This Week in Egypt – Week 48 ( 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

 

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

This Week in Egypt: Week 47 ( 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 46- 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 45- 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 44-2017 ( 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

Twitter Thread: Saudi Purge

In a surprising move, Saudi Arabia arrests princes and ex-ministers amid “anti-corruption crackdown.” 11 princes, and dozens of ministers were arrested in sweeping purge.

I compiled few tweets by the insightful Nibras Kazimi commenting on this unprecedented move.

mohammad-bin-salman

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

 

Also worth reading this FT’s report

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On the demise of Doha News and free speech in Qatar

“While Qatar is busy patting itself on the back for bringing independent, Arab-led global news to the world, it is also busy suppressing similar voices at home.” Read the full piece for good insight on the situation in Qatar.

Victoria Scott

This week, Qatar’s Emir told CBS that his country “wanted freedom of speech for the people of the region.”

Sheikh Tamim made the statement in defiance of demands from neighbouring nations that he should close the Qatar-funded news outlet Al Jazeera.

But while Qatar is busy patting itself on the back for bringing independent, Arab-led global news to the world, it is also busy suppressing similar voices at home.

Losing Doha News

Until very recently, I was Editor-at-Large of Doha News, Qatar’s most popular news website.

Founded in 2009 by two American journalists, Omar Chatriwala and Shabina Khatri, it stood up for truth, honesty and debate against a backdrop of the press release journalism published by local newspapers.

Doha News continued to stand for these principles even after Qatar’s government decided to block access to the site without warning last December.

And even then, despite having to shed most of…

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Egypt’s Neglected Peripheries

Here is the English version for my Arabic piece published in Al-Hurra  

A new spot was added to the Jihadi landscape in Egypt ____ Km 135. Details are still sketchy, but from what we know so far, Wahat Road, 135 km from Giza in Egypt’s western desert, witnessed one of the bloodiest and fiercest clashes between radicals and police forces outside of Sinai. Regardless of which terrorist group is behind this, the incident should re-focus attention on the disfranchised peripheries surrounding Egypt’s Nile valley, where radicals are again creeping into central Egypt.

Over the last five decades, the gap between the urban centre of Egypt and its peripheral regions has deeply widened. Rural societies, ignored by the urban elite, are in a constant daily struggle for livelihood. Thus, there has been a gradual loss of once tolerant traditions; and a new embrace of Islamism as a long-term solution for their chronic problems. For disfranchised communities, coercion has become the answer to all of society’s ills.

In 2011’s parliamentary election, Salafi parties won many seats in rural areas, particularly in Giza and the nearby Fayoum region. Following the ousting of the Brotherhood’s president Morsi, many local Salafi cadres and their supporters have remained loyal to Islamism as an ideology. These communities neither trust the state nor follow government-backed media. Instead, they get their news from Islamist television broadcasts based outside of Egypt, together with various social media pages of prominent Islamist fugitives. These Islamist media sources inject a toxic dose of hatred into youth struggling to fulfil their dreams and aspirations, deliberately blurring the line between violent and non-violent Islamism, and openly encouraging Egyptians to rise against the state.

This new media landscape and vitrol seems to be working. Last July, three gunmen on a motorbike attacked police in the al-Badrasheen area of Giza province, 30 km south of Cairo killing five policemen. Witnesses said attackers blasted the vehicle with automatic rifles and then took equipment and threw petrol bombs inside the car before fleeing. In the same month a week afterwards, unidentified gunmen fired indiscriminately at the last of a motorcade of three police cars driving on a local road in Fayoum governorate, killing one police recruit and injuring three.

They may not be a direct link between that relatively smaller attack, and relatively larger attack on Friday, but the geographical linkage should not be ignored. Geographically, Wahat Road connects Giza to the Western Desert Oases and is 565 km long. Km 135, where the clashes took place, falls under the administrative jurisdiction of the Giza governorate.

This poses some difficult questions: How does one identify if there are supportive communities in that area for such terrorists, and what should be done to reverse the trend and win hearts and minds before it is too late?

First, two maps are needed to answer the first question: a map showing the locations of recent terror attacks, even minor ones; and another map of villages in the same areas, where protests in support of ousting ex-president Morsi took place. In a simple search of YouTube videos of 2013 protests following the ousting of Brotherhood president Morsi, it is easy to spot how many small protests took place in villages and towns in Giza and Fayoum.

The trickiest question is how to prevent terrorism from polluting the minds of residents in these communities? Whatever the answers are, a security crackdown and collective demonization of everyone against the current leadership in Egypt are not the answer. Indulging in conspiracies, and blaming regional players, even if true, are also not the answer.

Those who are behind the attack at KM 135 aim to break the trust between ordinary Egyptians and their security forces, and aims to slowly turn the peripheries of the country into no–go areas. Therefore, in order to reverse their advance, we have to strengthen our marginal communities and reverse the penetration of Islamism.

Islamism may have failed to rule Egypt, but it has succeeded in polluting the entire country with regressive ideas, particularly among disfranchised rural communities. Researcher Mokhtar Awad wrote that no jihad can be won in Egypt without winning the Nile Valley. Thus, last Friday’s episode should focus our attention on preventing terror groups from achieving that goal.

It is necessary to focus on neglected villages like the ones in Giza and Fayoum. We are country that was once blessed by artists, poets, and writers who emerged from modest rural backgrounds. Now, it is necessary to nurture again renaissance of artists, poets, and writers from rural Egypt in order to fight medievalism and regression. The contemporary Jihadi landscape will not shrink by police raids and military helicopters alone. It is tough task, but we must start if we are serious on defeating terrorism in Egypt.

 

Posted in Best Read, Diary of Aak, Egypt, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments