Archive for Egypt

Three questions: Egypt’s transition

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2011 by loonwatch

(AlJazeera English)

Three questions: Egypt’s transition

by Marwan Bishara

As change sweeps Egypt and becomes imminent in Arab political life, Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, evaluates the speed and efficacy of the transition to democracy.

What are the chances that the transition could still go wrong in Egypt?

New decisions of the supreme military council such as dissolving the country’s unrepresentative parliament that came after rigged elections, bodes well for the dismantlement of the old regime and erecting a new one.

However, the military’s insistence to keep the Mubarak appointed Ahmad Shafiq government for the transitional period has raised concern. Likewise, freezing the constitution is a double edge sword.

While it allows for writing a new more democratic constitution, it could also enable the military leaders to act according to its own interest, rather than the interest of the revolution.

It also begs the question, why hasn’t the military command cancelled the emergency laws nor freed those arrested during the last three weeks, not to mention the political prisoners.

All of which underlines the importance of continued pressure on the military until the regime is completely dismantled and its calls for a new temporary government to oversee the transition to democratic elections are heeded.

Today, public pressure is crucial to maintain the momentum towards positive change. While working with the military is indispensable for peaceful change, progress can’t be held hostage to its prerogatives.

Those with leverage over the Egyptian military, such as the Obama administration, need to keep the pressure on the generals to act as the true guardians of the revolution and its transition to republican democracy.

Otherwise, matters could get out of hand once again if the military falls back to old way of doing business, as pressure builds up against the spirit and of the revolution and its potential to spread throughout the region as a whole. After all many are bound to lose because of the historic changes taking place in Egypt.

Who are the potential losers from the Egyptian revolution?

In the short term, the foremost  loser are the region’s  autocrats who most likely will face serious pressure as the spirit of peoples’ power spread around the Arab and even Muslim world. So will al-Qaeda and its ilk that preferred violence to peoples’ power.

In the long run, the three theocracies, or theocracy-based regimes – Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran – could see their religious-based legitimacies falter in favour of civic and democratic legitimacy as more people rise and claim their governments as citizens and people not subjects and sects.

A united, democratic and strong Egypt can regain its long lost regional influence as an Arab leader. It will eclipse Saudi Arabia, put the belligerent Israeli occupation on notice, and curtail the Iranian Ayatollahs’ ambition for regional influence.

In reality none of these regimes would like to see the Egyptian revolution succeed, regardless of what they might say publicly. And if they can help reverse it or contain it, they will without any hesitation. Fortunately however, their conflicting agendas, animosity and differences will prevent these autocrats and theocrats from jointly conspiring against the young revolution.

How will the revolution attain its goals?

If the foremost winners from the revolution, peoples’ power and democracy, are to succeed, the revolutionaries must stay steadfast and continue to apply pressure for change.

Future praise of the military should be conditional on its performance.

The revolution has accomplished so much, but serious challenges lie ahead. It’s no picnic reversing decades of stagnation, corruption and nepotism.

They need to convince the military that they seek not merely cosmetic reform that encourages passivity and defuse the revolutionary spirit for change, nor mere change of faces and titles. Rather, they seek to wipe the table clean of the old ways and means.

It’s this only their revolutionary spirit and yearning for radical change that will insure their achievements are not lost or compromised. In the words of one American republican: Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

Egyptian revolutionaries have at last changed their and the Arab long held Arab motto “In-shallah” or “God willing” that presumes lack of action and indecision. Today’s spirit is in the realm of Ma-shallah, or “God wills it”, and it’s up to the people to make it happen.

As the Egyptian military command tries to bring back “normalcy” – which invokes stagnation in the minds of many – Egyptians are seeking extraordinary.

 

Egypt shows ‘clash of civilizations’ was a myth

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2011 by loonwatch

Egypt shows ‘clash of civilizations’ was a myth

by Arun Kundnani

(CNN)

Since the end of the Cold War, conservatives have argued that the world should be seen through the lens of a clash between civilizations. The world could be divided, they argued, on the basis of different cultures and their distance from Western values.

Countries where the majority of the population is Muslim were grouped together as the ‘Islamic world’ and seen as culturally prone to fanaticism and violence. Revolution there could only mean Islamic revolution along the lines of Iran in 1979. Democracy could only emerge if imposed by force from outside, as disastrously attempted in the Iraq War.

Liberals had their own version of such thinking, particularly after 9/11. Rejecting the necessity of a clash between civilizations, they spoke of a dialogue between civilizations. But they shared with conservatives the assumption that culture was the primary driving force of political conflict.

There was something of this thinking in President Obama’s famous 2009 speech in Cairo, addressed to “the Muslim world.” Liberals like Obama thought it possible that dialogue could allow for the peaceful co-existence of cultural differences between Muslims and the West. Conservatives, on the other hand, feared that no dialogue was possible with Islam, and it was better for the West to ready itself for inevitable conflict.

These have been the terms of debate between liberals and conservatives since 9/11.

Significantly, both sides in the debate assumed that the fundamental divisions in the world were cultural rather than political.

In the case of the Middle East, conflict was seen as rooted in a cultural failure of Islam to adapt itself to modernity, rather than a political aspiration to freedom from regimes the West was backing.

The Egyptian revolution has finally demonstrated in practice that this cultural assumption no longer holds. Popular sovereignty, not God’s sovereignty, has been the basis of the revolution. Muslims and Christians have marched together on the streets. The slogans have been universal demands for rights, dignity and social justice. At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood has been one among the many strands of the movement, accommodating themselves to its democratic and pluralist thrust.

All of this confounds the “clash of civilizations” thesis which holds that the ‘Islamic world’ has necessarily “bloody borders.” It also confounds the “dialogue of civilizations” approach, which seeks to address the people of the Middle East as a culturally distinct “Muslim world” rather than as populations whose demands are political and universal.
It is no surprise that the Obama administration’s response to the fall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt has been muddled; its working assumptions about the ‘Muslim world’ have collapsed as a result of the revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt.

Equally, the confused response of conservatives reflects the fact that their framing of the Middle East as a hotbed of fanaticism has been revealed to be a myth. And they are exposed for backing an autocrat for narrow strategic reasons linked to protecting Israel. For all their rhetoric, the real fear of conservatives is not the “Muslim fanatic” but genuine political freedom for the Arab nations — which is now suddenly imaginable.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Arun Kundnani.

 

Let Freedom Ring From Cairo!: Hosni Mubarak Resigns

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2011 by loonwatch

Is it any surprise that the Islamophobes are the most against this uprising.

Hopefully now the Egyptians can reconstruct the system to be a free and Democratic nation.

Hosni Mubarak resigns as president

(AlJazeera English)

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has resigned from his post, handing over power to the armed forces.

Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, announced in a televised address that the president was “waiving” his office, and had handed over authority to the Supreme Council of the armed forces.

