Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Egypt's Nobel writer Nagib Mahfouz dies

This is one of the moments when I wish I could to be home in Cairo. Since I was a child, the name of this fountain of creativity and authenticity named Naguib Mahfouz has been in the center of the corners of our lives. It was such a coincident that the first time I read for Mahfouz I was a teenager and it was his banned novel in Egypt "Awlad Haretna" or Children of the Alley that my family smuggled into our house. The novel was banned in Egypt by the Sunni Al Azhar religious institution in 1959 and until today on allegations that it symbolizes Allah or God and his children who are the prophets and messengers. It was one of those summers in my life that I spent with Mahfouz reading his ever-lasting unforgettable masterpiece, "Awlad Haretna". His death brings to me memories of reading his novel in every corner at my parents' home in Cairo. I also surprise myself to remember, how young I was yet I could fall in love with such big complicated novel. It is one of those novels you do not want to leave until you finish, but it is so big in size. When I moved to the U.S. , one of the things I was proud to carry all the way from Cairo to the United States for my friends were translated copies of this particular novel.

Encouraged by the fatwa of Al-Azhar that his novel is banned on religious allegations and blasphemy that he dared to talk about God and his messengers, Islamic terrorists took advantage of believing they can send an infidel to his God to put him in hell. In 1994, terrorists wanted to spell his blood by stabbing him with a knife in his neck, like any of their cowardly acts they do anywhere to innocents. Fortunately, Mahfouz was saved in hospital. But the attack left him with serious consequences among them that he could not use his right arm properly as before to write. He got stabbed during one of his daily walks to his house coming from his favorite coffee shop where he used to write. For security reasons, he has to lose his freedom to walk freely as he used to.

Now, I believe in walking more than ever. Could be one of the reasons why Mahfouz lived until his 94 are his walkings from his house in Agouza to downtown on a daily basis his entire life until this coward attack. I believe walking could be a source of inspiration to love places you visit and people you meet. He was with no doubt a first-class Cairo lover. The details in his novels reflect the love to places and people.

"Awlad Haretna" or Children of the Ally was the main reason why Naguib Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize in 1988. Mahfouz is not only one of the most prominent renowned Egyptian intellectuals, but he is the first and only Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature.

In spite of millions of readers in the Arab world, the Mahfouz's books remained unavailable in many Middle Eastern countries because of his support to President Sadat's Camp David peace treaty with Israel in 1978. This is one reason why I can also identify myself with Mahfouz is because of his support to peace, since I consider myself the peace generation. I am grateful to all those who supported peace because the alternative would have been bloody and bitter. I grew up without witnessing one single war feeling safe and secure because of people like Mahfouz who bravely stood next to our late President Sadat leaving him unabandoned for his hsitoric decision to make peace with Israel.

Born in Cairo in December 1911, Mahfuz is Egypt's most renowned intellectual with about 50 novels to his name. He began writing at the age of 17 and had his first novel published in 1939.

(Mahfouz) You will always be remembered in my thoughts and heart not because you are a Nobel winner but because you are part of my life. Today I am not only mourning you but my memories, the freedom to think and create, courage and the love to life embodied in all your writings and you ... Adieu Brave Egyptian!

Bush Extends Sympathies to the Egyptian People on Death of Naguib Mahfouz

Monday, August 28, 2006

Egypt's Ruling National Democratic Party Declares Gamal Mubarak as a Successor

Despite frequent denials by Gamal Mubarak that he will run for presidency or that he has the intention to succeed his dad in office, a prominent figure from the ruling National Democratic Party said an in interview to AlWafd newspaper (Arabic) that the party is preparing Gamal Mubarak as a successor and alternative for presidential plans. These statements are the first of their kind. Though almsot every Egyptian talks about the ruling party plan, officials from the party never went blunt in public to announce the party's agenda in bringing the son of the president to power.

Gamal Mubarak has been promoted so quickly inside the party to be the second person in command over the past few years.

These statements are coming ahead of the annual meeting of the NDP on September 15, where the president delivers his speech, defining the main priorities of his party. This is year he will give the closing speech. The annual meeting is usually attended by local and international figures.

