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Current Events Jayson

Amr Darrag on the Brotherhood’s Mistakes, Sort of

Amr Darrag
Amr Darrag

From my recent article at Egypt Source:

During the lead-up to the June 30 protests demanding early elections through the violent dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins, several Brotherhood members spoke in vague terms of their ‘mistakes.’ It was a conciliatory gesture of sorts, admitting Morsi’s less than stellar performance but arguing this was not enough to undo his democratic legitimacy.

It is a fair enough logic, but it was never accompanied by any details concerning these mistakes. The closest to an admission came from Salah Sultan, who apologized for the Brotherhood’s negotiating with Omar Suleiman, opening channels with the military, not being honest enough about the efforts of corrupt regime figures to sabotage the revolution, and failing to absorb youth and women in their project. His statement was posted on the webpage of the Freedom and Justice Party, but later removed and described as only a ‘personal’ viewpoint.

This has been one of my frustrations in listening to the Brotherhood post-Morsi. They speak of mistakes, but are rarely specific. I understand the political logic, but wish for greater transparency. So I was thankful for an opportunity to press the issue directly:

But Darrag, instead, is put off by the question. “I don’t actually agree on the prescription that there are mistakes that the Brotherhood has to acknowledge and apologize for,” he said. “Of course there are mistakes, I am not saying that we don’t make mistakes. But this has to come through a process that all political forces, if they want to learn from past experiences, acknowledge their mistakes.”

Rather, he anticipates this process eventually coming from those who sided with the removal of Morsi:

“It doesn’t make sense to ask one side to keep apologizing and apologizing and apologizing. I mean, this is not helping.”

Perhaps it is not helping the Brotherhood, but if they tried apologizing even once, it might help the original revolutionary cause. But consistent with his position, Darrag anticipates the reflection coming from the other side. “People think and reconsider,” he said. “I am sure that one day the majority will join us in the same way that happened on January 25th.

“But when, I don’t know.”

Please click here to read the full article on Egypt Source.

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Current Events Jayson

Friday Prayers for Egypt: Morsi Speaks, Protests Diversify?

Flag Cross Quran

God,

Following the opening session of his trial, President Morsi was transferred to a public prison where he was able to release his first statement since he was deposed. He called his removal a coup, praised the people for their steadfast protests, and said Egypt would have no stability until his legitimacy was restored.

Meanwhile, the week upcoming marks the two year anniversary of some of the bloodiest protests from the interim period, when the military ruled and the Brotherhood left the revolutionary stage. Supporters of the current general are calling for a commemoration, but of the new unity between the people and the police. But it was the police who killed them, revolutionaries maintain, and the institution remains unreformed under any regime. They may protest afresh in counter-commemoration.

Will the protest movement widen? Will anti-Islamist revolutionaries recall their original ire against military rule? Or is it now nothing of the sort, and a true democratic transition is underway?

God, answer these questions in the hearts of Egyptians. May they hold their leaders accountable as they pray for them. May they join a consensual process as they protest all wrongdoings. Unite these dichotomies in both the diversity of the people and the uniqueness of the individual.

Give Morsi patience, discernment, and courage, God. He is frustrated, surely; give him hope. Judge both him and the nation, God, and bring both to a better place. Do likewise with all who support him.

Give patience, discernment, and courage to the revolutionaries as well, God. They have been frustrated for two years, having watched colleagues fall and justice fade. Will fresh protests renew their hope? Or has their hope come in newly minted unity? Reform the police institution, God, and show revolutionaries the best way to honor both their friends and their nation.

Protect Egypt, God. As she emerges after three months of a state of emergency and life under curfew, give self-discipline in place of security solutions. Amidst all her diversity in a cacophony of speaking, give her silence and reflection.

But whether within the din or its dearth, make the right voices heard. May yours be quietly audible, above all else. Then have Egypt’s roar follow.

Amen.

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Culture Jayson Religion

Where Fur Meets Faith

I Paw Moses

Since I began contributing articles to Christianity Today my name and email have been linked into a database used by many to promote their cause, article idea, new book, or, in this case… canine apparel. I can unsubscribe anytime I’d like, but every once in a while interesting things come across the board. This one, however, is worth sharing. Perhaps in some odd way it will help their business:

TEMPLE OF DOG…WHERE FUR MEETS FAITH

Temple of Dog, a manufacturer of dog apparel and toys, has launched a fun faith-based line of cotton shirts. With sayings like “Kiss me, I’m Chewish,” and “Boneified Christian” these canine tees are great for faithful Fido to show off his faith! And, just in time for Halloween and the holidays, your furry friends can sport a slew of festive tees, like “Fleas Navidad” and “Yappy Yamaka.” Temple of Dog provides pure tail-wagging canine couture.

Temple of Dog (TOD), a manufacturer of dog apparel, toys and cards, today announced the launch of their faith-based line of cotton dog shirts, offering dog owners a variety of sku’s and sizes designed within the Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and Mormon disciplines.

They weren’t interested in the Muslim market? Perhaps they did their research well; many Muslims consider dogs to be unclean.

“The idea started as a ‘chocolate-meets-peanut butter’ moment,” explained co-founder Cynthia P.  Jenkins. “Blending one’s personal dogma with his or her dog is a match made in heaven.”

Dog and dogma… Clever, or way too obvious?

The American Pet Products Association reports that Americans will spend $55.3 billion on their pets this year, a 7.9% increase over 2012. Halloween pet spending accounts for $371 million and the average holiday shopper averages $46 per pet. To that end, Temple of Dog will be adding additional religions and products to their line this month, including: “Yappy Yamaka” and “Fleas Navidad” greeting cards; “Doggie Lama” and “Latter Day Saint” dog shirts; and “Let’s Nosh!” and “My Bowl Runneth Over” bowls.

“Our pets – along with our faiths – are essentially recession-proof,” said Gardenswartz and Jenkins. “Our only limitation is the real estate on a dog’s body.”

In just about every culture the religious temple has also been a marketplace – it’s where people congregate. See my previous article on atheism if your disgust runneth over.

If not, click here for more information. Jesus also said to use worldly wealth to make friends for yourself, so perhaps Temple of Dog should be saluted instead!

Temple of Dog

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Current Events Jayson Religion

Egyptian Writer May Face Jail for Defaming Religion

From Ahram Online, telling a story that is not unusual:

Saber says those who filed the lawsuit took his words out of context, adding that he did not defame religion in his short stories.

“In my stories, the characters are wondering where God is in the face of all the grievances and evils that they face. It’s like they’re asking him to interfere; this is not in contempt of religion, it is merely posing a question,” Saber explained.

Here is an angle, though, what while also not unusual, is less known by many:

According to a statement made by a coalition of Egyptian right human rights organisations, the prosecutors undertaking the investigation consulted the church in Beni Suef as well as Al-Azhar to seek out their opinion as to whether the accusations were correct.

