Sunday, April 30, 2006

Long feature article on Amr Khaled in N.Y Times Magazine

The New York times Magazine has a 10 pages long feauture article on Amr Khaled today. Read it! If you find it really interesting, you could read Lindsay Wise´s full thesis(PDF), ¨Words from the heart¨ about him here. He has the third largest website in the Arab world, and is a new phenomenon in Arab preaching, some has compared him to Billy Graham, but foremost he has galvanized a new class to religion, the young, urban and affluent, making it hip to be religious. Speaking to people in their own way. He was banned from Egypt/choose to go into selfexposed exile in Birmingham, England and has made a name for himself in second generation communities in Europe as well, runs a big charity organisation, and makes good use of modern technology,as the internet and satelite TV. He has his own show on Iqraá and his Ramadan Show this year, his comeback, In the footsteps of the prophet, were he wisited historical sites connected to the Prophet, was widely watched. Lately he has been controversial in his decision to go to Copenhagen for a conference between Muslim scholars and Danish religious scholars and a paralell youth seminar. He´ got much criticism from the second big name among muslim preachers , Yousef Qardawi.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

18 Muslim Brothers arrested

More arrests, this time Ikhwan activists. 18 activists arrested for belonging to an illegal group, while campaigning for the abolishment of the Emergency law. They were handing out leaflets, when detained at dawn on friday in Cairo according to Muhamed Habib, deputy Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood. On wednesday, five Muslim Brotherhood activists were arrested in Alexandria, and some of their parliamentarians were misstreated by the police during the demonstrations in Cairo in support of judges Bastavisi and Mekky. The Ikhwan are working for a no confidence vote against Min of Interior Habib al Adly, and has stated their non confidence in Minister of justice Mahmoud Abou Leil earlier during the conflict with the judges club.

The law has been in force continuously since the murder of the late President Anwar Sadat on the 6th of October 1981. The Muslim brotherhood is the largest political opposition force in Egypt, they have been banned in Egypt since the attempt on the Minister of Interior, while holding a speech at the Manshiyya Square in downtown Alexandria, the minister was Gamal Abd al Nasser.

This comes after a week with the Dahab bombings killing at least 18. Two more suicide bombers blowing themselves up, while trying to attack the multinational peace monitoring force in Sinai, and a police car/police station in Sinai. 12 people has been formally detained, and 70 has been questioned.In the latest breaking development in central Sinai a man was killed by the police and four captured. The Cairo Bureau chief, Hussein abd al Ghani of al Jazerra has been charged with spreading false information, because of reporting on an ambush on a police post in Bilbeis, Sharqiyya Governate. It´s interesting, because many different news agencies carried this story, and i believe that the AFP was the first one, and they were all basing their story on anonymous police sources. So why only al jazeera?

The beating of judge Mamduh Hamza, the arrest of 5o activists from Kifayya, Ikhwan, and al Ghad in Cairo and Alexandria, and unconfirmed reports that the Ayman Nour defense team has been detained. Last but certainly not the least, the disciplinary hearing of the two reform judges Bastawisi and Mekky, was postponed until the 11th of May.

Two interesting articles on the Emergency law and the Coptic Question

I would like to highly recomend Maria Golias op-ed article about the Emergency law in yeterday´s Daily Star, and Issandr Amranis new article in MERIP on the¨Coptic question¨

The emergency law in place since the founding father Mena came to power, at least that´s the feeling you have about it.

Actually a majority of Egyptians has never experienced anything else, apart from the May 1980-Oct 1981 grace period, that is to say the period which started with a referendum eight days after President Sadat assuming the Prime Ministership from Mustafa Khalil ,as well as President. The referendum included the changing of Article 2 of the constitution, making the Sha´ria the principal source of legislation, but the important thing was that the Egyptian people voted in favour of him being President for life.(yes there was a stipulation of a President only being allowed to sit for two periods). The referenda was his special way of showing that he had the support, legitimacy and love of his people, as the ¨father of the Egyptan nation¨. He used it frequently during his 11 years in office, and always won the people´s blessing no matter what question he wanted to ask the people, and always with a 90-98% approval.

It´s interesting to note that the 17 months living without the emergency law, was a time when almost every single important domestic issue was aggrevated,the economy, the conflict between the islamists, militant as well moderate and the state, the secular parties and the state, secterian tension as well as the single most impotant question of foreign policy, Palestine. This all spiraled towards Zawia al Hamra in June and the autumn of fury , with the arrests of the 1536 people of every shade of politics, religion and what have you, and finally the 6th of October.

The emergency law in it´s current form was promulgated on the eve of the disastrous al Naqsa in June 1967, but the law is from 1958, and prior to that there was other forms of martial law, altough not as ¨One size fits all¨ as the current one.

