Monday, May 30, 2005

Ayman Noor is crumbling down

Mona Makaram Abeid, one of Al Ghad party’s pillars, resigned from the party a few days ago. Along with Ayman Noor, she was instrumental in the formation of this party. I don’t have enough information as to what lead her to do that, but I know that several of Ayman Noor’s associates decided to break away from him. I remember reading opinions about Noor’s dictatorial style of management, however, I am not sure that was the cause of their departure.

Abeid’s decision is a huge blow to the party. I feel devastated. Just as we thought that at last a single progressive party started to appear on Egypt’s political scene, it gets one blow after the other. What a shame.

The party’s newspaper does enhance the perception that Noor is very self centered. The paper reserves huge space for his activities and opinions as if Al Ghad party is Ayman Noor and Ayman Noor is Al Ghad party.

The progressives are breaking apart while the Muslim Brotherhood are spending millions on social services in order to increase their already wide popular base. What a shame.

Black Day in Egypt

An unknown group called “The Egyptian Mothers� started to spread the word urging all Egyptians to dress in black next Wednesday in order to protest against what happened to a number of protestors during the referendum last Wednesday. I just received a chain email urging me to do that. The group’s appeal was also posted on the Kifaya movement website.

I don’t think many people will heed their call for 2 reasons. First, It is impossible to reach a wide audience without using the government owned media. Second, the vast majority of Egyptians are not involved in the current political upheavals we have been witnessing so far.

A Few Brave Voices

I’ve stated before that terrorism will never end and we will never witness peace and tranquility of mind until Islam enters the furnace that all major religions entered which is the furnace of reform. Without religious reform, all other stuff such as spreading democracy, eradicating poverty, and ending dictatorships will be like as if you cut a tree but left the roots deeply entrenched in the earth.

If Islamic law was not reformed to suit the 21st century, the words “islamic law� or “sharia law� will still struck fear in the hearts of nonmuslims and muslims alike.

Few voices understand this fact and they are willing to stand up and sound the alarm to find themselves being silenced by the radicals and the official religious establishment. Among those brave voices is the great Islamic scholar Gamal al-Banna who put it so eloquently when he said: Look at Europe; when Europe began to progress, the first progress was religious reform. It came before all the other reforms. Why? Because it liberated the soul, the conscience, the mind … this is a necessary element for political and economic reform.

This morning, please take a few minutes to read this excellent article that gives you an idea about what I am talking about.

  Posted by BP at 11:00 am Comments (0)
Sunday, May 29, 2005

Cheers to Hosni

A friend and I went to a nice Cairo pub last Thursday. We sat at the bar and enjoyed 2 bottles of Egypt’s special Stella beer. We talked about work, life, and then ventured into politics. My friend is rich, very patriotic, and he wants an end to the Mubarak regime. He believes that even though Mubarak is a man of peace and wise, his time in power should have ended long time ago.

We started talking about the recent developments in Egypt and he expressed his uttermost admiration for the Kifaya movement. I shared with him that I too admire the courage of Kifaya, however, I believe Egypt is not ready at all for full fledged free elections this year and I am not the kind of person who equates Mubarak with Saddam or the Taliban. I told him my opinion about the current weakness of progressives/secularists and the power of the political Islamists, and how I believe that more time is needed until Egypt can have another political force that can counter the islamists. In addition, I told him that I believe that we can witness the rise of a progressive/secular political force within the coming 5 years, and if I felt that this force will never really compete with the islamists then I’ll know it’ll be time for me to say goodbye to my native land.

“We should respect the will of the people even if they chose a religious system� he said.
“Well, if that happened then I guess we’ll have to say goodbye to this nice pub and to these nice green bottles of beer� I said.
“Is that all what you care about?! Beer! I am willing to sacrifice that in order to live in a country free of dictatorship, corruption, humiliation, etc� he immediately shot back.

I took a sip and spoke smoothly “OK, let us imagine that we had a free election next September, what would the future headlines of Egypt’s newspapers be like?�
“I don’t know� he answered.
“OK, let me tell you dear�.

