Friday, March 24, 2006

Home Sweet Home

I am back to my home City Cairo for some time. I have to admit that every time I visit it takes me some time and effort to get adjusted to Cairo again. It has completely a different tempo than any city in the world. But it is a great to be back to bond with my people and home.

I will be back with more blogs very soon. FFE

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Denmark's "Buy Danish" lends its place to Egypt's "Judicial Independence flag"

As I have supported Denmark's freedom of expression, it is due time to start another support campagin for Egypt. The country's judicial system is still controlled by the executive authority. The Egyptian judges are going through one of the most important freedom battles in Egypt's modern history that needs everyone's support. I replaced the "Buy Danish" flag with the Judicial Independence for Egypt on the right side of the blog.

If you want to support our honorable judges',download the image and post it on your blog. Show your support to freedom and democracy and tell the world that Egyptians want their judicial independence.

P.S: This is not a symbol for Egypt's flag, this is part of the Egyptian judges sashes that they wear when court is in session.
Read about the judges' battle:

Mom for Freedom of Press and Independent Judiciary in Egypt
Egypt judges' Immunity lifted Over Confronting Government For Independence Denmark Cartoons absent Real Democracy Battle in Egypt Egyptian Rigged Elections into International Investigation
Is this the Promised Democracy?
Growing tension between the Egyptian regime and the Judges....
Referendum of May 25: Great Forgery Day

Egypt Reports Four Human Cases of Bird Flu

Egypt said four people have been infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, including one who has already died.

However, the results of medical tests carried out by the health ministry are still awaiting a final confirmation from the World Health Organisation which has sent the specimens to a British labatory.

Health Minister Hatem al-Gabali said the latest case was contracted by Mohammed Mahmud Abdul Ghani Ghabash, 17. A a student from the province of Gharbiyah, north of Cairo, he was hospitalized on Sunday.

Next door, Israel on Monday confirmed its first outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu. In a statement on its Web site, the Israeli Agriculture Ministry said the flu had been found in birds at two communal farms in southern Israel and at a farming community in central Israel.

Israel poisoned hundreds of thousands of turkeys and chickens as it sought on Monday to contain an outbreak of the dangerous H5N1 strain of bird flu which has been spreading at an alarming rate.

This is getting very serious and scary, let's hope that Egypt or the Middle East region is not on the verge of a pandemic.

BREAKING: First Human Death from Bird Flu in Egypt
Bird Flu in Egypt: 24 Provinces out 26 confirmed Cases
Poultry Breeders Demonstrate in Cairo Over Bird Flu Boycotts
Mass Slaughter, State of Emergency Declared Over Avian Flu Spread ...
New Suicide Bombers, Egypt Attacked..

Al-Azhar objects a Movie on Jesus, And Its Scholars criticizes Prince Charles honorary doctorate

Many believe that Egypt is secular country or make believe, however the role of the Sunni Al-Azhar institution as a regulatory, censor body of the power to ban and control arts, books and music poses a bog question whether we are a Muslim or an Islamic country. There is a big difference between the two. Al Azhar institution takes the liberity to release fatwas to cripple and stifle a free intellectual art life in Egypt to replace it with and Islamist life.

One of the roles, Al Azhar pretends to play is creating a dialogue between religions. In my opinion dialogues between nations, peoples of different sects or religions necessitate openness and transparency.

Growing up in Egypt as a Muslim, I attended my religion classes at school. At university, there is no such a thing unless your degree has to do to with religions. My school classes included Christians and Muslims. When my religion class begins, Copts have to leave the class to attend their own class as well. I never knew what is in their religion books. They did not know what we are studying as well. We shared all classes except religion. If this normal and fine:

Why Copts have to watch and listen all our religion programs on TV and radio that at least occupy 30% of the Egyptian Government transmission time?

Why Muslims in Egypt have a 24 hour Islamic Government radio station and there is no Copt station for even half a day?

Coming to the movie issue that Al Azhar wants to ban, why with every Islamic occasion, there is a flood of Islamic movies aired on government TV channels and radio stations all day to mark the occasion that are imposed on everyone including non-practicing or secular Muslims not only Copts per se? If Muslims in Egypt have the right to produce this huge amount of Islamic movies why Egyptian Copts are not allowed?

If we do not know anything about each other religions, why in our history classes there is a big section on Islamic Egypt and not Coptic Egypt. I did not study anything about the history of Egypt when was it was Copt? If I am not supposed to learn about Copts' religion, I believe as an Egyptian citizen I am entitled to a non-bias education.

If any religious institution in Egypt is claiming tolerance and religion dialogues bla bla bla, it has to begin by bringing people together not on Iftar (break-the-fast meal) in Ramadan but by bringing them together to learn about each other and respect difference. The bias of the Muslim Egyptians against Egyptian Copts is created by the lack of knowledge. If children grow up in Egypt to learn that Egyptian Copts have the same rights as Egyptian Muslims, we will not need to call for learning about each other religions, simply because equal citizenship is the answer.

Al-Azhar rejects depiction of Jesus in an Egyptian movie due to be shot in Egypt, producer says it has no right to intervene. Now, Al Azhar is teaching us another lesson, Muslims have the right to produce moves as much as they want and Copts are banned. Two days ago I read in the news that the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt will supervise the production of the movie from the historical point of view. The movie is intended to reflect the Coptic Church believes which will make the movie so different from the western movies. Today's news means that Al-Azhar is overruling the decision of the Coptic Church in Egypt. I have no reason for that except claiming supremacy.

According the Middle East Online - A film due to be shot in Egypt on the life of Jesus Christ has stirred protests from the highest authority in Sunni Islam, the Al-Azhar institution in Cairo.

Abdel Mooti Bayumi, an Al-Azhar professor, noted Monday that the institution had issued fatwas, or religious edicts, against any "depiction of the prophets" - which is the way Jesus is regarded in Islam.

In the meantime, Al Azhar University’s plan to award Britain's Prince Charles an honorary doctorate was opposed by some Islamic scholars, who said Monday the heir to the British throne did not deserve the honor.

