Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Egyptian Inquisition

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— 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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