Category Archives: Politics

How the Tribal Culture of Arabia is shaping the Political Life of Muslim Women

–By:Alexandra Kinias —

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Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001

Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world was ruled by a woman. Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001. Bangladesh, the third populace Muslim country, had been ruled as of 2016, for the past 25 years by women; Khaleda Zia and Sheikha Hassina Wajed, respectively, were both elected as prime ministers.

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KHALEDA ZIA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1991 – 1996; 2001 – 2006

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SHEIKH HASINA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1996 – 2001; 2009 – Present

The list of Muslim countries that were ruled by women includes Pakistan, Turkey, Senegal, Kyrgyzstan and Mali. Kosovo and Mauritius have female presidents. In Afghanistan, two female candidates ran for president against Hamid Karzai. Out of these eleven Muslim countries, none is an Arab, not even Egypt, the birthplace of Huda Sharawy, leader of the Egyptian suffragette movement and head of the Arab Women Union that influenced women movements across the Middle East. That raises the question of whether it is Islam or tribal culture that is hindering women’s advancement in the Middle East.

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TANSU ÇILLER, Prime Minister of Turkey, 1993-1996

Even though gender equality is stated in the Egyptian constitution, women still can’t run for presidency or be appointed as prime ministers because parallel to the civil law in Egypt, the sharia (Islamic law) has the final word in deciding matters concerning women.

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ROZA OTUNBAYEVA, President of Kyrgyzstan, 2010-2011

Because of the non-uniformity of Islam’s interpretations and implementations, women’s leadership is a debatable issue among religious scholars, depending where the religion is practiced. While the restriction on women’s leadership in many countries in Asia is limited to spiritual leadership (leading Muslims in prayers), it also includes political leadership in countries influenced by the tribal culture of Arabia. So not only women in Egypt and other Arab countries with Muslim majorities can’t run for presidency, but also in Lebanon, the only Arab country where only Christians can become presidents, no woman emerged as a political leader.

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MAME MADIOR BOYE, Prime Minister of Senegal, 2001-2002

Male dominance is deeply engrained in tribal culture and women oppression existed in societies that predated Islam. Since the realization that girls were a profitable commodity, women became bargaining chips for tribal negotiations and their rape and enslavement motivated and attracted warriors to the battlefields. This culture perpetuated over the centuries and mutated through the various interpretations of the Quran to become the ideology that governs the lives of billions.

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BENAZIR BHUTTO, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988 – 1990; 1993 – 1996

It is unrealistic though to throw the blame of women’s oppression entirely on this culture. Misogyny is a global social ailment and is practiced in societies where women’s rights are most advanced. However, as opposed to Muslim societies where misogyny is institutionalized, in western societies; laws that were drafted after fierce battles by women’s movements ensure gender equality before the law and criminalize the abuses against women. And while law enforcement turns a blind eye against domestic violence in the Middle East, the Islamic government of Indonesia is exerting extreme efforts to combat it by encouraging women to report such incidents. In Pakistan, however, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) drafted a bill in May 2016 recommending that men beat their wives to keep them in line. This bill came in response to a proposed law that would make it easier for women to report domestic violence. The CII opposed the law, and declared it un-Islamic.

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ATIFETE JAHJAGA, President of Kosovo, 2011-present

The tribal culture of Arabia that hijacked Islam left its fingerprints in countries thousands of miles away from its birthplace and molded the lives of its followers across the globe into its tribalization form. In these societies religious scholars play the role of tribal leaders, drafting and supervising laws that guarantee women’s oppression.

And while the laws in the west enforce the civility of the nations, in spite of the new culture that travels with the immigrants under the cover of Islam, this nomadic culture is fragmenting identities of the countries it dominates. Today, the Egyptian identity that has thrived and survived over the millennia is standing at crossroads. It has been overshadowed by the tribal culture imported from behind the sand dunes of Arabia and affecting both Christians and Muslims alike, and especially women.

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Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé – former prime minister of Mali

In Egypt, the women’s movement that reached its peak in the mid-fifties lost its momentum and witnessed a reversal over the past three decades with the surging influence of conservatism. In less than a year after Islamist Morsi came to power, the parliament had already proposed laws to reverse the ban on FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), to drop the age of marriage for girls below 16, and to abolish the law that gave women the right to divorce, thus ensuring women’s oppression. Luckily the Islamist parliament was dissolved before these laws were drafted.