The church told the prosecution that the content of Saber’s literary work contradicted divine religions, ridiculed the divine, and invented stories that stray from noble and sophisticated literature.

Al-Azhar affirmed the church’s stance, stating that the work destroys intellectual values and tears apart the fabric of Egyptian society.

The church in Egypt is a very conservative institution that is not shy to seek the power of the state as a defense against encroachment on religious values. I do not know anything about the content of the book, if it targets Islam, Christianity, or religion in general. The author’s name also does not infer his religious background.

But the church would do well to review its own literature. Habbakuk the prophet does little but rail against God’s apparent inaction in the face of injustice:

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

And his answer is simply to trust God, even when he does not ‘deliver’:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

It is unfortunate when religious leaders ‘protect’ their flock from the very same doubts and questions that fill their scriptures. But this, also, is not an unusual story.

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Current Events Jayson

Friday Prayers for Egypt: Eid Disappointment, and Disappointment?

Flag Cross Quran

God,

The Eid holiday should be one of rejoicing. Abraham’s dutiful obedience in sacrificing his son is replaced with elation as a substitute is given. Muslim families slaughter a sheep in celebration, distributing a third to the poor, a third to neighbors and relations, and enjoying a feast with the rest.

But this Eid opened with severe disappointment, if ultimately trivial compared to the state of the nation. There is fear it may close with disappointment as well, though far from trivial for the future of the nation.

Egypt has not participated in the World Cup since 1990, despite unparalleled success in the African Cup. This year all that stood in their way was a home-and-home series with Ghana. On the first day of the Eid, away, the Pharaohs lost 6-1. Their hopes are all but shattered.

The final days of the Eid brought a significant statement. A leader in al-Gama’a al-Islamiya and a staunch supporter of Morsi declared a political solution to Egypt’s divisions would soon emerge after the holiday. Negotiations were ongoing between the Muslim Brotherhood and the army, he said, with both realizing they cannot defeat the other. A compromise could be in the works.

God, perhaps this is the sensibility and breakthrough Egypt needs. Perhaps not. It is this latter thought that will have millions of Egyptians disappointed should it come to pass.

Non-Islamists have rejoiced, God. The nation is finally rid of the poisonous Brotherhood.

Islamists have fumed, God. The nation was usurped by the murderous army.

So if instead they cut a deal, what will become of the partisans who rallied on both sides? Can they accept their fervor was engineered and used as a negotiating tactic?

God, in whatever side is right, wherever there is right, bring transparency and justice. At the same time, bring dialogue and consensus. Holding together all these principles, sort out the details in fairness and respect.

But heal the souls of Egyptians torn asunder in this dispute. Honor their zeal, but assuage their anger. Reveal whatever is ugly in their pursuit of Egypt’s best.

Egypt could have benefitted from World Cup joy, God, but your providence did not see fit to yield it. Maybe the panacea would only mask the hurt the nation still suffers. Give them a real unity soon.

Perhaps the Eid was this beginning. Egyptians prayed together in squares and mosques throughout the country. Few tensions were reported. For a moment all was quiet.

May it last, God. Pursue all criminals. But may the good people of Egypt find ways to transcend their differences in a spirit of peace and humility.

Many Egyptians have been willing to sacrifice all they have, even their lives, for the triumph of a particular vision. Give them a fitting substitute, God. Give them all reason to rejoice.

Amen.

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Culture Current Events Jayson Religion

Humble Wrestling: The Only Solution for Islamists and Christians?

I believe events like this conference in Jordan, excerpted below, are absolutely necessary, even if they don’t really go anywhere. But agreement can never be achieved unless they go at all. Here, from al-Monitor, is an example illustrating absolutely different worldviews:

So an obvious question was posed to the Islamists: Do you accept, alongside your Islamic laws and alongside the personal status laws for other communities, that in your countries there is also one civil personal status law that is optional? In other words, do you accept that a person is given the choice to either follow the laws of his sect or leave his sect and resort to the civil law under the confines and protection of the state?

Faced with this question, the Islamists did not hesitate to assert their absolute refusal of the proposal: a civil law, even if optional, is forbidden — a person may not leave his religion. By “person” they mean a “Muslim,” because current laws allow non-Muslims to convert to Islam. Sometimes they even encourage it as a means to either escape harassment or obtain a government job reserved for Muslims, in addition to dozens of other reasons.

In lieu of agreement, the article states attendees suffered ‘a vicious cycle of pleasantries’. Such a description characterizes much inter-religious dialogue, and is useful in its own right. Pleasantries can lead to friendship.

But what is necessary, especially in Egypt, is for Christians and Islamists to wrestle over the future of their nation. Christians may not be able to force their way, but if Islamists were to seek their blessing, and do all that is necessary to get it, they just might succeed.

The Islamists did not hesitate to confirm they have the right to reach power as they see it and practice it. They kept repeating the following mantra: “We will only resort to democracy that emanates from the ballot box.” Many tried to explain to them that democracy is not just the ballot box, but the Islamists did not pay them much attention. The Islamists’ main concern was to assert their rejection of what happened in Egypt and confront the rule of the “coupists,” as they call Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rule, against the legitimate authorities. Regarding the concerns of their fellow Christian citizens, it seemed to a large extent to not be part of their concerns today or tomorrow.

Unfortunately, this has largely been Egypt’s experience.

It is hard for anyone to be humble. Many Islamists might find it even more difficult to seek this Christian blessing, as they see themselves as the possessors of the completed and perfected faith, and furthermore, they are numerically superior. How arrogant, they might think, of Christians not to yield. Don’t we give them protection under sharia law?

Ah, but this means little to them:

One last example that illustrates the dialogue’s difficulties was the discussion about personal status laws in countries dominated by Islamists. The Islamists usually try to show that they are open to other groups by supporting, as a rule, that other sects are given their own personal status laws — whereby every sect is given its own laws governing marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, transfer of ownership and other family matters. But at the same time, the Islamists insist that Islamic law is a “major” or a “principal” source of legislation of the state. Discussion by Christian participants at the conference showed that this rule is not sufficient, fair or balanced. In fact, it often conceals a gradual process to subdue non-Muslim citizens in those countries by degrading the minorities’ demographic and geographic presence, Islamicizing society and eliminating pluralism.

Islamists either smile slyly at this complaint, choose to ignore it, or else they cannot even comprehend it – confident in their understanding of God’s will in sharia law as best both for them and for Christians. True humility is harder for the one who believes that he already humbly and generously gives to his ‘lesser’. They have a point, but humility does not prove points. It loves and embraces.

So what should humility look like for the Christians? No one must ever abandon principles and convictions. Humility is not a game of power and pressure. Rather, it must come in an acknowledgment that Islamism is a strong societal impulse, and those who possess it are their fellow citizens.

Here is where it is easy, and necessary, for me to duck out of the discussion. If both sides came humbly, what would they decide? Here, I have no say. Even in asking both sides to come to the table I have nearly gone to far. Why should they yield even that initial bargaining position, when sides are viewed in mutual distrust?

