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

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This Week in Egypt: Week 50- 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

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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

This Week in Egypt – Week 49 ( Nov 27- Dec 3)

Top Headlines 

  • Former Egyptian premier Shafiq says intends to run in 2018 election
  • In an exclusive video to Al-Jazeera, Ex-Egypt PM Ahmed Shafiq says he is “blocked from leaving UAE” 
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates blasts “thankless” Shafiq in tweets
  • Former Egyptian PM gives TV interview, denying he was kidnapped
  • Russia negotiates deal for its warplanes to use Egypt bases
  • Al-Azhar Grand Imam performs Friday prayers at Rawda mosque

 

Shafiq AFP

Ex-Presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq – via AFP

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday 

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Russia negotiates a deal for its warplanes to use Egypt bases
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates blasts “thankless” Shafiq in tweets
  • Egypt’ former president Mubarak denies having approved 1983 plan to resettle Palestinians in Sinai
  • A third candidate emerged for the 2018 Egyptian presidential elections, as 41-year-old military colonel Ahmed Konswa
  • Security forces in central Sinai destroyed three hideouts used by militants and seized large quantities of weaponry
  • Egypt’s football legend Mahmoud El-Khatib wins Ahly club championship

Friday 

 Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Interview  

  • CNN’s Christiane Amanpur with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry

Plus

  • Egypt mourns death of actress, singer and cultural icon Shadia

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

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This Week in Egypt: Week 48 ( Nov 20-26)

Top Headlines

  • Horrific  terror attack killing hundreds of worshippers in a mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai 
  • Death toll from attack on mosque in Egypt rises sharply to 305, including more than two-dozen children.
  • Egypt’s air forces thwart weapons’ infiltration attempt through the western borders
  • Lebanon’s Hariri holds talks with Egypt President Sisi in Cairo
  • Egypt is ‘astonished’ over Sudan’s Renaissance Dam comments
  • Egypt’s prosecutor general orders detention of 29 suspects over espionage with Turkey
  • Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain release third Qatar-linked terrorism list

AlRawada massacre

Two kids looking at discarded shoes of victims of Sinai’s Mosque attack- via AP 

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

  • Egypt is in mourning as the death toll from an attack on a Sufi mosque rose to 305, including 27 children
  • Survivors describe 20 minutes of terror in attack at mosque in Egypt’s Sinai
  • Egypt military carries out air strikes, kills terrorists near Al-Arish
  • Egypt attack: Egyptian officials say IS flags were carried by gunmen
  • Egypt’s churches ring bells in solidarity with N. Sinai mosque victims
  • Egypt imposes TV ban on lawyer who said raping women wearing ripped was a ‘national duty’

Sunday

Good Reports

It is not easy to find balanced reports about Egypt, especially after Friday’s attack in Sinai but here are some:

On other topics:

  • A performer, a parasite and the prickliness of Egypt’s courts. The Economists
  • Joining the ‘A-class’: Better off Egyptians flee Cairo’s chaosfor gated “utopia.” Middle East Eye
  • The Trap: Punishing sexual difference in Egyp Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  • Sea level rise, GERD put Egypt’s Nile Delta at risk of submergence. Daily News Egypt

Good Read

From Twitter

On Friday’s terror attack:

 

On other topics

 

Plus

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Islamists and Zionism

Here is an English version of my latest piece for Al-Hurra

 

Balfour

Arthur James Balfour

One hundred years ago this month, on November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, sent a letter to the Jewish community leader, Lord Rothschild, expressing support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. One of the unintended consequences of Balfour’s gesture of support was that it triggered an obsession among many in the Arab world, particularly political Islamists, with the subject of Zionism. Despite their deep hatred to Zionism, Islamists, from their earliest days, have studied Zionism with a surprising zeal, and exhibited a deep desire to emulate its success.

There’s one simple reason for this: Islamists have regarded Zionism as a template that can be replicated. They believe that if Zionists can unite Jews, regardless of their nationality, and create a homeland, and then they [the Islamists] can do the same and unite most, if not all, Muslims in one “Ummah.”

