MB Leader’s Teenage Son Killed in Mob Violence

A horrible account of vigilantism mixed with politics, from Ahram Online:

Security sources told Ahram Online that hundreds of El-Qataweya village residents ransacked the house of Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) leader, Rabie Lasheen, in the early hours of Friday, setting his furniture and three cars on fire apart from killing his son. Revenge was their motive.

Lasheen’s son, Youssef, was accused of shooting a 28-year-old man merely for insulting his father in a Facebook post for his affiliation with the FJP. An auto rickshaw (tok tok) driver in his 40s was accidentally gunned down too.

The revengeful mob, including members of both men’s families, dragged Lasheen’s son to the street and used bladed weapons while assaulting him, according to Al-Ahram’s daily correspondent. The assistants then left him for dead in the street.

The Freedom and Justice Party issued a terse statement denying the killing was political. It must have been the most difficult press release they have written in some time.

The region where this murder(s) took place has witnessed several examples of mob violence against alleged criminals in recent months. Other governorates, including Cairo, have not descended into such chaos.

I won’t say it is ominous as much as it is sad. If the reporting above is accurate, it is a vivid illustration of the downward spiral of sin, metastasizing like cancer deeper and deeper into tragedy.

I wished to find a better word than sin. Ambition isn’t enough, and sin seems too harsh. Sin makes it sound like he/they deserved it. But small or large, well or ill-intentioned, is there a better description for what is ailing the nation? It just eats away at everything, and so many share in the blame.

May Egypt be spared.


Is Islam by Nature Political?

From Ahram Online, an op-ed arguing on behalf of Islamists, that Islam is essentially political:

A final point. Some of the opposition figures keep invoking the term “political Islam,” as if the term were a source of shame to Islamists.

Well, political Islam is not the invention of the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamists. It is rather solidly rooted in Islam and its holy scripture, the Quran.

I am not going to discuss certain arguments made by anti-Islam secularists who claim that the rule of Sharia is not a must upon Muslims and that Muslims might opt for modern Western-style democracy without violating the tenets of their faith. These arguments are quite nonsense, even for first grade Muslim children.

But I do want to point out that one cannot reject political Islam as a matter of principle, without rejecting Islam itself.

Yes, one might disagree with certain Islamist modalities, behaviours and interpretations. We all reject violence and terror committed in the name of religion. And we all would like to see a kinder and gentler practice of Islam everywhere.

But we must never allow ourselves as Muslims to compromise the main principles of our faith in order to appear more in tune with the age, and more acceptable to the West.

As a non-Muslim, it is never wise to argue what Islam is or is not. This, ultimately, is for Muslims to decide. But just as many demonize Islam saying it is a terrorist and illiberal religion, others assert the opposite, making it a personal faith akin to the Christianity of the West.

Religion and culture easily bleed together; certainly many Western Muslims do practice a personal faith. This voice, however, asserts that Islam is inherently political. It may be (and is) able to live peacefully as a minority faith, but it is not content here.

Consider a similar example: Does the word ‘Jew’ represent a faith or an ethnicity? Many Jews are agnostic or atheist; some convert to Christianity yet still consider themselves Jews. Perhaps there are few converts to Judaism outside of the ethnicity, but the line is sufficiently blurred to be confusing. Are you an anti-Semite if you deny the historicity of Moses?

Along the same lines, is Islam a faith or an ideology? Many Muslims are non-political, but does the faith demand more? Those who have claimed the mantle of leadership in the Arab Spring overwhelmingly say yes. Do they distort their religion? Or, do they compromise the many western Muslims who are forced to defend themselves from polemicists suspicious of them as a fifth column?

Judaism was birthed as the religion of a chosen family, marked by circumcision, wary of outsiders. Islam was birthed as the religion of a state, marked by confessions of loyalty, enveloping the outsider. Each one today houses the paradoxes of its emergence.

Can anyone attempt a similar consideration of Christianity?

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Egypt’s Protestors Come to Aid of Ransacked Semiramsis Hotel

A harrowing account from Ahram Online:

“We ran to the crisis meeting point on the 4th floor and barricaded ourselves in,” Samak describes, “it unfolded so quickly we followed all our security measures, but no guards of hotels in Egypt are armed. We had to secure guests and colleagues.”

Meanwhile revolutionaries outside the hotel attempted to prevent the thugs from entering the building, reports Ahram Online journalist Karim Hafez who was at the scene.

“When they realised these groups were trying to loot the hotel, protesters shot fire crackers at them as they attacked the building and tried to push them away from the area but these groups were armed with birdshot bullets,” says Hafez.

The assailants also attempted to steal the ATM in front of the hotel.

Journalist Mohammed Mare, who witnessed the event, recounted on his Twitter account that four people arrived in a Lancer car with no licence plate behind the protesters and fired the shots to scare protesters away, before storming the hotel.

The attackers shot at employees and continued to destroy the building for approximately three hours before security forces arrived.

So far there have been no confirmed injuries.

“We are the frontline, I’m still a bit shaky, and the situation is still not resolved. Clashes are starting again,” Samak says, who thanked the revolutionaries that “stood by us last night,” via the hotel’s Twitter account, adding “you are awesome.”

One of my pictures from the previous post is of the entrance to this hotel. One detail I neglected to mention was the pungent effect of tear gas still in the air. I could barely keep my eyes open as I walked through the area. Strangely, this was also true at the Nile River bridge – I would have expected the open air to have dispersed it by then.

This story helps show the complications of Egypt’s situation. Moments earlier these protestors were going hard against the police. But it was the protestors, and not the police, who intervened to save the hotel. [I recall seeing another statement saying the two cooperated to fight back the thugs.]

Egypt’s opposition seems to be banking on the chaos to reverse the president’s extra-legal gains, cause damage to his political chances and reputation, or else have the army step in and reset the situation entirely. Dialogue is so necessary at this moment, but they also have so little reason to trust its fairness. It is a dilemma.

But the opposition in all likelihood does not control the street. A possible outcome is for the president to do what so many Egyptians lament Mubarak is no longer around to do: Crackdown and ensure security.

If this scenario emerges, will it revolution be completely reversed? Will there be another one party system with a handful of loyal opposition parties?

It is far too complicated to say so, and history never repeats itself exactly. But these days, most political parties and ordinary citizens are nervous, expecting the worst. Its just that they define ‘worst’ differently.