Egyptian Aak 2016-Week 24 ( June 13-19)

Top Headlines

  • An Egyptian court sentenced ousted Islamist president Morsi to life in prison in an espionage trial
  • Egypt has recovered both black boxes from the crashed Egypt air jet
  • Prosecution appeals release order for Egyptian rights campaigner Mina Thabet
  • Giulio Regeni’s parents ask European Parliament to take severe measures against Egypt
  • Egypt’s central bank raises interest rates to the highest level in at least a decade

 

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Morsi

Egypt’s ex-President Mohamed Morsi

Saturday

 Sunday

 Good Reports

Good Read

 

From Twitter

 

 

Video

Interview

 Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

 

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Trope-A-Dope: How the Greatest gets used by the Worst

I am a strong admirer of Muhammad Ali, still I think it is important to read this piece to understand how Al-Jazeera’s Mehdi Hassan has portrayed Muhammad Ali in a certain way that fits-in with his own unhealthy politics.

David Paxton

I doubt many would have been caught off-guardby the death of Muhammad Ali.Uniquely famous and in obvious decline for so long, our thoughts and responses were well rehearsed. Who didn’t know what they thought about Muhammad Ali?

I was prepared for some level of ignorance from non fight-fans and a fair amount of shallow hagiography from those to whom Ali was but a poster with a quote to hang next to Marilyn Monroe or Bruce Lee. And I found it. But it took Mehdi Hasan to be the first to openly spin nonsense in service of an agenda.

In a segment for Al Jazeera’s Reality Check,calledLet’s Not Whitewash Muhammad Ali’s Legacy, Hasandid what made him famous and fired outillogicality just rapidly enough so that a solitaryexposure allows you tomiss howunsoundly he stitched his thesis together. Watching it a second time forces you to check the reality that Mehdi…

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Egyptian Aak 2016- Week 23 (June 6-12)

Top Headlines

  • BP, Eni announce new “significant” gas discovery off the Egyptian coast
  • Egypt says time running out to find Egypt Air’s black boxes
  • Egypt to amend controversial protest law
  • Former Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy regains his Egyptian nationality

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

 Friday

Saturday

  • A ‘spirit of positivity’ should prevail over Renaissance Dam negotiations: Egypt’s Sisi:
  • Court sentences 7 islands transfer protesters to 8 years in prison
  • Egypt condemns attacks against Ethiopian troops in Somalia

Sunday

 Good Report

Good Read

From Twitter

 

Interview

Plus

Photo Gallery

  • Celebrations in Cairo streets as Egyptians mark the first day of Ramadan

Video

The making of Ramadan lanterns in old Cairo

 

 

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Podcast: Religion

Here is our latest podcast with Prof. Matt Sienkiewicz from Boston College  and our guest Ambassador Alberto Fernandez discussing religion and media. Enjoy …

 

 

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The Cleansing of Mosul

Important read on ISIS destruction of Mosul’s historic monuments and the archaeological sites from ancient Assyria.

Gates of Nineveh: An Experiment in Blogging Assyriology

As the focus has shifted to Palmyra, relatively little media attention has been paid over the past several months to ISIS’ continued destruction of cultural sites in and around Mosul. Nevertheless, ISIS’ campaign to eliminate anything it perceives as being opposed to its ideology has continued. Over the past few months, many structures previously left untouched have been destroyed.

The Southwest Palace of Sennacherib

Situated atop the ancient tell of Kuyunjik, the Southwest Palace was one of the first buildings of Nineveh to be excavated by Austen Henry Layard in 1847. The palace contained the famous Lachish siege reliefs now preserved in the British Museum.

Over a hundred reliefs were left in situ and the palace was preserved as a museum. Some of the reliefs were broken or looted in the 1990s.

Left: Image taken by Digital Globe/ASOR on May 2, 2016 showing the Southwest Palace missing its roof but with reliefs still in place. Right: Image taken by Digital Globe/ASOR on May 9, 2016 showing the reliefs are gone and most internal walls have been destroyed. Left: Image taken by Digital Globe/ASOR on May 2, 2016 showing the Southwest Palace missing its roof but…

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Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 22 ( May 30-June 5)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt journalist union chiefs are charged with harboring wanted colleagues
  • Egypt investigates teenage girl’s death during illegal FGM
  • 6 Egyptian soldiers were killed, 6 were injured in North Sinai
  • Egypt Air crash: Black box signals have been detected by search team
  • Egypt receives first of two French Mistral worship
  • Appeals court acquits 33 convicted for 2 years over island deal protests

