Who Will Throw the First Stone at Zeina?


— By: Alexandra Kinias —

After two and a half years fighting in courts, Zeina vs Ahmed Ezz’s paternity saga finally ended with a victorious milestone for Egyptian women. The verdict would allow the actress to issue birth certificates for her twins in spite of actor Ahmed Ezz’s, the presumptive father, denial of his paternity. Furthermore, in an unprecedented ruling that would also benefit thousands of women who are fighting similar cases, the judge shifted the responsibility to the presumptive fathers to contest their paternity. So for Zeina’s case, and until proven otherwise by Ezz, the twins will carry his name. This verdict came as a slap in the face of the actor who wouldn’t comply with a previous court order to undergo a DNA test. Had he taken the test, this feud would have been concluded months earlier.

It is quite reprehensible how a father would refuse to issue a birth certificate for his offspring and vindictively fight against it, knowing fully of the consequences. A child without a birth certificate would not only be stigmatized for life as illegitimate, a shameful label in an unforgiving conservative society, but without it, this child can’t be enrolled in schools either.

To avoid social humiliation as her pregnancy advanced and Ezz was nowhere to be reached, Zeina fled to America to give birth to the twins. On their American birth certificates, Ezz was added as the father. The paternity battle started upon her return to Egypt. It is crucial to prove the status of the twins on Egyptian documents.

Zeina’s fame brought attention to her case and helped resolving it. But there are thousands of other underprivileged women who can’t afford hiring lawyers for such cases that can drag on for years in courts. Granting the mothers the right to issue birth certificates for their children, without consent of the presumptive fathers, was a huge victory for these women. Also the judge’s decision to shift the pressure of refuting the paternity to men was a smart move to bring closure to such cases.

Children born out of wedlock should not pay for the sins of their parents. Deprived from their identity, they will be forever haunted by the ghosts of their upbringing. The lucky ones are those whom their mothers terminated their lives before it had started, to save them the anguish and torment of abandonment in an orphanage or in the street. It is heart wrenching to read horrific stories of infants found in dumpsters stabbed to death or with their limbs eaten by stray animals. A high percentage of abandoned children become homeless. Left in the streets, it is tragic to see them competing with stray dogs and cats for scraps of food salvaged from the garbage, or for a spot to spend the night. You find them sleeping under parked cars, in construction sites or on a sidewalk with nothing to cover their frail bodies on cold nights but a piece of cardboard. They become invisible to the masses that carry on with their daily lives as if these helpless children are just stray animals they cross path with.

The shocking news of such discoveries briefly awakens the guilt feelings of people who would shift the blame entirely on the mothers, forgetting that they are also victims of an ultraconservative and heartless society. But other than condemning the mothers, not much action is taken to save these kids. As the hands are chained by the laws that govern and the minds are cluttered with cultural taboos, these helpless children will go on with their predestined lives that are doomed with shame and misery.

It is outrageous to discover that the voices of those who are fighting against the rights of these unfortunate children are coming from the comfort of expensive homes and mansions. Zeina was an unexpected surprise as she fought back relentlessly a battle that every mother with courage should fight. Ezz and his lawyers are appealing the court’s decision on the basis that no Orfi marriage contract is available, and thus slander the mother, discredit her claim and refute the paternity. The truth, however, will inevitably prevail. So why Ezz wouldn’t save us all the drama that he seems to play better in real life than in movies and take a DNA test? If he is confident of his stance, he would prove her wrong, close this chapter in his life and move on. If not, then he should stand up like a man and take responsibility for his action.

Women with courage and a cause are pivotal in changing outcomes, and Zeina proved to acquire both. Admire her courage and stance or despise her, her action will pave the road for more helpless women to follow her path. And those who are being critical of her, one can’t help but remind them that, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!”