Al Azhar institution comprises; AL - AZHAR supreme council, Islamic Research Academy, Islamic scholars’ city, AL - AZHAR University, AL - AZHAR Institutes.

Photo: The Duchess of Cornwall was given flowers by students from British schools after her arrival at Al-Azhar Park.

This park has nothing to do with Al Azhar. It is named after the name of the district. It is a beautiful area to visit in Cairo.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

November Detained Egyptian Blogger, Today Expelled from the Sunni University of Al Azhar for Writings on Islam

Do you remember the Egyptian blogger/writer Nabeel Abdul Kareem (Abdolkarim) (21 years old)who has a blog under “Kareem Amer” in Arabic who was detained last November for his writings about Islam's reform, lack of freedom for women in the Muslim world and how few have hijacked the religion to carry terrorist crimes?

Kareem was a law student in Al Azahr University, the largest Sunni institution in the Muslim world. The university referred him to a disciplinary council that decided on expelling him from the university because of his writings on Islam on his blog and for his progressive views.

I wrote before on his detention: In his article, he called for the rejection of hatred in Islam to non-Muslims, hinting to the position of the Egyptian Copts. He witnessed himself the sectarian violence in Moharm Bik district in his home city of Alexandria. He gave in his blog an example how some Islamist thugs burned a liquor store owned by an Egyptian Copt while at the same time allowing a Muslim man to sell alcohol.

Today, I read Kareem's last blog post on his university decision. He seems to be in pretty good spirit. He does not sound defeated, in fact he says he has been liberated. Free Copts translated his last blog on the expulsion.

Parts of what Kareem has wrote from Free Copts blog:

"The University of El Azhar is a racist university, with all that the word "Racism" entails. Its Imams and scholars always decry countries of the West, which reached a high caliber in terms of human rights, for having been racist countries at one point of their history.

Would those turbans void of brains remove the speck from their eyes first before blaming others for actions carried out centuries ago? It is a racist university for; in spite of the fact that it is a public university financed by all Egyptian taxpayers - Muslims and Christians alike - it only accepts Muslim students! Isn't that racism?

It is a racist university because it separates male and female students and places them in separate campuses. It even goes as far as banning its female students from studying certain specialties. Isn't that racism? If there is one thing for which I would like to thank that university of El Azhar, it is for having showed me its unveiled face that I would not have been able to witness had I not been one of its students."

Karem's writings may send him to prison in Egypt. Muslim clerics (Sheikhs) has the power to lobby the society against him that may lead to some people taking legal actions against him to jail him. He may not only lose his university education but his entire future for having a criminal record. The consequences could be grave. And Karim (Abdel Kareem) is not a Danish journalist in Denmark. He is a Muslim Egyptian living in Egypt not Denmark.Do you know now why so many progressive Muslims prefer to live in the shadow? SOCIAL PERSECUTION.

BREAKING: First Human Death from Bird Flu in Egypt

Egypt announced that a woman has died of the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu, marking the first reported human case in the country.

It said woman, Amal Mohammed Ismail, had died as a result of the virus and that authorities had sent samples to Britain for further tests.

Security forces have sealed off Ismail's village, a source at the interior ministry said, and health officials are taking samples from people who may have come into contact with her or her poultry.

Qaloubiyah governorate is 40 KM (25 miles) north of Cairo. Egypt detected the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus in poultry flocks last month.

The 30-year-old woman who died on March 17 in an Egyptian hospital tested positive for avian influenza by the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit 3 in Cairo. Samples were sent to a World Health Organization-accredited laboratory in the U.K. for verification, the government's Supreme National Committee to Combat Bird Flu said in a statement on its Web site yesterday.

So at the end of the day who is helping to save us from this human disaster? The answer is the west.

Related-- Avian Flu:
Bird Flu in Egypt: 24 Provinces out 26 confirmed Cases
Poultry Breeders Demonstrate in Cairo Over Bird Flu Boycotts
Mass Slaughter, State of Emergency Declared Over Avian Flu Spread ...
New Suicide Bombers, Egypt Attacked..

Friday, March 17, 2006

Mom for Freedom of Press and Independent Judiciary in Egypt

I called my mom earlier in the day today to talk to her about some arrangements for me. But guess where did I find her. I was stunned to know.

I believe now more than ever now that Egypt is changing and that there is whole new spirit for change.

If my mom was able to leave her books, newspapers, satellite TV channels and her favorite programs on the BBC Arabic radio to stand silently in a protest in solidarity with the freedom of the press and independent judiciary, then if I had slight doubts before about changes, they are gone today. Not that my mom did not believe in the freedom of the press and independence of judiciary, but she did not feel she needs to interact with any political changes happening in Egypt as those ones. I always appreciated my mom appreciation of art, classical music and literature, but she was like most of the secular silent Egyptians always silent.

I called my mom on her cell and heard at the background crowds chanting anti-government, anti-US, anti-Israel slogans. Yes, the U.S. and Israel must be included. They are the salt and pepper of all the Egyptian protests. I asked her what do you think of the slogans, she told me, they are so confused as usual. At the end of the call, I heard two people fighting. I asked her what is that. She told me a happy ending.

She told me there were about 3000 people in the protest from all streams of the society; leftists, Islamists and representatives of the different parties. Gameela Ismail, wife of the imprisoned political leader Ayman Nour, was there leading AlGad Party protest. She was there with her mother.

On Friday the General Assembly emergency meeting for the Egyptian Club judges convened to decide on the government slackness on deciding on independence of judiciary and re-drafting a law that further strengthen the grip of the executive authority over the judiciary system. The judges decided that on May 25 there will be another protest. May 25 will be the anniversary of the referendum of the article 76 of the constitution where violations were perpetrated by the government against the Egyptian people, including raping of women by thugs hired by the Egyptian ministry of the interior.

I felt extremely excited over my mom’s participation. It is the first time of its kind. She and my family members love to talk about politics and they avidly watch all political talk shows, but today was so special. She was live in the street in the middle of the protest.