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

 Sunday

 Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

 

Video

Interview

Photo Gallery

 Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 For new followers, Aak means “a mess” in Arabic

 

 

A blessed and happy Ramadan for all -Ramadan Karim

 

 

 

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Nibras Kazimi On How Jihadists Weoponize History

Earlier today, I wrote on Twitter how political Islam’s cherry picking of history is wrong and help feeding radicalism. I later received a link to this interesting video of Nibras Kazimi a Visiting Fellow at Hudson Institute, in which he elequontly explain how Jihadists weoponize history published on his blog Talisman Gate blog. It is definitely worth watching

A lecture I gave on June 1st at the Westminster Institute in McLean, Va., on how religious extremists in the Middle East, both Sunni and Shia, have succeeded in weaponizing memory. They wield historical precedence to inform and legitimize their actions and strategies. I also discuss what can be done to undermine their legitimacy by de-weaponizing […]

via Remarks on how jihadists weaponize history — Talisman Gate, Again

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Three Questions for Tunisia’s Ennahda Party

Ghannouchi 2

Rachid Ghannouchi – Via AFP

Last month, after a three-day party conference, Tunisia’s Ennahda party has re-elected its leader Rachid Al-Ghannouchi. The 74-year-old thinker and politician had tears in his eyes as he embraced his rival in the party vote, which he won with 800 of the 1,058 ballots cast. His crowning coincided with his bold new vision of moving away from political Islam and embracing what he described as “democratic Islam.”

As I wrote in my previous post, I am skeptical that Ennahda can and will divorce itself from political Islam. As I explained, it is, in my opinion, just a replacement of an overt version of political Islam with a more insidious version that fits in with the current dynamics in Tunisia and the broader Middle East.

 Some are less skeptical. For example, one of the most vocal opponents of Islamism, Maged Nawaz, despite endless accusations, mockery, and insults showered on him by various Islamists and their followers, wrote how he is optimistic about Ghannouchi’s new approach.

Nawaz rightly highlighted “how the party remained highly unified despite the unprecedented reforms: 80.8 percent of delegates voted in favor of separating the political from social work, and 87.7 percent voted in favor of Ghannouchi’s new intellectual vision for the party. Ghannouchi himself easily regained his presidency with a whopping 75 percent of the delegates’ votes.”

Those numbers are encouraging; nonetheless, they do not reflect the future challenges facing Ghannouchi’s Ennahda party. Again, as I explained in my previous post, years ago in Turkey, President Erdogan’s AKP party cheered Erdogan’s embrace of secularism. But only a few years later, the tune of the party has changed dramatically, and the cadres of overt Islamism have started to reassert themselves.

The debate over the intentions of Ennahda, however, will remain theoretical until the party one-day reaches power. It is already looking ahead to Tunisia’s municipal elections, which are scheduled for May 2017. Only then will its rosy words either translate to actions or vanish like a nice dream, to be replaced by a nightmarish reality. As Hussein Ibish wrote: “Even if the rebranding as “Muslim Democrats” is a cynical ploy, the party will have to follow through to gain power in a Tunisian society that won’t accept old-style Islamism.”

Therefore, to test Ghannouchi’s new approach to politics, here are three questions that I hope the leadership of Ennahda reflects upon and answers.

Can Ghannouchi democratize his party and prevent another “eternal leader,” a la Erdogan?

Personally, I would be more impressed with Ghannouchi if he opted to remain as a spiritual leader to Ennahda and not run again for its presidency. Isn’t it about time for the party to have a fresher, younger leader? Ghannouchi has not deviated much from his beloved Erdogan and remains in full control of his party. That is not an encouraging sign. Democracy is more than a ballot box exercise. If Ennahda is really democratic, it should refrain from concentrating power in the hands of one man. Only then can it convince others of its good intentions.

 Will Ennahda’s social Islamic movement (Harka) openly embrace secularism in its social program?

Secularism is not just a political slogan that can only be embraced by politicians; it is a thinking process that should be taught to young followers. Unless Ennahda harmonizes both its political and social messages, it risks contradiction and betrayal of its new rebranding as “democratic Muslims.” How its social movement handles its message, teaches its youth, and preaches in mosques will have profound impacts on its grass-roots relationship with political Islam. An illiberal social program would impede Ennahda’s democratic tendencies and will reduce the party to another failed model—again, just like Turkey’s AKP.

