He killed his Wife for Being Pregnant with a Baby Girl, and the Birth of the Crown Price

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By: Alexandra Kinias

A Palestinian man in the West Bank was arrested on May 13, 2010 for killing his 27 years old pregnant wife. [1] He choked her to death. The wife’s crime was that her ultrasound’s results showed that she was pregnant with a baby girl. Even though the couple had already three boys and a girl, the husband, who evidently was ignorant that the man’s sperm decided the gender of the fetus, admitted that he was jealous of his brother who had nine sons.

“According to police, abrasions were found on the man’s body, indicating that the wife struggled as he was choking her to death.” [2]
As explained to the police, the husband committed this heinous crime to terminate his wife’s pregnancy because she didn’t comply with his demands, of giving birth to another son. It was as if she cooked hummus for him instead of shish kebabs.

This horrific news was another illustration of the cruel reality of how women are still viewed and treated in many parts of the world. In cultures where Stone Age mentalities dominate, females are believed to be inferior to males. It is believed that daughters bring shame to their families. Not to mention that they are viewed as financial burdens and that in the process of growing up, girls deplete their families’ resources that could be spent on rising up their male siblings. They are considered bad investments since they eventually leave the family when they get married and serve their grooms’ families. Girls in some of these cultures are as beneficial as their value when sold at a young age into marriages.

The first thing that came to mind when I read about the slain of this woman was her surviving children. How would the daughter who had witnessed the killing of her mother, for being pregnant with a baby girl, feel about her gender? What about the message that was given to the three boys?

The woman, according to news reports, had been previously attacked and abused by her husband. But growing up in a culture where violence against women is the norm and is encouraged by religious scholars, she accepted her fate and became submissive to her abuser. Even her family knew about it, but no one stood up in her defense. The social illnesses in such cultures are overwhelming that it becomes hard to point fingers at who is to blame. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the women in her family are as abused as she was, and most likely her male relatives behaved no different than her husband.

What is more horrific than the crimes committed against these women is how the law deals with such crimes. The authorities in these cultures, represented in law makers and police officers, view and accept the abusive behaviors against women as a family dispute that not only ddoesn’trequire their intervention, but that it may be misinterpreted by the society as a breach of the families’ private affairs.

And while this crime was committed in a land where the culture is stigmatized as misogynist, let us not forget that women in other cultures have suffered throughout history the consequences of their gender; and they still are. In China, female infanticide was a common practice in ancient times. It dates back to 2000 years ago. The early missionaries that arrived to China in the sixth centuries recorded that they had witnessed female infants dumped into the garbage and others thrown into the rivers and left to drown. [3] And until the 19th century this horrific crime was widely practiced in China. The two main reasons for that were poverty and the dowry system. Poor families either couldn’t afford the dowries or preferred not to lose the money to a stranger. [4] And the solution was to simply murder the female infant. The dowry system was also the reason that females’ infanticides were spread in India.

In the seventh century in pre-Islamic Arabia female infanticide was also widely practiced by the fathers who did not value their daughters as much as they valued their sons. In the years of famine, born girls were to be buried alive in fear of poverty. To poor families, girls were a burden and killing them was a way of survival. Young boys may have also been killed if there were no girls born to the family. Eventually the killing of daughters ceased once the fathers discovered that selling the daughter was more profitable than just burying her, and hence the marriage by purchasing the wives was introduced into these societies. After the rise of Islam, female infanticide was banned and hence it ceased, yet, in a culture that leans towards misogyny, females’ worth were and will always be negligible in comparison to males’.

In modern times, though, the preference of having a son over a daughter is incomprehensible. No other reason sounds plausible other than it demonstrates that the remnants of the medieval culture that has been embedded in the minds since it was practiced in ancient times are still alive. In cultures like India and China, the detection of the child’s gender before birth resulted in the soaring rate of abortion of female unborn children. And in China, where the one-child policy often collides with the traditional preference for a son in the family, the use of ultrasound to determine the gender of a fetus is banned, except for medical reasons. As a result, of course, underground illegal ultrasound services were created. [5] And when abortion fails, female babies are dumped at birth in orphanages where the lucky ones are given away for adoption. [6]

The Birth of the crown price

In Alexandria, Egypt, where I grew up, I knew of a family of nine girls and a boy. Of course the boy was the youngest of the herd. In their parental journey for having a son, two sets of twins were born. The family lived close to where I lived, but never once during the twenty years that I lived there had I ever saw the mother. With her hands full of ten children, she had no time to ever be spotted outside. At the time I was growing up, it was not uncommon that families would have a large number of kids, but this was the largest by far, especially to city dwellers. Also, most big families had an assortment of genders. With this particular family, it was obvious that they kept breeding to have a son.

And while the mother had no time for life, the nine girls were visible running errands for her. I remember the father vividly. We never exchanged words, but often greeted each other when we crossed path. He was a high school teacher who was always dressed in a brown suit and a tie. He was skinny, wore dark prescription glasses at all times and gave private lessons to supplement his income, and never gave up on having a son. In Egypt men conceal their misogynist mentalities with the rationalization that a son would carry the family name.

The journey traveled until the son was conceived and born was long and financially painful. But it wasn’t  just the financial dilemma that intrigued me, but the emotional one as well. The father was an educated man, yet his university degree was meaningless. It was baffling to see how the medieval culture was deeply engraved in the subconscious of an educated man and it left me wondering what others with less fortunate fates would do. Reading the news about the Palestinian husband who killed his wife was an eye opener to how some men dealt with the issue.

The teacher’s wife in Alexandria was nothing but a reproductive machine. As the house got crammed with girls, their share of care and food was obviously diminishing with every addition to the family. And eventually their existence was overshadowed by the birth of one son. The older siblings cared for the younger ones and they all cared for the crown prince.

The high school teacher might have been either reasonable enough to understand that it was not his wife’s fault to keep breeding girls or he had no means to marry another woman. With his meager resources, it didn’t matter to the father that the girls were deprived from basic needs. What mattered was that he felt accomplished after the birth of the son. Finally, and in spite of the high expense that was paid along the way, the proud father succeeded in keeping the family’s name alive.

