Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The reasons behind the coup by the Army (an interview to ilsussidario)

Hussein Aboubakr

lunedì 2 settembre 2013

Hussein Aboubakr after having taken part with enthusiasm in the Arab Spring that led to the overthrow of Mubarak, has had to deal with the failure of the same Spring, when the Muslim Brotherhood took power. A scholar and teacher of history and Jewish literature, Hussein has suffered persecution from the new regime. Having obtained the status of political refugee, he now lives in California and has a blog, I survived Tahrir Square, where he continues his struggle, as well as collaborating with the newspaper The Times of Israel. contacted him for this exclusive interview.

The name of your blog is "I survived Tahrir Square". Can you tell us what you mean exactly by "surviving"? Can you tell us a little about those days, when Mubarak was sent away? What were your hopes?
I meant surviving in the physical sense, during the 16 months I spent in the Square. From January 2011 until I left Egypt in May 2012, I have witnessed so many bloody battles which a lot of people died in. During that time anyone who was a participant in the revolutionary movement had a very good chance of being killed, severely injured or imprisoned and tortured. While the Western media was celebrating the Arab Spring and the Egyptian revolution, revolutionaries were dying in street battles against the police, the army and militant thugs.
Revolution is not an easy thing, it can't be done really quickly so everyone can go back to his normal life; absolutely not because going "back" to the previous "normal" is a failure of a revolution, not a success.
The Egyptian revolution went through different stages, starting with the first 18 days (January 25th to February 11th) during which Mubarak was removed. Those days were the best days of the revolution as they provoked a euphoria of hope and wishful thoughts for all the people. Our hopes were simple as we crystallized them in our main chant "Bread, liberty and social justice", things which up until this point did not become real.

Do you feel that those hopes, the Arab Spring as it was called, were a failure, not only in Egypt but also in Tunisia and Libya?
Indeed the Arab Spring should be considered an absolute miserable failure if your idea about "spring" was an everlasting season of happiness and prosperity, which is not the case in the Middle East. The spring in the desert countries of the Arab world is a short season which is normally followed by a harsh hellish summer which drives everyone to take refuge in their air-conditioned fortified homes. I'm not an expert on Libya or Tunisia, but a country like Egypt for example, was stable--in the American sense of the word--for thirty years.
This stability was artificial and not natural, paid for by billions of dollars from the US. Beneath this stability laid the issues of liberty, freedom of speech, minority rights, social injustice, corruption, bureaucracy, religious fanaticism etc., issues which were not addressed but suppressed by the US backed dictatorship, so when the cap of that dictatorship was removed, all these problems had to pop up after thirty years with a retroactive effect. Imagine an unopened soda can being shaken for an hour and then opened suddenly. That is how it is right now, not exactly the failure of a revolutionary movement but the failure of post-colonial Arab political regimes.

Why did you actually need to leave your country to become a political refugee in the USA?
I took refuge in the US because my ideas, which are non-Islamic, pro-Israel, pro-Western, could not be tolerated by the Egyptian regime nor by the extremist Islamic groups. I used to defend the Christian minority and discourage Egyptian Anti-semitism. I was arrested by Mubarak's regime several times in 2010 and then was persecuted by the Military-Brotherhood regime in 2011-2012.

Is it possible to say that, even if Mubarak and Gheddafi were ugly dictators, most people were living better before the Arab Spring?
I can understand that some people may think so, and I actually agree that it may seem like that but I don't agree that this is the actual case. What is happening now in the Middle East is actually happening because of people like Mubarak and Gheddafi. Years of political and economical corruption produces generations of poor uneducated violent radical Arabs.
For example, Mubarak's police state brutally eliminated any secular opposition ideology from emerging in the country. The universities were under strict surveillance from the police, no professor would be hired without the approval of the State Security agency, which left the people to be victims of radical Islam which Mubarak did conspire with.
For years in Egypt I have witnessed public marches against the US and Israel, calling for the annihilation of enemies of Allah, but it was practically impossible to see a demonstration against Mubarak himself. The bloody culture of violence that we are seeing today is a direct result of the failure and corruption of the police and judicial system, which taught the people the culture of violent resolutions in the absence of law.
Yes, things were more quiet in the Middle East before, but that does not mean that they were better. What we are seeing today is the direct result of what Mubarak and his fellow rulers did.

What do you think of the decision of the Egyptian army to bring down President Morsi? Was it really necessary?
I think it was a great and vital decision. And it was absolutely necessary. The Muslim Brotherhood is a radical Islamic group. It’s not a secret that the militant Islam theology of Al Qaeda was based upon the writing of the MB 50s scholar Saied Qutb. Mohamad Atta once was a member of a Muslim Brotherhood organization and Ayman Zwahiri, the current leader of Al Qaeda, started his career in the MB. It’s a group that has nothing to offer but a cult of death and violence. Also the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood was remarkably quick and disastrous in a way that even the opposition did not expect.
Egypt is a poor country with a catastrophic economical situation and the MB was totally so focused on assuming power and occupying the state that it ignored totally the issues of economical development. Egypt is sinking in debt, and yet the MB was asking the international bank for a new big 2 billion dollar loan, unemployment is higher than ever and the value of the Egyptian currency is falling quickly. The MB did very little to prevent the country from hitting the rock bottom.
Nevertheless, we should not over-estimate Morsi as he was just a puppet for the group behind him. Morsi was nothing but a lunatic Imam who used to give speeches in Friday prayers about destroying the Jews. The Army was not so concerned about Morsi as much as the people behind him, and those were the real people removed.

Who are the Muslim Brothers really, and is there no hope that they can be a democratic force?
The Muslim Brotherhood is not a democratic political movement; it never was and never will be. The MB is a political Islamic movement which evolved in the colonial era, mixing religion and armed resistance, turning war into an eternal holy dogma. The main MB logo is a picture of two crossed swords above a Quran and below them written the word "Prepare!" which is the first word of the Quranic verse "And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrorize the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them. 8:60". So the main logo for the MB is not "Yes we can." It is not "social change" and it is not "justice for all.”
As a matter of fact, it has nothing to do with politics, but it has to do more with "be prepared to terrorize." As I have mentioned before, the theological school of the MB is the one produced by the theological foundation of today's militant Islam. Hamas, which is considered globally to be a terrorist organization, is the MB branch of Palestine. They assumed power in Gaza in 2005 in full democratic elections, which also happened to be the last elections Gaza ever saw.
The Muslim Brotherhood is ready only to manipulate Western democracy in order to get power, but never to leave it. The same thing pretty much happened in Egypt during the year the MB ruled; the elections were their last interaction with democracy. Following the elections, the MB appointed a government made up almost exclusively from MB members; they wrote the constitution of the country all by themselves and the Salafis. I don't think that they can turn into a social democratic movement at any time; it’s not in their system.

Why are the Western countries in a way supporting them? In our news or media they are described as victims of the Egyptian army's violence and the UE is talking about changing the relationship with Egypt.
The West’s support for the MB is based upon a complexity of factors: first, the MB was seen to be the bridge between the West and radical Islam. Let’s not forget that lately, Al Qaeda started to open "diplomatic" offices in the Arab Gulf, just a few hundred miles away from US military bases. Also, it seems that there is some sort of a trend in the West that believes in creating some sort of an "Islamic Zoo" in the Middle East to contain all Islamists in it instead of them going to the West. There could be also the hope that the MB could convert militant Islam to just pure political Islam. But all of these reasons are really idiotic. You can't take millions of Middle Easterns as hostages to secure safety for the West. That just can never happen.

Do you think that the Egyptian army’s reaction and the killing of people in the street was necessary, the only way?
We have to know that military is military, militaries do not understand anything but fire and orders. Groucho Marx once said, "Military justice is to justice what military music is to music." There is no military that can control its use of force. Look to the actions of the US military in Vietnam or Iraq. Even if the military is fighting for a just cause, like the IDF, we still expect to see excessive use of force.
Most of the reports do not speak of what is really going on. You can't judge anything without seeing it in its context. The Army is not shooting at protestors; the army is shooting at armored lunatic terrorists. I think that the Egyptian Army, which for years has been an American puppet and survived on US aid, would act very cautiously with the MB since they have US support, but there is a trigger happy terrorist group running wildly all over Egypt, and the military is forced to act.
In this process tens, if not hundreds, of people, many of them innocent, will be killed, injured or imprisoned. But what is the alternative? For Egyptians, they don't really see any. There is no option for the army but to proceed with cleaning the house from a group that is burning the country to the ground recklessly.

You also wrote: "What part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s undemocratic, delusional ideology is hard for the West to understand? How can Western governments and the media be sympathetic and supportive of them?" Can you give us an answer?
There are all kinds of conspiracy theories, but I have never been a fan of conspiracies. I think the truth is that the West is mainly led by Washington, and Washington does not have a clue and they are too arrogant to admit it. This has been clear during the last couple of years. On January 25th 2011, the eve of the Egyptian revolution, Hillary Clinton stated that "the US believes in the stability of Mubarak's regime." Two days later Mubarak was practically not the president of Egypt anymore. Pretty much the same exact thing happened right before Morsi was ousted. While me and my Egyptian friends were running around telling everyone that there could be acoup in Egypt very soon, the US was expressing deep confidence in Morsi. That tells you that the people in Washington have absolutely no clue.

The Western leaders are talking about Egypt as a new Syria, a possible civil war. Is that the future?
It is very hard to speculate at this moment what is going to happen; it’s the time of spontaneous anarchy that will do what it pleases. In the case that more pressure was to be put on the Egyptian military to back off, which the military will never do, and more support be offered to the MB then yes, the situation is likely to develop to a civil war. But I think that is not likely to happen. If the West was to give up on the Egyptian Army, there is no doubt that Russia would step in to re-win their old Middle Eastern ally. Let's not forget that once the largest warehouse of Russian weapons outside of Russia was in Egypt.

About the attacks by the Muslim Brothers on the Egyptian Christian churches, you wrote: "The Copts have faced their fate alone, as they always have. Attacks on churches, shootings of priests in broad daylight, and burning of Coptic owned properties is common daily news".
The ones who usually pay the heaviest price in the Middle East generally are the religious minorities. As is the case with the Coptic minority in Egypt, they are abandoned by the State and targeted by the radicals. I hope that Egyptians will have a clear vision of what they want for themselves, that they finally determine their relationship with the state, religion, the West and everything else clearly and rationally.

You were born Muslim, you are a researcher of Jewish and Middle Eastern history and Hebrew literature and you are also amongst the few Muslims who I know who are writing in defense of the Christians. What does God mean to you? Are there other Muslims like you in Egypt who really want a world where Muslims, Jews and Christians can live in peace?
My story is a long story. I started to develop my own ideas at a very early age. The great mistreatment of the Christians that I have witnessed in Egypt made me rethink everything my family and society taught me. I don't consider myself a Muslim anymore; I consider myself a homo sapiens who does not believe in a deity. The most terrible crimes I have witnessed in my life were all committed under the name of God, so God for me is a very unpleasant idea. Are there any Muslims who hope for global peace? There should be, because if there were none, then I wouldn’t see any hope in the future of mankind.

