This Week in Egypt: Week 2-2018 ( January 8-12)

Top Headlines

  • Presidential elections set for March 26-28 in Egypt
  • Egypt opens criminal inquiry over a New York Times article
  • Egypt approves cabinet reshuffle ahead of elections
  • Ex-military chief of staff General Sami Anan will run in Egyptian presidential election
  • Israel had destroyed a cross-border attack tunnel that ran from Gaza into Israel and Egypt
  • Alexandria court overturns sentence against activist Mahinour El-Masry in Red Sea islands protest case

 Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

From Twitter

Plus

Plus

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

This Week in Egypt: Week 1-2018 ( Jan 1-7)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt to extend state of emergency for 3 months
  • Former Egyptian prime minister Ahmed Shafik is no longer considering running for president in this year’s election
  • Sudan recalls its ambassador from Egypt amid tensions
  • Sisi attended Christmas mass at the new Nativity of Christ Cathedral in the new administrative capital
  • Egypt garners 3 CAF titles, Mohamed Salah named best African play

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

  • Former Egyptian prime minister Ahmed Shafik is no longer considering running for president in this year’s election
  • Egypt refutes a New York Times’ report on tacit acceptance of Jerusalem move
  • Hot air balloon flights continue in Egypt’s Luxor, investigation still on going into Friday’s accident
  • Iraq waits for Egyptian company assistance in Iraqi reconstruction

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Sports

  • Egypt wins National team of the Year award

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Twitter Threads on Iran Protests

Here are interesting Twitter threads on the current protests in Iran that I would like to share.

Posted in Iran | Tagged , | Leave a comment

This Week in Egypt- Week 52-Last Week of 2017

Top Headlines

  • Gunman kills 9 in Egypt church attack claimed by ISIS
  • Egypt hangs 15 militants convicted of 2013 Sinai attacks 
  • Egypt security forces kill three suspected militants, arrest 10 others
  • British woman accused of bringing 300 painkiller tablets into Egypt jailed for three years 

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Video

Plus

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

Social Islamism In Egypt

An English version of my original Arabic piece in Al-Hurra

Sheik Jackson movie

Amr Salama’s Movie’s Sheikh Jackson

In recent days, in Egypt, an Oscar-nominated film was referred to Al-Azhar, a crowd of Muslim worshippers attacked a church, and an actress became the focus of insults on social media for her comments regarding how Muezzins sound. These three incidents in Egypt over a span of weeks may seem unconnected, but they are linked. They all are alarming outcomes of a social Islamism that has infested Egypt and is increasingly bursting out in boils.

Egypt’s general prosecutor initiated an investigation against Amr Salama’s movie Sheikh Jackson after a “member of the public,” a Giza-based solicitor, submitted a complaint accusing the movie and its director of “contempt of religion.” This was put forth despite the movie being previously cleared and authorized by Egypt’s censorship committee. Rather than dismissing the complaint as nonsense and discharging the accuser of wasting valuable time in the Egyptian legal system, the prosecutor opted to interrogate the movie director Salama and refer the film to Al-Azhar to provide a verdict on the charges. When film critic Tarek El-Shenawy defended the film, many Facebook readers responded with ugly insults and replies against him, the film, and even art in general.

A few days later, 100 kilometres outside Cairo, hundreds gathered outside a church in Atfih, Giza, chanting hostile slogans and calling for the church’s demolition. Incitement against the church was allegedly coordinated via a social media campaign led by some youth, who were angry after rumours circulated that the church will hang “a bell.” The rumours was enough to spread rage and initiate an assault on the church, which led to four injuries and destruction of church property and artefacts before the police managed to bring the situation under control. Such attacks against Christians are not being conducted by terror groups, and in fact are a manifestation of wider social animosity against minorities.

In the third incident, actress Sherine Reda was attacked after she expressed on a TV interview her discontent about the unpleasant sounding and loud voices of some Muzzins (callers of prayers) of mosques in Cairo. Her interview was posted on Facebook and garnered more than twenty-one thousand comments replies, bombarding her with ugly insults and accusations of contempt of religion. Such comments blurred the difference between what is sacred in Islam, like call for prayers, with what is not sacred like the voices of those who call for prayers. Scornful abuse has become noticeably socially acceptable as long it is done in the name of defending something sacred.


Those three episodes, albeit different in content and relevance, share the same root cause __ social Islamism. For decades, Islamists has long realised that in order to dominate politically, they must first create a ripe social climate that favours their ideas. Therefore, they have focused heavily on spreading a social doctrine that encourages religious coercion, and hostility against anyone that opposes their agenda, particularly Christians, liberals, and artists.

