Don't get fooled!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Don't get fooled by Mubarak's whatever shit that he said yesterday, it's all going to be a big play acted out just the same way it was acted out in Algeria and Mauritania.

posted by Matthew Schauki at 2/27/2005 01:06:00 PM 2 comments

Egypt announces democratic reform (BBC News)

Saturday, February 26, 2005


Mubarak has been in power since 1981

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has asked parliament to change the constitution to allow multiple candidates in presidential polls.

In a move which surprised observers, Mr Mubarak said this was aimed at bringing the law "in line with this stage of our nation's history".

The amendment is to be put to a vote before September's presidential poll.

Currently, Egypt holds presidential referendums on a single candidate approved by parliament.

Mr Mubarak's National Democratic Party has dominated the assembly since political parties were restored in the 1970s and he was expected to use the system to secure a fifth six-year term in September.

The US has been pressing for democratic reform in the Middle East, including in close allied countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Inside Egypt, there have been many calls recently by the opposition and civil society for political reform.

Guarantees

"This morning I have asked the parliament and the Shura Council to amend Article 76 of the constitution, which deals with the election of the president to discuss it and suggest the appropriate amendment to be in line with this stage of our nation's history," Mr Mubarak said in his speech, carried live on state television.

He said he wanted "to give the opportunity to political parties to enter the presidential elections and provide guarantees that allow more than one candidate to be put forward to the presidency".


Protesters have taken to the
streets to say "Enough" to Mubarak

Until Saturday's surprise announcement, Mr Mubarak had ruled out constitutional change.

The government and opposition parties had only a few days ago agreed to postpone discussing the constitution until next year.

A meeting in Cairo of G8 and Arab foreign ministers was recently cancelled because it was expected to raise sensitive issues about reforms in Egypt.

But the president will now be able to silence his critics, our correspondent says.

She says it is unlikely that any candidate from an opposition party will be able to win against Mr Mubarak in the short term.

A feminist author and doctor, Nawal Saadawi, announced last year that she would stand for election - but at the time there seemed no way her candidacy could go forward.

Hosni Mubarak is Egypt's longest-serving ruler since Muhammad Ali in the early 19th Century and one of the longest-serving leaders in the Arab world.

He succeeded President Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated in 1981, and was re-elected in 1987, 1993 and 1999.

posted by Matthew Schauki at 2/26/2005 07:02:00 PM 0 comments

Christian Discrimination Continues in Egypt (AINA)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Egypt (AsiaNews) -- In recent weeks anti-Christian bigotry has pushed members of Egypt's Coptic community to rally in protest. In his self-imposed retreat Coptic Patriarch Shenouda III also wants to voice his disapproval of the violence, persecution and violations of religious freedom Christians experience on a daily basis in the ancient land of the Pharaohs.

Here are some of the latest anti-Christian incidents:

On December 3, some 5,000 Muslim villagers in Mankateen (Samalout province, 220 km south of Cairo) stormed and set fire to a building housing a Coptic prayer room. They then swept through the village, looting and burning Coptic homes and businesses. The mob was prompted by the announcement that President Mubarak had once again refused the local Coptic community the right to build a church, ostensibly on security grounds, on a land the local church had purchased back in 1977.

According to Coptic magazine el-Keraza, the local police "watched as rioters caused havoc moving in to arrest a few people only after most of the damage was already done".

In its weekly edition, Al-Ahram reported that on November 28 Mgr Abanob, Coptic Bishop of Assiut (375 south of Cairo), denounced cases of forced conversions to Islam carried out by Mohamed Abdel-Mohsen, head of the ruling National Democratic Party's Assiut branch.

"Dozens have come to me and complained that Mohamed Abdel-Mohsen offered them houses, money and jobs in order to convert to Islam", Bishop Abanob said.