She told me that meeting of the judges convened in a space under a tent next to the Cairo Club of the Judges headquarters in Cairo. The judges went out to meet the press and salute the people as heroes. Everyone was so happy to see them. The judges previously threatened the government that if there will be no guarantees for independent judiciary, they will take the case to international courts, a move that will be considered unprecedented since the July 23 coup d’etats came to power.

On the other side and at the Press syndicate another key meeting was held led by the dean of the syndicate to discuss the journalists’ reaction to the slackness of the government to pass the bill that provides protection to the journalists from jail for saying or revealing the truth. Many journalists in Egypt were sentenced to jail for speaking against government officials. All journalists agreed today that if the government (parliament) did not pass the new bill that annuls the current law that gives the right to the government to send journalists jail at anytime for speaking the truth, they will stop issuing the newspapers and magazines.

Today was indeed a great day in Egypt’s political history in the struggle for true freedom and democracy. Independent Judiciary will mean a lot to the Egyptian people. The least we can ask for, free fair elections and a democratic Egypt.

Mom what you did today is super sweet and I am a proud daughter.

Yemen's Mohammed al-Asadi Faces Death Penality Over Prophet Muhammed Cartoons

Agora has translated an interview from Danish to English with the Yemeni journalist Mohammed al-Asadi who published the cartoons of Prophet Muhammed in Yemen. The interview is conducted by the Danish Information newspaper and was published today. According to this blog post this confirms that he will be facing the death penalty.

The interview gives an excellent insight into the mind of a man who wants to fight the good fight.

Besides the legal crime, he is facing social disgrace and life threats. And he is treated as an outcast.When I entered (a mosque), I bowed my head and listened. The preacher warned against a terrible sinner among us, against one in Yemen who has dishonored our religion and our prophet. He talked of how disgraceful this man was. I realised that I was who he was talking about. I was their sinner. I dared not lift my head. I covered my head with my scarf and looked down. There and then I realised how bad things are. If the others in the Mosque had recognised me, they would have killed me. With their shoes if they had nothing else to do it with.”

His trial will begin on March 22, there must be a way to save this man. He has three children to raise and he can lose his life for freedom of expression.

February 4th this year, al-Asadi chose to print three of Jylland-Posten’s caricatures of the prophet. He printed them as miniatures less than two centimetres square with a big X across. They were the size of thumb nails.

The chameleon Muslim Brotherhood, Holocaust one more time

The chameleon movement, known as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, is changing statements according to the local and international political situation.

Yesterday, the head of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood echoed Iran’s president in describing the World War Two Holocaust of European Jews as a myth.

Knowing the international lobbying against Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, the Muslim brotherhood would like to play the hero in the eyes of the millions of Muslim Middle Easterns who regard Iran as a Muslim country that other Muslims must defend and that regard the UN Security Council as part of the western monopoly on the Muslim world that the infidel west is working hard everyday to weaken it according to the conspiracy theory.

On December 25, 2005, the same Muslim brotherhood leader said the media misinterpreted his statements on the Holocaust. The leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has said that when he called the Holocaust a myth this week, he did not mean to say it never happened but wanted to highlight the West's attitude toward democracy." Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has refuted media reports of denying the World War II Holocaust as a myth.

Mohamed Mahdi Akef, the group's leader, told on Friday, December 23 "The weekly statement, in which the Holocaust was cited, mainly focused on criticizing western democracy."

International news agencies and media said Akef had described the Holocaust as a myth in his weekly statement on Thursday, December 22. In December, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad drew international criticism after he described the Holocaust as a "myth" and called for the relocation of Israelis to Europe.

Abdul Moneim Abul Futuh, a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure, also dismissed reports of denying the Holocaust as saying "The Holocaust is an established fact."

Essam El-Erian, another Muslim Brotherhood leader, echoed a similar stance. "Akef's statement does not stand as a Holocaust denial."

In December 2005, three leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood are saying the Holocaust is not a myth. But why then and not today? That was following the November/December Egyptian legislative elections when the international community had set its eyes on Egypt’s elections. The MB won 20% of the parliament seats. They wanted to impress the world by their political gains and change of approach. But it was not too late until they revealed their true color when their leader yesterday said what he really intended to say last December that the Holocaust is a myth. The Muslim Brotherhood is the elder sister of Hamas and believes that if Hamas won in the Palestinian Territories that can bring a government in Egypt.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Netherlands Cracks Down On Potential Immigrants by Homosexual Movie

If you want to be an immigrant in The Netherlands, you need to watch a movie for two gay men kissing and a scene for a toppless woman to test the readiness for living in a liberal society.

The Netherlands has set a number of new rules for new immigrants. Despite whether they find the film offensive, applicants must buy a copy and watch it if they hope to pass the Netherlands' new entrance examination.

The test — the first of its kind in the world — became compulsory Wednesday, and was made available at 138 Dutch embassies.

Anti-immigration sentiment peaked with filmmaker Theo van Gogh's murder by a Dutch national of Moroccan descent in November 2004.

Guess who are targetted by this movie?

Lebanon and Syria Reimburse Denmark for Cartoon Damages

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said Syria and Lebanon have promised to pay for the extensive fire damage done to Danish missions during the Mohammed cartoon riots in Damascus and Beirut in February.

Moeller wrote in his parliamentary reply the total cost of the damage is being finally worked out at the present time, after which details will be sent to the governments of Syria and Lebanon with a request for compensation."

Rioters attacked and set fire to Denmark's embassy in Damascus and general consulate in Beirut during violent protests in February against the publication by Denmark's leading broadsheet Jyllands-Posten last September of controversial drawings of the Prophet Mohammed.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Conservatives Party Gets Approval in Egypt

Egypt's Shura Council's Parties Affairs Committee yesterday announced approval to the establishment of a new political party under the name of the "Conservatives Party." The new party request was from Mostafa Abdel Aziz.

The Leader's party said that the party rejects the use of religion in politics and that a new paper will be issued by the party soon. There is a joke in Egypt that says Egyptian parties are a bunch of newspapers that own parties not vice versa.

