Thursday, March 31, 2005

Egyptian athlete cry foul

You wanna know why Egyptian sports are doing so bad, here's one of the reasons (below). A friend of mine showed me this email that was sent to him by a student athlete. I was actually very touched by it. I'm not sure if I should be publishing this, but to protect the privacy of the guy, I will withhold any information that might identify him.


I have had problems with my studies ever since I entered university. Its all because of sports. I'm a member of the Egyptian national team for [sport name withheld] and I represented Egypt on very high levels including the world championships last year. I have hopes and dreams of reaching the highest levels to get a sponser and earn some really good money out of this sport. Its something I love to do and its something that I have worked for in years. University has always been an obstacle. I feel like no one will ever understand that I didn't attend that lecture, section of quiz because I was a 1000 miles away representing Egypt else where, or because I was injured or through trials or overloaded. So I always have to make that choice. Either university or travel. I have chosen University on some ocassions and I have chosen training or traveling on other times and it has always worked out nice. I'm in 4th year this year and you can guess what situation I'm in. This year I had to train very hard to qualify for the next world championships in [tournament place withheld]. I have made a good job all year but I have missed 4 labs, 2 quizes with Dr. [Dr. name withheld] (that hurts I guess) and my friends in the project need me to work more (and that is something I belive they are totally right in). I also missed over 75% of my sections! I don't like to make excuses. I never like talking about it to everyone. Its not me giving excuses. I know that I have chosen this and I have to hold on in a way or another. I train about 5 hours a day. Sometimes its more, I have Olympic dreams and I want to accomplish them. Sometimes people acuse us of not getting medals at the olympics and that sports is not good in Egypt. Well I guess you can see part of the problem. May be the drs themselves watch TV and acuse Egyptian athletes of such down falls without even knowing that sometimes its in their own hands that they can fix part of the problem. Everyone has told me to go talk to the drs about my absense, But I don't know what to go and say. I feel that anything I say (no matter how important it may seem to me) will look so trivial infront of the docs. So I decided to check for the dr [name witheld]'s e-mail to talk to her for a start and then I came across your e-mail in the group staff contacts and for some reason I just decided to send you the e-mail of complaints. I'm not asking you for anything. Not at all. I just needed to talk to a dr and may be get his point of view. What do you think I should do at this point Dr. I see that my road is blocked. I don't know what to do. I really don't know. I wish you can please tell me anything. Any advice. Anything. Any hope. I really don't want to fail anything this year, I have done so well the past few years and I don't want to fall now. I love my parents and I'm doing all this for them. I don't want to upset them on the last year. The big one for them.

[picture withheld] (this is me on the left with the Egyptian shirt at the last world champs.)


CAIR takes action

I was just commenting the other day about how Muslims in the West are in no way losing their religion because of the different attempts to dissolve and Americanize Islam. This (below) could serve as an example of how North American Muslims are, and how they are actually getting stronger by the day (simple example, but says something).


Hundreds contact Boeing to urge withdrawal of magazine ads

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/29/05) - Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), CAIR today announced that National Review magazine has apparently removed advertisements for two virulently anti-Muslim books attacking the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from its online store.

The removal of the promotional materials for "The Life and Religion of Mohammed" and "The Sword of the Prophet" came after hundreds of concerned Muslims contacted the magazine and Boeing Co., one of the magazine's advertisers, to express their concerns about the Islamophobic views in both books. The previous links to each book, which were working as late as this afternoon, state "Record not found for product."


Yesterday, CAIR issued an action alert calling on Muslims and other people of conscience to urge that Boeing withdraw advertising support from National Review because of its promotion of anti-Muslim hate. Boeing representatives say they were "inundated" with faxes, e-mails and calls.

SEE: "Contact Boeing About National Review's Attack On Prophet Muhammad"

"We would like to thank all those who took the time to contact both National Review and Boeing to defend Islam and the Prophet Muhammad from defamation," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. "Once again, your calls, e-mails and faxes have truly made a difference."

Help CAIR meet its monthly online fundraising goal of $25,000. GO TO: (Or use the form below.)

CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 31 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Our identity crisis

Last week, we had a team lunch at work. I've realized lately that I don't really like one of my colleagues. Other than him not being very helpful at work, he's not just a conservative Muslim, but one who's a little annoying. He's still boycotting everything American, and I can actually see the dismay on his face when he hears that Diet Pepsi can of mine pops open. And he keeps giving me those religious books and tapes (not really sure what that implies!).

Anyway, for some reason that identity topic came up while we were enjoying the great food at JW Marriott (one hell of an awesome hotel, see, even that guy paused his boycotting when it came to great food). I think the topic started when I was saying how Alexandrians really suck (hehe) when they throw those heavy household utensils from the windows ontop of moving cars on New Year's eve and end up breaking their windshields.

So some how we ended up discussing our identity, him claiming that there's no such thing as being Egyptian, because we're under the large umbrella of Islam, we're just Muslims.

One thing I disliked about that discussion is his assertive way of talking as if he's definetely right, and as if he's teaching me the truth. I understand a Muslim being confident in the basics/core of his/her religion, such as the fact that there is no divine being but Allah, and that Muhammad is His messenger for example (and many others). But not everything you interpret in Islam will be the absolute truth (you might be close enough). Please learn something from the great yet humble early scholars.

Why do we have to have one single identity, and that has to be the one great identity that is flawless, and negate any other identity?! Some Muslims argue that we're Muslims and that's it. Arab nationalists argue that we're Arabs, and we should lose the boundaries and integrate all those Arab countries. Some Egyptians say that we're all originally pharaohs, and speaking Arabic doesn't make us Arabs. Some Christians argue they're not Arabs, but just Egyptians. I say, what's wrong with being all of that together. Which we are, like it or not. Each identity of those sucks in its own way, yet it doesn't help when we claim that, no, that's not us. We can try to fix it, but we can't deny it. So, Arabs suck, and I'm an Arab. Egyptians suck, and I'm Egyptian. Muslims are screwed up (they suck, except Malaysians), and I'm a Muslim. My relatives are weird, and they're still my family. I'm crazy, and I'm still me.

No one has a single identity, but we are so culturally monotonic, closed-minded and intolerant that the only thing we accept is that we all be the same! Everyone has multiple identities, they're just hierarchical identities, and each one prioritizes her identities differently. Here's an example: One's own self, then the lover, then the atomic family, then the extended family, then Egypt, then Islam/Christianity/Judaism, then Arab, then the rest of the world.

But then in Islam, God asks us to take extra care of our parents and not even say "uff" to them, but only disobey them if they encourage us to go against God's commands. Its also an obligation by God that we fight our own ego and inner self, so I'd understand if some devout Muslims would change the order for example to be:
God, one's own self, atomic family, extended family, Muslims, Egypt, rest of the world. And so on, with different variations. A true romantic lover would place his lover before his own self for example.

Many different orders of priority for our multiple identities. We don't have to be the same. Even Muslims don't have to be just Muslims and negate all other identities. Didn't God say that He made us into different nations and tribes to get to know each other. Didn't He say (I'm not sure if this one is in the Quran or was said through the prophet) that there is no difference in His eyes between an Arab and non-Arab except by one's piousness. Which is an admission that there are different identities, just that they don't count in the judgement day (and you know why that was said. Arabs were thinking that just by being Arabs, they are better Muslims (pretentious Arabs)! So no, your piousness is all that counts). Also, isn't Egypt, the country, mentioned in the Quran several times.

Sacrifices are made when one overlooks her own good (the higher priority identities, like one's own self, or one's atomic family for example) for the good of the larger identity. That's what could be considered noble. So when you sacrifice your life in a war for your country, you're being somewhat noble. If you have Islam in the end of your list (hierarchy), and you sacrifice your enjoyable sins for God's pleasure and spend some time praying instead of doing something else for yourself, you're being kind of noble!

My point is, I have multiple identities, and so can everyone else, regardless of how flawed each of them might be. I am many things, with different orders at different times. Sometimes I'm selfish, sometimes I'll compromise for the person I love and be noble (huh).

Thinking about the post title again, I think I might be exaggerating to call that identity issue a crisis.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Dead man lying

Today I saw a dead man lying in the street. Surrounded by people, covered with newspapers, the guy was lying there dead, and I passed by with my car, I could reach out and touch him. I kept crying all the way to work.

Damn it. Fuck it. Fuck Egyptians for their recklesness.