In many similar cases, men would simply take another wife if the first wife failed to give birth to a son. It is quite disgraceful that a man’s accomplishment in life is measured by having a son to succeed him. And it doesn’t matter if the son turns out to be a spoiled loser, which exactly what happened to the teacher’s son, since the boy was treated like a crown prince. Just imagine ten women looking after one child.

Under that roof, the message that was engraved in the minds of these girls was that their worth value was negligible in comparison to the boy. And vice versa, the boy was fed from birth that he was the most important member of this household. And most likely, these beliefs will be passed over to their children.
Quite saddening that in this time and age a person’s worth is judged according to their gender…

References:
1- Suspicion: Palestinian killed wife because she was carrying girl, by: Ali Waked, Israel New, May 13, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3889131,00.html
2- Killed for being pregnant with a baby girl, by: Phyllis Chesler, May 13, 2010, Fox News, http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/05/13/phyllis-chesler-palestinian-husband-wife-ultrasound-girl-honor-killing/
3- Mungello, D.E. (2008). Drowning Girls in China: Female Infanticide in China since 1650. Rowman & Littlefield.
4- Mungello, D.E. (2009). The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500-1800 (3rd edition) Rowman & Littlefield.
5- Murky fetal clinics in illegal ultrasound service, Shanghai Daily, June 4, 2012, China.org.cn, http://www.china.org.cn/china/2012-06/04/content_25557578.htm
6- China’s Unwanted Babies Once Mostly Girls, Now Mostly Sick, Disabled, By Li Hui and Ben Blanchard, Reuters, Tianjin, China Sun Feb 2, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/02/us-china-babies-idUSBREA110M120140202

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In Sudan women are flogged in public for wearing pants

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By: Alexandra Kinias

A disturbing video of a woman flogged in the streets of Khartoum, Sudan went viral on the Internet in December 2010, and within few days it was viewed by millions worldwide. The barbaric act committed against the Sudanese woman outraged the international community who some were caught by surprise that this medieval punishment is still in fact carried out on humans in the 21st century. The video that was shot by an amateur showed two police officers in uniform flogging an anonymous woman in a courtyard of a police station. Spectators gathered on the side and watched the painful and humiliating punishment being carried out. [1] Luckily in this time and age such crimes committed against humans can no longer be discreet, and with a click of the button they travel far enough to expose their brutality.

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Woman flogged in the streets of Khartoum

Under the Sharia law (Islamic law) that governs Sudan, public flogging is used to punish women. In fact, Sudanese women have become the primary victims of the implementation of the Sharia law since it was adopted in 1983. And its amendment in 1991, after the Islamic backed military coup of Hassan Al Bashir and his rise to power, added more limitations to women’s status and freedoms.

Flogging is justified and practiced according to Article 152 of the 1991 Sudanese Criminal Code ‘Obscene and Indecent Acts’ clause which states that:
“Whoever does in a public place an indecent act or an act contrary to public morals or wears an obscene outfit or contrary to public morals or causing an annoyance to public feelings shall be punished with flogging which may not exceed forty lashes or with fine or with both.” [2]

It is worth mentioning that wearing pants by women is considered an indecent act in Sudan. In the video you could hear the cracking of the bullwhip, the terrified woman’s agonizing screams echoing as she pleaded and moaned in pain when the long brutal whip slashed her body and face, unmercifully, and the laughter of the man in uniform, who carried out the flogging, when he noticed that he was being filmed. It was heart wrenching to watch the disgraceful reaction of a psychopath while he inflicted pain and humiliation on another human being.

No one knew at the time the video was released of the exact nature of the woman’s crime. Speculations varied between wearing pants and committing adultery. Uncovering the head and riding in a car with a male who is not an immediate relative; father, son or husband is also considered an indecent act in Sudan where women are also punished by public flogging.

The calls, efforts and pressure on the Sudanese government by Amnesty International and other women and human rights organizations to abolish this law have failed to bring an end to it. “The law is crafted in a way that makes it impossible to know what is decent or indecent,” said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Program. “In practice, women are routinely arrested, detained, tried and then, on conviction, flogged, simply because a police officer disapproves of their clothing. The law is also discriminatory, in that it is used disproportionately against women.” [3]

The exposure of the video and the worldwide outrage it created caused an embarrassment to the Sudanese government, which announced a start of an investigation of the case. [4] That was an ironical statement merely issued to save face as the law remains and more women are suffering because of it. The shameful whipping was also criticized by Sudanese Women’s Union. Thirty of its members marched in the streets of Khartoum to protest this disgraceful act, but they were detained as they tried to hand a petition to the ministry of justice and were denied access to their lawyers. [5]

This heinous crime against women was practiced for two decades away from the eyes of the world. And the credit for attracting international attention to it goes to Sudanese reporter and UN employee Lubna Al-Hussein who was arrested in 2009 for wearing pants in public and was sentenced to 40 lashes. Hussein and 13 other women were arrested in a coffee shop in Khartoum for violation of the Islamic dress code. She refused to be flogged and decided to go on trial. Al-Hussein resigned her UN position that granted her immunity so she can challenge the law and invited other reporters to attend her trial and to write about it. Due to the controversy and international exposure that her case attracted, the verdict was reduced to a $200.00 fine, which Al-Hussein refused to pay. “This is not a case about me wearing pants. This is a case about annulling the article that addresses women’s dress code, under the title of indecent acts. This is my battle. This article is against the constitution and even against Islamic law itself,” she said after the hearing. [6]

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Loubna Al-Hussein wearing pants

The Sudanese Journalists’ Union paid the fine on her behalf the court dismissed her case. In a televised interview with an Egyptian channel, Al-Hussein told her story and expressed her dismay and concern over the future of the women in Sudan. “I am not the only woman who was subjected to this punishment. There are tens of thousands like me. In one year 43,000 women were arrested because of their clothing, not from all of Sudan, but in Khartoum only, as declared by the police general commissioner.