September 2005:

Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties become powerful after Egypt’s landmark elections. Condi Rice admits that she is not afraid, Bush admits he won’t hide under his Abraham Lincoln’s bed.

October �2005:

Sheikh Yousef Qaradawi returns to Egypt, become country’s official cleric.

May 2006:

Parliament bans alcohol sales for Egyptians. Foreigners can drink alcohol because they are tourists and Egypt will starve if tourists stopped coming.

June 2006:

All pubs in Egypt are closed. Only 5 stars hotels are allowed to serve alcohol (to foreigners only)

July 2006:

Movie actresses wearing tight clothes are banned. Belly dancers are banned, Arab tourism is down.

August 2006:

Egyptian pop star Ruby immigrates to Lebanon.

August 2006:

Egyptian artists cite immense restrictions on their work.

December 2006:

Egyptian parliament forms a committee that oversees the publishing of books and the importation of foreign magazines in order to protect the Egyptian people from vice and other western Zionist Neocon corrupting influences.

January 2007:

Young man stabs a policeman after he asked him to stop holding the hands of a girl.

February 2007:

Books by Islamic thinker and reformer Gamal al-Banna are confiscated from the market.

March 2007:

Secular author Sayed el-Qimni arrested after defaming Islam.

June 2007:

Mixed schools banned in Egypt.

“OK, OK, I get your point. Well, if they did that we can vote them out� my friend said.
“And do you guarantee that there will be a chance to vote them out? Plus, what guarantees you that the majority of Egyptian people who are getting religion won’t mind these types of rules?� I asked.
“And what guarantees you that progressives/secularists will get more powerful in the coming 5 years and that they will garner a base in Egypt?� He asked me.
“You are right. I cannot guarantee this. This is why I am looking into all options including leaving the country� I said.
“OK cheers to Hosni� he said raising his mug.

  Posted by BP at 5:09 pm Comments (2)
Saturday, May 28, 2005

Egyptian beauty shines among the nations. Posted by Hello

  Posted by BP at 2:23 am Comments (0)
Friday, May 27, 2005

Today I saw the demonstration that the Muslim Brotherhood organized to protest against the “desecration of the Quran”. Hundreds of protesters carrying Qurans and banners were surrounded by thousands of security policemen. They chanted slogans against the US and carried banners with the words “The desecration of the Quran is an unforgivable sin” written on them. Several Arab/Muslim countries witnessed the same protests today. It is very interesting to notice that in nearly all those countries the demonstrations were organized by Islamist parties who wanted to seize the “Quran into the super Gitmo toilet” story in order to flex their political muscles in their countries.

So, today thousands were angry because of the story that turned out to be untrue. Ummmm, interesting. Well, take a look at the above picture. It shows a group of radical Indian hindus burning the Quran in front of a camera. So here you go, a Quran getting burned on camera for the entire world to see. Isn’t that more serious than Newsweek’s story?

Why didn’t the Arab/Muslim world erupt in flames? Where was the outrage against hindus? Why didn’t we see Indian flags getting burned? Why didn’t we see pictures of hindu gods getting “desecrated”? Well, you know the rule: the US is guilty even if proven innocent. Add to that the hypocrisy of those who call themselves Islamists. Those who see hindus (as long as they are not American hindus) burning Qurans and do not give a hoot. Those who see Iraqis getting killed by fellow Muslims and they do not give a hoot as well.

Update: In a show of political power, Pakistan’s Islamist political parties amassed thousands today to protest against the “Quran into the super Gitmo toilet” story. No mass demonstrations against the suicide bombing that killed 18 Pakistanis (a.k.a Muslims) in a Sufi (mystic Islam) shrine today? No. Why? Because of H.Y.P.O.C.R.I.S.Y

Update: Egyptian Sandmonkey shares his mind on the H factor. Check it out.
Posted by Hello

  Posted by BP at 11:46 pm Comments (3)
Thursday, May 26, 2005

I tried to vote (updated)

Yesterday I entered a polling station for the very first time in my life. Regardless of what I and others think about this whole issue, I consider what happened yesterday to be historical as far as I am concerned. Little me left work early to go to vote on the constitution changes!