A few days ago there was also another accident, with wounded people lying. This is not even supposed to be a "hazardous" road (not that any road in Cairo isn't). But its not like the Me7war for example (and no need to mention the Upper Egypt roads). I used to take the Me7war everyday, and every few days there was a terrible accident, and they pull the damaged cars in that middle island to serve as an example. And those cars aren't just damaged, they're like wrinkled napkin paper! And does anyone learn, never. Those fucked up microbus drivers, this fucked up city, and fucked up traffic officials.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Men and Women

Just wrote this comment over at Mindbleed, and thought its worth putting up here too, as apparently its not obvious.

There are two kind of feminists, the sane and the not so sane. The sane call for equity between men and women, and the not so sane call for equality. What's the difference?

Equality is claiming that women and men are equal, which is obviously not the case. Hence the needs and requirements of each are also not the same.

Equity is to guarantee just and fair rights (possibly different rights) based on the natural differences of each gender. No gender is better than the other, but each gender is different than the other.

UPDATE: Why is everyone making my point better than I am?!
Yasmin Mogahed explains my point clearly and without any vagueness in this article. Her conclusion:
"Given my privilege as a woman, I only degrade myself by trying to be something I’m not--and in all honesty--don’t want to be: a man. As women, we will never reach true liberation until we stop trying to mimic men, and value the beauty in our own God-given distinctiveness."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Lovers in Cairo!

This is so funny. Can anyone tell which mosque this is? Works as a good amendment to my Foreigners in Cairo post :)

Foreigners in Cairo

Two years ago, I was pretty much hating almost everything about Cairo. The pollution, the noise, the dirt, the traffic, the driving, the streets, the TV, the newspapers, the people, the dickheads, the punks, the governance. (I'm getting much better now, thanks to that mental hospital!). So I was pretty astonished and interested whenever I saw any foreigner walking in the street. "What's s/he doing here?!!". I know why I have to be here and why I have to take all that, but why do they? I was wondering why they would leave their first-world countries to come live here.

Coming as a tourist for a week or so, I can understand. Especially those smart tourists who come in organized tours, being completely isolated, and watching Cairo from behind a glass window. Those are smart, they get what they want, without getting into it. And they enjoy it. They know the Egyptian saying better than we do apparently, "seeing Egypt from up above, is different then seeing it from down below".

But those others, who come and live it. I'm yet to completely figure those out.

During my late teens and early twenties I was involved with this cultural exchange program. High school kids from Egypt spend a year abroad, and high school kids from abroad come spend a year in Cairo. Two years ago, I was checking that program out again (after I thought that it had miserably failed), but after a few encounters I decided to end my activities there. Well, for a number of reasons, but mainly two. One, I think the program is a failure. High school kids are two young for that kind of exchange. Sixteen year olds spending a year in a different country, totally different culture and in a complete strange family, all by themselves. And all the supprot they have is by amateur volunteer strangers! Most of the Egyptians ofcourse go to the U.S. (for many reasons, English being one of them), and they come back really either just missing everything here, or just taking the silly stuff from America, like the earrings, pony tails, and the accent. The other reason I ended my activities there, is that the US State department decided to do its thing in changing the Arab young minds by providing 50 scholarhsips to Egyptian kids (from families who can't afford the actual cost of the program, and from outside of Cairo too) to go to the States. I asked the program rep from the US, "why aren't those scholarships reciprocal? fund kids from the US to come here too? Learn more about our culture like you want us to learn about your great culture". Didn't get a straight answer. Well, thank you very much, I didn't want to be a part of this. Although I really think that nothing much will change as a result of the State department's intervention. That program has been there for decades, now more kids will be getting to go, and unlike before they'll get a chance to meet congressmen (that was part of the deal)! You know, the congressmen had to take some pictures with the poor kids from that terrorist country called Egypt for their next election rounds.

During my good old days with that program, I had an interesting experience with an American girl. Well, until now I'm not sure why she picked Egypt to spend her year in (I think that's the only country she got, and she didn't have a choice). She was a beautiful, simple but high-maintenance girl (I don't think that's really just because she's blonde). Which I thought was interesting. For the first while you'd think that such a combination doesn't work in Egypt, but it actually does pretty well. Egyptian girls are very high-maintenance themselves, so Egyptian guys are used to that, but they're not used to too much beauty. At one point I was trying to back-off all the guys she was hanging around with, so I honestly told her, "You know, the only thing those guys care about is getting laid!". I was surprised with her unexpected response, she said, "I know". Umm, Ok. Even her American friends were talking about her behind her back, so I figured I'd better back-off from her myself (well, I think she backed-off, thinking that I was dickless!). Believe it or not, by the end of her stay in Egypt, she converted to Islam, changed her name and wore a veil. As far as I could tell, she did that to marry the guy she loved (no, that wasn't me). Years later now, she's called by her old name again, unveiled, and is happily married to John in America, raising a cute little child. In all truth, I believe that's all she really wanted to be, a caring mother. She actually told me that once --and I believe it.

Those foreign kids who come to Egypt for cultural exchange really have it tough. For one, they live in Cairo. But the bigger problem is they're really almost never a part of that Egyptian family they live with. The families try to be polite, but they don't really welcome a foreign guest in their house for that long. Egyptians can be great hosts, but we have a saying "lucky those who visit and make it short"! Can you imagine how difficult it was to find host families for those kids. The only families that did, where those who sent their kids in return, and they still preferred not to host anyone. Typical Egyptians aren't really interested in cultural exchange, they're stuck in their own culture, and don't even care to look around. Amazingly enough, some of those kids really love their experience here. Yes, love the people, the excitement, the adventure. Weird. But hey, they go live the rest of their lives back home eventually.

What about all those foreign grownups who live in Cairo. The way I see it, they're all here for a reason (ofcourse). The most interesting are those who are truly interested in our culture. No ulterior motives, no journalism assignments, no academic and research plans, nor CIA or military activities ofcourse. I met one Canadian guy once who's been touring the world for the last 5 years. Pretty crazy if you ask me. I understand doing it for one year, but 5, get out. Well, he spent a year in the UK working for financial purposes I suppose. But other than that he's almost been to every corner on Earth. Sounds suspicious, right, maybe. He lived on the cheap, mostly used buses to travel between countries. Really interesting. Some people might be suspicious about such a guy, a year of work in the UK, could mean a year of training at MI6, and the guy went to places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran too. But I wasn't suspicious at all, just thought he was really interesting (and crazy).

Some other culturally-interested foreigners make it here in a more sane manner. Some of them are those back-packers, some are not. Some are interested in the history, the ancient stuff, the beaches and diving (that's not in Cairo though), and some are actually interested in the culture. All the former are understandable, but the latter isn't. I think they find Cairo and its culture very exotic. Which it definetely is compared to a developed country's capital.

From here on, the list of foreigners gets more standard. Journalists, academics, and expatriates. Multinational companies' expatriates (and local companies foreign "experts") are really not interested in anything except in making money. They live one hell of a luxurious life here, which they wouldn't dream of having back home. I won't list what they get here so no one gets envious. But, they come here, spend a few years, manage a company, or a few Egyptians within a company, and then move back home. Love it, or hate it, its their job. Some do love it (really, how can they not), and some still hate it, even though they really get everything.

Journalists. Nothing interesting there. Its their job to report from war zones and live in the line of fire. There are informed reporters and uninformed reporters, and there are good reporters and bad reporters. Thomas Friedman for example is an informed bad reporter (well, columnist). Alot of other informed good ones, so I'm only mentioning a bad one.

Academics are quite interesting, and they scare the hell out of me sometimes. Remember, they write history books and poli sci theories. Like journalists, there are informed academics and uninformed academics, and there are good academics and bad academics. Bernard Lewis is an informed bad academic. I need to define the terms good and bad, don't I. I think I'll leave it vague, but let me say that "bad" doesn't have to literally mean bad (ever heard Clinton ask about the word "is"). With a bad academic, it doesn't show that easily. They do alot of research, and back their work with alot of analysis, so its not that obvious, and they look really smart regardless of the conclusions they come up with. Ofcourse the academics I'm talking about are, political science, history, religion, and linguistics academics. No engineering or science academics are interested in wasting their careers here. There are really interesting academics though. I know one who's been living in Cairo since the early 70's. But can you imagine if an academic reaches a level of strong distaste of our culture (possibly for very valid reasons). How would that affect the research work they're doing? I'd expect it to show, but its hard to refute, because its not just superficial analysis, but usually real research and real analysis, affected with the personal injuries they encounter in our culture.