“This clause in the law contains both moral and physical violence. Physical violence is manifested in the punishment of lashing, which is a humiliating and degrading to the pride and dignity. The moral violence is manifested in the fact that it is called ‘indecent acts,’ and this is the reason that tens of thousands of women before me did not have the courage to complain. The courts that try such cases are not regular courts. They are special courts that were established during the presidency of Al-Bashir. In these courts the defendant has no right to defend herself. And in my case, because of the publicity and the public support I received, I took a lawyer along with me, but the judge refused to give the defense witnesses a chance to be heard.”

‘Indecent clothes’ according to the law is subjective and not defined. And when asked to explain what the definition of ‘indecent clothes’ is, Al-Hussein responded that such definition is left to the discretion of the law enforcement officers. “The law says clothes that offend public sentiment and the authorities [policemen] arbitrary interpret the law as they please. And under the same law that punishes women by 40 lashes for wearing pants, a man who rapes a boy, a girl or a woman is sent to one month in jail. And then they tell you this is the Islamic law, but in fact this is the law of Al-Bashir.” [7]

The international outcry caused Al-Hussein’s case in 2009 fell on deaf ears. And no action has yet been taken by the Sudanese government to end this crime. And following in Al-Hussein’s footsteps, civil engineer and women’s rights activist Amira Osman Hamed also defied the law when she refused to cover her hair in public. She was arrested in August 2013 in a small village outside Khartoum. To bring the law back into the spotlight, Hamed who is awaiting trial says that she is ready for any sentence – including flogging. “I take the risk to tell what is happening in our country and I hope that will be the last time a Sudanese woman is arrested by this law.” [8]

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Amira Osman Hamed is awaiting trial for uncovering her head in public

Hamed’s trial, which was initially due to take place on 19 September 2013, has repeatedly been postponed after her lawyers submitted an appeal to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice stating that Article 152 is unconstitutional. According to her defense team, the Minister of Justice is still deliberating on this appeal and no progress has been made in arranging a new trial. Amnesty International in a statement issued on June 30, 2014 vowed that they will continue to put pressure on the Sudanese government to retract Hamed’s charges altogether. In the meantime she is free on bail. [9] [10]

It is shameful that such medieval practice is still implemented in broad daylight and that women have to pay the price for the insanity of lawmakers who draft such laws to ensure women’s submission by torturing and harassing them. There is no justification for the practice of such laws, no matter what label is added to them, other than the psychopathic, sadistic and misogynist mentalities behind them. And even with the assumption that these laws have been written in ancient books, there has to be a global effort to eradicate them not to revive them. And while Al-Hussein and Hamed’s cases attracted international attention, it is saddening to learn that there are thousands of other Sudanese women who are suffering in silence because of the consequences of this law. These women either have no means to bring their cases to the light or they chose to remain silent not to be stigmatized in their community as being charged with immorality.

Reference:
1- Sudan woman whipped including in the face while police laugh–Warning Graphic images, Sky News, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve_JJFF5X-g

2- The Sudanese Penal Code 1991, Article 152, Obscene and Indecent Acts, page 40, European Country of Origin Network (ecoi.net) http://www.ecoi.net/ , http://www.ecoi.net/sudan, https://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/1329_1202725629_sb106-sud-criminalact1991.pdf
3- Amnesty International calls on Sudan to repeal law penalizing women for wearing trousers, September 4, 2009, Amnesty International, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/amnesty-international-sudan-repeal-law-penalizing-women-wearing-trousers-20090904
4- SUDAN: Authorities investigate whipping of woman on YouTube video, December 14, 2010, Los Angeles Times, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/12/sudan-authorities-investigate-whipped-woman-video.html
5- Sudan YouTube flogging video: Women arrested at march, BBC News Africa, Dec 14, 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11991558
6- Lubna Hussein Pants Trial Adjourns until Tuesday, The Huffington Post/Associated Press, Aug 20, 2009, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/29/lubna-hussein-pants-trial_n_246901.html
7- Interview with Lubna Al-Hussein on Egyptian television, Lubna Al-Hussein, Sudanese Journalist Sentenced to Lashing for Wearing Pants, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWHu6AYshlI

8- Sudanese women risks flogging over uncovered hair, By: Ian Timberlake, September 8, 2013, for Fox News, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/09/08/sudan-woman-risks-flogging-over-uncovered-hair/
9- Amnesty International UK, Amira Osman Hamed, http://www.amnesty.org.uk/amira-osman-hamed-sudan-woman-headscarf-flog#.U-h0_vldWO0
10- Urgent Action, June 30, 2014, Amnesty International, http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/f2u25313.pdf

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The Egyptian Inquisition

DemianaAbdelnour

— By: Alexandra Kinias –

The hopes of 24 years old school teacher Demiana Abdel-Nour to return home from self-exile were postponed indefinitely, on June 16, 2014, when the Egyptian appeals court upheld a blasphemy conviction against her and sentenced her to six months in prison, in addition to the earlier ruling that only imposed a fine of LE 100,000. Among the many challenges taking place in Egypt, the developments in Abdel-Nour’s case were sidelined by most Egyptian media.

The young teachers’ nightmare started in May 2013, when parents of three of her pupils, accused her of insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad by saying that the late Pope Shenouda III performed more miracles than the Prophet. They also alleged that she placed her hand on her stomach to convey nausea when mentioning the Prophet. These accusations were entirely based on the testimony of the three students, all under the age of ten. Abdel-Nour denied all allegations, and the school administration as well as the confessions of ten other students acknowledged that there was no truth to any of those claims. Yet on filing the charges, the young teacher was immediately arrested and thrown in jail, pending investigations of the charges.

Two weeks into her arrest and after going on a hunger strike Abdel-Nour was released on LE 20,000 bail. Soon after she fled to France, in fear of the consequences, after the court refused her defense request to admit witnesses and reports demonstrating her innocence. And according to her lawyer, she was mentally preparing herself to seek asylum in France if the courts ruled against her, which is exactly what happened.

The incident of Abdel-Nour is not an isolated one, but another in the long strand of events that target the Coptic minorities and affirms that the religious intolerance is steadily increasing. It is only predictable that this phenomenon that has grown roots in the society will eventually become a trait in the absence of the supervision of civil institutions. However, what came as a disappointment was that this verdict was the first after the new constitution has promised equality and freedom of religion to all Egyptians.