Filed under Editorial, Women Rights in Egypt

My Deep Condolences For Your Daughter’s Wedding

By: Alexandra Kinias

Caption: A Child Bride In Afghanistan.  By:  Stephanie Sinclair,winner of UNICEF photo of the year 2007

While most eight years old girls go to bed dreaming of doll houses, ballet classes, crayons and scrapbooks, princesses in sequence dresses and tiaras, nightmares keep others awake in fear that the sunlight of the new day will rob them of their childhood; in one of the most heinous crimes that are still committed to humanity: Underage Marriages.  Unfortunately in regions where it is practiced,  communities keep a blind eye on these illegal marriages, which in reality legalize pedophilia, prostitution, rape and human trafficking.

Children forced into marriages is not a new phenomenon and neither is it an exclusive practice to one religion, culture or region. Though child weddings are illegal (almost) everywhere, none the less they are spread throughout the globe in most of the Sub-Saharan African countries, from North Africa to South Asia, from the Indian Subcontinent to the Middle East and across the ocean to North America.

This practice that is still embedded in a lot of cultures was a politically motivated practice thousands of years ago to secure ties between regions and tribes andresolve family feuds, but there is no excuse for it to be practiced today other than selfishness, greed and ignorance. Today Child Marriages are sparked by poverty, ignited by sexually sick societies and protected by religious scholars and tribal leaders. And in such regions where social customs and traditions are still powerful, law is never enforced to stop these marriages that steal away these unfortunate girls’ childhoods and leave them as human wreckage. No one is spared and no one is rescued to describe this horrific experience.

Poverty is the main reason that young girls are forced into marriage. They are regarded as financial burden. Their only use is to be traded off like a commodity than stay in the family and expect to be fed. With the money the family receives, it is able to sustain its living until another daughter is sold. The older the girl gets, her price decreases and thus marrying the daughters before puberty is more profitable.

In April 2008, the ten years old Yemeni girl Nujood Ali became famous when she obtained a divorce and her book became a bestseller. Her story flashed headlines worldwide and prompted calls to raise the legal marriage age in Yemen to 18 years old. Unlike India and Egypt where the laws restricting underage marriage are often ignored, countries like Yemen and Saudi Arabia have no minimum age for marriage.

Nujood’s was also sold into marriage because of her family’s poverty. After she ran away and wrote her book, her brothers criticized her for shaming the family, but after her book started generating income, the shame was forgotten and she is treated like a queen, by the same brothers.

Girls as young as eight years old are snatched from the safety of their family home and forced to quit schools. In many cases their groom’s house is located in other villages and they are uprooted from their community and live in isolation. Once they are married, they become a domestic aid to their in-laws where they spend their days cooking and cleaning, often subjected to abuse and violence. Those who don’t expire because of sexual intercourse at this young age are traumatized by the experience. If they refuse, they are raped by their husbands.  As they reach puberty and before their bodies are fully developed, they would go through a cycle of repeated pregnancies, as contraceptives are uncommon in their communities. Early pregnancies and child birth are the main cause of fatalities of young mothers and their babies in underdeveloped countries. The babies who make it into the world are malnourished and underdeveloped. By the age of twenty, most of these girls have severe feminine problems that often lead to hysterectomies, and their bodies eventually give up. Unable to fulfill their martial obligations, their husbands simply discard them like old rags and seek new wives, and the cycle starts over again.

These abandoned girls who are forced into marriages are victims of illiteracy, slavery, sexual abuse and domestic violence.  They are left alone to face the perils of their disgusting cultures. Yet with all the social damage they experience, on their shoulders lay the burden of upbringing the future generation of children who were breast fed their misery, agony and exploitation.

Child brides are yet another aspect of how degrading women are looked upon in certain societies where they are viewed only as sex objects and breeding machines. It is not a coincidence that such illegal marriages thrive in societies with low respect for women. These societies that are still struggling to survive  are unaware that they will never advance while their women are deprived from their rights and their daughters’ rights are being violated.

Someone has to be held accountable for these stolen lives. The road to combating this crime is long and paved with thousands of years’ old traditions that will not be easily eradicated. But we can no longer sit in the bleachers and watch in silence as more virgins are sacrificed and their innocent blood is spilled on the matrimonial alter.

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Women Around the World this Week ..

