This Week in Egypt: Week 3-2021 ( Jan 18-24)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt begins COVID-19 vaccination drive with frontline medical staff
  • Egypt’s irrigation minister accuses Ethiopia of disrupting GERD negotiations
  • ISIS bombing kills a police officer, wounds three others in Sinai
  • Egypt approves bill increasing penalty for FGM to 20 years in prison
  • Egyptian Defence Minister and Greek Chief of Staff discuss military relations between Egypt and Greece
  • Egypt and Qatar agree to resume diplomatic ties

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

  • Egyptian woman is arrested, then released on bail, for baking “genitalia cupcakes for a private birthday party
  • Egypt urges Libya’s parties to reach consensus over arrangements for planned elections
  • Qatar Airways and Egypt Air resume flights to Cairo, Doha after end of boycott

Wednesday

  • UK export finance unlocks trade to Egypt and supports UK jobs with £1.7bn guarantee
  • Egypt approves bill increasing penalty for FGM to 20 years in prison
  • Saudi Arabia releases Egyptian fishing boat seized for illegal fishing, trespassing

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

 Sunday

  • Egypt begins Covid-19 vaccination drive with frontline medical staff
  • Egypt’s irrigation minister accuses Ethiopia of disrupting GERD negotiations
  • Sudan holds meetings with ambassadors of UN security council countries over GERD
  • Egypt to invest over € 1 billion to renovate and expand its metro and tram network in Cairo and Alexandria
  • Egypt to disburse EGP 225,000 to each worker at liquidated Iron and Steel Company

Reports

  • UAE steps in to ease Nile dam crisis. Ahmed Gomaa
  • Egypt denied an oxygen failure killed Covid patients. We found that it did. Monna El-Naggar and Yousur Al-Hlou
  • Egypt’s patisserie police crack down on depraved desserts. The Economist
  • Egypt and Turkey compete for influence in Ghana. George Mikhail

Read

From Twitter

Sports

  • Handball: Egypt reaches World Championship quarters after 25-25 draw with Slovenia

Plus

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Twitter Thread: Robert Malley as U.S. special envoy on Iran?

As reports emerged that Crisis Group”s Robert Malley is considered as President Biden’s new envoy on Iran. Here is why some observers see this potential choice problematic.

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This Week in Egypt: Week 2-2021 ( Jan 11-17)

Top headlines

  • Egypt signs a deal with Siemens for high-speed rail  linking the Red Sea and Mediterranean coast
  • US designates Egypt’s Hasm, IS in Sinai as foreign terrorist organisations
  • Egypt follows Gulf allies in reopening airspace to Qatar 
  • Egypt announced the discovery of a new trove of treasures south of Cairo, including an ancient funerary temple
  • Egyptians must obtain pre-approved visa before travelling to Ethiopia
  • Egypt court overturns TikTok stars’ jail sentences
  • Egyptian tennis player Mayar Sherif makes history as 1st Egyptian to qualify for Australian Open main draw

Main Headlines

Monday

  • Egyptian navy forces receive first-Egyptian manufactured Gowind-class design frigate 
  • Egypt’s $10 million investments in Tigray at risk amid civil war: Head of Egyptian industrial zone in Ethiopia
  • Egypt to receive doses of AstraZenca vaccine within two to three weeks: Health minister 

Tuesday

  • Egypt follows Gulf allies in reopening airspace to Qatar
  • Egyptian court acquits women jailed for ‘inciting debauchery’ on TikTok
  • Ethiopia warns Sudan it is running out of patience over border dispute 

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

  • Egypt signed a deal with German giant Siemens for $23 billion high speed rail linking the Red Sea and Mediterranean coast
  • Egypt’s coronavirus cases count continues to fluctuate amid second wave, 1022 new cases on Thursday
  • UN chief appoints Elena Panova of Bulgaria as UN Resident Coordinator in Egypt
  • EU suspends Ethiopian budget support over Tigray crisis

Saturday

  • Egypt: Iranian nuclear issue should be linked to its regional interference
  • Egypt’s designation of Sirte, Jufra as red lines helped in preserving Libya’s political path, Sisi says
  • Peacekeepers under attack again in Mali, as one Egyptian blue helmet dies, another seriously injured
  • Egyptian Iron and Steel Company’s employees protest against company’s liquidation

 Sunday

Reports

From Twitter

Plus

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This Week in Egypt: Week 1-2021 ( Jan 4 -10)

