Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Marching With Kifaya…Smoking With Marxists

Yesterday I attended a demonstration by Kifaya (Arabic for enough) that coincided with President Mubarak’s inauguration ceremony. Kifaya wanted to convey the message that Mubarak’s fifth term is null since the elections themselves were rigged.

It felt a bit awkward for me to attend such a rally since I did want Mubarak to have a fifth term and I don’t believe in the “anyone but Mubarak� mantra that the opposition believes in. However, I decided to go just for the experience and not to convey a particular message.

Upon my arrival, there were around 1000 (the number grow to around 1500-2000) protesters chanting anti-Mubarak slogans. They were carrying banners, flying yellow balloons, and brandishing flags with the word “Null� written on them. The first thing I noticed was the absence of the omnipresent black batons carrying central security anti-riots soldiers who are notorious for beating up protesters in previous demonstrations. “Today gonna be a good day� I told myself. It seemed the security police reached the conclusion that beating up protesters, especially when caught on the tapes of foreign journalists, is counterproductive. One of the yellow balloons fell right at the feet of a soldier who picked it up and started playing with it. His superior saw him. “If I saw you touching any of these things, I’m going to kick your butt� he told the mischievous soldier.

After around 40 minutes of chanting, the throng decided to march through the streets of downtown Cairo. That’s when I joined in. I walked in the parade while monitoring the reactions of bystanders who mostly just watched as the protesters passed by. A group of high ranking police officers were following right behind the marching crowd. Unlike previous demonstrations, yesterday’s march looked very civilized and free.

We were approaching a medium sized police pick up truck. 2 exhausted soldiers were crammed at the back. I went to buy some water from a nearby kiosk. “Please go home, kifaya baa (that’s enough)” one of them told me as I passed by their vehicle. “What?? you’re saying kifaya?? Then you’re a member of the Kifaya movement!” I said. They started giggling.

Kifaya is the secular face of Egypt’s opposition movement. It is mainly composed of Nasserites (those who follow Nasser’s ideology), leftists, and liberals (or progressives). There is a sprinkle of Islamists in Kifaya, mainly those who do not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. The MB do have a few members in Kifaya, but they prefer to solely employ their power rather than operate with the other much smaller opposition entities.

When the rally concluded, I left and joined a group of young Marxists for a shisha smoke. I had a very jolly time for 3 reasons. First, these young Marxists are liberals-in the Egyptian sense-socially. Two, they hate fundamentalists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. Third, Gamal Abdul Nasser is definitely not their cup of tea. Nasser slaughtered and imprisoned many of them back in the 50s and 60s when they were much more powerful than today. So what more do I want? I know that I can’t talk politics with a Marxist and we will never agree on a zillion things, but the above 3 reasons are enough for me to have a pleasurable shisha smoke with them.

Silence That’s Killing Me

and the Arab/Islamic media/clerics/pundits/governments are silent *spit* *spit* *spit*

Update: Fouad Ajami discusses this very topic here. He terribly underestimates the influence of Iran in Iraq, but it’s still a very interesting read with a lot of truth in it.

  Posted by BP at 1:46 pm Comments (0)
Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Look at Cindy Sheehan’s face. What an emotional picture. My heart really aches for the grief that this woman is in. Words cannot describe how…..

What’s that?


Smile, you’re on The Sheehan Show.

Shows from the past.

  Posted by BP at 12:35 am Comments (1)
Monday, September 26, 2005

Oil and Military Bases Sniffing

Spain sentenced Tayseer Alouni, Al Jazeerah’s reporter, for 7 years in jail after he was found quilty of “collaborating with a terrorist organization.”

Nobody needs Alouni’s case to realise that Al Jazeerah is Al Qaeda’s media pundit. Plus, I expected anything from a channel whose former manager used to receive guidance from Uday Hussein, and was caught on tape doing that. (I saw the tape)

We all know that Al Jazeerah channel is financed by Qatar’s government and that the media outlet is an indispensable tool in Qatar’s foreign policy and its status within the Gulf area and the entire Arab world. Qatar is also one of America’s most closest allies (a fact Al Jazeeah doesn’t discuss much) and we know that the US has the largest base in the region right in Doha. That entails that only the US can pressure the Qatari ruler to fire the channel’s radical management and replace it with a more moderate one a la what Saudi Arabia did with Al Arabiyah.

