Wednesday, May 31, 2006
I had to "break my break" and report this.
Egyptian Christian leaders issued a joined statement on the Davinchi Code movie. Guess who they said was behind the movie? Who??? The Joooooooooooooz. The Christians joined their Muslim brothers in blaming the Joooooooz. Well, at least the two agreed on something. That's a good step forward!
The statement reads: It was clear from the film sequence that it was based on zionist thoughts in an attempt to ridicule religion and its spiritual values. And notice how the film ends with the zionist star. It propagate zionist thoughts.
Now, why would the Christians make such an absurd statement. I have another explanation besides the "always blame the Jew" golden rule of the Middle East. Muslims get excited about anything that messes with Christianity. Christians also get excited about anything that messes with Islam. Unfortunately, that's the way it is here in Egypt. We got so high on the opium to the extent that we're tearing each other faiths. Anti-Christians sermons are preached every week in countless mosques and books attacking the Christian faith are found in almost every newsstands. On the other hand, Christian seized the opportunity that the internet and satellite dishes gave them and they started to not only respond but go on the offensive. Both camps spend so much time and energy to discredit the other while the country is sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss of stupidity and ignorance.
Given the book's main idea, that Jesus was married and the church hid this secret (Islam believes Jesus was a man with no divinity), I believe the statement was directed to Muslims. "The book is bad, your enemies the zionists are behind it, so don't start celebrating," the Christians wanted to say.
Monday, May 29, 2006
I will take a recreational break for 2 weeks. Blogging to resume afterwards.
The AP has an interesting story on Alaa and Egyptian bloggers. The Sandmonkey and Instapundit were interwiewed for this report.
The 24-year-old Abdel-Fattah's blog, which he does with his wife Manal Hassan, has become one of the most popular pro-democracy voices in Egypt. He has continued writing despite being arrested in early May during a street demonstration in Cairo — part of a crackdown on reform activists by Egyptian security forces.
"We covered the walls of our cell with graffiti of our names and slogans and Web site addresses," Abdel-Fattah wrote one time, referring to himself and fellow imprisoned activists. "We chanted and sang and the mood was great."
Read it all.
Danish products are back in Jordan, and guess what, their sales increased by 25%! (h/t The Black Iris)
Smaller outlets have also reintroduced Danish goods to their customers, who “have been showing unusual interest in the products.”
“Some customers were curious about the Danish products. It seems the much talked-about issue had a positive result for some items,” said Ali Futnassi, 42, a cashier at Balqa supermarket near the University of Jordan.
He said sales of the products jumped by almost 25 per cent compared to the period before the ban.
Can't live without Lurpak.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Mohammed el Sharqawi has sent a testimony on his arrest and torture.
Inside the police station, it was different. The beatings targeted places in particular, which showed more professionalism in practicing torture and sadism.
The started repeating one sentence, “What the fuck brought you today?” Then, they hit me in several places on my body, till someone ordered them, “take his pants off.” They unbuttoned my trousers quickly, while he shouted “you are a fag, wearing colored underwear.” Inside, I wanted to laugh, but the injuries my face sustained and the blindfold they had on my eyes prevented my facial expressions. After that, he started rubbing my left testicle, I think, with great pleasure. The pain was terrible. He kept on doing it for three minutes, during which I was screaming asking him to stop so that I can catch my breath. He took down my underwear, and tore it to pieces, and kept on hitting me on different parts of my body asking me to bend down. I refused, but they forced me. Then, this man, the one with the angry rough voice, inserted a paper in my anus. They kept doing their job, beating me, till I heard him say, “Lift his trousers up. May God curse he who looks, and he who’s being looked at.” I couldn’t help but appreciate so much the faith this man might have had sometime.
Read the entire letter here. The Arabic version is here.
The sexual abuse of political activists by Egypt police was reported by the foreign media.
Egyptian police allegedly tortured two protesters — sexually assaulting one of them — after a peaceful demonstration in support of pro-reform judges, a lawyer and an opposition group said Friday.
Activist Mohammed el-Sharkawi, 24, was sodomized "using a rolled up piece of cardboard for nearly 15 minutes," his lawyer Gamal Eid told The Associated Press.
"Almost all of el-Sharkawi's body is bruised, swollen, or cut," Eid said. "I haven't seen such brutality and sadism since 1995," he added, referring to a period when the state mounted a crackdown on Islamic militants.
Yet notice something. Alaa and the others are still in prison, albeit the few who were released last week. That means that the Egyptian regime doesn't care about international presure anymore.
I remember a couple of years ago the Egyptian government used to get really pissed off from an article or two in the Washington Post or the New York Times.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Iraqi blogger Omar tells us something refreshing about Kurdistan.
This story from Radio Sawa brought some encouraging news about the state of freedom of faith in Kurdistan where hundreds of people have recently converted from Islam to to Christianity without facing the threat of being persecuted.
Of course it doesn't matter much if they converted to Judaism or Buddhism instead of Christianity or even the other way around; one's faith is one's choice and what we should care about is to see people practice this right without fear from being punished.
The report quotes an interesting statement of the PM of Kurdistan Nejervan Barzani (a Muslim himslef) who commented on the news by saying "I'd rather see a Muslim become Christian than to see him become a radical Muslim…"
A hat tip for the Kurds.
See ladies and gentlemen, that what happens when you adopt secularism and Kurds are probably one of the most secular people in the region. May God bless secularism. Amen.
