Wednesday, June 29, 2005
I always think twice before posting anything that might “hang our dirty clothes” yet I end up posting it anyway. Well, I don’t think today’s post is that bad because I made it clear that we were good and now we’re bad and there is always a possibility to return good again. This is what encouraged me to go ahead and post today’s post.
â€œBecause of the openingâ€?
â€œOfff, this is becoming unbearableâ€? my female colleague said as she entered the room one morning.
â€œWhatâ€™s wrong?â€? I asked.
â€œI parked my car in the parking lot across the street and I had to walk for a short distance. I couldnâ€™t bear the comments I heard from menâ€? she said angrily.
I looked at her and what she was wearing. She had a long sleeved blouse on and a relatively tight skirt covering her angles. There was very few flesh exposed.
â€œWeâ€™re almost covered up, probably their comments were on your good looksâ€? I said laughingly.
â€œNo, it is because of the openingâ€? and she pulled her skirt a little bit to reveal an opening at the end of her skirt that exposed the lower parts of her white-colored legs. â€œThey said things like: what is this?? Wow, I love the color white!â€? she added.
When I finished my conversation with my colleague, I recalled another conversation I had over dinner with my mom. I remember her telling me that as a young lady she and her friends used to walk in downtown Cairo wearing short skirts and cut tops.
â€œAnd did anyone look at youâ€? I asked.
â€œNever, we used to even take the public bus wearing this. The people were different back in the 50s and 60sâ€? she answered.
What happened to us? I asked myself. I know that many girls love to hear such comments on the street especially if they are not so pretty. However, others consider such comments as degrading to their femininity and something that reduces them to just a bulk of white flesh walking on a pavement. In addition, many girls would simply love to enjoy the simple freedom of wearing what they want outside their houses without enduring such comments. I believe this phenomena that didnâ€™t exist at such a degree almost 20 years ago is a result of 2 factors: a social and an economical factor.
The social factor has to do with the introduction of fundamentalism and the usage of religion not in liberating women and empowering them but in putting all sorts of old historical unreformed rules on them. So instead of discussing the role of women in the society as the women of the 20s and the 30s did, we started to hear sermons on the compulsory hijab, womenâ€™s clothes and their menstruation cycle. As a result, the majority of girls today wear the hijab or the head cover for all sorts of reasons: personal convictions, family pressure, peer pressure, fear of being singled out, demand of a husband or a fiancÃ©, or to escape the comments on the streets. The unveiled girls suddenly became the black chicks among the yellow ones, the different, the strangers. Boys who see veiled girls left and right cannot help but comment on this strange space alien walking a few meters away.
Many girls who want to wear tight jeans and tops yet do not want to endure such comments or be viewed as â€œlooseâ€? still put a veil on and tie it backwards in a way that I see rather attractive! The girls in those â€œmodern hijabsâ€? might still get a comment or two on the street, but theyâ€™re definitely much more safer than their â€œnaked headâ€? counterparts. In addition, many boys would love to comment on the buttocks in front of them that are moving up and down, yet the â€œholy symbolâ€? on the girlâ€™s head prevent them from doing so.
The second factor is economics. Due to the current devastation in our economy, young men cannot get good jobs and so they tend to postpone getting married. Mix unemployment with testosterone and you get male sex bombs.
Monday, June 27, 2005
Demonstrations Move to Church
A demonstration will be held next Wednesday at the Virgin Mary Church in Cairo. I find this to be a positive move since a demonstration was held at an imporant mosque before.
The Virgin Mary Church is a very significant church among the Christian community because they believe that Mary appeared on the roof of the church more than 30 years ago. I remember my mom telling me that when the news broke out, thousands of Muslims and Christians flocked to the church and waited for Mary to appear one more time.
The above poster reads: We are coming to you mother of the light. Wednesday, June 29 2005. In front of the Virgin Church at 6 pm.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
When Australian citizen Douglas Wood was kidnapped in Iraq, the Australian government sent its top Sunni Muslim Sheikh in order to negotiate with the kidnappers and his fellow Sunni sheikhs in Iraq. When Iraqi Special Forces conducted a raid that released Wood, the Egyptian born Australian shiekh was angry for reasons that I don’t understand until this very hour. First he said that the raid risked the lives of 2 Iraqi hostages (as if the guy does care about them), then he said that Wood would have been released anyway and so the raid was unnecessary.
