A Muslim woman’s choice

I wrote this piece for British newspaper I News

“Is that your husband? He is English?” Of the millions of Egyptians in the world today, you opted to marry an Englishman?”

 

My printed piece.jpg

The Syrian passport control officer glared at me after I crossed the once peaceful Lebanese-Syrian border seventeen years ago. He shook his head, and interrogated me with a fusillade of awkward questions after I had submitted my passport. “Yes, I did marry a blond English man,” I said, looking the officer straight in the eye. “Not only that, but we are also planning to travel around the Middle East together.”

Eventually, Bashar al-Assad’s perplexed official allowed us to enter the country. Little did I realise it was only the beginning of a relentless journey of “honour proving” – a struggle to prove my Islamic bona fides whenever and wherever I travelled. And through it all, one thing eventually became clear: my Islamic marriage certificate was more important than my passport. To continue reading the extended version of my piece click here

Posted in Best Read, Egypt, Islam, Tunisia | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

This Week in Egypt: Week 41-2017 (Oct 2-8)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt qualifies for World Cup after a 28-year absence
  • Libya extracts remains of 20 Egyptians beheaded by IS in 2015
  • Egypt to extend buffer zone with Gaza Strip
  • Egyptian Intelligence Chief meets Palestinian PM
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniya: ‘We want to open a new page with Egypt
  • Egypt arrests dozens as part of a crackdown on gays
  • 13 defendants in trial of ‘Ajnad Misr’ terrorist group are sentenced to death
  • Egypt’s state security prosecution orders detention of 13 suspected Hasm militants

World Cup 2.jpg

 Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Mohamed Salah.jpg

Sunday 

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

 

Photo Gallery

Plus

 

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This Week in Egypt: Week 40-2017 (Sept 25-Oct1)

Top Headlines

  • Egyptian air force strikes arms convoy at Egypt’s western border with Libya 
  • Libya arrested perpetrators of beheading of 21 Copts in 2015
  • Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide sentenced to life in prison in ‘Beni Suef riots’ case
  • Egyptian police arrested seven people on Monday after they were seen raising a rainbow flag at a concert
  • IMF: Egypt has made a “good start” to its reform programme despite a deeper-than-expected currency depreciation
  • Egypt Air to suspends flights to and from Erbil airport from Friday
  • Egyptian militant group claims attack on Myanmar embassy in Cairo
  • Coptic church organizes ‘Volcano of Homosexuality’ conference

 

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday 

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Plus

  • Lebanon’s Ziad Doueiri talks about his new film The Insult after El-Gouna Egyptian premiere
  • Hurghada receives 133,000 tourists in September, , Germans rank first on the list
  • Menasche Synagogue in Alexandria to be added to Egypt’s heritage list
  • US Congress considers awarding its Gold Medal to late President Anwar Sadat’s name in 2018
  • Azhar professor suggests imposing tax on dog owners
  • American actress Vanessa Williams visits Giza Pyramids

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Twitter Thread: Iraqi newspaper and Arab’s racism towards Kurds

I wrote in my latest piece on how I encountered racism against Kurds during my travel in the region. Here is  the latest example of this ugly racism.

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Why I support Kurdistan’s independence referendum

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

Kurdistan

( photo via the Guardian)

 

In 838, a Kurdish leader based in Mosul named Mir Jafar Dasni revolted against the Caliph Al-Mu’tasim. After a series of armed confrontation between Arabs and Kurds in difficult terrain, a (non-Arab) commander of the Arab Caliph, Itakh, won the war and executed many of the Kurds, but Mir Jafar Dasni committed suicide to avoid capture.

Many opponents of the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum may not be aware of the region’s medieval historical conflicts, but undoubtedly they hope that history repeats itself and that the Kurds will be defeated once again, but this is unlikely. Their abundance of foes has united the Iraqi Kurds in support of the referendum. Never in their history have the Kurds been as focused and determined as they are today.