(Interview by Paolo Vites, editing by Sharon Mollerus)

© Riproduzione riservata.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

رحلة حسن ومرقص للبحث عن كوهين (1) - حول قراؤو خليج سان فرانسيسكو

فى مطلع خمسينيات القرن الماضي قدم مسرح نجيب الريحاني مسرحية "حسن ومرقص وكوهين" والتى تحولت الى عمل سينيمائي يحمل نفس الاسم فى عام 1954. كان العمل فى ذلك الحين يهدف الى طرح صورة النسيج الوطني كما تراها مصر ما بعد الثورة متكوناً من مسلمين ومسيحين ويهود. ولكن ومنذ ذلك الحين تم فقد كوهين بشكل ما ولم يتم العثور عليه. فى عام 2008 تم إنتاج فيلماً أخر بعنوان "حسن ومرقص" واضحى مرقص نفسه يخشى الا يتبقى فى النهاية سوى حسن. تلك المقالة تدور حول رحلة حسن ومرقص للبحث عن كوهين فى العالم الجديد للتعرف عن سبب رحيله.

الساعة العاشرة صباحاً بتوقيت الساحل الغربي. أمسك بمقود السيارة منذ السابعة مساء الأمس لأشق الطريق من جنوب كاليفورنيا لشمالها فى رحلة كانت يجب ألا تستغرق أكثر من 8 ساعات ولكنها -والفضل لزحام لوس أنجيليس- استغرقت 14. يجلس بجانبي ايضاً منذ أمس صديقي القبطي مرقص وهو ما بين النوم واليقظة. رأسه الصلعاء تلمع تحت أشعة شمس كاليفورنيا الشهيرة بينما يحاول جاهداً ان يقاوم النوم حتى يشد من أزري. تقودنا شاشة جهاز الجي بي أس الصغيرة إلى مدينة داللي سيتي جنوب خليج سان فرانسيسكو والذى يقع بها معبد اليهود القراؤون بني يسرائيل. قدمنا إلى هذا المعبد حاجين، ليس له، ولكن لأهله وعابديه وناسكيه. جئنا نبحث عن شريك وجار قديم ليمسح عنا أثام وخطايا قد لا نذكرها نحن ولكن يذكرها التاريخ.

القراؤون هم واحدة من اعرق الطوائف اليهودية فى مصر والشرق الأوسط ويعتبرون من سكان مصر الأصليون. ليس لدينا تاريخ دقيق لظهور الطائفة القرائية ولكن أقرب تاريخ لدينا هو القرن الثامن الميلادي. يرفض القراؤون تماماً اي سلطة دينية للتلمود اليهودي -وهو بمثابة السُنة- ويقرون فقط بسلطة التوراة التشريعية وباقي أسفار الكتاب المقدس العبري. فى عام 1948 شكل اليهود القراؤون 8% من مجمل عدد اليهود المصريين والذى تراوح عددهم آنذاك ما بين 85000 و100000. كان القراؤون مصريون مستعربون كباقي المصريون ولم تكن تربطهم صلة قوية بباقي اليهود الربانيون. كان اليهود الربانيون ينظرون بإزدراء للقراؤون بإعتبارهم مُجدفون ومنشقون عن الإجماع اليهودي، وكانوا يرونهم مصريون فقراء وجهلاء. كان الزواج المختلط بين القراؤون والربانيون محرماً من كلاً من الطائفتين، واحتفظ القراؤون بعلاقة افضل مع المسلمين حيث يتشارك القراؤون والمسلمون الكثير من الطقوس الدينية اليومية مثل الوضوء والسجود والركوع. فى مطلع القرن العشرين كان كل القراؤون تقريباً يتحدثون العربية فى البيت، وليس الفرنسية او الإنجليزية كباقي الأقليات. كان وضع القراؤون صعباً بإعتبارهم أقلية داخل أقلية ولكن كانت هويتهم المصرية تجعلهم مندمجون تماماً فى الحياة المصرية بفضل نظام الملل العثماني.
مدرسة الإسرائيليين القرائين الخيرية بحي الجمالية 1920

يبدو المبنى من الخارج كسائر أبنية الخدمة العامة الأمريكية، تلمع عليه نجمة داود وعبارة "معبد بني يسرائيل" بالإنجليزية والعبرية. أوقفنا السيارة فى المرآب الخاص بالمعبد مع سائر سيارات الزائرين. وكان الأمر غريب للغاية بالنسبة لي أن ارى سيارات فى المرآب حيث هذا يعني بالضرورة ان هناك من المصلين من جاء بسيارته وقد اعتدت من زياراتي بمعابد اليهود الربانيين ألا ارى سيارة واحدة حيث ان قيادة سيارة فى يوم السبت هي خطيئة عظمى، ولكني سريعاً من تذكرت ان الطائفة القرائية اشتهرت بتسامحها ويُسرها مُقارنة بالطائفة الربانية. ولم تكن السيارات هي الشئ الوحيد المختلف عن المعابد اليهودية الاخرى، ولكن كان المكان كله مختلفاً. استقبلنا المكان بغرفة خلع الاحذية حيث يصلي القراؤون فى معابدهم كعادة المسلمين بلا احذية بل ان سجاد الموكيت الموجود ذكرني مباشرة بأرضية المساجد. يتدفق إلينا من قاعة الصلاة صوت عذب يجود التوراة كتجويد المصريين للقرءان.

لمحنا احد القائمين بأعمال المعبد وجاء لتحيتنا. اتضح انه ابراهيم مصاروة، نفس الشخص الذي كنت قد حدثته فى الهاتف منذ فتره فأخبرته انني انا الباحث المصري الذى حدثته فى الهاتف وقدمت له صديقي مرقص باحث المصريات. رحب بنا وطلب مننا ان نلتزم بقواعد المكان حتى ينتهي المصلين من اداء قداس صباح السبت وان نخلع الاحذية ونرتدي قبعة الرأس اليهودية وشال الصلاة صاحب اللونين الشهيرين الأبيض والأزرق. كان مرقص متحمساً للغاية وكأنه فى مهمة تقمص دور يهودي لبعض الوقت. 
دخلنا قاعة الصلاة وجلسنا فى الصفوف الخلفية. كان أقل فارق بيني انا ومرقص واصغر المتواجدين لا يقل عن 50 عاماً. فكلهم كهولاً منهم من قارب التسعين من عمره. اقتربت مننا أمرأة مسنة لتحيتنا فى همسات خافتة. حياها مرقص بالمصرية فتهلل وجهها فرحاً وردت عليه بالمصرية. ثم التفت وراءنا وآتت بكتابين بالأنجليزية واخبرتنا انه سيساعدنا فى متابعة الصلوات وفهم ما يتم قراءته بالعبرية. أخذ مرقص منها الكتاب بينما اعتذرت لها متعللاً بمعرفتي بالعبرية. تابعنا انا وصديقي الصلاة، كان مرقص يهمس لي بين الحين والآخر ليخبرني عن التشابه الذي يراه هنا مع قداس الكنيسة. اخبرته ان ما يراه هنا هو خاص باليهود القرؤون فقط واما سائر اليهود فيصلون بطريقة مختلفة تماماً. كذلك تخللت صلاتهم ركوعاً وسجوداً وللحظة نسيت ان كنت اشاهد يهوداً ام مسلمين ولم اعرف اذا كان وجهنا قبلة مكة ام قبلة القدس.

مع بداية تصاعد الإحتقان العربي-اليهودي فى فلسطين بدءاً منذ عام 1937، كان الصراع بدء بيلقى بظله على اليهود المصريين وبدءت فى مصر موجة عداء للسامية شديدة. مع تأسيس دولة إسرائيل وإندلاع الحرب العربية الإسرائيلية الأولى شهدت مصر الكثير من اعمال العنف الموجهة ضد اليهود. كان اكثرها شهرة تفجيرات الممتلكات اليهودية وتفجيرات حارة اليهود والتى اودت بحياة 70 يهودياً واصابت 200. عدد كبير أخر لقى حتفه على يد تجمعات العامة فى المنظاهرات المناهضة لليهود. بحلول عام 1950 كان قد غادر مصر 40% من تعداد السكان اليهود ثلثهم فقط انتهى به الحال فى اسرائيل. وكان كل من غادر من اليهود الربانيين السفاردين والأشكنازين بينما لم يرى القراؤون نفسهم طرفاً فى هذا الصراع بإعتبارهم مختلفين عن اليهود الربانيين الذين اسسوا اسرائيل. رغم توقف النشاطات العامة لليهود فى الأندية اليهودية وتوقف جميع الصحف اليهودية عن الصدور بحلول عام 1953، إلى ان القراؤون استمروا فى اصدار صحفهم والتى كان يتصدرها صحيفة الشمس الى تاريخ متأخر عن ذلك بكثير. كان اليهود الأوروبيون الصهاينة لا يعتبرون القراؤون يهوداً بالمعنى التقليدي، لذلك لم تستهدف النشاطات الصهيونية القراؤون بأي شكل. بل أن منظمة الهجرة اليهودية طلبت من عملائها فى مصر منع هجرة القراؤون لإسرائيل. تسبب ذلك الفصل الواضح بين القراؤون والصهيونية فى شعور القراؤون بالأمان فى مصر اكثر من باقي اليهود. بدء القراؤون يواجهون عداءاً شديداً بعد القبض على الطبيب القرائي موشيه مرزوق والذي اتضح انه كان يعمل لصالح الموساد وتم اعدامه. بعد تلك الحادثة صرح وزير الداخلية زكريا محي الدين ان اليهود المصريون من ابناء مصر الشرفاء ولن تستهدفهم الحكومة بأي شكل.

انتهت الصلاة وبدء المصلون بتبادل التحيات. جاء ابراهيم وسلم علينا مرة اخرى ودعانا للإنضمام لمآدبة يوم السبت مع باقي الحاضرين لتناول الإفطار. قدمنا ابراهيم للحاضرين وكانت تلك المرة الأولى التى اتحدث فيها مع يهوداً بالمصرية بطلاقة خارج مصر. استقبلنا الجميع بترحاب شديد وبشاشة وجه. كنت احاول ان اقابل ذلك الترحيب الحار بمشاعر دافئة مماثلة ولكن ذكريات الماضي كانت تثقل على انفاسي بشدة. كنت اشعر وكأننى كمن "قتل القتيل ومشى فى جنازته." عندما كان يصافحني احدهم ينظر الى بإبتسامه ودوده، كنت اذكر لوجهه وانا اعلم فى نفسي ما لاقاه هذا الوجه فى سجون عبد الناصر لإنه لم يكن مسلماً. كان وجههم يتهلل فرحاً بإبتسامة عريضة عندما يعلمون اننا من مصر ويقولون "واااو انت من مصر؟" كنت اود ان ارد "أجل انا من مصر. انا من البلاد التى اعتقلتك وسجنتك وعذبتك انت وسائر اسرتك. انا ابن هؤلاء الذين انتهكوا مالك وجسدك فقط لإنك يهودي والأن جأت لك لأعتذر" ولكن لم يكن هذا ما جئت من أجله.