Suleiman’s short statement was received with a roar of approval and by celebratory chanting and flag-waving from a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, as well by pro-democracy campaigners who attended protests across the country on Friday.

The crowd in Tahrir chanted “We have brought down the regime”,  while many were seen crying, cheering and embracing one another.

Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition leader, hailed the moment as being the “greatest day of my life”, in comments to the Associated Press news agency.

“The country has been liberated after decades of repression,” he said.

“Tonight, after all of these weeks of frustration, of violence, of intimidation … today the people of Egypt undoubtedly [feel they] have been heard, not only by the president, but by people all around the world,” our correspondent at Tahrir Square reported, following the announcement.

“The sense of euphoria is simply indescribable,” our correspondent at Mubarak’s Heliopolis presidential palace, where at least ten thousand pro-democracy activists had gathered, said.

“I have waited, I have worked all my adult life to see the power of the people come to the fore and show itself. I am speechless.” Dina Magdi, a pro-democracy campaigner in Tahrir Square told Al Jazeera.

“The moment is not only about Mubarak stepping down, it is also about people’s power to bring about the change that no-one … thought possible.”

In Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, our correspondent described an “explosion of emotion”. He said that hundreds of thousands were celebrating in the streets.

Pro-democracy activists in the Egyptian capital and elsewhere had earlier marched on presidential palaces, state television buildings and other government installations on Friday, the 18th consecutive day of protests.

Anger at state television

At the state television building earlier in the day, thousands had blocked people from entering or leaving, accusing the broadcaster of supporting the current government and of not truthfully reporting on the protests.

“The military has stood aside and people are flooding through [a gap where barbed wire has been moved aside],” Al Jazeera’s correspondent at the state television building reported.

He said that “a lot of anger [was] generated” after Mubarak’s speech last night, where he repeated his vow to complete his term as president.

‘Gaining momentum’

Outside the palace in Heliopolis, where at least ten thousand protesters had gathered in Cairo, another Al Jazeera correspondent reported that there was a strong military presence, but that there was “no indication that the military want[ed] to crack down on protesters”.

Click here for more of Al Jazeera’s special coverage

She said that army officers had engaged in dialogue with protesters, and that remarks had been largely “friendly”.

Tanks and military personnel had been deployed to bolster barricades around the palace.

Our correspondent said the crowd in Heliopolis was “gaining momentum by the moment”, and that the crowd had gone into a frenzy when two helicopters were seen in the air around the palace grounds.

“By all accounts this is a highly civilised gathering. people are separated from the palace by merely a barbed wire … but nobody has even attempted to cross that wire,” she said.

As crowds grew outside the palace, Mubarak left Cairo on Friday for the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh, according to sources who spoke to Al Jazeera.

In Tahrir Square, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered, chanting slogans against Mubarak and calling for the military to join them in their demands.

Our correspondent at the square said the “masses” of pro-democracy campaigners there appeared to have “clear resolution” and “bigger resolve” to achieve their goals than ever before.

However, he also said that protesters were “confused by mixed messages” coming from the army, which has at times told them that their demands will be met, yet in communiques and other statements supported Mubarak’s staying in power until at least September.

Army statement

In a statement read out on state television at midday on Friday, the military announced that it would lift a 30-year-oldemergency law but only “as soon as the current circumstances end”.

IN VIDEO
http://english.aljazeera.net/AJEPlayer/player-licensed-viral.swf
Thousands are laying siege to state television’s office

The military said it would also guarantee changes to the constitution as well as a free and fair election, and it called for normal business activity to resume.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Tahrir Square said people there were hugely disappointed with that army statement, and had vowed to take the protests to “a last and final stage”.

“They’re frustrated, they’re angry, and they say protests need to go beyond Liberation [Tahrir] Square, to the doorstep of political institutions,” she said.

Protest organisers have called for 20 million people to come out on “Farewell Friday” in a final attempt to force Mubarak to step down.

Alexandria protests

Hossam El Hamalawy, a pro-democracy organiser and member of the Socialist Studies Centre, said protesters were heading towards the presidential palace from multiple directions, calling on the army to side with them and remove Mubarak.

“People are extremely angry after yesterday’s speech,” he told Al Jazeera. ”Anything can happen at the moment. There is self-restraint all over but at the same time I honestly can’t tell you what the next step will be … At this time, we don’t trust them [the army commanders] at all.”

An Al Jazeera reporter overlooking Tahrir said the side streets leading into the square were filling up with crowds.

“It’s an incredible scene. From what I can judge, there are more people here today than yesterday night,” she said.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters havehered
in the port city of Alexandria [AFP]

“The military has not gone into the square except some top commanders, one asking people to go home … I don’t see any kind of tensions between the people and the army but all of this might change very soon if the army is seen as not being on the side of the people.”

Hundreds of thousands were participating in Friday prayers outside a mosque in downtown Alexandria, Egypt’s second biggest city.

Thousands of pro-democracy campaigners also gathered outside a presidential palace in Alexandria.

Egyptian television reported that large angry crowds were heading from Giza, adjacent to Cairo, towards Tahrir Square and some would march on the presidential palace.

Protests are also being held in the cities of Mansoura, Mahala, Tanta, Ismailia, and Suez, with thousands in attendance.

Violence was reported in the north Sinai town of el-Arish, where protesters attempted to storm a police station. At least one person was killed, and 20 wounded in that attack, our correspondent said.

Dismay at earlier statement

In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Mubarak said he was handing “the functions of the president” to Vice-President Omar Suleiman. But the move means he retains his title of president.

Halfway through his much-awaited speech late at night, anticipation turned into anger among protesters camped inTahrir Square who began taking off their shoes and waving them in the air.

Immediately after Mubarak’s speech, Suleiman called on the protesters to “go home” and asked Egyptians to “unite and look to the future.”

Union workers have joined the protests over the past few days, effectively crippling transportation and several industries, and dealing a sharper blow to Mubarak’s embattled regime.

 

Christians Protect Muslims as they Pray in Egypt

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on February 3, 2011 by loonwatch

In contradistinction to the vapid antagonizers who wish to see a religious war between Muslims and Christians there are those souls who are willing to stand up for religious freedom — and thankfully they are an overwhelming majority!

 

Anthea Butler: Beck Fuels End-Times Hysteria Over Egypt

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2011 by loonwatch

Beck Fuels End-Times Hysteria Over Egypt

ANTHEA BUTLER

(Religion Dispatches)

While much of the world looks at the Egypt uprising as a spectacular story of human courage and hope for freedom and democracy in the face of oppression, in the world of Biblical prophecy there is only one lens: a sign of the end, a prophetic sign fulfilled, or the beginnings of the tribulation. Sites like Now the End BeginsProphecy Today, and Calvary Prophecy Report are just a few of the blogs and websites referring to the events in Egypt as a sign of the end or — more ominously — the beginning of a new war.