Editorial by Alexandra Kinias

1. LAOS: One Woman’s Mission to Free Laos From Millions of Unexploded Bombs


Channapha Khamvongsa . Photo Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

Thanks to Lao-American Channapha Khamvong’s efforts, the United States will be spending $12 million to get rid of millions of unexploded ordnance in Laos, up from $2.5 million ten years ago. From her little office in Washington D.C., Khamvongsa has been able to raise money and awareness about the contaminated country. Laos is littered with live, hidden cluster bombs from 580,000 American bombing missions half a century ago. They are forgotten leftovers from “the Secret War,” one of the most severe air campaigns in history. Over the past five decades, the explosives have killed 8,000 people and wounded 12,000, who have mistakenly detonated the bombs. With this increased budget for clearing teams, Khamvong hopes that with continuous efforts and hard work, the Laos countryside maybe cleared of these bombs over the next few decades.



2. IRAN: My Stealthy Freedom: Women in Iran Step Up Hijab Campaign by Filming themselves Walking in Public with their Heads Uncovered


When Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad started the Facebook page, My Stealthy Freedom, to give Iranian women an opportunity to share their photos without the hijab (head veil), she had not anticipated that it would become a women’s movement. In a country where the Islamic law forces women to wear the veil in public, the social media gave the Iranian women a voice to express how they truly view the hijab.

And with the momentum that My Stealthy Freedom campaign has gained, women in Iran are not just sharing their photos without the hijab, but the campaign is expanding as women, in defiance to the laws of the land,  are now filming themselves walking in the streets of Tehran in broad daylight without their hijab, according to a report in the The Independent. Watch video below or click here to view it.



3. CANADA: Woman Recounts Being Attacked on Montreal Subway ‘For Wearing Hijab’


Hanan Mehdi. Photo credit : Le Journal de Montreal

MONTREAL — Hanane Mehdi was taking the subway to work in downtown Montreal on Tuesday, as she does every day, when she says she was the victim of a racist attack as reported by  Montreal, Canada-based Le Journal de Montreal reported.

Hanane Mehdi, who was taking the subway to go to work, was aggressed for wearing the Islamic veil by another woman. She was told to “return to your country” by a woman who later hit her in the face.“She started hitting me in the face, which got all red. I felt her hitting me from behind until people got involved,” Mehdi said.Talking about the incident, Mehdi’s daughter Marwa said: “I was so scared I was sick.“I didn’t know it could happen to my mother and I almost cried because I love my mom and I don’t want that to happen to her.”Following the incident, Mehdi, who did not return to work since the attack, filed a complaint against the woman.An investigation is under way as police review surveillance camera footage.



4. JAPAN: Japanese Police Make Arrest Amid String of Acid Attacks on Women

Shoppers at the entrance of Hankyu department store in Osaka, Japan.


In four separate incidents in the city of Takasaki, Japan, four women who went shopping in the center of the city became victims of acid attacks. They all reported that that they felt a burning sensation on their legs and feet before realizing that acid was thrown on their bodies. Five days after the attacks, the Japanese police arrested a suspect in connection to the crime. The arrest came two years after Tatsujiro Fukazawa, 40, was accused of filling his female co-worker’s shoes with hydrofluoric acid. The victim had denied Fukazawa’s romance and as a result she lost the tips of her toes. Fukazawa was sentenced to seven years in jail.

Acid attack on women worldwide is on the rise. Women are targeted mainly by jealous perpetrators in revenge to denying or refusing their romantic approaches.



5. ISRAEL: Israeli  Robi Damelin and Palestinian Bushra Awad have A Plan for Peace



Robi Damelin and Bushra Awad

Robi Damelin and Bushra Awad are two mothers living on opposite sides of a bitter conflict. Both women have lost sons to the fighting between Israel and Palestine. And both are determined to channel their grief into a force for change.

When they first met, they exchanged hostilities, but when they showed each other the photos of their sons, they bonded immediately, as they cried together realizing that neither of them was responsible for the death of the other’s son.

Damelin and Awad hope to repair the strife between Israel and Palestine—not through peace negotiations, but through compassion.