بعد أزمة السويس فى عام 1956 قرر النظام الناصري التخلص بشكل دائم من جميع المواطنون اليهود، وتم سحب الجنسية من 25000 ألف يهودي ممن تبقوا. قامت السلطات بترحيل ذلك العدد فى غضون يومين بعد ان تم سحب ممتلكاتهم وتزويدهم بوثيقة سفر "خروج بلا عودة". وتم السماح لكل يهودي بحمل حقيبة واحدة ومبلغ عشرين دولاراً. تم ايضاً اعتقال الكثير من اليهود فى سجن الطور بسيناء، وتم تعذيب الكثير منهم جسدياً. قامت القوات الإسرائيلية فى عملية لاحقة بالهجوم على السجن وتحرير السجناء. كذلك تم إستبعاد اليهود القراؤون من عملية الترحيل والسجن هذه بشكل إستثنائي، بإعتبارهم أقل إزعاجاً وأملت الحكومة ان يفهموا وحدهم ان اليهود لم يعود مرغوب بهم فى مصر. للأسف لم يفهم الكثير اولئك القراؤون تلك الرسالة واستمر معظمهم فى البقاء فى مصر حتى عام 1967.

تركت مرقص يتبادل معهم الحديث بود حول مصر واحالها وبدءت باصطياد هؤلاء الذي يبدو من سنهم المتقدم ان لديهم من الذكريات ما قد يهمني

ابراهيم درويش
يخبرني الجميع انه اول من جاء من يهود مصر الى سان فرانسيسكو. كان كهلاً قارب التسعين ويسمع بصعوبة شديدة. كنت أحاول ان اوجه له الأسئلة بصوت عالى وقريباً من أذنه، ولكنه كان يفاجئني بإجابة أسئلة اخرى تماماً. احاول ان اعيد على مسامعه سؤالي بصوت اعلى ولكنه يعود ويجيب على شيئاً اخر تماماً. فى النهاية يأست من المحاولة وقررت ان استمع لكل اجاباته. كنت مبهوراً بحديثة المرسل بالمصرية وهو الذي غاب عن مصر منذ أكثر من نصف قرن. اخبرني انه كان مهندساً فى هيئة السكة الحديد. كان من أصغر المهندسين سناً وأبرعهم. أخبرني انه صمم خطوطاً كاملة بناها عبدالناصر. كانت براعته سبباً فى بقاءه حتى مطلع الستينات بينما كان معظم القراؤون بدءوا فى المغادرة منذ ازمة السويس فى 1956. كان مديره فى هيئة السكة الحديد فخوراً به ومتمسكاً به. فى عام 1961 عندما بدء صدور قوانين الشركات، بدئت الدولة فى التأميم الشامل لمختلف القطاعات. وقرر النظام الناصري تنظيف الدولة من هؤلاء "المشكوك" فى مصريتهم. وهكذا تلقت السكة الحديد أمراً برفد المهندس اليهودي ابراهيم درويش. كان مدير الادارة متمسكاً للغاية بإبراهيم فقام سراً وبدون علمه ببدء إجراءات تغيير ديانة إبراهيم درويش فى الأوراق الرسمية من يهودي إلى مسيحي حتى يستطيع الإبقاء عليه. ويحكي لي إبراهيم: "استدعاني فى المكتب، رحتله. فضلت واقف قدامه شوية وهو قاعد يكتب فى حاجات ومش راضي حتى يبصلي. وبعدين لقيته رمالي ورق على المكتب وقالي "اتفضل يا استاذ رووح خلص ورقك." قلتله ورق ايه ومسكت الورق ابص فيه لقيته ورق تغيير بيانات من يهودي لمسيحي." وهنا بدء صوت ابراهيم فى الاختلاج وبدءت عينيه تمتلئ بالدموع وهو يخبرني كيف انه رفض ذلك "لأ، أنا معملش كده ابداً، انا مش مسيحي ولا مسلم، انا يهودي." شعرت بالذنب والألم لإنني سبب إسترجاع ذلك الشيخ الذي قارب التسعين لذكرياته القاسية. وامتلأت سخطاً على تلك البلد التى تستطيع ان تزرع ألماً كهذا يبكي اصحابه بعد نصف قرن وقد شابو. اردت ان اوقفه إشفاقاً عليه من البكاء إلى اننى أثرت ان اصمت واستمع احتراماً للرجل وألمه. أخبرني كيف انه كتب استقالته فى اليوم ذاته وتخلى عن مستحقاته المالية. اخبرني كيف انه اخذ يجوب الشوارع باكياً وهو لا يعلم مذا يفعل وليس بحوذته سوى بضعة قروش. لم تمر بضعة أسابيع ألا وقد غادر ابراهيم درويش إلى سويسرا حيث مكث شهوراً ثم توجه إلى أمريكا حيث قرر ان يستقر فى مدينة سان فرانسيسكو وتبعه بعد ذلك العديد من القراؤون. ربما يكون ما تعرض له درويش بسيطاً للغاية مقارنة بما عاناه اليهود الأخرون من سجن وتعذيب، ولكن الأثر الذى تركه ما حدث داخله لا يقل بؤساً.

مارك خضر
كان هو من قاد الصلاة. أثناء حديثي مع احد الأشخاص سمعت صدى محادثة له مع ابراهيم مصاروة فى احد اركان المعبد. كان ابراهيم مصاروة يخبره عني واني من مصر، عندها سمعت صوت مارك يصيح غاضباً يقول "من مصر؟ قولو له على اللى حصل فى ابو زعبل وطره." اثرت على الا اتحدث معه فهو لا يبدو مرحباً.

من الصعب ملاحظة جسمها الضئيل للغاية وسط الموجودون. يبدو انها تعدت الثمانين من العمر. كانت ريجينا من هؤلاء اليهود الفقراء القاطنون فى حارة اليهود بالموسكي لأسرة مصرية يهودية بسيطة. مازالت تتحدث ريجينا بعربية مصرية خالصة بسيطة تتخللها العبارات المصرية الشعبية وكأننا مازلنا فى الأربعينيات ومازلنا نقف فى الحارة بالموسكي وليس على شواطئ المحيط الباسيفي فى النصف الأخر من الكرة الأرضة. تخبرني ريجينا عن المظاهرات المعادية لليهود، وهجوم حواش العامة عليهم فى الطرقات والأطفال الراكضون خلفهم خلفهم وهم يلقونهم بالحجارة. تصادف ايضاً انها كانت تقطن فى احد المنازل التى فجرها الإخوان المسلمين فى عام 1948. تخبرني ريجينا كيف انه لم ينجو من الحادث سوى هى وأبيها. هى تذكر جميع التفاصيل، كان هناك صوت انفجار، ثم رأت أمها وأختها يهوون لأسفل، ثم الكثير من التراب، ثم لاشئ سوى الصمت والموت. أخبرتني ريجينا ان قوات الانقاذ كانت تنظر لهم بإزدراء وانهم كانوا يرفضون مساعدة هؤلاء القابعون تحت الأنقاض. يبدو ان عمال الإنقاذ المسلمون يأخذون عملهم بجدية فقط عندما يكون المصابون غير يهوداً. تركت ريجينا وأبيها حارة اليهود وتزوجت فيما بعد طبيب يهودي شاب والذى اخذها وهاجرا إلى إسرائيل. عاشت ريجينا فى إسرائيل بضعة سنوات ولكن زوجها لم يرتاح فى اسرائيل فأخذها وهاجرا مرة أخرى لسان فرانسيسكو حيث استقرا هنا.

جو بيساح وريمي بيساح
كان جو بيساح احد اهم من قابلتهم لعدة اسباب اولها انه كان بمثابة المتحدث الرسمي باسم الطائفة، كذلك فقد بقى بيساح فى مصر حتى وقت متأخر للغاية وتركها بعد حرب عام 1967 وكان طالباً جامعياً حينئذ ومازالت يحتفظ بصحة جيدة تسمح له الحديث عن الكثير من التفاصيل. مشاعر النوستالجيا التى يتحدث بها جو بيساح عن ايامه المبكره مصر مقلقة اذا اخذنا فى الاعتبار ما حدث له فيما بعد. يذكر بيساح ذكريات العائلة والأصدقاء، وموائد الطعام والصلاة فى المعبد يوم السبت. يذكر العطلة الصيفية فى راس البر والتى كانت تمتد ثلاث أشهر، ولكن ليس هذا فقط ما يذكره بيساح. يذكر بيساح الأجواء المعادية لليهود التى اجتاحت مصر عندما كان طفلاً خاصة بعد كشف شبكة التجسس والتخريب الإسرائيلية عام 1955 والمعروفة بإسم عملية سوزانا. من سوء الحظ كان احد المتورطون فى العملية قرائياً وهو الدكتور موشيه مرزوق وكانت تلك المرة الأولى على الأطلاق فى مصر التى يتضح فيها ان هناك يهودياً قرائياً منخرط فى نشاط صهيوني. تم إعدام موشيه مرزوق شنقاً وقد كتبت الصحف مقالات مطولة بوصف دقيق للحظات موته على حبل المشنقة عقاباً على خيانته وردعاً للأخرين. كل هذا يذكره بيساح. سألت بيساح لماذا ظلت عائلته فى مصر كل ذلك الوقت؟ لقد غادر الكثير من اليهود بعد 1948 مباشرة. وهؤلاء الذين لم يفهموا الرسالة بعد 1948 فهموها وغادروا بعد 1956، ولكن لماذا اختارت عائلتك ان تبقى فى مصر حتى 1967؟ قال بيساح ان اسرته كانت اسره مصرية تماماً. كانوا كلهم يتحدثون العربية المصرية ولم يكن لهم صلات باوروبا ولم يكن ليدهم بديل عن مصر. لقد اختاروا البقاء فى مصر لأنهم كانوا يأملون ان الاحوال ستتغير وتتحسن وأن العلاقات الطيبة مع العرب والمسلمين والمسيحين سوف تبدء مجدداً يوماً ما. ولكن شيئاً من هذا لم يحدث. ما حدث او ان حُمى الحرب اصاب مصر فى 1967. حدثني بيساح عن حالة التعبئة العامة وحمى الحرب. تحولت ساحات المدارس لمعسكرات تدريب لتدريب الطلبة على حمل السلاح. تم بناء الدُشم والحوائط الرملية امام المنازل. كان الجميع يتحدث عن الحرب وقتل اليهود. كانت الملصقات فى الشوارع تتحدث عن اجتياح قريب لتل ابيب ورؤوس يهودية معلقة فى الهواء. كان جو بيساح فى بداية تعليمه الجامعي حيث كان طالباً للهندسة الإليكترونية انذاك واخفى عن جميع اصدقائه وزملائه انه يهودياً. كذلك كان بينه وبين ابنة عمه ريمي قصة حب قوية كانا يطمحا ان تتم بالزواج. ساء الوضع بكثير بعد بداية الحرب ونهايتها والتى لم تستغرق سوى ستة أيام كانت كفيلة بتحطيم المارد العربي وتحطيم كل ما تبقى من معاندة جمال بعد الناصر. عندها فقط قررت الدولة المصرية ان تتعامل بشكل خاص مباشرة مع بضعة ألاف اليهود المتبقيين الاغبياء والذين لم يفهموا الرسائل الواضحة بعد 1948 و1956 وقامت الحكومة باعتقال كل الذكور اليهود وترحيلهم إلى سجني ابوزعبل وطره. وهكذا تم القبض على جو بيساح واخيه وابن عمه وترحيلهم الى سجن ابوزعبل. يبدو ان هناك صعوبة شديدة لدى جو فى الحديث عن ما حدث له وأقاربه فى أبوزعبل ولكنه يذكر الضرب والتعذيب وكذلك سجنه فى نفس المكان مع الإخوان المسلمين. لم اريد ان اخبر جو انني اعلم جيداً عما حدث فى ابوزعبل فأنا اعلم عن الاغتصاب والتعذيب والقتل والصلب والحرمان من الماء والنوم. قال جو ان التحدي الأكبر الذى كان لديه هو ان يحافظ على سلامته العقلية لذلك كان يحاول ان ينفصل عما يحدث بكل الطرق. ساعده على ذلك هو مجئ الضباط اليه من وقتاً لاخر لإصلاح الراديو أو لأخيه لكتابة روشته بدواءً ما. كان ذلك يذكره بانهم اشخاصاً لهم عالم اخر حقيقي موجود بالخارج غير كل ذلك الظلام. فى منزلهم كانت ريمي بيساح ابنة عمة جو وخطيبته تنهار حزناً على جو وهى لا تدرى ما تفعل. فى النهاية قررت الزواج من جو وهو داخل السجن لتشجيعه واعطاءه أمل يصمد من أجله، وبالفعل اخذت كل المستندات الرسمية هي ووالدتها وقاموا بملئها فى مكتب احد الضباط بسجن ابوزعبل والذى سمح لجو بيساح بالتوقيع عليها فيما بعد. بعد بضعة اسابيع تم الإفراج عن جو بيساح بعد أن -كسائر اليهود- وقع تنازلاً عن جنسيته المصرية وكل ما يملك داخل مصر، وتم إعطاءه مهلة 24 ساعة للرحيل ووثيقة سفر تصلح للخروج فقط. يحكي لي بيساح كيف كان متلهفاً على ان يقضى ذلك الوقت مع ريمي ولكن اهله كانوا متلهفون لإخراجه من البلاد ووعدوه ان ريمي ستلحقه. والفعل غادر جو بيساح الى باريس ولحقته ريمي بعدها بثلاث أيام حيث مكثا بضعة اشهر ثم غادروا إلى الولايات المتحدة حيث استقروا مع باقى القراؤون فى سان فرانسيسكو وتبعهم فيها بعد افراد اسرتهم.