Iraqi blogger Hammorabi wrote something that forced my jaws to drop open and my tongue to dangle out. He wrote that he heard the Grand sheikh of Australia telling Al Jazeera that “the Mujahdeen asked for 25 millions but because he will carry their logical and reasonable demands to the world they agreed to free him.” The guy called the kidnappers “Mujahdeen”!!!! And who is this guy?? The grand sheikh of Australia. Of what? Australia. I cannot hear you. A U S T R A L I A!!!!!
I have been saying over and over and over again that what western countries consider as mainstream Muslim institutions and religious leaders are nothing but radical wahabi Saudi financed Muslim Brotherhood ideology affected entities who cannot work freely in their OWN Muslim countries and immigrate to the west in order to preach their ideology and get protected by the freedom of religion in Western countries. No wonder terrorists are recruiting suicide bombers from Europe, no wonder John Walker Lindh the San Francisco hippie turned taliban got radicalized in a California mosque.
I am not saying that all Islamic institutions and figures in the West are like that. Some of the world’s most respected Islamic reformists live in the west. But the spread of Saudi Wahabi petrodollars in many of those institutions is very alarming.
Source: Hammorabi Blog
The communists of Egypt are back! This picture was taken during a recent Kifaya demonstration. Wow, this is getting very interesting. I don’t mind a communist comeback at all. We paid a lot, and I mean a lot, when Sadat fought them.
A Step Towards an Iranian Revolution?
In a very controversial presidential election, radical hardliner Ahmadinejad became the new president of Iran yesterday. To tell you the truth, I am happy the guy won. Let me tell you why.
First, AJ (his name is too long!!) won because of 3 reasons. One, the economic situation in Iran is dreadful. Unemployment is so high and AJ’s focus on economics and his humble lifestyle (as compared to the millionaire Rafsanjani) resonated with poor rural voters. Two, the youth of Iran and the middle class are living in complete apathy towards the political situation there and it appears that the turnout was much lower in urban areas. Three, the mullahs illegally used the revolutionary guards and their feared militias to secure an AJ victory.
Now, ever since the youth of Iran brought Khatami to power, apathy started to contaminate the political veins of those youth who are the only ones capable of bringing the regime down. The youth were busy enjoying the few freedoms that Khatami brought (nail polish, pop music, lax dress codes, etc) and they were busy searching for jobs and getting stoned on mountains around Tehran. The protests of the late 90s seemed to be something of the past. I am hoping that AJ and his radical way of governing will shake the people up again. Even one of Iran’s most popular bloggers Hossein Derakhsshan who himself is against radical instant regime change seems to agree with me when he wrote:
One good thing about an Ahmadinejad term could be that it would end the apathy among the youth born after the Iran-Iraq war. They are the best thing that could happen to the regime of Iran, for they have never struggled for their rights and ambitions. They are absolutely satisfied with what the regime provides them with, be it cheesy Iranian pop music, or wheat alcohol.
I know that what I am saying sounds cruel and inhumane. In fact, who am I to say that the Iranian people have to endure the rule of a hardliner so that they might rise up and usher in another people revolution? However, I just cannot help but think that way even though I know that I would have voted for Rafsanjani to avoid an AJ term if I were an Iranian. Let us hope that, as Hossein said above, we’ll see this one good thing in Ahmadinejad’s Iran.
Update: Iranian exiles tend to agree with my assesment.
Who would blow up a dusty synagogue?
I was walking today in downtown Cairo when I came across an old synagogue that was once used to serve Cairo’s vibrant Jewish community. The synagogue looked dusty and tattered by age just like many beautiful things in Egypt. The one thing that really caught my attention was the presence of at least 10 policemen with their cars in front of the building. They set up a cordon so that no one would pass right in front of the synagogue. It just looked like as if the guards were in front of the central bank of Egypt.
Who would want to bomb such an old synagogue that is not frequented on a constant basis?! And who is the idiot who would damage something that belongs to Egypt’s history. Well, it didn’t take long for an answer to hit my mind: the sky is the limit with terrorists. If someone can convince another person to blow himself up in the middle of a group of Iraqi civilians, then someone else can convince the same kind of person to blow up an old empty Cairo synagogue.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Big Pharaoh in Al-Hayat
This blog was mentioned 2 times in Al-Hayat newspaper, one of the most popular pan-Arab papers in the region. The author, Jihad Al Khazen was investigating Arab blogs in a 6 parts series of editorials. He also mentioned other Egyptian and Arab blogs. Up till now, this blog appeared in Al Hayat for 3 times.
The author talked about my interview with the BBC radio and he stated that I was ” neat in my speech but without mentioning my name”. He mentioned how I told the interviewer that I wished the return of Egypt’s “golden age” before the arrival of Nasser in 1952.
