Sunday, January 30, 2005
UPDATE: An Iraqi living in London wrote that he heard noices as he was casting his vote in a polling station in the United Kingdom. He turned around and saw Iraqi voters kicking Al Jazeera’s crew out of the premise. The crew aparently came to cover the elections in this polling station. Upon seeing the channel’s logo on the cameras, several Iraqis got angry and forced the crew to leave the area. He also said that he heard the same incident happen in Holland as well.
UPDATE: This is powerful. Pass it to others.
I have nothing else to say except that I feel very humbled for what millions of Iraqis did today. I bow in recognition for what happened today. I believe that not only us the non-Iraqi Arabs should learn from what Iraqis did, but all democracies around the world should look at Iraqis and learn something. All those who are taking their democracy and elections for granted should pause a little and learn. Behold a people who defied suicide bombers and mortar attacks and left their houses and went to the polling stations by the MILLIONS. Today I admit Iraqis are made of steel and I feel so proud of them and I feel honored to share this region with such people.
As we said before, todayâ€™s elections are only the beginning. Suicide bombers, car bombers, and terrorists will still be with us tomorrow morning. Innocent people will die tomorrow morning as they died today. Political problems will not vanish. However, todayâ€™s baby step had to be taken and it was taken by a proud nation determined to turn over the page of tyranny and fear.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Did you ever see someone weep as he is casting his vote? Well, you’ve just seen one. An old Iraqi man weeps before putting the ballot in the box. For how long did this grandpa wait for this day?
Friday, January 28, 2005
The Beginning of the Tunnel
I was going to write a post about my expectations regarding Iraq’s elections. I admit that I didn’t have the energy to write it. I feel it won’t be appropriate or even useful.
This coming Sunday, Iraqis from all over Iraq will head to the polls. This will take the first baby step towards a more decent future. Many will return home safely, others might not. Yet the journey to the polling stations must be taken. It was taken by all those who wanted a more pluralistic and freer future. Sunday January 30th will not be the end of the tunnel; it will be its beginning.
We have talked and discussed much. I believe it is time for us to rest and leave it between the hands of the Almighty. In the meantime, you can do something great for Iraq: you can pray.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
I never thought that this would make it to the New York Times!!!! The story is all over the news here.
The story exploded because of 3 reasons. First, we all know that sex sells! Second, the young man is a famous actor born into a family of famous movie stars. Third, he is associated with Amr Khaled, a rising Muslim preacher who wears a suit and tailors his messages to Egyptâ€™s upper class. Khaled lives in London now after the government presumably forced him out of the country after being alarmed from his rising popularity and influence over Egyptâ€™s most critical segment of the society.
Views on this story vary considerably here. Some side with the girl saying that she was a victim. Others decry her immoral behavior. In our Eastern countries, more blame tends to fall on the girlâ€™s shoulders (you know, the Pharisees brought the adulteress to Jesus and left the adulterer behind). Fans of Ahmed El Feshawy say that this was a set up aimed at tarnishing his reputation. Other conspiracy minded Egyptians claim that the government was involved in this scandal to indirectly hit Amr Khaled and other young hip Muslim preachers who are becoming very popular with Egyptian youth.
I believe we will never know the truth! Ahmed refused to have a DNA test when the baby girl arrived last October citing that he is not the husband and so he wonâ€™t submit to the test. I believe that somehow the couple will reach a deal whether the girl turned out to be his daughter or not. In addition, Ahmed might have decided to continue through the long judiciary process because he knows that he might get out of this scandal one way or another. I donâ€™t know, I might be wrong, but I just canâ€™t believe that we will know the truth so easily.
Monday, January 24, 2005
I Took Action
Today I woke up a little bit late since I took Sunday off from work because of the Eid. I grabbed the paper and sat down to read it while having my morning coffee. They had a report about next week’s Iraqi elections on double spread pages. The main headline said: Iraq’s Elections, No Legality, No Authenticity, No Democracy. There was a huge picture of Ayad Allawi sitting on a throne. Bush’s face was above the throne and his hands were holding it. The picture meant that Bush will eventually enthrone “his candidate” on Iraq’s throne no matter what the elections results turn out to be.
I got furious and did something that I really wanted to do for a long time. I jumped out of my table, grabbed the phone, and called the paper! I asked for Mrs. MN, the reviewer of this report.
GM: hello, can I speak to Mrs. MN?
Operator: Just a second.
GM: yes, can I speak to Mrs. MN?
Man: I am afraid she’s not in the office at the moment, who is with me?
GM: I just wanted to talk to her
Man: Do you have a comment on today’s page sir?