 Will Ghannouchi denounce publicly the father of radical Islam Sayyed Qutb?

 One of the biggest problems the Muslim Brotherhood faced in Egypt was its inability to divorce the father of non-compromising Islamism, Sayyid Qutb, from its psyche and teaching. Ghannouchi had a long journey with Qutb, who has influenced him, but he was also influenced by other Islamic thinkers like the Algerian Malek Bennabi, who was not a big adherent of Qutb.

Both Qutb and Bennabi had different views and attitude towards the West, but both were definitely not pro-secularism. Bennabi wrote extensively about how weak vulnerable Muslim societies became “easily colonized” by the West. One way of describing Ghannouchi’s recent cosmetic changes is a counter-colonization approach, a kind of new update of Bennabi’s philosophy. He wants to borrow some Western democratic values in an effort to prevent a total “colonization” of secular principles in Tunisia. Therefore, it is up to Ghannouchi to illustrate to outsiders the difference between his new approach to politics and those of both Qutb and Bennabi. A clarification of Ennahda’s religious outlook is essential to understand and assess the sincerity of its brand of “democratic Islam.”

Ennahda has still a lot of explaining to do. Like any divorce, leaving political Islam means total departure from many of the theological and social beliefs and understandings that were embraced for years, and a less tight grip by Ghannouchi on the party’s main pillars. An illiberal party cannot produce liberal democracy. Therefore, for now, I remain skeptical.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Can Tunisia’s Ghannouchi divorce political Islam?

 

Ghannouchi

Leader of Tunisian political party Ennahda, Rachid al-Ghannouchi. (Photo: AFP)

The rebranding of political Islam has just started. In an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde, Ennahda leader and founder, Rached Ghannouchi, announced that Ennahda would no longer be campaigning on a foundation of “political Islam.” “We are leaving political Islam and entering democratic Islam,” he said. Ghannouchi, one of the smartest Islamist leaders in the Muslim world, is right to look for a new image of Islamism, a term presently tarnished by failure and disappointment. The term “democratic Islam” is new, appealing, and has already gained the attention of many sympathizers in the Western world. The question, however, is: Can Ghannouchi’s new benevolent approach work?

 Writer Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is already skeptical. Al-Rashed wrote that in his opinion, there are “two Ghannouchis” – the one who addresses the West, and the one who leads Ennahda. Al-Rashed highlighted how Ghannouchi had made contradictory statements. During an Ennahda Party congress in Tunisia, Ghannouchi had said, “We’re surprised by some parties’ insistence to eliminate religion from national life, although the leaders of the national movement have historically adhered to our Muslim religion.” That statement clearly differs from his bold views expressed in Le Monde.

Despite this perceived contradiction, to judge Ghannouchi’s new brand of “democratic Islam” objectively, it is crucial to look at his proposed manifesto, his working plan, and not just his words. Monika Marks, a Visiting Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), says the key change Ghannouchi advocates is separating the political party (Hizb) from its Islamic movement (Harka) that has traditionally been associated with charity, religious education, and preaching, and defines the political party as a national, civil, and democratic organization open to all Tunisians. Ghannouchi clearly wants to go in the same direction Turkey’s AKP went in the early 2000s, when it transitioned from an Islamist movement to a broad, national party that attracted many Turks for secular reasons, such as supporting the AKP’s economic program, as Monika Marks has explained.

Nonetheless, there are many political and religious challenges to this new approach by Ghannouchi and his Ennahda Party.

Politically, Turkey has experienced an evolutionary path that differs fundamentally from Tunisia and the rest of the Arab world. In Turkey, the AKP Party has managed to mix Islam as a religion with the country’s rich Ottoman history to create a new Islamo-nationalist identity that appeals to many in Turkey. In contrast, it will be hard for Ghannouchi to export the belief that Islamist nationalism appeals to loyalists outside Ennahda and attracts non-Islamist Tunisians, who are already skeptical about political Islam.

Moreover, Turkey in 2000 differs radically from Turkey in 2016. Erdogan has tightened his grip on power and silenced all his opponents. Even Erdogan’s friend, ex-Prime Minister Davutoglu, one of the main architects of the Turkish model, was forced to resign recently as part of Erdogan’s road to total autocracy. It will be tough for Ghannouchi to promote the so-called Turkish model, while ignoring its outcome: a tyranny via the ballot box.