In his second editorial, Al Khazen wrote that this blog is “the most popular Egyptian blog”. I am not sure if this is true, but I do think this blog is among the most popular Egyptian blog that are written in English. He goes on to say that an American blogger (he didn’t say who) mentioned that this blog is “the best special voice coming from the Middle East” (blushes). I am not sure if I do deserve this title anyway.
If you can read Arabic, you can find the 2 articles here and here.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Today we have a guest.
Whatâ€™s happening in Egypt?!
By: Maram Mazen
For the first time SOMETHING is finally happening in Egypt, after 50 years of political stillness since the 1952 coup dâ€™etat (which Arab nationalists would call it the 1952 revolution) which ousted King Farouk and the British army from Egypt. Since then every president has ruled for life: Gamal Abdul Nasser, Anwar El Sadat and of course the current president Hosni Mubarak who stayed already in power for 24 whole years, and wants to extend it with another 6 years term, so he wants a total of 30 years in power. Until now he is the third longest serving president after King Ramses II and Mohammed Ali Pasha. And then his son Gamal wants to become president in succession to his father.
Presidents in Egypt reach power by a single candidate referendum chosen by the parliament which is dominated by the ruling party, and there was supposed to be a referendum next September on Mr. Mubarak but this time itâ€™s different.
The opposition is finally speaking out, there are demonstrations almost everyday, new pro-democracy movements are founded, independent opposition newspapers are breaking taboos all the timeâ€¦ and that all started from the end of last year.
The opposition demands are OLD, patriotic and entirely an internal issue but I believe that after 9/11 the US shifted from supporting these suppressive regimes to supporting reformers, because they (the regimes) are the main source of extremism and so the Iraq war has caused an earthquake in the entire middle east, the Egyptians were in a state of shock seeing the statue of Saddam Hussein getting kicked by shoes of ordinary Iraqis. Alongside high unemployment rates, poverty and generally extremely harsh economic and social conditions.
Egyptians are fed up, and suddenly different movements with different ideologies and fields are all working to building a better Egypt or at least to stop the deterioration, where the â€œkefayaâ€? (Egyptian for enough) movement held the 1st demo last December, and since then demos are spreading to other movements and increasing in number. They are usually peaceful, but surrounded by anti-riot police outnumbering the demonstrators, preventing passers by from joining the demo. But on Wednesday June 22nd, in Shobra Street, for the first time, there were no security at all at the site which allowed passers by to join the demo and allowed the demo to walk in the streets for two hours. On our way there we met some activists in the underground station, we sang the Kefaya anthem â€œEnough Enough Enough, weâ€™ve reached the endâ€? in â€œRod el Faragâ€? station, and it felt I was in Ukraine for a while.
But kefaya doesnâ€™t present itself as an alternative to the regime, who does for an example is the liberal El Ghad (Tomorrow) party, the most daring and active party politically and in the streets and which already wrote an alternative new constitution and presents itself as an alternative to the NDP (national democratic party). But that wasnâ€™t accepted, so Dr. Ayman Nour a parliament member for the last 10 years and the party president was arrested for a fabricated law suit that charged him with forging legal powers of attorneys for his partyâ€™s establishment, but his true sin is that he acted like a real opposition parliament member. He is the most prominent and popular presidential candidate till now, but has a trial on June the 28th. The ruling will be decisive for Dr. Ayman Nour, El Ghad party and the whole spirit of freedom in Egypt.
So with leftists, islamists, liberals and arab nationalists putting so much pressure on the government, alongside US pressure for reform, I have no idea how the government will be able to escape from these legitimate demands!! Weâ€™re still in the beginning of the struggle for freedom, and Iâ€™m not really sure how things will turn out, but Iâ€™m a bit optimistic about a peaceful or at least not very violent transition because of the large and well respected sectors of the community joining the opposition movement like the judges and university professors.
The future is not clear but at least something started happening!
Maram Mazen is a member of El Ghad party and Kefaya movement. You can reach Maram at firstname.lastname@example.org
Iraq Got an Ambassador
Egypt will send an ambassador to Baghdad for the first time since the fall of the Saddam regime. Almost all Arab countries did not send envoys lest they be seen as legitimizing the US “occupation”. Iraqi official, Muwafak al-Rubaiie stated that he hopes other Arab nations will take the same action Egypt will take.
Something tells me that this move is the latest attempt by President Mubarak to improve damaged relations with the US and ease its pressure on him a little bit. Egypt has been heavily involved in the Gaza pullout thing and reining in Palestinian groups in an effort to achieve a peaceful Gaza pullout and to tell the US “hey, we’re useful, so stop talking about democracy this much”.
