Miss Mabrouk of Egypt

Check the archives too - a lot of good stuff to enjoy. Me myself? Off to new adventures in the blogosphere, if time permits.

Monday, October 31, 2005

What's Inside Your Chicken?

I knew I shouldn't have read this but I did and now I'm not sure I ever want to eat chicken again unless I'm in a village and I can see for myself that those chickens are not like the ones I just read about.

South Africa Turns the Screw on Mugabe

South Africa has refused to give a $1 billion bailout unless conditions aimed at restoring democratic government are met. China, which has provided buses, passenger planes and fighter jets in the past year, gave only $30m after it received warning telephone calls from the presidents of Nigeria and South Africa.
Quoted by Judith who says: This is almost too good to be true. Is it possible that South Africa and Nigeria are willing to play the role of responsible adults on that continent?

Should Saddam Be Executed?

Perphaps sentenced according to Islamic law? If exceptions to the sancity of life could be made, Saddam and Hitler would top my list. But since lives are sacred I can't argue for his death although I really whish he would just dissapear from earth. But Islamic scholar Imam Khaleel Mohammed says he should die (there's even graphic art):
I do not accept that if Saddam is found guilty, he should not be sentenced to death. Far from setting a good example, such a decision would send a disastrously wrong message, and would feed, once more, conspiracy theories. We would hear that the Americans used their influence to save Saddam, for murky or obscure reasons, and that the trial was a sham.

And let us face yet one more fact: Saddam, as he appeared the last time we saw him on 60 Minutes, has morphed into a devout Muslim, even interrupting an interview to complete prayer. Surely, as a sign of respect (albeit undeserved), we can allow that he be given a trial according to Islamic standards!

Psst! Al-Qaeda, Look Here

The bacteria lie dormant, freeze-dried in sealed ampules, in a refrigerator on a teeming university campus beside the Nile. They're among Earth's most common germs -- clostridia perfringens, a cause of food poisoning, a specimen for research. But this pathogen can also be a weapon: Iraqi scientists worked for years to mobilize this "Agent G" for Saddam Hussein's wars.

In an America nervous over bioterrorism … demanding registrations, reporting, background checks on scientists. Egypt, in a region roiled by terrorism, has no such laws.

…the bacteria at Ain Shams University are kept in a locked refrigerator, accessible by one authorized technician, in a laboratory protected by foolproof electronic keys, said Nabil Magdoub, microbe collection director.

"We have to be alert," he said, but not "unreasonable."

Can billions of dollars build biodefenses?

Al-Qaeda to Kill Omar Sherif

And Lawrence is no longer around to rescue him. Anyway, Al-Qaedaism is going too nutty. Not that Sherif has been very popular in the Arab world after he snogged a Jewish woman, Barbara Streisand, in 1968 when memories of the six-day war with Israel was fresh in Arab minds – his movies were banned in Egypt as a result – but threatening to kill him is going a couple of steps too far.

I blogged Sherif’s come back yesterday and mentioned that one of his recent roles was that of Moses father in law, Jethro. That alone is not cause for a death-fatwa since Moses is one of the many thousand minor prophet’s that paved the way for the major Prophet (insert blessing). Playing St Peter is, apparently:

A message on a web forum used in the past by al-Qaida had a link to a site carrying the threat.

"Omar Sharif has stated that he has embraced the crusader idolatry," it said. "He is a crusader who is offending Islam and Muslims and receiving applause from the Italian people. I give you this advice, brothers, you must kill him."

Says the Guardian: “the 73-year old actor, a convert to Islam, said he had "seemed to hear voices" during the filming of St Peter, a two-part mini-series shown last week."

Sherif: "Playing Peter was so important for me that even now I can only speak about it with difficulty. It will be difficult for me to play other roles from now on."

I wonder what it is like to be a young Al-Qaedaist and think that the only cool thing you can do is to tell other people to go out and kill those you don't agree with? I imagine it must be an internal hell. God knows what other issues they're dealing with. Let's pray for them too.

Gamal Launches Battle of Mubaraks

Our President Jr. stole the show when the National Democratic Party kicked off its election campaing this weekend. AFP was there: "Party apparatchiks filled the front rows, backed by some 2,000 supporters -- most of them bused from the various constituencies -- singing the praises of their leaders." Further:

"Gamal Mubarak was given the role of a modern politician glowing with composure and self-confidence. His various pledges for more housing and better sanitation were interrupted by cries of "Youth and workers, we all love you Gamal"."

"The political speech was allocated to NDP secretary general Safwat al-Sherif, who symbolises the regime's old guard." Guess what he said?

"Egypt's judiciary will not allow one single corrupt man to remain free."

Remind, me please; Who is the biggest thief of them all?

Toward a Virtual Caliphate

Al-Qaeda is not the only game in town in terms of the transnational forces competing for Muslim hearts and minds, Peter Mandaville says in Yale Global Online. He is pointing to an emerging infrastructure on the internet and satellite television (among other channels) with Islamic scholars that is challenging al-Qaeda's global rhetoric, but like Al-Qaeda is also seeking to establish a transnational religious polity in the empty space created by waning nation-states under globalization. Perhaps most interesting and least noticed, he says, is

a diverse body of "superstar" religious scholars whose efforts might serve as a more metaphorical embodiment of the caliphate. For this group, the caliphate is not so much a political institution attached to sovereign territory, but rather an ideal of pan-Islamic ecumenicism – a moderate and relatively inclusive form of lowest-common-denominator orthodoxy.

In their minds, this community of shared knowledge and religious interpretation is explicitly designed as an antidote to bin Laden and the radical jihadis. Given the means of its establishment and propagation, such a tendency might perhaps best be thought of as a "virtual caliphate.

At the forefront of this movement is the Qatar-based Egyptian Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Mandeville is warning that “the worst thing the West could do is to cast figures such as Qaradawi as part of the problem simply because his views don't precisely correspond with US goals.” – E.g. he is not one of the ‘good Muslims.’

Well, he is in exile, as good as dead if he ever returns to Egypt. Although he is a moderate by regional standards, he is not exactly the kind of sheikh you would like your children to meet. A few of his opinions:

1) The Israelis might have nuclear bombs but we have the children bomb and these human bombs must continue until liberation.

2) It is not suicide; it is martyrdom in the name of God.

3) By Islamic law… the blood and property of people of … non-Muslims (are) not protected.

Manderville is aware of his radical standing but “…one has to wonder whether US goals and those of the emergent "virtual caliphate" might not overlap more than they diverge. After all, a vote for Qaradawi is a vote against Zarqawi. Furhter:

While increased recruitment into the Qaradawi camp will not by any means produce a generation of Muslims favorably predisposed to US foreign policy, it will represent a consolidated, critical mass of influential and respected Muslims with whom meaningful dialogue with the hope of tangible progress can take place.

So out of two evils, take the least evil? Perhaps that would be a strategy if you have no other options. Fortunately, there are plenty of learned Muslims “with whom meaningful dialogue with the hope of tangible progress can take place.” The problem is that Qaradawi is taking too much space, not that he is the only one you can speak too. He should be met in the door, not allowed inside until you find more suitable company. Then again, via the telly and the PC, he is already a popular guest in many Muslims’ living rooms.