The Bishop also said he had a videotape documenting how Mr Abdel-Mohsen enticed Christians to convert. According to him, the politician pressured the poor, the jobless and elderly Christians, especially women, who, he said, "are easy to convince".

Mr Abdel-Mohsen said that Abanob's claims were "completely fabricated".

In the preceding days Assiut's governor had turned down a request by local Copts to build two new churches because the existing one was too small to fit all the faithful.

According to Hussein Abdel-Hafez, Assiut Governorate's head of public relations, the request was turned down "because only 10 per cent of that area's population was Christian, so a church was unnecessary".

On January 25 of this year, four young Christians were arrested in the sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for having Bibles and Christian music tapes in their possession.

Peter Nady Kamel, Ishaq Dawoud Yassa, John Adel and Andrew Sa'id are students at Cairo or Minya Universities. They were charged with forming a group that threatens the national unity, social peace and national security, this according to Jubilee Campaign, an interdenominational Christian human rights organisation.

Patriarch Shenouda III has also come to their defence.

Egypt has a population of more than 70 million people, 90 per cent of whom are Muslim. Christians are 10 percent, mostly Copts. Catholics are about 200,000.

posted by Matthew Schauki at 2/21/2005 01:38:00 AM 2 comments

Chatting about politics...

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Legend: "{Mamdu}" = me, "{X-person}" = the person I'm chatting with (anonymous).

Italicized words are in Egyptian.

{Mamdu} some people think i have an agenda
{X-person} u seem to have an agenda yes
{Mamdu} yeah Bad7ak Gamed Awi i do [sarcastically]
{Mamdu} heheheheheheh
{X-person} what do u think about the Hariri incident?
{Mamdu} i want this country to be secular, thats my agenda
{X-person} what do u think about the Hariri incident?
{Mamdu} its too bad
{Mamdu} bas good that the lebanese want independence from syria
{Mamdu} syria zahha2et ommohom ya 3amm. howa bel 3AFIA?
{X-person} what does that have to do with anything?
{X-person} are you buying that lie?
{X-person} syria had nothing to do with the explosion
{Mamdu} i know that quite well
{Mamdu} but its still a nice twist
{Mamdu} syria should leave lebanon alone!
{Mamdu} yes, talakeek
{Mamdu} bas (=but) syria deserves it. it shud leave lebanon alone!
{Mamdu} wel 7okuma beta3et libnan now is 3omala le suria
{Mamdu} émile lahoud da
{Mamdu} saibeen liban keda lel syrians to fuck around with
{X-person} so u want more us intereference in the region
{X-person} u want the US to invade syria
{Mamdu} ana atbeden neek law masr ta7t saitaret surya ya3ni ya akhi!
{Mamdu} no, but international pressure indeed comes in handy for the lebanese
{Mamdu} and inchallah for Egypt too, that mubarak shit régime for 24 years!
{X-person} so ur agenda isnt really secularism
{X-person} but anarchism
{X-person} nihilism
{X-person} u are angry at Islam
{X-person} and your vlield sister
{Mamdu} well, secularism and modernism, like we used to be
{Mamdu} that 1952 shit fucked us up and still is
{X-person} and u want the whole nation to destroy those things with u
{Mamdu} we used to be a very different thing
{Mamdu} muslims, jews, christians, bahais, atheists, everybody living peacefully together
{Mamdu} and there was more acceptance of the other
{Mamdu} and there was a lot more liberalism
{Mamdu} bas (= but) its all in the past
{Mamdu} the 1952 cout d'état fucked us up. it destroyed all that
{Mamdu} my agenda is that egypt returs to how it was before
{Mamdu} for this to happen we need many things, including secularism
{Mamdu} i dont claim that egypt wasnt an islamic country; but practically it was just secular
{Mamdu} they didnt ban religious books
{Mamdu} example: Taha Hussein's book "في الشعر الجاهلي"
{Mamdu} now al azhar has a lot of nufooz, that was untrue before
{Mamdu} now al azhar bans books, bans liberal books
{Mamdu} kefaya dictatoreya deeneya ba2a
{X-person} I am with u
{Mamdu} w kefaya LAKHBATA
{Mamdu} Egypt is just a piece of lakhbata now
{X-person} but still I think u r silly to think that foreign interference is a good thing
{Mamdu} the system is just un describable
{Mamdu} its a bit of everything wrapped up together
{X-person} ya3ni (= I mean) we should resist that
{X-person} change comes from inside
{Mamdu} X-person, i am just being realistic
{Mamdu} the revolution is currently evolving
{X-person} u r just giving up
{Mamdu} theres the "movement for change"
{X-person} u think Syria deserves to be fucked by the US
{X-person} and that is giving up
{Mamdu} but, our opponent has the money, the power, and the army
{X-person} anyway
{Mamdu} the system can finish everything with rashwa (= bribery) and killing
{X-person} bedtime for me
{X-person} sleep well
{Mamdu} there should be both foreing and local pressure