I shouldn't forget diplomats who live in Cairo for years (but it could be rare to see those walking in the streets). I guess they could be looked at similarly to expats as well as journalists. Its a career and a job, doesn't matter what country it is. But some of them are more interesting than just that. The previous Canadian ambassador loved it here so much he decided to settle here after his term has ended. How stupid is that! He's not gonna have his fancy Zamalek villa with the swimming pool anymore, but instead, he's getting himself an apartment in downtown Cairo! I don't know if he really went ahead with those plans though. Something sure is mysterious about Cairo that makes alot of people love it for no obvious reason. Beats me.

There are also foreign wives to Egyptian husbands. I think those are really sacrificing alot for their families, and the saying applies here, "Heaven is [definetely] beneath the feet of [those] mothers".

Hmmm.. so whom have I missed.

I realize that I've limited the term foreigners to "Westerners". There are tons of other foreigners, from non-Western countries, mostly Arab and Islamic, and quite a number of Indian expats too. But the difference between the two cultures (Egyptian and non-Western) are not as great, so its not as interesting.

UPDATE: Cool, Egyptian Sally already classified them into Embracers, Imperialists, and Drifters.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Thou shalt not might blog

UPDATE (10 days later): Amazing, I actually received an answer (Ref#: 37CRW6) for my fatwa request. Here it goes:

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear questioner, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake. May Allah reward you abundantly for your interest in knowing the teachings of your religion, Islam!

As regards your question, we have asked Dr. Salah Sultan, President of the American Center for Islamic Research, Columbus, Ohio, regarding blogging and he gave the following answer:

“The basic rule in this case is that: whatever is good and attained through a good means, then it is halal (lawful). If you find "blogs" to be a good avenue to make da'wah and you are using noble ways to reach that, then it is permissible. However, if there is no tangible benefit for these websites, then whatever you will be doing is nothing short of wasting time, which is Islamically forbidden in Islam. A Muslim is responsible for his / her time.

So, you can better judge for yourself. If you are exchanging good thoughts, you proceed, if not, you refrain from doing it. But if you find people wasting their time in trivial issues or talking about things of no great concern, then you leave. Allah says: “When thou seest men engaged in vain discourse about Our Signs, turn away from them unless they turn to a different theme. If Satan ever makes thee forget, then after recollection, sit not thou in the company of those who do wrong.” (Al-An'am 6: 68) This means you will be incurring the same sin if you continue doing what they are doing, unless you stay with the purpose of changing the munkar (sinful deed).

In changing the munkar, you must make sure you are capable of doing that and that you will never be influenced or negatively affected by it. I know of a brother whose `aqeedah (belief) was corrupted through these chats, so I advise you to be careful.”

If you are still in need of more information, don't hesitate to contact us. Do keep in touch. May Allah guide us all to the straight path!

Allah Almighty knows best.

=== Original Post Below ===

Via Mohammed at Digressing, an Indian Mufti decided that its unislamic to blog! Huh!
Going to websites like these will not be permissible, because they contain personal matters and also they specify names/identities which can create a path for bay-hayaai (shamelessness), and unlawful relations, and It is a source that may leak out the faults/kharaabiyan "aayb" of muslims. It will not be permissible.
Shame on you. How do they come up with these fatwas! I'm not ending my blogging experience now, that's for sure. But I've decided to get a second opinion, so that I maintain my Muslim readership (if any), though I'm sure that no one will listen to this guy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Conservative or progressive

For those who have been following this blog for a while, and might be trying to figure out what to make of me, since I've been offending both, conservative Muslims (Arabs suck) as well as the so-called progressive Muslims (That Friday prayer). Here's a simple asnwer.

I am against both based on the same concepts. I am against both when either become extreme, and narrow minded, which defies the essence of Islam. I am against both when they mix-up cultural problems with Islamic values, placing their cultural preferences ahead of their Islamic values. Ahmed Rehab articulates that point well regarding both, when describing who the American progressives are:

"More often, they are a new generation of Muslim-Americans who are trying to redefine aspects of Islam to fit their comfort zone as set by their American culture. (Ironically, they do so without realizing that their very formation as a group was in reaction to a generation of Muslims before them making the exact same mistake of customizing Islam to accommodate the comfort zone set by their own Arab culture.)

In other words, the Progressive Muslims are as much culturally influenced as those they criticize for being culturally influenced."
I am for moderation, and I believe that Islam is a religion of moderation. It doesn't matter which direction they're being extreme at, or what they're being narrow-minded about when either party is straying away.

"Wa kathalek ja3alnakom ummattan wasatan ..." [somewhere in the Quran]

Monday, March 21, 2005

That Friday prayer

I'm gonna try to annoy as many people as I can with this, so as to follow the model of Dr. Wadud and her followers.

To start with, I'm not getting into the legal argument of whether it is halal, haram, makrooh, or encouraged to have a woman lead the Friday prayers. I've stated my stand regarding that in my previous post. Its sickening to see uninformed Muslims (me included) debate God's religion as if its a game of Monopoly.

A few women think that this is the start of something great. The start of the path to equality. To me, this is the end of my support to those who call themselves progressive, and have no regard or respect for what might be sacred.

I started out taking it easy. But I'm really pissed now. I started out thinking those are a bunch of narrow minded feminists, who think the world revolves around them. Let them have it. I disagree with what they're doing, I'll say what I think, but it doesn't really matter, and I don't really care. So many have screwed up before, never mattered. Doesn't matter now. But as it turns out, they're not just that. They're a bunch who think they know God's word better than all the rest. A bunch who think it will definetely take a woman to "change" Islam. Well, it might, and it might not, does it really matter who does. And is it Islam we're after, or the way Muslims live it?!

Did they ever think that they're far from doing that. Not in a million years will you get the support you want. Dar ElIfta, headed by Mufti Ali Goma'a, denounced what you did by the way (yes, now you'll say that's expected after you were cheering him). I'm sure you don't care that you have no support. Who cares about people's support, if you have God's support. You were praying, He must be pleased with you. Well, that I don't know. I truly wish He is. Just make sure to pray the way He'd like to be prayed for.

With every argument I made about this, I kept saying:

"If those for a woman leading Friday prayer genuinly believe that the salah will be accepted and they have some valid legal Islamic reasoning, then may God reward them for that. If they don’t (and its just about “equality” and women leadership), that’s too bad, but they’ll still be able to do what they want. Nothing new about this. As well, those who have their valid reasoning in opposing this, should also be free to pray in the way they see best, and should be free to voice their concerns".
And it was never good enough. I had to endorse what they were doing, and bless it, otherwise I'm a tyrant, who's obsessed with the traditional patriarchal definition of Islam. Why don't you understand! I'm saying, do as you please, just keep me out of this (out of your prayers).

My problem is not with the act itself, of a woman leading Friday prayers, but with the sorry way its been carried out. Its like they're the only Muslims, and they're the only ones who know the word of God best. Did you ever think that you might, just might, be wrong! And hence, did you ever think of inclusion, and embracing others, rather than exclusion and isolation.

How many established Islamic rules have you broken, female leading Friday prayer, mixed lines of men and women, and unveiled women in prayers. Ok, you're questioning their legality, and being established don't make them right (I've cautiously questioned the veil myself before). But extremes lead to extremes. Dialogue, sane discussion, legal reasoning might've resulted in inclusion and acceptance.

What is this, the women's uprising.. but against who.. God.. oh no, sorry you were praying.. then against closed minded men who were monopolizing religion for their own benefit and for the submission of women, men who disregard any respect for the word of God. We don't care about the word of God, all we care about is women's submission!

Is there anyone who's against what you've done, whom you think might be sincere in any way, sincere in wanting equity for women, as well as sincere in pleasing God, the way God wants to be pleased?!

I'm closing the comments again here because I don't want a bunch of ignorant uninformed Muslims making up a new religion on some silly blog using on-the-spot, superficial reflex arguments. I'm closing the comments because I've had enough discussing this, which is nothing but a waste. Remember, this blog is about me. I'm not trying to convince anyone with what I'm saying here, and I don't want anyone to try to score points by making silly comments. You've already made your point on Friday, why do you care to come and booo at me. You definetely have a stronger voice elsewhere than I do over here.

UPDATE: Here's another one along the same lines as this one, but Ahmed Rehab has been following the "progressives" closer than I have, and is not as pissed off as I am yet. Via Sabrina.

UPDATE 2: I noticed something about Dr. Amina Wadud. She's veiled!! So while I (kind of) disputed the veil (saying that its nothing compared to prayers), she's actually wearing it. And not just in the prayers, but all the time. But yet, she's disputing the way we pray, and doing it in that way. Interesting.

Women Friday prayer imamah: Why not?

I decided to put more focus on Hina Azam's excellent analysis of the women Friday prayers imamah.