I don’t know, and I can’t convince them. All I can do is trust that it is ‘right’. All I can hope for is that God would honor it, and dishonor all who seek first their particular benefit.

After all, the status quo is not working. Christians are often ignored or used as pawns, and Islamists have failed to successfully establish their project anywhere there is religious diversity.

It is not dialogue that is necessary, though it is helpful. It is wrestling. It is the sort that, like Jacob with the angel, would not let go until he secures a blessing. It is the sort that engages in respect and will not cease until it is mutual.

I don’t know, maybe that is not humility at all. But humility might be able to avoid Jacob’s fate. Though he obtained his blessing, he lived the rest of his life with a dislocated hip.

Christians and Islamists have dislocated far more. Perhaps it cannot be otherwise. Perhaps their ideas are completely incompatible.

Fair enough. Ideas cannot be humble, they can only seek their own. But people are more flexible. People can wrestle.

People can bless. It is time Christians and Islamists begin this strategy with one another, even if unilaterally.

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Culture Current Events Jayson

An Unfortunate Song with a Catchy Tune

Ali al-Haggar
Ali al-Haggar

This popular Egyptian song by Ali al-Haggar is titled ‘We are a People’. It was created around the time of the military action to remove President Morsi from power, showing scenes from the protests against him.

Fair enough, but the lyrics do not stop at the title. The refrain continues ‘… and you are a people’.

It is a very thinly veiled contrast of the Egyptian people with Islamists, and in particular the Muslim Brotherhood.

This could possibly, maybe, be fair enough. The Muslim Brotherhood is a transnational organization that aims for the unity of the Muslim peoples. Their opponents accuse them of using Egypt as a launching pad for a new caliphate, rather than being loyal to Egypt as a nation-state.

As such, they are a separate people, or so the song suggests.

This is very dangerous and divisive sentiment. Some may say these are dangerous and divisive times. It is good, they say, the Brotherhood has been removed from power before it is too late.

Perhaps. But the song continues, ‘Despite there being only one God, we have a God, and you have a God.’

One Salafi friend, profiled here, complained bitterly about this line before I was even aware of the song.

Islamists are often accused of being ‘takfiris’ – those who call anyone who does not agree with them an infidel. This song does the same in reverse.

‘Take your fatwas and go far away from our land,’ it sings. Early after the revolution some Salafis told Christians and liberals they could leave Egypt and go to Europe or America if they didn’t like the results of elections.

‘We have ibn Sina and ibn Rushd [two famous Arab philosophers], you have bin Laden [you know who he is],’ it also declared. Since dispersing the pro-Morsi sit-in the media had declared the crackdown on the Brotherhood as a ‘War against Terrorism.’

And perhaps it is. Few things are yet clear, but the dangerous and divisive lyrics of this song are one of them. Whatever criminal conspiracy the Brotherhood has possibly engaged in, there are hundreds of thousands of ordinary Egyptians who are partial, at least, to the slogans and promise of Islamism.

These deserve better than this song offers them.

But it is quite catchy. Propaganda often is.

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Current Events Jayson

Another Coup, A Salafi Hope

Hani Fawzi casting his ballot in Asala Party internal elections (photo: Clara Pak)
Hani Fawzi casting his ballot in Asala Party internal elections (photo: Clara Pak)

From my recent article in Egypt Source:

In order to reverse a coup d’état, Egypt needs a coup d’état. This, in brief, is the solution to Egypt’s crisis offered by Hani Fawzi, general secretary of the Cairo-based Salafi Asala Party. It must be prompted, however, by massive protests. No longer simply the domain of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, the anti-coup movement is attracting both professionals and Christians – or so he believes.

Rather, this is what he prays for. A few days prior to the violent dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-in at Raba’a al-Adaweya, Fawzi suffered a massive heart attack while sleeping in the near-by offices of the Asala Party in Nasr City. Found and hospitalized the next morning, unlike some of his colleagues he avoided the violence and mass arrests, but in his recovery has been reduced mostly to seeking divine intercession.

This, according to Fawzi, can come only through the army, as they are the only ones with the power to bring down Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Minister of Defense, and Mohamed Ibrahim, the Minister of the Interior. There have been indications, he hears, that not all generals have been pleased with Sisi’s leadership. The rumor mill has churned with such stories; a bearded taxi driver told me the other day that Sisi had three opposing generals killed.

Fawzi doesn’t want to put stock in rumors, but does notice that several generals have been very quiet. Should one of them undo the coup, it should set in motion what Morsi should have done upon his election. On this he admittedly draws on the rhetoric of Salafi firebrand Hazem Abu Ismail, who argued for a radical cleansing of the state apparatus. Fawzi finds him too divisive a figure, but Morsi could have made it work.

The rest of the article explains how, explains why he discounts Morsi’s opposition, and exculpates Islamists from the attacks on churches. Please click here to continue reading at Egypt Source.

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Current Events Jayson

Friday Prayers for Egypt: US Aid

Flag Cross Quran

God,

Perhaps the United States felt she needed to take a stand. Perhaps this is a new wrinkle in an old story of feigned antagonism. Perhaps she backs the Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps she backs democracy.

Perhaps she is against the killing of protestors. Perhaps she is muddled and has little idea of how to engage Egypt.

Whatever the reality, God, she has suspended aid.

Not all, of course, and not permanently. But it is a significant step of disengagement from a nation with which she has an entrenched political and military partnership. What will come of it?

Make Egypt, God, a country that needs no aid. Help her to stand on her feet, supply her own needs, and craft her own policies. May these be wise and righteous; may she be generous and able to aid others instead.

Make Egypt, God, a country free from external leverage. Help her to defend her nation as necessary, stand tall in balance of power, and speak into issues of regional justice. May she be strong and welcoming; may she love peace and pursue it.

But these are ideals, God. And even if achieved, Egypt will remain part of the global community in which none are independent. Within this web, she is more often a fly than a spider; give her reprieve.

US aid is the reality in which she lives. Help Egypt’s leaders to respond correctly. May good relations with America persist, even as they evolve. But may all stipulations be negotiated fairly, from strength to strength, on what is right and proper rather than from interest and pressure.

For Egypt can certainly pressure back. Perhaps you deem America immoral, God, as many Egyptians do. But there are certainly other immoralities to flirt with; may Egypt not run from one lover to the next.

There is a certain stability in the world, filled with injustices but facilitating peace as the absence of war. Egypt, if she wishes, can undo some of this. Suez, Sinai, Israel – her contribution to the web is substantial. Make right the injustices, God, but preserve and enhance any peace that exists.

And God, if American aid and leverage has positive ideals behind it, may a principled stand produce principled results. Domestically, hold leadership accountable to the demands of the people. Grant Egypt consensus and a governmental system that represents it.