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AMEENAH FAKIM, President of Mauritius, 2015 – Present

The threat by the Muslim Brotherhood galvanized millions of women to take the streets side by side men to topple the theocratic regime. Women realized their power and are demanding more rights. The new administration has also recognized their power and is bestowing them with more privileges. For the first time in the history of modern Egypt, ninety two women were sworn in as parliament members, eighty four of whom were freely elected. The efforts to empower women are evident. While empowering campaigns are launched across the country, more women are taking leading positions in the government and more of them are choosing to remove the veil.

The road is long and bumpy. The conservative voices are clashing with the civil onse empowering women, to maintain their grip and control over them. The next few years are crucial in determining the path to where both women and the country are heading. The ultimate proof for the civility of Egypt is by appointing a female prime minister or allowing women to freely run in the presidential race. Until then, women empowerment will remain an unfinished business.

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Filed under Islam and Women, Politics, Violence against women, Women of Egypt, Women's Rights, Women's rights in Egypt

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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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, adopted 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 secularism 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.   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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A New Dawn Rises Over Egypt

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— By: Alexandra Kinias —

I wonder why the decision by General Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the Egyptian Minister of Defense, to run for president came as a surprise to some. The reaction by those who are against his decision to run gives the impression that they were not anticipating it, in spite that he had indirectly mentioned it himself in one of his speeches. Their despair, criticism, skepticism and sarcasm made it sound that the political arena was filled with knights in silver armor, super heroes and action figures and that Sisi snatched it from them. Excuse me, but your fantasies end where reality begins.

Since Mubarak stepped down three years ago and Egypt hasn’t witnessed an emerging charismatic leader that caught people’s attention and united them. A leader that would wither the storm and lead the country through this rough time, curb terrorism and restore law and order. The political arena that was vacant from men of substance was filled, however, with clowns, puppets and many puppeteers.

The ramifications of the unfortunate events that followed the revolution of January 2011 culminated with Mohamed Morsi being sworn in as the president of Egypt. Great nations deserve and should not settle for anything but strong leaders. And Morsi was anything other than that. And to those who are skeptical about Sisi’s decision to run can’t even present a name of another candidate who is powerful enough to govern Egypt today. On the contrary, it is very fortunate, to say the least, for Egypt to have at this time a leader of such caliber as Sisi. The retired general is a graduate of the American Military Academy. Prior to his post as the Minister of Defense he was the chief of the Egyptian Military intelligence. He proved competence at times of crisis and delivered when the people of Egypt sought the assistance of their army to remove the theocratic regime of the Muslim Brotherhood. Because of Sisi’s forceful grip on the army, he launched a war against terrorism and saved Egypt from sliding in a civil war similar to Syria.

Those who are advocating for a civilian presidential candidate over one with a military background should remember that they have selected one. Their choice of a civilian president, in his short time in office, turned out to be an absolute disaster. A civilian leader may rule when the country is not in a state of war. But at times of distress, countries need a leader who is strong and capable to restore peace and stability. It is difficult to forget the past and to ignore six decades of military rule, however, it is important to be objective and not allow the military-phobia to influence and shape the decisions for selecting the future leader. Egyptians should focus on the qualities of the presidential candidate rather than his affiliation to the military. They should concentrate on the one who has the potential to succeed at this critical time in the history of the country.

The political turmoil that Egyptians have been going through over the last three years has raised their political awareness. They have reached unprecedented levels of freedom of speech and expression envied by many countries in the region and they became more conscious of their needs and how to achieve them. Egyptians deserve a better future. They are fortunate to be given a second chance and the time has come for them to set aside their selfish desires and act for the welfare of their country.

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Why the Iranian Scenario Failed in Egypt? – Part III : Comparing the Revolutions

Mideast Two Revolutions

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Empress Farah at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran to board a plane to leave Iran on Jan. 16, 1979.

The Shah and Empress Farah Diba stayed for a week at the Oberoi Hotel in the winter resort town of Aswan. They attended state dinners and went sightseeing with President Sadat and the first lady. The Shah also met with the American President Gerald Ford who was on a Middle East tour. The small quite town of Aswan buzzed with journalists, reporters and photographers from all over the world. The despair and exhaustion were evident in the photos of the Iranian royals. The news that was coming from Iran was bleak and disturbing.

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Tehran, December 1978: Rioters burn a portrait of the shah in protest against his regime. Thousands chanted “Long Live Khomeini” and “Death to the Shah.” The revolt against the shah raised alarm bells in the West.
Abbas/Magnum Photos

With the events unfolding back home, it was obvious that the world was witnessing the end of the Pahlavi Dynasty that ruled for 53 years.