Egypt's political parties witnessed recently huge setbacks, especially the two liberal parties; Alwafd and Al Ghad. Members of the latter toppled its leader over treason charges. The leader of the former who was a presidential runner is sentenced to 5 years in prison. The banned Muslim brotherhood in Egypt that won 20% of the parliament seats is taking "Islam is the Solution" as a political slogan.

Reformers from the ruling National Democractic party are quitting the party over lack of reform or threatening to resign.

Cairo's Sit-in, "For Egypt's Free Press and Independent Judiciary"

Cairo's Sit-in tomorrow March 16 at Tahrir Square, 6 PM.

The sit-in is called in support of an independent judiciary system and a free press.

Egypt is not enjoying an independent judiciary system until this day. Some honorable Egyptian judges who are the elected members of the Cairo and Alexandria Club of Judges (Association) are going through one of the most important battles in Egypt's history. An independent judiciary means free home. Show your support and love to Egypt and show up tomorrow.

The executive power in Egypt is in full control of the judiciary system and judges. Free judges mean democracy, free and fair elections and justice to all Egyptians.

Egyptian journalists can be jailed for expressing themselves freely or for exposing corrupt cases. Free press means a new Egypt that enjoys transparency and integrity.

A law was promised two years ago to free the Egyptian journalists is kept in the drawers and journalists are still given sentences. Most recent cases are jailing sentences to journalists from the independent Al Masry Al youm and Alfagr papers.

In solidarity with the Egyptian Judges Club in Alexandria and Cairo and the free journalists to call for an independent Judiciary in Egypt away from the grip of executive authority and for the annulling the law that stipulates jailing journalists if proven guilty for exercising their freedom of expression.

There is no free country without a free press and independent Judiciary system. FFE

Egyptian Judges Posts:
Egypt judges' Immunity lifted Over Confronting Government For Independence
Denmark Cartoons absent Real Democracy Battle in Egypt
Egyptian Rigged Elections into International Investigation
Is this the Promised Democracy?
Growing tension between the Egyptian regime and the Judges....
Honorable Egyptian Judges:TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR SUPERVISING ELECTIONSReferendum of May 25: Great Forgery Day

Egypt's Press Posts:
Al Fagr Reporter Convicted of Libel
URGENT:An APPEAL from an Egyptian Journalist to the Free World ...
Letter from an Egyptian journalist on Egyptian press syndicate ...
Freedom of Press Compromised in Egypt among Others
Egyptian BLACK Press!
RSF on Mubarak's fifth term

London's March for Freedom of Expression, March 25

A Rally in Trafalgar Square between 2:00pm and 4:00pm on Saturday March 25th 2006.
Sponsored by:
3:00 A.M Magazine.
Free Muslims Coalition
The Freedom Association.
The Libertarian Alliance.
Little Atoms.
Maryam Namazie.
Nigerian Humanist Movement.
National Secular society
Oliver Kamm.
Rationalist International

Statement of Principle
"The strength and the survival of free society and the advance of human knowledge depend of the free exchange of ideas.

All ideas are capable of giving offence, and some of the most powerful ideas in human history such a those of Galileo and Darwin, have given profound religious offence in their time.

The free exchange of ideas depends on the freedom of expression and call on our elected representatives to do the same.

We Abhor the idea of that people throughout the world live under mortal threat simply for expressing ideas and we call on our elected representatives to protect them from the attack and not to give comfort to the forces of intolerance that besiege them."

This is also a celebration of freedom and free expression, so let's enjoy it. Jugglers, clowns, unicyclists will be very welcome. It's a serious event, but let's make it a party too.

Many citizens and organizations from different countries are offering hosting the march suggesting venues, check the site and you can also suggest an additional venue. Email here if you are in these places Australia: Sydney Canada: Toronto Canada: Montreal USA: Chicago .

For signing the petition to the elected representatives, suggesting banners or the suggested ones, downloading posters and reading the press release and the for the sponsoring blog click here.

Burn flags, torch buildings, terrorize individuals and boycott, we will love our freedom more. FFE

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Belly Dancing is Diminishing in Egypt and Thriving Abroad

I have a Czech friend who told me she is taking belly dancing class and that she so thrilled by the experience. I smiled with happiness and amazement. I had never heard of belly dancing classes in Egypt. I guess we grow up with, never thinking about it too much.. And it just happens to be in our blood or genes. I had three experiences with belly dancing in the United States.

Let me tell you first about this class. My friend told me why do not you come as an observer and watch how we are doing it. She talked to her instructor for permission. Her instructor welcomed me. I sat at the corner as the class was beginning. To be honest, I did not have high expectations. I saw so many non-Egyptians dancing. They dance nicely but there is always something missing. I always thought Egyptians are the masters of the art.

I talked to the instructor before the class after she put on a very nice glittery outfit. It is not the traditional outfit that Egyptian belly dancers wear, but I guess it was something to fit the class that is meant for exercising. She asked me where did you take your belly dancing classes. I looked at her with surprise and I told her I had never had one. I am not an instructor or a professional belly dancer. I am just an Egyptian.

The class started. There were about six or seven students and all had a scarf around their hips. I was mesmerized by the instructor. She is doing it like one of the best Egyptian belly dancers that you would hire for a party and wedding…etc. She is so professional and serious. It is so apparent that she took the belly dancing so seriously that if I did not look to her face I would think she is an Egyptian one. Every job in the Unites States is taken so seriously including belly dancing classes.

I had never thought how belly dancing can be very difficult until, I saw others are trying to learn it. I could tell that the students who are of different ages are struggling to get one step or a movement right. It is such an effort, not to mention that they are completely out of rhythm. Belly dancing is not only about the movements but about mastering these movements with the music, while combing them together to present a nice dance at the end.

My second experience with the belly dancing was with one of best friends from Latin America. Everyone knows how Latin Americans are so good when it comes to dancing. I have never thought that belly dancing has sensual connotation in the sense that talking about in social gathering is not a very decent thing to do. That’s what my friend believes in. Well, I cannot agree with that 100% that depends on how the way it is done. But at the end of the day I am a woman and I only think about it as a dance, nothing else. One thing I know for sure that Egyptians start to dance it when they want to express their happiness and joy and this usually takes the form of some movements influenced by the belly dancing.