GM: Yes. In today’s report the headline said that Iraq’s elections won’t be democratic or authentic or legal. My question is: why was Palestine’s election considered democratic, authentic, and legal by your respected newspaper? Why the double standards?
Man: So do you agree with this election?
GM: It is not me who agrees, it is the majority of Iraqis. The majority of Shias, Kurds, and many Sunnis want this election. My question is: why treat Iraq differently? Palestine is under Israeli occupation and your newspaper said absolutely nothing about the legality or the authenticity of the elections there.
Man: Oh sir, we just looked at the issue from a western point of view. We said that America will install its own ruler.
GM: Well, why look at it from a western point of view, why not from an Iraqi point of view!!!! Iraq’s major Shia religious establishment is behind this election and they want it. It’s not a matter of America wanting it or not, it’s a matter of who wants it in Iraq. The Shias, who are a majority, all Kurds, and many Sunnis, want this election. Who are we to tell them what they should want???
Man: So you do you think will win? Allawi?
GM: I don’t think Allawi will be a big winner because many are disappointed with the performance of his government. However, it is very clear that Sistani’s list will win big time.
Man: Well, please give me your name and phone number and I will pass your comments to Mrs. MN. Next Sunday we will have another report on the same topic. We might call you to get your insights.
GM: I’d be happy to do so. Thanks a million for giving me your time.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
You can view the election ad I mentioned in the previous post from here. You can also watch other ads and read their english transcripts.
5 out of Iraq’s 18 governorates will be insecure for January 30th elections. Below is Iraq’s “threat codes”
Sever: Salah al Din, Al Anbar
Worrisome: Baghdad, Diyala, Ninewa (where Mosul is)
Stable: Basra, Najaf, Thi-Qar, Wassit, Qadissiya, Missan, Babel, Karbala, Muthana, Tameem
Very Stable: Irbil, Dahuk, Sulaymaniyah
You will notice that the 5 dangerous governorates have significant Sunni populations in them. It will take time until major Sunni players suddenly realize that they are not the monopoly in Iraq. I think the elected National Assembly, with its Shia majority, must reach out to Sunnis.
The “Sunni problem” is very complicated because of 2 reasons. First, the Sunni Baathists and aristocracy lost power and they simply want it back. I am not sure whether they will settle for a compromise. Second, the Sunni barbaric animalistic Wahabis/Salafist will never sit with the Shias on the same table and share the country. In other words, you can’t negotiate with those guys.
Yesterday one of those animals packed an ambulance with explosives and rammed the vehicle into a Shia wedding party. The bride and the groom were killed along with scores of other people. What kind of person will sacrifice his own life just to kill a number of Shias??!!
Was I surprised when that happened? No. Not longtime ago, a person in Pakistan who adheres to the same ideology as his buddy in Iraq packed his own vehicle with explosives and slammed it into a Shia mosque. So, killing Shias appears to be one of the Sunnis Wahabi/Salafists favorite shortcuts to the path that leads to the virgins in paradise.
Will this elections cause civil war? The answer depends upon the following:
-The level of attacks against Shias in Iraq
-Will Shias suddenly say “we had enough” and carry the gun?
-How will the new Shia dominated national assembly reach out to Sunni Baathists and tribal Sheikhs and how much leverage do these 2 entities have over the Wahabists/Salafists?
-If Sunni Baathists and other prominent Sunnis accepted a compromise, will the Salafists/Wahabists abandon the jihad against America and against the expected Shia dominated government?
Friday, January 21, 2005
I found this picture on an Iraqi news website. The ballot box with the tick on tick on top represent “The Palestinian General Elections”. The ballot box with the wrong sign on top represents “The Iraqi General Elections”. The author of the article asks the question: Why do Arabs and their media treat the Palestinian elections very positively, while they are passive and negative with the Iraqi elections?
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Iraq’s Campaign Ads
I remember last year I asked my readers about how to download the ads of the US elections. I said that I just love to watch political ads. A reader in the comments column wrote “I can’t believe you like those ads, they pollute our TV channels”.
Now I know why this reader said so. The TV channels I watch on satellite, whether Iraqi or non-Iraqi, are now “polluted” with the Iraq’s elections ads!! However, I still love to see those ads. In fact I downloaded some of them from here.
As far as I know, the ads are divided into 3 groups: ads educating Iraqis about the elections, ads encouraging them to vote, and ads from Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s own campaign. I think Allawi is extensively using both Iraqi and non-Iraqi satellite channels to reach Iraqis voters outside Iraq who are more secular and might prefer his list than Sistani’s. Also, those channels are widely viewed in Iraq as well. Ahmad Chalabi who is on Sistani’s list complained that Iyad Allawi is using Iraq’s channels as publicity pundits because of his position in the government.