Conspiracy monger Glenn Beck has of course jumped with both feet into the fray, repeatedly referring in the last week to one of his favorite obscure books, “The Coming Insurrection.” Beck, without having to say anything religious, recites every end-time theme; fire, riots, Islam, Israel, you name it. Beck’s latest assertion is that the Egyptian uprising will result in a Muslim Caliphate. Ridiculous, yes, but it is the dog whistle that calls together conspiracy theorists, rapture-watchers and end-times purveyors. His constant refrain that this is our “Archduke Ferdinand” moment no doubt will sear a vision of an impending World War III into the minds of his listeners, and his blackboard will continue to contribute to the growing right-wing conspiracy theories that President Obama is engineering this from the White House.

The upshot of all of this is that while the rest of us are raptly watching Al Jazeeera (because CNN, MSNBC, and Fox only care about American tourists leaving the country, and have nothing of substance to say) to witness the impending overthrow of an authoritarian leader, others are taking advantage of the situation to exploit religious beliefs about the end-times. I don’t have a problem with the regular rapture watchers speculating about various events, because that’s what they do (and hey, it can be fun to read at times) but Beck’s constant haranguing and conspiracy theories are much, much more dangerous than any small-time blog.

Beck may not be explicit about his religious take on the current events, but his “teaching theater” feeds into many end-times beliefs. Too bad there isn’t a million person march to Fox News headquarters to demand that Roger Ailes pull the plug on Beck. Hey, it’s a fantasy, but you never know.

 

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on February 1, 2011 by loonwatch

via Andrew Sullivan’s blog

 

Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S.

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on January 31, 2011 by loonwatch

Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S.

WASHINGTON – Canadian television viewers looking for the most thorough and in-depth coverage of the uprising in Egypt have the option of tuning into Al Jazeera English, whose on-the-ground coverage of the turmoil is unmatched by any other outlet. American viewers, meanwhile, have little choice but to wait until one of the U.S. cable-company-approved networks broadcasts footage from AJE, which the company makes publicly available. What they can’t do is watch the network directly.

Other than in a handful of pockets across the U.S. – including Ohio, Vermont and Washington, D.C. – cable carriers do not give viewers the choice of watching Al Jazeera. That corporate censorship comes as American diplomats harshly criticize the Egyptian government for blocking Internet communication inside the country and as Egypt attempts to block Al Jazeera from broadcasting.

The result of the Al Jazeera English blackout in the United States has been a surge in traffic to the media outlet’s website, where footage can be seen streaming live. The last 24 hours have seen a two-and-a-half thousand percent increase in web traffic, Tony Burman, head of North American strategies for Al Jazeera English, told HuffPost. Sixty percent of that traffic, he said, has come from the United States.

Al Jazeera English launched in the fall of 2006, opening a large bureau on K Street in downtown Washington, but has made little progress in persuading cable companies to offer the channel to its customers.

The objections from the cable companies have come for both political and commercial reasons, said Burman, the former editor-in-chief of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “In 2006, pre-Obama, the experience was a challenging one. Essentially this was a period when a lot of negative stereotypes were associated with Al Jazeera. The effort was a difficult one,” he said, citing the Bush administration’s public hostility to the network.

“There was reluctance from these companies to embark in a direction that would perhaps be opposed by the Bush administration. I think that’s changed. I think if anything the Obama administration has indicated to Al Jazeera that it sees us as part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Burman said.

Cable companies are also worried, said Burman, that they will lose more subscribers than they will gain by granting access to Al Jazeera. The Canadian experience, he said, should put those fears to rest. In Canada, national regulators can require cable companies to provide certain channels and Al Jazeera ran a successful campaign to encourage Canadians to push the government to intervene. There has been extremely little negative reaction over the past year as Canadians have been able to view the channel and decide for themselves. “We had a completely different process and result here in Canada — a grassroots campaign that was overwhelmingly successful,” said Avi Lewis, the former host of Al Jazeera’s Frontline USA. (He now freelances for Al Jazeera while working on a documentary project with his wife, Naomi Klein.)

Media critics have begun to push for Al Jazeera’s inclusion. “It is downright un-American to still refuse to carry it,” wrote Jeff Jarvis on Sunday. “Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one-not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media-can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can.”

Al Jazeera follows a public broadcasting model similar to the BBC, CBC and NPR and is largely funded by the government of Qatar, which Burman said takes a completely hands-off approach to content. Al Jazeera is the scourge of authoritarian governments around the Middle East, which attempt to block it. The network, however, covers much more than the Middle East, and now has more bureaus in Latin America than CNN and the BBC, said Burman. “As proud as we are of our Middle Eastern coverage, we are in other places in the world that are never, never seen on television in American homes,” he said.

Burman said that he will use the experience with the Tunisia and Egyptian uprisings in upcoming meetings with cable providers as the network continues its push. Comcast did not respond to requests for comment.

“Why in the most vibrant democracy in the world, where engagement and knowledge of the world is probably the most important, why it’s not available is one of these things that would take a PhD scholar to understand,” Burman said.

UPDATE I: A reader emails to say that Al Jazeera programming is also being carried by the satellite channel LinkTV, which can be found on channel 9410 on Dish Network and 375 on DirecTV.

UPDATE II: Another reader emails to say that Al Jazeera broadcasts over some of the Pacifica stations, including WBAI (New York, 5-6 AM, 99.5 FM), KPFA (Berkeley, 6-7 AM, 94.1 FM) and KPFT (Houston, 5-6 AM, 90.1 FM).

 

Haroon Moghul on Why the Egyptian Revolution is not Islamist

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2011 by loonwatch

Via the Huffington Post, an insightful and nuanced analyses from Haroon Moghul. Hopefully people will start to listen.

4 Reasons Why Egypt’s Revolution Is Not Islamic

The following is reprinted with permission from Religion Dispatches. You can sign up for their free daily newsletterhere.

Just as in the case of Tunisia, we’ve been caught off guard by the rapid pace of events in Egypt. Commentators are having a difficult time understanding the dynamics of the Arab world and especially the role of religion in this latest apparent revolution. Many wonder why this isn’t an Islamic Revolution, and are audibly breathing a sigh of relief that it isn’t — assuming that somehow Egypt would follow Iran’s rather unique trajectory in 1979 and thereafter.

So why isn’t Egypt’s revolution an Islamic one? And what sets Tunisia and Egypt apart from Iran? Due to the quickly shifting nature of events, I’ve recorded four reasons why Egypt’s uprising isn’t an explicitly Islamic one.

1) The political Islamism that ended up triumphing in Iran was a much more authoritarian interpretation of Islam. It specifically embraced political power and preached a narrative of resistance, though its victory in Iran paradoxically ended any chance of victory elsewhere. That’s because when elites and other, non-religious ideological forces in neighboring Muslim countries saw the purges of prior elites taking place in Iran, they immediately became skeptical of working alongside Islamists in their own country.