Link to the article. h/t: Aardvark

Al-Jazeera Not Popular in Iraq

Iraqi’s are turning to Al Arabiya for their daily news feeds. A new survey holds that the Dubai based channel captures 41 percent of the satellite TV viewers; almost as many as the local Al Iraqiya news channel. Al-Jazeera on the other hand only ranked number six. Aarkvard says Al-Jaz “has struggled with an official governmental ban, many Iraqis dislike al-Jazeera because they don't like its coverage or resent its allegedly pro-Saddam coverage before (and after) the war.” He also notes that the US government sponsored Al-Hurra doesn’t appear at all in the survey.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Liberal Larry: So Wrong, So Good

Liberal Larry does it again. I can't hold back any longer; I just have to give you this excerpt:

Bush Drowns Three Children in San Francisco -- When I heard last week that a San Francisco woman had been arrested for throwing her three children off a pier and watching them drown, my first instinct was to jump out of my bean bag chair and cry "What Ever Happened to a Woman's Right to Choose?"

2000! -- Two thousand soldiers killed for a lie. Two thousand lives destroyed in an illegal and immoral war waged without cause, reason, nor France's blessing. Two thousand young men and women who will never experience a consensual relationship with a member of the same gender, nor enjoy their Constitutional right to choose.

Then there's the one that is more wrong than the other: Troops Still Insensitive to Religion of Peace

Egypt Speaks Up About Iran's Blunder

Egypt's foreign minister became the first Arab government official to break the silence on Iran's anti-Israeli remarks. Amed Abul Gheit said the disappearance of a United Nations member state was never seen in history.

Perhaps it is two strikes in one move: I suppose we could say he is distancing Egypt from the call by Iran's president for Israel to be wiped off the map as much as from our own late president Nasser's call for Israel to be pushed into the sea in the sixties. Egypt was the first country to make peace with Israel in 1979.

Mujahedeen Cyber-Cemetery

Hero Worship: They were once medical students, fathers or businessmen who took their own lives -- as suicide bombers in Iraq. Their obituaries, which can be read on the Internet, are documents of men who were blinded by their deadly version of faith... from Spiegel Online.

Omar Sherif: We will Never See Democracy

The first news is that Peter O’Toole’s legendary co-star in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ is not dead yet. Sherif, now 73, says he has been staying away from the international screens after his grand-children were teasing him for appearing in so many bad movies. – He did it for the money; his obsession with bridge-playing led to huge debts.

Now, Sherif is acting in a television play called ‘The Ten Commandments.’ His character is Moses’ father in-law, Jethro. Shooting the series takes him back to Ouarzazate, where part of "Lawrence of Arabia" was filmed more than 40 years ago.

Fast forward to what he has to say about politics:
"I don't find any terrible fault in the political situation in Egypt." The problems, he says, are poverty, ignorance and overpopulation.

“There will never be democracy in the Arab world, because we are tribal people. We are not nations."

"Egyptians are used to having a pharaoh ... People are ignorant. They like to look up to someone .... They look up to God. They look up to the saints."

Threesomes – Halal or Haram?

Does Islam permit threesomes? ‘Aqoul members are throwing their cents into the ever growing fatwa haven. Neither of the participants could recall any explicit ban on threesomes in the Qur’an or Hadith. Then again, they’re not scraggy-bearded Islamic scholars. And it’s not exactly the question you raise in your local mosque. Hints to an answer come from a question posted at Islam On Line’s fatwa generator:
A person is married to two wives. He wants to have sex with both of them together in the same bed as a threesome. Is it haram to do so if the wives are willing to do it? Thanks!

Having deconstructed the question and tackled the major problems, such as rules holding that no women should see another woman’s private area, ‘Aqoul is concluding:
So, if the threesome is in the dark where the women cannot see each other’s awrah and there is no discussion afterwards, then surely the husband is only fulfilling his duty to treat both wives equally and thus justify his decision for taking another wife in the first place.

Fewer Maids Run Away this Ramadan

Qatar's leading English Daily have the impressive headline about a falling number of runaway maids - obviously a national concern. With only four days left of Ramadan, not more than 30 Indonesian household helpers have escaped their masters. Maids are known to complain about overwork and harassment, as well as lack of sleep. Last year, some 150 girls went home without their sponsors' approval. So what are the Qatari's doing better this year? Improved working conditions? Lesser hours? Maid-Unions? Not quite; recently introduced recruitment rules is making it more difficult to get them into the country in the first place. "“It is extremely difficult to recruit an Indonesian maid after the new regulations were put in place recently and that explains why there is a drop in runaway cases,” officials said. Tough life. Big News.

Update: Filipino guest workers who had converted to Islam while working in the Middle East are an emerging threat, Australian counter-terrorism official says. Jihadi Maids? Watch out for the exploding broom.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Dwarf Mummy Unearthed

Would you believe that this 25 cm kid was 12 - 16 years old when he (she?) died 1,000 years ago? The mummy was found in Iran by illegal excavators this summer; the police recently recovered it in a sting operation, posing as potential customers.

Tips for Dodging Terrorists

Terrorist or just a poor driver? In Baghdad, it’s not always easy to know. Thank God for the anti-jihadi driving school!
At an anti-terrorist driving school, I learned how to ram out of the way a vehicle being used as a roadblock. Clearing a blocking car isn't difficult (more later). Instead, the challenge is to distinguish between poor driving and a terrorist attack."Iraqis are terrible drivers," the instructor said (sensitivity was not his specialty).

"It's extremely difficult to tell a bad driver from a terrorist." The instructor also said that after Baghdad fell, a lot of bad Iraqi drivers were wrecked. These were simple, innocent Iraqis — just bad drivers whose actions were misconstrued as threatening.

Welcome, Little Green Football Players

I am Ritzy Mabrouk and it is my pleasure to have you here. A customary introduction: do look around; any LGF reader is a friend and should feel at home. Geopolitically speaking, we are in the middle of where east meets west. Making sense of that meeting is mostly what this site is about. Head for the archives or use the Technorati search box in the side bar – either way I hope you will find that we are also having a lot of fun.

PS: here is my site feed and here is a quick link if you want to bookmark me at Del.icio.us or put me on your Blogrolling blogroll or Technorati Watchlist.

Update: Naturally, my welcome is extended to The Anchoress' readers, it is an honour to meet you.

KSA to Execute 14 Year Old Egyptian Boy

A 14-year-old Egyptian boy faces execution in Saudi Arabia after a flawed trial in which he was convicted for the murder of another child, Human Rights Watch says.

Neither the Saudi nor Egyptian government has responded to letters on the case that Human Rights Watch sent several weeks ago.

Ahmad al-D. was sentenced to death in July for the murder of three-year old Wala Adil Abd al-Badi in the city of Dammam in April 2004. The families of both children are Egyptian nationals living in Saudi Arabia. Wala’s parents have refused to accept blood money from Ahmad’s family. Ahmad remains on death row.

Saudi Arabia has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits capital punishment for offences committed by individuals under 18.

Saudi Arabia stated in its 2004 report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child that the “Islamic Shariah in force in the Kingdom never imposes capital punishment on persons who have not attained their majority.”

Sentence Based on Pubic Hair

The Saudi authorities violated Ahmad’s due process rights and well as international legal protections for children at every stage of the investigation, detention, trial and sentencing. He had no legal assistance or representation. Press and police accounts throw into question his psychological stability during this period and his ability to participate in his own defence.

Ahmad told the Saudi online newspaper al-Yaum al-Elektroni that he confessed only after police questioned him for the third time because “my strength dwindled and I lacked the capacity to refuse.” He said that while in pre-trial solitary confinement for three months he “cried from fear and loneliness.”

Although he was only 13 at the time of the murder, the court tried and sentenced Ahmad as an adult, based on its assessment of the coarseness of his voice and the appearance of pubic hair.

Children can benefit from adult provisions, such as the right to work where it is not hazardous or does not interfere with their right to education, but they may not be used to deny individuals under 18 rights guaranteed to them in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The court also reportedly refused his family’s request for a psychological exam that could have helped to establish diminished legal culpability, despite press accounts and statements by Saudi officials that point to a deeply troubled child in need of care and rehabilitation rather than an adult who is fully responsible for his actions.