It is easy to join the chorus of opponents of the Kurdish referendum; however, I have humbly decided to stand with the brave Kurds in their quest for nationhood for many reasons:

First, because it is a just cause.

Growing up in Egypt, and despite avidly following regional politics from a very early age, I have never heard the word “Kurd” except briefly and ambiguously when Saddam Hussein butchered them with chemical weapons in Halabja in 1988. Still, many Arab apologists denigrated the Kurds and portrayed them as agents of foreign powers. My later travels in Syria, Iran, and Turkey opened my eyes to the depth of denigration, even racism, against the Kurds and it was frankly shocking. Regional powers have systematically lost their moral high ground in their repeated abuse of the Kurds; therefore, they cannot lecture the Kurds now about what should or should not be done.

Second, there will never be a “right time”.

Kurdish independence has been postponed several times, a dream that they have patiently waited to fulfil over the past 100 years. But apparently a century is not long enough, as the Kurds were asked to postpone again. “Timing is not suitable,” is one of the justifications given for this anonymous rejection. The Kurds, however, have learned one lesson from their century-old struggle for independence: there will never be a “right time.” The fragility of Iraq and Syria is not a product of Kurdish nationalism, and will continue regardless of Kurdish aspirations. Blaming the Kurds or asking them to wait is a disingenuous delay of the inevitable.

Third, an independent Kurdistan is a balancing state.

Amidst many competitive groups in the Middle East with Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia competing for power and dominance; Kurdistan could be the buffering zone that stops the fiery ambitions of both Turkey and Iran; both have issued emphatic statements against the referendum. “We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq,” pro-Iran, Iraqi Vice President Nuri al-Maliki said. Moreover, a number of Turkish media outlets supportive of President Erdogan have spread false news reports claiming Kurdish groups entered into a secret deal with Israel to resettle Jews in the region. It is true that Israel backs the referendum, but the Kurds have stronger and deeper reasons to pursue their aspirations for independence, regardless of Israeli support.

In the Middle East, a good Kurd is either Arabized or Islamized, but never a Kurdish nationalist. The demonization of the Kurds only reflects the ugliness of all the dominant ideologies in our region, whether Islamism with its Sunni and Shi’ite branches, or Arab nationalism. This is precisely why, as a liberal, I stand against this ugliness and stand for the referendum.

Regardless of the referendum circus, I support the right of the Kurds to self-determination. But this support is conditional, as I expect the Kurdish region to embrace more liberal and progressive values. I look forward to a less autocratic and more inclusive administration in Kurdistan that wins the hearts and minds of Arabs and Turkmen living under Kurdish control. I trust the Kurds to provide a positive example for the rest of the region, and I hope they will not betray my trust.

 

Posted in Middle East | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

This Week in Egypt: Week 39-2017 ( Sept 18-24)

 

Top Headlines 

  • Irish-Egyptian Ibrahim Halawa acquitted of all charges in Fatah mosque case, expected to be released within days 
  • Egypt’s Sisi, Israel’s Netanyahu meet for first time in public
  • Trump: U.S. will consider resuming halted military aid to Egypt
  • Muslim Brotherhood’s former supreme guide Mahdi Akef dies at 89
  • Egypt jails 14 over deadly stadium stampede

 Main Headlines

 Monday

  • Irish-Egyptian Ibrahim Halawa is acquitted of all charges in Fatah mosque case, expected to be released within days
  • Egyptian president Sisi is in New York this week to attend the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)
  • Cairo criminal court orders 215 defendants in ‘Helwan militant Brigades case’ to be added to the terror list
  • HRW considers Egypt’s media attacks on its report is misleading
  • Businessman Salah Diab is acquitted of unlicensed firearms charges
  • Egypt to reduce LNG imports as Zohr gas field nears production
  • Al-Azhar professor says necrophilia between spouses not a sin, sparks outrage

Tuesday

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday 

Good Reports

Good Read

 From Twitter

 