The NDP has members from the so-called old guard who do not belong to the circle of the new guard led by Gamal Mubarak. The division as always have been denied but when you take a deeper look at the NPD secretary general Safwat Al Sherif's statements and the new guard statements you can immediately recognize and feel the split of agendas.

Hossam Badrawi, who is one of the closet allies of Gamal Mubarak in the party, threw the succession plans in yesterday’s interview with Alwafd, confirming that Egypt should be a civil country not a religious or military. As we all know most of the old guard of the party belongs to the military. These statements come against all the founders of the party which they will probably have to be made redundant if Junior Mubarak comes to power. Of course, we all know what he meant by not religious country. Badrawi was attacking the Muslim Brotherhood, though acknowledging the right for everyone to run .

He said: "Gamal Mubarak is one of the alternatives for presidency." I believe he is the only alternative for the ruling party and if not why Badrawi himself run for presidency, being a vetern well-educated public figure?

The ruling has alienated itself from the grassroots, and that is so obvious. The opposition movement Kefaya, the Muslim Brotherhood and opposition leftist parties in Egypt succeeded always in rallying support around them in demonstrations. On the other hand the NDP fails to rally even a 10 people demonstration unless they are paid or civil servants who are forced to do so.

The NDP’s new plan will slip the country into a political civil war and again without the participation of the people. Divisions will emerge between the old and new guards on who to rein after President Mubarak. With some flying rumors in the past that Gamal Mubarak is a gay, in which I have nothing against gays, but if true I wonder if the army will take that easily. Is it possible that the head of the armed forces of the country be a gay person? Is Gamal Mubarak strong enough to impose himself on the old military revolution party and the army without even grassroots support?

Bringing Gamal Mubarak to power will increase the disappointment of the Egyptians. It is yet another declaration that they will have to continue to be ruled rather rule their counrty. I believe disappointment was one reason why many Egyptians joined the camp of the Muslim brotherhood.

This succession plan puts an end to the shiny statements of the United States about bringing democracy and peace to the Middle East region and to one of the its allies, Egypt. It dashes the hopes of millions of Egyptians who believed once in the Middle East Spring. Gamal Mubarak is an Egyptian citizen and he has the right to be a presidential candidate but he should be like all Egyptians who also wish to run for presidency. There should be equal opportunity if democracy plans are serious.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Starts his Blog

Welcome to the Blogosphere Mr. President!. Posts are published by him! I am not kidding, visit his blog. So who is next Syria's Bashar El Assad?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What a Coincidence?

The Muslim Brotherhood leader in Egypt, Mahdy Akef, said he was ready to send 10,000 fighters to Lebanon to combat Israel alongside Hezbollah.

Mohammed Mehdi Akef told AFP “I am ready to send immediately 10,000 mujahedeen to fight the Zionists alongside Hezbollah.”

Few days later, al-Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has announced that Gama'a al-Islamiya, the main militant group behind Egypt's bloody 1990s insurrection, has joined his global jihad.

He named six figures within Gama'a who he said were joining "in one front, facing their enemies in the most imperious crusade carried out against Islam in all its history".
Gama'a al-Islamiya leaders flatly denied they had joined al-Qaeda, in a statement on their website.

Egyptian authorities crushed a bloody insurgency by two main Islamist groups - Gama'a al-Islamiya and Islamic Jihad - by the late 1990s. But other, smaller groups have emerged since.

Previously: Muslim Brotherhood Leader Akef says “Fuck Egypt”

Saudi Women Journalists:Interviewing Men is a Problem

The reason why I am running this story on my blog is not only because I want to applaud Saudi women for their courage but also I was extremely touched how I took my career achievements for granted. Working as a journalist at a certain point of my life led me to so many people and places that I have always enjoyed and thought it is a great joy to be able continuously to explore personalities and places. I never thought whom I am meeting based on their gender, color, age, nationality or race.

The case is different in Saudi Arabia and women are struggling to do their work, but I am sure if they are trying they will reach where they want one day.

I am so grateful for my parents for giving me freedom and allowing me to make my own choices in life and never making feel that something is hindering me because I am a female. I always went for what I wanted with confidence.

RIYADH (Reuters) - They are few in number but determined to make their mark -- women journalists in Saudi Arabia have fought hard to get where they are and say they have more than proved themselves the equal of men.