Islamic challenges to regimes in Tajikistan, Algeria and Tunisia, among others, were violently supressed even though they pursued their goals democratically. Most Islamists learned from this brutal experience and grew from it; Egypt’s most powerful Muslim group, the Muslim Brotherhood, was one such group. It’s probably safe to say that Iran was the only victory for this style of Islamism, and now, some 30-plus years later, its moment has largely passed. The geopolitical, economic and social reasons for its emergence have disappeared.

2) Iran’s Islamist opposition to the Shah was shaped by the peculiarities of Shi’a Islam and Iranian history. Shi’as have a more organized and powerful clergy than Sunnis, and Iran’s clergy, unlike Egypt’s, were much more independent of the state. In Egypt today, among the main trends in Islamic practice are a quietist Salafism, which seeks a rigorous but non-political personal morality, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

And while the Brotherhood is an incredibly large and powerful organization, it is today a product of years of suppression, torture, and intimidation. While it seeks to change society, it does not pursue an explicitly political agenda. Rather, it believes that an ideal politics will be achieved once society is Islamized — in other words, enough introduction of Muslim values into popular culture, and society will simply reform itself — and that includes the state. So while they have political ideals, they certainly don’t have an explicit political program.

That said, it’s no surprise that the Brotherhood weren’t out ahead in the recent protests: They’ve largely eschewed street politics (it ends with their members electrocuted in jails). It’s also worth considering, although this is still conjectural, whether the Brotherhood declined to play a more public role even after they caught up to events on the street precisely because they know a more prominent role for themselves could draw negative attention. I’m sure the Brotherhood knows that Mubarak would love to have Islamists to blame for the uprising. It would make our government support for his crackdown that much easier to obtain.

3) People who study Iran know how vexed the relationship is, and has been, between Persian cultural identity and Islam. While many Iranians before the revolution were religious in a non-political way, the country’s elite tended to see Islam and Persianness as mutually incompatible. On the other hand, Egypt is a proudly Arab society (hint: the Arab Republic of Egypt) which has never seen Islam as incompatible with their specific ethnic and national project.

Arabness and Islam are hard to pull apart, such that the late Michel Aflaq, the founder of the Arab nationalist Ba’ath Party — he was a Christian — praised Islam as an achievement of the Arab cultural genius. (Many Muslims wouldn’t take too kindly to such a reading, but there you have it.) That difference in dynamics between Egypt and Iran needs to be stressed.

While Iran’s Shah campaigned against Islam and sought to erase its role in Persian history and culture, Mubarak never attacked Islam with anywhere near the same vehemence. He’s far more concerned with preserving power for himself than he is with rewriting Egyptian history (unfortunately for his prospects of remaining in power, he’s concerned with himself–and not even for Egypt’s advancement, unlike other Third World dictatorships, which do emphasize and achieve real economic growth). And this brings us to the most important point…

4) Egypt’s revolution doesn’t have to be Islamic because Islam isn’t at the heart of the problem on the ground. In fact, the non-political Egyptian Islam of the last few decades has succeeded in deeply Islamizing Egyptian culture, making Muslim piety interwoven with the everyday rhythms of Egyptian life. We saw this in the protests after the Friday prayers today, in the spontaneous congregational prayers that took place in the heat of demonstrations–and we can see it in the number of Egyptian women who veil (though many don’t and still strongly identify with Islam, whether culturally or religiously, personally or publicly).

Egypt’s society is a deeply Muslim one, and the very success of this non-political religious project has negated the need for a confrontational Islam. Egyptians know their religious identity is not under threat. ElBaradei, for example, joined in Friday prayers today before going out into the streets. Whether Egyptians identify with political Islam or secular democracy, their Arabness and Islam tend to be mutually supportive, and certainly not incompatible.

Where there is a danger is that if the United States does not come out explicitly in favor of the people, subsequent events will become more confrontational, and may even see the introduction of a more cultural and civilizational rhetoric. The Shah monopolized power and sought to erase a culture. Mubarak, for all his brutality, has had no such grandiose presumption.

As an aside, I might also add that Muslim societies often have flourishing religious institutions and practices, organic and varied. But in the case of Iran, the regime paradoxically undermined that popular and organic religiosity when they sought to enforce faith through the state. This is an argument for keeping religion and politics separate in the Muslim world: in the interest of defending both from the negative effects of the other. Egypt’s “secular” dictator, who didn’t meddle too far into his people’s religious life — he was no Shah, and no Ben Ali — hasn’t created a sharp cultural divide in his country (the economic one is something else altogether). So why would Egyptians need, want, or stress, an Islamic Revolution?

 

Pamela Geller Watch: The blogger who still loves Mubarak

Posted in Loon Blogs with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2011 by loonwatch

The blogger who still loves Mubarak

(Salon.com)

While some conservatives fancifully imagine that George W. Bush’s foreign policy misadventures led to these demonstrations in the Arab world, and while others acknowledge that Mubarak is awful but the rest of those Muslims are even worse, one prominent conservative blogger is openly rooting for the repressive Mubarak regime to survive: Pamela “Atlas Shrugs” Geller.

Last night, a classic Geller headline: “GOOD NEWS: EGYPT ARRESTS MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD LEADERS.”

In other words, members of the opposition were swept up and jailed in preparation for a day of demonstrations against the authoritatian government. And this opposition group was not even involved in the initial protests, though they joined in the ongoing demonstrations that began on Friday. “It’s a good preventative measure no matter who wins this power struggle,” Geller wrote.

But as the world became transfixed by the images out of Egypt today, Geller worried that Barack Obama might abandon our wonderful ally, Hosni Mubarak.

Mubarak has been a US ally for decades. We send three billion dollars a year to Egypt. And Egypt made a peace deal with Israel. But knowing Obama, he will throw another ally under the bus.

Geller continued to demonstrate the limits of her simplistic, binary understanding of the world. “I am all for political freedom,” she wrote, except that she prefers Mubarak to, uh, political freedom.

Loonwatch Stands with Protests for Freedom in Egypt

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2011 by loonwatch

Loonwatch, like many around the world has been glued to events in Egypt. Will it go the way of Tunisia, full blown revolution, or will brutal repression quell the revolt as happened in Iran?

Only time will tell. You can follow the live stream of what is happening in Egypt at AlJazeera’s Live Stream.

The governments of the West in general and the US in particular have given luke warm platitudes about their support for peace, rights etc. Hillary Clinton in the beginning stages of the protests this week left a sour taste in the mouths of the protestors when she essentially extended her support for the Mubarak regime,

I urge all people to exercise restraint. I support the fundamental right of expression, but our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people

This is realpolitik speak that translates to “we want the status quo” and the Egyptian people know it and they resent it because it exposes the hypocrisy of the so-called beacon of “democracy and freedom.”

Vice President Joe Biden blurted out some hours ago what perhaps may be the true sentiments/wishes of the US government:

Mubarak is no dictator, he shouldn’t step down…

How out of touch is Biden? Is he blind? Does he think we are children?