My point with talking about the period without the emergency law , is that altough that is a good step, but with a government that is reluctant to democratize, notorious for changing every law to the worse, and stalling everything as long as possible,we could still face a similar experience. But, we will probably have to stick with the old familiar way´s for at least two years more, anyhow, now that the President seems to renegade on his election promise.

Go read Issandr as well, i will probably try to comment a bit on his piece later on, but now i´m running late!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Make love, not bombs!

Before continuing with more boring, or rather depressing stuff. This story of love, tantric sex, defiance and happiness ever after, in the midst of the carnage that was Dahab on Monday night, caught my eye.

Meeting while learning the secret skills of tantric sex, Chanting at the Pyramids, waiting for a sign from Abulhoul, and riding camels in the streets of Dahab on your wedding day, sounds like the perfect mix of classic, super romantic Rudolph Valentino orientalism and reality tv, but this is for real!

Let me end with a quote from the bridegroom, Anak Aldin : "We had to show the bombers. We believe in love,"

Let´s wish Anak and Kerstin the very best of luck and eternal happiness! Alf Mabrouk!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Explosion outside Sinai Military base of multinational peacekeeping forces

Two suicide bombers failed to cause any casualties, other than killing themselves in two attacks, one outside the headqurters of the Multinational force that monitors the Sinai Peninsula stipulated in the Camp David peace accord, and the other on a police station in Sinai.

One suicide bomber struck, causing an Explosion outside the Northern Sinai Airforce base in al Gourah that houses the multinatitional peacekeeping force, in place since 1981, as part of the implementation of the Camp David accords.

There is two different accounts of what happen during the first incident. According to the interior ministry a police officer was leaving the al Gourah air base, and saw the man with a bomb. The bomb hit the car shattering the front window, but not causing any casualties.
There is another version, from the spokesperson of the MFO, confirming that two of their viechles were attacked, but no one was injured. The two MFO staff that was reported hurt by the anonymous police officials were traveling in the first car togheter with an Egyptian customs officer and an immigration office and it makes sense, considering that the initial reports stating that two Egyptian police personnel was also injured.

A second suicide bomber blew himself up outside the police station in front of a police car in the town of Sheikh Zuwayed near al Arish, when police came out of the building to investigate the al Gorah blast. The bomber died, but nobody else were hurt.

The incident reported earlier by AFP about an ambush on a police checkpoint in the town of Bilbeis, governate of al Sharqiyya, in the Nile Delta was denied by the governor. The prior claim came from police sources.

The government spokesperson ,Magdy Rady believes there could be a connection between the Dahab bombings and today´s attacks.

The force is financed by the Americans,and the peace signatories. 11 countries participate at the moment, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Fiji, France, Hungary, Italy, Norway, New Zealand, the United States and Uruguay.

This has happend once before, in August 2005 two Canadian peacekeepers was slightly injured when their patrol viechle was targeted by a roadside bomb made from a gas canister filled with explosives and detonated through a wire, a second canister failed to explode.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Three explosions in Dahab kills at least 23

At about 19:15 local time, three different explosions rocked the tourist town of Dahab, popular with young backpackers and scuba divers, mostly European and Israelis. The information is still sketchy, but the BBC reports at least 23 dead and up to 150 people injured and the New York Times gives a higher number of 30, and 115 injured. The discrepancy in numbers is between the interior ministry´s numbers, and the police´s numbers that are higher. According to the Minister of Interior Habib al Adly, 20 Egyptians and three foreigners are among the dead, a six year old German child, a Russian and probably a Swiss national, altough the last are not officially confirmed by the Interior ministry. 42 Egyptians and 17 foreigners are among the wounded there were three Danes, three Britons, two Italians, two Germans, two French people, a South Korean, a Lebanese, a Palestinian, an American, an Israeli and an Australian.

Egypt was having a national holiday, Sham an Nessim, just days after the coptic easter, and that means that many egyptians were in Dahab as well as foreigners. The Israeli Ambassador pointed out thgat there were 1800 israelis in the area. Considering that the Jewish passover was last weekend it could have been twice or tripple that number, had this occured a week ago. There was also a lot of material damage on the Nelson Restaurant, the Aladdin Cafeteria and the Ghazala Supermarket, the Egyptian Interior Ministry said. The restaurant al Capone, and some bazars were also damaged.

At first it seemed to have been remote detonate devices, rather than suicide bombers, then the governor of South Sinai, Muhammed Hani claimed that it was suicide bombers. The government spokesperson Magdi Radi claimed to the BBC World that their is two different theories, and that they are still investigating.

This is the third major attack in Egypt since October 2004, when 34 people died in Taba, Nuweiba and Ras Shitan, and last July when about 64 people died in Sharm al Shaikh. My condolences to everybody who have lost their loved ones tonight.

I would think that an imadiate result would be the sacking of the Minister of Interior, Habib al Adly. it´s unprecedented in recent history that a minister of Interior get´s to keep his portfolio after three major terrorist attacks. Usually the president´s paticience is not that long.