The last story here is about some male American colleagues. Celebrating the end of a fundraising event, there was a DJ. As a courtesy from all my colleagues, knowing that I am Egyptian, they asked the DJ to play Arabic songs so that the music not to be dominated by American or Latin American music only. Diversity is always respected. So many people of them cannot get the idea that belly dancing is for women only. It is not very much appreciated that the men shake their hips or move their belly. They tried to dance the belly dances. I tried to explain that you cannot really do that. It was too late because everyone wanted to do the belly dance. I did not know that it so popular and that everyone knows about it until that night. Everyone wants to dance it. I was watching with surprise. This does not mean that men do not dance, they do it but with different movements. However, I saw many Egyptian men doing the belly dancing but I had never thought that this is a very wise move or idea. That’s only my opinion.

I am a bit classical when it comes to belly dancing so my favorite Egyptian belly dancers are Samia Gamal, Tahia Karioka, Naima Akef and Soad Hosni (though she is an actress rather than a dancer). I believe they took their work seriously and that appeared in the way how they mastered it. And belly dancing in Egypt has different schools. There is the one that is influenced by the urban cities and that is a mix between the Egyptian and western music. And I believe that Samia Gamal could represent this trend. Such dancers are usually slim. There is also the belly dancing that is influenced by the rural areas. Belly dancers are not necessarily slim and they dance on more folkloric music. I like the latter school as well, it is just so Egyptian and full of art.

Belly dancing in Egypt is used in the movie industry since it started in Egypt. Egyptians bring professional belly dancers into their parties as a sort of a celebration. Some conservative families refuse to have belly dancers in their parties because they believe that the dancers’ outfits are too revealing and that they are not decent or “haram”, meaning forbidden in Islam. From their point of view, she is a whore, because women should be hiding in scarves not belly dancing outfits.

The modern wave in Egypt includes so many over weight belly dancers. I am not really fond of them but I do not mind them at all. I like to see them in Egyptian weddings.

I believe that belly dancing is an art, regardless of the fact that there are so many vulgar dancers who tried to impose themselves. Belly dancing has been always a source of joyfulness for Egyptians. The part of the belly dancing at any party is always critical. It is the only time you find the invitees stuck to their chairs in silence or clapping to the dancer. I am afraid so many are trying to kill this art as part of the Islamization wave that is attacking all aspects of life in Egypt. We (Egyptians) took belly dancing for granted until Egypt was invaded by foreign belly dancers from all nationalities that they left no room for the Egyptians. Foreign instructors as I have seen myself are proving themselves to be excellent instructors and they are earning their living and make a great business. If an American instructor is finding a Czech student. I guess that says it all. It is so simple, women are encouraged to work out in an entertaining way with exotic music. However, we are not losing it to all those foreigners, because foreigners will find their market anywhere in the world, but we (Egyptians) are losing the art to the Islamists who are totally against it in principle.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood MP: "The Koran Encourages Terrorism"

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood MP: "The Koran Encourages Terrorism; "Bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri and Al-Zarqawi are Not Terrorists in the Sense Accepted by Some"

I am shocked to read this interview. This man is an Egyptian member of Parliament from the "banned" Muslim brotherhood. Who elected this man to represent Egyptians?

He is saying so many weird and extremely dangerous stuff. He is simply confirming that terrorism and Islam are made for each other. These people are dragging Egypt behind the sun where we won't be heard of or listened to. I am must be in a nightmare, I need someone to wake me up now! Being a Muslim myself, this is so scary to me.

The name is Ragab Hilal Hamida. MP for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The following are excerpts from the interview by MEMRI: "Terrorism' is Not a Curse When Given its True Meaning" ... "It is [Our] Duty to Repel any Enemy of the Islamic and Arab Countries, Using 'Terrorism' Rather Than Using Violence"

Question: "Does it make sense to you that a Muslim should claim that the Koran incites to terrorism?!"
Hamida: "I said these things in an [Egyptian] parliament session dealing with the Inter-Arab Agreement on Combating Terrorism. I noticed that the report of the [Parliamentary] Committee for Defense and National Security and the Egyptian Foreign Ministry were inaccurate when [they] dealt with terrorism, since [they] dealt with it in general [terms]. I specifically wanted to explain that [the term] 'terrorism' is not a curse when given its true meaning. [When interpreted accurately,] it means opposing occupation as it exists in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq!...

Question: "Do you think that this is the [appropriate] time to repeat such provocative statements, when we are trying to improve the image of Islam in the West and to refute the accusation that [Islam] is a religion of terrorism, as [some] are claiming?"
Hamida: "Islam does not need improvement of its image... But there are some ignorant Muslims who do not understand the tenets of their faith... It is [our] duty to repel any enemy of the Islamic and Arab countries, using 'terrorism' rather than using violence. We need an accurate definition of [the term] 'terrorism' in the negative climate in which we live - a climate that makes no distinction between a criminal and one who is prepared to sacrifice his life or a terrorist. In defining [this term], we must not be influenced by American pressures, but consider the issues in the light of shari'a. They should not tell us to fight terrorism and to fight it as they command us to. The Americans are the ones who perpetrate violence in the Arab countries!..." Full interview...

Lawsuits against Danish, Norwegian and French Ambassadors to Egypt over Cartoons

The Egyptian daily Al Gomhuria newspaper has this story (Arabic) today that I find it very strange and funny. But I think this only can happen in Egypt...a true Banana Republic... I am seriously stunned.

The popular paper says the leader of an Egyptian political party, who was not named, five lawyers and one citizen have filed a lawsuit against the ambassadors of Denmark, Norway and France to Egypt demanding that the three ambassadors apologise to Muslims in Egypt and all over the world, as well as pay L.E. 6 billions for insulting Muslims.