No Help from Egypt

The Egyptian consulate reportedly has made little effort to protect Ahmad’s due process rights or to intercede with Wala’s family in Saudi Arabia, although both families are Egyptian.

In a letter to the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Human Rights Watch on September 22 urged the foreign minister to make a formal request that King Abdullah commute the death sentence. The letter also urged Egyptian consular officials to visit Ahmad regularly during his detention to monitor his well-being and ensure that his rights are protected. Consular officials should also assist settlement talks between the families and, should facilitate a diya – blood money - or other settlement. Egypt has not replied to the letter.

On September 22, Human Rights Watch wrote to King Abdullah urging him to commute Ahmad’s sentence to a punishment consistent with his age and culpability and to state publicly that Saudi Arabia does not impose the death penalty for offences committed by persons under 18 at the time of the crime. The KSA has not replied to the letter.

Link to Human Rights Watch. Hat-tip: Sabbah

Next time a foreign politician or TV-presenter slips and imply that this is not the ‘civilized world’ and the honourable Amr Moussa or Hosni Mubarak freaks out on live TV that this is where civilization began and no one should come and teach us about ‘their’ values of Human Rights, remember this story and the support they didn’t’ give this boy who is on death row in a country who didn’t bother to follow its own laws or give him a fair trial.

And by all means, write to Robert Fisk and ask how he will incorporate this in his rants about how the west has no moral authority to lecture Arabs about Human Rights. Write also to the family of the dead 3-year old and offer your condolences and ask what good they think they are doing by not accepting blood money and have Ahmad killed. Did they ask themselves that, what good they are doing? Or is it just about the dark desire of revenge? Did not God teach us otherwise? How can they choose to live in a country that is claiming to be the closest to a home on the earth that God has and at the same time so profoundly overlook what God and the Prophet (insert blessing) have told them?

The HRW made the letters to KSA and Egypt public a few days ahead of the Eid holy-days. Will the King and the President meet the challenge? Will the religious community demand that they step in to save his life? If not, what does it make them? Just asking.

Saddam Accepted Exile Plan to Avert War

A quick search pulls out the articles from 2003 where Powell, Bush and many others are urging Saddam to leave Iraq to avoid the invasion. Apparently, that is what he wanted. Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, said no.
Deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had secretly accepted a last-minute plan to go into exile to avert the 2003 Iraq war, but Arab leaders shot the proposal down, Al Arabiya television reported on Friday.

UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan made the proposal for Saddam to go into exile at an emergency Arab summit just weeks before the U.S.-led war began in March 2003.

But the 22-member Arab League, led by Secretary-General Amr Moussa, refused to consider the initiative.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak says in the documentary that the United States had signaled its support for the proposal.

Can Nations, Regimes, be Evil?

As the world is flabbergasted by the Iranian President’s remark that amounts to nothing less than a desire to exterminate millions of people, the question if a nation and regime can be evil keeps beating my mind. An evil ‘nation’ would include the country’s entire population, which sounds like nonsense; people go on with their daily life and cannot be blamed for their oppressive governments. Yet, millions are supporting the regime and others are quietly standing by, allowing their country to slip further down the dangerous path. Are they excluded from moral obligations? If so, how can we say they are part of the nation? If individuals are not responsible for the way the collective is heading, what make those individual different from the hens, sheep and donkeys that occupy the same land? We can’t say that Germany’s entire population was evil during the Second World War. Yet, something was obviously missing in the collective psyche. If we turn the question around one more time, the Iranian President and many with him have not spared any efforts since 1979 to brand the Israeli nation and leadership as evil. Not worthy of existence. Ought to be wiped off the map. How can we convince them that it is not true? That they are two nations who have no other choice than to learn to co-exist? The Israeli government will obviously conclude that it is not possible; the best we can hope for is to keep Iran’s regime within the boundaries. When they cross, the Israelis will hit. Another war. And we will ask: Why? Was there no other possibilities?

Less doomsday-ish: Judith has noted two comments from my neighbors in the blogsphere, first SM and then Jeffrey:

And what's funny is that Iranian political envoys are being summoned by European governments and asked for an explanation for A.J.'s remarks. Which makes me wonder: which part of "Israel should be wiped out" did you not get exactly? That wasn't clear enough for you? Dude, it was said in a conference called "A world without Zionism". Ehh...Hello.....anybody home? Which part needs further explaining to you? Oh god, why does Europe have to be so retarded?

As support for this claim, consider, if you will, wise Sandmonkey's ripping commentary on Ahmadinejad's recent injunction that the Israelis ought to be "wiped off the map,", which is surely reminiscent of Nasser's blustering "pushed into the sea" prediction back in the sixties that blew up in his face – literally (*cough*1967*cough*).

Quote for the Day

Life is like a festival. Just as some come to the festival to compete, and some to ply their trade, while the best come as spectators, so in life the slavish men go hunting for fame, or gain, but the philosophers, for truth.
- Diogenes Laertius, The Life of Pythagoras. via Andrew

Friday, October 28, 2005

Egypt and the Oil for Food Scandal

Among the 2,200 companies that allegedly made illicit payments to Iraq is Egypt's Holding Company for Food Industries, which according to the report paid $30,5 million in kickbacks.

Most of the contracts went to Russian and French companies and individuals, who were rewarded for their governments' outspoken opposition to the sanctions. Still, even firms in countries supportive of the sanctions, such as the United States, found ways to manipulate the system illegally — sometimes by using Russian firms as middlemen.

The report strongly criticizes the U.N. Secretariat and Security Council for failing to monitor the program and allowing the emergence of front companies and international trading concerns prepared to make illegal payments.

The report cleared former U.N. Secretary-General, Egyptian Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who headed the world body when the oil-for-food program was launched, of accepting bribes.

Among the individuals targeted in the report, investigators found that Jean-Bernard Merrimee, France's former U.N. ambassador, received $165,725 in commissions from oil allocations awarded to him by the Iraqi regime. He is now under investigation in France.

Other "political beneficiaries" included British lawmaker George Galloway; Roberto Formigoni, the president of the Lombardi region in Italy; and the Rev. Jean-Marie Benjamin, a priest who once worked as an assistant to the Vatican secretary of state and opposed Iraqi sanctions.

The Gamers Are Revolting

This student resistance leader helped remove former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic from power. Now, he is working on a game that teaches players the strategy of non-violent conflicts. That is something for a toppled dictator to write about in his memoirs: "I held the country for decades, then computer gamers kicked me out." Arabization franchise, anyone? Start with Syrian Arabic.

America's Best Leaders

Con dolcezza, in Italian, means "with sweetness," a musical reference. This article says Rice, "a classically trained pianist, can indeed show a touch of southern charm in her meetings with foreign leaders." But she can also be tough:
(she) ...physically blocked burly Russian leader Boris Yeltsin from barging in on then President George H. W. Bush without an appointment.

Some things she did and I love her for doing it:
A devout Christian, she attended church services in Beijing, a not-so-veiled statement for religious freedom in the Communist country. And after the arrest of a democracy activist in Egypt, she canceled an expected visit. When she did travel to Egypt, Rice met with the activist and delivered perhaps the sternest public lecture ever by a visiting American diplomat on the need for Egypt to move toward full democracy.

And because she is so disciplined:
Rice awakens most mornings at 4:30 a.m., a legacy of her youth as a competitive figure skater, when she rose early to practice at the ice rink. Rice began her piano lessons at age 3 and still plays for pleasure, sometimes for a couple of hours on Sundays in her Watergate apartment. Brahms and Mozart are favorites. So is pro football, a personal passion for Rice, who also plays tennis.