Inevitably, this Islamist doctrine has nurtured a perturbed competitiveness among various informal Islamist groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, with formal institutions like Al-Azhar, on who is the ultimate defender of the faith. Such one-upmanship has created a climate that expands to mandating what is socially forbidden and shrinkage of what is allowed and accepted. Things like adding a bell to a church, naming a Sheikh in a fictional movie as did Jackson, and openly criticizing grating voices that occasionally call for prayers have become grave sins and an insult of Islam.

The sacredness of the faith has extended to include anyone talking about the faith, or offended in the name of the faith. This kind of allegiance even supports almost anyone attacking others under the premise of defending the faith. Even in cases that seem completely unwarranted, such vigorous outrage turn one into a hero, which is how many view the solicitor who brought the complaint against Sheikh Jackson.

Ultimately, social Islamism has transformed the once tolerant Egyptian religious scene into a wild arms-flailing octopus with poisonous venom that paralyzes minds and blocks rational thinking. The result is intense angry social irrationality that creates a fear of minorities, fails to see context in a fictional cinema scene, or even rises up in a tantrum against an opinion that the voices of some muezzins aren’t exactly pleasant to hear.

Social Islamism is Egypt’s silent killer. It garners fear, breeds intolerance, hinders creativity, and ultimately leads to radicalism. Despite the decline in the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence, other Islamist forces are still influential and are unwilling to abandon their coercive social doctrine.

It is about time for the Egyptian state to stand up against such unhealthy coercion, instead of backpedalling, tolerating and encouraging it. Egypt is not a theocracy. There is no place for theocrats to be the country’s social referees. Islam is not a weak faith that will be harmed by an imaginary bell of a church, an imaginative scene in a movie or by the opinion of an actress on what sounds good.

Egypt aspires to fight radicalism and regain its soft power in the region. To further such a goal, it is vital to support minority freedoms, the arts, creativity, and freedom of expression. A society that allows bullying under the name of religion, and allows such emotions to dominate above logic and rationality will not defeat radicals, nor facilitate the growth of its soft power.

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

This Week in Egypt: Week 51-2017 (Dec 18-24)

Top Headlines

  • Egyptian security forces on Sunday killed nine suspected militants in a shootout in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya
  • IS-affiliated media outlet releases video footage of al-Arish airbase attack 
  • Britain designates 2 militant groups in Egypt as terrorist organizations
  • Hundreds of Muslims assault unlicensed church south of Cairo
  • Egyptian FM will visit Ethiopia after Nile dam talks stall
  • President Sisi to decide if he will run for second term “when appropriate”
  • Despite ISIS threat, Egypt to invest in Sinai construction 

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday 

Friday

Saturday

Sunday 

Reports

Good Read

  • Democracy is not the curefor terrorism. Steven Cook
  • A dangerous pilgrimage following The Flight Into Egypt: Jesus, Mary, Joseph—and ISIS. Bel Trew
  • Needed adjustments is unlikely in US aid to Egypt.Amr Kotb

From Twitter

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Marry Christmas and Happy Holidays

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

This Week in Egypt: Week 50-2017 (Dec 11-17)

Top Headlines

  • Russia to resume flights to Egypt, halted after 2015 bombing
  • Egypt raises security level around churches ahead of Christmas
  • Egypt’s giant Zohr gas field starts production
  • Egyptian presidential Shafiq hopeful apologizes to arrested supporters
  • Egypt’s FP Shoukry: Sending an Egyptian force to Yemen is not an option
  • An Egyptian army delegation visits South Sudan to discus straining of the S. Sudan’s army

Putin and Sisi

Russian President Putin with Egypt’s Sisi in Cairo

Photo via Reuters 

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

From Twitter

Plus

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

Re-blog: Huge Decline in ISIS Propaganda Mirrors Losses on Battlefield

As the Islamic State nears defeat it appears that their communication apparatus may be failing as well. As the military triumphs have dwindled, the IS propaganda machine has shifted its tactics, focusing less on the utopian caliphate or on military might than ever before. The messages being put out now call for terror attacks abroad […]

via Huge Decline in ISIS Propaganda Mirrors Losses on Battlefield — Thinking Syria

Posted in Syria | Leave a comment

This Week in Egypt: Week 49- 2017 ( Dec 4-10)

Top Headlines

  • Arab ministers meet in Egypt amid anger at the US
  • Arab states urge U.S. to abandon Jerusalem move
  • Egypt’s Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and Coptic Pope reject meeting with Pence over Jerusalem move
  • Egypt’s Sisi to meet Abbas on Monday

Jerusalem protest

Egyptian students at Al-Azhar university protest US Jerusalem move

(Photo: Ahram Arabic Gate)

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Giulio Regeni murder: Italy to quiz Cambridge tutor over death in Egypt
  • Egyptian court sentenced 13 members of the ‘Agnad Misr’ (Soldiers of Egypt’) terrorist organization to death
  • The spokesperson for Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Egypt expects an “unfair” hearing at the US Congress Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Interesting Read 