Defamation of religion is a phenomenon that is practiced in societies where religious extremism is rooted. In such societies, zealots condemn, prosecute and kill those who speak out against their faith, while giving themselves the license to do and say the exact same against other religions. With the rise of conservatism, Egypt is aggressively following in the footsteps of countries that have been labeled among the worse in freedom of religion. And while it didn’t come as a surprise what the young teacher had to go through, I somehow had hoped for a miracle that would reverse the heritage of long decades of ignorance and intolerance, forgetting that magic wands are only used in fairy-tales.

Abdel-Nour’s case reminded me of the Spanish-American movie “Goya’s Ghosts” by Milos Forman that took place during the time of the Spanish inquisition where Muslims and Jews were prosecuted for practicing their faith. Ines, a young catholic woman, the character played by Natalie Portman, was accused of being a heretic because she decides not to eat a pork roast; a dish she particularly doesn’t favor, that was served to her in a tavern. And before she knew it, she was tortured by the Inquisition on the accounts that her dietary choice is dictated not by taste but by her clandestine conversion to Judaism. Ines was sent to 15 years in jail on the alleged charges, with no proof.

Abdel-Nour’s case was similar to Natalie Portman’s character in “Goya’s Ghosts”. While the fate of Ines was decided by speculations, Abdel-Nour’s was decided by the testimonies of three school kids under the age of ten.

Unfortunately, Abdel-Nour’s will not be the last case of blasphemy Egypt will witness in the near future. If the fate of a young woman was decided by the testimonials of three under age school children, we might as well bid adieu to a country that was once a safe haven to all religions. And unless the government that has promised equality and religious freedom and safety to its Coptic minority exerts tangible measures, together with social organizations, to promote civility into a society that has been injected with religious intolerance for many decades, one fears that Egypt may revert back to medieval times.

Sectarian tension won’t simply vanish overnight by just adding a clause in the constitution, but by working hard to burn out the sentiments that ignite them, from both sides. And Abdel-Nour’s case is yet another example that has left a bitter taste in the mouths of all Copts. For it is not merely about a person sentenced to jail, but of the right of citizenship that is divided equally among the partners of the land.

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Why there will be no Third revolution in Egypt?

— By Said Sadek

—– History is full of more unsuccessful uprisings and revolutions than successful ones. Inability to read the balance of powers, social-political and global situation always leads to failure:

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Here are the reasons why the planned uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood on the 3rd of July is going to be another failure.

1. The Brotherhood had failed during one year to mount any big demonstration or even a million to join any demo.

2. Reading the explosions in Itihadya as a sign that the Interior Ministry and Defense Establishment in Egypt are weak and conclude that the historical moment is ripe for an armed uprising is a FATAL mistake. A security failure here or there to prevent a terror operation does not mean that the interior Ministry cannot face an armed uprising with its leaders and locations known in advance. A booby trapped terror incident is not an armed uprising. Big mistake if you mix the two situations.

3. The 30th of June ruling coalition in Egypt consists of (Upper, middle classes, urbanites, Filoul, business, women, Copts, the Deep state is still strong while the revolutionary camp is fragmented and lacks credibility for supporting Morsi and reblling against him. A similar situation is occurring with Tamord that supported Sisi and now splitting against him. No credibility anymore in the eyes of public opinion. . The Muslim Brotherhood feels trapped further especially with growing international support and recognition of the Sisi regime. To have a successful uprising, the government must be totally unpopular. This is not the case yet for Sisi who had just officially assumed power. Mehleb Government takes difficult economic decisions but is still respected and no one accuses Sisi or Mehlb of corruption as the case was under Mubarak regime. So mobilizing masses against a respected government is more difficult task.

4. To have a successful uprising you need the support of many classes and forces. This is totally lacking at the current moment. Also if no sizable part of the police or army joins you, Allah blesses your soul in your grave or in jail for life if you are lucky.

5. Ramadan culture and consumerism will make most people either spectators or join the government to beat those who try to disturb their gradually returning to stability state. Fasting and hot weather will not push people to the streets but to stay home. Weather and Ramadan are against any uprising now. Successful uprisings take place under good weather conditions.

6. Revolutionary change in a society is never complete, and the outcomes are highly variable. Elements of the old order live on, as they did in France after 1789 and Russia after 1917, confounding the idealistic intentions which launched the revolution. Hence Filoul [ Mubarak's supporters] continue to be part of the political scene in Egypt.

7. Revolution is a long historical process. Change takes time. Changing an institution takes decades not a year or two. You need training and re-education of the bureaucracy.

8. If you are against the military rule and Islamists, do you have realistic alternative? Political realism is lacking. You need to read properly the Egyptian political reality and come down to earth.

9. A slogan to mobilize Egyptians to bring Morsi back will abort any uprising before it starts. Mobilizing Egyptians for the continuing economic problems now also won’t help. Egyptians after 3 years of uprisings are exhausted and won’t do it again as this will not lead to inevitable prosperity and security . Revolution is no longer the main choice of the majority of the masses or the credible influential elite.

10. Revolutions are not as easy to call for like home delivery pizza . Because Egyptians made 2 revolutions in three years this does not mean that the Third one is going to be free or coming soon. For successful rebellions, it must happen at the right place, at the right time, and be led by the right people. This is not available now in Egypt. Islamists are the wrong people to lead a revolution now.

11. Arab culture is not famous for producing smart politicians among opposition or governments. Of the worst politicians islamists take the lead. Note the Muslim Brotherhood spent 80 years to reach power and could not stay in power for more than a year . This is no compliment.

12. Revolutionaries and islamists have a failed vision of history and need to read more about the sociology and history of revolution and social psychology of public opinion.

13. Pro-Islamist street operators and planners of uprisings have been a failure for a year. I don’t see any change Thursday 3rd of July.

14. The aim of this drummed up uprising is psychological stress, trying to get international pressures to get the Brothers back into the political scene before parliamentary elections and prevent internal explosions inside the Muslim Brotherhood.

15. If Islamists are counting on the international community to save their skins and prevent the Egyptian Government from cracking down on them violently this time, they are committing another fatal mistake. The government did not bow to international criticism for mass capital sentences against islamists nor the jailing sentences against Aljazeera illegal correspondents in Egypt. So don’t count on any foreign pressure to save you if you start using guns or Molotov. Government firepower is still stronger.