بعد هزيمة مصر وسوريا والأردن فى حرب الستة أيام عام 1967. قررت الحكومة المصرية التخلص نهائياً ممن تبقى من اليهود المصريين. قيل ان القادة العرب طلبوا ذلك من عبد الناصر بشكل شخصي فى قمة الخرطوم ولكن ليس هذا اكيداً. قامت السلطات المصرية باعتقال جميع الذكور اليهود الموجودن فى مصر وتم إيداعهم سجون طره وابوزعبل حيث استمر اعتقالهم تحت ظروف مهينة تخللها التعذيب الجسدي والاغتصاب لبضعة اشهر قبل ترحيلهم جميعاً إلى خارج البلاد بعد تنازلهم عن الجنسية المصرية. بحلول عام 1970 كان تبقى فى مصر 400 يهودياً معظمهم من القرائيين.

يتحدث جو بألم عن الكثير من الأشياء، عن ذكرياته الطيبة فى مصر ولماذا لم تدم. سألت جو عن علاقة القراؤون بإسرائيل والصهيونية فأجاب بأن القراؤون لم تكن بينهم وبين الصهيونية اي علاقة حيث ان الصهيونية أنتجها "اليهود التانيين" وليس اليهود القراؤون. عندها ذكرت له موشيه مرزوق القرائي الذي كان يعمل لصالح إسرائيل فى مصر وعندها قال لى جو منفعلاً "اسمع يا استاذ، دلوقتى فى واحد من عيلتك حرامي، ينفع اقول عليكم عيلة حرامية؟! أكيد لأ، أزاي جاي تحاسب القرائيين كلهم على واحد، ده هو موشيه مرزوق كان واحد مفيش غيره، ازاي تدفعنا كلنا التمن؟!" قررت أن أغير الموضوع وان اتحدث عن الولايات المتحدة. اخبرني جو ان عند وصولهم للولايات المتحدة لم يخبروا أحد انهم قراؤون ولكن يهوداً فقط حيث كانوا يخشون ان يعاملهم اليهود الربانيين فى أمريكا بشكل سئ بسبب ذلك خاصة وقد اعتاد القراؤون فى مصر توتر العلاقات بينهم وبين الربانيين. ولكن فوجئ القرؤون فيما بعد ان الأمريكيون مهتمون للغاية للتعرف على القرائية وتراثها وثقافتها ويعتبرونها شيئاً نادراً وحينئذ قرر القرؤون اعادة تنظيم الطائفة بشكل يماثل تشكيلهم فى مصر. وبالنسبة للزواج كان الامر صعباً فى البدء حيث ان التقليد الجاري منذ ألف عاماً بين القراؤون والربانيون فى مصر هو الفصل التام فى الزواج بين الطائفتين ولكن مع ظهور الجيل الثاني من القراؤون فى الولايات المتحدة كان من الصعب اقناعهم بالزواج من قراؤون فقط حيث لا يوجد قدر كافى من القراؤون وهكذا قررت الطائفة التسامح مع فكرة الزواج من اليهود الربانيين وقد ساعد على ذلك التسامح العام الذي يتسم به ايضاً يهود الولايات المتحدة.

ريمي وجو بيساح

إيلي موسى
إيلي موسى شخص هادئ للغاية. كان إيلي مهندساً صغير السن وبارع للغاية. لم تعني السياسة يوماً إيلي بأي شكل ما، وكان يعتبر حالة العداء الشديد لليهود التى اجتاحت المجتمع موجة عبثية من تلك الموجات التى تمر بمصر من آنً لآخر، ولذلك قرر إيلي البقاء فى مصر على أمل ان تتحسن الأحوال بمرور الوقت.  يعتبر إيلي نفسه محظوظاً للغاية حيث تم أختياره فى عام 1960 ليشارك فى بناء السد العالى. عندما بدءت موجة عام 1961 للتخلص من اليهود المتبقين فى الهيئات العامة كان وضع إيلي غريباً حيث كان يشارك بشكل حيوي فى المشروع الناصري القومي ولا يمكن التخلص منه لذلك تم الإبقاء عليه. بعد إندلاع حرب 1967 وصدور أوامر بإعتقال جميع الذكور اليهود المتبقين فى البلاد، قامت السلطات بالقبض على إيلي فى موقع عمله بأسوان وتحفظت عليه بضعة أيام، ثم تم أصدار قرار عودة إيلي إلى عمله مع التحفظ الدائم عليه من قبل الشرطة العسكرية. وبالفعل أستمر إيلي بالعمل فى السد العالي لمدة عامان وهو تحت التحفظ، وقامت الشرطة العسكرية بتأجير شقة له يقيم بها بشكل دائم معه ضابط جيش، ويصحبه ذلك الضابط من وإلى العمل وإلى اي مكان أخر. انتهى بناء السد العالى عام 1968 وفى عام 1969 قررت إدارة بناء السد ان إيلي لم يعد ضرورياً فقامت السلطات بمنح إيلي مبلغ 200 جنية وتذكرة سفر إلى ألمانيا وتم إجباره على توقيع اقرار التخلي عن الجنسية المصرية والمستحقات المالية. غادر إيلي إلى سويسرا ومنها كغيره من القراؤون إلى سان فرانسيسكو.

يتبع ..

Monday, August 26, 2013

Radical Islam, Lunacy & Political Correctness

Lunacy is suggested to be the state of mental illness, being dangerous, insane, extravagant foolishness, having an unsound mind and being unpredictable. According to this definition, we can agree that many people that we see in today's world, can be fairly described as lunatics and many common ideas can be described fairly as straightforward lunacy. This picture above was taken in Egypt in the recent events for some of pro-Muslim Brotherhood protesters after attacking a Coptic church. The protesters took a big cross from the church and, as you can see in the picture, are rounding up on it and beating it down. I was so happy when a friend of mine sent this picture to me, for at last I have something that I can use to explain to non-Middle Eastern readers how radical Islam works.

We can all agree that this picture demonstrate perfectly the exact meaning of lunacy better that any words. But there are two things which make this type of lunacy different, things which make it particularly worrying and threatening; it is violent and it is on mass scale. We can try to analyze and anticipate the motives and thoughts of the persons in this picture, but we can't simply say that its a perfectly normal behavior of perfectly sane people. If you are walking down the block to see some of your neighbors rounding on and beating a Wal-Mart sign with sticks and stabbing it with knives, because they believe that Wal-Mart is inherently a devilish store, would you think that it is totally normal and its alright that they express their beliefs? Would you feel safe in this kind of neighborhood? Some people would claim that we have seen evangelicals burning Harry Potter books and its not just Muslims, but I don't think that both things are the same. While I don't agree with burning books, yet it is still understandable. Books have content to them, they offer ideas, and besides more importantly the act of burning itself is just an act of destruction. Burning a Harry Potter book is totally different than a group of people hitting it with sticks and stabbing it with knives.

Since the 2000s, I have watched radical violent Islam becoming the main stream Islam in the Muslim world. I have seen more people become lunatics. The people in that picture are not the residents of a mental institution; they are normal people with normal lives, families and jobs. One should have some serious deep grudge and spite towards a piece of wood in order for him to gather with others and keep hitting it like that. They believe that this piece of wood is of pure evil, a devilish unholy artifact and the source of everything that is evil and wrong in the world, just like the star of David and the flag of Israel, just like the Jewish state; an unholy evil that should be destroyed viciously. This is not just another religion, not just another dogma or ideology it is pure lunacy. This proves also that lunacy is not just an illness that can be caused by loneliness or confusion, but it can be preached, planted and taught to people. Those people in the picture to the best of my knowledge could not have been born with such a crazy mindless behavior and attitude. Lunacy indeed can be preached, from mosques, churches, schools, political podiums and any other place we chose. It is the kind of lunacy we hear from mosque clerics calling upon the faithful to destroy the unfaithful, kill the Jews and burn the Christians. It is also important for me to say that any peace attempt in the Middle East between the Arabs and Israeli is destined to fail as long as Israel is surrounded with this kind of lunacy, the same lunacy that we have heard from the mouth of former president of the biggest Arab state in the Middle East Mohamed Morsi that "Muslims should nurse their babies and children on hatred towards the Jews.. They [babies] should be fed hatred." [Egypt's Morsi in 2010 – MEMRI]

On the other hand, there are those who don't like to identify such lunatic ideas of fundamental Islam as lunacy and my it is my personal conviction that Islam itself contains all the violent aggressive ideological basis which define radical Islam. Since I have been to the US, one of the main thing I have notices is the irrational obsession with political correctness. No one wants to be accused of being Islamophobic or racist, so they start talking about peaceful Islam and the right of political Islam to compete democratically and fairly with other modern ideologies. The attempt to integrate a lunatic ideology such is radical Islam can not end but in a disaster. Political correctness can't be used to cover up hypocrisy; we can't lie to Muslims about their religion. If we want to be therapeutic and help our Muslims friends and neighbors to have peaceful lives we have to be honest with them. We can't lie to Muslims and tell them that Islam is a religion that promotes tolerance, because it is not. We can't tell Muslims that it is okay to have political Islam as an ideological political movement, because it is not and what happened after the democratic elections in Gaza (2005) and Egypt (2012) are there to prove it. Political correctness is itself a lunacy when it normalizes people who manically attack a wooden cross and want to feed babies hatred.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hath not a Copt eyes? A Record of Coptic Tragedy

[When I started writing this post there were 14 churches burning in Egypt, when I was finishing it the number went up to 16]

I have been thinking about writing this post for 2 weeks. Since yesterday only, nearly 20 Coptic churches and several Copt owned community and commercial buildings were destroyed and torched to the ground in Egypt by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Leaked reports over the past weeks said that they even tried to assassinate the Coptic patriarch several times. Since the overthrow of the democratically elected Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi, his supports who are anti-coup and pro-democracy stated clearly that Christians in Egypt are not safe any more.
Blood of Copts died in a suicide bombing
staining the walls of a church in Alexandria.