Let me tell you what happened before explaining why I actually made the decision to go and vote even after receiving countless ridiculing from my colleagues and the possibility now of being labeled as a “traitor� and “someone who sold off� by several Egyptian bloggers.

I felt a little bit apprehensive when I entered the premise. However, the place was organized and tidy with average attendance. I took out my ID and wondered around not knowing where to go. I saw a lady standing in front of a polling station, I reckoned that she was among the poll workers and so I approached her for assistance.

“Good evening, where do I go to vote?� I asked
“Do you have a voting card?� she asked
“No, I heard that we can vote with our normal ID� I replied.
“Well, it is a must to have a voting card but today we allow voting with ID because you know it is just voting on the constitutional amendment, but you have to get your voting card for the presidential elections. Now stand in this queue because this polling station is for women only� she said.
“But I can’t see any women, don’t they want to vote?� I laughed.
“No, women came in the morning and it is your (i.e men) turn to vote after returning from work� she answered.

I stood in the queue and discovered that nearly all those who were standing with me were carrying a purple voting card. I didn’t want to stand all this long and later discover that what the lady told me was not correct and so I flashed my ID card and asked the judge inside in a loud voice “Can I vote with my ID, I don’t have a voting card?�

The judged looked at me and stayed silent for a few seconds before telling me that the voting card is a must. “Welcome to typical Egyptian contradictory information� I told myself.

I sensed someone tugging on my shoulders. I turned and saw a guy who told me “go downstairs, there are several empty polling stations, you will vote there�

I went downstairs and entered an empty polling station. I then approached the judge who was supervising the ballot box and handing out the ballots.

“Good evening, I want to vote with my ID because I don’t have a voting card� I said.
The guy stayed silent for a few seconds (just as the judge upstairs did) before requesting to see my ID.
“Your name starts with a G, sorry you cannot vote� he answered with a sad look on his face.
“Sir, does that mean that all those with G names will not vote??� I asked.
“No they will. OK, go to the next poll station. G is there� he answered.

I took my ID and my “G name� and went to the other poll station. I had the same conversation with the judge there before I asked him “Sir, can I vote with my ID or not?�
“ummmmmmm, No� he answered. “OK, bye� I said. I left because I finally knew that everyone was throwing the responsibility on the other.

Why didn’t they accept ID even though I am sure that several voters managed to vote without owning a voting card? I have no clue. At least I had the intension of voting and I actually saw a polling station! That’s an achievement.

Why I tried to vote?

-I believe it was a major first step no matter what you might think about the actual amendment.
-I am against regime change in Egypt at the current moment but I am for pressuring the regime to lift its hands off opposition figures especially the liberals/progressives/secularists. My only hope is to see this group garner a popular base in Egypt in order to somehow counter the influence of the islamists, if that didn’t happen within the coming few years, then I am definitely out of the country.

-Voting is fun, I wanted to try it.

Now I didn’t know of the anti-Mubarak demonstration and what some Mubarak supporters did until I went home and switched on the TV. I was shocked really and I am totally against what happened. Beating demonstrators in front of live TV surely tarnished the image of all Egypt besides that this was just plain wrong. However, I still believe I made the right decision by going to the poll station with the intension to vote “Yes” for the constitutional changes.

  Posted by BP at 11:34 am Comments (1)
Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Next Friday, the Muslim Brotherhood will hold a demonstration after prayer. They will protest the “desecration of the Quran” at Gitmo!

OK Guys, this is really getting on my nerves. If the Muslim Brotherhood and the powerful Saudi clerics won’t say a word about those Iraqis getting killed, why not do something creative ourselves? So what are we gonna do? Let me tell you.

Saudi Arabia arrested 4 Egyptians because they had something very dangerous, something that would harm Saudi’s national security. Guess what this something is? TNT? no. Cocaine? no. A Pamela Anderson porn movie? nope (it’s already there in Saudi). Bible? Yes. Saudi authorities arrested 4 Christian Egyptian workers because they carried a Bible and we wonder what the Saudis did with the Christian holy book!! They probably MISHANDELED IT! So let us give the Saudi embassy in the US (that cares so much about saudi’s image in America) a little bit of headache.