posted by Matthew Schauki at 2/20/2005 04:22:00 AM 0 comments

Religion

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I used to be a Muslim until 2003. I would say i was "born a Muslim" but this statement makes no real sense as it sounds like being "born a capitalist" or "born a socialist". Again, I left Islam in 2003 (for many reasons; I wouldn't mention them here because they might sound offensive to some Muslims). Then, I became an agnostic, then an atheist, and since i think too much about whether or not i'm doing the right thing, i started to have the thoughts that maybe a god really exists somewhere.

At this very moment, when im back to the searching phase, i dont tend to give myself a specific religious identity. Not muslim, atheist, or anything whatsoever.

Atheism makes the most sense to me, for many reasons. But i'm always haunted with this fear of being wrong, especially that the Judeo-Christian God (capitalized G for me referring to it as a name, nothing more), and the Islamic Allah are/is (a) very violent one(s) and my thinking could lead to them throwing me in hellfire on the "day of judgement". Islam also has this whole "grave torment" thing (= the belief that bad people will be tormented in different ways, not only in the "next life" but also in their graves.)

But couldn't it be true that this was all written by the people who invented those religions so that fear would play a vital role in bringing people into those religons (for political reasons)?

Someone might ask what does politics have to do with inventing a religion? Leadership is enough to explain the relationship. The "prophets" want to be looked upon as important people, leaders, by their followers and thus be followed in whatever they say, and those who choose not to follow await graves full of snakes and other scary things.

There are zillions of religions all over the world, what proves to you that yours is the perfect one?

Don't you think that people who belong to other religions have other different and/or similar reasons to make them believe that their religion is perfect too? Probably their reasons make no sense to you, they're not logical! But, that's another relative issue. WHO SAYS YOUR LOGIC IS MORE LOGICAL THAN THEIR LOGIC? What if it turns out that their religion is true? You'll then say well fuck logic, i'm going to hell! "Oh God nooooooo! Don't put me in hell, i thought those guys were illogical!"

Now, if God/Allah/whichever invisible god exists, isn't he the one to blame for all this confusion and misleading? Is he playing games telling every group of people they're perfect and going to heaven and the rest are infidels? That same message to each group? The same message to Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc? Does that even make a tiny bit of sense?

Or is it that it's all an illusion? Is God/Allah/etc a non-existent illusionary being? Or is he a psycho telling the same message to each religion, thus contradicting himself? (PLEASE, DONT BE OFFENDED, and don't kill me!)

Or is it that Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, and all those guys craved on power, tyranny, authoritativeness, and leadership?

I'm not meaning to offend anyone, guys, again. I have respect for all the Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and everyone. I'm just asking my questions in a neutral way.

posted by Matthew Schauki at 2/08/2005 02:15:00 PM 9 comments

Egypt Reins In Opponents of Longtime Leader

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Fifth Term for Mubarak at Issue

By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, February 2, 2005; Page A14


CAIRO, Feb. 1 -- Egyptian authorities have cracked down on opposition groups in recent days during a time of increasingly active efforts to stop President Hosni Mubarak from extending his 24-year rule in a referendum later this year.