Rice starts her days with an hour of exercise, then goes to the office by 7 a.m. She often takes her lunch at her desk on the seventh floor of State. A speed-reader, she has immersed herself in the details of the department's budget. Rice chairs staff meetings after 8 a.m. and again to wrap up the day at 6 p.m.

Naguib Mahfouz: Unity in action

Al-Ahram Weekly is using archived quotes by Nobel Litterature Laurate Naguib Mahfouz every week. This time, a very timely topic.
Every society in the world has a core of beliefs that defines its way of life. For Egypt one such premise was national unity. My generation stuck together. We didn't think of ourselves as Muslims and Copts but as Egyptians. And this was at a time when the British were still in Egypt and political strife was a daily phenomenon. In his memoirs Lord Cromer said the only difference between a Muslim and a Christian in Egypt is that one goes to a mosque and the other to a church. Aside from that they live the same way, observe the same traditions and share the same language and culture.

It was only by chance we would know the religion of a friend. No one asked and no one paid much attention. I discovered that one of my closest friends was Christian only when his father died and I was told that he would be available for condolences at the church.

In my time the cabinet included 12 ministers among which it was customary to have at least two Copts. Wissa Wassef, a Copt, was parliamentary speaker for many years. When prime minister Ismail Sidqi, a Muslim, disbanded parliament Wassef attacked him fiercely and was hailed as a national hero for doing so.

The Basilica Church Vigil Oct. 30, at 6:30 PM

Karim and other bloggers are calling for a vigil at the above time and location to display Egypt's religious interconnection. Says Karim: "Let us grasp the opportunity of the last few days of Ramadan to make this display of affection for each other."

Welcome Back, Mohamed Jihadi

Mohamed Abouhalima is back in Egypt, deported from the U.S. where he was staying eight years in jail for his involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing that killed six and injured more than 1,000 people.

He didn't actually blow the bomb. His brother, Mahmoud did. Mohamed was convicted for driving Mahmoud to the airport, knowing he was responsbile for the attack and was escaping to Saudi Arabia. Link.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Comeback Kid

Cairo Magazine has an interview with controversial editor Ibrahim Eissa.

The difference betweent the old and new al-Dustour:
In 1995, we had only one colleague who knew how to navigate the web, and we used to say “Wow!” and look at him like he was a space alien.

The real reasons behind the suspension of al-Dustour in 1998:
I believe there were 120 reasons, 119 of which we know nothing about.

...we never eulogized Mubarak and ... we urged other papers to do the same. We released 116 editions in the first era, none of which contained Mubarak’s photo on the first page. Nor did we congratulate him on any occasion.

The current state of the Egyptian press:
The Egyptian press is gradually collapsing. It’s like a person putting a barrel in his mouth. It’s still confining itself within the boundaries of what officials say. Due to the lack of sources, it doesn’t depend on accurate data or provide informative articles. So papers turn into producers of official statements and fake news. Many journalists have turned into salespeople, just selling ads. Most opposition party papers are like political newsletters.

The future:
The Egyptian people have been hiding their true feelings toward the pharaoh for 7,000 years. There is a space of awareness that’s opened lately. But I’m still not that optimistic. What has been steadily ruined over the past 52 years can’t be fixed in a year or two.

Link. h/t: Abu Aardvark

Coptic Christians Fear Ethnic Cleansing

“Extremist Muslim groups are planning to surround the Alexandria churches again on Friday, Oct.28, and at the end of Ramadan on the following Tuesday, promising the death of Christians and the continued destruction of churches throughout Egypt."

The warning is issued by the International Christian Union (ICU) and American Coptic Association (ACA). They are calling on the U.S. Government and the United Nations to take immediate action to stop the bloodshed and destruction of churches.

Dr. Monir Dawoud, president of the ICU/ACA, faults the security forces for encouraging violence by first "giving the green light to the mob," and then failing to control the resulting riots. "If the momentum of the riots is allowed to continue, the crowds will be impossible to contain," Dawoud said.

Kill the Pope

It is also reported that the newspaper El Fagr has published threats made by Muslim radicals against the Coptic Pope Shenouda III. According to this report, Muslim radicals publicly announced their threats through mosques in the outskirts of the city of Alexandria and were calling for the death of the Pope in revenge for an alleged insult to Islam's prophet.

A website called “My Christian Blood” that the ICU/ACA are referring to says El-Fagr has confirmed that Islamic fanatics have released a fatwa that killing Pope Shenouda is Halal - "ok by religion". It says “the fanatic extremist newspaper claimed that they are going to have a massacre for all Christians, priests, and pastors. They started putting signs and marks on some Christians, priests, and pastor's houses.” The web site then cries out for help ‘before another Rwanda ethnic cleansing happens.”

The banner displays pictures with the caption “1 Nun, 8 Churches, 100’s of Property is attacked by 1,000’s of Muslims.” “Exclusive videos” claim to show destroyed churches and burned Bibles.

Question: is this heated language going to improve the situation? Did not Pope Shenouda call for reason just a few days ago?

Previous posts: The Other Side of the Coin; So Far Today, Only Verbal Attacks; Church: Riot is Connected to Elections; Empty Words from Sheikh Tantawi; Alexandria, Yesterday and Today; St.Gergis: Three Killed, Dozens Wounded; St. Gergis: Student Stabs Nun; Alexandria on Sectarian Fire; I was Blind but Now I can See. Technorati Search “Coptic” on this site.

Flatter, All the Way

Since Mr. Ghost went through all the trouble of making an In T View and some interesting graphics to go with it, I'm obliged to share the URL: You Love Her, You Read Her, You Want To Know More About Her: It's The In T View: Ritzy Mabrouk. The Ghost, of course, is the same Ghost who is haunting our favorite Iraqi Bloggers Central.

Java Sea Reveals Lost Treasures

In Jakarta, divers have recovered 250,000 artefacts over the last 18 months. Among the treasures that was hidden by the sea for more than 1,000 years are brightly coloured glassware from the Fatimid dynasty.

Holiday From Hell In Egypt

A group of holiday makers are demanding compensation for a trip to Egypt that included a stay at the five star SAS-Radisson in Taaba Heights and gastric illness. It is all too common. This country would double its income from tourists if it got rid of its 'revenge of the Pharaohs' reputation. But when the number of arrivals are growing steadily with five percent a year and all hotels are fully booked during high-season, why would anybody care? Would a five star hotel even consider offering compensation on the spot? Of course not, it is not 'their' guests - all issues should be handled by the tour operator. I call for a branch organization that voluntary work to clean up Egypt. If those who are cashing in most on the business can work actively together to make their business more friendly to the environment, they can also work together to make it safer for the tourists. They would be able to set standards. Like: All restaurant staff need access to hot water in the bathroom. (You didn't really think they have that, did you?). They could control temperatures in refrigerators and teach chefs not to put warm food in a cool fridge. Stuff like that. All to make us and our guests more happy.

Is Religion Good for You?

An MIT economist thinks so and has published his research. h/t: andrew

In Malaysia, Non-Muslims Must Wear Scarves at university campuses. Is religion good for them too?

Or for the battered women who no longer has the full protection of the police who are now being advised to treat Muslim domestic violence cases differently out of respect for Islamic traditions and habits?

A Kurdish Vision of Iraq

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, is writing in Washington Post.
In recent weeks Iraq has passed three important milestones. The constitutional referendum on Oct. 15 was a powerful demonstration of Iraqis' desire to establish democracy and save a country still recovering from its disastrous history. Two days later the remains of 500 of my kinsmen were returned from a mass grave in southern Iraq for reburial in Iraqi Kurdistan. Another 7,500 of my kin are still missing after "disappearing" from a Baathist concentration camp in 1983 in the first phase of the genocidal Anfal campaign, which caused the death of 182,000 Kurdish civilians during the 1980s. Then, on Oct. 19, Saddam Hussein finally went on trial.