Apparently, any such debate between uninformed Muslims (me included) does not lead to anywhere. In both cases, the human reasoning uses --as Hina puts it-- a "ends-justify-the-means" approach. I personally have been using all the wrong arguments to try to make my point. I'm trying to put human reasoning behind my arguments, when in fact I might be overlooking many other factors and missing alot of information. And I cannot make such a core issue of Islam liable to some flawed human reasoning that I make. So, when I see someone as informed, well-spoken, and thougtful as Hina Azam make an argument based on real knowledge, I simply shut up and point to what she's saying.

I am going to put some excerpts (I'd hate to paraphrase or summarize this) from her article here to encourage you to go read the whole thing:

"In order to arrive at any new legal doctrine, or hukm, one must employ a systematic methodology by which to extract meaning from the sources."

"The centerpiece of a proper juristic methodology is a sound system of legal reasoning which is consistent with the texts of the Qur'an and the most-likely-authentic Sunna, and which emerges from a spirit of piety and submission to Allah"

"The important point for our purposes is that while jurists might have disagreed about specific rulings, they followed a well-elucidated methodology that was highly rational, that was consistent with the Qur'an and Sunna/hadith, and that appears, from my readings, to have emerged from a very real spirit of humility before God. The classical methodology of discerning the divine intent is truly awe-inspiring, and a formidable challenge to anyone who seeks to arrive at wholly new hukms, in large part because -- as a method — it remains highly persuasive. I do not say that the classical juridical methods were flawless."

"The proposed ruling — that women may lead men in salat al-jumu'ah -- violates several basic texts and classical interpretive principles, and its proponents provide neither a sound critique of the traditional legal methodology or nor an improved one to replace it."

"the laws of Islam have been divided by the scholars into two broad categories, those that have to do with the rights of God, and those that have to do with the rights of human beings."

"Prayer, as one of the 'ibadat (forms of worship) has been considered to be almost purely in the category of rights of God."

"The elements of salat ... were established during the life of the Prophet under divine guidance. We simply do not know the reasons for their form. Furthermore, because salat is so critical to proper practice of Islam, it is not an area that one may tamper with."

"Thus, the scholars operated according to the principle that the rule (asl) in social laws (mu'amalat) is permissibility (ibahah), and the rule in religious observance ('ibadat) is prohibition (tahrim)."

"In general, the arguments that are given in support of the upcoming female-led jumu'ah, in combination with the extent of the modifications being made to traditional laws of salat, reflect an ends-justify-the-means approach. It appears that it has already been decided that it is permissible for women to lead a mixed congregation in jumu'ah. Any textual or rational indicants that these rulings might be invalid are conveniently rejected."

"Furthermore, the claims being made are far more sweeping than the evidence warrants."

"My recommendation is that we study and critique the tradition, and work on developing a legal interpretive methodology that leads to more equitable rulings, yes. But I would also recommend a much greater dose of caution and of humility, in light of the gravity of the task. I would seek to remind us all that our first priority is to seek the good pleasure of Allah, whose guidance for humanity may not always be scrutable."

W'Allahu a3lam.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Fishawy, Hind and the Sheikhs

Sorry if I offended anyone in my last post, I just had to let it out of my system (isn't blogging just great:). If you're offended, just don't take it personally, and you can always think of yourself as the exception to the generalizations I make. Actually, just reading the comments now, people seem to have taken it much better than I thought they would. Maybe I'm wrong about Arabs after all! Probably not, I think bloggers are just very special people ;)

Anyway, here's a lighter post.

In today's Friday sermon, the Imam briefly mentioned how people are talking about "scandals" so frequently and so publicly, that it looks like its an attempt to make such scandals a norm in our society. He obviously was implying the famous story about Ahmed ElFishawy and Hind, which was the topic of this week's Hadeeth AlMadeena ("Talk of the Town") show and Elbeit Beitak on TV.

I kind of agree with him actually. Somethings are better left as taboos, or better, be talked about in abit of a more constructive manner, especially when in a public medium. We're not supposed to talk about our sins, and those guys are up on public television bragging about their daughter spending the nights out, and getting pregnant from Fishawy, and how she didn't sin because they were secretly married (how can it be a marriage if in secret?!). This is definetely not a unique case, quite a number of boys and girls sleep together and have premarital sex, and some girls get pregnant and get abortion, and some girls get that pre-wedding night operation. We all know it, and its good to discuss it in a constructive manner. But to get the girl, and her parents on TV and have them brag about her having pre-marital or semi-marital (whatever that would be called) productive sex, as if its of any benefit to us to hear that stuff, is just too much. I actually didn't watch the program, but I heard about some of its content, so I might not be very accurate here.

So why is this story becoming so public? I guess part of it is that the boy and the girl are famous. But also, that ElFishawy seems to have recently taken a more religious direction in his life, involved in a religious show, and being close to Amr Khaled. Ok, that would make it more interesting, the guy who is presenting an image of being religious is involved in a sex scandal. People just love that. People also love it when there are rumors (or true stories) about sheikhs involved in scandals as well. Some get really dissapointed, "I used to really like this guy", and some people find an attacking point, "Didn't I tell you all sheikhs are no good".

But I beg to differ with both. Why do we assume that a sheikh, or a religious scholar must be sinless?! Humans are by definition flawed. The sheikh knows more about our religion and is taking it as a career, but no one said that they should be role models. I'll go ask him for information and for fatwas, but I won't necessarily do like they do. They have more information, so they might have a better chance of doing better, and being closer to God, and maybe just by spending most of their time researching God's religion they are probably closer to God already. But that still doesn't make them role models. God created humans to sin, repent, and then ask Him for forgiveness. He already has angels. Those sheikhs are definetely not the prophet, neither are they the prophet's companions, or anything close to them (there are definetely exceptions however).

One of my all-time favorite Quran reciters is Mohammed Jebril. He was also involved in some scandalous story (rumor or not I don't know) involving a woman. I just don't care, he's still my favorite reciter, and I still love listening to his reading.

Now for the sheikhs that artificially make themselves role models, and keep judging people for their actions in their personal lives. I think these sheikhs are worth talking about what they do, and they should take a good look at themselves in the mirror before they judge other people.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Arabs suck

Disclaimer: Arabs, read at your own discretion. This piece is objectively racist (whatever that means).

I'll start by saying that I am an Arab, descendant of Ramses someway or another (i.e. Egyptian), who believes in Allah and that prophet Muhammad is his messenger. I am also a few other things which are irrelevant here.

Now let me start over. Arabs suck.

Isn't this what we've been taught in school. Pre-Islamic Arabia was in shatters. I happen to agree.

Arabs used to burry their infant girls alive, tribes went to war for decades in a row, cursing each other in their poems, enslaving people, and being extremely narrow minded with absolutely no tolerance. I think we weren't taught wrong at school. Surrounded by two empires, Persia and Rome, none of them cared to seize control of Arabia. Nothing but headache out of doing that.

God decided to take on the challenge, and send his message (Islam) to that lousy group of people. And sure it was a challenge, a new religion to a group of intolerant, stubborn, and violent bunch of desert dwellers. Sure it was a challenge, they sent 60 men, one from each tribe, to kill the prophet. He's one of you, assholes. They threw him with rocks in AlTae'f, and drove him out of Mecca.

Eventually, God proved His point. He ruled, and His message got through. Even Arabs can be tamed with Islam. For a while there, Arabs (most of them) did understand Islam well, were able to follow it properly, to rule and govern right. Did you see what happened when we did that, a Muslim civilization arose, from Andalusia and southern Europe out to China. Spread by the sword, by the merchants, or by the good deeds and words of the people, whatever. It spread, the empire was strong, science, culture, art and humans developed, and the standard of living was reaching new peaks.

So what's gone wrong now?! (something we're not told about in schools). Arabs are being themselves again, misunderstand and misuse Islam, and even worse, claim that our ill traditions are part of Islam. Burry our women alive (instead of infant girls), go to war with each other, enslave those less fortunate than us, becoming again intolerant and narrow minded. Well, God ain't gonna challenge us again, we've had our chance. God and His messenger are not going to be there for us all the time, dammit. We're on our own now.

Its our turn to take it on again, no guidance, and no help to show us the way. Give up those fucked up old Arab/Pharaonic/Pakistani/... traditions, and embrace the tolerant Islamic values without staining them with our cultural ills.

Oh, and regarding Arab nationalism. Arab nationalism my ass. Its never gonna happen.

I should have another piece on how Egyptians suck. But just quickly, if Islam was able to tame the Arabs for a while, it stood helpless with Egyptians and couldn't mend them! And yet, some how Egyptians were able to get their country praised in the Quran a few times. We really know how to get our way with the authorities, eh!

