wear A Burkini

TUNISIA-ISLAM-LEISURE

Tunisian women, one (R) wearing a “burkini”, a full-body swimsuit designed for Muslim women. Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

The ban on the Islamic burkini, or full-body swimsuit, on the beaches of the French Riviera has triggered heated debates and controversies. For some, it is a ban on freedom of choice; for others, the ban is a symbol of Islamist extremism. For me, however, it triggers painful memories of another struggle by women in the Muslim world who were stripped of the right to make their own choice on the matter.

“Maybe it is not a good idea to swim on a public beach,” one of my mother’s friends once told me with a stern look on his face. He then added, “You would be harassed in such a conservative culture as ours.” I was only 11 at the time and was struggling to swim. To be honest, I was just trying to enjoy the sea and the water. Still, many Egyptians believe swimming is an activity that could trigger unwanted attention, even at that tender age.

In a country like Egypt, swimming is a luxury, especially for girls; only those who can afford to pay the membership fees of posh sports clubs have access to swimming pools. Yes, Egypt is blessed with many public beaches, but like all public spaces, they have become havens for men harassing women by gazing, staring, and even groping them. Consequently, despite the fact that Egypt has some well-known female swimmers such as Farida Osman, many girls miss the opportunity to engage in the wonderful sport of swimming during childhood. I was one of those unfortunate girls. My mother could not afford the sport club’s fee. I missed out on swimming until I eventually took swimming classes as an adult in England. I had to put up with disdainful looks as I clumsily tried to float in the water among children aged four and five, until I eventually learned to swim.

The evolution of swimming costumes in Muslim societies has been linked to two main factors: the rise of political Islam and the urbanization of Muslim societies. Up until the Seventies in Egypt, female swimming costumes were widely accepted on public beaches without any harassment. That was due mainly to the predominance of the relatively liberal, middle-class elite in urban areas.

That changed during the Eighties. Reverse engineering of cultural attitudes started with the rise of Islamism and the emergence of a neo-middle class, mostly conservative Muslims, many of whom were expats working in ultra-conservative Gulf States. This new culture embodied a strict new doctrine, which held that a woman’s body was a source of Islamist identity. As this new doctrine gained in popularity, social pressure mounted, forcing women to cover their bodies to maintain their “honor.” Any uncovered woman was deemed loose, decadent, and attention seeking. Such religious bullying forced many Muslim women to avoid swimming altogether, unless they had the means to join wealthy sport clubs or own a villa in exclusive compounds at posh sea resorts. As a result, the ghettoization of the Egyptian social scene became the new norm.

Gradually, the Islamic dress code permeated the entire Arab and Muslim world, including Muslim communities in many Western countries. The introduction of the burkini in the early 2000s by a Muslim woman in Australia was a creative move to adapt to beach-style life in Australia. Subsequently, the popularity of the burkini gained ground among many neo-middle class conservative Muslims who wanted to reconcile their religious beliefs with their posh life style.

So what is wrong with the burkini?

As a liberal woman, I have no problem with the burkini because I believe in freedom of choice, but as a Muslim woman, I find the burkini problematic for two reasons.

First, it symbolizes a perception that women who cover up within the Muslim world are superior to those who do not: When concealing flesh is considered to be the morally correct interpretation of God’s order, it automatically places the covered woman in a higher moral league. Less covered women have no option but to put up with a lower-league status or cover their bodies. Even non-hijabi women are expected to refrain from showing more flesh by wearing a swimming costume that conforms with commonly accepted customs. God forbid if a Muslim woman opted to wear a bikini. That alone would label her simply as a whore.

Second, many Islamists advocate total segregation, and are not content with the burkini. One might presume that once Muslim women agree to cover up fully, the pro-regressionists will finally leave them alone. But the opposite is true. The more women give in and cover up, the more the advocates of regression will raise the stakes higher. Many scholars advocate a dress code that does not stick to the body or reveal a silhouette of its shape. For them, the burkini is problematic, as they prefer total segregation between men and women on beaches. Completely segregated Islamist beach resorts are common in Iran, and have started to appear in Turkey and other Muslim countries.

It may surprise many, but the harassment of women on public beaches, which is prevalent in Muslim countries, is almost negligible in Western countries, despite the revealing swimming costumes many women wear. Even in Egypt, the harassment of non-burkini wearing women is much less in upmarket beach resorts. This phenomenon destroys the main pillar of the Islamist argument that covering up protects women. In fact, the obsession with covering the flesh only triggers more misogyny and paranoia. In a strict, regressive environment, when the flesh is covered, desperate men will focus on a women’s looks, the way she moves, and her body language.

The debate on the ban of the burkini in France is yet another example that the troubles of the Middle East do not remain in the Middle East. Yes, the design of the burkini originated in Australia, but the ideology behind it is purely Middle Eastern. The burkini sums up some Muslim women’s struggle to please themselves, their societies, and their perceptions of Islam.

Burkini-wearing women and their supporters, however, cannot confront Islamophobia without addressing the hypocrisy in their native countries. If the advocates of the burkini are really genuine in their call for freedom of choice, they should confront the emotional bullying that links women’s bodies with honor. All people, including non-burkini Muslim women, should have freedom of choice. Muslim women who opt to wear ordinary swimming costumes only want to enjoy the simple pleasure of feeling the sea waves caressing their skin and touching their hair, without external judgment of their morals or religious beliefs. Once the concept of equality and diversity is accepted in Muslim countries, it will empower Muslims to defend the burkini in Western countries. Let’s be frank: prejudice in this context originated within the Muslim communities, and will never be solved until Muslims truly embrace freedom for all, and not just for burkini-wearing women.

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Egyptian Aak 2016, Week 32 ( Aug 8-14)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt-IMF reach staff-level agreement on a Three-year US$12 Bln  fund facility 
  • After IMF deal, Egypt’s Sisi says will not hesitate on tough reforms
  • Egypt inflation rate at 14.8% in July
  • Egypt sets jail as punishment for black market forex trading

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

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Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

  • Egypt needs $5-6 billion in bilateral financing to seal IMF deal: Mission chief Lin Noueihed
  • ISIS is digging up Nazi land mines in Egypt. Peter Schwartzstein
  • The complete guide to Egypt’s 20 most promising Hend ElBehary
  • The Rabea sit-in dispersal: Whom the state is blaming three years on. Mai Shams El-Din
  • The stories behind Egypt’s Olympic Champions. Mai Shams El-Din
  • Nationalism and generosity fuel the defense of Tiran and Sanafir. Beesan Kassab
  • Why do sectarian tensions run high in Minya? Heba Afify
  • Clash: An awkward movie that suits an awkward situation. Andeel

Good Read

  • ISIS brings Egypt and Israel even closer. Yossi Mekelberg
  • Fractured lands: How the Arab world came apart.  Scott Anderson

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Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

 

 

 

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