The United States may be acting from any number of motivations, so give Egypt discernment. But whether aid is restored, lessened, made conditional, or eliminated, help Egypt also to take a stand.

For Egypt, may there be no wrinkles. May there be no antagonism. May there be no backed political entity. May there be no engineered democracy. May there be no killing. May there be no need for protests.

May there be no muddle. God, engage Egypt, and do not suspend your aid.

Amen.

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Current Events Jayson

What Happens if US Aid to Egypt is Cut?

As the US administration has decided to suspend some foreign military assistance to Egypt, consider this article from Reuters, carried by Ahram Online, from a few weeks previous:

Richard Genaille, deputy director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, said he hoped the Obama administration reached a decision soon on whether to continue $1.23 billion in U.S. military assistance to Egypt, given the large number of weapons shipments in the pipeline.

“We’re kind of antsy about that,” Genaille said after a speech at the ComDef industry conference in Washington. “There’s a whole bunch of contracts out there. The bills keep coming in and we’ve got to be able to pay them somehow otherwise we go in default.”

….

Funding for the weapons sales must be finalized or “obligated” by September 30, when the U.S. government’s 2013 fiscal year ends, or the funds will revert to the U.S. Treasury, officials say.

“We’re kind of hoping that sometime pretty soon they’ll make a decision one way or another – either we terminate or they actually give us some more of the Egyptian (foreign military funding) so we can pay the bills,” Genaille said.

He said the administration was trying to sort through the potential costs associated with terminating contracts, but the amount would be “substantial – in the billions.”

US ‘aid’ to Egypt is a useful foreign policy tool, worthy to be debated as a legitimate budget expenditure. But it is important to remember this aid is essentially a subsidy to the defense industry. It’s just nice to hear the Pentagon brass say so.

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Current Events Jayson Religion

Remembering Egypt’s Maspero Massacre through its Most Prominent Martyr

Marry Daniel
Marry Daniel

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on October 9, 2013.

I never met Mina Daniel, but today many in Egypt consider him a hero and a martyr. Recently, I met his sister.

Two years ago this week, the 20-year-old Daniel was gunned down during a peaceful Coptic protest outside the Maspero state TV headquarters in downtown Cairo on October 9, 2011. More than 25 others died and scores were injured by military vehicles swerving through the crowded demonstration, or by local thugs who attacked the scattering remnants.

To this date, only a few low-level officers have been handed sentences, ranging from two to three years in prison.

Commemorating the massacre, Copts gathered in the Cave Church of Muqattam in the mountains outside Cairo, a scene of many interdenominational prayer services. Last year, on the first anniversary, thousands of Muslims and Christians marched together to Maspero from Shubra, a northern Cairo district with a high percentage of Coptic residents.

The religious unity of both events was just as Daniel would have wanted it.

“Mina didn’t care if you were a Mina [a typical Coptic name] or a Muhammad,” his sister Marry told me. “He dealt with everyone as created in the image of God.”

Please click here to read the rest of the article at Christianity Today.

 

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Current Events Jayson

Revolution and Happiness

To those young men and women and idealists of all sorts who looked longingly at the first wave of the Arab Spring:

Here, courtesy of the United Nations via Ahram Online, is a sobering statistic:

A report published by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network has listed Egypt as the 130th most happy nation out of 156 surveyed.

Egypt’s happiness rate dropped by 21.2 percent in comparison with 2005-2007, according to the 2013 World Happiness Report which was published in September.

According to the report, countries in the Middle East and North Africa have witnessed a decrease of nearly 60 percent in their “happiness rate.”

In today’s day and age, much of what can be considered happiness is tied to the feeling of belonging to and working for good in something greater than oneself. I certainly understand how the heroic example of the Arab Spring qualifies.

For those living this reality, however, it is not working out so well.

This is a good reminder of two things: Commitment must outlast the temporary vagaries of ‘happiness’, and, it is very important to chose that commitment wisely.

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Current Events Jayson

An Egyptian Prayer of Fear

Prayer of Fear

Sometimes it is hard to pray for Egypt.

Every Friday I seek to semi-summarize events of the week and reflect on what God would desire as Egypt’s best. This becomes harder because I don’t want these to be my prayers, but something all Egyptians – Muslims and Christians, of all political stripes – can pray together.

As such, it is often reduced to the triumph of principles, the application of which might be stridently debated among those who would jointly call for justice, freedom, and the like.

I suppose this has been the plague of post-revolutionary Egypt. Still, we should not stop praying, nor should Egyptians stop seeking joint solutions beyond the principles. Too many seem ready to accept their desired solution be imposed upon their opponents.

Yes, it is hard. How can right and wrong be compromised? How can completely divergent perspectives come together?

As a result, my prayers get repetitive, and often are reduced to the posing of questions. I, myself, generally don’t know how to answer them. Inasmuch as Egyptians differ over the answers, the best we can hope for is that God will sort it out – preferably through some sort of consensus.

But can we rejoice in the triumph of one side of a dichotomy: Morsi vs. Sisi, legitimacy vs. coup, Islamism vs. liberalism, extremism vs. democracy?

After all, if God is sovereign over the promotion of kings and the deposing thereof, he is not above using the deceitful wiles of man to establish his righteous will.

But as the sides have changed so frequently, how can any have confidence God’s will is behind it all, beyond simple theological assertion?

Is he winnowing Egypt? Is he punishing her? Will one set of partisans triumph in the end after he brings them through tribulation?

I wish I had the discernment and wisdom I ask him to give the good people of Egypt. May they soon have a nation to match all of his principles, whatever that must look like.

In the meanwhile, I am glad to share this video prayer offered by an Egyptian, which wrangles over similar issues. Like mine, it is comprised more of questions than anything else. It combines images of triumph from the continuing revolution with images of its tragedy. It is moving and sobering.

It is also a prayer. Please pray along with them, and may God’s will be done. As it both opens and closes: Deliver us…

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Current Events Jayson

Friday Prayers for Egypt: Defining 6 October

Flag Cross QuranGod,

Egyptian national holidays seek to honor the deeds of the past. Their value is invested by the state, but the people can sometimes force a redefinition.

The most recent example occurred on January 25, 2011, now celebrated as the birth of the revolution. But the date was chosen to coincide with Police Day, in protest of the brutality for which they were known.

The current example is under contention, taking place October 6, 2013. The date traditionally honors the launch of the surprise attack across the Suez Canal which led eventually to the liberation of Sinai, known more often in the West as the Yom Kippur War.

Now, pro-Morsi supporters have chosen the day to launch massive protests against what they deem was a military coup. As January 25 became a popular rejection of the police state, they hope October 6 will become a popular rejection of the military state, and in particular its head, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The protest weekend kicked off today, leading to sporadic clashes, and an at least initial failure to occupy desired squares such as Tahrir and Rabaa, site of the pro-Morsi sit-in violently dispersed in August.