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Arrival of Khomeni to Tehran

Their second stop on their journey to exile was Morocco. The Shah’s departure from Egypt was again a focal point to the world’s events. And of equal importance, if not more, was the arrival of Khomeni a week later to Tehran on board an Air France jet, thus ending his 15 years in exile. An estimated number of 3 million Iranians were at the airport to greet him. His return resurrected the hopes of the nation for a better future.

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In Tehran, supporters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini hold his poster aloft in a January 1979 demonstration against the shah.
AFP/Getty Images

The Iranian revolution of 1979, and similar to the Egyptian one on January 2011, was a people’s revolution that started as a non-religious uprising fueled by a plummeting economy against a corrupt and oppressive regime that was supported by the US. However, unlike the headless Egyptian revolution, the charismatic Khomeni, who was also supported by the moderates and liberals, was ready to fill the power gap created by the departure of the Shah.

The Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohamed Badie, had no influence beyond the members of the Muslim Brotherhood organization. And after Mubarak stepped down, a military council ran the country’s affairs for two years until a president was elected. It was quite obvious that the MB with its core expertise  in social and charitable work was politically challenged. For many decades they were planning and plotting to rule, but never groomed any of their leaders for political positions, not to mention for governing a nation. When they saw the chance was appropriate to hijack the revolution, they pushed for Mohamed Morsi to run, out of necessity rather than out of proper planning. The incompetent and un-charismatic engineer proved complete failure outside of the ring of his supporters. Also Morsi’s arrogance alienated the opposition. And after few months in power, it was obvious that he was not the president of all Egyptians as he promoted himself during his campaign, but the president of his followers. That created a wide division among Egyptians.

Other than the incompetence of Morsi’s government, the most important factor that contributed to the failure of the Islamic government in Egypt was the role played by the Egyptian armed forces. In Iran, the army and police witnessed a lot of deserters who changed camps and together with the opposition they joined Khomeni’s new revolutionary government. They carried weapons, attacked and took control over the police stations, prisons and army installations. On Feb 11, 1979, the military gave in to the revolutionaries and announced they would remain neutral, and from this point on the rebels took control.1 With the Egyptian revolution, the army and police remained intact and united. Also, both entities announced that they are siding with the Egyptian people and not with the ruler, even though there were multiple inappropriate incidents caused by them that involved civilian fatalities. Their support for the people was a big blow in the face of the Islamists.

By the end of March 1979, Khomeni declared the removal of the Shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Shortly after that he established the revolutionary guards, which was of equal importance to the army forces. In Egypt, timing was crucial, and had they had sufficient time, the Islamists would have followed in the footsteps of Khomeni to establish a shadow army within the Egyptian army, but with absolute loyalty to the MB. And to accomplish that Morsi pardoned thousands of inmates who were charged with terrorism under Mubarak’s rule. He also allowed the return of the Egyptian Mujahedeen and other nationals who were fighting in Afghanistan. His vision was to form an army of soldiers who are willing to die for Islam rather than for the country. Under his watch, young men were sent to Gaza to train with the Hamas forces, the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood organization.

Khomeni was ruthless with his opposition. A spree of executions of the old regime shocked not just the moderates and the liberals in Iran, but also the international community, even the ones who supported the ousting of the Shah. The young radicals of the revolution became Khomeni’s weapons against his rivals and the moderate voices in Iran were silenced and often executed.2 The nightmare of the Iranian revolution hovered over people’s heads in Egypt and when Morsi tried to consolidate powers and to have the upper hand over the judiciary system, like Khomeni did, the spark of the second revolution of June 30th 2013 was ignited.

While Khomeni synchronized with the tunes of the Iranians, neither Morsi nor his organization’s alien doctrine that was imported from the Arabian Sahara was appealing to the vast majority of Egyptians. The Egyptians with the support of the Egyptian armed forces were able to rid themselves of a new theocratic regime that was about to hijack their freedom, identity and their country.

  1. Michael Axworthy, A History of Iran, Empire of the mind, page 262
  2. Ibid, page 263

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Why the Iranian Scenario Failed in Egypt? – Part Two

Iranian_Revolution_1979_marching_young_people

Anti-Shah demonstrators, marching near a shopping street in Tehran, Dec. 27, 1978.