If you are an American, please go to your phone and call the Saudi embassy and ask about those 4 workers: Nabil Wasef, Hani Wasef, Youssef Wasif, Habeel Hana. Kindly tell me what happened by email or via the comments column. A phone call to the Saudi embassy won’t cost much especially if you are in the US. I am waiting for stories!

Embassy of Saudi Arabia in the US:

(202) 342-3800

(202) 337-4076

Please be very polite.

N.B I will post on today’s vote tomorrow.

Posted by Hello

  Posted by BP at 10:33 pm Comments (0)

Laura Bush Does Egyptian Politics

It seems that Mrs Bush knows a lot more than chocolate pudding and children books. Today, the first lady of the US endorsed president Mubarak’s decision to ammend the Egyptian constitution citing that reform should come slowly. Her statement infuriated Egypt’s opposition with a muslim brotherhood spokesman saying that “Mrs. Bush statement does not represent the US administration”. Ummmmm, a muslim brotherhood member is defending the US administration, that’s pretty interesting!

I am not sure if Laura was voicing her personal opinion or speaking on behalf of the government, but I tend to agree with her for reasons I already mentioned before.

I hope Democrats won’t tell Bush “hey, did you fire Condi and replace her with your wife?”

Martin Kramer tells the world that I am real and that I am an Egyptian and not a CIA agent pretending to be an Egyptian! (N.B I am NOT the guy in the Pharaoh pic)

  Posted by BP at 12:50 am Comments (0)
Monday, May 23, 2005

Why we don’t give a hoot about dead Arabs/Muslims?

Thomas Friedman wrote a couple of editorials expressing his surprise that riots would erupt after the Quran issue while no one moved when thousands of Iraqis were killed and maimed by terrorists in Iraq. When I said that leaking Saddam’s pictures would infuriate the Arab/Muslim world, a number of readers lashed out at me screaming “big deal, a dictator in his underwear, what about those who were deliberately killed in Iraq and the heads that were chopped?�. I fully agree with this rationale and I want to try to offer my 5 cents regarding this particular issue.

The whole idea revolves around the radioactive level of anti-Americanism here. I once said on this blog that here a corpse with an Israeli or an American bullet in it is worth much more than 100 bodies that were torn apart by a suicide bomber in Iraq. This is so evident in the reaction towards the massacres of both the southern Lebanese city of Qana in 1996 and of the Iraqi Shia dominated city of Hilla this year. In Qana, over 100 Lebanese civilians were killed when an Israeli artillery shell hit a UN shelter (Israel said it was a military mistake). The entire region erupted in flames when this tragedy happened. On the other hand, more civilians were slaughtered in Hilla, yet unlike Qana, very few Arabs or Muslims are actually aware of where Hilla exists. Qana happened 9 years ago, Hilla happened 3 months ago. You see the trend? The Qana civilians were killed by Israeli soldiers so we shout and foam at the mouth, the Hilla civilians were killed by a Jordanian terrorists so we go along doing our normal business.

Are we heartless? No. Are we senseless? No. Then why this awful indifference to the lives of the same Iraqis whom we pretended we cared about when we demonstrated against the war in Iraq? The answer lies in the level of media induced Anti-Americanism that anesthetizes our feelings and prevents us from seeing the actual picture of Iraq.

The anti-Americanism* that is running like a drug in our blood stream cripples our ability to rationalize and view Iraq from an Iraqi and not of an American prism. Whenever the word Iraq is mentioned, we tend to think about the “brutal occupation� and how the US is trying to “install a puppet there�. We don’t think about the different sects of Iraq, the perception of each sect towards what happened, the Ayatollahs of Najaf, who supports the US in Iraq, who is against the US, the elections, why did 8.5 million Iraqis go to the booths if it is all an American ploy, etc. The extremely complicated mechanism of Iraqi politics and society is nonexistent in our psyche, to us Iraq is just composed of an American army and “Iraqis� fighting it. This level of anti-Americanism leads to 2 things: either we ignore the terrorists in Iraq and pretend that they are not there or we accept what the terrorists do as legitimate form of “resisting the occupation�.