It explains the plaintiffs are asking for condemning the Ambassadors as they represent their countries and sentencing them according to the Egyptian penal law and for civil indemnity that amount to L.E. 2001 that should reach L.E. 6 billions to be allocated to disaster damages in the Islamic world. The plaintiffs believe that the Islamic world was stabbed in the most precious pillars of its lifw which is its faith.

Why this is a Banana Republic?
  1. Diplomats cannot be sued. They have immunity from prosecution.
  2. If Egypt jurisdiction resigns to such lawsuits that puts Egypt in trouble. This means that Egypt is not complying with international agreements and obligations governing diplomacy.
  3. Press in Egypt is not responsible enough to disseminate misleading information to the people, making them believe in unrealistic victories over the west.

U.A.E Port Deal in the U.S. is at Risk

There are so many debates on the Dubai Company taking over some if the American ports. But it is not only debates now, it might come to an end, denying the company to operate in the U.S. in the first place. House Republicans sent a clear message to President Bush yesterday with a 62-2 vote to block the Dubai-owned firm deal.

If you want to engage yourself in a discussion with an American blogger who is taking an objective stance, I would highly encourage you to read his post and discuss with him whether this U.A.E. company compromises the U.S. security as the debate touches on a Muslim and Arab country. Here is what he wrote. He is all ears.

UAE's economy minister Sheikha Lubna al-Qassimi smiles during an interview with Reuters in Dubai March 1, 2006. Opposition in the U.S. to a UAE firm taking control of U.S. ports will not deter the Gulf Arab state from seeking further investments there, but it would give other countries pause, al-Qassimi said

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Prominent Ruling NDP member Quits Over Lack of Reform in Egypt

A senior member of Egypt’s ruling party announced his resignation from the party yesterday to protest what he called its failure to implement democratic reforms.

Osama El Ghazali Harb, a member of the National Democratic Party’s influential policy committee, said he was quitting after the committee — led by by President Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal — failed to adopt suggestions he and other pro-reform members have made.

He said “Egypt is going through a dreary void due to ... the inability of the ruling party to offer alternative policies...When I joined the committee I thought they are after real reform, but things have been going in a different direction.”

New Liberal Party Launch
Harb — a member of the upper house of parliament, a prominent political scientist and editor of the prestigious International Politics magazine — said he will join other disgruntled politicians to launch a liberal opposition party.

Al Fagr Reporter Convicted of Libel

The Egyptian Al-Fagr newspaper's editor in chief , Adel Hamouda, said today court has convicted a journalist of libeling a judge and sentenced her to one year in jail.

Tuesday's conviction of Amira Malash, a reporter for the independent weekly Al-Fagr, was the second time in two months that court ruled against a journalist facing prison time in a libel case involving a government official.

The hearing for Malash lasted eight minutes, said Hamouda, who added that the weekly will appeal. She is free on bail pending the appeal.

Malash wrote in an article in September that an Alexandria court judge, Attiyah Awadh, was being investigated for corruption. Her report was sourced to anonymous security officials in the Mediterranean port city, and the judge sued her for libel.

The ruling came after an appeals court in February upheld a 12-month prison sentence for a journalist from the independent daily Al-Masri al-Youm after he was convicted of libeling former Housing Minister Mohammed Suleiman. Two other journalists from the paper were given fines

President Mubarak is Looking for a Successor

The main political adviser to President Hosni Mubarak said on Tuesday that Mubarak would welcome retirement if he could find a replacement.

Adviser Osama el-Baz told Reuters in an interview but the Mubarak family are not thinking of putting forward the president's 42-year-old son Gamal as a successor. Mubarak is 78 in May and has ruled Egypt since 1981.

Baz said "He will remain, so long as he's able, capable and so on. But if he finds that there is another group of people, another person, who are willing to carry the torch, I have the feeling that he would welcome it."

He added "It's not clear yet who can take over. Nobody can say, and definitely the president and his family are not thinking about succession. They don't think of Gamal taking over and he does not give himself more rights than other Egyptians."

Human Rights in Egypt are Poor, State Department Report

The U.S. Department of the State released the 2006 Human Rights Report. Egypt being a major U.S. ally has a lion's share, though regrettably not so positive one. Here are some bits and pieces from the report.

The government's respect for human rights remained poor, and serious abuses continued in many areas. The following human rights problems were reported:

The full report on Egypt by the Department of the State can be read here.

Related:Egypt in Human Rights World Report 2006

Monday, March 06, 2006

Two Muslim Women in their Own Words about Religions in Egypt

I was inspired to write this blog post after I read Superluli’s comment on my post about the little boy George Shahata who became victim of sectarian violence in Egypt. This blog post includes honest real personal accounts or confessions that should make it so interesting if you want to learn about what is going on for liberal Muslim women and Copts treatment in Egypt.

Superluli in her own words:

“I agree that things here are not good for Christians. My group of best friends are 2 Copts one catholic and one Armenian, and me the only Muslim! Over my life I have had other friends, who were also Christian - I never had a problem, I think if you are Muslim, then you automatically are Christian and a Jew too. (But that's a whole new discussion) Apparently in Egypt my looks let people perceive me as Christian.

Here are some of my experiences which lead me to think that things are not fair, but not brutal. Maybe you can elaborate on some brutal experiences so we can determine the level of severity!

1) My first experience as a 13 year old, I was wearing the key of life - a pharaonic symbol that looks like a cross. I was walking down the road and two young guys in their 20ies called out "roohi enty wel 2asees beta3ek" (go away you and your priest) I was young and I was in a Christian school - I thought life was rosy, my friends were Christian, my family taught me that there's no difference. And that was my first shock! Nothing violent.

2) I have experienced taxi drivers who never stop, if I am asking to go to ramsis for example, and a veiled woman is standing two meters after me also wanting to go to ramsis, a taxi would tell me no but would stop and pick up the veiled one. My Christian friends experienced that, they get into a taxi, the taxi looks at them, sees a cross, stops and tells them to get out and he will not drive them. That happened a few times to more than one girl.