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Weekly Women News from Around the World

— Editorial by: Alexandra Kinias



Egypt honors mother who dressed as man for 43 years to provide for family


Left as a widow with no income, while still pregnant with her daughter, Sisa Abu Daooh had to join the workforce to provide for her little family. Restricted by the traditions of her village in the southern governorate of Luxor that opposed to the work of women, Daooh was left with no other choice, but to disguise as a man to be able to find a job, a role she mastered for more than four decades. She wore men’s clothes and worked as a labor carrying bricks and cement bags at construction sites and polishing shoes. In her words she said that she preferred to work such jobs than becoming a street beggar.




France weighs skinny model ban


The war on skinny is fought in the heart of the fashion capital, Paris. The French parliament is debating a law that would ban extremely thin models and to punish the agencies that recruits them. In France 30,000 – 40,000 people suffer from anorexia, mainly teenagers. The high pressure on models to stay thin is causing a lot of complications to their health as well as it is promoting an unrealistic body image and normalizing an unachievable physical appearance. Doctors in France are hoping by the end of 2015 to have no more anorexic models on the catwalk.




German court says Muslim teachers can wear headscarf


Germany, home to the biggest Turkish community outside of Turkey has been witnessing social unrest since France has banned the wear of hijab (head scarves) in schools in 2003. And with the rise of Islamophobia in Europe, Muslim Germans like elsewhere in Europe have been feeling the pressure, especially when it came to their women covering the heads. The ruling of the German courts to allow teachers to wear the hijab in schools, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the school activities or cause disruption in the schools. This ruling was welcomed by the Muslim community.




Nun, 71, raped during robbery in India, official says


The violence against women that is spreading across India is leaving no woman safe; neither women’s’ age, social or religious stature protect them. In less than a week after the airing of the BBC documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ about the rape endemic that is wiping the country, the news reported the gang rape of a 74-years old nun. The mother superior was attacked and raped by a gang of robbers in the convent of Mary and Jesus school which is located 80 Kilometers away from Calcutta. Even with their faces captured on camera, the robbers are still at large. This incident is just one in a long chain of events that the BBC documentary shed the light on in a culture that harbors the criminals.
The BBC documentary was banned in India as many excerpts in the documentary encourage violence against women, according to the Indian officials. In an interview for the documentary, the man who was convicted in the gang rape and murder of a girl in 2012, showed no remorse for the crime and put the blame on girls for being raped. “A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night,” he told the BBC. “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal…Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes.” He suggested that they [men] “had a right to teach them a lesson.”
But instead of shedding the truth on what is really happening in India and how society views women, the officials decided to cover it up.




Women being reduced to ‘baby-making machines’: Amnesty


To achieve the goal of their spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to double the population of Iran to 150 million in the next 50 years, Iranian women will be facing more setbacks. A law had already been approved in the parliament that restricts accesses to contraceptives will soon be in effect. An amendment to the bill will include the ban on sterilization and end subsidies on contraceptives. And another bill that will go before parliament next month will require employers to give job priority to men and women with children. Amnesty International has raised the concern over these bills that are reducing Iranian women to baby making machines. These laws will also be stripping women the rights of making their own decisions about their bodies and lives. Not to mention that the restriction of the use of contraception will force many women into unsafe backstreets abortion clinics.



Ivory Coast:

Ivory Coast’s Simone Gbagbo sentenced to 20 years in prison


Former first lady of Ivory Coast was sentenced to 20 years in jail on charges of crimes against humanity. Gbagbo was convicted Monday for her role in carrying out crimes against humanity following post-election violence in 2010 which left more than 3,000 people dead.



Sweden: Swedish Prostitution Law Targets Buyers, but Some Say It Hurts Sellers

Sweden has recognized that prostitution is an institution of inequality. And since 2009 and in an effort to combat it, Sweden has criminalized buying sex while decriminalized selling it – putting the criminal burden on the buyer, not the prostitute. As a result, street prostitution dropped to half. The success of this law has encouraged other countries to follow the Swedish model. Criminalizing the purchase of sex has been fully adopted in Norway and Iceland and partially adopted in Korea, Israel, Finland, and the United Kingdom. France may also consider passing this law.
This law also gives supports to the prostitutes. Parallel to criminalizing the buyer, Swedish NGO’s are assisting prostitutes who want to get off the streets. These NGOs have funds that offer these women education and work possibilities.


