Tuesday, November 30, 2004

ALERT ALERT ALERT

Remember long time ago when I said that the can of worms must be open for Mr. Kofie Anan and his cute son Kojo. Well, WHO LET THE WORMS OUT, WHO WHO

I Got Fayhaa!!!!

“Is that the channel you were telling me about?� my dad told me proudly after succeeding in finding one of Iraq’s most popular satellite channels. I kept searching for this channel for a very long time but failed to find it.

Anyway, we discovered Fayhaa channel and we soon became addicts. As soon as I return from work, I take my dinner and stay glued in front of Fayhaa. I have been doing that for 3 days.

The channel’s main program is its call-in talk shows. Iraqis from inside and outside Iraq call the channel to dish out their opinions. What I heard so far was so amazing. I heard Iraqis saying stuff I never hear before from our Arab pundits or even from Iraqis whom Al Jazeerah cheery picks to appear on its channel.

Apart from its constantly repeated call-in shows, I don’t think Fayhaa has any prominent program. The channel that was initiated by a number of Iraqi businessmen is still getting started. With its extremely low resources, this channel became a prominent voice in Iraq’s growing media market. That’s an achievement.

One of the things I really liked was that Fayhaa calls things by their true names. Apples are apples. Oranges are oranges. Terrorists are terrorists. Those who plant car bombs in police stations are not insurgents, they are not rebels, they are not militants, they are terrorists.

  Posted by BP at 9:53 am Comments (3)
Monday, November 29, 2004

Sunni Blues

Just like any other segment of the Iraqi society, Sunnis are divided within themselves. In other words, you cannot really divide Iraq into 3 neat groups. Shias are divided between those who follow the Dawaa party, those who follow Hakim’s party, those who follow no one except Big Sis, those who follow no one except Sadr, secularists, communists, etc. Kurds are divided between Barzani’s ilk, Talibani’s ilk, and those who hate those 2 parties. Sunnis as well are divided between secularists who are glad Saddam is gone, educated Sunnis who are glad Saddam is gone, educated Sunnis who are not glad Saddam is gone, Sunni Islamic fanatics who are glad Saddam is gone by wanna kill Americans anyway, Baathists who turned Islamic overnight and they are definitely not glad Saddam is gone. You get the idea huh?

So the only division we can make is this: those who are eagerly participating in the political process and those who want to mess it up. The vast majority of Iraqis belong to the first group and 14 out of Iraq’s 17 governorates can have elections tomorrow morning. The trick now is how to coerce the largest number of those who want to mess it up and literally bride them into the new Iraq. In other words, the question is how to turn bad apples into eatable apples?

Sadr turned to be a bad apple. Big Sis used his heart surgery and AC-130 warplanes to prevent this bad apple from destroying the future of the good apples. Iraq’s remaining bad apples are the Baathists, Sunnis who are unhappy with the Shias position in the new Iraq, and Islamic fanatics. My gut feeling tells me that the interim government can negotiate with those whom you can negotiate with (Baathists / Baathists turned Islamics) in order to separate this group from the ones you can have no negotiation with (Iraqi and foreign Wahabi/Salafists). In short, Iraq would take a huge step forward if disgruntled Sunnis were convinced that a piece of the cake is better than no cake at all. It really doesn’t matter if they have blood on their hands, what really matters is that they don’t have more blood on their hands.

  Posted by BP at 1:35 pm Comments (7)
Sunday, November 28, 2004

Weddings in Egypt

Weddings are very important social events in Egypt. It is considered a must to attend the wedding of someone you know in order to show your respect by sharing his/her happy moment. The Arabic for wedding is “farah” which means happiness.

The weddings of the rich: Most rich Egyptians have their weddings in a 5 stars hotel. Muslims usually plan their wedding parties (reception) after they register their marriage with a special cleric. Christian wedding parties tend to always be right after the marriage mass.

Rich Egyptians are keen to organize the best party ever for their sons or daughters. Many consider such parties as a way to show how rich they are. Sometimes a famous singer and belly dancer would be brought to entertain the guests. Some western oriented Egyptians do not like the idea of the traditional belly dancer and so they settle with a well known DJ. Prominent Egyptians make sure to invite as many government officials and other celebrities as possible. I once attended a wedding where I saw over 20 celebrities ranging from the president of the people’s parliament to one of Egypt’s top actresses.

The weddings of the poor: I consider those to be more fun. They are very simple with no formalities at all. People are not there to show off; they just want to share the happy day with the couple. The poor usually have their weddings right on the streets, in an alley, or a cheap social club. You don’t have to be invited to attend the party; anyone can come and share the moment.