Copts are the largest indigenous Christian minority in the Middle East and the Muslim world, for some reason we do not have an accurate number for the Coptic population in Egypt, but most of the sources estimate it between 5 to 15 million, some other sources claim the number is way higher. Since the military coup of 1952, Copts were left to face four major issues; not being able to build churches, exclusion and discrimination from government, enforced government controlled civil laws and violence against them. This long post is to view the former and current situation of the Copts, if you are only interested to read about the current situation, I suggest you skip to the last section.

**Kindly note: The attacks documented here against Copts are few ones that I have selected to include in my post, there are dozens of other reported and documented attacks on Copts since 2011 till today.


Before the establishment of the modern Egyptian republic in 1952, Copts were allowed to participate in public activities and practice politics, at that time Egypt witnessed two Coptic prime ministers; Boutrous Pasha Ghaly and Youssef Pasha Wahbe who survived an assassination attempt preformed by another Copt; Erian Assad who was a member of the political opposition. Back then, Egypt was thought to be the leader of modernity in the Muslim world, with a Coptic prime minister and a Jewish treasury minister, Egypt had a promising secular modern future and Copts were starting not consider themselves a religious minority but an Egyptian national fraction. In 1952, a military coup overthrown the playboy monarch Farouk, dismantled the government and established the first republic. Since the establishment of the republic, Copts became just a non-Muslim minority living in a Muslim country, excluded from political and public activities and the state expected them to behave like a minority, in other words to take it quietly. Copts were excluded from any important government position in important government establishments. The government made it clear that Christians are mistrusted. Copts were not able to build their churches, the government made it nearly impossible to get a permit for a Coptic building site. Coptic scholars and prominent professionals were excluded from universities and government ran institutions (The school of medicine in Cairo University has a particular black record of practices against Copts). The government did not just exclude Christians but also harshly discriminated against them and Copts were to start a big immigration wave to the new world where over a million Copt are now living in the US, Canada and Australia.

In the late 1970s the patriarch of the church, Pope Shenouda III, sought to amend the position of the Coptic community with full equality with their Muslim fellow citizens, but president Saddat did not like it. In Sept 1981, the trial ended in a presidential order to excommunicate the Pope from the church and house arrest him, the decisions were announced in a violent speech from Saddat accusing Pope Shenouda of trying to impose himself as a national leader, in that speech Saddat openly said; "I want to remind every one that I'm a Muslim president of an Islamic country."

The tragedy of the Copts is not new, Copts have been the victim of radical Islamists violence since the rise of modern militant Islam in the 1970s along with negligence and discrimination from the state. Throughout the 1980s till the mid 1990s, Copts were one of the main three targets of Jihadist Islamic groups in Egypt. During that time, Jihadist Islamic opposition of ex-president Mubarak targeted the victims thought to hurt the Mubarak's regime the most; western tourists, Christians and government officials. Targeting of tourists will serve the purpose of creating a western dissatisfaction with Mubarak, targeting the Christians was to cause international embarrassment for the regime being not able to protect non-Muslim minorities. After the government tough crack down on Jihadist groups in Egypt by the mid 1990s, tourists and government officials became safe again, yet not the Copts.

With radical violent Islam becoming mainstream Islam globally by the end of the last century, attacking Christians was not done anymore by Jihadist Islamic groups, but by mass numbers of Egyptian Muslims who are enthusiastic about destroying those who do not believe in their mighty Allah. Attacks on churches during masses and events were a common incident. In Nov 2000 Muslim mob attacked a Christian and tried to force him to denounce his Christian faith and pronounce the Islamic testimony, and when he refused he was beaten to death. Feb and Apr 2001 the ICC reported that Muslim mobs burned down a new church and 35 houses belonged to Christians. On April 19, 2009 a group of Muslims opened fire at Christians killing two in Koos town. In March 2009 thousands of Muslims attacked a church in Ain Shams city, almost killing all who were in it. In 2010 a gunman opened fire from an AK-47 on a crowd exiting a church in Assyut killing 7. On 2011 new years eve a major church an Alexandria suffered a suicide bomb scoring tens of dead and wounded, days latter a member of the police force opened fire in a train in Samalout killing an old Coptic woman and injuring another 7. Attacks on lives and properties of Copts became a daily routine, along with new phenomenons like kidnapping minor Coptic females and forcing them to convert and marry Muslim men, a way to support the Muslim population and suppress the numbers of the Coptic one. A criminal practice which is worryingly wide spread in upper Egypt. The government does too little to prevent any of this, as a matter of fact it supports it most of the time. Police does not investigate attacks on Christians and usually closes the cases without identifying the attackers. A 16 years old Copt female who are kidnapped to marry a Muslim older man will not be returned to her family by the police, actually the police will make sure that she stays in the hands of her new "Muslim family" and get a restriction order against her Coptic parents.


Following the euphoria of the 2011 revolution, the Copts were filled with hope. The overthrow of the 80 years old military dictator was seen as a the marking of a new chapter in the life of all Egyptians which was proved to be true, but in a different way than they had expected. The lives of Copts in Egypt were about to get a lot worse. The attacks on Copts within the past two years are a lot more and a lot worse than the Copts ever seen before; churches burned down to the ground while police forces are watching, military armored vehicles running Coptic protesters over, Copts beaten to death by mob, priests shot to death in public and its about to get a lot worse.

In 2011, the year of the revolution, number of attacks on Copts rose dramatically causing a major wave of fear and immigration of Copts out of Egypt. In Mar 5, a church was set in fire in the village of Sole and Christians were forced to leave the village. In the same month a group of radicals took off the ear of a christian in Qena. In Abou Qurqas El Balad, one Christian Copt was killed, an old woman was thrown out of her second floor balcony and ten Copts were hospitalized. Coptic homes, shops, businesses, fields and livestock were plundered and torched. May 7, Muslim mob attacked the St. Mary Coptic church in the Imbaba neighborhood after rumors about a Christian convert woman being held at the church, Muslims attacked the church and the christian homes around it with AK-47s, locally manufactured shot guns and Molotov cocktails leaving 15 dead, damaged churches, homes and shops. The Army reportedly this year attacked 3 Coptic monasteries firing teargas and gunshot at Coptic monks. 

Mary Daniel crying over the body of her
 brother Mina killed by Army forces.

The worst major attack on the Copts in 2011, known as the Maspero Massacre of Oct 9th, was not by a Muslim mob but was carried out by the Egyptian military forces on peaceful Coptic protesters at the Maspero building area resulting in 28 deaths and over 200 injuries. I personally witnessed this horrible incident. You can read my accounts of the Maspero Massacre here.

By new years eve, 93,000 Copts have already fled out of Egypt. 2012 was not less of a violent year, with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power, Islamists got a stronger and freer hand to act. In the village of Dahshour, in a deal to prevent further Muslim attacks on Christians sponsored by members of Salfist party Alnour and the Muslim Brotherhood, as many as 100 Coptic Christian families were forced to leave their homes, and the authorities did nothing, At least 16 homes and properties of Christians were pillaged, some were torched, and a church was damaged during the violence. Christian families living in the Sinai also fled their homes in 2012 fearing the rise of Islamic groups in the peninsula. Many Copts decided to flee the country all together, Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Ross said that no fewer than 100,000 Copts had left Egypt since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, a fact confirmed by human rights groups although the Egyptian churches have not been able to verify the figure and have described it as exaggerated.

In 2013, all hell broke loose. The Muslim Brotherhood represented not only itself, but all the groups and fractions of political Islam wishing to grasp power in the name of Allah. Six months only after the MB assumed power, it was clear that it was not going to keep it for long, with catastrophic policies and idiotic approach to the public, the MB was successful in turning the people against it in a period as short as 6 months. The anger of the public was so clear, and the army was never a fan of Islamists anyways. The Islamists felt threatened and they started to attack. Since Jan 2013 Islamic group carried out a big campaign of murder, sabotage and kidnapping against the army forces stationed in the Sinai, to threaten them from intervening in their business.

The Islamists warned the Coptic community too, that if the Islamist president goes down, the Copts will go down as well. Attacks on churches, shooting priests on brought day light and burning Copts properties were common news daily. Islamic figures ,more than once, warned and threatened Christians on TV screens. Wagdie Ghoniem, a pro MB Muslim scholar, posted a video on youtube saying "A message to the church of Egypt, from an Egyptian Muslim: I tell the church — by Allah, and again, by Allah — if you conspire and unite with the remnants [opposition] to bring Morsi down, that will be another matter…. our red line is the legitimacy of Dr. Muhammad Morsi. Whoever splashes water on it, we will splash blood on him." Copts in AlMinya started to receive letters telling them "businesses, cars, homes, schools, and churches” might “catch fire." In June, Assem Abdul-Majed, a former convicted terrorist, and AlJamaa AlIslamyaa group leader, a group which supports the MB and is sponsored by it, on the TV broadcast from the Muslim TV network AlHafiz, threatened the Copts that if they have joined the protests to overthrow Morsi they will be exterminated. Many supporters of Morsi were caught on videos uploaded to youtube, swearing to Allah that they will burn and exterminate all the Copts and their churches if Morsi was gone. For months the Copts watched and listened to a promise of a holocaust to them, accompanied by weekly attacks on them, their churches and their properties with no attempt from anyone to reassure them or guarantee their security. The Egyptian army was busy plotting to overthrow the lunatic president, The UN did not express any concern and the US government was more preoccupied with supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Only the Copts were left to face their fate, as they always did.

To give you a better idea on what Copts go through, here is some of the events that happen in a typical week not including major incidents:

Feb 26th: 11 years old female Coptic girl Meriam Makram was beaten at school because she had a Christian tone on her cellphone. A Jihadist group issues a video threatening to bomb churches with car bombs.

Feb 27th: The siege of the archdioceses of Bani Souif by Salafist Islamist mob. The kidnapping of two Coptic doctors Samuel Louis and Shenouda Malak. 

Mar 1st: Muslim Salafist mob sieges St. George church in Koum Imbo. The kidnapping of a 100 Copts by Libyan militants because they were thought to be preaching to Muslims.

