Friday Prayers for Egypt: Journalists vs Police

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So much in Egypt is zero sum. Nullify correctly, or change the equation.

During recent protests over the Red Sea islands, several journalists were arrested. Many were quickly released. But when police entered the syndicate to arrest two journalists staging a sit-in, the majority believe a line was crossed.

Police had a warrant, but allegedly broke protocol and press law.

As the syndicate calls for the dismissal of the Interior Minister, police accidentally revealed an internal memo on how to discredit journalists. Newspapers united to boycott the minister’s name and use his photo in negative. Escalation is threatened, while other activists are arrested.

God, it is human to struggle. Negotiation is a vital art. But restore to Egypt the trust and decency necessary to determine what is best for all.

Best, God, is a free society with vigilant police. Best is a discerned transparency with vigilant journalists.

There are many understandable barriers to what is best, with many and diverse interpretations. But save Egypt from the barrier of protecting turf. Save her from the barrier of manipulating exaggeration.

Save her from herself, but from within herself. Promote personnel who can forge consensus while identifying wrong.

Help Egypt reform widely, discipline accountably, and fight honorably.

Make no one a zero, God, but fix every fraction. Bless Egypt, and make her whole.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Police vs State

Flag Cross QuranGod,

The police have a hard job. They are targets for terrorism, accused of corruption, and scapegoats of a revolution. Their moral authority has been compromised, yet they are on the front lines of state sovereignty.

How much compensation do they deserve?

The lowest of them, the most numerous, and perhaps those most exposed, think it is not enough. In one location they protested to make their case known. Their colleagues were called in to disperse, with tear gas and resulting clashes.

For now the issue is at rest. The government has promised to study demands and meet some by early next month. September 5, the low ranking officers union will convene to discuss response.

God, give them wisdom, both now and then. God, give the state wisdom, in how to treat them right.

If they are placated, it could enflame other institutions of the state. Civil servants have slated a protest date a week later.

If they are rejected, it could enflame a vital institution of the state. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

At the same time, many call for the overall reform of the institution. Whether targets, accused, or scapegoats, the house is not in order.

God, find the right solution.

Inspire the police in the sacredness of their duty. Hold the police to the accountability of their charge. Empower the police for the fight against chaos. Imbue the police with ethics of service.

And for those they serve, may they return all proper respect. May they honor authority and obey the law. Rebuild the police reputation, God. May they be a pillar in a state that is just.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Police Accountability

Flag Cross QuranGod,

The police stand in service to the people. They stand also in service to the law. At times there is heroism, at times there is error. But at all times there must be accountability.

This week there was.

An officer was sentenced 15 years in prison for the killing of an unarmed protestor. The case of Shaima al-Sabagh, carrying flowers to lay at Tahrir Square for the revolutionary anniversary, took both media and presidential attention. Perhaps he did not mean to kill. Perhaps there are others needing accountability beside. Perhaps this ruling is an exception. Perhaps it is a precedent.

A human rights organization released a report implicating police in implicitly endorsing the forced displacement of Copts from their homes. The case of Copts in Beni Suef, where a Facebook post by a relative in Jordan resulted in 18 forced from their home, took both media and presidential attention. They have returned home, but so far none have been held accountable, either in the mob or the police.

Perhaps it is an exception, but perhaps media accountability can also set a precedent.

But in Luxor, the police foiled the plans of a suicide bomber to kill visiting tourists. Intercepted beforehand, he blew himself up but few suffered injuries. Positive accountability is in order.

God, honor the police. Equip them to do their job faithfully. Give them the support necessary, both popular and legal.

Deal justly with things go awry. Deal justly with superiors. Deal justly with the system. Preserve the faith of the people and the rule of the law.

Comfort the family and colleagues of Shaima in this verdict. Reconcile the Copts of Beni Suef to their neighbors. Let freedom of expression be received without bullets. Let community justice be issued without exile.

And amid all the controversies, help the police in the hard job against terrorism. Spare Egypt further tragedy. Stabilize the nation, bring back tourism and investment, and help Egyptians to live in peace.

May the police enable as they serve the people. But hold them—and all—accountable, in service to the law.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Police Blotter

Flag Cross QuranGod,

The police usually do not belong in the papers. The criminal should take the headlines, with the officer behind the scenes. In Egypt, sadly, this has not been true. The pendulum, hopefully, might yet reach balance.