16. The media are against the Islamists and their uprisings. This means the message reaching the masses to mobilize or not is controlled by the ruling class not any counter-culture trend. Alternative media are not totally on your side.

Dr. Said Sadek  is a Professor/Political Commentator/ Media and academic consultant ·

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The Virtual Revolution of Iranian Women

– By: Alexandra Kinias —

In defiance to the rule of the Mullahs that hijacked their liberties and rights and has been keeping them hostage for the past 35 years, women in Iran have finally been given a global platform and an opportunity to share with the world their stolen moments of freedom. Thanks to the young exiled Iranian British journalist Masih Alinejad who created ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ [1], a Facebook page that became the voice for Iranian women to share their photos without their headscarves and to reveal their true sentiments about Hijab and how it has shaped their lives.

It all started when Alinejad shared her photograph on Facebook that was taken while she was running down a London street without a headscarf, and which she accompanied with the comment, “Every time that I run in London, feeling the wind in my hair, I remember that my hair is like a hostage in the hands of the Islamic Republic government.” [2]

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Masih Alinejad running down a London street without a headscarf. Photo taken from Facebook

“I was sure that most Iranian women who don’t believe in the forced hijab have enjoyed freedom in secret,” she says [3]. She asked her friends and followers if they would too like to share their experiences of stealthy freedom from their headscarves. However, she had not anticipated that this invitation to share their stolen moments of freedom would create such a global buzz. With the scores of photos she received from Iranian women who responded to her call, the page attracted the attention of the world and exposed the realities of the conditions that these women are living in. And within less than a month, her post had ignited a movement that gained enormous momentum and sparked a virtual revolution that exceeded the expectations of Alinejad herself. The page was followed by more than a quarter of a million people from every corner of the globe, and counting. They joined to support these women who are fighting a battle to achieve their basic human right and to applaud their bravery and their act of rebellion against the status-quo, and a tyrannical regime. What was even more compelling was the encouragement that these women received from Iranian men who supported them in their battle. Many of the photos were taken with or by husbands, fathers, sons and often boyfriends. Yet with their hands tied there isn’t much they can do, for they too suffer under this theocratic rule.

On her Facebook page and in various interviews, Alinejad explained that she had not created ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ with a political intent and neither is she against the veil that her mother is still wearing back home in Iran, – but [rather to support] the right of Iranian women to choose either way. “I have no intention whatsoever to encourage people to defy the forced hijab or stand up against it,” she said. “I just want to give voice to thousands and thousands of Iranian women who think they have no platform to have their say.” [4]

And as agreed by many contributors to the page, their objection is not to the veil, but to its compulsion. On the contrary, many attributed their dismay with the veil is because of their lack of choice. Had they been given the free will to choose, some women confessed that they might have considered to be veiled.

The rigid dress code imposed on the women in Iran doesn’t allow them to choose what they wear in public. And walking the streets without the proper Islamic attire that consists of a chador and a headscarf subjects them to punishments that may vary from a fine to verbal warning, and often detention that can last for few hours, after which a male relative; a brother, father or a husband has to collect them in person from the police station.

The smiles of the women enjoying their stolen moments without the headscarves and their testimonials captured the hearts of people worldwide. ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ posted photos of women of all ages standing in green fields, on snow summits, on the beach, at work, on sand dunes, in the streets, driving their cars and wherever they got a chance to steal these moments away from the eyes of the morality police. With their headscarves held up high and billowing in the wind like colorful banners, some faces were concealed with dark glasses; some women gave their backs to the lens while others gazed daringly to the camera. But none-the-less they all had their hair flaunting on their shoulders, dancing in the wind, as many wrote.

In a photo, where three generations of women from the same family smiled to the camera, the grandmother who stood next to her daughter and granddaughter wrote, “We wish that the new generation tastes this most basic freedom before their hair goes gray. Is this too much to ask?”

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Three generations in one frame at a corner of the street. Photo from Facebook

The heartwarming testimonials of those joyful moments are memorable, yet it is still painful to read what it feels like for these women to be denied a simple pleasure that is taken for granted elsewhere. All they want is the right to choose what to wear. Their stories reinforce the belief that theocratic regimes are out there to steal people’s rights of choice, and happiness. It is not just a head cover, but a sign of control enforced by the government. “[The] hijab is about control,” Alinjejad says. And the “Iranian regime would never want to lose control. [5]

In one photo a woman is standing on the beach with a wide grin on her face and holding the scarf in her hands above her head. “I’ll let the wind blow away the darkness of my scarf. I’ll let the blaze of hope of individual freedom shine in my heart and keep my soul bright and vivid.”

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I’ll let the wind blow away the darkness of my scarf. Photo from Facebook

In another photo where the caption shows that it was shot in 2003, a woman in dark sunglasses stood on the beach with her 6 years old next to her in her bathing suit, her head tilted and her blond curly hair falling on her shoulder. “Despite the fact that there were many police officers there and my family did not think it was a good idea to take my scarf off, I did it; because I really felt like letting my hair feel the wind a little bit. I yearned to turn into a drop of water in the sea. I hope my 6-year old daughter will never have to enjoy her freedom stealthily.”

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I did it because I really felt like letting my hair feel the wind a little bit. I hope my 6-year old daughter will never have to enjoy her freedom stealthily.” Photo from Facebook

A woman giving her back to the camera and looking at extended green meadows wrote, “This is Iran. The feeling of the wind blowing through every strand of hair, is a girl’s biggest dream.”

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“ The feeling of the wind blowing through every strand of hair, is a girl’s biggest dream.”

Another woman wrote, “It felt like God was caressing our hair with his own hands.”