Mar 2nd: 4 Copts shot to death in Borg El Arab because they were said to build a church.


The Muslim Brotherhood is gone, forever. I know that many people don't want to believe it, especially those
The church of Anb Moussa,
 burning in fire as this post being written.
who are sitting at Washington D.C and those at the Washington Post, but it is the truth. The Muslim Brotherhood is gone as much as Mubarak is gone and they won't be coming back. In Washington they still deny that, but they are not the ones who pay the price, the Copts are. Since the fall of Morsi, Copts suffered from attacks almost on daily basis. Most of the Copts suffering from the attacks are the ones who are already suffering from deep poverty, living in government abandoned villages in upper Egypt. The Muslim mob used to fake a reason for attacking the Christians, something like abducting a woman or a sexual affair between a Muslim girl and a Christian guy, but now, they don't even try to fake reasons as they just attack the Copts. One incident 10 days ago in AlMinya, Muslims attacked Christians because one Christian guy was listening to a pro Military song. There is no reason necessary at all for a US supported Islamist to attack Christians. In Sinai, one Coptic priest was shot dead in Rafah in brought day light in a busy market street, another Copt was found beheaded in the same area.

Please do not forget for a minute that those ruthless violent pro-Morsi Islamists are the ones described in western media as "pro-democracy" and "anti-coup" peaceful protesters, as if it was merely a liberal modern democratic educated group of people engaged in a process of political disagreement. The Middle East has a much different cultural framework than the west and it is idiotic to apply western notions of modern politics and democracy to it. Political Islam is not a political ideology that can be integrated into the western democratic system. The MB pro-democratic protesters as I'm writing this, in this very moment, are burning down over 20 Coptic churches and attacking the poorest and weakest Christians who live in the poorest villages in upper Egypt. The MB is promising martyrdom for those who die for Morsi. What part of that undemocratic lunatic fanatic delusional movement is hard to understand for the western governments?

Yesterday the military decided to finally crack down on the sit-ins of the pro-Morsy Islamist, a plan which was declared two weeks ago. When the army and police started to carry out their plan, the Islamists hit back not just the army, but the Copts as well. In less than 24 hours about 16 churches, houses and community buildings were torched all over Egypt. Egypt is cleaning house and the Copts are paying a heavy price. While the world is disputing the current turmoil in Egypt and Washington mourning the falling martyrs of the Msulim Brotherhood, the Copts are facing the worst nightmare. There once lived a great Jewish community in Egypt, which none of it is left today and the great heritage of Egyptian Jewry was lost forever. Today, we are faced with a similar serious threat. The world is preoccupied with the current political turmoil in Egypt, trying to decide who has the right to rule while no one is giving attention to the ongoing catastrophe to an indigenous ancient Middle Eastern sect. One of the churches burned today by MB pro-democracy supporters was the Prince Tadros church in AlMinya, an ancient church from the 4th century which contained historical ancient manuscripts on Orthodox theology. Are you ready to accept such a loss? Are power and money more important than human life and human history? Tough days are coming ahead for Copts, tough days but no call for help to make but Kyriallison[*]

4th Century Prince Tadros Church in ruins.

[*] Kyriallison is a Coptic word which means "God have mercy", a prayer used by Copts frequently.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Are Arabic articles in Wikipedia reliable?

No they are not. There is a huge gap between the accuracy of the information that exists in an English Wikipedia article and in the Arabic version of the same article. Wikipedia is the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet, ranking seventh globally among all websites on Alexa as of June 2013, and it is one of the most important resources for common readers as well as students in today's world. Although Wikipedia is an open content source and pretty much anyone can edit or contribute to its articles, it is still viewed as a reliable source of information, however, this is not the case for the Arabic content of Wikipedia as many articles do not meet any encyclopedic standards.

Much of the content in Arabic the deals with history, natural sciences, nature, zoology etc. is indeed reliable as it is just a translation to the English or French content, but the content the deals with sensitive issues like Islam, the west, women rights, Jewish history etc. are not. Many of the sensitive content include a lot of anti-Western and Islamic propaganda. Here I'm going to offer some humble examples of those articles:

One article that is very frustrating and disappointing in the Arabic article about Women in Islam. While the English article offers a neutral detailed count of how Islam views women, it does not miss to mention and redirect you to issues like the debate about women rights within Islam, gender segregation, status of women in Arab societies, progressive criticism etc, the Arabic article offer a clear fundamentalist Muslim male dominant statements like "Allah honored women and relieved them from leadership and responsibility and gave them to man." the article goes on in another place and suggests that "Western enemies of Islam are criticize women status in Islam."

Wikipedia offers a very nice entry about Islam and Violence which discusses the relationship between Islam as a religion and the violence behavior of many Muslims, a very important global issue and concern no doubt. The article is available in English, Farsi and Arabic. The English and Farsi versions are quite objective and neutral as any other Wikipedia entry, however, I should tell you the Arabic one is not. The Arabic article, very long and formal, could have been written by a Hamas or a Hezbollah member as it defends Jihad and justify it as a tool of countering Western imperialism. The Article is strongly anti-Western and pro-Jihad, one can fairly describe it as propaganda. The article has been like this since last March.

Another worrying Arabic article was the one about "Protocols of Zion" which included clear antisemitism describing the protocols as the Jewish conspiracy to dominate the globe and many other antisemitic statements that made me edit the article many times myself.

Personally, I'm a fan of Wikipedia. It is a great easy source of reliable information that can be easily verified through the list of references. But it is important that people understand what Arabs do write and read in Wikipedia. I wish that many Arabic speaking editors in Wikipedia would commit themselves to the western standards of encyclopedic writing, saving the readers from being exposed to another Arabic nonacademic propaganda and a lot of misinformation.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Holy Antisemitic Month of Ramadan

From the days of my early childhood in Egypt, anti-Semitism was not only a common phenomenon, it has been a national characteristic of my country. From Alexandria to Aswan, in every city and small town along the Nile river, anti-Jewish propaganda can be easily found in mosques, bookstores, on the radio, in newspapers and on TV.

Learning to hate Jews starts in Egypt the first moment you learn about their existence and continues long into adulthood. I am so used to seeing Jews identified by the old traditional Middle Ages stereotype as mean, filthy, greedy dishonest conspirators out to cause global chaos and disharmony among the Egyptian people. Bit by bit I learned all the elements and causes of religious and secular hatred of Jews in Egyptian society. I still recall the time when, as a 13-year-old, I got to experience the broadcast of the Ramadan special: “A Horseless Knight,” a TV series watched widely across Egypt telling the story of the Jewish conspiracy to dominate humanity, as recorded in the “Elder’s Protocols.” The TV series spurred a large growth in sales of countless copies of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in Egypt.

Egyptians will be celebrating the holy month of Ramadan until August 7th this year. Little is known in the west about this Islamic festival other than that it is a holy month of fasting. Ramadan is the biggest and longest event in the Muslim world. The holiday is marked by 30 days of feasts and traditional celebrations, which vary depending on the cultural heritage of the country and are tangential to the religion. In some countries, schools and some businesses go on vacation for the entire month. In other countries, work is limited to only 4-6 hours a day.

Muslims and Arabs spend each day fasting, refraining from eating food and drinking water. Due to the usual harsh climate in the Middle East, they spend most of their time resting in the shade. Upon sunset they break their fast in a celebration known as Iftar, leaving the rest of the evening and night to a continuous joyful festival atmosphere with plenty of good food and family reunions and the family TV room is the traditional place for spending Ramadan.

During Ramadan, Arab TV networks offer hundreds of new daily shows starring the biggest actors and actresses in the Arab world, nearly 300 new episodes of Arabic language programs are introduced during the prime viewing month of Ramadan. Most of these programs are produced in Egypt, which was almost the sole producer of Arabic media content until the 2000s, which led to a prevalence of Egyptian Arabic all over the Middle East.

As far as I remember from the early days of my childhood, not one Ramadan season missed the opportunity to introduce some major anti-Jewish documentary or TV series. The biggest hit Ramadan specials in Egypt are usually programs that offer a large dose of anti-Semitism to the Arab appetite.

The Middle East has a mythological mix of nationalism, history and religion unlike anything in the West. National loyalty and history need to be defined clearly and because of the development of the Abrahamic framework of the region, the subject of “the Jews” offers a unique integration of these elements. Ramadan, is the perfect time to celebrate not just Muslim identity but being un-Jewish.

This Ramadan, a new documentary called Khaibar and produced by an Egyptian is being broadcast on a pan-Arab Qatari TV network. Khaibar introduces the audience to Jews being the villains, conspirators out to dominate humanity, enemies of Islam and slayers of prophets, the same themes used to define Jews over and over again to Arab audiences. It portrays the Jewish community living in the Arabian Peninsula during the time of the Prophet as a secret society, only concerned with conspiring against everyone else, including other Jews.

Ramadan specials like Khaibar are designed to remind large numbers of Arab viewers every day for a month that their Jewish neighbors are plotting their destruction. I distinctly remember Ramadan in 2005, when a Lebanese TV series titled The Diaspora Arabs featured a scene in which Jews slaughtered a Christian child for their secret matzah ingredient, the blood of Christians!

Given the fact that Arabs don’t have a strong reading culture, most of the information Arabs depend on comes from television, although lately the internet is becoming more prominent. Because of this, it may not be unusual to find a viewer of The Diaspora Arabs utterly convinced that the Jews eat matzah tainted with the blood of Christians. Unfortunately some Arab TV stations have decided to take advantage of a Muslim holiday to broadcast paranoia, obsessions and illusions.

Ramadan is supposed to offer Muslims a month of spiritual reflection, self-restraint, an opportunity to give charity and empathize with those who are less fortunate. Yet because of those who make decisions on Arab TV networks, this year’s Ramadan offers another dose of unchallenged hatred and historical forgery, planting deeper seeds of Jewish hatred that is all too often becoming an expression of Arab identity in the modern age.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Once again; What's going on in Egypt?

Apparently the Arab spring was not just a season, it was a beginning of the biggest mass movement in human history, while the results remain unknown and uncertain, it is important to understand what is happening in Egypt.

A coup? Or a revolution?

While the recent events in Egypt are generally recognized as a military coup in the west and in Egypt by followers of political Islam, in Egypt the people are determined to view it as a popular revolution against the regime of the Muslim Brotherhood giving the fact that the military assumed power after nearly 22 million Egyptians demonstrated against the president in the biggest demonstration in the history of man. Others in Egypt view it as both, a revolution followed by a coup supporting it. Practically this is a ridiculous technical question for either it was a revolution or a coup that won't change any facts on the ground, however this is not the case for Washington. The foreign assistance act which is a U.S law says in section 508 that the Us has to cut aid to any country whose “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.” That law generated the problem now existing regarding the US 1.5 billion dollars aid to Egypt. First I almost guarantee it the US won't cut aid to Egypt, Egypt is too important and the US cant afford losing it. Second, I have a lot of doubt that the real problem for the Obama administration is a legal one but rather its a problem regarding the current foreign policy of reaching mutual understandings with radical Islamist groups in the region. One can't ignore the strong support for Islamic militants in Syria, and also one should not forget that no significant reaction from Al Qaeda took place following the assassination of Bin Laden.