None of this would have been possible without the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq...

Elevator News: Who Needs a Space Shuttle?

In the world of wonderful things I never thought would be possible: the space elevator. Well, perhaps it is. "According to many engineers, within a couple of decades it will be both possible and cost-effective to construct a fixed line from the Earth's equator to a satellite 60,000 miles out in space." Absolutely fantastic.

King Tut Drank Red Wine

Boy King Tut's tipple was red wine. How sofisticated of him! How un-Islamic of him!

I don't know what "chromatography" and "mass spectrometry" is but scientists have used them together to reveal syringic acid in scrapings taken from two jars in King Tutankhamun's tomb. Syringic acid is released by the breakdown of the compound malvidin, found in red wine.

A jar from Tutankhamun's tomb was marked: "Year 5. Wine of the House-of-Tutankhamun Ruler-of-the-Southern-on, l.p.h (in) the Western River. By the chief Vintner Khaa.''

Tutankhamun, died in 1352 BC. BBC

The Price of Parliament

This article is telling me that the current price of a NDP seat in the parliament is one million EGP ($175k). Fine, I’ll take two please, to be delivered on the day of election.

Up to a fifth of the People’s Assembly are wealthy businessmen. Too many, says Kefaya opposition candidate Kamal Khalil in a manifesto posted on his blog:
"Never did the political hegemony of businessmen reach that level at any point over the past 50 years.

This country has become the target for the biggest organised looting operation, carried out by a handful of monopolists allied with the ruling gang, headed by Mubarak and his family," he says.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Calling Galloway's Bluff

Here is Christopher Hitchens' most recent take on the Galloway smoking gun. Loaded with facts. And here is what he says in the intro: "I added that I wanted no further contact with Galloway until I could have the opportunity of reviewing his prison diaries." That day has indeed been brought measurably closer!

Oh! And here is how Hitchen ends: "I wonder if any of those who furnished him a platform will now have the grace to admit that they were hosting a man who is not just a pimp for fascism but one of its prostitutes as well."

Blogs for Cash - Egyptian Worth

So what are my neighbours in the Egyptian blogsphere worth according to the method in my previous post?

Egyptian Sandmonkey: $0.00
Baheyya: $0.00
One Arab World: $0.00 *

Strange, all their lovely work and they can't even sell it for a pixel's worth? Na, this engine can't be working. Let's test a non-Egyptian site:

Andrew Sullivan: $2,092,185.24

Hmm... maybe it's working too well. I'll never be able to buy him out. What about Michelle?

Michelle Malkin: $2,889,315.72

Ok, nothing wrong with the engine. Let's test again with a really good Egyptian blog.

Big Pharaoh: $132,666.90

Bingo! Someone got it right. Mabrouk!

*) Update: Apologizes to Karim, I had not noticed one of the three parts of his URL onearabworld.blog.com. The value when I tested it now with the correct URL is: $27,097.92

This Blog is For Sale!

Current value: $29,356.08. - based on the same link to dollar ratio as the AOL-Weblogs Inc deal. Go here to get an update on the value for this blog, or your own. Check the latest addition to my side bar, it's towards the bottom. h/t: Improbulus.

Sex in the War, Sort Of

Solider-Blogger-Author Colby Buzzel is writing in Nerve about relationships on a distance while on mission abroad. And then there is this bizarre solution:

(Check the pink one...)
... better than looting and raping, is it not? h/t: Regina

Lake Nasser, glittering in the sun, as seen from space and captured by a NASA photographer. Link.

Bush, Torturer in-Chief

Andrew has the facts:

Over a hundred detainees have died in captivity. The ACLU looked at the records of 44 such deaths and concluded that 21 were homicides and that "at least eight resulted from abusive techniques by military or intelligence officers, such as strangulation or 'blunt force injuries'.

An Iraqi detainee died on January 9, 2004, in Al Asad, Iraq, while being interrogated. He was standing, shackled to the top of a door frame with a gag in his mouth at the time he died. The cause of death was asphyxia and blunt force injuries.

* A detainee was smothered to death during an interrogation by Military Intelligence on November 26, 2003, in Al Qaim, Iraq. An autopsy report lists “asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression” as the cause of death and cites bruises from the impact with a blunt object.

* A detainee at Abu Ghraib Prison, captured by Navy Seal Team number seven, died on November 4, 2003, during an interrogation. An autopsy report shows that the cause of his death was “blunt force injury complicated by compromised respiration.”

* An Afghan civilian died from “multiple blunt force injuries to head, torso and extremities” on November 6, 2003, at a Forward Operating Base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

* A 52-year-old male Iraqi was strangled to death at the Whitehorse detainment facility on June 6, 2003, in Nasiriyah, Iraq. His autopsy also revealed bone and rib fractures, and multiple bruises on his body.

Sahara sand sea, as captured from space by a NASA photographer. Link.

Alexandria, Yesterday and Today

Mona Eltahawy doesn’t fail to impress us this week either. Must read. Money quote:
Why is that Muslims always seem to react violently to real and imagined offense?

A week before the violence in Alexandria, an independent newspaper in Egypt published a full-page report on what it said were false passages in the Bible. Why didn’t 5,000 Christians take to the streets of Cairo to attack mosques and to stab any woman wearing a veil?

Is Islam so fragile that it needs Muslims to demonstrate and riot in Alexandria to protect it? Muslims in Egypt are the majority so why are they acting as if Islam is on the verge of collapse?

When are Egyptians going to end our self-denial and admit that there is a problem between Muslims and Christians? We pretend everything is just fine and that anyone who dares to say otherwise is a traitor or an agent from abroad sent to sow the seeds of sectarian strife in Egypt.

The Copts and Their Political Implications

A short backgrounder from the Washington Institute.

Sex, Drugs and Rock’n Roll in Ancient Egypt

It is a freshman's seminar at John Hopkins University. The course explores the ancient Egyptian notions of divine experience and the ritual magic that assisted with it. The means of experiencing the gods in ancient Egypt often involved rituals that included drunkenness and music. Sexuality helped to guarantee the maintenance of world order and was important to all notions of life and death. Link.

Police Clash with Demonstrators

The police clashed with a group of 30 demonstrators, most of them mothers, wives and children to political detainees. Security sources and protestors told AFP two were injured. A child was hit in the eye and another child with heart problems were injured in the back.

I was not there, but I think the conscripted police troops are regretting the injuries to the children as much as anyone else. Tell me I am wrong, until then I will remain convinced no harm was intended.

The protest were organized by the immediate families to some of the between 16,000 to 30,000 political prisoners in Egypt. Imagine the scene if all their children, wives and parents would take to the street. Only 30 showed up; is that due to anything but fear of further problems? Link.

Empty Words from Sheikh Tantawi

The grandest of the Grand Imam’s, Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi says decisive action is needed to prevent sectarian tension from escalating in Egypt. “We should take quick action to bridge the chasm...”

In my reading, “bridge a chasm” implies there are two sides at fault and the task at hand is to make them sympathize with each other. What a grand thought. No one is blamed or told that what was done was utterly wrong. With that, we can happily live together for ever. Or? Not. There is only one side at fault here and that side needs to hear why they are wrong -preferably from both a moral and religious perspective. Another Grand Imam has already declared there is nothing offensive on the CD/DVD that was recently distributed. The play is two years old. Even if it was offensive, it doesn’t motivate violent attacks and repeated riots.