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“It felt like God was caressing our hair with his own hands.” Photo copied from facebook

Alinejad came under attack from conservatives and fundamentals in Iran who accused her of working with foreign governments to promote promiscuous behaviors. She had also been exposed to smear campaigns and would be arrested if she returned to Iran for spreading immorality, “I’m a journalist, I’m doing my job,” she said. “I’m reporting about what exists in Iran, I’m not creating anything.” [6]

In response to her Facebook page, hardcore Islamists rallied the streets of Tehran to call on the government to enforce the country’s strict Islamic dress code for women and to take actions to stop the influence of Westernization that is invading the country. “The youth should be vigilant and be aware that the same enemy that has blocked our access to nuclear science is trying to drive us towards abandoning the hijab and towards corruption,” said one young protester, adding, “It is the same enemy. I ask all my good friends to do a little bit more thinking first, and then do whatever they want.” [7]

Ironically, it was the voice of women who joined this rally that demanded the government to take actions against other women who don’t want to comply with the enforced dress code and warned that they will start another revolution if the Hijab situation does change. And while women pro-hijab are given the right to demonstrate, those who are against it are denied such right.

Even though President Rohani has taken a less strict view of the dress code, allowing looser clothing to be worn in the hot summer months, saying the emphasis should be on virtue rather than fashion [8], yet, his voice is silenced by the conservative Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who have more power than the president when it comes to enforcing the country’s Islamic laws, including the enforcement of the dress code.

In Iran, where demonstrators are crushed and opposition in hunted down, ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ gave women an opportunity to rally against their oppressor from behind their computer screens and their voices echoed worldwide. It is too early to predict how this movement will unfold or what the fate of these courageous women who stood in the front lines exposing their lives to danger would be. No one is immune from the consequences of their actions when governed by tyrannical oppressive regimes, especially the ones that are concealed under the religious cloaks. What this movement had succeeded so far to accomplish is that it has exposed the lies and the fake image that the Islamic government has been projecting to the west. The news about women’s rights in Iran has always been portrayed from one side. Thanks to the cyber age and the social media for playing a viable role in making the voices of the oppressed women heard. ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ is a drop in the ocean for these women who put their lives in the crossfire to pave the road to the future generations to be able to enjoy their freedom.

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“Hoping for the day when all my nation’s women can taste freedom with their whole bodies and souls.” Photo from Facebook

“Hoping for the day when all my nation’s women can taste freedom with their whole bodies and souls,” one woman wrote.

(All pictures are copied from the Facebook page, “My Stealthy Freedom” and its creator’s Masih Alinejad’s page. The property and copyright are of their respective owners)

References:
1- My Stealthy Freedom
2 – Iranian women defy law, shed hijabs in public for ‘Stealthy Freedoms’ campaign

http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/iranian-women-defy-law-shed-hijabs-in-public-for-stealthy-freedoms-campaign-1.1824491#ixzz32lNgfuIG

3- ibid
4- ibid
5. The Facebook page where Iran’s women are unveiling on line

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/18/the-facebook-page-where-iran-s-women-are-unveiling-online.html

6- Iranian women defy law, shed hijabs in public for ‘Stealthy Freedoms’ campaignhttp://www.ctvnews.ca/world/iranian-women-defy-law-shed-hijabs-in-public-for-stealthy-freedoms-campaign-1.1824491#ixzz32lNgfuIG
7- Iran women’s “stealthy freedom” dress code backlash

http://www.euronews.com/2014/05/17/iran-women-s-stealthy-freedom-dress-code-backlash/

8-ibid

 

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Changes

Article and photographs by: Bente Haarstad

Published with author’s approval.

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Norway have changed a great deal the last years. The population has grown more than 10 percent in just a few years. Now we are 5.1 million people, 0.5 million more than in 2005. All this growth because of immigration, because Norwegians are like the rest of Western Europe, in decline. Immigrants now accounts for 15 percent of the population, in the capital Oslo, 31 percent, and for the third year in a row Muhammad is the most popular name for newborn boys. It used to be Per, or Ole.

These photos are from a walk in Oslo a short time back. That is a part of the city called Greenland (Grønland). “I can honestly say that when I walk through the streets of Greenland where I live, it does not feel as though I live in Norway,” wrote Mina Bai recently. She is a refugee from Iran living in Norway: “It feels more like it’s Norway that has been integrated into other cultures than that immigrants are integrated in Norway. Covered women, big halal banners, coffee and tea houses filled with men and with mosques collection consists only of men” (my translation).

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I took these pictures in March, and I must say it was a shock for me to not only see numerous women completely covered in niqab walking the streets, but also shops selling full cover for children. It was a shock because I have been supporting human rights and womens rights since an early age, and I live in a country that rank as one of the most equal countries in the world. Haven’t I heard that these things is a matter of free choice? Yes, absolutely, and I don’t belive it. In these matters I listen to feminists who knows better, like Egyptian Mona Eltahawy. In this brilliant interview with Al Jazeera she comment about niqabs: if somebody chooses to be a slave, am I supposed to support that choice, because they chose it?” You can read a transcript here.

Walking in this district of Oslo I passed four mosques in a matter of few minutes. That is also a big change. Norway have been a Christian country for 1000 years, and until 30-40 years ago it was more or less the only religion, except for a few Jews, a few atheists etc. In 1974 a group of 20-30 muslims of Pakistani origin established the first mosque in Norway, Islamic Culture Centre. Since then there are many, and about 200.000 muslims. In comparision there are about 1300 Jews in Norway.

But is it a problem? No religion is a problem for me. Religion is a personal matter as I see it, but it is of course also culture, history, communal rituals, and not the least: politics. And we have got our share of political Islam by these changes. And that is certainly a problem, a problem that large parts of the Norwegian society do not take seriously. Partly because they do not know enough, partly because the subject is not politically correct.

The Nordic countries, these small countries on the brinck of the North Pole are exporting Syria-bound jihadists. About 40-50 Norwegian jihadists have gone to Syria to fight for extremist groups, and at least six of them are believed to be killed. Last week we got news of two, among them Norwegian-Albanian Egzon Avdyli (25) who is said to have been killed fighting for the al-Qaeda-group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). When this was known a leader from The Islamic Council Norway, an organization for 43 mosques and muslim organizations in Norway, commented that “there is not a big difference between the combat training that Norwegian Muslims get in Syriaand the training given in the military service.” Well, that is not true. I would say it is the opposite: The military training given in Norway is to be able to defend a democracy if neccessary, while organizations like ISIL wants to abolish democracies and impose totalitarian rule.Some wants to start in the Western country they live in, like Anjem Choudary, a British islamist who also have followers in Scandinavia. In this video he talks about why there should be sharia laws in the UK.