Homosexuals who were arrested by the police a few years ago were subject to horrendous sexual abuse. Here is a Human Rights Watch account of what happened.
It seems that the police are doing the same thing to political activists. This is a report from Kifaya website detailing how young activists, Mohammed El-Sharkawi and Karim El-Shaer, were sexually abused at the police station.
State Security officers sodomized Mohammed El-Sharkawi, a young activist, using rolled cartoon paper for nearly 15 minutes. They tore his underwear and threatened to rape him. This came as part of the horrid torture festival that Karim Al-Shae'r, another activist, was exposed to in Kasr El Nil Police Station
Before the prosecutor, El-Shrakawi and Al-Sha'er insisted that the torture that they have been exposed to should be registered in the interrogation files. They refused to make any statements until they are put before a delegated investigative judge. They demanded that they are sent to the forensic department. Until 1:00 a.m. the prosecutor continued to interrogate them, to decided, at the end, to detain the two activists for 15 days. They are accused of violating emergency law codes that prohibits more than five persons assembling. The prosecutor ordered that they are sent to the forensic department, if possible. This means that we will have to wait until Saturday at the least.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Lebanese gays and lesbians held an unprecedented conference in Beirut. They also had a "gay pride" march. So now Lebanon and Israel are the Middle East's only countries to witness such events.
The press conference part of a three-day event organised by Helem to coincide with International Day Against Homophobia, which marks the day in May 1990 on which the World Health Organisation took homosexuality off its list of mental disorders.
It took a lot of courage for gays and lesbian people to attend the event as it made their sexual orientation public in a country where homosexuality is still considered illegal.
Most of those attending the event did not want to have their picture taken.
I have been struggling with responding to the issue of homosexuality. I reached a conclusion. Do whatever you want, live with whomever you want, make out in the streets, but legalizing gay marriage no.
Well, what constitute marriage? someone might ask. Isn't it the union of 2 people who love each other and harm nobody? Yes it is rightly so. But doesn't that include a brother and a sister as well?
Hanan Turk (pic above), a well known Egyptian actress, announced that she will start wearing the head cover (wrongly known as Hijab*). However, she declared that she won't quit acting and will star in movies with the head cover on. Turk joined a long list of Egyptian stars who listened to a preacher and ended up covering their hair and in almost all cases quiting acting or singing.
"We're running out of actresses," that was what I said when I read the news of Hanan's decision.
Hanan Turk's decision came right after another popular actresses, Hala Sheha (pic above), also donned the head cover right before she got married.
What makes Hanan and Hala's cases remarkable is that they were at the top of their acting careers when they decided to "make God happy" and cover their hair. There is a long list of former movie stars and singers who also made this decision. But these were old with no future ahead. Hanan and Hala are young, beautiful, and two of Egypt's leading movie stars in the time being.
I believe the case of these two actresses mirror what my country is currently going through. A fake wave of religiosity that is killing everything beautiful we once had. A wave that I am sure is predestined to subside because of a reason I will state in while.
Frequent readers of this blog know that I am totally against the head cover. I am not against the ladies who decide to wear it. I believe a person with this cover on could rule the world if she was given the chance. I am against it as a concept, as an idea. I have 3 reasons. First, the idea that God will punish or decrease the "good points" of a lady just because she met him with uncovered hair is stupid and dumb. Second, the hair covering started 30 years ago with the rise of political Islam. The true "hijab" that Egyptian women rights activists were fighting at the beginning of this century covered the whole body and not just the hair. The current "hijab" is a compromise that political Islamists considered to be their own political statement. Sadly, it evolved from being their political statement to a measure of how faithful a girl is to her religion. Third, I believe the concept of covering hair is not substantiated enough from the religious texts. I will discuss that in a future post.
Several people accuse me of wanting Egyptians to stop being religious so I would have my dream country. This is far from the truth. All what I am against is this current form of religiosity that places so much importance on outer appearances and neglects everything that has to do with the core inner values. Today, mosques are full during prayers, the vast majority of girls cover their hair, and churches are full on Sunday. My question is: did this make us better people? No it didn't. Crime is rising, corruption is skyrocketing, sectarian strive is eating the national social fabric, and a girl can't enjoy the simple right of walking the streets wearing something she chose to wear without getting verbally harrassed due to the sexual frustration that this type of religiosity has inflicted upon the youth. So, no, this religiosity has not made us better people. As far as I am concerned, it made us more stupid.
I am not hopeless though. This wave of religiosity has reasons. Among them the current deterioration of the economy, the failure of our successive secular regimes to deliver, the insecurity that Muslims are feeling, the absence of reformists, and the fact that Islam didn't reform yet. What we're in will die out if these reasons ended one way or another.
Nevertheless, there is another thing that gives me a glimpse of hope which is the fact of who we are as Egyptians. Egypt is not Saudi, it is not Afghanistan, our ancestors founded a civilization that dates back 7000 years ago and continues to baffle the world. We gave birth to legends such as Um kalthoum and Faten Hammama. Egypt was always the region's hub of all arts known to mankind. One day we will shake ourselves of what we're in regardless of what will make us do so. I just hope I'll be around when that happens.
*Hijab in Arabic means a "something that seperates", "barrier." A curtain, a door, and a paravan that seperates men and women are hijabs. In the Quran, the word was never used to refer to an article of clothing that women should wear. So if you want to wear a hijab, you should either wear the Taliban burqa or put a paravan in your house that blocks people from seeing you.