Interview

  • Fox News ‘s interview with Egypt’s Sisi

 Plus

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This Week in Egypt: Week 38-2017 ( Sept 11-17)

Top Headlines

  • Militants attacked a security convoy in Egypt’s Sinai, killing at least 18 policemen
  • Two Egyptian soldiers, 5 militants killed in North Sinai shootout in North Sina
  • Egypt’s Court of Cassation upholds ousted president Morsi’s life sentence
  • Egypt detains lawyer investigating enforced disappearances

 Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday 

Thursday

  • Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia experts meet Thursday to discuss Nile dam studies to discuss Nile dam
  • Egypt and Italy sign joint training to combat organized crime, illegal immigration

 Friday

  • Trump to meet Sisi, Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah at UNGA in New York
  • Egypt new ambassador to Italy heads to Rome
  • Fatah delegation arrives in Cairo to discuss Palestinian reconciliation
  • Military drills between Saudi and Egyptian air forces is underway

Saturday

  • Egypt’s Court of Cassation upholds ousted president Morsi‘s life sentence over “Qatar document leak”
  • Preliminary death sentences for 7 members ISIS affiliate charged with participating in the beheading of 21 Egyptians in Libya
  • Hamas to open an office in Cairo for security coordination
  • Fresh round of negotiations between army and Warraq residents

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

 

Plus

  • Director Amr Salama’s movie Sheikh Jackson has been nominated to represent Egypt in the foreign films section at the next Oscars 2018
  • Egyptian woman to sue father over ‘unprecedented staleness,’ lack of tenderness
  • Cairo’s white taxi drivers enter digital world launching “WhatsApp taxi”

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Twitter Thread: Al-Jazeera’s Ahmed Mansour and Hurricane Irma

Al-Jazeera anchor Ahmed Mansour has created contraversy after his Arabic tweets on Hurricane Irma. He apologised  for his Arabic tweets that were considered offensive. Here are few tweets by others who challenged his views and his later apology (in English).

 

 

 

 

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This Week in Egypt – Week 37-2017 ( Sept 4-10)

Top Headlines

  • Bright Star’ military drills kick off between Egypt and US
  • HRW condemns Egypt ‘assembly line of torture’, government denies allegations
  • Egypt blocks HRW site after torture report is released
  • Egypt announces the discovery of a 3,500-year old pharaonic tomb belonging to a royal goldsmith
  • Egypt inflation dips in August from record highs

 

Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

  • Bodies of 16 migrants found in Libya’s eastern desert near border with Egypt
  • Egypt, China sign agreements to fund a new electric train
  • Reporters without Borders say Egyptian intelligence services extend control over media
  • Egypt’s first lady makes first international appearance at BRICS
  • Ethiopia faces worst drought in years as millions at risk

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

 From Twitter

Interview

  • Former commander of joint operations Qashqoush on resumption of Egypt- US military exercises.

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

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

How can Liberal Muslims win?

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

 

Tunsiian women

( Tunisian women- via Al-Hurra)

 

Although attempts to liberalise Islamic discourse have been ongoing for centuries, they have failed to find sustainable general acceptance in Muslim societies. Liberal Islam is a non-literal interpretation of Islamic texts that maintains the spirit and goal of the texts but rejects dogma and regression. The latest call by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi for full gender equality is one of the latest examples of efforts to liberalise Islamic discourse. However, the widespread outrage with which President Essebsi’s proposal was met sums up the extent of the opposition to liberalisation and the challenges liberal Muslims face. Ironically, however, it is not only the stubborn rejection of liberalism by mainstream Muslims that serves as an obstacle to liberal thought, but also the way in which liberals are handling such rejection – and how they are clinging to traditional dogma.

Liberals are facing rejection on a number of fronts – from radical preachers such as Turkey-based Egyptian preacher Wagdy Ghoneim, who insulted Essebsi, and labelled him as an infidel, to mainstream Islamic Institutions such as Egypt’s Al-Azhar, who formally rejected Essebsi’s proposal.