In Alexandria last week, there were attackers and victims. If Tantawi wish to avoid further tension, he ought to call it for what it is. And tell the angry crowds to back off and shut up. Else they may get into trouble on the last day. Link.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Inquiry: Galloway Lied Under Oath

An inquiry is claiming George Galloway had "knowingly made false or misleading statements under oath" about Saddam Hussein's multimillion-pound oil-for-food programme when he appeared before a committee hearing in Washington in May. The British MP angrily rejected the accusation last night.

The latest report from the committee claims:

· Galloway personally solicited and was granted oil allocations from the government of Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein - totalling 23m barrels.

· Galloway's wife received approximately $150,000 in connection with one of those oil allocations.

· Galloway's political campaign, the Mariam Appeal, received at least $446,000 in connection with the oil allocations under the oil-for-food programme.

· The Hussein regime received improper 'surcharge' payments amounting to $1,642,000 in connection with the oil allocations granted to Galloway and the Mariam Appeal.

Says Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s former deputy prime minister: "These oil allocations were for the benefit of George Galloway and for Mariam's Appeal. Aziz also allegedly told investigators that Mr Galloway had expressed concern to him about "the appearance of taking money directly from the Iraqi government", and asked for his and his wife's name to be omitted from official documents. However, the report found that several documents, authenticated by former regime officials, did mention Mr Galloway by name.

Says former Iraqi vice-president Taha Yasin Ramadan: Mr Galloway was a "friend of Iraq" who "needed to be compensated for his support". "Galloway needed money to pay for his actions," … "we gave him oil to sell to make the money".   Guardian.

Poor Nations are Littered with Old PC's

Much of the used computer equipment sent from the United States to developing countries for use in homes, schools and businesses is often neither usable nor repairable, creating enormous environmental problems in some of the world's poorest places, according to a report issued yesterday by an environmental organization.

The report, titled "The Digital Dump: Exporting Reuse and Abuse to Africa," says that the unusable equipment is being donated or sold to developing nations by recycling businesses in the U.S. as a way to dodge the expense of having to recycle it properly.

More than 63 million computers in the U.S. will become obsolete in 2005. An average computer monitor can contain as much as eight pounds of lead, along with plastics laden with flame retardants and cadmium. NYT

Blame Bush, anyone?

There will be Monitors

Egyptian Monitors for the parliamentary elections are allowed as long as they register with the government first. This way it will be easier for the government to round them up and arrest them after they rig this election as well.

- SM

Two On Rice

The first, by the Telegraph, is looking at Condi’s recent trip to her home state and if she really doesn’t want to run for the presidential office in 2008, as she says she do not. The second, an op-ed in the Washington Post, is asking why Dr. Rice cannot see what every other black American can see. Well, the answer may just be that she does see and that she understands better than most other people – hard as it is to get, she could be right and the ‘majority’ wrong.

Camp Nightmare

I found this letter in Al-Ahram Weekly:

Sir-- We had the misfortune of staying at Ahmed's Desert Camp in Bahariya three weeks ago. I'd like to pass on my impression of Ahmed's camp to interested readers. Ahmed's camp is a foul, disgusting, filthy, littered place. It's not really fit for human occupancy and if Egypt had a board of health it would immediately close Ahmed's Desert Camp as a hazardous site. The food is laced with flies and unfit for consumption. The staff is surly and disinterested. There are 100 projects started and none finished. Campers beware.

Robert Ramey

Let’s hope Mr. Ramey is having better luck next time he is coming to Egypt, if he does. We wouldn’t want him to fall in the trap one more time. Unfortunately, there are plenty of traps in this industry that at large is treating visitors as one-time occasional by passers. Since tourism is our major income, every story like this one should be treated seriously. I second Mr. Ramey in his call for more government control. It is time to raise the standards. With the billions pouring in, there is no excuse for treating visitors like anything but the honoured guests they are. Link.

Arab Nations Healthier than Egypt

According to a survey, Kuwaiti citizens can expect to stay healthy until the age of 65; people from the Emirates and Bahrain until the age of 63; Tunisia and Qatar 61; Oman and Saudi Arabia 60; Jordan and Libya 59; Syria and Algeria 58; Egypt 57; Morocco 55; Iraq 52; and Yemen 49.

Japan has the healthiest people on the planet, followed by Switzerland and Australia where people are expected to live and stay healthy until over 74 years of age. In countries such as Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Zambia, the corresponding ages is around 30.

Veiled with a Bikini

Her bikini didn't conform to the rules of Islam, so each time she took a dip she would quickly cover up and pray on the beach. The guilt spoiled the fun. The solution? La Femme – a women’s beach west of Alexandria where the veiled can strip down to skimpy bikinis safe from God's disapproval.
"Here I am sitting at ease, knowing that I'm not doing anything wrong."

Cover of the Week

No further comment - I am amused by it, that's all.

They Hold the Keys to Cairo

Resident correspondent Megan Stack of the L.A. Times has the good habit of providing her readers with pieces about the oddities of Cairo. This time it is an expose of the bawabs – doormen – who can be anything from religious policemen to pimps – money typically define the role they choose. Anything else wouldn’t work for them and the many other good, simple and hard working people who constitute the core of this country. Yet, my favourite story is that of a young couple in Cairo who entered a conflict with the keeper at their vacation house. His revenge was to do his morning business underneath their bedroom window. Another anecdote:
His bowab blares Koranic verses from a radio at 3 a.m. and washes cars in a noisy exultation of water at sunrise. When the Williams family forgets to pay his monthly salary, less than $5, he gives a tactful nudge by showing up at the door with gritty, squashed brownies wrapped in newspaper. At first Williams threw the cakes away; then it occurred to him that the bowab was going through his garbage, piece by piece.

Elvis was Proud, Black, and Arab

Q: Was Elvis a Proud, Black, Arab?
A: No.

Q: Did Elvis want to be a Proud, Black, Arab.
A: Hell Yes!

The man sang blues songs, had belly dancer hips, wore gaudy clothing, and lived in kind of opudecadence that would make Arab royalty blush.

- from Abdullah X, also known for the Rich Arabs Blog.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Who Appreciates Egypt These Days?

The pyramids of Giza - the oldest and sole survivors of the Seven Wonders of the World - only secured eighth place in an updated list of modern marvels revealed yesterday.

Don't reach for your dagger just yet. It is only the travel magasine Wanderlust’s readers who have been voting. Ptah! And the British are calling themselves civilized! Another reason for the Pharaohs to turn in their graves. That is, had they still been there and had not British archaeologists already shipped half of the treasures from the pyramids to a certain museum in London.

The top wonder of the 21-century according to the magazine’s readers is the Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru. Somewhere in the mountains, I believe. You cannot even reach that place with the tube. How 21-centurish is that! And I'm not sure it deserves to be called antique: some insignificant Incan Pharaoh built it around 1460 AD.

Second place: temple complex of Angkor in Cambodia; third: India's Taj Mahal; Petra in Jordan fourth. Then there is the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China and the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador. Nothing in Egypt. Have the British lost their ability to marvel? No wonder our Arab brothers are trying to blow up London once in a while. If this is how the UK has become, I wouldn't stand being there either. Give their national detoriation ten more years and they will vote for Bodrum and Hurghada and think I ought to be pleased with that. I see now why the Queen is detaching herself from the English people.