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Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football .. is More than just a Game ..

An interview with Rashid Ghazi, executive producer and director of Fordson
By: Alexandra Kinias .. article published in Kalimat Magazine.


At the 7th annual Traverse City Film Festival, Michael Moore recommended that everyone in the country should see the film ‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football.’ The feature length documentary tells the inspiring story of a high school football team as it prepares for its big game, played during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, while its players are fasting. As the film follows the preparations for the game, it also peels the layers of this working class community living in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn. Through the eyes of the team players, their coaches, fans and families, the movie exposes the lives of the community and how its members are holding to their faith and living the American dream, while struggling for acceptance after 9/11.

‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football’ won the U.S Jury Award for best documentary and was described by Academy award winning director Michael Moore as powerful, intelligent and moving. Interestingly enough, the movie was turned down by all television networks in the US, and the film makers failed to secure a television distributor in North America. HBO, TLC, PBS Independent lens and Oprah Network were among the networks that rejected it.

“I am a Muslim myself who grew up playing sports in Ramadan. It was back in 2004 when I heard the story about this high school football team, playing the semifinals in the Michigan playoffs–Ramadan in 2004 was in November–and they were playing football and fasting. These Muslim kids inspired me to tell their story. They had to be of Arab descend, practicing their religion and playing an all American game of football.” Rashid Ghazi, executive producer and director, said in a question and answer segment about what had inspired him to make the movie.

Fordson High School is located in Dearborn, MI, which has the largest single concentration of Arabs in one city outside the Middle East. The first Arab immigrants landed in Dearborn over one hundred years ago. Arab Americans became an essential part in the tapestry of the city. They started businesses and were highly involved in politics. A century later, Dearborn is the only home to tens of thousands of Arab Americans who constitute the largest ethnic group in the city. Consequently, ninety eight percent of the students in Fordson, the public school built by Henry Ford in 1922, are Arab Americans. However, the safe haven that the community members strived to build for themselves and their families for ten decades was shattered on 9/11. Although the residents of Dearborn were shocked by the events of the horrific attacks, as did everyone else in the country, within hours, Arab Americans were left to feel responsible for the attacks, by mere association to the 19 hijackers. Such accusations shook the foundation on which their community was founded.

“Throughout my life as I growing up, the stories of Islam in the news were either about violence, conflict, war or terrorism. The images we had of Arabs were the ones in the Middle East—screaming or burning the American flags—or the negative stereotypes [of villains] that were portrayed in books and movies.” Ghazi said.

Ghazi, a Muslim of south Asian descent, felt that most Americans neither understood Islam or Arabs, nor had compassion for either the Arabs living in the Middle East or the ones living in America. He concluded that the reason for the lack of empathy and understanding was because Americans didn’t know any Arabs or Muslims. “This was my inspiration to make a documentary, to service as bridge and to provide fellow Americans with more knowledge and information about Muslims and Islam.” Ghazi said.

Despite that ‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football’ is a film about an immigrant community of Arabs that tries to confirm their American identity, while struggling to reconcile their Arab heritage, the film was neither accepted in Al Jazeera documentary festival or Dubai International Film festival. In fact, Ghazi explained, the film was rejected by all the festivals in the Middle East.

‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football’ was independently produced by Ghazi and his wife Selma and entirely funded by them. “We didn’t want any organizations funding the movie because we wanted it to be a truly independent project. We didn’t want anybody to even think that there is an agenda behind some organizations propping the film out.”

It took him several years to get the rights to make the film. After rejecting the idea for a long time, Fordson board of education and the football coach finally agreed to grant the film makers the approval to shoot inside the school.

“Our persistence finally paid off with the coach, especially that he saw that our intentions were good.” When asked why the idea of filming a documentary about Fordson football team was initially rejected, Ghazi explained that residents of Dearborn are weary of the media. Media get in the community, tape one thing and then provide a completely opposite message. However, after multiple meetings with the board of educators, they gave the production team a green light after seeing that their intentions were not to misrepresent who they are as a community.