Top Headlines

  • New round of GERD talks fails in achieving any progress
  • Egypt sends envoy to Gulf summit amid apparent thaw with Qatar
  • Egypt to provide 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccine
  • Egypt and Israel FMs coordinate for quartet meeting to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace process 
  • Number of female MPs in Egypt hits all-time high

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Egypt’s Sisi, and general intelligence chief discuss regional, international developments 
  • Egypt and Israel FMs coordinate for quartet meeting to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace process 
  • Without an audience, Alexandria’s Coptic Pope Tawadros II heads Christmas Mass at Wadi al-Natrun
  • Egypt’s health ministry announces new initiative in counting Covid cases
  • Prosecution orders release of Seif El-Din Ahmed, Nazly Mustafa in Fairmont rape case

Thursday 

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

 Reports

  • Vehicles to natural gas: Egypt is going green. Ahmed Kotb
  • ‘Vaccine diplomacy’  sees Egypt roll out Chinese coronavirus jab.  Ruth Michaelson
  • With an outstretched hand, an ambassador brings Israel back into Egypt. The Times of Israel

Read

From Twitter

Plus

  • Five Egyptian architects win Rifat Chadirji Prize 2020 with pedestrian bridge over the Nile
  • Egypt inaugurates points on trail of Holy Family to boost spiritual tourism
  • Ex-Israeli envoy reveals large number of Ashkenazi Jews lived in Cairo
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Twitter Thread: German politics

I hardly cover European politics in this blog, but I find this thread on German politics by Marcel Dirsus fascinating and worth reading

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This Week in Egypt: First days of 2021

Apology for the temporary break in posting my weekly Egypt’s compilation, due to the passing of my mother. Here is a summery of news and reports from the first few days of 2021; full compilation to follow next Sunday. 

 Wish you all a happier and healthier New Year. 

Top Headlines

  • Egypt and Algeria agree to intensity joint coordination to restore Libya’s security, stability
  • Egypt confirms participation in GERD talks with Ethiopia, Sudan 
  • Egypt summons Ethiopian diplomat over Nile dam remarks
  • Egypt denies plans to join states opening Western Sahara consulates
  • Egypt’s former top diplomat Amr Moussa tests positive for coronavirus

Main headlines

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

  • Egypt confirms participation in GERD talks with Ethiopia, Sudan on Sunday
  • Egypt’s Coptic Church bans visits to cemeteries this Christmas to stem spread of coronavirus infections
  • Four COVID-19 patients die in Egypt due to alleged lack of oxygen

Reports

From Twitter

Plus

  • Egypt’s anti-Islamist veteran scriptwriter Wahid Hamed dies at 76
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Eulogy for a unique mother

“It ‘s the only way of life I’ve known. I was raised by a single mum.”  

Padma Lakshmi 

Today, being a single mother is not uncommon in the West, but decades ago, in a conservative Muslim majority society, raising a child alone was, to put it mildly, unorthodox.

My mother, or Madam Esmat as her neighbors and colleagues called her, was an Egyptian lady like no other. As a middle class lady from Egypt’s bygone era of elegance and grace, she lived a very humble life. She was pious but liberal, feminist but traditional, soft but determined, reserved but warm and welcoming. Such an eclectic mix of qualities undoubtedly helped her survive Egypt’s turbulent social changes after the collapse of the monarchy until today.  

Unlike most Egyptians, my mother’s family was pure Cairene (natives of Cairo) with Turkish blood. They adopted an incredibly multicultural outlook, which eventually affected the way she raised me. She sent me to an Italian school, occasionally treated me to desert at her favourite Greek café (Charinos), and only bought beef sausage, salami, and cheese from a trusted Armenian deli. 

In her parental home, she enjoyed a way of life that was much less hurried. She grew up among beautiful surroundings full of herbs and vegetable gardens as well as rare trees such as the Bambozia (Syzygium cumin) and the Zapota. Bambozia fruits are dark sweet, olive-sized berries that are incredibly delicious. Picking bambozia was my favourite mission, much to the dismay of Mum, who dreaded seeing her daughter climbing the huge trees like a little monkey. Meanwhile, Zapota was my Mum’s favourite because it was ideal for making exquisite jam. Sadly, both trees have practically vanished from Egypt today. 

My mother endured two phases of relative financial constraint following the death of her father and then later the sudden death of my dad. Unlike her peers, she did not seek a wealthy husband to overcome these financial challenges. Instead, she became determined to finish her education while working extra hours to earn the necessary income. She, a Muslim, used her piano skills to teach music in a private Christian school. During this time, she also developed a special interest in Buddhism, the life of Buddha, and his passage into Nirvana, a name she became so fond of that she eventually chose it as the name of her only daughter (although my father misspelled it on the birth certificate). She eventually graduated from University and had a law degree.