3) I have Christian friends who hire a Christian maid, a Christian driver and a Christian door man, I have Muslim friends who do the same. I have Christian friends who have Muslim drivers and vice versa! there are companies who hire only Christians like off the top of my mind coz I just dealt with them ghabbour and Thomas cook and companies that hire Muslims only (I can't remember any example now, but there are many)

4) I studied at two universities, a private one and the university of Alexandria. In the University of Alex, I took private courses, before the exams with a group of 15 people. They NEVER talked to me. NEVER helped me out and completely ignored me, and I was trying my hardest to be nice, and to fit in despite of the difference in social class and education.

In the second year they got into an argument about religions, and I stepped it and it was clear that I was Muslim. Since then, they completely transformed! They were sooo nice suddenly. I was puzzled, until I realized that this was the point where they realized I am not Christian. I do not believe in manifestation of religion which is why I never wear anything that would make it obvious what religion I am.

Since then I made a point of wearing some 'masha2allah" every once and a while so they see it. I started saying "el salamu 3aleiko" instead of good morning. And that did it! They called me when I didn't show up, and gave me their notes!

I and my mom are not veiled and apparently we do not "look" Muslim. There are so many times we feel discriminated against because of these facts, in lines in a government agency (unless the employee is Christian, then we have priority!)

My mom was mugged a few months ago in broad day light, and there were a few men standing 10 meters away from her, men with beards. They saw her.
Had she been veiled, would things be different? Would they have at least helped her off the ground?! I wonder!

So I agree things suck! But there's a line between unfair & uncivilized and between dangerous and brutal. FFE portrayed it at the latter. I am not sure it is THAT severe.
That is my argument. Feel free to prove me wrong!

Freedom for Egyptians in her own words:

I do share with Superluli many of these incidents. My mother and I are not veiled, i.e. we do not wear the Islamic scarf over our heads, not only that, this idea does not exit in our dictionaries. We represent the infidal culture in our soceity according to the current Egyptian standards evaluating a Muslim woman. There are so many Egyptian women who do not wear Islamic scarves, however, they whole heartedly believe in it and they encourage other women to wear it. These personalities are simply are the real hyporcites.

My grandma never liked women with Islamic scarves. She used to upset so many women in our family and even in public places for her opinions. I remember so many of her comments to veiled women when used to go shopping or doing our groceries. I sometimes felt so embarrassed but people used to take it because she is a senior citizen. I grew up in a family that does not only wear Islamic scarves but also despise them. I never thought why when I was younger but now I think why and I know why.

I consider my family’s relationship with Egyptian Copts (Christians) is very unique. I believe that until I was in my kindergarten, I did not know whether I am a Muslim or Christian, simply, because at home I was not educated to talk about Christians or Muslims. As a result, the idea never occurred to my mind, even though some members of my family were/are practicing Muslims including my grandma. I remember I was going to school and in the school bus one day and an older student asked me whether I am a Muslim or a Christian. I did not have an answer. She asked me whether my dad goes to a mosque or Church, I did not have any answer. I was mute. I went home to ask mom, that day I knew that there are Christians and Muslims in our society.

The reason why I am mentioning my grandma so frequently is because I spent my childhood years with her due to the fact that my mother was a working mom and because my parents lived in the same building with her. My Grandma’s lawyer was a Copt. Until this day, my family’s lawyers are Copts and we do not trust except them. The fashion in my Grandma’s days/era that each family should have its own tailor. This tailor is usually a very sophisticated person, in the sense that his place is like a mini fashion designer shop. My Grandma’s tailor was a Copt. She grew old with her lawyer and tailor. And the three of them passed away. Before her death, she could not leave home. Her tailor paid her courtesy visit to do her something. He himself so old, we were all so touched by the visit and by the kindness. He considered her a friend.

Names in Egypt are very indicative to everyone's religion. Usually names consist of three, four or five names. Those names could include three grandparents. And you can use your first name with your father or any grandparent name that you think musical. All my school and university years I used my father’s name and I do not know why. May be I thought it is musical. From my name and dad’s name, one can never know my religion in Egypt. It is more likely to be a Christian name. I loved to tease so many “true Muslims” by never revealing my religion; it is none of their business. They want to treat according to my faith. And I thought it is so discriminatory.

So here come the discriminatory record incidents that I experienced:

1) So many times I was asked whether I am a Christian or Muslim because of my name. My dad's name does not indicate any religion. And I would believe it tends to be a christian according the Egyptian standards. I was asked several times whether I am a Christian or not.

2) I once asked a Taxi driver to lower the volume of the Quran tape he was playing in the taxi. It was deafening. I told him if you do not like what I am saying, stop here. He did. I was kicked out of the taxi. I had to look for another taxi.

3) I got a severe insult by a loser woman in a birthday party. This woman has nothing in her brain cells except the Islamic scarves. I was the only person who was not veiled. I got so many lessons from this woman on how to be a pious extremist Muslim woman. The bottom of this lesson that I am a whore. I went back to my mom almost in tears telling her I had never thought that such day will come. My mom told you should have given her due, I told her I respected the hostesses' presence. I thought it was a mistake to be among this group in the first place, but I am not used to discriminate against anyone for what he or she wears. I felt my society will never appreciate individuals on the basis of their achievements or contribution but on whether they are wearing this scarf or not. Despite the fact that I had my own intellectual circles where we speak the same language, but I believe that these women or their mentalities are the majority now in Egypt. And they show zero tolerance to others in an insulting way.

4) So many times, I thought of buying Egyptian wine and beer to my American friends in the US. You cannot buy Egyptian wine in the US. I went to a store in Cairo in a district known to have many foreign residents. The first time I went, I was rejected the service because it was a Muslim Eid. Luckily I had a foreign friend. She bought the wine and beer on my behalf. The second time I managed to buy the beer and wine but I was denied a taxi ride. I was in the taxi, the driver saw the bag I have with the wine, he stopped the car and asked me to leave. That was funny and bitter.

5) I love the pharonic “key of life” or Ankh. It looks so artistic and it has a meaning, but looks like a cross. Colleagues see me wearing it immediately ask me one of the two questions; “Are you a Christian? We did not know”. Those who know that I am a Muslim ask me; “why are you wearing this cross?” I reply back this is not a cross. This is a key that symbolically believed to open for you the other life.