I especially love the ads that encourage Iraqis to vote. They are very emotional. Tears filled my eyes when I saw one of them. The ad opens to an old Iraqi man walking between ruined buildings. He looks like a university dean or professor. Then a group of young men wearing ski masks and carrying guns appear from behind a building and block his path. The old man looks at them. Then a young lady (probably his daughter) comes up and stands behind the man while clutching to his arm. Then multitudes of people appear and line up behind the man in a act of defiance. The young men wearing the ski masks turn their eyes to the ground and run away. The screen cuts showing someone pulling down a poster threatening Iraqis who will vote.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Zarkawi in Jersey City??
Several people emailed me this story and asked for my comment. Well, it is a very disturbing story indeed.
I really do not want to jump into conclusions and say that the murder was religiously inspired. The investigations are still underway and I believe we have to wait and see the results.
However, New Jersey’s large Coptic community are not willing to wait and they are already blaming radical Muslims. They claim that this might be a possibility given the fact that the father used to enter into very heated debates with Muslims over the Paltalk.com program and he got threats for that. In addition, they say the killers cut the wrist of his older daughter. She had the traditional tattoo of a Coptic cross on it.
A Christian friend told me that he heard the funeral mass live over PalTalk. It was in the murdered family’s church in New Jersey. He told me that emotions were running high during the funeral procession. A local Muslim cleric tried to enter the church to pay tribute to the family but the congregation roared. I feel so sorry for him.
This incident proves the level of Muslim-Christian tensions in Egypt. It seems that the emotional high fever reached America’s east coast as well. I am very worried about the future really. The Christians are getting very extremist because their fellow Muslims have their own share of extremism as well. I believe the Christians feel threatened from the rising level of Muslim extremism in Egypt and their inability to feel that they are equal citizens.
It wasn’t like that 50 years ago, not during the monarchy nor even during the Nasser era. When Anwar Sadat came to power, he had to offset the power of his predecessor remnants and of the communist and so he unleashed another power that Nasser brutally suppressed: the political Islamists. As a result of the rise of political Islam and the lack of Coptic rights, Christians became very self-conscious and here we are today.
Monday, January 17, 2005
Why America is Hated?
I will never forget an article written by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman written right after the Afghanistan war started. Friedman started his article by asking his readers: do you want to know why we are hated in the Middle East? Then he instructed them to read the recent column written by Ibrahim Nafai, the editor in chief of the largest newspaper in the Middle East, Al Ahram.
Friedman was correct. I read the article as soon as the paper arrived on my breakfast table and my jaws literally dropped. Ibrahim Nafai, one of Egyptâ€™s and the Arab worldâ€™s most reputed journalists, accused the USA of dropping Genetically Modified Food on the poor Afghans and claimed that this type of food is poisonous and hazardous to humans!
Nafai read Friedman article and then wrote a response that made him look as if he was a 12 year old boy caught by his mom touching his peter.
Now, I have discussed media biases before, whether in the Arab world or the West. Why am I bringing this up? Well, today I logged on Al Hayat newspaper website and found this photo.
The caption beneath the photo says so in Arabic: Iraq boys pelt British soldier with stones. Now, if such a large number of boys are throwing stones at the British soldier, I bet he wouldnâ€™t be standing like that on his vehicle. There is in fact a stone that missed its target, however, we do not know why this stone was thrown. If I went to a rural area in Egypt, Iâ€™ll find kids running after my car, someone will throw a stone or something at me, you know, the normal kids stuff. When I was a kid I used to throw cubes of ice on passersby from my window.
Anyway, let us assume those Basra kids were angry with the British soldier and they threw him with a SINGLE stone as we clearly in the picture, why didnâ€™t the paper also publish these photos that were taken by the SAME PHOTOJOURNALIST ON THE SAME DAY: this and this and this
The answer to this question is that even though Al Hayat is a very sensible and professional newspaper, some of its employees just cannot get rid of the anti-Americanism that runs through their veins and report the full picture as it is in Iraq.
I remember a story that happened with Abdul Rahman Al Rashed, Al Sharq Al Awsatâ€™s former editor in chief and the current manager of Al Arabiyah news channel. Al Rashed said: when I was the editor in chief of the newspaper, an employee wanted to publish a photo of an American soldier talking with an Iraqi girl on the street. Do you know what his caption was? â€œAmerican soldier solicits sex from an Iraqi girlâ€? If I didnâ€™t personally see this picture, the photo and its caption would had been published in my newspaper”.