Think Arabs are better than that? Refute my claims. Think Arabs are just that, no need to mention it again, thanks.

Ok, do I really have to be fair?! Traditional Arabs are generous and good hosts, and are the native-speakers of a great language. That doesn't balance things out though.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

On strikes and layoffs

I was reading a couple of articles in last week's AlAhram Weekly about the Egyptian workers going on strike in a number of factories. It made me think again about my previous post where I expressed my sadness for the state of the Egyptian worker, and claimed that its illegal for Egyptian workers to go on strike. Issandr the Arabist just pointed to another related article by Stanford Professor Joel Beinin.

It seems that I wasn't up-to-date with the new labor law (although it affects me directly). Apparently, it has become legal now for the Egyptian workers to go on strike (why am I not on strike yet!), albeit under very strict conditions. Nader Fergany, founder and director of Almishkat research center, has published a report assessing the new (then proposed) labor law. Some interesting caveats there, worth looking at.

Ofcourse the government enacted the new law to suit their new liberal economic strategies, whereby clauses ensuring that a worker is hired for life, can never be fired, and cannot go on strike are becoming very rigid and unsuitable in a desired dynamic market economy.

So basically, workers in a number of factories have been on strike for a while now because their factories are being privatized, and they know that the first action the new private investor will take, is lay them off.

I can understand both sides of the story. Workers definetely don't want to be laid off (who does), especially after so many years of working there, and especially in our culture, where you stick in one place, for life, and considering that there aren't really abundance of jobs in the Egyptian market.

On the other hand, it really doesn't make any sense to have the government own and operate companies and factories for consumer goods and the like. Nasser constructd and created some great new industries, but he really did a disservice to the country by nationalizing all those well performing companies suffocating the healthy business environment that was in place. It is about time to allow for and encourage real innovation, entrepreneurship, and productivity to flourish through the people, not through our foster parents (the government). Unfortunately, the government is just letting go of everything without establishing the proper framework to ensure a healthy business environment. And so, we're all learning the hard way.

I think there's nothing wrong with layoffs as long as they're warranted, and as long as there's a safety net that protects those hard workers who find themselves suddenly incomeless in a very tough environment with no proper social services provided by the government.

I keep thinking that companies are really mean, they hire like crazy as if there's no tomorrow during the good times, and when things get bumpy, the first thing they think of is to layoff people. So why did you hire so many resources in the first place if you can't have a good return from them, and they'll be working on silly non-profitable projects? But when I think more about this, I actually think its better to hire people, even if not with very long term vision and ensured stability, and then lay them off when absolutely necessary (I would stress on absolutely), is better than not hiring them at all. I would personally rather get hired, work on interesting projects for a while, learn and gain experience, and then get fired, than never get hired, and never getting that experience that would help me get another job.

Now, abit unrelated, but I need to comment about the main theme of Beinin's article (the reason for him mentioning those strikes), which is how such "unprecedented" popular social movements will cause major political changes in Egypt.

I think the social opposition movements against Sadat were far stronger than they are now against Mubarak. Riots in the streets for his economic policy, which he called "the uprising of the thieves", very highly ranked dissidents (from within the regime) whom were extremely vocal about their opposition to his policies, Saad ElShazly Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces in the 1973 war, and Ibrahim Kamel, Egypt's Foreign Minister who resigned during the Camp David Accords, as well as Ahmed Fouad Negm and Sheikh Imam who gathered students (among others) around them singing Negm's extremely harsh critical poems of Sadat's persona are vivid examples. Then there were all the Arabs turning against Sadat and boycotting Egypt. Well true, all that resulted in him getting shot dead, and Egypt did get a new president. But how did Egypt change, I ask? I questioned before (and here) whether just toppling the President would really make any positive change in our society. And I guarantee that the answer is No.

I really sound like one of the pro-regime newspapers, don't I! Hosni and company are a bunch of corrupt thugs, don't get me wrong. But those few social unrests and criticisms, even when resulting in replacing the president aren't going to lead to the change desired.

Cidade de Deus

I went to see City of God last night at AUC. Boy am I glad I live in Cairo, not Rio de Janeiro. Although I really wouldn't mind switching Egyptian girls (as well as football players) with Brazilians. Seriously, anyone complaining about Cairo should go watch that frickin' movie.

I went abit early to AUC, so I went to catch the Maghrib prayer at the musalla on campus. I was surprised, the tiny musalla is almost a complete little mosque now. Didn't I say that AUC has transformed. I then went down to the platform area and watched all the Americanized students hanging around. Was fun to watch.

The movie theater was packed, mostly foreigners, mostly Americans. I wondered again; what are all those foreigners doing in Cairo?! (I think I'll write about that here soon).

I went to AUC straight from work, so I decided to get a bite to eat. For some reason I felt like eating McDonald's. I haven't been eating there for something close to 3 years now. Wasn't boycotting the place or anything. If you know anything about me, you should know that I love food, and I'd never politicize it. Hell, I love bagels. Toasted with cream cheese, yummy. Isn't it originally Jewish or something. Well, they (Israelis) can take all my land and exterminate my family, I'm still gonna eat bagels (only if I can find it in Cairo). So why did I stop eating McDonald's for so long? Oh, its just lousy food, and not just because its fast food. It actually tastes like slime, and even smells terrible, and I don't know what they put on their fries, sugar or fat, its just all very disgusting. Their meals really have nothing to do with food. You read how they do their food, and then you're really done with it. Can't even think about it anymore. What I can't understand is how they're spreading like wild mushrooms everywhere! even in Egypt!! Egyptian food just rocks, and I can't imagine why Egyptians would endorse such a low standard of food.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Condolences Zouhair Yahyaoui

Mona sent us today mourning Zouhair Yahyaoui, a Tunisian dissident, who died at the age of 36, and founded a satirical website TuneZine. He was imprisoned for 18 months in 2002, after he published opposition material on his site. He went on hunger strike a number of times and supporters claimed he was tortured (Source: BBC).

People really die for this.

Men's brains

I think that most men are idiots when it comes to treating women (myself definetely included). Ahmed Ragab of AlAkhbar newspaper ridicules men who think they're smarter than women:

Men gloat because science says that their brains are bigger than women's brains. But men ignore women's deviousness that spins them lovers and husbands. Secondly, they ignore the wisdom of the scholar who said that it takes a mother 20 years to make a man out of her son, and it takes a woman 20 minutes to make a donkey out of her lover. Thirdly, they ignore the scientific fact that the man's brain is much smaller than the donkey's brain.
Hehehe.. idiots.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Blogging is bad for your career

I just quit a part-time job I had for while now. I've been spending too much time blogging (reading and writing at blogs), that I haven't had enough time for that job! Now, I hope this doesn't spread to my current full-time job.

Google/Blogger are claiming that there are 10 reasons why blogging is good for you career. Crap, it isn't. Here are the reaons they list, and what I think:
1. You have to get noticed to get promoted.
Being noticed for what you write on your blog is hardly the kind of attention you want for yourself.

2. You have to get noticed to get hired.
Being noticed for what you write on your blog is hardly the kind of attention you want for yourself.

3. It really impresses people when you say “Oh, I’ve written about that, just google for XXX and I’m on the top page” or “Oh, just google my name.”
Yeah, right. Especially if what you've written about shows that your interested in stuff that are totally unrelated to your work, or when all the google links you get are from bloggers who are bashing what you've written.

4. No matter how great you are, your career depends on communicating. The way to get better at anything, including communication, is by practicing. Blogging is good practice.
If you communicate on your blog the same way you communicate to get a job, then please stop blogging. I don't wanna hear it.

5. Bloggers are better-informed than non-bloggers. Knowing more is a career advantage.
I've never been asked (and they never cared) about how informed I am in any of the stuff I blog about.

6. Knowing more also means you’re more likely to hear about interesting jobs coming open.
Hmmm, not so far I haven't.

7. Networking is good for your career. Blogging is a good way to meet people.
If you're in Bahrain or Iran, the only people you're meeting are your prison wardens.

8. If you’re an engineer, blogging puts you in intimate contact with a worse-is-better 80/20 success story. Understanding this mode of technology adoption can only help you.

9. If you’re in marketing, you’ll need to understand how its rules are changing as a result of the current whirlwind, which nobody does, but bloggers are at least somewhat less baffled.
What if you're not in Marketing or Technology?!

10. It’s a lot harder to fire someone who has a public voice, because it will be noticed.
Hell, Google themselves have fired one of their employees for blogging about the work condition.