God, what is Egypt’s history? In all nations it is part fact and part construct, defining what it means to be a citizen. Only in Egypt there is plenty to choose from, simply pick your millennium. Which is more honorable in your eyes: distilled data or cherished myth? As Egypt faces her future, give an accounting of her past. Help her self-improvement to be based on self-reflection.

But what of today, God? In one sense it is more of the same. Protests of diminished size seek to keep alive the hope of reinstating a president and returning achieved legitimacy. But they also appear to further antagonize a tired population which – at least in the cities – had largely rejected the president even before he was deposed.

The difference is twofold in possibility. First, they aim this time for the squares, which if occupied bring great symbolic value. Second, they call for numbers and have built up the hype, which if fulfilled can redefine the struggle.

God, success and failure are in your hands. Many Egyptians pray you grant them success, while many others praise you for thwarting their ambition. In a polarized nation, God, make clear the facts. Reveal all offenses and manipulations, so that culprits are exposed for all to see.

A new Egypt was born on January 25, God, but such a venerable nation can never be truly new. A part of that nation was recovered on October 6, and some hope to claim – or reclaim – her again this week. Be sovereign in Egypt, God, and give sovereignty to the people. Protect them and Egypt together.

But redefine them according to your will, that peace, justice, transparency, and love might define the nation entire.

Amen.

 

Categories
Jayson Religion

Brief Portraits of Egyptian Atheism

Arabic Atheism

From Egypt Independent, on a very taboo subject in which some have given their full name and testimony:

Those who have come out publicly as atheists have been not only isolated by their friends and families, but also society in general. However, others who turn down their familial religion have faced many worse trials than mere isolation.

Asmaa Omar, 24, who has just graduated the Faculty of Engineering, said that once she revealed her beliefs to her family, they began to physically and mentally torture her. Her father slapped her in the face and broke her jaw. She was not able to eat properly for seven months.

Both her immediate and extended families began to insult her. “You just want to have free relations with boys,” they would say, or “You used to be the best girl in the family,” and “Now you’re a prostitute.”

Some come from a Christian background:

Ayman Ramzy Nakhla, 42, comes from a Protestant background. He worked in preaching Christianity with the church, but then decided to abandon religion altogether. He is now not very much concerned with knowing if God really exists or not.

Nakhla’s father was a priest, and Nakha worked for ten years as librarian in the Theology College of the Evangelical Church, and as an assistant to a priest, which is an administrative position. Ramzy says that this background was the one that actually led him to lose interest in religion, getting so close to the truth of the Church made him decide to leave it.

Others from a Muslim background:

Other atheists say they believe atheism is in fact more moral than the old, rigid moral codes offered by traditional religions.

Omar says her journey began when prominent cardiologist Madgy Yaqoub managed to treat a two-year old relative of hers in open heart surgery. Rahman, the child, had a valve that did not work and another with malformation.

The successful operation led Omar to wonder how a man such as the doctor, who had lived his life saving many children like Rahma, could be thrown to hell for not being a Muslim. Omar found that religions just chose its followers to end up in heaven, and say that other people would go to hell, regardless for whatever good deeds they do in their life.

Omar says she believes in God, but is against all religions. She says she is still looking for Him and is not aware of His truth.

As a result, some mix between the two:

Some atheists, however, still feel without religion, they are missing something. Despite her rejection of religion, Kamel still misses the spiritual side, resorting to Sufism as she attends Sufis meetings and listen to sufi music, especially those of al-Naqshbandi and Nasr Eddin Tobar. She also enjoys listening to Christian hymns and is massively affected by them. She says, however, that this is just a need for spirituality, nothing more.

Kamel goes back to saying that she has not yet reached a final result for her inner conflict.

Indeed, Egypt is changing. Your vote: Is this for better or for worse?
Categories
Current Events Jayson

What Path will Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Choose?

Three options are presented in an excellent and thorough analysis from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

I will excerpt the conclusions for each, but the whole article is worth reading. If you would like to skip over the quotations for my brief commentary, please scroll down to the end.

First, on the possibility of Inclusion and Integration:

Assuming there are prudent, democratic interlocutors who are truly interested in mediating a settlement with the regime, such as Beshr and Darrag, can they really command the organization’s support? The answer, most likely, is no, given that most of the key positions in the group’s decisionmaking bodies, including the Guidance Bureau, the Shura Council, and administrative units, are occupied by individuals completely loyal to the Brotherhood’s incumbent leadership and tied to it through a multilayered network of business, familial, occupational, personal, and ideological connections.

Furthermore, the Brotherhood’s leadership has masterfully employed existential fears of regime repression among the group’s members to deter any serious call for self-critique or internal revision. Brotherhood leaders have so far adamantly refused to admit their grave mistakes and betrayal of the causes of revolution and democratization. The best they can concede, based on the dovish Darrag’s statement to the media, is to support the viewpoint that the only mistake the Brotherhood made while in power was underestimating the power of the Egyptian “deep state” and its capacity to spoil the political process. Darrag believes that the Brotherhood should have adopted a “more revolutionary strategy” in order to cleanse the state. But he expresses no regrets about the authoritarian constitution, the exclusionary political process, or the divisive policies put in place by the Brotherhood while in power. Moreover, even if Brotherhood leaders admit to grave mistakes during their rule, as long as the regime continues its repressive policies against the organization, the time will not be right to critique these leaders or hold them accountable for their shortcomings and wrong deeds. Therefore, internal Brotherhood fragmentation and secession will remain highly unlikely.

Nevertheless, even if some interlocutors can hypothetically solicit a degree of support—and hence start creating a real moderate faction within the Brotherhood—this scenario presents an invitation for the breakdown of the Brotherhood’s organizational unity. As long as there are no comprehensive transformations of the group’s ideology and mission, the recalcitrant Brotherhood mass will not accept these moderates’ offers of settlement on the regime’s terms, which will be depicted as an unpalatable act of treachery. The Brotherhood might come to a historical end, and more radical groups might emerge to the right of the Brotherhood, attracting its disgruntled former supporters. So, the first scenario, which is the resolution preferred by the United States and the European Union, is highly problematic and unlikely, at least in the short run.

Second, the Violence Scenario:

Nevertheless, Islamist violence may have reached its logistical and social limitations. First of all, violence on a large scale requires a large number of people willing to execute it and a social base willing to support it. Small pockets of disaffected, radical Islamists are not enough. Furthermore, unlike in Algeria in the 1990s, topographical conditions favorable to armed insurgency do not exist in Egypt. The country also lacks a clearly proviolence social constituency large enough to provide shelter and support for fighters.

Increasing social hostility to Islamism in general and to Islamist-driven violence in particular can isolate the politics of violence and further erode public support. While radical Islamic groups in Egypt waged an armed confrontation with the state in the 1980s and 1990s, it is important to recall that during that period the public remained either sympathetic to the Islamists or opposed to them but not motivated enough to throw its weight behind the government. This time the violent Islamists will face opposition from both the state and society (or at least wide segments of society), as demonstrated by the continuous street battles between Islamists and the Egyptian public in residential areas, popular neighborhoods, public squares, and marketplaces across different cities and towns in the months since November 2012.