Today Hillary Clinton came out with a statement that on its surface seems to contradict Biden’s revelatory position,

“People in the Middle East, like people everywhere, are seeking a chance to contribute and have a role in decisions that will shape their lives…The Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away”

While these statements indicate an improvement in rhetoric they fall far short of a condemnation of the violence and repression perpetuated by the Mubarak regime.

The events in Tunisia and Egypt have all but thrown a wrench in the stereoptypes perpetuated by anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racists and Islamophobes.

It proves that regime change need not come at the point of a gun, and that Democracy can be born in the Middle East through organic change from the grass roots as opposed to the Bush Doctrine.

It proves that the stereotype that Arabs and Muslims are incapable of change unless it be either theocratic or despotic is a racist lie. These protests are for better living conditions, jobs and DEMOCRACY!

It also proves that despite attempts at enflaming sectarian division between Muslim and Christian Egyptians by extremists in both the extremist Muslim and anti-Muslim camps they are more united than ever. During protests Egyptian Copts protected their Muslim brethren as they prayed and vice versa!

It exposes quite clearly the hypocrisy and double standards of many in the West who give zero credit to the Arab and Muslim peoples, it also exposes their close link and dealings with decadent despotic regimes. We can’t help but notice the difference between the reaction to protests in Iran and these protests, can it be that denunciations are affected by how friendly or adverse one is to the regime in question?

The Egyptian people have tasted liberation, have tasted the idea that they can take destiny into their own hands and bring about –real change– that can lead to a brighter future, may they succeed in transitioning to Democracy.

Update #1: Tear gas canisters are…drum roll…MADE IN THE USA:

Update #2: From mp11,

“Spencer is having a hard time turning the protests in Tunisia and Egypt into a Jihad.

In his latest offering he tells his stupid readers that when Muslims call for democracy and freedom they are in fact calling for Shariah.

“Calls for democracy effectively amount to calls for Islamic rule.”

Update #3: Some 2,000-3,000 people thronged around a military vehicle near Cairo’s Tahrir square, a Reuters witness said. They climbed on it, shaking hands with the soldiers, and chanted: “The army and the people are united” and “The revolution has come”. (AlJazeera English)

Update #4: Mubarak breaks his silence, attempts to look defiant. Is he adding fuel to the fire?

Update #5: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia speaks, “No Arab and Muslim human being can bear that some infiltrators, in the name of freedom of expression, have infiltrated into the brotherly people of Egypt, to destabilize its security and stability and they have been exploited to spew out their hatred in destruction, intimidation, burning, looting and inciting a malicious sedition,’” the news agency said.

Some autocratic ally of ours is scared isn’t he?

Update #6: “‘Democracy is something beautiful,’ said Eli Shaked, who was Israel’s ambassador to Cairo from 2003 to 2005, in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE. Nevertheless, it is very much in the interests of Israel, the United States and Europe that Mubarak remains in power.‘”

Update #7: “Which would I rather have, the autocrat or the Islamic radical Democracy,? I don’t know, that’s a question that’ll keep me up at night” –Geraldo Rivera

Rivera should keep looking for Al Capone’s secret safe and not talk about things he has no knowledge of makes him sound really stupid.

 

Spencer Distorts Egyptian Society; Spreads Interfaith Bigotry

Posted in Feature, Loon Blogs, Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2011 by loonwatch

(Published originally at Spencerwatch)

Egypt’s majority Muslim population spoke loudly against extremism and terrorism when they served as “human shields” in protection of their Christian neighbors on Christmas eve. “We either live together, or we die together,” was the slogan of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon. Indeed, it was a teachable moment: a ray of hope in a sectarian torn world. But fake scholar Robert Spencer is determined to squander any chance at peaceful interfaith coexistence.

Spencer notes that Al-Azhar University condemned the recent attacks on Egyptian Churches:

Al-Azhar is the foremost authority in Sunni Islam, and a case can be made from the Qur’an for what they say: “For had it not been for Allah’s repelling some men by means of others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down.” — Qur’an 22:40

Of course, the citation of Quran 22:40 is black-and-white proof that Islam does not sanction attacks on houses of worship. However, Spencer as usual turns the Quran upside down:

Thus Muslims should not be among those who “pull down” churches, right? So why, then, would any jihadists target a church, given that they consistently proclaim themselves to be the true and pure Muslims, following scrupulously everything commanded in the Qur’an and Sunnah? Or have they really “hijacked” Islam, as is endlessly claimed?

Well, it is worth noting that ’Umdat al-Salik (Reliance of the Traveller), a manual of Islamic law that Al-Azhar certifies as conforming “to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni Community,” contains a section (o9.10-o.9.15) entitled “Rules of Warfare” that says nothing about any prohibition on attacking a non-Muslim house of worship. And Islamic law generally takes a negative view of non-Muslim houses of worship, forbidding non-Muslims in Islamic states from building new houses of worship or repairing old ones.

Suggesting the Quran doesn’t mean what it says, Spencer cites as proof his favorite piece of evidence: Umdat al-Salik, a 14th century medieval Muslim law manual. Spencer assumes the certification of the translation into English by Al-Azhar means that Muslim legal thinking hasn’t moved beyond the 14th century. What he fails to disclose is that these manuals are studied in their historical contexts. Serious Egyptian religious intellectuals do not take the rules of warfare from Umdat al-Salik but from the Geneva Conventions and U.N. treaties, as stated clearly by Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Dr. Ali Gomaa:

“Fight in the way of God against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression – for, verily, God does not love aggressors,” (Quran, 2:190)

This verse summarizes everything that has been agreed upon concerning guidelines of warfare, including the first and second Geneva Conventions.

Nonetheless, reading in translation (since we know he is not proficient in Arabic), Spencer doesn’t find any suggestion in Umdat Al-Salik that houses of worship should be protected; therefore, he concludes Islamic law in its totality must not have any precedent about protecting houses of worship. What he failed to mention, even in the very piece of evidence he cited, is this:

09:11 It is unlawful to kill a non-Muslim to whom a Muslim has given his guarantee of protection.

[Ibn, al-Naqīb A. L, and Noah H. M. Keller. Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law ʻumdat Al-Salik. Beltsville, MD, U.S.A: Amana Publications, 1999. P. 603]

Most Muslims reinterpret such clauses in the modern sense of citizenship. The Christians are Egyptian citizens and therefore deserve the protection of the government. Hence, the overwhelming demonstration by Muslims in support of the Christian community. Of course, even in a time of warfare, Islamic law laid down strict rules of combat. Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, told his armies:

“I advise you ten things: Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.”

