43. Dār al-Ifta’: The House of Fatwá

The fatwá is commonly known in the West as a death sentence. Among Muslims, the fatwá can be among the most powerful tools of Islamic populism. On a third front, the fatwá is simply a bureaucratic function. Which definition encompasses reality?

 

42. Political chaos in Egypt; Parliament dissolved, presidential elections continue

Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday, June 14th about two major political cases that had been brought before court:

  1. Were the past parliamentary elections constitutional?
  2. Is the Political Isolation Law Parliament passed valid? This law bans members of the former regime from participating in politics for ten years to come.
29. Presidential elections, the need for uniting the country and CIDT remaining non-partisan

Egypt is preparing itself for the second round of presidential elections on June 16 and 17 with two remaining candidates: Ahmad Shafīq and Muhammad Mursī. These two candidates reflect a great division one sees in Egypt, between Islamists (Mursī) and those opposed to Islamists (Shafīq).

The choice is not an easy one.

41. The Papal Nuncio: Mgr. Michael Fitzgerald

With a touch of humor throughout, Mgr. Michael Fitzgerald introduced his role as the Vatican Ambassador to Egypt to a delegation of mostly Catholic Austrian students and professors from the University of Vienna. This visit was organized by Arab-West Report and was also attended by some staff and interns from Arab-West Report.

51. What’s Behind the Mubārak Verdict?

The headlines in the West will read, ‘Mubārak sentenced to life imprisonment.’ They may also say, ‘Egyptians take to the street in protest.’ Confused?

Unless one reads more deeply the obvious connection must be that protestors wanted his head, literally. The reality is rather simple, just not within the headlines.

Mubārak and the former Minster of the Interior Habīb al-’Adlī were convicted, but the chiefs of the Ministry of the Interior were declared innocent. The statement says there was insufficient evidence to link them to the charge of killing protestors during the revolution.

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Lawmaker Sayīd ‘Askar, Chairman of the People’s Assembly Religious, Social and Awqāf (Endowments) Committee, said there is no problem new churches are built in line with the Christian population in Egypt, reported al-Misryūn newspaper.

Jos van Noord, senior journalist with De Telegraaf, the populist Dutch daily newspaper, published in its influential travel pages an article calling for a boycott of tourism to Egypt and other Arab countries. The article is intended to put pressure on governments to protect Christians—at least this is what he claims. Van Noord is ill-informed and I argue that if one wants to support Christians in Egypt, one should promote tourism to Egypt. Christians in Egypt are better served if one is working for the good of all Egyptians.

 

Ph.D. candidate, Emma Hayward wrote an interesting analysis for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on the current status of Coptic Christians in relation to the Egyptian state and concludes that their position is weakening. While it is true that Coptic Christians are now without an authoritative leader to give them voice, in particular in church-state relations, it is not true that they are “leaderless”. The Coptic Orthodox Church, to which around 95 percent of all Christians in Egypt belong, is now ruled by the Holy Synod. However, it is certainly true that Pope Shenouda was an authority and that most Copts believe they need a similarly strong leader to rule the church.

Ph.D. candidate, Emma Hayward wrote an interesting analysis for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on the current status of Coptic Christians in relation to the Egyptian state and concludes that their position is weakening. While it is true that Coptic Christians are now without an authoritative leader to give them voice, in particular in church-state relations, it is not true that they are “leaderless”. The Coptic Orthodox Church, to which around 95 percent of all Christians in Egypt belong, is now ruled by the Holy Synod. However, it is certainly true that Pope Shenouda was an authority and that most Copts believe they need a similarly strong leader to rule the church.

AWR researcher Jayson Casper sent me a link to a March 31 article titled “American Copts, Egypt and the Next Pope.” This text is very well written, but sadly the author is not known. The article was published on a blog called “Salamamoussa. Reclaiming Egypt,” named after Salāmah Mūsá (1887-1958), a well-known journalist, writer, and advocate of secularism and Arab socialism who was born into a wealthy, land-owning Coptic family in the town of Al-Zaqāzīq located in the Nile Delta.