Ghazi saw that a documentary would be more truthful in telling the story than a feature movie. Moreover, it is politically incorrect to have a feature movie like ‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football.’

“Hilary Clinton honored us at the state department and spoke about the film in celebration for Muslim athletes. Yet, a lot of people don’t want to hear positive stories about Arab Americans. A negative environment exists. On the surface everything seems fine, but underneath it all there are still push backs to our film. Our film doesn’t criticize others to show positive stories of Arabs, but just the fact that we are showing positive stories of Arabs is not what we should be up against right now.”

Domestically, the film is publicly screened around the country in schools, community centers, local theaters and nonprofit and educational institutions. Internationally, the film was aired in Holland, and was bought by television networks in Brazil and Israel, and will air in twenty five more markets, outside the Middle East. “I originally thought that one of the local networks would pick up our film immediately because of what it is and how well it was received by critics. I still think that the biggest disappointment was not to secure wide television distribution in the US,” he said.

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This is Why I am Charlie …..


— By: Alexandra Kinias —

I stand in solidarity with the victims of Charlie Hebdo and the officer who lost his life defending them, not particularly because I agree with the contents of the magazine, but because I stand for the freedom of expression. I never read the magazine and I haven’t seen its cartoons prior or post the heinous massacre that took the life of its staff.

The terrorists shouted Islamic slogans as they shot their victims in cold blood, and witnesses heard them saying that they have avenged for the Prophet who was the subject of the magazine’s satirical cartoons a while ago.

And as always, and because Islamic terrorists know the psychologies of Muslims and what strings to pull, Muslims’ sentiments flared when the name of the Prophet was mentioned as the reason behind the attack, ignoring that these same terrorists are the ones whose news of committing crimes in the name of Islam have become the world’s headlines’ news.

Some debated that the freedom of expression ends when Islam is ridiculed, forgetting that some Muslims who have no objections in insulting and criticizing the religious beliefs of the others may go as far as committing atrocious crimes to make their voice heard. And while such actions by some Muslims are done in broad daylight, the world rarely witnesses actions by Christians or Jews who go out and slaughter others for the sole purpose of avenging their faith.

People may disagree, but the truth of the matter is that Islamic terrorists choose to silence the voices of those who criticize them with bullets. For them, violence is the only way to defend their misinterpretation of Islam from those who dare to criticize their misguidance and misrepresentation of the faith.

Charlie is not just the 12 French victims. Charlie is Malala Yousefzadi who was shot by the Taliban for defending the right of girls to go to school in Afghanistan. Charlie is also the Egyptian Nobel prize laureate Nagib Mafouz who was stabbed by an illiterate radical who was told that the author insulted God and his Prophet in one of his novels. It is the Egyptian professor and columnist Farag Foda who was assassinated in 1992 by the hands of the Islamic Jihad group after he wrote a series of articles condemning the growth of radical Islam. And last but not least, Charlie is the Dutch film director Theo Van Gogh who was stabbed to death in broad daylight for producing and directing the short movie Submission which criticized the way women were treated in Islam.

Je suis Charlie was created as a symbol to denounce not merely the terrorist attack by Islamists on the staff of the magazine, but specifically the attack on the freedom of expression. And after the dust settled, Charlie became nothing more than yet another brick in the tall wall that separates the East and West.

And while French people and other countries in the west are standing in unity to protect their freedom of speech, the atrocities and crimes that were committed in the name of Islam and the Prophet were again minimized by many Muslims whose faith have been globally insulted in more severe ways, by the hands of Islamists who hijacked their faith, than by stupid cartoons.

It is quite shameful that while many Muslims understand the core reasons that justify the acts of Islamic terrorists, they are still blaming the west for its creation. And the adoption of such attitude merely feeds the division and cultural clash that widens the gap between the East and the West.

Although I have received several death threats and I am still receiving hate mail for what I write, I will not remain silent against attacks targeting freedom of expression.

“Je suis Charlie.”