Travellers in the old age knew how to appreciate their destinations: The seven wonders of the ancient world were the pyramids at Giza, built during the fourth dynasty; the hanging gardens of Babylon; the temple of Artemis at Ephesus; the mausoleum at Halicarnassus; the statue of Zeus at Olympia; the Colossus of Rhodes, and the lighthouse at Alexandria. Link.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Other Side of the Coin

The trouble-makers in Alexandria deserve to hear that they are doing wrong and why, as expressed here and in other blogs and by religious and political leaders. That said, and since so many tend to see the world as black and white today, we ought to stress that the world is not black and white. In other words: this is not a religious conflict; it is a conflict by troubled people who are hi-jacking their religion for whatever other purposes. True, that is not how many demonstrators see it; they want it to be a fight between Muslims and Christians; good and bad; faithful and not. But that a group of people - even a large group or a majority - feel that it is between black and white does not make it black and white. It means nothing more than that is how they perceive it. That these people perceive it this way is not the same as that is the way it is. In other words: there is no inherent conflict between the two religions just because the troublemakers in Alexandria want to believe there is.

Fortunately, most people know this. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not want to know this. They want everything to be "them against us." And since they choose to define themselves by religion it becomes a conflict between religions. In Alexandria at the moment, the victims are the Coptic Christians. In my eyes, they are innocent victims. The tabloid-talk about an offensive DVD is old rubbish. Adults should know better. But of course, they do not want to know. They are troubled and they need an outlet. Have no illusions that it is only among the Muslim population you find the radical and ignorant. Absolutely not. There is plenty of fanatic Christians as well in this country. Loads of people who don’t know a lot at all. Regardless of religious faith, it is not their fault. It is what poverty does to a nation. It is what happens when the educational system has collapsed. There cannot be any other way when people have been robbed of their opportunities. We should rather ask why they are not more radical. Why they are not more violent. Then there is a question to which we already know the answer: the reason they are not attacking the root of their problems. It is because they are afraid. It is also because they have been brought up on lies. They hit at what they can. It does not hurt them selves as much as challenging what they always have thought is true will. It is their loss. And our biggest problem.

But why is it Muslims, again, who are resorting to violence? Because they are more frustrated? Because the Muslim population is so big it make more noise? A lot of people like to say it is because of faith; that there is something in Christianity that doesn’t is in Islam. I think the history of fundamentalism answer that question; enough autocracies have taken place under the banner of Christianity that we should not have to doubt that all religions can be hi-jacked. It makes judgements by either side obsolete. This is the point where religious and political leaders like to stop. End of discussion. It is the easy escape from the threats that are facing our societies. Instead, we should face up to the question of why, in this particular moment, the violence is taking place under the banner of Islam. Why the religion is hi-jacked. Why, on religious grounds, they are misled. Attempts to answer occasionally surfaces. Al-Azhar is issuing statements by duty and default. So does the Presidency and the Ministry. But when are they going to stop the hatred that is preached in newspapers and on satellite TV and in some places, the mosques? When will it be replaced with talk about the love of God and tolerance?

Or is the problem that those who should provide the alternative do not have the answers themselves, that they simply do not know what to say? I find that very hard to believe (rather: stomach). If that is the case, we are in big trouble. Not because there is not a solution because there is. But because the solution is Change with capital C and such changes do not come easy or without pain.

That, if nothing else, is a notion I share with the demonstrators in Alex.

God Bless.

So Far Today, Only Verbal Attacks

The demonstrators burned copies of the Gospel yesterday. This is unacceptable and right now we cannot even accept excuses.
- Maher Khella, the Coptic candidate of the ruling National Democratic Party in Alexandria.

I'm not asking for an apology but the Church must make a clear statement because the DVD was watched by many and it clearly harms the image of Islam.
- Osama Gado, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Should Christians be blamed for mere rumours that are spread by newspapers?
- Pope Shenuda III, stressing that the play had been performed only once two years ago.

A lot of Christian women usually wear a cross around their necks in order to deflect criticism for not wearing the veil and avoid having Muslims say rude things about Copts thinking we are one of theirs.

But today I'm not wearing it because I'm too afraid someone will try to snatch it or insult me.
- Mary Hanna Wasef, a woman in her 60s.


Church: Riot is Connected to Election

The Coptic Church in Alexandria is also saying the attacks by Muslims on St. Gergis Church appear to be about politics:

It was unclear who was giving out the DVD, and church officials, as well as local residents, speculated its distribution may somehow be connected to the upcoming parliamentary elections, where aggravating sectarian tensions could help certain candidates win votes.

"Raising this now is to be looking for a problem to break national unity," the church said in a statement issued Saturday. "We believe that this problem was raised in light of the coming parliamentary elections."
NYT's correspondent has noted an attitude that always bewilder me:
In Alexandria, several shopkeepers and pedestrians spoke of their waning patience for their Christian neighbors, and of a sense that their tolerance has been taken for granted and abused.

"Did we make plays that insult the Christians?" said the pharmacist, Mr. Ali Mahmoud. "They will pay the price in terms of their security, comfort, and now no priest will be able to walk in the streets."

It may be that there is only about one Coptic believer for every ten faithful Muslim, but tolerance is still a mutual thing; Islam may be the official way but the Coptic Church is equally recognized. Can we please therefore try to get away from this notion that the Copts are visitors that ought to behave like guests in the presence of their housemasters? Even if anyone is offended by a DVD? Which very few people actually are:
Though few people interviewed Saturday said they actually saw the play or the DVD, the word on the street was it was anti-Islamic.

Needless to say, scenes of trouble always attract the worst sort: filling your pockets with gold is hardly a mark of the faith you're claiming you're demonstrating to defend:
A shoemaker, who said his name was Muhammad Abdo, said that police first fired tear gas into the crowd, which only served to anger those in the streets. The crowd, he said, then went wild with people turning over cars and lighting them on fire, smashing storefronts and looting a gold shop.

The shoemaker is also revealing a notion of ignorance this nation have to overcome:
"No one will stop until they give a formal apology," Mr. Abdo said, adding that he heard the play denied a central tenet of the Islamic faith - that Muhammad was God's prophet.

In their ignorant bliss, most people can' grasp that if you acknowledge Muhamed as God's prophet, you are a believing Muslim. If you do not, it simply means that you are not a Muslim. Nothing more or less. It does not mean that you deny the Muslim believer his or her right to acknowledge the prophet. Only that you do not. It would be odd if Christians, Jews, Buddhist's and other believers suddenly said God is Great and Mohamed is his Prophet. That would make them Muslims.

Most people haven't thought that far though. They are raised to declare that God is the Greatest and Mohamed is his Prophet; not to question it or to search for other world views. That someone does not subscribe to the same idea is unfathomable. Thus, in their view of the nation, everybody do belive Mohamed is the prophet. Even if they are Coptic Christians. It just means that they are not realizing his importance. Or that they are on the wrong path here and there in their spiritual quest. To this people, saying that a Coptic Christian probably do not think there was another Messiah or Prophet after Jesus is to say that the world is not flat. Equally upsetting.

Fortunately, a lot of people, including the faithful, are better educated than that. But if we are speaking about the rioting masses, this is the level where you have to begin. Link.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Grand Mufti says CD did Not Insult Islam

Egyptian Grand Mufti Ali Juma'ah says there is no CD/DVD that is offending Islam that has led to the riots in Alexandria. Instead, he says, there are people who are trying to create problems by claiming that relations between Muslims and Christians are weak, in order to achieve personal interests and not the best of the country.

Flogging Another Blogger

A young Iranian blogger has received 30 lashes of the wip as part of his sentence. Imprisoned since 29 June, Ahmad Seyyed Saray was charged with 'offending the authorities.' The cruel punishment might prove to be the easy part of his ordeal: he is still awaiting sentencining for the related charge of 'attacking the security of the state.' Link. Hat-Tip: Discarded Lies

Also from Iran: Al-Qaeda training manuals on CD's are distributed generously in the country's eastern and southeastern provinces.