[Muwatta, Book 21, Number 21.3.10:]

“Inhabited places” include houses of worship. But the Egyptian Christians aren’t combatants; they’re citizens. They’re even more deserving of scrupulous protection. In this regard, Muhammad himself sanctified the lives of those who made peace treaties with Muslims:

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr: The Prophet said, “Whoever killed a Mu’ahid (a person who is granted the pledge of protection by the Muslims) shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise though its fragrance can be smelt at a distance of forty years (of traveling).”

[Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 83, Number 49]

Apparently, Spencer feels no need to check any Islamic sources other than Umdat al-Salik before he makes sweeping claims about Islamic law. In any case, Spencer would like us to think that Al-Qaeda, who bombs houses of worship, is acting in accordance with Islamic law better than the majority of Egyptian Muslims. He gives us his “expert” interpretation:

Also, it is likely that al-Qaeda understands Qur’an 22:40 as referring to churches that teach the true Christianity of Jesus the Muslim prophet as he is depicted in the Qur’an. Those Christians who consider Jesus divine — that is, virtually all of them — are “unbelievers” according to the Qur’an (5:17, 5:72), and the Qur’an commands Muslims to make war against those who associate partners with Allah (9:5), which Christians are explicitly accused of doing by proclaiming Jesus to be the Son of God (9:30). Thus they would likely believe that Qur’an 22:40 just doesn’t have anything to do with “pulling down” the assemblies of renegades such as those who were gathered in the church in Alexandria last night.

Notice that Spencer thinks it is “likely” al-Qaeda understand the verse exactly the way he does, although he can produce no such evidence. Maybe because he’s not too good at translating Arabic documents? He then cites his favorite handful of verses (out of context); for example, citing:

But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)… (Quran 9:5)

But without citing the following verses (interpreted in Tafsir Jalalayn as follows):

“How can polytheists [that were treacherous and violated their treaties] have a covenant with Allah and His Messenger? Except for those with whom you entered covenants [i.e., the polytheists who did not break them and hence were not treacherous] in the Sacred Mosque. So as long as they are true to you [with their covenants and do not breach them] then be true to them [by also fulfilling your covenants]; verily, Allah loves those who fear Him [i.e., He loves those who fulfill covenants, since whoever fears Allah will fulfill his covenants, and the Prophet kept his word and upheld his side of the treaty until his enemies broke theirs].”

[Tafsir Jalalayn, Quran 9:7]

Spencer takes verses that refer specifically to a handful of Arab tribes who broke their peace treaties with Muhammad and extrapolates them out to apply to all Jews, Christians, and people everywhere. Spencer ignores key verses of the Quran that make clear distinctions between those who war against Muslims and those who make peace:

Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just. Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong. (Quran 60:8-9)

Finally, Spencer ends by repeating his keynote fallacy:

If Al-Azhar backs up this statement with consistent calls on Egyptian authorities to protect Egypt’s Christians, and consistent teaching against the Islamic texts and teachings that provide justification for attacks against them, we will be making real progress.

Spencer thinks we’ll “make progress” when Al-Azhar teaches against Islamic texts and teachings, while we have shown here that Al-Azhar’s condemnation of Al-Qaeda is not against Islamic texts and teachings, but is perfectly in line with them. Spencer pretends that only his spurious self-serving interpretation of Islam is correct and therefore Islam is the problem, rather than extremism fostered by military occupations. Would Spencer find it sensible for me to likewise demand Christians speak out against the Christian texts and teachings that justify terrorism?

As our country starts debating the violent political rhetoric in our nation’s discourse, let people know that fraudsters like Robert Spencer add fuel to the fire by pushing communities apart, dividing nations along religious lines, and hindering any hope of interfaith understanding. His anti-Muslim bigotry and rejection of Muslim/Christian harmony is poisonous to the best of American traditions: E pluribus unum.

 

Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields”

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2011 by loonwatch

Don’t expect to see this news on Spencer’s blog.

Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields”

Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.

From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

“We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural centre distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea.

Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.

“This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”

In the days following the brutal attack on Saints Church in Alexandria, which left 21 dead on New Year’ eve, solidarity between Muslims and Copts has seen an unprecedented peak. Millions of Egyptians changed their Facebook profile pictures to the image of a cross within a crescent – the symbol of an “Egypt for All”. Around the city, banners went up calling for unity, and depicting mosques and churches, crosses and crescents, together as one.

The attack has rocked a nation that is no stranger to acts of terror, against all of Muslims, Jews and Copts. In January of last year, on the eve of Coptic Christmas, a drive-by shooting in the southern town of Nag Hammadi killed eight Copts as they were leaving Church following mass. In 2004 and 2005, bombings in the Red Sea resorts of Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh claimed over 100 lives, and in the late 90’s, Islamic militants executed a series of bombings and massacres that left dozens dead.

This attack though comes after a series of more recent incidents that have left Egyptians feeling left out in the cold by a government meant to protect them.

Last summer, 28-year-old businessman Khaled Said was beaten to death by police, also in Alexandria, causing a local and international uproar. Around his death, there have been numerous other reports of police brutality, random arrests and torture.

Last year was also witness to a brutal parliamentary election process in which the government’s security apparatus and thugs seemed to spiral out of control. The result, aside from injuries and deaths, was a sweeping win by the ruling party thanks to its own carefully-orchestrated campaign that included vote-rigging, corruption and rife brutality. The opposition was essentially annihilated. And just days before the elections, Copts – who make up 10 percent of the population – were once again the subject of persecution, when a government moratorium on construction of a Christian community centre resulted in clashes between police and protestors. Two people were left dead and over 100 were detained, facing sentences of up to life in jail.

The economic woes of a country that favours the rich have only exacerbated the frustration of a population of 80 million whose majority struggle each day to survive. Accounts of thefts, drugs, and violence have surged in recent years, and the chorus of voices of discontent has continued to grow.

The terror attack that struck the country on New Year’s eve is in many ways a final straw – a breaking point, not just for the Coptic community, but for Muslims as well, who too feel marginalized, persecuted, and overlooked, by a government that fails to address their needs. On this Coptic Christmas eve, the solidarity was not just one of religion, but of a desperate and collective plea for a better life and a government with accountability.

 

Ahmed Rehab: A Silver Lining in Egypt’s Dark Cloud

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by loonwatch

An inspiring and heartening post by Ahmed Rehab on the bombing of the Coptic church. We were alerted to this late but this is certainly thus far one of the best posts on the subject. (hat tip: Ivan)

A Silver Lining to Egypt’s Dark Cloud

by Ahmed Rehab

The recent bombing outside a Coptic church in the Egyptian seaport of Alexandria that claimed 21 lives and 96 injuries sent shockwaves throughout Egypt and made headlines around the world.

Much of the global media has limited its interest in the story to the bombing itself and the subsequent angry street protests by Coptic youth; more savvy journalists included some discussion of government negligence and the context of sectarian strife that plagues Egypt today.

Still, an integral part of the story remains untold outside of Egypt: the strong response of everyday Egyptians – Muslims and Copts.