Some Islamists have already started to distinguish between Erdogan’s autocratic manners and their new brand of “democratic Islam.” It would be naïve, however, to separate the two. Erdogan is the outcome of Islamism and not an aberration of it. The AKP’s other prominent figures, such as ex- PM Davutoglu and ex- president Abdullah Gul, have opted to drift into the shadows, only because they want to keep the party united. In another words, in Turkey the cultish nature of political Islam has overridden its democratic values and led its leaders to betray democracy and allow autocracy to creep into the party. Does Ghannouchi understand those risks? Unlikely. Ghannouchi, like many Islamists, sees Turkey as a model for power, not democracy.

Furthermore, the separation between Ennahda as a party and its social movement may alienate many of its junior cadres. For some Nahdaouis (Ennahda members) the split is another sign that the party is sacrificing principles “on the political alter of pragmatism.”

In fact, this pragmatism could force some to drift towards stricter Islamists groups. A myth currently circulating among many Western pundits is that moderate Islamists can turn the tide against radicalism in the Muslim world. However, the opposite, in fact, is true. A late pragmatism in a political Islamist party that campaigned for years under slogans such as “Islam is the solution,” will struggle to maintain its appeal without digging for a strong religious argument that convinces its followers. Otherwise, it will only lose its engineered authenticity and may force many of its youth to search for other, stricter, puritanical versions of Islamism.

What Ghannouchi is doing amounts not to a divorce of political Islam, but a temporary freeze of its overt nature. Many Islamists distinguish between what they perceive as areas of weakness and vulnerability (“Istidaaf”) when they sense that their appeal is waning within their societies and areas of strength (“Tamkin”), in which Islamism is powerful and expanding. Therefore, Islamist theologians advocate a “temporary” pragmatism where weakness and vulnerability are endured until circumstances change and empowerment becomes possible. In a way, that is what Erdogan has done in Turkey; he was patient and waited until he gained control and then forced his way to further entrench his power.

Ghannouchi simply enacted the above dualism because he [rightly] sensed how political Islam is currently struggling to gain popularity among Muslims; hence the need for a softer, gradual approach toward ruling Tunisia. He is indeed a fox, as Abdelrahman Al-Rashed described him, with a sharp, canny political awareness. He is following in the footsteps of Erdogan with his initial soft approach that, in Erdogan’s case, changed to a bolder, aggressive consolidation of power. Ghannouchi is in no rush to rule Tunisia and is willing to wait until he can transform Tunisia into his desired Islamist haven.

Unfortunately for Ghannouchi, his record of pragmatism among Arab Islamist groups has not been successful. One of the biggest problems the Muslim Brotherhood faced in Egypt was its inability to divorce the father of non-compromising Islamism, Sayyid Qutb, from its psyche and teaching. Until Ghannouchi solves this conundrum, Qutb will continue to haunt him. On the one hand, it will be problematic for Ghannouchi, who previously praised Sayed Qutb, to convince his junior cadres to forget Qutb, even temporarily, and accept non-Islamists, whom they despise, within the party. On the other hand, without abandoning Qutb openly, many non-Islamists will raise questions about his sincerity towards democracy.

So, in short, it is highly unlikely for Tunisia’s Ghannouchi to successfully divorce his party from political Islam___and he probably knows it. What will happen in reality is just the replacement of an overt version of political Islam with a more insidious one that fits in with the current dynamics in Tunisia and the broader Middle East. Some observers in the West may welcome such a softer approach to power, but its success in Tunisia is questionable. Ghannouchi may end up failing to appease the ultra-conservative elements of his party, and equally fail to convince the skeptics among his rivals. For now, however, he will try to enjoy his new brand as the Arab world’s first Muslim democratic leader.

 

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Egyptian Aak 2016- Week 21 ( May 23- 29)

Top Headlines

  • Elderly Christian woman was stripped naked and paraded through streets by mob in southern Egypt. Thursday
  • Search teams have picked up a beacon possibly from Egypt Air Flight 804, narrowing the search radius. Friday
  • Egypt deported a French journalist without explanation. Wednesday
  • Egyptian military court sentences 8 Brotherhood members to death. Sunday

 

Coptic woman

An elderly Coptic woman was stripped naked and eight houses were set on fire by mobs in Upper Egypt’s Minya

( Photo via The Cairo post)

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

 Friday

Saturday

 Sunday

 Good Reports

Good Read

Interview

 From Twitter

 

 

Plus

 

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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