Police abuse and corruption was a prime catalyst of the revolution. Demonized, the papers scrutinized every fault. Later, the police stood with the army and multitudes of demonstrators against Morsi. Lionized, the papers rehabilitated their reputation.

But once again the police are back in the papers. Carefully, cautiously, reports of abuse and corruption hit the front page.

Some say it is sanctioned directly from the top. To reform an institution requires public will; shaping public will requires media dissemination.

Sisi may be saying: Get your house in order.

The police chief has also been vocal: We will treat citizens humanely, we will train in human rights.

And a few police have been arrested, accused in the deaths of detainees.

God, you know the realities of how Egypt works. You know the practices inside police stations. You know the relationship between government and press. And you know the sincerity of each man’s heart.

May good laws be enforced by good men in good institutions. Reform all to the extent necessary.

Let public rhetoric shape public behavior, and curb private but official violations. Let media shaming evolve into legal accountability. Let police take pride in their performance. Let justice and rule of law characterize the social order.

And give wisdom to Egypt to know how to get there.

God, bless this land and give her peace.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Declaring Reform

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The public statements coming out of Egypt are positive. Help the public reform to follow.

You know what is needed, God, but officials surely have an idea as well. The housing minister announced efforts to eliminate slums within a year. The interior minister called on citizens to report police abuse. And following visits by the National Council of Human Rights, the prison system will be subject to random and ongoing investigations.

Words are good, though deeds are better. Similar words have been spoken before. That they are spoken again puts confidence on hold.

So let confidence be earned, God. Place Egyptians in solid dwellings. Hold police to the highest standard. Respect criminals despite their crimes. And honor officials who honor your will.

Apply this will to the nation at large, God. In Upper Egypt the law is weak. In Alexandria the buildings collapse. Everywhere the poor exist.

And as Egypt follows up on its economic conference, create a context to facilitate investment, curb corruption, and distribute wealth.

Hope is high, God, and words are many. But reform is always difficult. Humans flee accountability and hide their faults.

Be gentle, but shine your light. Be merciful, but root out the wrong.

Stand with those who have declared reform, God. Strengthen their hand and firm their resolve. May they work with integrity to fight the status quo.

Make the benefit public, for all to enjoy. Bless Egypt and help her prosper.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Parliament, Police

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News this week prompted both a sigh and a gasp. The Supreme Constitutional Court struck down provisions of the law to elect parliament, further delaying the process. And a cabinet reshuffle appointed a new minister of the interior, with speculations on the impact.

The parliament delay was almost expected, as there appears little political or popular will to complete the democratic roadmap. Some politicians accused the state of such, as the president holds the right of legislation until parliament sits.

The new police chief was quite unexpected. A number of non-Islamist revolutionary forces demanded his dismissal over ongoing violence and neglect of human rights. The new head has a background in combatting religious extremism and is tasked as new blood in the fight against terrorism.

God, set the state right. It has shuffled and wobbled for four years now, in desperate need of stability.

As parliament laws are redrafted, make the process inclusive and legal. When a parliament sits – and may it be soon – may it be representative and effective.

As the police reconfigure, make the process professional and reformist. When the chief sets his agenda, may he train, educate, hold accountable – and stamp out the violent menace that threatens Egypt.

God, in time, reverse the reaction to these institutions. May the workings of parliament produce the gasp of achievement. May the conduct of police produce a sigh of relief.

Bring peace to Egypt, God. Bring a functioning government. Through both law and order, may the country breathe normally.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Is it a Celebration?

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What is January 25 anymore? The third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution is clouded in the smoke of today’s bombs, targeting police in four prominent Cairo locations.

The original January 25 also targeted police, but through demonstrations. Much forgotten in that euphoria was the collective attack on police stations throughout the country three days later. It broke the force, which disappeared from the streets and only recently has returned to form.

But this form is decried by many as lacking the originally demanded reform. Demonstrations continue, and people die. But the bombings change the equation completely.

One side calls on the people to fill Tahrir Square in celebration tomorrow. Another calls for storming it in protest. Are the bombings meant to keep people home? Are they meant to blacken further the Muslim Brotherhood? Or are they meant simply to kill the police?

God, bring peace to Egypt. In whatever January 25 is to be tomorrow, keep angry crowds separate. It feels completely like a prayer dead on arrival, for clashes have been ongoing and seem inevitable. But an anniversary is a lightning rod, and afterwards may subside. Of course, many thought similarly three years ago.