So, unless you're blogging in the field of your profession, you're more likely to get fired than hired.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

We want more

Hosni was getting restless and annoyed that Egyptians are not complaining and seem to be so happy with everything. He gathered his ministers and told them that he's starting to get worried, and they should think of something to annoy the people with, and then solve the problem they've created, and this way he can praise himself and prove that he's been solving the people's problems.

After much deliberation, Hosni agreed to install a checkpoint on 6th of October bridge (Cairo's main bridge) stopping every passing car, and slapping (in another story, "screwing") the driver on the face before letting them go.

A few weeks pass by and Hosni gets more restless, gathers his ministers; "are they starting to compalain yet? are they becoming unhappy yet?". Ministers say "No, they're happy and thanking you for all your graces, and praying for you every day". He decides to give the people a harder time, so a thoughtful minister suggests, "let's add more checkpoints on the bridge, and have them slap the driver as well as the passengers." They all agree, and Hosni decides to go with the group decision (being the democrat that he is) and implement the decision.

A few weeks later, Hosni gathers his ministers again. "Are they unhappy and complaining yet?", ministers say, "No, sir, as happy as ever". So, Hosni decides to get to the bottom of this and gather his people to talk to them first hand, listen to anything that might be bugging them and solve their problems so that people worship him.

Hosni gathers the Egyptians, gives his speech on how his only concern is the good of the people and the future of our next generations. Then he opens the floor for questions, and requests that people ask freely, and raise any issue or problems that they might be having in their daily lives. After a while of silence, a guy shyly raises his hand for a question. "Yes, yes, that guy at the back, what's your question". "Mr. honorable president. We thank you for all your great efforts and for your hard work in making Egypt one of the best countries in the world. This is the best time in Egypt's history, and its all because of you. I just have one little request regarding those checkpoints on the bridge". Hosni feels relieved that finally someone is going to complain about this, and he can solve his problem. The guy goes, "We think the checkpoints are a great idea, and feel very safe for having them, and the guys who slap us are very nice people, but I was wondering if we can increase the number of people who slap us in order to speed the process a bit?"

If you didn't get it, that was supposed to be a "joke"! A common one around here.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Ayman Nour freed on bail today

Just announced on Nile TV a while ago.
UPDATE I: Nour refuses to pay bail, AlJazeera reports. He certainly wants to make a stand that this is not a criminal case.
UPDATE II: Issandr reports that he is actually out. Reuters says his supporters collected the funds to pay it anyway.

Hasn't he spent the 45 days in detention as set by the prosecuter general, and those 45 days end today? Well then, they would've either had to get him out on bail, or extend his detention, which would've been just plain dumb.
The case is still open. What are the alternatives now?
1. Proceed with the case and get him charged, and jailed for a while until he appeals. They'd love to do that.
2. Proceed with the case and acquit him.
3. Dismiss the case all together, and I think that would be very awkward to do.
Option 2 seems like the most likely option in my view.

From dust to dust

My uncle's wife just died a few days ago. I wasn't too close to her, but I liked her, and was pretty sad for her departure.

I didn't know she was loved by so many until I saw the number of people attending her funeral. Death can never be an easy thing. We're all destined to it, we all know that it will happen, to us and to our loved ones. Yet still, we're always surprised and shocked when it happens. The worst (and favorite) part of a funeral for me, is when the body is taken out of the coffin and into the grave. At the end of the day, we're simply reduced to ashes and dust. From dust to dust. All that remains, are our deeds, and that's what we carry with us to the afterlife. Wrapped in a piece of cloth, leaving behind all our fortunes, social status, family and friends. Looking at her body carried out of the coffin, making her way under the ground, and seeing my uncle and cousins there, I couldn't hold my tears.

Alot of people think about themselves in such events, funerals work like reminders. People remember that they too are going to die, that their loved ones too, are going to die. The rest of my uncles and aunts were in a pretty bad emotional state. They'll miss her, and feel bad for my uncle, ofcourse, but I think its more about themselves. They're seeing death with their own eyes in her moving coffin, and remember that life can end in a second. We all end up under the ground eventually. They all start remembering what bad they've been doing in their life, and realize that life is not worth it, and start crying. Any fights they had between any of my uncles and/or aunts are now resolved. They all hugged, kissed and made up. All it took was a person's life for them to realize that they'd better get their act together and stop bickering, because their time will come too. A few days later, life goes on...

To my amusement, Gamal Mubarak was at the post-funeral ceremony (A'za).. err.. maybe I should stop complaining about my family's friends!!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Gandhi in Iraq?

Here's a follow-up to my previous post, in response to Hellme and H comments.

I think armed resistance is always the most obvious choice. If someone slaps you on the face, the first reaction is to slap them back. If you're strong enough, he'll stop, but if you aren't, he'll hit you back, hard too.

Many would agree that the American occupation in Iraq, is in fact very utilitarian, exploiting the oil in Iraq and attempting to surround Syria and Iran (between Afghanistan and Israel). The US is in fact controlling the world's oil stream now, and raising the barrel price seems to benefit it and hurt the new economies in Asia (some economist has to back me up here).

Those who bomb the oil pipelines seem to be making use of that utilitarian theory, knowing that the US is benefiting more from the oil revenues than the Iraqis are. But with the wealth of oil that Iraq has, those few pipeline explosions are tiny pinches.

I tried to argue the other day in the lecture that non-violent resistance can be sometimes much harder than violence. In both, you can end up dead, and in both you can end up not inflicting any harm to your opponent.

To be honest, I don't know how a non-violent resistance can be done. I agree, the occupation in Iraq is not depending on the native workforce. They can extract all the oil they want without a single Iraqi in sight. But what if the country is at a stand-still for a few days, if people march to the oil wells and refuse to allow Halliburton access to the oil. Would that get the media attention? would that be a strong enough statement telling the US to get out? Will that actually prevent the US tankers from taking the oil away? So the request to leave doesn't have to come from a puppet government (which would never say it).

When it comes to negotiations, the question becomes, how can the weak negotiate with the more powerful? As a weaker party, you're not going to get anything out of charity. You have to work for what you can negotiate over. Typically, that's done through violence causing sustainable pain. But can that sustainable pain be caused through peaceful means?

Can't the Sunni and Shii'a figures get together, organize their followers for civil disobedience, for marches to surround the green zone, for protestors to block the Basra oil terminal. Is this too naive of me. Stop the violence for a month, and try it. What have you to lose?

Over here, those who could be considered realists are called defeatists, and those who don't encourage violence are called defeatists, and those who don't die for the cause are called defeatists, and those who don't yell and shout are called defeatists. But I'm not talking about defeatism here, just of alternative resistance methods, besides the obvious one. Are there any?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Gandhi in Arabia?

I made it to another lecture by Tarek AlBishri last night. He talked about the period following the 1919 uprising and until 1952. After talking about how all the negotiations with the British to leave failed during that period, and how armed resistance was very important, a (goal-oriented) question was raised by Dr. Selim AlAwa. He asked if there were examples of unarmed resistances that successfully resulted in ending an occuptation? Assuming a No answer, many concluded that this shows that all of Abu Mazen's negotations will not lead to anything, and there's no way out except through armed resistance.

After AlAwa's general question was asked, and after the conclusion was made, I waited for someone to provide a counter example, but no one did. So I had to ask, "would the non-violent resistance in India qualify as an example for successfully ending an occupation?".

Everyone came back at me, that "it's a different kind of occupation though!". Well, I wasn't talking about Palestine, I was following up on the first general question.

Yes, I agree, the occupation in Palestine is very different. That is a settlement occupation (ehtelal esteetany), people are being ethnically cleansed and replaced with new people. And the negotations in this case are not to end the occupation, but to allow the natives to live on a tiny portion of their original land. But again, I wasn't talking about Palestine.

Still, the British colonization in India was real. I liked AlBishri's background explanation in response to my question. When Gandhi came back from South Africa, (an Indian) he wanted to get to know how Indians are. He took the train across the country, and he realized that the Indian character at the time was very non-confrontational (that could be debatable I suppose) and spiritual. So civil disobedience fitted right in.

AlBishry made a point I liked; the non-settlment kind of occupations are purely utilitarian. Hence, once you (as a resistance) compromise the benefits that the occupying power is reaping out of the occupation, it starts to question and rethink the rationale behind the occupation and its benefits.