A popular storm of anger, defiance, and national unity is sweeping the country expressed by political leaders, members of the clergy, movie stars, students, and men and women on the street all reiterating one resounding theme: this is an attack against Egypt and all Egyptians.

While sectarian strife – even violence – is a serious problem in this mostly Muslim nation with a sizable Coptic population, Muslims and Copts generally live in peace side by side and have for many centuries.

Ali GomaaEgyptians of all stripes seem to concur that the Alexandria bombing – the most serious act of terrorism in a decade – is an attack on the Egyptian way of life with the intent to drive a wedge between faith communities and push the nation into turmoil.

“This is not just an attack on Copts, this is an attack on me and you and all Egyptians, on Egypt and its history and its symbols, by terrorists who know no God, no patriotism, and no humanity,” said Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the grand mufti of Egypt.

Khaled El Gendy“This cannot be classified as religious extremism, this can only be classified as religious apostasy,” said sheikh Khaled El Gendy a popular Muslim TV personality. “I do not offer my condolences to Christians, but to all Egyptians and to Egypt, All Copts are Egyptian and all Egyptians are Copts; their places of worship are national places of worship, a bomb that targets them bleeds us all.” A high ranking member of the Coptic clergy who sat beside him echoed his words.

“An act like this is wholly condemnable in Islam. Muslims are not only obligated not to harm Christians, but to protect and defend them and their places of worship,” said Imam Ahmed Al Tayeb the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Egypt’s seat of Orthodoxy.

Adel Imam“Let us hang black flags from our homes and black ribbons on our cars to mourn this cowardly attack against our brothers and sisters, let us send a symbolic message of defiance against those who are trying to divide us”, said a visibly enraged Adel Imam, Egypt’s most popular living actor, a Muslim, and a long time advocate for Coptic rights.

The message was not much different on Egypt’s most watched talk shows that were abuzz with Muslim and Coptic guests in the studios and on the streets, expressing their solidarity with each other and defiance against what they see as a common enemy trying to drive a wedge between Egyptians.

Muslim college students in Alexandria and Cairo have vowed to join Copts at their upcoming Christmas celebrations (January 7th for the Coptic Church). “We will be there with signs bearing the Crescent and the Cross, celebrating with them, standing with them, and falling with them if necessary,” said a young, veiled student leader surrounded by her colleagues.

As an Egyptian, I am as invigorated by the current mood in Egypt as I am distraught by the bombing. However, I pray that this welcome surge of unity and camaraderie is seized and eternalized. I hope that it becomes ingrained into our societal fabric and that it is leveraged to induce long needed reforms.

I agree that an attack such as this has the bearings of Al Qaeda and its imitation groups therefore taking us outside the realm of common sectarian strife and into one of national security; nonetheless, Egyptians should see the current atmosphere of empathy as an opportunity to address Coptic grievances and strive towards a more equal society.

We can no longer deny that since the rise of Muslim extremist ideology in the 1970′s, Egypt’s once exemplary Muslim-Coptic relations has deteriorated significantly.

My father tells me that growing up in the 50′s, he often did not know if one of his friends was a Muslim or Copt except by sheer coincidence, and then when he did it mattered little. This was not my experience growing up in Egypt where my religion teacher made sure to warn me against the “treachery” of my Coptic colleagues.

Naguib El RihanyIn the 40′s, no one seemed to care that Naguib El Rihany, Egypt’s then greatest comedian and a national treasure, was a Copt; he was simply Egyptian. Likewise, Copts did not bat an eyelid when Omar Sharif, a Christian, converted to Islam in the 50′s, at the height of his celebrity, a far cry from today’s intense reactions against conversions.

As far back as the 12th century, Egyptian Muslims and Copts fought side by side against the Crusaders, viewed then as a national security threat and not a religious war. Together, they stood tall against British colonialism – a lasting image of the period depicts Muslim sheikhs and Coptic priests marching together side by side and chanting “long live the crescent and the cross!”

One needs not look farther than the Alexandria Church itself to gain a glimpse of the sort of religious cohabitation that is uniquely Egyptian: the church is brightly lit up by flood lights perched up on a Mosque, only 30 feet across the street.

Egyptians are asking today privately and publicly, where has all this gone?

But we need to do more than ask and lament. We need to act.

The post-Alexandria solidarity between Muslims and Copts – the likes of which Egypt has not witnessed in decades – represents a silver lining in Egypt’s dark cloud of sectarian strife and mistrust.

We would be wrong not to acknowledge and applaud it, but equally wrong to settle for it; a silver lining never made for a brighter day.

We need to carry the momentum forward into the realm of real change:

When extremist religious discourse at Mosques (and in Coptic circles) is regularly and unequivocally condemned and countered with a proactive and effective discourse of respectful coexistence, it will be a brighter day.

When Egyptians no longer have to list their faith affiliation on their official government ID’s, it will be a brighter day.

When Copts no longer need a special government decree to build churches (or fix bathrooms in their churches), it will be a brighter day.

When I see talented young Coptic men playing on the Egyptian football national team at a rate proportional to the Coptic talent in my 6th grade class in Cairo, it will be a brighter day.

When the glass ceiling barring Copts from reaching the highest levels of government is shattered, it will be a brighter day.

When Egyptian law, prosecutors, officers, and judges treat Muslims and Copts as merely Egyptians – that is as equal citizens – with merit being the only qualifier, it will be a brighter day.

Given the candid conversations happening all over Egypt today, I believe that a brighter day is within reach. It is up to us “to change this tragedy into an opportunity,” to borrow the words of Sheikh Ali Gomaa.

Clearly, the immediate priority is security, but that must be followed – if not paralleled – with addressing Coptic civic grievances. For this to stand a realistic chance of success, the Coptic cause must become a national cause led and fought for by Muslims under a program of comprehensive civil rights reform.

Ahmed Rehab is a board member of the Egyptian American Society and a co-author and signatory of the Chicago Declaration, a practical document calling for equal treatment of Copts under the law, submitted to the Egyptian government in 2005.

 

Two missing Coptic women Abused by Priest Husbands, What if they were Muslim?

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , on December 28, 2010 by loonwatch

Robert Spencer was all on this issue before, painting it in a simplified form directly taking the side of ultra right-wing Coptic apologists who hate Islam with a passion. Don’t expect any retractions from Spencer on this one.

Two missing Coptic women had been abused by priest husbands

(StlToday)

CAIRO, Egypt • The wives of two Egyptian Coptic priests, forbidden by the church from divorcing their abusive husbands, desperately sought another way out by converting to Islam. When their intentions were discovered, police handed them over to the church, and their whereabouts since have been unknown.

The cases caused a furor at home that spilled over the borders and turned deadly when al-Qaida in Iraq cited the women as the reason behind the worst attack ever on Christians in Iraq — a siege of a church in October that left 68 people dead.

It was a stark example of the schism between Christians and Muslims that runs through the Middle East and periodically erupts into violence.