On Saturday, police arrested Ayman Nour, leader of the opposition Tomorrow Party. Prosecutors charged him with falsifying petitions that resulted in the legalization of his party in October. On Monday morning, a court extended the initial four-day detention to 45 days, according to his wife, Gamila Ismail.

"It's a message to him and every party that opposes the government," Ismail said. "Active parties that are serious about opening offices and genuinely recruiting followers will not be allowed."

Ismail said police raided Nour's office and home. They confiscated computers from his house and rifled through medicine cabinets and Nour's tobacco supply, Ismail said, adding, "It was certain they are looking for anything to frame him."

On Friday, police arrested three activists at the Cairo book fair, an annual trade show, as they were handing out leaflets inviting the public to an anti-Mubarak rally scheduled for this Friday.

The arrests followed several months of relative tolerance by the police. Opposition organizations have staged periodic demonstrations to oppose a fifth term in office for Mubarak as well as to voice suspicions that he plans to hand power to his son, Gamal.

"The arrests are an escalation," said Wael Khalil, a member of the Movement for Change, a coalition of anti-Mubarak groups. "There was interim improvement, but it looks like the old intimidation is back."

Police also confiscated books at the fair that demanded an end to Mubarak's rule and arrested 10 students at Minufiya University northwest of Cairo on Sunday.

Government spokesman Ahmed Eissa declined to comment on the arrests. "Wait and see," he advised.

Mubarak's opponents have organized numerous and sometimes quixotic efforts to head off another six-year term of office for the president. Three activists have announced they would run, though many observers say there is little chance that the government will institute multi-candidate elections.

Under current rules, parliament nominates a single candidate, who is then offered for ratification in a referendum. Mubarak's National Democratic Party controls more than 80 percent of the assembly seats. Changing the rules would require a constitutional amendment.

Muhammed Farid Hassanin, a former member of parliament and a declared candidate, campaigned last week at an athletic club near Cairo. He told 200 men in the audience that it was Egypt's "shame" to have another pharaoh.

The speech set off earnest debate, with some audience members chanting in favor of Mubarak. In Hassanin's view, it was a success nonetheless. "People say there is no alternative to Mubarak. For the first time, they have the chance to see one, even if it is just me," he said in an interview later. "Yes, it's strange. A campaign without elections. But we must try everything."

His campaign and the campaigns of the two other challengers -- sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim and feminist writer Nawal Saadawi -- come in the context both of domestic ferment in Egypt and a perception that the U.S. government, long an ally of Mubarak, wants change.

Even though opposition leaders expect little from President Bush directly, they say his stand against "tyranny" at least provides a small opening for them. Hassanin conjectured that the presence of a foreign television crew at his sports club speech kept police from breaking up the rally. "At least they know outsiders are interested in Egypt," he said of the government.

Others point out that Bush could take small, symbolic steps. "No one expects Bush to turn off the money to Egypt or break relations," said Ibrahim, referring to the $2 billion in U.S. aid provided annually to Egypt. "But how about not inviting Mubarak to the White House? That would be a start."

Ibrahim was once jailed for 15 months on charges, later dropped, of sullying Egypt's image and illegally receiving funds from the European Union to monitor 1995 elections. He acknowledges that his candidacy is effectively a publicity stunt. "I want to encourage others. We can have one, two, hundreds of candidates," he said.

Saadawi, the third candidate, has been traveling outside Egypt and could not be reached for her views. She has issued statements arguing that it would be fit and proper for a woman to rule Egypt and has called for Egypt to fight "plunder and aggression by the U.S. and Israel."