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Egyptian IDs : A Tribute to my Father


By: Alexandra Kinias —

I once asked my father, why it is that religion is written on IDs. We were driving back from school along the Alexandria shore, as we did every day for many years. Out of the window I would see the blue Mediterranean extending to the horizon. On warm days its crisp air carried the light scent of iodine that is distinctive of Mediterranean cities.

Without hesitation, my father responded that it was the government’s way to know whether to bury the homeless and those who died in accidents with no families to claim them in Muslim or Christian cemeteries. For a seven-years-old this explanation made perfect sense. My father sounded very convincing that it took me years before I questioned if and why the homeless cared to carry IDs.

My endless questions were always answered by my father. In fact the answers lived between the pages of his books that were piled up around the house. And before my twelfth birthday, we were both reading the same books.

My grandfather was a Moroccan sailor who left his oasis in the southern Moroccan Sahara to travel the world. He met the love of his life in Crete and they settled to Egypt. I met neither of them. My grandfather died at sea, I was told. My father inherited the love of the sea from his father. He also had a heart of a sailor and a soul of a gypsy. His boat was his second home, or maybe the first, depending on whom you asked. Together we sailed some rough seas. And this is not a metaphor.

Driving back from school was our bonding time. He was a great buddy; a child trapped in a man’s body. We spent hours playing with our toys and building projects together, which he genuinely enjoyed. We picked stray puppies from the streets and brought them home to my mother to feed. He taught me target shooting, bird hunting and fishing. But what I loved most about him was that he could stop the clock anytime an idea as important as showing me how to catch fish in a glass jar or flying a kite came to his mind.

I remember a summer afternoon together on the beach. He had a glass jar with a piece of bread inside it. I watched him as he covered the opening of the jar with a cloth, fastened a rubber band around it, and then cut a hole in the middle with his Swiss Knife. He immersed the jar under water between some rocks and we stood few steps away and watched as the little fish swam inside it.

My father was never punctual. But for him there was nothing more important than enjoying an intellectual conversation, experimenting with a new idea or driving for two hours to Cairo to show me the mask of King Tut, obviously because I had asked something about it, and plotting together later how to rob it from the Egyptian museum while eating ice-cream at our favorite place.

My father’s religious affiliation is not of any significance here, but what is important though is that he was born in a cosmopolitan society that was vibrant and tolerant. At the first half of the twentieth century religion was a very personal matter and people practiced their faith within the walls of their homes, mosques, churches and synagogues. My father was a manifestation of this society. Being well read, he could debate any of the religions as if he were a member of that particular faith. He could have easily passed as a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew, all of the above, or none of the above; I often wondered.

As years went by, the issue of ID cards became less intriguing. I no longer believed my father’s explanation of course, yet certain issues eventually become accepted as a way of life, even if they don’t make sense. Even Egyptians who view this issue as a form of discrimination and advocate for its removal, they proposed no plausible explanations to support their arguments for why it was written in the first place.
The discrimination against the Copts and Jews started in 641 A.D. shortly after the Islamic Conquest of Egypt. Non-Muslim subjects living in the lands that were conquered by the Muslims paid the jizya, an annual tax, in return for their protection, since they were neither allowed to carry weapons to defend themselves, nor to join the Muslim armies.

No official documents stated that, but presumably for that reason, people were then categorized according to their religion and somehow it was documented on their official papers. Egyptian Copts and Jews paid the jizya to the Muslim rulers from 641 A.D. until Mohamed Ali abolished this law in 1839. It is unclear, though, why religion still appeared on IDs, but most likely it was a decision made to avoid the wrath of the religious scholars who had strong influence over the people. In today’s society it serves nothing but creating prejudices between the various religious camps.

Over dinner at our favorite Pizza place I would have loved to disclose this revelation to my father and ask him if he knew that all along. My father lived large and enjoyed life to the extreme as he must have had a premonition that his life would be short lived. I lost him in a car accident shortly after I graduated from college. He died at a young age before I had time to ask him more questions about matters that I heard over the years, but never made sense to me. I always wanted to know if my disclosure had any relevance to why his family’s name was dropped from officials records after they settled in Egypt. As some lives end abruptly, their stories are left with no closure and it is left to our imagination to improvise and weave the end the way we like them to be.


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