— By Alexandra Kinias —-

Leaving behind the unrest that had erupted a year earlier by the anti-royalists and had spread to every corner of Iran, Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, who was then diagnosed with cancer, fled Tehran with his family. He and his family arrived to Aswan, Egypt; the first stop on their journey to exile. The departure of the Shah from Iran ended the rule of the Pahlavi Dynasty that had started in 1926 with the coronation of his father Reza Khan after he deposed of Ahmed Shah Qajar, the last Shah of the Qajar dynasty in 1925. In less than two decades after his coronation, Reza Pahlavi alienated his government and the people of Iran. His rule was brutal and he eliminated not just his opponents, but also his allies if he suspected their disloyalties.

The Anglo-Russian invasion of Iran in 1941 forced Reza Shah to abdicate the throne in in favor of his son Mohamed Reza. He went to exile to South Africa where he died in 1944. Mohamed Reza was coronated as the new Shah at the age of 22. The young Shah followed in the footsteps of his father. A failed assassination attempt on his life in 1949 caused strife, unrest, and demonstrations which resulted in imposing martial law.[1]

Under the tyranny of the Shah’s rule, Iranians lived a very difficult life for four decades. The dramatic saga of the Pahlavi Dynasty was filled with perpetual episodes of turmoil and turbulence. The Shah tightened his grip on power and maintained stability by repressing, torturing and executing the dissidents and opposition. Candidates in the government were selected based on their support, loyalty and obedience to the Shah, and so were the members of the religious council. However, in time even the religious clerics became hostile to the ruler and his regime. SAVAK (The Iranian Security Agency) grew in power and efficiency in hunting down all oppositions and it became the symbol of brutality.

In 1963 the stardom of Ayatollah Rouhalla Khomeini, the young preacher from Qom, was raised. In his sermons, Khomeini attacked the corrupted government of the Shah and its failure to provide to the poor and needy and its allegiance to the US on account of losing the Iranian sovereignty.[2] SAVAK raided the madrassah where Khomeini preached and he was arrested. After his release he persisted on attacking the government. Upon his second arrest, demonstrations erupted in Tehran and other major cities and lasted for many days. Martial law was imposed and the army troops took the streets to reinstate law and order. Hundreds of protesters were killed in these events.[3]

His eloquence, intellect and shrewdness in addressing political issues and avoiding the ones that created political division, eventually elevated him to the rank of a national leader that attracted even the liberal opposition. Khomeni was arrested and released multiple times before he was sent to exile in 1964. These events that led to his exile made him the leading political figure opposed to the Shah.[4]

After Khomeni’s exile, SAVAK brutality soared. Activists were thrown in jail, tortured and executed. The media and press were controlled and censored, and elections were rigged. In 1975 Amnesty International pronounced the Shah’s government to be one of the world’s worst violators of human rights.

While the economy improved because of the soaring oil prices, the Shah had no political vision or plan for reform. His short term solution to achieve political stability, until the country prospered under his economic policies was the repression, torture or execution of the dissidents. He believed that only the economic reforms would secure his rule. However, his policies proved to be a failure and in time the monarchy became more remote and disconnected from the needs of the people.

While on exile, Khomeni’s speeches and messages criticizing the regime were recorded on cassette tapes and smuggled into Iran for everyone to hear. He developed his theory of opposition and wrote a book about his vision of an Islamic government. [5]

Having succeeded to alienate almost all sectors of the society, the Shah’s popularity plummeted and by 1977 it reached its worse state. In January of 1978 an article published in a newspaper attacking Khomeni was widely disapproved and created an upheaval in his home town of Qom. Thousands of students demonstrated demanding an apology to Khomeni and an end to his exile. Clashes between the police and the students resulted in several deaths of students. And from his exile in Paris, Khomeni praised the courage of the students and called for more demonstrations.[6]

In an escalation of events, more demonstrations erupted in cities across Iran and more students were shot dead. The numbers of demonstrators augmented and the violence intensified. The army took control of the streets. Tanks and helicopters intervened to disperse the demonstrations and as the streets got bloodier, the voices that demanded that the Shah should grew louder.

By then all opposition groups stood in support of Khomeni. With more desertion from the army, the demonstrations were no longer controllable. And as his health deteriorated, the Shah lost control.On June 16, 1979, the Shah and his family left Tehran for Egypt, the first stop in his journey to exile. In two weeks after his departure, Khomeni returned to Tehran on February 1, 1979, and a new Iran was born ….

To be continued …..

Reference:
[1] Michael Axworthy, A History of Iran, Empire of the mind,235
[2] Baqer Moin, Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah, 31
[3] Michael Axworthy, A History of Iran, Empire of the mind,243
[4] ibid,245
[5] ibid,252
[6] ibid,256

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