So speak to the crowds, or rather, those in them. A non-violent protest must stay non-violent, even if attacked. If arrested, they must submit. God, if their cause is virtuous, make them virtuous. And where they are driven by anger, however righteous, do not give sin a foothold. Reevaluate.

For there are many angry with them, God. Furious. And where there is anger, however righteous, there is little compassion. In the current struggle there is right and wrong. There is also common Egyptian citizenship. Remind.

And for the police, God, maintain their morale. Surely many are afraid, and they are tasked with much. May they work with dignity and resolve, respecting themselves, those they guard, and those they stand against. Reform.

God, Egypt has much to celebrate, and much still to do. The gap between is where most argument happens, and now, most fighting occurs. Three years later, may this be the worst of the labor pains. Bring forth a new Egypt, one of which all will be proud.

But get the nation through tomorrow. Have mercy, but winnow. Establish peace, but bring justice. Resolve.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Morsi Speaks, Protests Diversify?

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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.



The Police as Part of the January 25 Revolution

From Ahram Online, reporting President Morsi’s visit to the central security force headquarters, in what must surely be a typo:

“You are the protectors of the country’s inside and outside safety [said Morsi]. The police were part of the successful crossing of the Suez Canal in the 1973 war and also part of the January 25 Revolution,” he added.

The initial demands of Egypt’s 25 January uprising, intentionally organised on the same day as the annual police day, included an end to police brutality and the State Security apparatus run by the Mubarak regime.

Much of the speech was commendable, encouraging them during difficult times:

“Any obstacles you’re facing, we will get through them – together,” he stressed.

He continued: “You are the watchful eye of the homeland. The country’s best interest needs your efforts and sacrifices.”

“You all know that our Egypt is going through a critical period, but with the aid of God and cooperation of the police and military, we will be able to pass through this phase.”

But he included also a reference to foreign interference – an old tactic of Mubarak, unless, of course, it is actually true:

“Beware, our outside enemy is seeking to create division among us, and we must not allow it,” President Morsi said in his opening speech.

One recent tweet criticized Morsi, saying he promised to visit Port Said, then only addressed them on TV, and the next day honored the institution which shot them.

Morsi’s job with the police is incredibly complex, but the January 25 comment is over the top. The revolution’s initial central focus was the end of the police state. Perhaps Morsi will get to this eventually, but here, he calls them heroes.

I can only imagine the rest of the speech gave more context, but the revision of history is not a firm foundation for social and institutional change. Yes, summon forth their better natures, but clean the skeletons in the closet, too.

Current Events

Friday Prayers for Egypt: Community Policing

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In the darkest days of the revolution, the police disappeared from the streets and neighborhoods across Egypt banded together to protect their properties. As criminals fled prisons, this spontaneous action contained the chaos and rallied the nation in support of Tahrir Square. Though many died, your grace was present, and Egypt avoided the fate of many of its neighbors. In less than three weeks, the revolution won.

Today, that opinion is deeply in question by many, even as circumstances tenuously repeat. In the two years that followed security was not restored, crime continued unabated, and political struggles began dripping into political violence. With police under attack and accused of attacking, many went on strike.

There are too many agendas at play to sort, God, but here is the recent development. The public prosecutor reminded the nation the penal code allows for citizens to make arrests under certain conditions, and Islamist groups responded by saying they would organize citizens to defend state institutions and curb crime.

God, bless the people of Egypt who will stand against crime and vandalism. Bless the Islamist leaders in their role of community organizers. Bless the prosecutor general, who reminded the people of their share in keeping the peace.

But God, so much seems wrong and manipulated. If this is a result of the media tarnishing good citizenship, then expose their discrediting campaign. May the people of Egypt take the reins of their nation, and steer it to the right path. As normal people act, God, multiply their effectiveness.

Yes, God, the police appear negligent, and fix this problem first and foremost. Wherever the will is lacking – officers or rank and file – strengthen their hand to police firmly and justly. Protect citizens, property, and institutions alike, through all official channels.

But has crime exploded exponentially in the last week? Is Egypt about to be burned to the ground? Or are Islamists flexing their muscles and seeking legitimacy as a power on the streets? Believing the conspiracy – not without evidence – that the police are against them, are they laying the groundwork for a parallel force?