Why can’t the US do that? The answer to this question is the same as the answer to the question of why the US treats Saudi Arabia (regarding things concerning terrorism) with the same caution I always have when I carry my mama’s China plates. The answer is simple. The US is addicted to two weird things it receives from other countries: oil and military bases. As someone who agrees with the USA in 70% of what it does, I hope it breaks loose from those 2 addictions.

  Posted by BP at 10:24 pm Comments (2)

Turkish Katrina vs Kurdish Katrina

Iranian Kurdish blogger comments on what he perceives as the differece between the Turkish and Kurdish reaction to Katrina in New Orleans. This blogger always questioned the wisdom of US-Turkey relations in light of the tremendous anti-Americanism prevailing in Turkey’s society.

This is so unfair. I watch May Chidiac on the LBC channel. She is a very talented and serious anchor. I can’t believe how up till now no one knows who is hunting down Lebanon’s most prominent anti-Syria media personalities. Do you really think Syria is killing them? I mean with all what’s going on with the Hariri investigations and stuff, how can Syria go on killing more people? I guess we have to just follow the logic of Lebanese politics: don’t ask who, don’t ask why.

I hope May will return again to LBC’s TV set even with her limbs gone. That would be a perfect defiance to the terrorists.

  Posted by BP at 12:50 am Comments (1)
Sunday, September 25, 2005

My Dream Country

I’d be a very happy person if I lived in a country with the following characteristics:

-The country’s constitution based upon liberal democracy and not just democracy. Besides the ballot box, the constitution should guarantee ultimate personal freedom. No elected entity can undermine this freedom.

-Total freedom of expression, religion, movement, and assembly.

-Complete separation between religion and politics. In other words “Parliament shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.� It can’t be clearer than that. No religion should rule over people.

-Religion exists only in private homes and places of worship.

-Government only recognizes civil courts marriage contracts. It’s not the government’s business if you involved whatever religion in your marriage.

-Students at school study all religions and not just their own. A course called “Religions Education� should be taught. Students should learn about Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddism, and Confucianism. This will broaden the mind of the kid and make him/her more tolerant towards the other creatures sharing this planet.

-Private schools with a religious background (Jesuits, Islamic schools, yeshivas, etc) should incorporate the full curriculum of the state. No government funding goes to those schools.

-Prostitution should be legalized but only in a restricted known area. If prostitution was banned, it will simply appear underground. Tehran has one of the largest prostitution industries in the region and its all under the nose of the Mullahs. No prostitute should appear outside the restricted area.

– No discrimination against homosexuals and lesbians. However, they should forget about getting legally married and adopting kids.

-Abortion to be a criminal offense (1 year in jail). Nobody asked the baby whether it wants to die or not. If you didn’t take the pill or wear a condom then you should bear the consequences of your negligence.

-Economy to be an open economy with minimum government intervention to sustain the poor.

-Graffiti, littering, verbally harassing a female on the street, and drunk driving to be punishable by law.

  Posted by BP at 3:41 pm Comments (0)
Saturday, September 24, 2005

Bias Bias

Look at the headline of the above report by an Associated Press writer. By reading only the headline, you will deduce that mothers of dead soldiers will hold a Cindy Sheehan type of protest. However, if you read the entire piece you’ll discover that there will be 2 protests organized by 2 groups of moms of dead soldiers. One supporting the troops and the other chanting the silly request of “troops return home now”. I know for sure that both groups love the troops and support them but they have different outlooks about what should happen in the future, however, I just don’t understand why couldn’t the AP writer chose another title that refelects the reality of what will happen.

  Posted by BP at 2:03 am Comments (1)
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Virgin Megastores will open up their first store in Cairo. I remember traveling across Europe and envying the people there for having such an awesome music store. I don’t need to feel jealous anymore. I just hope Richard Brandson (one of my favorite business tycoons) will inaugurate the store by himself just as he did with the one in Beirut, Lebanon.