The Syrian scenario is also unlikely. It is hard to believe that the Egyptian army can split along sectarian, political, or ideological lines like its counterpart in Syria.

The violence scenario, if it materialized, could arguably involve more low-intensity violence, limited to specific activities and locales. It might take the form of street conflicts between Islamists and anti-Islamist individuals in different urban neighborhoods. Street violence between common people and politicized actors has been a recurrent pattern since the early days of the transitional period. Many residents consider any politicized marches through their neighborhoods to be a transgression into their territory. Friction and clashes have occurred as a result, increasing in recent weeks, and are now focused on Brotherhood marches. Yet such low-intensity violence would likely fall short of anything like the Algerian or Syrian cases.

So both the accommodation scenario and the violence scenario are improbable. This leaves only one other possible outcome—a continuation of the status quo.

Third, the Continued Protest Scenario of De-legitimization:

The Brotherhood’s odds under the continued protest scenario are not terrible. In fact, the group can already claim that it has made headway through the troubled waters of the last month. The organization is arguably (at least in the minds of some Brotherhood activists) in a much better tactical position than when protests against Morsi began or even than when he was ousted, when public sympathy for Morsi’s cause was at its lowest and the faith in the interim regime’s transitional road map was at its zenith. The biggest problem with this scenario is its extremely risky nature. The pursuit of this option would risk losing the political gains the Brotherhood has made since Mubarak’s fall: official recognition, political participation, and power sharing. Such gains could be partially sustained if the accommodation scenario were to be embraced.

The bet the Brotherhood would be making with the continued protest scenario is that it can achieve longer-term gains, such as exhausting the transitional regime until it surrenders to the Brotherhood’s conditions, if it accepts certain near-term tactical forfeits. However, a complete defeat on the part of the military and the state is likely impossible as well. Ironically, the continued protest scenario in the long run may morph into a modified version of the accommodation option as the maximum that the Brotherhood can gain given the current balance of power.

The author does not dare to predict which path the Brotherhood will take. The best, that of internal self-reform and reflection, he believes is institutionally unlikely as well as near impossible under current circumstances.

But the difficulty lies in the nature of the Brotherhood itself, which he describes even before presenting the three options:

The Brotherhood is not a “moderate” Islamist movement that can be further moderated and democratized via inclusion. Instead, it has shown itself to be an assertive, even reckless movement, invested in Islamist ideology and dominated by an entrenched leadership structure. It has demonstrated a tendency to maintain multiple public discourses in an attempt to reconcile irreconcilable sets of political vocabulary. The soft-spoken English-speaking Brotherhood cadres who communicate with Western diplomats and analysts and propagate lofty statements about the compatibility of Brotherhood objectives with liberal democracy are not exactly representative of the real Muslim Brotherhood.

To truly understand the Brotherhood, one should examine the movement at the grassroots level, in the small towns and rural areas across the Delta and Upper Egypt—the organization’s real power base and the constituency that its leaders represent. At this level, the Brotherhood does not support pro-democracy rhetoric. Instead, it is more aligned with Salafist religious interpretations and understandings of the organization’s mission and goals as expressed by Sayyid Qutb, the renowned Muslim Brotherhood intellectual of the 1950s and early 1960s. Qutb was instrumental in advancing the notion of “organization first,” which suggests that the Islamist cause is inherently connected with the creation and sustenance of the Muslim Brotherhood society as an exclusive representation of Islam.

Intellectually and culturally, the Brotherhood encompasses different schools of Islamic thought, some of which are more open-minded and reformist than others. But based on the Brotherhood’s doctrinal literature and actual behavior, it is clear that the core of the organization centers on an ideology of an “Islamist state,” “Islamic transnationalism,” or “Paxa Islamica” and on notions of a government based on God’s sovereignty instead of the people’s sovereignty.

I have only one small quibble. The constitution produced under Brotherhood leadership specifically stated ‘sovereignty belongs to the people’, over the objections of Salafi members.

Of course, the constitution included several clauses which elevated the role of sharia, and thus of God’s practical sovereignty. The author might argue the constitution was necessarily a compromise document and was certainly a step in an Islamist direction, consistent with Brotherhood pragmatism.

As far as my read on their options, the current period is characterized by choice number three – of continued street protests. The Brotherhood can maintain this for a while, but only up until a coming critical event.

Once the amended (or new) constitution is put to popular referendum, assuming its approval, the Brotherhood claim of legitimacy takes a thorough blow. The people will have democratically sanctified the mass rallies which led to the military deposing of President Morsi.

At this moment, protests will not be enough. The Brotherhood will have to choose between active campaigning for a no vote or a boycott, or else sabotage the process. They must not allow a popular vote to go against them.

How will they do this? At that moment these three choices will come to a head. They can bide their time now with protests, but in another month or so, the die will be cast.

Categories
Current Events Jayson

Friday Prayers for Egypt: Dissolving the Brotherhood

Flag Cross QuranGod,

Ninety years, God, or six months? Which is now dissolved? A recent court decision declared the recently established Muslim Brotherhood NGO illegal, but added the ruling applied to all group activities.

Sixty years, God, or nine weeks? Which one dissolved it? Does the ruling issue from the legacy of Egypt’s military government, or from a post-revolutionary government with a renewed commitment to civil democracy?

This government postponed the implementation of the ruling until litigation against Brotherhood leaders in custody is settled. But despite the decapitation, protests continue with regularity.

God, speak to those in the Brotherhood. Help them to take stock of the situation and reflect upon the best path for the nation. Will you honor their commitment among the people? Or are they only alienating themselves further? Some have sought to apologize for their mistakes, while remaining leadership dismisses this. Give them humility, God, and may their level of sincerity be evident to all.

God, help their Islamist allies to encourage them appropriately. Some have called for them to give up their zero sum struggle. Is this capitulation, or wisdom? The right must never be surrendered, but how many wrongs is the Brotherhood masking? May those of like mind counsel them appropriately.

God, guide the path of the interim government. Publicly, they say invitations for reconciliation with the Brotherhood are still open. May all trials of their leaders be transparent, just, and quick. Resolve this momentous issue so the country can continue its democratic transition.

God, encourage those who seek to stand in between. Several revolutionary activists formed a front to oppose both the Brotherhood and the military. Strengthen them so their opposition is credible and positive, a public service to hold all to account.

And God, bless those outside the struggle entirely. Reports say they are re-depoliticizing; they are fatigued, frustrated, or just wishing the nation would go back to normal. Provide for the needs of the many poor, and lift the spirits of all so as not to surrender the positive ideals of the revolution.