This, even, amid accusations and denials they seek to infiltrate the Ministry of Interior, and amid ‘sources’ in the military harshly warning against the paragraph above.

God, may it not be. Egypt is in deep need of reform and an Islamist government presides over every institution. Grant the president wisdom to make hard and honest choices. Grant him thick skin to withstand the relentless criticism he faces no matter which way he chooses. Grant him advisors who will accurately represent the reality on the ground. Without these, God, he is lost.

May Egypt neither be lost with him, nor dependent upon him for her salvation. But protect him and use him, God, in service of the nation.

But in the end, strengthen each and every Egyptian community. In security and prosperity, grow this nation anew.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Police, Protest

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The dynamic is changing in Egypt, but it is happening outside of Cairo. Violence and civil disobedience characterize Delta and Suez Canal cities, while police themselves go on strike throughout the nation. In fact in Port Said they were ordered of the street.

There is little to commend here, God. Surely the grievances are many, and perhaps many are just. But as protestors attack police, the police demand better weapons. Some of the latter protest against ‘Brotherhoodization’ of the police force; others to be allowed to grow their beards.

In much of Egypt life carries on, but it is as if the state is breaking. Why is the presidential palace covered in graffiti? Why are major roads shut down for hours by rowdy youth? Why is the best solution for popular anger against police abuse to stop policing a city entirely?

These are questions for the administration, God, and give them wisdom to handle their many challenges. But the issues are deeper. Egypt was a police state, and the revolution broke it. Perhaps the police are ill equipped to do their job otherwise. Perhaps freedom and human rights have entered the equation, but without experience in balancing with law and order.

If so, God, there are lessons to be learned. May they be learned quickly. Give the Ministry of the Interior a wise and strong figure to reform from within, and facilitate accountability from the outside.

But if not, God, the conspiracies speak. Are the police ignoring the president and working to undermine him? Or have they yielded their old tools to a new regime more than willing to repress? Is the counterrevolution drawing Egypt into more and more chaos to kill revolutionary ideals and garnish popular support for the return of an iron hand? Or is the Islamist idea to secure their project on the ashes of the republican system?

May these be far from the truth, God, however much they are whispered. But fix the country, though only with righteousness. Remove those who retard her, though only with justice.

Give Egypt leaders who can do this; equip the people to ensure it.

God, sponsor their work, and bring it to completion. Keep Egypt safe, secure, and free.



Military Rank

I know very little about military affairs, either in America or the rest of the world. With the important role of the armed forces in Egypt, however, I thought it useful to understand the local chain of rank.

The enlisted soldier is known as either a jundi or ‘askari. He has received no formal education, but is able to achieve a level of promotion. Once elevated, he joins the rank of non-commissioned officers, or dubat al-Saff.

  • Corporal (‘areef) – wears two chevrons (shareet)
  • Sergeant (raqeeb) – three chevrons
  • First Sergeant (raqeeb awwal) – three chevrons plus an eagle (nisr)
  • Master Sergeant (musa’id) – eagle

The path to being a commissioned officer (dabit) begins in military academy as a cadet (talib). The path of promotion is as follows:

  • Lieutenant (mulazim) – wears a star (nigma)
  • First Lieutenant (mulazim awwal) – two stars
  • Captain (naqeeb) – three stars
  • Major (ra’id) – wears an eagle
  • Lieutenant Colonel (muqaddam) – eagle plus star
  • Colonel (‘aqeed) – eagle plus two stars
  • Brigadier General (‘ameed) – eagle plus three stars
  • Major General (liwa’) – wears two swords crossed (sayfain)

This promotion path also mirrors that in the police force. Further promotion, however, is available only in the military.

  • Lieutenant General (fareeq) – wears two swords, an eagle, and a star
  • Colonel General (fareeq awwal) – two swords, an eagle, and two stars
  • Field Marshal (musheer) – wears crossed olive branches (ghasn zaytun), with crossed swords in between, and an eagle above

The current constitution of the Egyptian military has three officers at the rank of Lieutenant General. These head the Navy (quwat bahriyya), Air Force (quwat jawiyya), and Air Defense (difa’ jawwi). The head of the army proper is also the Chief of Staff, at a rank of Colonel General. The members of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces are all at the rank of Major General or above.

As a final note, translations of the above are qualified as the research of a civilian, but all is from the public domain. More knowledgeable readers are invited to submit their corrections.