The kingdom is one of the most restrictive places in the world for women, where powerful clerics say a woman's place is in the home, raising a family.

Women cannot drive cars, must be accompanied in public by male relatives, and must cover themselves up in anonymous black robes lest they incite men's sexual desire.

But despite limitations on women in the workplace, many who have ventured into the media industry as Saudi Arabia opens up under King Abdullah have attracted attention for their tenacity and professionalism.

A young print journalist in the capital Riyadh, who declined to be named, said female journalists had a lot of strengths people might not appreciate. "I want to speak out," she said.

The journalist, who hails from the less restrictive Eastern Province on the Gulf coast, said her family supported her ambitions but Saudi society made it difficult to do her work.

"The problem is we don't have media departments at university for women. But you need to know how to write, and I don't have the tools," she said in an interview.

"Media means working evenings. You can't do interviews except in your office, and if you go to a hotel lobby, it's a crime," she said, recounting how a colleague was hauled off by the Saudi morality police for interviewing an unrelated man.

"You have to find safe ways. I have to be really careful. In Saudi Arabia, every one is watching you," she said.

The religious police, who believe women should cover their entire faces, can cause problems for a woman taking the pulse of public opinion on the street. Seating arrangements also separate women journalists from men at news conferences. more...

Previously: History made in Kuwait, Women go for their Rights!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Because Muslims are Persecuted.. Theme park calls off "Muslim Fun Day"

Well this is how the story will be interpreted by Muslims worldwide as they feel being persecuted. Actually, this is not true as generalization is always a bad habit. To be honest, my opinion this is no fun day. How come park rides be segregated by sex? Will that be fun? There is no wonder the day was called off.

Here is the story:

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's biggest theme park has called off the country's first "National Muslim Fun Day" because of lack of interest, the park said Wednesday.

Alton Towers in central England was to open on September 17 for Muslims -- with halal food, a strict dress code and prayer areas.

Music, gambling and alcohol were to be banned for the day and theme park rides such as "Ripsaw," "Corkscrew" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" all segregated by sex.

But the park said the event's organizers, Islamic Leisure, who rented the park for the day and were marketing the event, had called it off due to "insufficient ticket sales."

The fun day had caused some consternation: a non-Muslim couple scheduled to hold their wedding at the park's hotel complained to newspapers that event organizers told them the bride and female guests would have to cover up.

The park promised the party would be exempt from the rules. A park spokeswoman said the wedding would take place as planned. More...

Americans Visiting Egypt in Record Numbers!

Good for You Egypt... Wonderful. Many of my American friends keep asking me these eternal questions: "Is Egypt safe to visit?", "Is it safe to say I am an American?". There is no guarantee that there is a safe place now in our crazy world as long as fundamentalism is living in some pockets of the world. But hey there are thousands of Americans who made to Egypt and came back home safe.

Record Growth to Egypt Comes as Robb Report Names Egypt as One of World's '10 Extraordinary Escapes'

NEW YORK, Aug. 2 -- More Americans are travelling to Egypt than at any time in history! American visits are now on pace to eclipse the record-setting year of 2000.

During the first six months of 2006, there were 118,044 American visits, surpassing last year's total by 20.1% and the record-setting 2000 number of 114,468 by 3%. The record-setting performance was bolstered in June 2006 when there were 19,656 American visits, a 16.6% increase over the same period in 2005. More...

I Want to Believe That

There is no doubt that every war now is about change and lessening the impact of fundmentalists worldwide. I wished that the British Prime Minister have given further explanation to the values change concept.

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - US military action in Iraq and Afghanistan was part of a policy of "values change" rather than "regime change", Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a keynote policy address.

U.S President George Bush's staunchest supporter made the comments as he likened the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza to the wider issues of global extremism and the clash between moderate and reactionary Islam.

"Ever since September 11, the US has embarked on a policy of intervention in order to protect its and our future security," he told about 2,000 guests at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

"Hence Afghanistan. Hence Iraq. Hence the broader Middle East initiative in support of moves towards democracy in the Arab world.

He said that the point about these interventions, however, military and otherwise, is that they were not just about changing regimes but changing the values systems governing the nations concerned. More...