Less than eights months ago about 70 innocent people were brutally murdered in a shopping mall in Kenya. A Norwegian citizen is believed to have been among the al-Shabaab terrorists, also a group connected to al-Qaeda. Norwegian media writes about this for a couple of weeks, then it gets silent, hardly a word since then. I know this suspect is probably dead and can’t defend himself, but I still find it strange. This terrible incident have so many similarities with the terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, who less than three years ago killed 77 innocent people in Norway, also because of a crazy political idea. I find 4.5 million hits if I google Behring Breivik, only a few if I google Nordmann + Westgate. Strange since they are both terrorists from peaceful Norway. The big diference must be the etnicity. Or the religion they used as alibi for atrocity.

So why mention all this after a stroll in Oslo? Because I think this country is changing too fast, and because we have failed in integration. Not only failed of course. There are immigrants who do perfectly well,  as scientists, many journalists in major newsrooms, and we had a Muslim in our last government. But we also have a lot of immigrants who don’t talk Norwegian (among them 14.000 schoolchildren only in Oslo), more than 5000 asylum seekers who the local communities refuse to settle, schools with hardly any Norwegian pupils, thousands of illiterates who will maybe never get an education or a job, an increasing number of poor families, and a new working class. Many immigrants have problems getting a job, and if they do it will often be a low paid one.

The largest groups of immigrants in Norway is people from Sweden and Poland, who come here to work. But we are also among the countries that grants most asylum applications, 46 percent got a “yes” in 2013. The European Union  granted refugee status to 15 percent of the asylum seekers last year.

Somalis are now the largest group of immigrants from non-western countries in Norway. Last month it was revealed that hundreds of Somali children have been sent abroad alone, many because they don’t want their children to be too “Norwegian”.  They come as refugees, but do they really need protection if they send their children back to that same country? And why are so many immigrants (not all by all means) against the values and human rights in their new country if persecution made them flee ? And why threats or attacks on people of their own community who don’t behave in “the old way”. The lesbian writer Amal Aden is one example, or the musician and director Deeyah, of Pakistani origin, who had to flee Norways because of threats from her own community. Last year she won an Emmy Award for her film Banaz A Love Story, about honour killing. Deeyah has not moved back to Norway were she was born, and I wonder if eyes are still closed.

There are 14.800 people in Norway now waiting for asylum, or to be sent back. Sweden receives even more refugeesNine out of ten asylum seekers have no paperwork on who they are. Sweden gives them permit to stay in a far greater extent than other Nordic countries. In Sweden there is even less discussions on this topic than in Norway. And you can loose your job if you do, claims the former journalist Gunnar Sandelin. He has written abook together with Karl-Olov Arnstberg that is bestselling even if it is said to have got only one devastating review in Sweden (“Same old rascism in a new wrapping”). I agree with a Norwegian editor that comment on the lack of debate “If one does not discuss the numbers and also the resourcespeople come withhow can one then discuss what is needed for creating sustainable societyAnd if you do not discuss numbershow do you thenhave an overall plan for the reception?” But it is a difficult topic to write about, the possibility of being misunderstood is imminent.

Tony Blair are among the spokesmen that have warned about radical Islam lately. Researchers in UK have recently revealed that radical Muslim clerics based also in countries like USA and Australia are using social media to incite westerners waging jihad in Syria.  In Nigeria the Nobel Prize Winner Professor Wole Soyinka in the same way now warns against Boko Haram threatening humanity, after the abduction of more than 200 school girls by the islamist group. This week the leader of the group sent out a video with a horrifying message. I think it is time to fight such groups and such destructive ideologies even if they live amongst us, not the least if they live amongst us. And to support the moderate and secular, like Ahmed Akkari, a Danish imam who started a fire by damning Muhammad cartoons some years ago, now a former islamist.

Some pages I recommend: Mona EltahawyThe Islamic Far Right of BritainHate Speech InternationalQui Sont les Freres Musulmans/Hva er det muslimske brorskapetMuslims Facing TomorrowFree ArabsOpplyste muslimer,

No person in these pictures are in any way involved in any of the stories mentioned.

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Egypt’s cultural decline and the boiling frog theory

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–By: Alexandra Kinias

With the abhorring cultural decline in Egypt one can’t help but draw a correlation between such decline and the rise of radical or what became known as political Islam, that has swiped the country and already mutated into terrorism in the name of God.

It is quite a thorny thought that on first impulse, may initiate fervor attacks and criticism from devout Muslims. However, it is not Islam that is under attack, but rather the actions of radical sheiks and religious scholars who have appointed themselves custodians of the faith; the neo-Islam. These fanatics believe that by demolishing the culture of beauty and creativity from the hearts and minds of people, and by filling the vacuum with God’s teachings that they have falsely misinterpreted to support their doctrine, that would enable them to resurrect their lost Caliphate.

The warped mentalities of zeal and fanaticism  that ceased to evolve since the Middle Ages, persist on rejecting any adaptation to exist within the contemporary boundaries of modernity, except, of course, the use of modern devices, gadgets and weapons that enable them to spread their venomous belief  of hatred, intolerance and annihilation of the other.

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They are fighting arts and science today and ignoring that the Islamic Caliphate thrived in Baghdad and Andalusia when the Emirs embraced tolerance and enlightenment. At the peak of the Andalusian and Abbasid Dynasties when Arabs were more advanced, refined and cultured than the neighboring lands, arts, music, science, philosophy and literature thrived. And no historian would refute that the light of the Islamic civilization went out when they followed the rigorous creeds of fanatic scholars.

Egypt, once the beacon in the Middle East; its culture has not just gone stagnant, but is also sliding into the dark ages with tangible decline that the country has not witnessed in more than a century. Anyone who would refute the idea that Islamists were to blame, since they were in power for just one year, must remember that the destruction of the cultural identity had started over half a century ago. The Islamists whom their target is to wipe the Egyptian identity were the catalyst added to the equation and who played a viable role in expediting the process.  In other words, the rise of Wahhabism influence imported from the Arabian Sahara was directly proportional to the deterioration of the cultural standards of the people. The decay in the cultural infrastructure of Egyptians has left its fingerprints everywhere. The masses are no longer appreciative of music, literature or fine arts. And with the plummeting cultural standards many Egyptians, who are nostalgic to the good old times, are wondering what the hell had happened to the artistic taste of the people.