Another development will most probably be mass arests of suspects, and the government will do anything to say that this was not al Qaida, that it was homegrown, anything to save the tourism industry. In fact i already heard some official saying that this had no connection whatsoever with any of the recent attacks.

In a development resemblemling the aftermath of the Sharm al Shaikh bombings in July, a demonstration against the bombings and terrorism. About a 100 Egyptians and foreign tourists joined togheter in a show of solidatrity with the .killed, the wounded, their relatives and local people who risks losing part of their livelyhood because of the carnage. Leading the demonstration was Ahmad Nazif, the Egyptian Prime Minister.

In another development 10 Egyptians have been detained by the police. This is probably the first in a series of arrests to follow. In addition to the 10 arrested, the police also questioned 70 bedouins informally, hopefully the fact that they are not arrested means that they will be asked for background information and treated in a official and cordial manner.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Going to the Zoo on Sham an Nessim?

The Giza Zoo, the oldest Zoo in Africa, innaugerated March 1, 1891, reopens on Sham an Nessim,(litteraly the smell the brezze-festival) after being closed for 45 days, due to the bird flu. The Giza Zoo is normally one of the major attractions on this day, with about 700 000 visitors.

According to minister of health, Dr Hatim al Gabali, Egypt has hemmed in the bird flu. This announcment comes just 10 days after the fourth fatal case of bird flu, this time an 18 year old woman. According to the spokesperson for the health ministry, the bird flu reached only two governates, al Giza and Gharbiyya. The WHO don´t seem to be as optimistic, claiming bird flu in 19 govenates, the latest fatal case seem to have been in Menoufiyya, directly conflicting the health ministry´s announcement. Let´s hope that the minister is right in his assesment.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Happy Easter to all Copts in Egypt and around the Globe

Happy Easter to all Copts, and other Orthodox Christians! Go easy on the food!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Heba Saleh on the Judges club

Heba Saleh has an article in the FT today on the judges club, HRW, the government and the struggle for a freer judiciary(read it before they make it available only to subscribers, hate that with the FT, and other papers with the same policy, like the NY Times select!).

Sunday, April 02, 2006

al Wafd frontpage 2 April 2006

23 injured in Wafd clashes at party HQ

At 8 AM yesterday morning, the former Wafd leader Nouman Goumma, togheter with what probably was hired thugs managed to storm party headquarters in Dokki. Among the wounded are journalists and party workers, who where at the HQ early in the morning. According to witnesess, Goumma himself used the gun at some point. After a 1o hour standoff between rival factions the police managed to enter and arrest Goumma and six other people, and take him away in an armoured car.

The background to all this is the dethroneing of Goumma after the lousy election results in two elections during the last three months of 2005. His time as party leader after the death of ¨the Pasha¨ Party leader Foud Serrag Eddin in 2000 until January 2006 was marred by his dictatorial style of rulling. He got rid of talented and influential menbers of the party, like Yassin Serag Eddin, Ayman Nour, Farid Hassanein , Saif eddin Mahmoud, Mahmoud ash Shazli and Mounir Fakhri Abd al Nour.

In a sudden Change of heart he decided not to boycott the presidential elections, just days before the registration time ended. The result wasn´t what he had counted on, he got 3% and got less votes than his archrival Ayman Nour. The parliamentary elections was equally depressing with the Wafd winning only six seats. He´s a pragmatic politician , steering wafd into oblivion, at the same time as he´s not making any friends in the party, a really great achievment to put on your CV! I was rather optimistic when he became leader, hoping that a less charismatic leader would try to democratize the party from within.m To delegate work. I saw him as a caretaker , who had the potential to start a process of reformation, i was completely wrong, he was just another old fashioned politician.

Just some quick thoughts:

This is part of Opposition party politics, infighting is usual and this kind of thing that happend today has happend with other parties before, the SLP(Amal) fight over leadership in 1989 comes to my mind, when the socialist and islamist trend battled for leadership and the socialist faction leader Ahmed Megahed ocypied the party headqurters after having been couped at the party general assembly by Ibrahim Shukri and Adel Hussein. Another exammple would be the december 2002 attempt by Rageb Hemeida of the Liberal Party(al Ahram), one of 11 contenders for the position of partyleader, tried to sieze the party headquarters and newspaper. The unfortunate thing about this, besides people being hurt, is that it gives the party´s commission´an excuse to suspend the party license, or the party paper´s licensce(Safwat Sherif, who said that he lost any of his power? sitting as chairman on both committees, and being the SG of NDP). Most of these disputes could go on for ever in court, and if the court settles it , nobody can assure it´s implementation. This is some of the things that makes the already weak opposition extremley vulnerable. And Condi tells them , you have to create more parties...

It´s late, and i need to catch some sleep, so go read Elijah Zarwans excellent coverage about today, probably the best you can find , complete with great reporting and lots of photos.