Back to Egypt, what is going on?

Well, what is going on right now in Egypt is the same as what has been going on since Jan 2011, a wave of political unrest following the throwing of a 30 years brutal western puppet dictator. Egyptians face a new reality of a divided diverse society with a disastrous economy and the ultimate failure of state infrastructure.
Following the fall of Mubarak in 2011, The army took over power promising a democratic transition which never took place. The Islamists represented in the three large groups of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis and the ex-Jihadists pressured the military for quick elections, the revolutionaries demanded a longer transitional period to allow them to organize new political parties. Eventually the military made the deal with the Islamists, and as usual America sponsored, introducing quick and distorted constitutional reforms and calling for elections which definitely came in the favor of the Islamists. The new Muslim Brotherhood regime promised the army financial independence and no accountability for any crimes committed before or after Mubarak left.  The Islamists started to shape the state and theoretical society as they wished, rapid process of Islamization took place, liberals and secularists were excluded from the whole political process, Christians were not even represented while writing the new constitution. The MB showed no sign that it was ready to share power with any one else announcing that as a winning majority they have the right of total domination. The new regime made it clear that it will shape the new Egyptian identity solely (For further reference about the Egyptian identity crisis: The revolutionary forces felt betrayed and abandoned, left only to count the numbers of those who died confronting the forces of Mubarak and the army. Frustration and anger were the common factor between liberals, socialists, secularists and the non-Muslim minority, the army was not impressed.

On the other hand and to be clear, the vast majority of Egyptians don't give a crap about the issues of Islam, identity, secularism or any other ideological confrontation. The main problem of the Egyptians is poverty and economic development. It is true that Egyptians elected the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi, but they did so on the religious assumption that religious people are naturally successful, honest and blessed by Allah. An assumption which was destroyed shortly after the elections, the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood was remarkably quick and disastrous in a way that even the opposition did not expect. The MB was totally focusing on assuming power and occupying the state that it ignored totally the issues of economical development. Egypt is sinking in debt and yet the MB was asking the international bank for a new big 2 billion dollars loan, unemployment is higher than ever and the value of the Egyptian currency is falling quickly. The MB did very little to prevent the country from hitting the rock bottom. One American friend reported to me from Cairo in Morsi's last days: "There is no security, no tap water, no electricity and no gas at the gas stations. The current situation in the streets is no less than a Hollywood zombie apocalypse." When I heard so, I knew that a military coup was imminent, because first the people just two years ago revolted against a dictator who was much better than the current, secondly the military who owns and controls 40% of Egyptian economy had to move to protect its own economical empire.

While it is true that what happened in Egypt is technically a military coup, I would rather call on us to change our own concepts of democracy and democratic change than to call on Egyptians to put back to power a terrorist Islamic group. When democracy brings to power a group that is inefficient, discriminatory, oppressing women and minorities, have no history of democratic practices, supports and sponsors global terrorism, then my dear western reader there is something utterly wrong in our understanding of democracy. Those who call to kill the infidels, slay the Jews, cover the women, hang the gays and burn the Christians should not be considered legal political power nor beneficiaries of free speech, but terrorists. The Egyptian military coup saved Egypt and region from entering a long dark age of bloodshed and jihad mania, a move which we should be grateful for even if we would still call on the military to withdraw from political life. Personally I have spent time in military prison and had a bad experience with Egyptian military, yet I have no doubt that what the military did was for the better, I would rather protest against a secular dictator who may imprison me, than to protest against an Islamic dictator who will slaughter me then eat my organs.

There is a problem with the Islamic concept of a democracy, in Egypt, Iran and Gaza we have seen that Islamists understand democracy as elections and they use elections to eliminate any other democratic practices such as free speech and minority rights. Now in Egypt the Middle East is learning for the first time that lesson, that democracy just starts with elections and it has to do more with what you do with power after you reach it. Egypt amazingly have learned that lesson in a year, the same people who elected the MB are the same ones who demonstrated to remove it from power. While the future remains totally uncertain in Egypt as the military is once again back to power after a disastrous experience of "democratic transition", it is generally a great thing for the world that a terrorist Islamist group is now being alienated in its own land of birth. I personally don't think I will be able to go back to Egypt anytime soon, yet I should celebrate the fall of the terrorist group and remain skeptical of the Egyptian military.

Anti Morsi Protests

Monday, June 24, 2013

الإسلام والعنف.. أين المشكلة؟

أن عدد المجرمين الذين يعرفون انفسهم على انهم اتباع الدين الإسلامي أكبر بكثير من عدد المجرمين الذين يعرفون انفسهم كأتباع لأي دين أخر. هناك علاقة خاصة بين الإسلام والإرهاب، لنواجه الواقع قليلاً بعيداً عن الدبلوماسية وجبر الخواطر، هناك علاقة واضحة بين الإسلام والمسلمين والعنف. والعالم كان ومازال يراقب تلك العلاقة الغريبة على مدى الثلاثون عاماً الماضية بتوجس، هناك أعمال عنف كثيرة أرتكبت وترتكب يومياً بواسطة مسلمون، على مدى العقود الثلاث الأخيرة لم ينجو مكان واحد على الأرض من حوادث عنف مفرط تورط بها مسلمون بشكل أو بأخر، بل وهناك ظواهر عنيفة معروفة حصرياً لدى المسلمين فقط مثل ظاهرة التفجير الإنتحارى الذبح وقطع الرأس وجرائم الشرف وبتر الأعضاء والقتل بالرجم. ماذا يحدث؟ ما المشكلة؟

يدعي البعض ان المشكلة هى التطرف الديني وتفسير النصوص الدينية بشكل حرفي وان الإسلام فى حد ذاته دين كسائر الأديان الأخرى يعمل كدعامة أخلاقية للمجتمع، وأن المتطرفيين المسلمين لا يختلفون عن أي متطرفين من أي دين أخر. يميل الكثير إلى تبني تلك الفكرة ربما لإنها بشكل أساسي تساوي بين جميع الأديان وتلتزم بالحياد الديني المميز لخطاب ما بعد الحداثة. ولكن هل حقاً تلك هى المشكلة؟ هل حقاً المشكلة هى التطرف الديني فقط؟ يجد الكثير من المسيحيين واليهود تلك المقارنة بينهم وبين المسلمين مهينة وغير منصفة، وانا اعتقد انهم محقون فى ذلك. نحن لم نرى فى أى وقت مؤخراً متطرفون يهود يرجمون أمرأة لأنها زانية، ولم نرى متطرفون مسلحون يحرقون رجلاً حياً لأنه من شهود يهوه. لقد رأيت مسيحيين متطرفين يحرقون كتب هارى بوتر نعم، رأيت يهود يحرقون القرأن، ولكنى لم أرى مسيحياً أو يهودياً يبترون زراع أو أذن أحدهم. صحيح هناك متطرفين فى كل الديانات ولكن هناك متطرفين أخطر من أخرين. على سبيل المثال هؤلاء الذين يتبعون المسيحية الأورثوذكسية ويحملون أفكاراً أكثر تديناً من أخرون ينتهى بهم الأمر للتوحد في الصحراء فى أحد الأديرة، لا يقومون بتفجير أنفسهم أو قطع أذن أحدهم، انهم مسالمون للغاية. هناك أيضاً الديانة الجانية وهي أحدى الديانات الهندوسية التى ترجع أصولها للقرن الثاني الميلادي، أتباع تلك الديانة مسالمون للغاية وكلما زاد تدينهم زادت سلميتهم، إنهم نباتيون لا يأذون الحيوانات ويسيرون بحرص وبطئ حتى لا يؤذون الأرض والحشرات، انه سلوك ديني متطرف للغاية ولكن من الخطأ والظلم أن نساويه بالتطرف الإسلامى. لذلك فيمكننا أن نقول أن التطرف الديني فى حد ذاته ليس مشكلة، هناك متطرفين دينيين لا يسببون الألم والمعاناة التى يسببها الكثير من المسلمون.

إذا لم يكن التطرف مشكلة؟ فما هى المشكلة إذن؟ المشكلة هى الإسلام نفسه. الإسلام كدين يحمل فى داخلة بذور عنف مفرط وقاسي فالإسلام لا يرفض العنف والإيذاء الجسدي من حيث المبدء ولا يزرع فى أتباعه وازع أخلاقي يرفض العنف. فالأسلام يتبنى العنف متى كان مشروعاُ ويضع حالات للعنف "الشرعي" مثل الحدود والجهاد المسلح وتأديب الزوجات. أن هؤلاء المسلمون المعتدلون ليس لديهم اى مانع مبدئي لإستخدام العنف لإن الإسلام نفسه يقر العنف كحل مقبول ومشروع لحل بعض المشاكل، إنما ما يختلف عليه المسلمون عامة هو متى يمكن استخدام ذلك العنف. الإسلام فى حالات عديدة أقر إستخدام العنف الجسدي القاسي مثل ان يعاقب المفسدون فى الأرض بـ(أن يقتلوا أو يصلبوا أو تقطع أيديهم) أو ان تؤدب النساء جسدياً (واضربوهن) او قطع رقاب غير المسلمين (فاضربوا فوق الأعناق)، ان تلك العقوبات الإسلامية هى جزء مهم من الشريعة الإسلامية ومن النصوص الإسلامية المقدسة ولا يمكن لأى مسلم أنكارها مهما كان مسلماً محب للسلام. لذلك فالمشكلة ليست فى التطرف الديني، المشكلة هى الإسلام نفسه والذى يتيح إستخدام القوة بشكل مفرط مما يضع مبررات ثيولوجية وفقهية للعديد من الممارسات الإرهابية للكثير من المسلمين. وحتى فى العالم الإسلامي اليوم مازال الجدال قائماً حول ما كان الإرهاب عنفاً إسلامياً مشروعاً أم لا، وجود تلك الجدلية هو أمر محزن فى حد ذاته فهذا يعني أن ملايين المسلمين لازالوا يعتبرون العنف واجباً دينياً مفروغ منه.

إن عدم إعتراف المسملين بتلك الحقيقة وعدم أعترافهم أن الإسلام كدين لا يحترم حرية العقيدة أو الحريات العامة بشكل مطلق هو سبب مشكلة كبيرة، فالمسلمون يكذبون وينافقون أنفسهم والعالم طوال الوقت بإدعائهم أن الإسلام دين سلام وأنه يحترم الحريات بينما هو فى واقع الأمر عكس ذلك تماماً. لم تعرف الشعوب الغير مسلمة فى العصر الحديث عنفاً مفرطاً منظما مثلما عرفته الشعوب المسلمة، المرأة فى العالم الإسلامى مازالت تعانى من تهميش واضطهاد واقصاء وجرائم جسدية ومعنوية، العديد من الدول الإسلامية مازالت تعانى من ظاهرة الإتجار بالبشر. كل تلك الأمور ليست أسراراً ولكن يجب أن نفهم أصدقائنا المسلمون أن تلك المشاكل لن تحل بمجرد الدفاع عن الإسلام، تلك الأمور لن تحل إلا بمواجهة صادقة مع النفس والإعتراف بأن الإسلام يحمل بذور قوية للعنف المسلح والسلوكيات الغير إنسانية.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Quest for Egyptian Identity and the case of the demographic revolution in Cairo

In Egypt the people were never consulted to answer the question of Who is an Egyptian? the identity of the country and the nation was always being decided by that one ethnic majority representatives who are in power, and the Egyptian people just had to accept it leading to a current devastating identity crisis. Egyptians are confused in determining their relationship with religion, with their Arab neighbors, with Europe and with the world. The story of the single group that monopolized defining the frame of the Egyptian national identity and the Egyptian national historical narrative is a story that still trouble Egypt till today. In the 50s militant chauvinists imposed an strict radical Egyptian and pan-Arabist identity on the country, in the 70s Sadat added a strong religious element to the nationalist identity defining Egypt as an Islamic nation, nowadays, Muslim extremists are determined deconstruct and reconstruct the whole national Egyptian self perception to impose a wahabi Islamist identity.