St.Gergis: Three Killed, Dozens Wounded

Three demonstrators were killed during clashes with the police in the protest outside St. Gergis Church in Alexandria according to Reuters. The agency is also quoting the ministry of interior saying one demonstrator was killed; 20 police and 25 demonstrators were injured. More than 30 people were detained.

Police formed a cordon to prevent the crowd approaching St. George's church, prompting some of the demonstrators to try to storm another church nearby, the sources said, adding that dozens of police and protesters were injured in the clashes.

Also via Reuters: Coptic Bishop Armia has denied accusations that the play that caused the demonstration in any way insulted Islam, Egypt's official MENA news agency reported, as monitored by the BBC.

AFP says one demonstrator was killed; 20 police and 60 protesters were wounded; one protestor later succumbed to his injuries in hospital. One police car and six other vehicles were burned in the clashes

The Muslim protestors had earlier attacked the church and injured a passer-by, as they vented anger over the DVD release of a play produced by Saint Girgis two years ago they consider to be anti-Muslim.

The protests came three days after a man lightly wounded a nun with a knife at the entrance to the same church, and a man who came to her aid was stabbed in the back.
Pardon me for being blunt, but when 5,000 Muslims in one of the most peaceful countries in the Middle East are attacking churches; torching vehicles and are hurting innocent passersby, we may excuse the people in the west for 'always having the wrong impression' about Muslims and Islam. And this is about a two year old DVD record. A nun is stabbed. Since when did Muslims stop honoring the sancity of the house of God? By what right? In Ramadan?

If the remaining peace-loving people of Alexandria have any character, they ought to gather en-masse outside St. Girgis and keep a 24-hour vigil for weeks or months if necessary, to prevent further attacks and to prove that this outrageous behaviour never was, and never will be, accepted in Egypt.

The sad fact is, they would never do anything like it, they would never consider it. That's another shame we have to live with.

Peace. Enjoy Ramadan.

Friday, October 21, 2005

St. Girgis Church Attacked Again

Police had to disperse nearly 5,000 Muslims who attacked St. Girgis Church in Alexandria and injured passersby. Teargas and batons were used by the police. Like last Friday, the attack took place after Friday prayers when the faithful proceeded from the Mosque to the Church. Earlier this week, a young man ran into the Church and stabbed a nun and a man while calling out "Allah Akhbar."

"A police force tried to prevent the protesters from approaching the church and attacking it, but they did not heed police warnings and stoned the church, the force and passersby, which resulted in injuries," the ministry of interior said.

The Muslim protesters are upset about a play that allegedly was performed in the Mosque last week. The play is two years old and has since long been condemned by Church authorities. The first protest took place after a Tabloid paper published a story about DVD recordings of the play.

A Good Weekend Read

I am not saying I won't be blogging during the entire weekend – chances are I cannot resist the temptation– but I do have another agenda that will take most of my time. I invite you instead to have a look at some good reading I have collected from Arts & Daily, always a good resource on sunny days when we're too cautious about our colors to head outdoors.

The Tyranny of Design by the Guardian is asking why dictators have poor taste when they are anything but poor themselves. Saddam’s tacky palaces are included in the round-up. I also learned that Ghadafy’s bodyguards are virgin females. Didn’t know that. I wonder for what purpose and for how long they remain virgins.

I have nothing against Christopher Hitchens, I should read him more often, and this article about him; ‘The Purest Neo Con,’ will be at the top of my reading list.

Interesting and occasionally amusing is The Atlantic’s inquiry into samizdat The Greatest Stories Never Told.

The Nation is asking Why is Africa Still Poor – is it the chicken or the egg, e.g. poverty or dictators.

On another continent, The Moscow Times is looking at the newly translated Memoirs of Catherine the Great, apparently there are things we would never think about her, or at least things the censors wouldn’t want us to think about her.

Although Nietzsche-an, this article that is defining what marriage is today is not hard to get at all: The ties that do not bind, the decline of marriage and loyalty.

Francis Fukuyama was featured in Al-Ahram as far back as in August in an attempt to show that democracy is perhaps not that necessary after all. How the writer can quote him extensively and still miss the essentials of “The End of History” – the driving force of democracy and capitalism that make other ideologies obsolete – is a mystery to me.

In this week’s Weekly, a feature about pop-style preacher Amr Khaled would be informative if you’re not familiar with him and if the current edition is available on the site http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/ from where you are – from my position I’m taken to a page where I’m asked to dial-in to their own ISP. Who would have thought that their former editor-in-chief’s running away with hundreds of millions in USD would make this media tycoon so strapped for cash?

Finally, I have a few treasures in my sidebar: a link to a Russian site with a lot of George Orwell’s writings; and two collections of historic images from Egypt and the Levant. And if you haven’t been to Webdonkey yet, now is the time to go.

Only in America

Really, the only similar thing I ever heard was about a Brit who was sodomized by his dog in a public park. This is the second U.S. 'farming accident' recorded by MSM in the past few months: Man charged with trespassing on farm in horse-sex death.

A truck driver identified in court papers as taking part in an incident in which a friend died after having sex with a horse on an Enumclaw farm was charged Tuesday with having trespassed on the farm.

Tait can't be charged with bestiality. Washington is one of 17 states that permit bestiality. (my italics)

Police say Tait, 54, was videotaping his friend having sex with a horse in July when his friend "received the injuries that ultimately led to his death."

Tait told police that he, the Seattle man who died and another man repeatedly had sneaked onto his neighbor's farm in the middle of the night, without permission, to engage in animal sex.

On a related note, here is Salon.com's story "Just like a woman" [Wikipedia] about thousands of men in the U.S. who are paying $6,500 to get a life-size doll. "Davecat and his doll, Sidore, do everything together, including playing video games." To some, it is about company and love. To others, it is about sex. Some of them have two, even three, because they like to see them in action together.

A young man's parents bought him a doll so he would stay at home focusing on his studies instead of chasing girls. He brought his 'doll-friend' to the manufacturer for repairs after one year - they wouldn't believe how he could have made so much damage to it in such short time. In chat rooms, doll-owners exchange pictures and advice; which head is beast and how do you wash her? Male dolls are available too, but the manufacturer refused to make a dog-doll and is often rejecting callers who want child dolls.

That said, to paraphrase a company employee quoted in the article, these men shouldn't have families and children anyway, perhaps the dolls are keeping them off the streets. I hate to say it, but that's actually quite civilized.

Now I would like to ask you, how do we blame Bush for this?

Diet - Atkins or the Sunnah?

Right, you don't need to submit your weight concern to popular methods from America, such as the Atkins diet. Instead, head to the world of Islam and modify your eating behaviour with the help of... pom pom pom ... drumwhirls! ... The Prophet Mohamed! (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him). Try, it must work. Here is my review of the holy diet:

- Eating can be looked upon as not only something pleasurable, but also as an act of worship. [YES]

- Like other acts of worship, this form of worship shouldn’t take up too much time. ...so dedicating approximately 30 minutes to each meal would be better than wolfing it down. [YES]

- Knowing what you eat and its source, mentioning Allah’s name prior to eating, being grateful for provisions, and being content with them are duties. [FAIR]

- Sitting on the left foot, eating with three fingers, eating from the food closer to you, and licking the fingers (used while eating) are Sunnah. [NOT Applicable to this Lady]

- Restricting the size of each mouthful of food, chewing very well, refraining from looking people in the face, and washing the hands (afterwards) are manners. [PLEASE REPEAT - Most people in this country constantly fails to remember these rules that the Prophet (peace upon him) told Ali ibn Abi Talib].

Read more. I'll stick to Atkins for just a little while.