Among the tsunami of comments on social media that formed the verbal backlash to Essebsi’s initiative, I was particularly struck by those reportedly made live in Qatar by the radical leader of Egypt’s Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, Assem Abdel-Maged. On his Facebook page, Abdel Maged unsurprisingly attacked Essebsi, saying he deserves all that Wagdy Ghoneim said about him. The rest of the post, together with a series of other posts, however, is more interesting. Abdel Maged admitted that labelling Essebsi and others as “infidels” could provoke negative responses. He also confessed that the call for the implementation of Sharia is not as popular as it was in the 70s and 80s, and added that Islamists risk another defeat if they repeat past policies.

More interestingly, Abdel Maged proposed that Islamists should focus on winning and changing the Muslim public, instead of directly attacking what he described as “enemies of the Ummah.” Abdel Maged’s posts reflect a deeper sense of defeat among the Islamist camp, especially after their failure to remain in power after the Arab uprisings. Precisely why he suggested a tactical shift in Islamist discourse is to win back ordinary Muslims.

But while Islamists like Abdel Maged are reflecting on their own tactics, liberals, on the other hand, have failed to do likewise. Liberal intellectuals need to tackle uncomfortable questions such as: Why is the weary public that rejects radical Islamism is so reluctant to swing towards liberal Islamic thoughts and is still clinging to Al-Azhar’s traditional dogma?

The answer is threefold: first, Liberal Muslims fail to appreciate the depth of fear among the public of losing their identity. Second, liberals are using the wrong tactics in their battle against dogma. Third, despite the noticeable dip in the popularity of the Islamist camp, liberals do not genuinely believe in their own ability to win.

The vocal rejection of calls for gender equality does not necessarily reflect a dominance of orthodox interpretations of Islamic texts; it indicates, instead, a growing sense of insecurity and fear among the wider pious Muslim population of losing their own identity in the face of what they perceive as a global cultural invasion. “What’s next after gender equality?” Gay marriage? Banning the Hijab? Amidst that religious anxiety, a literal interpretation of sacred texts becomes comfort food for thoughts that help Muslims to settle their fear.

Within such a climate, liberal Muslims’ attempts to counter literalism with literalism is frankly futile. It is pointless to address a weary public by reciting verses of the Quran or confronting Al-Azhar scholars. Such tactics are doomed to failure and will only trigger reflexive responses in defence of Al-Azhar. It will also create more confusion among many Muslims, forcing them into a bunker mentality that would ultimately lead to more dogma and rigidity.

Instead, liberals should focus on allaying the public fear of liberalism. They have to reassure ordinary Muslims that liberalism seeks neither to dominate Islam, nor spread decadence. The core message of liberals should be the creation of a more tolerant society, in which all shades of Muslims exist under a wide, tolerant umbrella. Such a diverse society has a better chance of maintaining its identity and resist cultural invasion. When pious Muslims start to see liberalism as a non-threatening concept, they will embrace it, or at least stop rejecting those who embrace it.

More importantly, liberal Muslims lack a belief in their own ability to win the battle of ideas. Since the brutal murder of Egyptian liberal thinker Farag Fouda, liberals have sunk into a defeatist mood. Unlike Fouda, few Muslim liberals genuinely believe that liberalism will prevail in the Muslim world; some of them even behave as if liberalism is a sin they have to apologise for. It is no surprise that many ordinary Muslims refuse to embrace lacklustre liberals and would rather fall for the overly confident dogmatic preachers.

It may be hard to agree with Assem Abdel Maged, but he is right in pointing out that the real battle is not between literal versus liberal interpretations of Islam. The real battle is to win the hearts and minds of the wider Muslim public. For liberals to win such a battle they have to change their tactics, and clarify their message; but first, they have to believe in their own victory, because no one will believe them otherwise.

 

 

Posted in Best Read, Islam, Middle East, Terrorism | Leave a comment