From Twitter

Video

Plus

  • Egypt Air to receive 45 new aircrafts in biggest deal in its history
  • Egyptian authorities have moved a gate dating back nearly 3,000 years from north Cairo to a new museum

Photo gallery

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

Shadia’s Egypt and the fight to end radicalism

 

Egyptian Diva Shadia

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

The legendary singer and actress Shadia, an Egyptian cultural icon, has passed away. Her death a week ago at the age of 86 recalls her one-time glorious past as a diva who starred in more than 100 films. But it also offers a recollection of the extraordinary paradox of her life because, after decades dominating the cultural scene in Egypt and the Arab world, Shadia retired from public life in 1984. Her beautiful soul has departed from a soulless Egypt struggling to cope with ugliness and terror. However, Shadia’s journey from glamour to seclusion sums up the evolution of modern Egypt in a nutshell and perhaps can give us clues on what went wrong and how Egypt can face today’s challenges.

In the Nineties, the head of the Cairo Film Festival, Saad Eddin Wahba, decided to honor Shadia for her accomplishments as a singer and actress. At the festival’s opening ceremony, audiences eagerly waited for Shadia to appear on stage to receive her award, but she declined the invitation without explanation, and another artist accepted it on her behalf. Many people suggested that Shadia’s reluctance to appear was the result of advice given to her by the prominent religious scholar, Sheikh Sharawy, who allegedly told her “not to spoil the milk.”

During her retirement, Shadia embraced a more religious life with a strict version of Islam. But unlike some other retired female artists, she did not openly reject her artistic heritage. Instead, she preferred a puzzling silence. Whenever she was honoured, another artist appeared to save her from awkwardness and accept the award on her behalf. The legend who had embedded in our psyche a sense of belonging to Egypt, who represented Egyptian femininity with its magic beauty, passion, and grace, had evolved from a proud artistic icon to someone who felt uneasy about her former glamour, as if it were shameful or embarrassing—or at least a topic that was better avoided.

Shadia’s journey mirrors the journey of a country that has struggled for decades to identify a clear moral code, swinging uneasily between conservatism and liberalism, searching for a middle ground that can simultaneously accommodate its open spirit and religious aspirations. This middle ground, however, has eluded many in Egypt. Over the past six decades or so, with the rise of political Islam, Egypt has evolved into an uneasy nation with a striking ambivalence towards everything that shapes its identity, from arts to Shia and Sufi traditions that enrich its Islamic faith. Young Shadia, with her authentic Egyptian femininity, has become a source of unease rather than pride.

In the eighties, around the time of Shadia’s retirement, a new assertive presence of Islamism, with a strong zeal and incisive tone, started to flex its muscles. I once had a taste of such zeal in a hospital’s coffee room in Cairo, where I watched with great bewilderment a tense exchange about the role of Islam in the state between a political Islamist and a dedicated Sufi follower. Both were devout, very conservative Muslims and senior doctors. But devotion and scientific training did not stop them from exchanging accusations about their mutual views. The Islamist went further, accusing his Sufi colleague of shirk (“idolatry”), before storming off. He later asked a nurse to turn the radio off, as he considered songs and music as silly nonsense.

Islamism did not win many fully fledged followers in Egypt, but it slowly but surely lured society to embrace rigidity and ritualism while injecting a toxic dose of scepticism about what is good in art and beauty. Even the innocent smile of young Shadia and her milky voice became perverse qualities punishable by God in the eyes of most Islamists. Such a confused society is ill equipped to fight terrorism.

“The poisonous thoughts are clear in their heads; the right ones are not clear in our heads; we are fighting radicals, but not radicalism,” said Egyptian TV anchor Amr Adeb after the Al-Rawda mosque massacre in North Sinai, which took place a few days before Shadia’s death. It was, perhaps, Adeb’s most sober moment as he summed up what went wrong in Egypt and why we were still struggling to counter the terrorism that has been systematically bleeding the country for decades. In an illiberal society with an ambiguous attitude and blurred outlook, the blackness of radicalism will appeal to some searching for clarity and conviction.

Here in Al-Hurra, two interesting articles about fighting terrorism have been published. One by Tawfik Hamid, in which he proposed giving more attention to arts, music, and beauty as part of a multi-modal approach to fighting Islamist radicalism, and another by Malik al-Osmana, in which he argues that, without democratic institutions, arts and music cannot fight radicalism. Both articles, in my opinion, raise valid points. However, I doubt that either democracy or arts can fight radicalism without a society that embraces liberalism and progressiveness.

We need a society that is proud of its graceful and beautiful icons – people like Shadia – without feeling ashamed of their youthful femininity and charm. We want a society that divorces its deliberate ambiguity and starts to formulate a clear code that stops worshipping fear, death, and ugliness and, instead, embraces tolerance and diversity. Only then we can begin our battle against radicalism.

 

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