We cannot talk about anti-Americanism per se without mentioning its main vehicle and enhancer which is our media. The media here talks about how the US is biased towards Israel while it never mentions that Bill Clinton met Yasser Arafat more than any other leader in the world. The media tells us that 911 happened because of the US’ bias towards Israel while it never mentions that the 19 terrorists were in their Florida flight schools while Bill Clinton was in Camp David trying to create a Palestinian state. Victims of American military action in Iraq are paraded on our TV screens and newspapers while victims of Zarkawi and the Sudan regime receive very limited media coverage.

So, Next time someone from the Middle East tells you that he hates the American government because of “Israel’s killing of women and children in Palestine� and the occupation of Iraq�, look him in the eyes, take a deep breath, and say BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

* Here our officials tell the west that the hate is directed against the US government and not the American people as a whole. Even though I am not a big fan of what our officials say, I tend to believe this is true. I once said that an American tourist might be more warmly welcomed in Cairo and Amman than Paris and Berlin. On a personal level, I believe we are fond of Americans as people and just like to stick around them.

  Posted by BP at 3:17 pm Comments (0)
Sunday, May 22, 2005

No Pitching for Prez Karzai

Darn!! I’m not happy. That would have been the talk of the town in Kabul and quite a boost for Afghanistan’s Baseball Federation! lol

  Posted by BP at 1:20 am Comments (0)
Saturday, May 21, 2005

Regarding My May 20 Post

This post caused a lot of uproar. While many people did not defend printing Saddam’s pictures, they voiced their astonishment as to how people might get upset from Saddam’s photos while it seems that no one gives a hoot about the daily massacres in Iraq, the head chopping, etc. I fully agree with this and I will dedicate a full post to share my point of view regarding this issue.

I would just like to point out that I was very angry at what the Sun and the New York Post did because of 2 things. First, I am sure you know by now that I do support the US’ efforts in Iraq. Showing Saddam’s pictures in his underwear might put a smile on the face of a Kurd in Irbil but it will definitely play out negatively in some parts of the Sunni triangle and this is bad news for everyone. Second, showing those pictures was wrong period. I am sure many agree with me. So this coming after the abuse scandal and the Quran story will only tarnish the US’ image one more time and paint Americans with labels such as “disrespectful, obscene, etc”. This is the reason why the US military was quick in denouncing what happened.

I can hear someone yelling “where is the uproar regarding the daily massacre of Iraqis?” Very valid question and I have touched upon this issue before. I will write more about this in the future. I the mean time read this and this (read They Said Terrorists)

As for Rumsfeld, I still stick to my opinion that he should have been sacked long time ago. The awful post war planning and the inability to control the bahavior of a number of soldiers are enough reasons to sack any CEO of a small company.

I respect Al Jazeera now!

I changed my opinion regarding Al Jazeera. Today I declare that I respect this professional channel. You know why? Well, Al Arabiyah, the Saudi owned rival of Al Jazeera, showed Saddam’s picture in his underwear but Al Jazeera just told the story without showing the pics citing “ethical and professional reasons”.

In addition, I discovered that not only AJ is professional and ethical, but it is also faithful. It is faithful to its previous donor who financed the channel with generous amount of money. They are also faithful to Uday Hussein whom Al Jazeera’s previous manager used to visit for instructions. Wow, they are so faithful even if their donor is in prison and their instructor is dead.

OK, now let me think. Ummm, AJ thinks that showing Saddam’s underwear is unethical and unprofessional while acting as Al Qaeda’s mouthpiece, propagating terror in Iraq and giving a free podium to the head choppers is ethical and professional. Showing Saddam’s underwear is unprofessional while it is professional to call the terrorist attacks in Baghdad and Cairo as “bombings” while the ones in Qatar as “suicide terrorist bombings”.

  Posted by BP at 8:24 pm Comments (1)