I found that to be somewhat relevant to the British occupation of Egypt. The utilitarian nature of the occupation (Suez Canal and cotton), and the Egyptian character don't seem to me that far from what's described above about India. Maybe less so in Iraq, but worth looking at more. Definetely not in Palestine though.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hayy 'ala el-Jihad

I have been spending some time over at Liberals Against Terrorism trying to clear up the confusion that the non-Muslims are having about the word jihad. Alot of non-Muslims these days use the word jihad to mean terrorism, and that is just wrong. I feel that its important to try to clear the bad connotation attached to this word since this word is an important word in our religion. So, I'm bringing my comments that I've posted over there to my blog here, integrated and edited.

Let's look at it this way. American soldiers fighting in Iraq are jihadists (replace the word jihad with fight or struggle if you wish). They are performing jihad against their own created enemy in Iraq, for a higher national goal back in the United States. They believe that their jihad in Iraq is to divert a great danger against their nation and their people, and they believe that they are at a higher moral ground. They believe that they have to perform jihad against the terrorists and the infidels who are wrongly fighting for their own benefit and for their wronged beliefs (be it free the land from the occupiers, or whatever).

American soldiers say, we're here to help, free the land, and free the people, and anyone against those divine goals must be destroyed. Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in this jihad, but that is a reasonable price to pay for the valuable goal that everyone should be looking up to.

This is the American jihad in Iraq. Totally illogical to me. However, it doesn't mean that there weren't good American jihads throughout history. Same here. Jihad is not a bad word. Misused alot these days, even by Muslims, but doesn't change the meaning of the word, and by no means is it equivilant to terrorism. Jihad al-nafs (struggle against one's own ego and weakness) is a good fight, and jihad against the occupier can also be a good fight.

Since 9/11 every Muslim out there has been saying to everyone out loud that the literal meaning of jihad in Arabic is simply "struggle". It is not a filthy word, it is not synonymous to terrorism. There are good jihads and bad jihads, and people make that choice. And as soon as an attempted jihad turns sour or if its started with the wrong intentions, it loses its meaning, and is not a jihad anymore. Islam has never called the killing of civilians (non-combatants) jihad.

Groups like JihadWatch are obsessed with the word, trying to diminish Islam to just that. They exploit a verse of the Quran out of context as well as other citations to feed the frenzy of hysteria against the word and hence against Muslims. They use a verse like: --Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is forgiving, merciful-- (Suret AlTawba, verse 5).

I would personally be scared to hell reading that verse on its own, and without understanding the reason of the whole Surrah. "What a bunch of savages" is the first thing that comes to mind. That verse is taken out of context ofcourse. That sura is talking about the idolaters, but those who were fighting the prophet and the new Muslims, making deals and breaking them jeaopradizing Islam and Muslim lives. One of the forms of jihad is violent, yes. Justifiable violence however.

So why don't we just stop using the word and avoid the confusion?

We cannot stop using the word because some people don't like it and misunderstand it. It is part of our religion. Continuous struggle defines life; struggle to be better, struggle against your ego, struggle for achievement, as well as struggle against your adversaries, is part of life, and is hence part of Islam.

They are not to blame for misunderstanding the word, or for misunderstanding our religion for that matter. Its our religion. But it doesn't mean that we should change, just to please "the other". Difference is good. And it doesn't mean that we should redefine the word, claiming that jihad only means personal struggle and has nothing to do with violence. It has, what it has nothing to do with, is terrorism.

But if the meaning of the word, and hence that Islamic value doesn't change, even when some Muslims misuse it, what is Islam then? Isn't it a collection of interpretations and scholarly traditions, and different opinions of different people?

I say, Islam is neither of that. Islam is the word of God (as we believe). What Muslims say it is, is not necessarily it, especially what a vocal minority of muslims say it is. Islam is not what people say it is, as it is not a man-made set of values. We try, we try, and we try hard (ijtihad, which is a derivation of the word "jihad") to interpret the word of God, and that is as close as we can get to understanding Islam. It is just beyond us.

Al-Imam Abu-Hanifa (I believe it was), is famous for saying: "what I say is right, and could be wrong, and what you say is wrong, and could be right" (bad translation).

So then, who is qualified to exercise ijtihad?

Let me put it this way. How would a Scientist (in Physics say) become one? through years of study and years of research.

Well, a Scientist in Physics is the same as an Islamic Scholar. They are both discovering and researching the same thing, the laws and values (natural and human) put by God on Earth (and beyond). And the work of both is prone to error.

Being just a practicing Muslim to scholarly research is similar to being a human being who lives in the natural physical world. Without the proper preparation, one cannot do what a Physicist can do (scientific research), or what an Islamic scholar can do (ijtihad).

So then, how can Islam be preserved without deviating so far off from its core, and retaining some kind of "establishment" control over the exercised ijtihad and fatwas?

This is a challenge. Some sincere scholars have chosen to undertake it through the World Union of Muslim Scholars which is definetely a worthwhile effort.

Aziz P. from City of Brass has also written about Jihad, Hiraba, and how some Muslims grossly misuse the word.

Hellme writes more about Jihad and the Physicist analogy.

Also (just remembered), please read Zayed Yasin's Harvard commencement speech, My American Jihad. He took alot of heat for using that word in the title.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Our journalist friend

I think she really believes in this blogging thing. I think I might be getting convinced too! Mona Eltahawy talks about the Arab blogosphere, Bahraini arrests, Saudi blogging, Big Pharaoh blog, Healing Iraq blog, and more, on C-Span*.

Here's where the complete C-Span program can be viewed. She's on at the 50th minute for about 11 minutes and then later at 1.49.39 to answer a question.

She promises me she'll write something for the Arab audience about blogging.

Keep it up Mona.

*C-SPAN (Congressional-Senate Public Affairs Network) is a television channel that covers the U.S. government, House and Senate activities.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Behind a veil

A friend of mine have been pushing hard to hook me up with this girl he knows, telling me how great she is, smart, decent, and so forth.

He also tells me that she's veiled (which he considers a strong asset). Without considering all the rest of her great qualities that he speaks of, I find myself not interested, only because she's veiled!

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the Veil. But when it comes to the person that I might be committed with for life, I would not necessarily favor being veiled. To me, having a veiled wife, is kind of like being veiled myself. I'll say why farther down.

I don't want to argue what I think about the veil from an Islamic perspective. I don't really like to announce my views in that matter* (see footnote for reason). I am most certainly not a scholar in Islam, and my knowledge is very limited when it comes to that. Even my logic, which is my only defence here, could very well be flawed. None of the well established Islamic sholars dispute the must-ness of the veil. The only moslems who do, are intellectuals, who do not take Islamic research as a career, and may not be necessarily biased to Islam. So I hate to be grouped with anyone when I make a claim, that I don't find any of the references in the Quran or Sunnah supporting the "fact" that moslem women should cover their hair. The strongest verse I find in the Quran close to that is verse 31 in AlNoor. I would say (not argue), that this verse is not about covering the hair, as it is about covering the chest (bosoms). --and tell to the women believers, ..., to cover their chests with their veil--. It might be that it is already assumed that moslem women are veiled, and the command is actually to cover their chest as well. But if the command was that direct about covering the chest, which is more attractive (i would say) than the hair, it would've been worthwhile to be direct as well in commanding to cover the hair. Why is covering the hair taken for granted, while the covering of the chest requires an explicit verse? If it was traditional for women at that time in the Arab tribes to wear a hair cover, then women are being encouraged to not reveal the more sexual parts of their body in a gentle and easy way; by using the already used head cover to cover their chests. Sounds logical to me, but who am I to say so.

As for the most famous of Hadiths, where the Prophet (PBUH) pointed to his face and hands, saying that these are the only two parts of a woman's body that should be shown. Was he pointing to his face only, or to all of his head?

For some reason the interpretation of the veil issue is never revisited by Islamic scholars, and they never question the establisehd interpretation of it. Unfortunately, I don't find the command that obvious.

Because I am not a scholar, and the other reasons I've stated earlier, I'll have to go along with them and agree that the hair cover is God's command --until a trusted scholar says otherwise (I do like to please God, and I am not apt to claim that I am performing ijtihad, not my job).

So the veil is a must for all moslem women. However, is it really on par with a major pillar of Islam, like the prayers? I find some moslems frequently making that analogy, and I can't relate them whatsoever. Can we really elevate the importance of the veil to the same level as prayers? one of the 5 pillars of Islam, and the backbone of Islam ("Al Salah 3emad AlDin"). Praying is definetely something between man (or woman) and God. However, no one has ever been persecuted for not praying, yet some have been for not covering their hair!

So its importance arises from being a social discipline whereby you get closer to God by following His commands in preventing social/sexual unrest. But can a woman's hair really do that? Its relative I guess. What is the difference between a conservatively dressed woman who has her hair uncovered, and one that is veiled?