Affected by collective reasons, the snow ball that had started rolling with Nasser’s military coup d’état in 1952 had gained momentum along the way. For many years after the military coup, and until Nasser’s death and beyond, Egypt was the cultural beacon that shone on the surrounding lands. It may be more truthful and accurate to describe Egypt during that time as a vehicle that was still moving with the momentum of the past era. Music, theater, movies, opera, ballet, folkloric and other forms of dancing, and arts thrived prior to Nasser and kept rolling by the force of inertia until it finally ran out of momentum.

The era prior to Nasser’s military coup was referred to as la belle époque. This era started with the reign of the Khedive Ismail (1830 –1895) which was a period of extreme extravaganza in the Egyptian history as Cairo became the mirror image of Paris, both architecturally and socially.  This era reached its peak with the majestic celebrations of the opening of the Suez Canal in 1879. And during the time of the descendants of the Khedive Ismail and from the cultural, social and literary heritage represented in movies, books, music, and art collections, Egypt was not inferior to European countries.1

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Khedive Ismail with world leaders at the inauguration of the Suez Canal

With the international acclaim that came with the Suez Canal, Egypt became a magnet that attracted artists, architects, writers, merchants and businessmen from all over the world. They settled in Egypt, blended in this cosmopolitan society and lived in harmony with Egyptians. These expatriate communities were pivotal in the building of the thriving culture.

Unlike Mohamed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt, and his successors, Nasser’s dreams or illusions – depends on which side of the spectrum one stands – of creating a Pan-Arab state and bringing Egypt back to the sphere of the Arab realm, was a repellent to the expatriate community. To achieve his dreams Nasser stomped on the bodies of the foreigners and the Egyptian Jews. His vision not only failed to unite the Arabs, but also deprived Egypt of a community that had enriched it culturally, professionally, economically and socially. And while it was fortunate for the neighboring countries to inhale the richness of the Egyptian culture, they contributed nothing to Egypt but their impoverishment; then, oil had not yet been discovered.

With the forced or voluntary expulsion of expatriates who were major contributors to the Egyptian cultural life, a vacuum was left in many sectors of the society. And without having a new experienced generation to step in and fill the gap; many activities eventually faded. And as the older generation of Egyptians who grew up living in this cosmopolitan environment aged and perished, it was replaced with a newer one that had already been bred with minimal interest or appreciation to arts and beauty.

The cultural decline that had started during Nasser’s time was politically and not religiously motivated.  In one of the most failed moves by a leader, the sequestration of assets and properties included movie theaters, studios, labs, music and movies production companies that belonged to both Egyptians and non-Egyptians. Under his dictatorship, the censorship bureau thrived and set new standards for books and movies’ production.  It is no surprise that the government control of the entertainment business propelled the decline. Nasser, with all his faults, however, may be credited for curbing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] who were after closing down the entertainment business altogether. With the crack down on them and as they became enemy of the state, the MB understood that they won’t be able to overpower Nasser, so they changed their strategy. Instead of fighting the leaders they brainwashed the people. With the death of Nasser in 1971, the snowball of cultural decline that had started rolling kept gaining momentum. Inevitably by then the MB had already entered the scene.

The MB and the other groups that were spawned out of it, adopt a rigorous creed that battles human creativity and arts in all its forms: music, sculpture, photography, dancing and painting. They consider such activities as a waste of the Muslim’s time that should be spent in worshiping his God. With no appreciation for culture or arts, the neo-Islamists’ continuous battle has and always been the destruction of both the Egyptian identity and culture to be easier for them to control the people. They view the monuments of the ancient Egyptian civilization as idols that should be destroyed; same as the Taliban destroyed the Buddha Statues in Bamian.  Also in their footsteps the Taliban justified the burning of books and films’ reals of Afghani movies produced prior to their rule thus wiping out the cultural heritage of the country. And following the same creed, the books of the Andalusian philosopher Averroes were collected and burned during the reign of the Andalusian Emir Al Mansour who ruled from 1884 AD – 1199AD. Averroes, known in Arabic as Ibn Rushd, was the founding father of secular thought in Western Europe and whose work was the base of the 13th century philosophical movement. Burning the books of this great philosopher was among the many nails in the coffin of the Andalusian Caliphate.

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I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse, but history would be distorted if we ignored that the 30 years of Mubarak’s corrupt regime contributed immensely to the decline of all human values. Mubarak, a leader with no vision, had set the clock back to the dark ages. The last generation born under his rule had been living in nothing but a cultural decline. And the boiling frog theory could easily be applied to both the older and younger generation of Egyptians whom their culture was being destroyed gradually and steadily.

The boiling frog story is a widespread anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to significant changes that occur gradually. And that’s exactly what happened to Egyptians.

The neo-Islamists and with the golden opportunity handed to them of the absolute no reaction from the Mubarak’s administration towards the changes that were introduced through them into the society; they were able over three decades to sow the seeds that advocated against culture and arts as anti-religious. And with the punishment of God’s wrath hovering over the heads of those who are involved in them, arts were abandoned and creativity was chocked. And gradually they succeed in wiping out the remnants of a culture that was once glowing and a glorious civilization that had once been.   But they continue on this slippery slope, Egyptians who were submerged inside the boiling pot where the frog was being boiled are finally feeling the heat and are wondering in apprehension how the decline had reached this deteriorating level.

Unfortunately there are no short term solutions. The road to reformation is long and bumpy. There are no miracles or magic wands that would reverse the damage that the nation had been subjected to, but no hope is ever lost. Egyptians are well aware that there is a problem and acknowledging that is the first step to solve it. Salvaging the Egyptian culture is a mass scale project. It is the responsibility of every Egyptian. They owe it to the future generations.

Reference:

1. Egypt’s Belle Epoque: Cairo and the Age of the Hedonists Paperback by Trevor Mostyn

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