6) We used to have a dog in our building. Friends and colleagues hear me talk about the dog tell: “This is dog is "haram",an Arabic word for forbidden in Islam, because it kicks away the angels”. Many friends for my family refused to visit us for the dog.

7) I used to volunteer in a state-run orphanage which is part of a big complex where so many minors are there for different reasons including crimes. This orphanage does not accept Christians and if one came by mistake, he has to be deported to a church-run orphanage. I do not mind him going to a church-run orphanage. But this is a government orphanage and is run by the Ministry of Social Affairs. It should be for all Egyptians without discrimination.

8)Last but not least, and when I remember this I really laugh. During my high school time, I used to wear shorts, besides the causual, it was the fashion to be in shorts that function like a skirt. I was walking close to my house with my neighbor who was one my best friends at that time. Suddenly from our backs, we felt pebbles being thrown on our legs. At the beginning, I thought I was stepping on them by mistake. Then I turned, I found very young children throwing pebbles on our legs. My friend knew the reason. She told me that a Sheikh in a near by mosque who is giving religious lessons asked the children to do so with sinful women.

There are hundreds of stories that I can fill a book with. But I want to say that I believe in everyone's right to worship but regrettably those who practice this right do not believe in the right to be an individual with his/her beliefs or the right to life and freedom.

I want to say that despite all these street intimidations, women with no Islamic scarves are very well respected at the professional level in Egypt and not only that they are sought to hold key positions. Everyone can argue this fact, but I am speaking here from experience for a having a very successful career myself in Egypt and never covering my hair one day in my life or even thinking about it.

One final comment on the treatment the Egyptian Copts receive. I am a Cairoian, grew up in Cairo, and if intimidations did not take a violent form against Copts, however discrimination has the door open for those who would like to get in. I met people coming from villages in Egypt who are proud that they do not have one Egyptian Copt in their villages. I am not a supporter of giving privilages to citizens on basis of their faith. I am supporter of the right of equality to all Egyptians to be full-fledged citizens regardless of their faiths or even if they chose to be faithless.

All Arab Countries have Invested in Egypt

Almost all the Arab countries have invested in Egypt with Saudi Arabia topping the list with 745 companies followed by Kuwait with 231 companies and the UAE with 118 companies. Another 11 UAE companies are set up in the Egyptian free zones.

UAE investors launched several projects in Egypt during 2005 including 70 stations for vehicle service as joint company between the UAE and Egypt, Al Alamain tourist project and Emaar project in Zahraa Al Maqtam area.

The news reports also that Trade between Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reached US$48 million in the first eight months of the current financial year.

The total value of UAE imports from Egypt amounted to $32 million, while UAE exports and re-exports to Egypt were worth $16 million.

Go Egypt with more investments!

10 percent of Egypt's electricity Production Goes to Malaysia

France's EDF said on Friday it had finalised the sale of two power stations in Egypt to Malaysia's Tanjong Energy for $307 million as the French power giant narrows its focus on Europe.

EDF said in a statement that it was selling the fully owned electricity stations to Tanjong Energy after entering into exclusive negotiations in July, and signing an agreement to sell in November.

The gaz-powered stations, with a capacity of 1,366 megawatts, account for about 10 percent of Egypt's total electricity production.

Though it is Egypt's electricity, the story does not mention any Egyptian officials involved. It is a bit weird. My understanding that Egypt's government controls everything. Did they give up their role?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

56 Countries Printed Prophet Muhammed Cartoons

A study showed cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, that were first published in a Danish newspaper last year and sparked an outcry in the Muslim world, have been reprinted in 143 newspapers in 56 countries.

A Journalism School study in Cophenhagen found that most of the reproductions have appeared in Western countries, including 70 newspapers in Europe, 14 in the United States, three in Canada and New Zealand, two in Australia and one in Japan.

But the drawings have also been printed in eight Muslim countries: Algeria, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

In the United States, no national newspaper has published the cartoons, but 14 regional and local publications have, according to the study conducted in February.

Egypt's Modern Art Goes Online, But...

A beautiful online gallery for Egyptian modern and contemporay artists is built to serve as a window for Egypt's modern art that is usually overlooked due to the populatrity and fame of ancient Egypt.

The site also serves as a gateway for art collectors who are interested in owning some art pieces from modern Egypt. And that includes paintings, mosaic, sculpture, graphic art...etc. You can find description of each piece as you click on any piece you like.

Among very popular talented artists featured on this site are Raghed Ayad, George Al Bahgoury, Ezmeralda, Seif Wanly, Antione Hagger, Mohamed Sabry ...etc

Though the site is so impressive and secured, however little information is given about this business or who is running it. Is it the government that owns these collections or individuals who want to give up their own properties or the artists themselves.

If I am an individual who owns a precious piece of art why would I think of selling it except if it is an investment.

Is the market of art collectors in Egypt is so weak that they (whoever they are) are trying to sell Egypt's modern art pieces through the internet via U.S. bank accounts.

The fact that there is not enough information on the type of this emerging business poses serious questions on its nature first of all, then on the transparency, monopoly, ownership, so many legal issues as well. I believe that the site needs to clarify so many policies, legal agreements that any site usually posts for cross legal cases especially when the site involves selling pieces with thousands of dollars.

I will also be concerned if there is any national law or policy to protect modern Egyptian art.

Poultry Breeders Demonstrate in Cairo Over Bird Flu Boycotts

Poultry breeders and owners of shops selling chickens demonstrate in central Cairo Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006 following an oubreak of deadly bird flu in Egypt. They carry a banner reading 'Have mercy, open our shops'. Hundreds of poultry breeders and owners of stores selling live fowl protested Sunday against alleged government plans to allow more imports of frozen fowl, and to keep culling Egyptian birds following an outbreak of deadly bird flu. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Bird Flu in Egypt: 24 Provinces out 26 confirmed Cases.
Mass Slaughter, State of Emergency Declared Over Avian Flu Spread ...