The Brotherhood is unlikely to go away, God, and you know best if it should or shouldn’t. Neither the quasi-political role of the military, a similar judgment your providence disposes.

But Egypt remains, as do your principles. May these dissolve so completely into each other they may never be separated. Make of them both a completely new nature.

Amen.

 

Categories
Current Events Jayson

Worrisome Indications of Egypt’s Future

Most people I have interacted with since our return to Cairo are very positive about the nation’s future. They are glad to see Morsi go, the Brotherhood discredited, and though they anticipate a few hiccups from disgruntled Islamists, they expect a return to stability and normalcy within a few months.

Here are two voices which suggest otherwise.

The first is from the Daily News, from Mahmoud Salem, aka Sandmonkey, a liberal blogger who does not have rosy glasses, though he once did. Quite the opposite, in fact:

The “returning” police state is an illusion; the police can’t even protect their own stations. Anyone can see that there is no state, only people who believe they have power, enforceable by guns, against a population that is hungry, armed, and has grown desensitised from violence amidst an economic situation that borders on catastrophic. Throw Islamists in the mix, a military curfew that just got extended for two more months, vanishing tourism for the third year running, and the financial and economic repercussions of the “war on terror,” and anyone can tell you that this won’t end well economically. On a separate but related note, locally manufactured cigarettes are already disappearing and reappearing in the black market.
…………
Every activist I know fears the return of the police state. Every non-activist I know is wondering where the police are.
…………

The other illusion is the return of Mubarak’s “feloul” to power, which won’t happen. You see, the businessmen feloul, the face of the NDP for years, will not be able to take over this time, because at the end of the day they are not “true feloul,” but rather, the elites who utilised the NDP for power and  were used by the NDP political leadership as a front. They were in power because the NDP leadership forced them upon local leaders, had them run for office in areas where they could never win on their own; if you followed the parliamentary elections of 2005 and 2010, it already wasn’t working, with the NDP sometimes fielding four candidates against each other in every district. This used to happen when the NDP was in full operation, with a politburo and a state behind it. Now, there is no politburo, no party, no leadership or symbols, with every man for himself, and the “true feloul,” the drug dealers, arms traders and big family criminals who have armed gangs, are about to become the true rulers of the country,  since they will be the only force capable of ruling the streets that are void of state control. Only the most brutal of them will end up winning a parliamentary seat in a full individual seat election.

………………

The disintegration of the state will lead to the rise of “local leadership” as a street stabilising force, which means that our streets will be gang-controlled. The state’s ability to provide security in such conditions will become rather limited or, to be more accurate, impossible. The bad security will lead to a worse economy, which means that the corrupt government officials will become more vicious with their bribe demands, which would serve as their source of income, as their actual one begins drying up. Infighting will ensue amongst different branches of the government over patronage, because a contracting economy will equal less stealing, and consequently, more ruthless infighting.

His article is lengthy and worth reading, and actually gets to some, gulp, good news. The above state of affairs will continue for three years or so, and then the exhausted powers that be will eventually run out of partners with whom to divide up the pie that is Egypt.

On the brink of becoming another Somalia, they will finally yield to the principles and goals of the January 25 revolution. It’s advocates may be the only ones to desire reforming the mess that Egypt will be by then.

Speaking of Somalia, here is a more journalistic account of this process set in motion, by Foreign Policy:

In the Sinai Peninsula, where government buildings and checkpoints have been bombarded by rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and car bombs on a near-daily basis in recent weeks, the Egyptian state is losing ground to ultraconservative Islamists with an alternative vision for rule of law. The growing influence of self-taught sharia judges who uphold the Quran over Egyptian law reflects an alarming erosion of state sovereignty in the Sinai Peninsula. In late August, state courts in North Sinai were forced to transfer all of their cases to the comparatively stable jurisdiction of Ismailiya, in the face of escalating attacks by armed extremists targeting government buildings and security personnel. This week, two prominent sharia judges were among 15 hard-line Salafis arrested on charges of inciting terrorist attacks, as the Egyptian government struggles to contain rising extremism. But despite the current crackdown, it is clear that the deeply entrenched sharia courts of North Sinai are here to stay.

Since the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, the already fragile government in Sinai has been further crippled by a wave of armed attacks, ambushes, and car bombings by militants equipped with increasingly sophisticated weaponry stolen from police stations or smuggled across Egypt’s borders with Libya and Sudan. The escalation of violence has forced the closure of a critical police station in Arish and the evacuation of other government buildings, creating an institutional vacuum that sharia courts are opportunistically exploiting.

The outsourcing of traditional law enforcement functions to non-state actors is reminiscent of a pattern seen in failed states like Somalia, where powerful Islamic courts with their own private militias and ties to al Qaeda seized control over vast swaths of the country in 2006. While the sharia courts of Sinai are nowhere near as institutionalized as those in Somalia, they similarly aspire to absorb the functions of state institutions that are failing to govern.

These courts are not run by radical extremists, as the author makes clear, but some might not find much shade of difference in their end game:

Sharia judges, eager to disassociate themselves from more radical Islamists, are quick to enumerate their moderate credentials and tolerance of religious minorities. Beik insisted that the courts operate on a purely voluntary basis and would never forcibly impose Islamic law on non-Muslims without their consent. To illustrate this point, he proudly informed me that the House of Sharia Judgment has heard three cases involving claims by Christian litigants against Muslim adversaries since the revolution, and in all three cases, the Christian party prevailed — a fact he cited as evidence of the courts’ neutrality.

But although the sharia judges of North Sinai pay lip service to liberal democratic principles of inclusion and equality, they ultimately aspire to establish a parallel state governed not by Egypt’s constitution, but by a retrograde interpretation of sharia that relegates women and religious minorities to second-class citizenship. For now, their rulings are purely advisory and non-binding. But Abu Faisal predicts that his court’s decisions will one day carry the force of law in the Islamic emirate he hopes to see established in the Sinai. “Sharia is already the law of the land here,” he said. “God willing, someday it will be the law of the state.”

I maintain optimism for Egypt’s future. Prognosis, however, is currently beyond my confidence to assert.

Categories
Current Events Jayson

Obama at the UN: As Seen by an Egyptian

Obama at UN

Many Egyptians believe the United States is deeply involved in their nation’s affairs. Some believe because of strong military ties, President Obama was behind the removal of President Morsi. Others believe because of a State Department search for a new reliable partner to do their bidding, President Obama was behind the ascent of the Muslim Brotherhood and is still working to hoist them upon a wary public.

Paul Atallah is among the latter. He frequently distributes a newsletter summing up Egyptian developments in local media and provides his own commentary. If you would like to receive it, his email address is: paul_attallah@hotmail.com

He has given me permission to share his latest take on the ‘weird speech’ President Obama offered at the United Nations.

Point 1: Mohammed Morsi was democratically elected, but proved unwilling or unable to govern in a way that was fully inclusive.