An amazing thing I recently discovered is the presence of beer and cheap alcoholic beverages in some of those weddings. A friend of mine who works in a beer company told me that he went to a wedding in a very poor district of Cairo and saw the people drinking beer and rolling marijuana joints! A police officer and his 2 soldiers were sitting beside my friend doing the same thing! (I’m wondering how much they got from the bridegroom to stay silent) It was a hilarious experience.

Poor Egyptians cannot afford to bring famous singers or belly dancers. They either get a cheap DJ or a third class singer. A number of Egypt’s top mainstream singers shot it to stardom from those poor weddings. Also, they don’t need to get a belly dancer since most of the girls at the party can do a much better job and for free.

Islamic weddings: Some very conservative Egyptians have what we call an “Islamic wedding”. No music, no alcohol, women separated from men, etc. Religious songs and prayers are usually the only entertainment available.

Other conservatives are not that strict, they can still allow music and mingling between sexes but definitely no alcohol.

  Posted by BP at 12:01 am Comments (10)
Friday, November 26, 2004

Lynnette in Minnesota got it. When you press the “Go Back” button on top left corner you will go back to previous pins. Thanks Lynnette.

I just came from a wedding, been jumping up and down for quite sometime (i.e dancing!). I’ll post something about weddings in Egypt when I eventually wake up!!!!

Who’s messing with the world??

Some pins on the GuestMap disappered. I thought that only I can remove the pins. Does anyone have a clue about what’s happening? Why did the pins disappear? How can I prevent that?

  Posted by BP at 12:51 pm Comments (7)
Tuesday, November 23, 2004

It’s freeeeeezing in Egypt!! Today I wore very heavy clothing because it’s freezing in Cairo. It rained real hard yesterday. I don’t know if it is just a phase that will go away. I really hate winter.

Today, the conference on Iraq ended. I’m not sure how it will change stuff on the ground but several positive steps were taken. First, Powell will go to the Israel/Palestine region to revive the peace process that MUST be revived. Second, Powell had a chitchat with the Iranian foreign minister. Egypt, the host, arranged the dinner seats in such a way that enabled Powell to sit beside Kamal Kharazi. I really prefer dialogue with Iran simply because Iraq is everything. And it seems that those Iranians are using the nulcear thing to draw concessions from the West.

Anyway, this is a MUST read.

  Posted by BP at 4:36 pm Comments (12)
Monday, November 22, 2004

Here is a war crime

A war crime that has no NBC

A war crime that has no NBC that gives an opportunity for Al-Jazeera to play it over and over and over and over again (using slow motion).

A war crime that even if NBC showed it, Al-Jazeera won’t

A war crime that the average Egyptian on the street knows nothing about

Now what will happen if tomorrow we heard a US marine shooting a man waving a white flag

At the end, I can’t say anything except thank you NBC

  Posted by BP at 11:49 pm Comments (13)

Iraq’s Smartest Politician

I remember long time ago when Ayatollah Sistani thwarted US-backed plans to hold caucuses all over Iraq, I was furious with the guy. I am allergic to those who claim that they are God’s ambassadors on earth and I definitely didn’t like the way the old man stuck his nose into politics.

Today, I admit that Sistani is one of the very few people In really admire! I also started to admire the Shia sect for keeping the doors of Ijtihad (reasoning) open. The Shias gave birth to lunatics such as the ruling clerics in Iran and Muqtada Sadr, but there are also enlightened clerics such as Ayatollah Sistani, Sheikh Iyad Jamal Al Deen, and many oppressed moderate Ayatollahs in Iran. Unfortunately, it seems that only lunatics nowadays are monopolizing the Sunni religious structure.

Sistani’s main objective is to ensure that Shias are well represented in Iraq’s future government. He doesn’t care whether a party is religious or secular as long as he ensures the broadest base of Shia politicians. I’d like to briefly outline below Sistani’s actions within the past year and half:

Invasion: Sistani issues a statement urging people in Najaf not to interfere with the invading US forces. When an American commander tried to approach his home in order to talk to him, people thought that the American soldiers will storm the shrine. Sistani’s men asked the people to stay calm.

Elections, elections: After refusing to meet with any American official, Sistani thwarted US plans to set caucuses all over Iraq. He demanded direct elections as the way forward and with a flip of a finger pushed throngs of people to the streets.

Sadr Showdown Part 1: Muqtada’s Sadr gang occupies the holy shrine in Najaf after battling US forces. Sistani orders all armed forces to leave the city and says that Iraq’s police should take over. American forces withdraw, Sadr’s gang remain in the shrine (they even took possession of the shrine’s keys).

Sadr Showdown Part 2: Sadr rises again. Sistani, along with the 4 major clerics, leave Najaf. He goes to London for heart treatment. The Arab world appears to care about Najaf than Sistani simply because the Americans are hitting it (imagine if you cared about the Vatican more than the pope). Sistani again calls all armed forces to leave Najaf. When that didn’t happen, he discreetly allows AC-130 warplanes to do the job. He returns to Najaf when it was obvious that Sadr is begging for his mercy. The old man just taught the sucker who the real boss is.