Uriya Shavit and Ofir Winter wrote about how Islamists regarded certain aspects of Zionism as examples that should be followed. Indeed, by examining the Islamists’ renaissance project, one can easily spot many elements borrowed from Zionism. As Shavit and Winter wrote, some Islamists believe that Israel defeated the Arabs because it implemented principals that they [the Islamists] wished to implement in Arab societies, such as religious devotion, activism, and strong ties with the diaspora.

Other aspects of Zionism Islamists have observed with some envy and admiration is how Jewish nationalism revived Hebrew, and how the Jews started to use it as a modern language. The task for Islamists, however, has not been that easy. Beyond just reviving or reinvigorating the already existing classic Arabic, modern Islamic scholars have had to try to unearth medieval Arabic, once used during the ancient Caliphates. Unfortunately, the use of this ancient Arabic has been limited to history and religious books. In spite of the paucity of these texts, some Islamic scholars have hoped to incorporate medieval vocabularies into everyday conversations, with the aim of giving their followers a distinct character that differentiates them from other Muslims.

More importantly, these Islamists have wanted to emulate the success Zionism has achieved in Western capitals. A focal obsession in the Arab world has been the Zionists’ lobbying ability, an obsession many Islamists have taken to another level. The goal for these Islamists was to rewire Western minds to accept Islamism as a combination of religion, a way of life, and a political identity. It is, in fact, just such a combination of attributes Zionism represents in the world today. Islamists have also tried to convince Westerners that their groups scattered around the Muslim world are the answer to the Middle Eastern ills of tribalism and tyranny and that, disparate as they are, these groups can be a force to unite the Middle East so that the region and its Muslim populations can reliably connect with the West. Before and during the Arab Spring, groups such as The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennahda in Tunisia succeeded to a certain degree in gaining a sympathetic ear from many Western academics.

This success was short lived. Political Islam failed to prove its self–proclaimed popularity in many Muslim countries. Many factors have contributed to that failure, not the least of which is Islamism’s inability to copy Zionism’s template for success.

Islamists’ perceptions of Zionism over time have been based on few facts, and many myths and illusions. Many Islamists have naively assumed that borrowing some tools from Zionism, such as activism and lobbying, is enough to guarantee similar success. That assumption is fundamentally flawed. Tactics alone without a clear vision are not enough to help any movement prevail.

The success of Zionism rests not in its ideology or its ability to lobby, but in its success in modernising the link between religion and the state. In an article for Al-Hurra, researcher Samuel Tadros wrote how the founders of Zionism have realised the crisis of modernity. Indeed, in their quest to establish a homeland for Jews, Zionists have managed to resurrect Judaism. But in that process they have managed to divorce literalism from religion to enable the state to accommodate modern liberal values.

Islamists, on the other hand, have failed on that front. Their inability to articulate a clear, modern vision for a Muslim state has morphed their renaissance project into a rocket without a trajectory that has fallen short of the expectations of the wider public outside the hard-core supporters of Islamism.

There is no doubt that Zionism’s success was a fateful blow to the Arab and Muslim world. The emotional trauma of the Balfour declaration is still bleeding anger and resentment, and Arab anger has dominated the centenary anniversary.
But this anger is not new and is frankly futile. In 1925, Arabs protested against Balfour’s visit to Damascus with the same anger and hostility. This agitation, however, failed to change the Zionist discourse 100 years ago, and is unlikely to have any impact now.

It would be far better for Arabs, practically Islamists, to re-channel their frustration with the Balfour declaration into a more honest process of soul searching. Learning from the Zionist experience is not wrong; it is just that the right lessons should be learned. Zionism prevailed because it modernised Judaism. Islamism, in all its shapes and forms, has only medievalized Islam and failed to fundamentally embrace the core values of modernity, which espouse equality, diversity, and freedom. One hundred years after the Balfour Declaration, the lessons of Zionism have not yet been learned or implemented.

Posted in Best Read, Islam, Israel | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

This Week in Egypt: Week 47- 2017 ( Nov13-19)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt’s Sisi: No one can touch Egypt’s share of Nile waters
  • Lebanon’s Hariri to visit on Tuesday
  • Arab League: Iran’s regional threats have crossed all limits
  • Egypt-Gaza border opens under PA control for first time in a decade
  • Head of Sinai’s Arish city security forces survives assassination attempt
  • Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood leader loses appeal against life sentence

 Main Headlines

 Monday 

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

  • Egyptian security forces killed three suspected militants and arrested 74 others in raids targeting militant groups in North Sinai
  • Egypt orders detention of Libyan suspected of involvement in Western desert attack
  • Hilton Worldwide plans an expansion in Egypt, sees pick-up in tourism

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

  • Wahat attackers inspired by al-Qaida: Sole survivor Taha Sakr
  • Omar Refae: An indomitable Mujahideen militant and Faqeeh. Egypt Today
  • From cafe worker to fierce lawyer, who is the Egyptian presidential runner Khalid Ali? Al-Arabiya
  • Egypt’s Coptic heritage jeopardized due to lack of funds. George Mikhail

Good Read

From Twitter

 

Plus

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Are Israel and Saudi Arabia On The Same Page?

Sober analysis by Michael Koplow on the relationship and joint interests between Saudi Arabia and Israel. I strongly recommend it.

Ottomans and Zionists

As Saudi Arabia asserts itself in unprecedented fashion in its regional struggle with Iran, speculation abounds that Riyadh is acting in concert with the United States and Israel to change the balance of power in the region in one fell swoop. It is no secret that Israel and Saudi Arabia both view Iran as their main regional foe and want to contain its influence, and as Iran has built a “Shia crescent” of influence stretching from its own borders across Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, the Israeli and Saudi governments have become increasingly alarmed. The sudden resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri during a visit to Saudi Arabia spurred intense rumors that his resignation was not voluntary and that he is being detained by the Saudis. Such theories only fuel further conjecture that the next step will be a Saudi-supported Israeli war against Hizballah in Lebanon. While nothing can…

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This Week in Egypt: Week 46- 2017 ( Nov 6-12)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt’s President Sisi says he will not seek a third term in office
  • Egypt’s Sisi against idea of strikes on Iran, Hezbollah, says there is enough turmoil in the Middle East
  • Rights lawyer Khaled Ali says he will run for president in 2018
  • Egypt’s Court of Cassation upheld a five-year jail sentence against prominent opposition activist Alaa Abdel Fattah

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Egypt’s Court of Cassation upheld a five-year jail sentence against prominent opposition activist Alaa Abdel Fattah
  • British Foreign Office steps up drug warning to holiday makers in Egypt
  • Egypt reaffirms condemnation of chemical weapons use in Syria
  • French ambassador to submit report calling for lifting travel ban on Sharm el-Sheikh
  • Egypt’s parliament approved a draft law bans the use of drones that might be used to execute terror attacks

Thursday

Friday

  • Egypt’s Daesh affiliate kills 10 people a convoy of cement trucks from an army factory in central Sinai
  • IMF agrees disbursement of $2 billion loan to Egypt

Saturday

 Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

 

From Twitter

 

Plus

In Photo

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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This Week in Egypt: Week 45-2017 ( Oct 30-Nov 5)

Top Headlines

  • A fourth chamber has been discovered deep within in Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Khufu
  • Egypt security forces free officer kidnapped during Western Desert shootout 
  • New al Qaeda-linked group claims responsibility for major Egypt’s Western Desert attack
  • Egypt’s military foils attempt to smuggle arms and illegal materials across Egypt-Libya border 
  • Rights lawyer Khaled Ali to run against Sisi in Egypt’s 2018 vote
  • Palestinian Authority takes over Gaza’s border from Hamas including Rafah border with Egypt 

 

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

 Good Read

  • Jihadists continue to torment Egypt. The Economist
  • Egypt’s authoritarian crackdown hasn’t helped in the fight against Nancy Okail and Amr Kotb

From Twitter

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

 

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