“Amid the current sectarian discord, the timing is perfect for al-Qaida to show it is defending Islam and to exploit the situation to rally extremists against the churches,” said Ammar Ali Hassan, an expert in Islamic movements.

Both Wafaa Constantine, 53, and Camilla Shehata, 25, lived in remote rural towns and enjoyed prestige as devoted and pious wives of conservative Coptic priests. But behind that veneer, a lawyer and a church official said, the women were trapped in abusive relationships.

Both tried to seek a divorce through church channels but hit a dead end because the Coptic Orthodox Church forbids divorce — a rule enforced even more strictly against the wives of priests. And they decided to rebel, not only against their husbands but against the whole religion.

They sought to convert to Islam, something viewed as a disgrace in their community. The Coptic Church considers those who convert to other religions dead, making the marriage contract invalid.

Though Egyptian religious authorities say the women never succeeded in converting, the controversy in both cases escalated with protests by Egyptian Christians, who accused Muslims of abducting the women and forcing them to convert.

That riled Muslim extremists in Egypt who protested and accused the church of holding them against their will and forcing them to convert back to Christianity.

Al-Qaida in Iraq turned it into a cause celebre when it cited the women as the reason behind the Baghdad church siege. The group followed with more threats against Iraq’s Christian minority, generating such fear that most Christmas celebrations in the country were canceled.

 

Oxymoron: Robert Spencer Joins Islamophobes on Panel to Celebrate Human Rights

Posted in Feature, Loon Blogs with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2010 by loonwatch

Voice of the Copts which for all intents and purposes is an anti-Islam Coptic apologetic website is hosting a “celebration” of human rights on Human Rights day which they completely undermined by inviting a panel consisting of some of the most anti-Freedom, anti-Muslim activists (read opportunists) out there.

The panel will include:

Robert Spencer: anti-Muslim director of David Horowitz’s funded JihadWatch. An ally of Fascists and neo-Nazi groups such as: Geert Wilders (Right-wing Dutch neo-Fascist), EDL (English Defense League), SIOE (Stop the Islamization of Europe), BPE (Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa), Ewald Stadler(Far right Austrian politician), BZO, Sergei Trefkovic (Serbian Nationalist, genocide denier). Spencer has also created anti-Muslim org’s along with Pamela Geller, SIOA and AFDI.

Pamela Geller: All you need to know about Pamela, “Pamela Geller: The Looniest Blogger Ever.”

Tawfiq Hamid: Oppurtunist of the worst kind, “Tawfiq Hamid: The Shemp of the Three Stooges.”

It is sad that the Voice of the Copts has chosen to give a platform to hatemongers of the worst kind, it undermines a valuable day and hurts any credibility that they may have.

 

Update: Islamophobic Murderer Goes on Trial

Posted in Loon Blogs, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2009 by loonwatch

Update: Islamophobic Murderer goes on Trial

 

"For What Sin Was she Killed"
“For What Sin Was she Killed”

An update from AlJazeera English on the horrific murder of Marwa Sherbini.

German on Trial for Murder

A man accused of killing a pregnant Egyptian woman in court in a frenzied anti-Islamic attack has gone on trial in Germany in a case that inflamed tempers throughout the Muslim world.

Prosecutors say the defendant, identified as Alex W, stabbed Marwa el-Sherbini, who was wearing a hijab, at least 16 times on July 1, in the same courthouse in the eastern city of Dresden where the trial has opened.

A verdict is expected on November 11.

“In this trial we will try to get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding the death of a young woman who was deeply integrated in her family and society,” Wiegand said.

The unemployed defendant, who arrived in Germany from Perm in the Urals in 2003, reportedly struggled with bouts of depression.

El-Sherbini worked as a pharmacist while her husband is a geneticist working on his doctorate in Dresden.

El-Sherbini bled to death at the scene watched by her three-and-a-half-year-old son, Mustafa.

Prosecutors say the attack was motivated by “a pronounced hatred of non-Europeans and Muslims”.

Elwy Ali Okaz, who was stabbed as he tried to protect el-Sherbini, his wife, was then shot in the leg by police who apparently took him for the attacker.

Egyptian anger

Testifying on Monday, Okaz said: “The perpetrator suddenly attacked my wife, he hit her several times and when I tried to help he hit me too.

In video

The case sparked deep anger across the Muslim world

“It was only then that I noticed he had a knife and that he had stabbed her. Then he began stabbing me too.”Okaz said the alleged attacker continued stabbing his wife even after she was on the ground.

Egyptian media quickly dubbed el-Sherbini a martyr and there were huge protests against the murder in countries including Egypt, Iran and Turkey.

Amr El-Kahky, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, said: “Since the killing of Marwa el-Sherbini in Dresden, every Egpytian has been angry and they are all asking for justice.

“The picture of Marwa el-Sherbini has been published in most of the papers … everyone is waiting to see what this man will plead in the case.”

‘Hated Muslims’

El-Sherbini and the defendant met in August 2008, when she asked him to clear a playground swing where he sat smoking a cigarette so Mustafa could use it.

He refused, calling el-Sherbini an “Islamist”, a “terrorist” and a “whore”. She pressed charges for defamation and he was fined $1,170.

An appeal against the conviction brought them together again in July.

The defendant allegedly plunged an 18cm kitchen knife into the chest, back and arm of el-Sherbini, 31, three months pregnant at the time with her second child.

El-Sherbini was three months pregnant
at the time of her murder [EPA]

“He stabbed them out of pure hatred against non-Europeans and Muslims. He wanted to annihilate them,” Frank Heinrich, a prosecution lawyer, told the court on Monday, where many people were wearing badges with el-Sherbini’s face.

About 200 police officers were on hand as the defendant entered the court in a hooded top and sunglasses, which Birgit Wiegand, the judge, asked him to remove.

He lowered the hood but kept the glasses on, prompting Wiegand to give him a $75 fine.

She threatened him with another fine when he refused to confirm his name or place of birth.

Court psychiatric experts who examined the defendant, who is also charged with attempting to kill Okaz, say they found no evidence of diminished responsibility.

Germany criticised

The attack, and a slow reaction by the German media and political class, sparked accusations of neglectful handling of hate crimes against Muslims.

Thousands also rallied in Dresden in el-Sherbini’s memory.

The Egyptian government on Sunday demanded the maximum sentence under German law, life in prison, for the attack.

Asked what ordinary Egyptians hoped would emerge from the trial, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, Egypt’s ambassador to Germany, said: “This was a heinous crime and they are expecting justice to be administered in a swift way.”

El-Sherbini’s family appeared in Dresden as co-plaintiffs, represented by lawyers hired by the Egyptian government, the Egyptian foreign ministry said, adding that it was “confident in the German justice system’s impartiality”.

Representatives from the prosecutor’s office in her hometown of Alexandria were also in the courtroom, as were Egyptian reporters.