Fallujah Part 2: Sistani is silent and he will remain silent. First, the Salafis/Wahabists/Baathists are Sistani’s enemies as well especially since some of them really want to drag the Shias into a civil war. Second, Sistani stood silent during Najaf (or at least he didn’t offer any condemnation). He knows very well that what happened in Najaf had to happen and what is happening in Fallujah had to happen a long time ago.

When Sadr rose up, I said that Sistani should be the one who puts him down and it happened. Now, today’s Sunni insurgents do not have a Sistani, who will put them down? I’ll offer my speculation in another post.

  Posted by BP at 5:05 pm Comments (4)

Please Don’t Shoot!

The American marine entered a mosque in Fallujah. A wounded Iraqi civilian saw him and started to beg “please don’t shoot, please don’t shoot”. The American raised his rifle then shot the guy. He then celebrated what he had just done with another marine.

If you asked any Egyptian about the NBC tape, he will tell you the above story. This is how the story evolved from the marine saying “he’s faking he is dead” to the “Iraqi civilian” begging “Please don’t shoot”. Almost no Egyptian saw the tape, but they will all tell you the above story. Thank you NBC.

Now, I don’t have NBC and so I don’t know much about it. However I presume that NBC is a type of channel that broadcasts abuse photos from Abu Ghraib, a tape of the marine in the Fallujah mosque, marines fixing sewage in Sadr city, and marines handing out school supplies in Kirkuk. The problem is that our media cherry picks the Abu Gharib pictures and the Fallujah tape, but it would be a dire journalistic disaster for them to mention anything about the marines fixing sewage pipelines in Sadr city or handing out school supplies in Kirkuk. I would be a very happy man if our media showed loads of Abu Gharib/Fallujah pics and just A FEW of Sewage pipelines in Sadr city.
You Americans out there should really thank NBC.

  Posted by BP at 12:16 am Comments (11)
Saturday, November 20, 2004

Where are you from?

Please roll down to the end of this page and put a pin on your country of origin (click first on the Guestmap icon). Please don’t forget to mention your city. If you are American, just write your state. Thanks.

  Posted by BP at 11:06 pm Comments (5)

Attack Attack

I have been getting emails and comments from fellow Egyptians and Arabs ever since the Lebanese newspaper Al Hayat mentioned my blog in an article about Arab blogs. Very few of those comments were supportive of my views. Many were very polite and civilized in the way they disagreed with me and yet many started cursing me and calling me the same names they call several Iraqi bloggers. Words such as stupid, traitor, Bush lover, neoconservative, dumb, etc.. I expect such harsh words that lack any constructive dialogue simply because I know my views are quite rare in the Arab world. I would like to tell my angry critics that I will stand on my views for two main reasons: many Iraqis do share my views (and many do not) and several discreet Arab progressive thinkers share my views as well.

My problem is that I am not anti-America or even anti-American foreign policy. I am against certain policies and support other policies. Hating “American foreign policy” is such a broad thing, you have to name a policy in order to hate or like it. Reglular guests of this blog know very well that I have criticized certain US actions such as the awful post-war planning of Iraq and the unjust lack of engagement in the Palestine/Israel conflict. So to save time and effort, I will state my opinion once again below:

Palestine/Israel conflict: President Bush was so right in telling the truth to the Palestinians, that terrorism will never solve the problem and that new leaders must emerge who can be responsible of making peace through negotiations and not suicide bombings. I totally disagree with Bush for his failure to tell the Israelis the truth as well. That all settlements must be removed from Gaza and the West Bank and that a compromise must be reached on the Jerusalem and the refugees issue. I am also against Bush’s lack of engagement during his first term. I hope that changes in his second term.

Iraq: I am in FULL support with the US. If the US failed militarily in Iraq, the whole Iraq enterprise will fail. My wish is to see Iraq evolve into 20% of India. I voiced my opposition to certain decisions that the US took in Iraq but I remain supportive with the overall objective. If you want me to support throat slitters, car bombers, or Sunni fighters who want to do everything to pull Iraq backwards, then I am definitely not your cup of tea. If you want me to draw a stupid grin on my face when the US gets in trouble in Iraq, then I am definitely not your cup of tea as well.

A fellow Egyptian who posted a comment stated that Al Ghad party (Egypt’s recently approved liberal party) will kick me out if I joined because of my views. I totally agree with him. Yes, the party must exhibit anti-Americanism to gain credibility but that doesn’t mean that its internal politics doesn’t suit me.

  Posted by BP at 4:53 pm Comments (24)