While these symbolic candidacies are in full swing, Mubarak's intentions have been difficult to pin down. In early January, Kamal Shazli, assistant secretary general of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, announced that the party had already selected the president as its candidate. Gamal Mubarak quickly contradicted him and labeled the announcement "contemptuous of the people's will."

During interviews with foreign and Egyptian reporters this month, President Mubarak danced around the issue. At one point, he said he had yet to decide. Then, to the satellite television channel al-Arabiya, he hinted he would run if the people wanted him to.

In mid-January, he called an Egyptian talk show and spoke wistfully of the difficulties of being president. "It is very tough to be in office. It is no luxury at all," he said. "Anyone who would be president of Egypt will have to work until he is drained of energy. It is a job that consumes one's health, time and nerves.

"I cannot go visit anyone because I am afraid that security will be a bother," he said. "I cannot have a walk like anyone else. . . . I am stripped of my freedoms." With those caveats, he welcomed competition. "Let them all run," he said.

The invitation did not translate into support for constitutional change, however. According to the pro-government al-Ahram Weekly newspaper, Mubarak told a closed meeting of "intellectuals" on Jan. 16 that "foreign powers" were funding the demand for constitutional changes. The same day, his party's secretary general, Safwat Sharif, repeated the accusation.

On Saturday while traveling to an African summit, Mubarak told reporters that the current system of having parliament choose the president has kept Egypt stable and that demands for constitutional change were pointless.

In any case, some opposition leaders think Mubarak is unstoppable for now. In an interview two days before his arrest, Ayman Nour said, "We expect him to run and to win, though that is not what we hope. The struggle is just beginning."

Nour's party has come up with a program to introduce rule by parliament in Egypt, with a weak presidency. Another group, the Committee in Defense of Democracy, wants to make the president more answerable to parliament.

posted by Matthew Schauki at 2/03/2005 02:42:00 AM 0 comments

Egypt's Mubarak Hints He Will Serve Fifth Term

Yahoo! News - Jan 29, 2005, 12:21 PM ET

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (news - web sites) gave a strong hint on Saturday that he would seek a fifth six-year term in office and argued that the current system of having parliament choose the president makes the country stable.

Mubarak told reporters on his plane to an African summit in Nigeria that calls to change the constitution were pointless at this stage. Many opposition parties want the system changed to allow direct multi-candidate elections.

Mubarak, asked about his election manifesto, said: "My election manifesto has been announced and exists and is applied every day, for I'm not new to the scene and my acts are my manifesto." He was quoted by the state news agency MENA.

In the absence of any obvious successor, Mubarak, 76, is widely expected to let the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) nominate him for another term, possibly in May.

Once the party chooses him, the nomination goes to parliament, where the NDP holds more than 85 percent of the seats. In a referendum in September, Egyptians could then vote yes or no on whether they want him to continue.

Asked to comment on calls for constitutional change, he said: "The call is now in vain. Those who talk about direct elections and the referendum and which system is best must understand that the referendum is based on nomination by the people's representatives in parliament."

Mubarak dropped another hint earlier this month when he said that he did not intend to play games by saying he was going to leave office and then have people demand that he stay.

He added that Egyptians should remember the political struggles under the 1923 constitution and the instability in the six months leading up to the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952.

Egypt has had only four heads of state since 1952, all of them drawn from the armed forces. The first was a figurehead who was pushed aside and the next two both died in office.

Mubarak has already given hints that he will stay in office but he has also said that governing Egypt for 23 years has been hard work and if he had his way he would like to rest.

Mubarak argued against an opposition demand that the head of state abandon his party affiliation on taking office.

"I would like to give up the leadership of the party but my knowledge of our history and earlier Egyptian experiences show that if the president distances himself from the party, he leaves the majority party at the mercy of the winds," he said.

"It (the majority party) tends toward the personal interests of its members when its duty is to work for the country and the citizens," he added.

posted by Matthew Schauki at 2/03/2005 02:21:00 AM 0 comments