The worst part is, many women (in Egypt atleast) are actually more sexually appealling with the veil!! Well, they're doing it wrong ofcourse. Tight pants and shirts, full makeup, uncovered cleavage! What a mess. There are those ofcourse who are conservatively dressed, veiled, and working hard to please God. I respect those ofcourse. And then there are the veil terrorists, prostitutes who wear Hijab.

What I can't swallow are parents who veil their daughters who haven't reached their teens yet attempting to make them get used to it, in order to easily maintain the veil forever. Do you really have to constraint them at that young an age, when its definetely (and beyond a shadow of doubt) not required to be veiled at that young an age?!

When France passed its religious symbols law, I was against it. I think that the veil is a religious symbol, and there might be some logic in France wanting its residents not to be identifiable through their religion. But the argument for the veil is that those who wear it, don't wear it out of symbolism, but out of belief that this is at the core of their religion, just like praying. So France is really limiting the freedom of religion by that law. When our Mufti granted France a green light to pass the law, saying that this is a French internal matter. Like many others, I didn't enjoy his giving in so easily. However, I thought he gave the French moslems a break, and allowed them refuge. And I think that's a good thing. When all else fails, and you can't change the French law, you can fall back on his fatwa, and abide by the law, still being good moslems.

Moslems should really give credit to and consider how North America (U.S. and Canada) are more tolerant in that respect compared to Europe. I believe it would be unthinkable to pass such a law there.

Sometimes the veil has a meaning, and more than just a symbol of being a moslem. I would like to think that its a symbol of a moslem who's trying hard enough, and who's passed a certain threshold of being devout. But with the misuse of the veil (like the examples I give above), that symbolism I'm looking for is not being achieved.

So back to the core issue here. What does it matter if my wife is veiled or not? If she is, she'll be "in the safe side", in case it is really a Godly command and all my logic is wrong. That will save her, as well as myself (being her husband). So its actually worth it. But why would I want her not veiled? Simple really. Not because there is some doubt in mind whether its really a must or not, but because its really very restrictive. To me and to her. Call me silly, but what if we want to do something crazy, enjoy the beach, make a sin, go to a discotheque (although I don't even like dancing!) or something. Its also so monotonic to me, and as a matter of taste I like a face with uncovered hair.

For all the rest of the women who won't be my wives, I am absolutely neutral as to whether you cover your hair or not. Its up to you, and I will not judge you based on that. You could be gorgeously beautiful (and it shows), and you could be geniuses for all I care.

As for the Niqab (face cover), I'm not even gonna talk about it. On this one, most of the scholars say that its absolutely not required, but no harm from wearing it. Come on. If its not required, just ask them, please, please, to take it off. Not because I just want to look at their faces, but because I would appreciate knowing who I'm talking to. Hmm, does this mean that I should put my picture on my blog. Maybe I'm wrong after all. Cover all you want gals.

Oh, tonight I'm going to a religion class at my friend's home, to meet the girl. Ran out of excuses to tell him!

* footnote coming soon.
[I'll push off the footnote for a while, maybe use a separate posting for it.]

Another Tarek AlBishry lecture

I wrote before about a lecture I attended by Tarek AlBishry. So I thought of sharing the joy of attending the next one with whoever might be interested. He continues to talk about Egypt in the last two centuries, continuing the events following the 1919 uprising:

السلام عليكم:
إن شاء الله الثلاثاءالموافق يوم 8\3\2004
سنستكمل محاضرات المستشار\ طارق البشرى للموسم الثقافى 2004\ 2005
و ذلك فى تمام الساعـــة السابعة و النصف مساء - بمقر الجمعية
عمارة 26 مشروع رابعة الإستثمارى - شارع النزهة -مدينة نصر
ت: 4188819

Samir Ragab

A friend of mine is developing this habit of emailing me quotes from Samir Ragab's columns. I'm not sure if my friend likes to piss us off, or make us laugh, or cry, or what exactly. For those who don't know Samir Ragab, he's the Editor in Chief of one of the main state-owned newspapers (and a set of other publications), and is close to the President (=hypocrite):

كلما تابعنا مع الرئيس مبارك زياراته لمواقع الخير. والنماء. والازدهار.. آمنا بحق أن الماء الرقراق.. لا يتدفق إلا من ينابيع تفيض عذوبة. وصفاء. ونقاء. يغذيها بعقله. وقلبه. وفكره. وإيمانه. ويقينه "زعيم" يندر أن يجود به مثل هذا الزمان.
* الذين يرفعون شعار "كفاية".. أقول لهم: كفاية أنكم كارهون لأنفسكم قبل أن تكونوا حاقدين علي من هم أفضل منكم قيمة. وخلقاً. وعلماً.
يا أصحاب شعار "كفاية".. كفاكم عبطاً. وسذاجة. وتخلفاً.. بقــلم :ســــمير رجــــب

Its too much for me to translate really, so if someone translates it in the comments below, they'd be much too kind.

UPDATE: Here's another one of Samir's masterpieces.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Bloggers in trouble

It seems that this blogging business is for real, and some regimes are starting to take it seriously.

A Bahraini blogger, Ali Abdulemam, and two of his fellow moderators of, Hussain Yousif, and Mohammed Al Mousawi, have been detained by the Bahraini authorities a few days ago. It seems they're being detained for their moderation activities, not their blogging though.

In Iran, blogging is a apparently becoming the state enemy number one. They've detained two bloggers there, Mojtaba Saminejad and Arash Sigarchi.

A few days after I started blogging, a cool Egyptian journalist emailed me asking me about what I think of blogging, and how important it is in reforming the Middle East. I replied saying that I didn't think it was of much importance, and I still don't actually. But apparently, the Arab regimes do not agree with me!

Mohammed, over at Digressing, points out that with regards to the Bahrainis, these are not the first Arabs to be arrested because of online speech. He points out that there have also been others who have been arrested and sometimes sentenced for publishing undesired material through the Internet. Ashraf Ibrahim, and Shohdy Naguib Surur from Egypt. Haitham Keteish, Mohammed Keteish, AbdelRahman ElShogoury, and four others from Syria. Zoheir Yehiawy, along with 20 others in Tunisia.

Of those, the only one I knew of and was following his story at the time (2002), was Shohdy Surur. His story is interesting, in that its different from the typical, "guy/gal get arrested because they're publishing stuff against the regime".

Shohdy was commemorating his late father Naguib Surur, by publishing his poems and plays on the Internet. Shohdy, as far as I know, is no activist against the regime, and he used to work as the website designer and maintainer of AlAhram Weekly state-owned newspaper.

The reason for his arrest was one of his father's poems, Kuss-ummiyyat [really, adult content here]. This poem is really something. You'll find him describing Egypt as the country of whores, and insisting that he is an Egyptian ibn Egyptian who loves Egypt and the Nile. In short, Naguib Surur was a poet, a playwright, actor, and a critic who became very frustrated with the Egyptian state of being, at one point suffering from severe depression leading him to spend sometime in the mental hospital.

Should that remind me of Alaa ElAswany's Neeran Sadeeka's main character whom I've connected with his views about Egypt before, and who ended up in the mental hospital? hmmm. Similar views I would say. Dissapointment, anger, disassociation, ridicule.

The poem abusively (and sexually I guess, if that's the right word) criticises the state of Egypt and Egyptians, but under the presidents' who ruled during Surur's life, Nasser and Sadat, not Mubarak.

It happens that this was one of Naguib's poems that Shohdy was commemorating. Shohdy is in Moscow now (considering that he's half Russian from his mother's side), and gladly, did not serve the one-year jail time he was sentenced to, and he has his father's work up on the Internet again for everyone to read.

Egypt's State Security has a department for online/Internet investigations now, and I think they're pretty competent too (I bet they got their training over at the FB of I). So bloggers beware, you can never tell why you'll be arrested.

A thought might cross the mind of a few, wondering if I should be worried, being a blogger and all, of getting arrested!!! Ofcourse not. Not out of courage, certainly not --there's nothing courageous about getting arrested in Egypt. And not because they won't find me as I'm only revealing my first name. I know they can easily track where I am if they want to.

I'm not worried, because Egypt is changing.. freedoms are opening up.. freedom of speech, opinion, expression, democracy, and free elections are blossoming in Egypt (didn't you hear Mubarak's latest decision). Hehe.. ok, that's a cheap lie. What am I drinking?!

I don't know why I'm making this to be about me, I guess this is the whole point of this blog, eh :-) Anyway, I guess its obvious why I wouldn't be worried. There's simply nothing valuable in what I write here, and this blog looks pretty politically-correct so far. Plus, I'm definetely not as talented as Naguib Surur.