At one point in history, modern nations had to answer the question of identity, the Germans had to define who is a German, and the French had to define who is a Frenchman. Europeans started to define and refine their own perceptions about their identities since the 18th century till, pushed by structuralism and the concept of a nation-state they had to put clear definitions for identity, nationality and citizenship which was also very necessary for state administrative purposes. The first nationality law in Germany was issued 1913, France in 1889, Italy in 1912 and in Britain 1914. In Egypt, it happened a bit a later. the Egyptians did not have to answer the question of "Who is an Egyptian?" till the dissolution of the Ottoman sultanate in 1922. Prior to that, residents of Egypt were subjects of the Ottoman sultan, one could easily travel inside the Ottoman empire freely and reside anywhere he wishes. Thus, since the 17th century Egypt was a destination for many immigrants. Turkish, Armenians, Jews, Iraqis, Levantians and many others resettled in Egypt for various reasons, all of them were subjects of the Ottomans like all other Egyptians.

The promulgation of the 1929 Egyptian Nationality Law was the culmination of a long search for a legal answer to the question of who was an Egyptian. Several decrees between 1892 and 1902 tried to deal with this issue for administrative purposes, but it was only after the severing of Egypt from the Ottoman Empire in 1914, and the subsequent emergence of the Egyptian nation-state, that the question became acute. Several trials and drafts were issued since 1914 but the first Egyptian nationality law was to be introduced in May 22nd 1926, which was refined later in the Egyptian nationality decree issued in February 27th 1929. In that law Egyptian nationality was passed only through an Egyptian father, and one of the main issues that the code addressed was residents of foreign origins and whether to consider them Egyptians or not, to this the law stated that a person born in Egypt of a ‘foreign’ father, (who himself was also born in Egypt), was entitled to Egyptian nationality only if the foreign father “belonged racially to the majority of the population of the country whose language is Arabic or whose religion is Islam. This became the canonized Egyptian identity. This law negatively affected thousands of hundreds of residents like the Jewish community whom their immigration to Egypt from Spain, Iraq, Syria and Palestine started since the 15th century. Other groups like the Armenians and the Greeks were also excluded by this definitions. The irony is that if the family of Muhammad Ali the founder of modern Egypt himself were regular residents at the time, they themselves would not have been able to apply for Egyptian nationality. By the end of the day only 10,000 of the 80,000 Egyptian Jews were entitled to Egyptian nationality, 40,000 were left officially stateless with no citizenship, 30,000 were considered foreign nationals. The Jews who had foreign citizenship acquired it usually by purchase in the colonial era and the never felt that it would compromise their Egyptian identity, because before that law, Egyptian citizenship did not exist. The Egyptian nationality law decided to exclude those who were unworthy of being Egyptian. Unlike the Turkish nationality law of 1928 which allowed all foreign elements to be absorbed in the new definition of the Turkish nation, the Egyptian law allowed for the absorption of foreign elements only if there was a common cultural, linguistic and religious background.

The rise of Egyptian radical right wing groups had a significant role in creating the standard frame of Egyptian identity based on a single ethnic majority, pushing the self precived awareness of identity towards a single heritage narrative. The Muslim Brotherhood (active since the 1920s till founded officially in 1928), and Young Egypt movement (active since the 1920s till founded officially in 1933) were the most extreme right wing hawks. Ahmad Husayn, the leader of Young Egypt, promoted his vision of a racially pure Egypt that will be Arab and Muslim, the idea of the Muslim Brotherhood relied more on the religious Islamic association. In both frames, all non-Muslim Egyptians who had non-Egyptian origins were left out. Their views are to affect the Egyptian self-perceptions for a century later.

Establishing citizenship and defining a cultural and racial frame for who is an Egyptian was done solely by the state away from the people, as many other transactions between both parties, many Egyptians who did no travel abroad nor cared for official documentation bothered to obtain nationality certificates nor identity documents, thus most of Egyptians -including those who the law considered non-Egyptians- did not feel that it was of any significance, not before the company law in 1947 which required all businesses to employ a fixed quota of usually 75% of Egyptian citizens. This law targeted specifically Jews and other unwanted minorities, groups which was sought to be not Egyptian enough.

The final solid concept of Egyptian identity was to be introduced by the chauvinist military regime which was to rule Egypt after the 1952 coup. The Leading Counsel of Revolution Majles Qyadet Al Thawra, which was mainly made of the Free Officers, issued the law 391 in 1952 concerning Egyptian nationality. A new abstract strict identity was proposed in this law which required a much stronger attachment to Egypt (i.e. continuous residence in Egypt since 1900 regardless of Ottoman nationality). And to secure protection of of the national community (himayet al jama'a al watanyah) from disloyal nationals like Jews and others convicted of treason against Egypt. Nationality could be withdrawn to protect the security and integrity of the state (biqasd himayet amn el dawla wa salamti-ha). Nationals who left the country for six months without

notifying the authorities of their intentions of coming back, lost their nationality. Many Jews were expelled out of the country after that law on the claim that they are non-Egyptians and identity-less, in many cases after the Egyptian nationality was withdrawn from them. After the unity was Syria, the United Arab Republic needed a new nationality law which would be broader in defining in the identity of the residents of the UAR. The law 81/1958 was issued to have the pan-Arabist definitions of the Arab Nation Al Ummah Al Arabiah, and defined the identity of the nationals as Arab citizens. A rapid process of nationalization simultaneously in Egypt to evacuate the country of any foreign elements and substitute them with Egyptian ones. Strict laws concerning property and business ownership were issued, Jews and other non Egyptian residents had to use Egyptian puppets to run their businesses through, then the state confiscated most of the foreign property by 1962. Berbers, Nubians and Bedouins were also excluded from the Egyptian self definition on racial basis, with their own indigenous languages and isolated social structure and geographical presence. The definition of an Egyptian was to be applied only to the Egyptian Arabic speaking light skin Muslim residents of the valley.

By the 1970s president Sadat, who had originated from the delta peasants, added a new profound element to the standard official Egyptian identity, one which still troubles the country to this very day; Islamic. Sadat introduced constitutional amendments which clearly stated that Egypt is an "Islamic country and that Islamic law Sharia is the main source of legislation". The Egyptian identity was constructed on the majority the viewed itself as Islamic and Arab, with a real unspoken skepticism about the accuracy of this description. Are we Arabs? Are we Muslim Egyptians or Egyptian Muslims? Ironically till this day, Egyptians naturally refer to the residents of the Arab peninsula and the Arab gulf as indefinitely The Arabs. 


The case of Cairo is important to help us understand the effect of the new national views on the country. I grew up in Giza, a part of Greater Cairo, there was a common friendly chat question "Where are you from?", strange as it as, there has always been an answer for this question different than "Cairo". Usually you answer with the place you were born in, if you were born in Cairo, then you answer with the place your father was born in, if he was born in Cairo, then you answer with the place the family of your father originated from which was usually either the northern Delta or the southern Upper Egypt, one would keep asking till he gets an answer because all of us Cairo people knew that no one in Cairo is really from Cairo. Till I was 20 years old I was unconscious of this phenomena till I met a lovely Polish old lady and she asked me where am I from, I answered naturally Cairo but she then asked again "No one is really from Cairo, where is your family from?" Her question struck me as if it was new and I began to give it more thought. In the beginning of the 20th century, Cairo was the main city in Egypt, to the cultural, economical and ruling elite as well as the merchants, the educated and the Europeans. Alexandria was similar but smaller, the rest of the country was made of urbuan agricultural illiterate semi-primitive communities. At that time and till the 1950s Cairo was a vivid diverse and multicultural community, there you could here in the streets all dialects of Arabic, French, English, German, Italian, Russian, Greek, Spanish, Nubian, Armenian and even Yiddish, a colorful, diverse

and vivid social portrait. After the coup of 1952 took place and the new military regime applied its new radical answer to who is an Egyptian, Cairo was evacuated from the residents who were sought to be less Egyptians, like the Europeans, the Europeanizd and the Jews, the places which those elements emptied, along with the new roles the new military authoritarian regime created were to be filled with pure Egyptians from the urban areas who they got qualified by the new state sponsored Nasser educational institutions The demography of of Cairo was changed once and for all, once a great diverse society now a racial majority dominant city, and no one who lives in Cairo became from Cairo no more. The population numbers may give us a more clear image; in the 1950s the total population of Egypt was nearly 20,000,000, the population of Cairo was 2,410,000 making nearly 11% of the total population. In 1960s the total population of Egypt reached 26,380,000 with a yearly growth rate of average 2.1%, while the population Cairo reached 4,706,000 with a growth rate of nearly 4% almost double the percentage of the whole country and becoming 20% of the total population. Giving in the facts the nearly 60,000 Jews were evacuated from Cairo along with thousands of other unwanted subjects. Those numbers indeed shows us the great demographic revolution that Cairo witnessed, once most of the street signs were written in Latin letters, now exclusively in Arabic. The new ethnic majority was to rewrite the whole Egyptian reality.

The new enforced identity for Egypt is exclusively identifying an Egyptian to be Arab and Muslim (with considering Christian Egyptians as subordinate citizens as they precede Islam), leaving non-Muslim communities in doubt of their Egyptian identity, like the Coptic community, or the Baha'is who the country force them to adopt a Muslim or a Christian one. With the Islamists rise to power after the 2011 revolutions, the Islamists seek to reshape this identity. To identify Egypt just as a Muslim nation, enforcing Sharia law and Muslim behavior on all aspects of public and personal life. Since the public political emergence of political Islam after the Tahrir revolution, Islamists have called upon the people to save and assure the Islamic identity of the country. In all of the electorate processes done after the revolution, the Islamists always supported their own ideas with the claim of preserving the Egyptian Islamic identity. Also the process of writing the constitution which was done by Shoura council occupied mainly by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist fundamentalist movements, showed how much Islamists are obsessed with the idea of defining the Egyptian identity as Islamic. The liberal and secular political players, are trying to counter this by developing a new concept of Egyptian identity and realistically define what is Egyptian and what is not. This tiring and long process which will take long time, and will have to go through great challenges like challenging the current national Egyptian historical narrative which paved the way to the current identity crises by excluding other less-Egyptian elements. This clash of identities is deep and strong and one of the main factors of Egypt's current political turmoil. The question of identity can be answered only by the Egyptian people, whom they have to decide if they want to be an ethnic majority nationalist country or a modern tolerant diverse open middle eastern society.