My father’s sudden death left my mother with a young baby to raise on her own, dramatically changing her life. Despite the discouraging attitudes of her family and in-laws, she stood firm and took decisions that shaped her life and mine. She decided not to remarry and declined offers to work in the Gulf to earn a comfortable income. She chose to raise her daughter alone, despite the sharp decline of her income. She would eat just one meal a day to ensure that she could feed me three. She wore black for seven years following Dad’s passing, saying, “It is much cheaper and elegant.” It didn’t take long for me to understand that it not only saved money, but also enabled her to repel marriage proposals.

During childhood, I had more than my fair share of health issues. The worst was when I temporarily lost my vision after a failed eye surgery. During those “dark” days, my mother did not despair; she diligently read many storybooks to me and made me focus on the day when I would read them with my own eyes. She reassured me that I would remember those days as “happy days.” She was absolutely right.

Moreover, she created a cultural refuge for me at home, in the once leafy suburb of Cairo, Heliopolis. An in-home summer camp, taught me piano, introduced me to opera and classic music, and got me a membership in the almost deserted culture centre and public library. She introduced me to the world of Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Jean-Paul Sartre, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, the Bronte sisters, Naguib Mahfouz, and a long, long list of others. 

Both my mother and I were feminists by necessity. With her hard work and creative improvisations, while also embracing endless DIY jobs to save money, we eventually overcame numerous hardships and challenges. However, her quest to survive single-motherhood while maintaining her beliefs and way of life had its hidden costs. She could not afford to mingle with the rich and decadent elite; she could also not integrate with the increasingly conservative middle and working class. 

Yet she remained undeterred, as always. She embraced unorthodoxy and resisted any attempt to mould herself or her daughter into the traditional Egyptian life. At the same time, however, she built and maintained strong relationships with colleagues and neighbours, who admired her discipline, hard work, straight talk, and impeccable time management. 

I used to think the tenacious lady who raised me against all the odds would defy death as well. After all, she had witnessed most of Egypt’s modern turbulent events, from the collapse of the monarchy to the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood’s president Morsi, and adapted to all of them with astounding resilience. Not even Alzheimer’s could take away her determination. Her tears were precious; she shed few tears following the dismantling of Heliopolis tram. 

However, in the end, it was Covid that brought her remarkable life to an end. Such an exceptional woman would never have left this life in an ordinary year. 

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Podcast/Webinar: Radical Islamism, France, and the Atlantic Divide

I strongly recommend these podcast and webinar on what’s wrong with Anglo-American coverage of radical Islamism in France

1- What US Media Gets Wrong About France, with writers Anne-Élisabeth Moutet & Agnès Poirier

https://podcasts.apple.com/es/podcast/11-what-us-media-gets-wrong-about-france-anne-élisabeth/id1534151181?i=1000502056981

2- Webinar on Islamism: Bridging the Atlantic Divide by the counter-extremism project, with the participation of Sir John Jenkins and Writer Caroline Fourest

Twitter Threat

Also an important article:

U.S. Mainstream Media Siding with with Islamists by Olivier Guitta

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This Week in Egypt: Week 51-2020 ( Dec 14-20)

Top Headlines

  • UAE and Egypt have announced the participation of Abu Dhabi in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum as an observer
  • EU Parliament calls for action over Egypt’s human rights abuses
  • IMF approves release of $1.67 billion in aid for Egypt
  • PA, Jordan and Egypt call for resumption of peace talks
  • Egyptian court acquits men accused of stripping naked an elderly Coptic woman
  • Two roadside bombs exploded in restive northern Sinai Peninsula killing three members of Egypt’s security forces
  • 5,000-year-old Egyptian artefact discovered in cigar box in Scotland

Main Headlines 

Monday

Tuesday

  • Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed to visit Egypt
  • Ministry of health increased the production of liquefied oxygen to cope with the possible second wave of coronavirus
  • Egypt launches website for citizens to reserve coronavirus vaccine

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Seven men are detained for sexually harassing a girl in Egypt’s Daqahliya 
  • Egypt expresses its condolences to Sudan over victims of cross-border attack
  •  Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. is interested in a majority stake in first Egyptian army-held companies being offered to investors