Point 2: The interim government that replaced him responded to the desires of millions of Egyptians who believed the revolution had taken a wrong turn,

Point 3: but it too has made decisions inconsistent with inclusive democracy – through an emergency law, and restrictions on the press, civil society, and opposition parties.

Comment: At this point, Obama did not mention anything about MB and Islamist terrorist actions committed during the last three months which had been the cause of this emergency law, etc. and this makes the whole difference.

Point 4: Of course, America has been attacked by all sides of this internal conflict, simultaneously accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, and engineering their removal from power. In fact, the United States has purposely avoided choosing sides.

Comment: Liar!

Point 5: The United States will maintain a constructive relationship with the interim government.

Point 6: We will continue support in areas like education that benefit the Egyptian people.

Comment: This argument is normally used to say: We are against the regime but we cannot harm the people!

Point 7: Our approach to Egypt reflects a larger point: the United States will at times work with governments that do not meet the highest international expectations, but who work with us on our core interests.

Comment: So we have to deal with a dirty military dictatorship against our will!

Point 8: But we will not stop asserting principles that are consistent with our ideals, whether that means opposing the use of violence as a means of suppressing dissent, or supporting the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We will reject the notion that these principles are simply Western exports, incompatible with Islam or the Arab World – they are the birthright of every person.

Comment: Condemning the Egyptian regime and nothing about MB monstrosities. I feel that he is speaking about Syria and not about Egypt.

Point 9: And while we recognize that our influence will at times be limited; although we will be wary of efforts to impose democracy through military force, and will at times be accused of hypocrisy or inconsistency – we will be engaged in the region for the long haul. For the hard work of forging freedom and democracy is the task of a generation.

Comment: I am not quite sure of what Obama meant by this statement? Does he mean that US at a certain moment would interfere to impose democracy by military force or is he talking of the military coup that happened in order to impose democracy?

If he meant the first one so it is a warning: At a certain point we will be obliged to impose democracy through military force. But I am not sure of this translation.

If the meant the second: How was it possible to get rid of a paramilitary/religious regime?

 As an example of his newsletter, here are a few other links he provides about local analysis in the Egyptian press:

Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Obama speech reflects US submission to the Egyptians will and confirms that Egypt is walking firmly on the roadmap to democracy: Obama’s mention of emergency law and civil society reflects that he is not fully aware of what the Egyptian society is facing on the ground.

El Hariry: MB prohibition and the force of the army defeated Obama in front of the people’s will: US sold the Muslim Brotherhood as they abandoned Mubarak.

Revolutionary forces coalition: 30th of June taught US how to respect the people’s will

It is always fun to be an American in Egypt! In our experience, Egyptians, no matter which side of this divide they occupy, have always treated us kindly and with respect.

 

Categories
Current Events Jayson

Syria and Egypt: Reflecting on a Critical and Curious Denial

From Ghouta, Syria: Victims of a Chemical Attack

On September 7, I posted an article questioning the legitimacy of US intelligence in Syria. Here is the response of Dale Gavlak to the article she allegedly authored:

Mint Press News incorrectly used my byline for an article it published on August 29, 2013 alleging chemical weapons usage by Syrian rebels. Despite my repeated requests, made directly and through legal counsel, they have not been willing to issue a retraction stating that I was not the author. Yahya Ababneh is the sole reporter and author of the Mint Press News piece.   To date, Mint Press News has refused to act professionally or honestly in regards to disclosing the actual authorship and sources for this story.

I did not travel to Syria, have any discussions with Syrian rebels, or do any other reporting on which the article is based.  The article is not based on my personal observations and should not be given credence based on my journalistic reputation. Also, it is false and misleading to attribute comments made in the story as if they were my own statements.

I, like many others, made reference to this article in the debate over who used the chemical weapons that killed scores and almost resulted in a US strike on the country. A useful comment posted there was a voice of reason that went against the conspiratorial fervor at the time.

It also jarred me. I am no fan of conspiracy, but am also wary of my nation’s militancy abroad. When I read the article I wondered why such a bombshell was reported only in Mint Press, which is not among the world’s leading journals. But the association of Dale Gavlak allowed me brush my hesitancy aside, and freely share the article along with my own reflections.

All on false pretenses, as it now turns out.

But it is still curious. Why did it take so long for Gavlak to issue this denial? And why did she do so only in personal correspondence to the Brown Moses blog? Another blog, al-Bab, includes other strange elements to this story, all centered around her identity:

There are two other oddities relating to Gavlak’s role or non-role in this affair. One is that a “Dale Gavlak” Twitter account (see screenshot) was deleted around September 3 – just a few days after the Mint Press article appeared. The other is that someone created a “Dale Gavlak” Facebook page on August 30, one day after the Mint Press article, and there are claims that the page may be a fake.

Journalism is about verification in a manner to which blogs are not held accountable. Still, reflecting on this incident – before the Gavlak revelation – made me question another story I shared.

On September 11, I posted an article describing Bishop Thomas’ defense of his church in Upper Egypt. It was shared very widely, striking a cord about Christian non-retaliation and Muslim defense of their Coptic neighbors. I didn’t feel great about how part of the story I did not copy seemed a little sensationalized, but I had heard of the attack from the bishop himself (with little detail) and I have always found him to be a sensible man.

Which is why I was surprised – and fearful – when I received this seemingly very knowledgeable comment:

This bishop is a liar, his residence is within the church perimeter that is walled and has a great gate. They did use soap and water, but no one ever attacked. They were targeting another house in the same street, and they have never approached the church where he resided in. Moreover, the fathers under his command gave some young men weapons (pistols and shot guns), they also gave them Molotov bottles to use in case if anybody attacks the church where he resides; however, no body attacked. This coward tried to protect his life by his parish!

I’ve received similar comments before, oddly enough, on Syria. I have no issue with allowing the alternate version of events, but I thought first to contact the commenter. He is obviously an eyewitness!

But no, there was no response, perhaps not unexpected with an email address of noone@nodomain.com. So I left the comment out, and let the story stand. I’m glad to have been prompted to investigate, but it also made me remember my uncertainty about the account.

Is it a true story? If the attackers had machine guns, they would not have needed to approach, and then slip and fall on the soapy pavement. I don’t yet distrust, but the comment, which I am glad to have investigated further, gave me pause.

Who would forge a story based on Gavlak’s repuation? And who would use such a weird email address to contradict a story on a blog? There is a mountain of misinformation in this region, and to some degree I have aided and abetted.

Only a small number of readers will see this reflection, compared to the many more drawn to the eye-popping stories I shared earlier. Neither one was my story; if I was writing an article I would be obliged to more fully investigate. Is this a fair enough mea culpa? This is only a blog; it is a place for reflection and questions. It is journalism which requires the verification and answers.

But in passing on both stories, I did not stop to listen to the small voice inside of me which questioned.

It is a good lesson to trust that small voice. I will aim to do so more faithfully in the future.

[For more details on this story, please read this article.]