Well, if my government really wants to do something useful not just for the US but for the entire humanity, it could force Al Azhar (the world’s most important Sunni university) to issue a simply yet clear-cut fatwa declaring that slaughtering Iraqis (a.k.a Muslims) is wrong and anyone who does that will go to hell. Very simple, very straightforward. The government could demand from its puppet, the Sheikh of Al Azhar, to cry out from his pulpit next Friday and declare that those who blow themselves up in order to kill Iraqi Shias, Iraqi policemen, and Sunnis who want to participate in Iraq’s political life are infidels and on their way to hell. The government could also ask the Grand Sheikh to organize a huge anti-terror demonstration composed of fellow sheikhs denouncing the daily massacre of Iraqis. In addition, it won’t harm at all if the government kindly asked its own media to stop calling mass murderers in Iraq as “resistance”. This really gets on my nerves.
Source: Radio Sawa (Arabic)
Monday, June 20, 2005
I apologize I didn’t take many pics when I was in Alex. It was a business trip and so I didn’t have much time to wonder around much. I hope you enjoy these.
Saad Zaghloul square. Zaghloul was a very prominent nationalist leader and one of my heroes. More about him here.
Saad Saghloul square. Now, where is the McDonald’s sign in this pic??
The new library of Alexandria
New library of Alexandria
Shisha. Or water pipe or hookah or hubble-bubble. I smoked this thing when we went to a cafe. I am not a smoker but its hard to resist ordering a Shisha when everyone else is doing so.
This is what I have been doing at night! hehehehe. Stella is Egypt’s most popular beer and a personal favorite. These small fish are called “psaria”. They’re delicious and great with beer. You just pick up a psaria and eat the entire thing. The yellowish thing is fried squids. This pic was taken in a bar situated in a very dark alley in downtown Alex. You enter the bar and you find yourself in the midst of a huge lively throng of Egyptian and foreigners. The bar’s name is El-Sheikh Ali. More about it here.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
No Palestine, No America
Iâ€™m back from Alexandria. Later, Iâ€™ll post a number of pics that I took there. I just want to tell you about a very interesting conversation I had with 2 shopkeepers.
Iâ€™m a bookworm. I tend to enter every bookstore I see and wonder around until I buy something. Well, I went inside a relatively small bookstore on a main road in Alex. I was greeted by 2 shopkeepers in their mid twenties. They started leading me to various books encouraging me to buy them and we later turned our discussion to politics and the current events in Egypt.
It appears that both of them spend a lot of their time reading books from the store especially when the shop owner is not around. Just like almost all Egyptâ€™s youth, they voiced their anger and frustration at the current state of Egypt and how they were very encouraged that Egyptâ€™s political arena started to witness some serious action. They had very positive attitudes towards the Kifaya movement and El Ghad party. Both were practicing Muslims who believe that religion is a personal issue and they voiced their distaste for Turkeyâ€™s secularism. They explained that they are attracted to Americaâ€™s secularism, a system that integrates all religion within its parameters while everyone has the right to express his/her faith without intimidation.
We discussed a lot of topics. The coming elections, the Islamists, the internal and external pressure on the Egyptâ€™s regime. I noticed something very interesting when our conversation ended after an hour and a half and I finally left the store. The almighty issue of Palestine and the perceived â€œhorriblenessâ€? of the USA never got into our discussion. We didnâ€™t discuss Palestine and Israel. We didnâ€™t discuss the US. We talked about Egypt and only Egypt. This was so weird because any political discussion in Egypt will have to include Palestine and a number of cuss words directed towards the US.
I then remembered the â€œGood Morning Egyptâ€? program (yea, itâ€™s a copy of the American version) I saw when I woke up on that day. They had this university professor on who was babbling about Iraq and Palestine. On Iraq, he mentioned the official rhetoric adopted by Arab commentators: the US must offer a time table for withdrawal, the â€œresistanceâ€? is great and awesome, and US casualties are far more than what gets reported. Nothing on Iraqi casualties, nothing on head choppers. The entire political section of the program mentioned nothing about current Egyptian events. It seems that the media still thinks that by turning our attention to Palestine and Iraq, we will forget what is happening in our neighborhood. The conversation I had with these 2 shopkeepers proved that it might not work this time.
My prayer, my dream, and my hope is to find an organized and well financed political force composed of people as balanced and as open minded as those 2 poor shopkeepers. Only then will I accept a free ballot box with a wide embrace.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Tomorrow I’ll be here. Blogging resumes this Sunday.