Also Levi’s is making its retail debut in Egypt as well. They’ll be selling original Levi’s jeans. I am not sure if the jeans will be manufactured in Egypt though. I know that Nike Egypt make their cotton wears (t-shirts, etc) in Egypt but not their shoes. It seems that Egyptian workers still didn’t reach the skills of their Asian counterparts as far as manufacturing shoes is concerned. All of Nike’s shoes are made in Asian countries.

Now, I remember as I was buying my CDs from Virgin Megastore in Paris and London, I wished that one day we will be having Virgin in Egypt. It seems that my dreams do come true. I am now dreaming of


and this

Let us wait and see who makes it to Egypt first.

  Posted by BP at 12:37 am Comments (0)
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

First Vincent Then Haider

Another victim of Muqtada al Sadr in Basra. Iraqi journalist working for The New York Times, Fakher Haider, was abducted and gunned down by the radical Shia militias who form up the majority of the “police” in Basra. Most of these militias who literally control Basra right under the nose of the British forces are members of Sadr’s gang. Just like their first victim, American journalist Steven Vincent, Haider also wrote reports to The Times about the infiltration of Shia militias within Basra’s police.

Hariri Taped Assad

French magazine “Intelligence Online” says that Hariri taped Syrian President Bashar Assad using a recorder concealed in a pen. Here is what Assad told him.

  Posted by BP at 4:41 am Comments (1)
Sunday, September 18, 2005

Another insightful OP-ED from Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed. Al-Rashed is an expert in hitting the nail right on its head.

  Posted by BP at 11:20 pm Comments (0)
Saturday, September 17, 2005

Meeting Egypt’s Gays

I’m back from Alexandria. It was awesome. The whether is far cooler around September and most vacationers who flock to Alex and create a mess there have already left.

This trip gave me the opportunity to peek into one of Egypt’s underground communities: the gay community. I’ve always believed that there are zillions of taboos in Egypt yet those same taboos exist powerfully in the secret lives of millions of Egyptians. I know that premarital sex for example is widespread in spite of the wave of religiosity that is apparent in our society. I never thought though that Egypt did have such a well established gay community that includes powerful figures as well as average citizens.

I was having a couple of beers with a friend in a bar. My friend noticed a guy whom he knew and called him over. They started talking and then my friend introduced me to him. When the guy left, he informed me that the guy was gay. My friend is a very sociable and open minded person and so I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t mind knowing a gay person. I don’t have a problem with gay people myself, I mean it’s their life and everyone is free to live it as he/she sees fit.

The guy invited us over to sit at his table. There were 4 other guys sitting. I noticed something very amazing. I always thought that all gay people tend to act “girly” in the way they dress, speak, and even walk. That’s not true. I didn’t notice anything unusual in all the guys around me except for one: the guy next to me was 50% male 50% female! I felt a bit apprehensive sitting there beside him but I began to relax as time went by. However, I still wished to bring a girl at the table just so that no one will suspect me or something!

Wanting to come up with a good post for my blog, I started asking them questions about the gay community in Egypt. I learned that the internet plays a huge role in their communications. It’s the force the drives the community especially since it has to stay underground. They meet up in chat rooms and decide to meet in real life only when they get to know the other person well enough. The community itself is huge and encompasses people from all social levels.

All 5 didn’t “come out” to their parents and that made them lead a double life, one among their gay friends and the other among their parents and colleagues at college or work. One told me that his mother, who constantly asks him about any possible girlfriends, will die of a heart attack if she knew he was gay.

Gays in Egypt have to take maximum care because sometimes the authorities here leave the corrupt businessmen and the criminals and arrest homosexuals instead. “We try to stay close to each other, we don’t usually open up to those we don’t know” I was told.

Amazingly, the guys were well aware of what’s happening around the world. They were aware of the same sex marriage debate that’s going on in the U.S and other countries, and they unanimously expressed their disapproval towards gay marriage and gay foster parents. See, that’s the irony. Religion plays a huge role in the definition of the personality of any Egyptians no matter how observant he/she is. Even though those guys are gay, they know that as far as religion is concerned they are committing a sin, and so legal sex marriage is something that shouldn’t be even considered.

A guy told me he wants to leave Egypt and search for a better future somewhere else. “You can go to San Francisco” I said. “No, I don’t want to go to America. I wish to go to Canada. It is more open especially towards gays” he answered.

  Posted by BP at 2:50 am Comments (0)