Friday

  • Two roadside bombs were exploded in restive northern Sinai Peninsula killing three members of Egypt’s security forces
  • Egyptian court acquits men accused of stripping naked an elderly Coptic woman
  • Egypt’s prosecutor general orders the studying of appeal for three men who stripped elderly Christian woman
  • LGBT conversion therapy: Religious leaders call for ban of “abhorrent practice’

Saturday

Sunday

Reports

  • Human rights breaches in China, Iran and Egypt. The European parliament 
  • Egypt and Iraq deepen defense ties. George Mikhail
  • Egypt revives Khedive Ismail project, turns Egypt’s Downtown into Paris of the East. Baher El-Kady

From Twitter

Thread

Plus

  • 5,000-year-old Egyptian artefact discovered in cigar box in Scotland
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Shadi Hamid, Mustafa Akyol, and French Secularism

Shadi Hamid and Mustafa Akyol are two smart pundits with slightly different agendas. Shadi Hamid is an avid defender of political Islam, which he considers a legitimate conservative expression of the Islamic faith. Mustafa Akyol, on the other hand, believes in what he describes as “the flourishing of liberalism in the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire” and “the unique Islamo-liberal synthesis,” as an answer to challenges facing Muslims in the modern world. 

The two pundits’ stances on Islam and Islamism are not identical. Recently, however, Shadi Hamid and Mustafa Akyol decided to put their differences aside and unite in criticising France, the French version of secularismLaïcité” and the latest new law tackling Islamist extremism – the Anti-Separatism Bill, which the French Government unveiled a few days ago.

Shadi Hamid, who has passionately defended Muslim majoritarianism and illiberalism, is now critical of France’s alleged illiberalism and secularism, despite his own admission that the vast majority of the French public supports secularism. Hamid insists that Islam is inherently political, and then accuses French secularism of being anti-Islam; not political Islam. I previously wrote  explaining how Hamid’s “Islamic exceptionalism” is a flawed concept. In the past, Hamid has repeatedly argued against the West’s attempts to advocate change or reforms in the Muslim world, but now he sees no problem in demanding that the French people change their form of secularism and accept regressive Muslim behaviours. 

Mustafa Akyol, on the other hand, has taken a different stance, labelling the French approach “unhelpful.” Akyol claims he understands laïcité because his country, Turkey, in his view, has imitated the French model for almost a century, referring to Kemalism imposed by the Turkish leader Ataturk. 

Indeed, secular Turkey was illiberal and authoritarian, which backfired and ultimately contributed to the rise of the current authoritarian one-man rule in Turkey. However, to pile the Turkish and French experiences into one basket is a big error of judgment; it demonstrates that the writer either does not understand laïcité or deliberately tries to distort it. 

Unlike Ataturk, the French leaders did not impose secularism on their subjects, which is precisely why both countries have had different religious and social discourses. Moreover, modern France has no record of coups or dictatorship that sabotaged the democratic process in Turkey on various occasions.  

As French diplomat Charles Thepaut aptly explained, Mustafa Akyol confuses  policies and legal rules, for which a government is responsible, with social trends and behaviours. “Laïcité,” is a principle framing a policy, while bigotry and racism are behaviours found in all societies. 

It is deeply disappointing to see that both pundits have resorted to demonising French secularism, bewailing the “oppression” of Muslims in France, instead of standing by France when it needed Muslim intellectuality to fight terrorism, emotionalism and hate campaigns, Two non-French Muslims felt entitled to reject “laïcité” – a very sovereign French concept supported by the vast majority of French people, regardless of political affiliation. Both writers fully understand that most of the Muslims who opted to immigrate to France were fully aware of France’s secular lifestyle and culture, but decided to go ahead and settle in the country. One could argue that any application for residency in France is a tacit consent to the country’s “assertive secularism”.

 Moreover, both pundits didn’t retract their criticism of the new French law, despite publication of its draft, and it has become clear that most of the allegations against it, as Liam Duffy rightly explained, have been unfounded. This Twitter thread by Mujtaba Rahman is also insightful. 

Reading Shadi Hamid’s and Mustafa Akyol’s conceited views was as painful as watching the Netflix series “Emily in Paris.” The main protagonist, Emily, feels she has the right to lament the “illogical” European approach to numbering the floors of a building; she boastfully insists she can bring an “American perspective” to French management, despite failing to speak French. Emily means well though, and ends up adapting to the French way, while maintaining her personality and beliefs; sadly, that is not what Shadi Hamid and Mustafa Akyol are enticing Muslims to do. 

Postscript Twitter thread 

To add more perspective to the above piece, I herewith include a few tweets, by various commentators, which can shed broader light on France’s secularism and its new anti-separatism bill. 

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