The coverage of the Egyptian press on the March 19 terrorist attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, was not front-page news for al-Ahrām, al-Masā’ and Akhbār Misr Website but was reported in inside pages. Other print media neglected the attack which had left a rabbi who was the school’s Hebrew teacher, his two children of 6 and 3 years old, and a 8-year old girl dead. No official or unofficial Islamic organization in Egypt has issued any condemnation despite many previous Muslim fatwás prohibiting the killing of human beings, even if they are not Muslims. Akhbār Misr Website said that he was Muslim but other newspapers confined to only mentioning that he is of Arab or Algerian descent. They highlighted that the gunman belongs to al-Qaeda organization.

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Newsclippings from International Sources

full list here !
What's this ?

An Egyptian military bulldozer dismantles Cairo's Al-Nahda square protest camp after Egyptian security forces dispersed supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi in two huge camps in the Egyptian capital on August 14, 2013. UPI/Karem Ahmed
| License Photo

GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Friday he was frustrated by reports of an Egyptian crackdown on the media.

"We are extremely concerned about the increasingly severe clampdown and physical attacks on media in Egypt, which is hampering their ability to operate freely," he said in a statement.

Colville said his office was monitoring reports that journalists covering last week's anniversary of the 2011 revolution were injured by live fire and rubber bullets. He said pro- and anti-government forces may be to blame for the shootings.

He added Wednesday's announcement that 20 journalists working for al-Jazeera could face charges related to terrorism was a grave concern.

Ahram Online, an Egyptian news website, reported Monday more than 50 of the 64 confirmed casualties reported from last week's demonstrations died as a result of gunshot wounds.

The British government issued a travel advisory for Egypt Friday warning of the possibility of further unrest.

"From Feb. 1 for approximately 2 months there will be several anniversaries in Egypt which are expected to prompt protests, some of which could turn violent," the warning said.

The political climate and national security situation in Egypt has been unstable since a 2011 uprising prompted longtime President Hosni Mubarak to stand down.

 

GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Friday he was frustrated by reports of an Egyptian crackdown on the media.

"We are extremely concerned about the increasingly severe clampdown and physical attacks on media in Egypt, which is hampering their ability to operate freely," he said in a statement.

Colville said his office was monitoring reports that journalists covering last week's anniversary of the 2011 revolution were injured by live fire and rubber bullets. He said pro- and anti-government forces may be to blame for the shootings.

(Author not mentioned, UPI, Jan. 31, 2014) Read Original

Alaa Saad left work at Shorouk News on the evening of Jan. 28 and walked to Tahrir Square. After arriving at the square, she walked to nearby Mohamed Mahmoud Street and took out her mobile phone to take a few photos of some graffiti. Such drawings fill the walls along the street and are a testament to the numerous events that Egypt has witnessed since the January 25 Revolution.

 
SUMMARY⎙ PRINT On the anniversary of Egypt's Day of Rage, an Egyptian woman is subjected to the same police brutality her fellow citizens revolted against three years ago.
 
AUTHOR Enas HamedPOSTED January 30, 2014
 
TRANSLATOR(S)Tyler Huffman
 

 

She said she had only taken one photo when she noticed someone forcefully pulling her shirt from behind, asking her, "What are you doing here?" When she turned around, she saw a woman dressed in a police uniform. She was a member of the women's police, and she grabbed at Alaa's mobile phone, trying to take it from her. She then grabbed Alaa herself and tried to pull her into a police car parked nearby.

Alaa refused to get into the car, at which point, the policewoman began hitting her and pulling on her hijab, which came off. The woman then began pulling her hair. Alaa screamed, "I haven't done anything!"

Alaa told Al-Monitor that a number of policemen were standing nearby, but none of them lifted a finger or tried to break up the skirmish. According to her account, they were laughing and even prevented a passerby from trying to help.

Things did not end there, however, as a number of "honest citizens," as she called them, gathered and joined in beating her. An old lady repeatedly hit Alaa with a cane, while a man carrying photographs of Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi began cursing her. Another man started touching and sexually harassing her. She could do nothing but scream as the policemen continued to watch and laugh.

Alaa said that she forcefully resisted until she was able to escape from the crowd and flee to a side street near Mohamed Mahmoud Street. She put her hijab back on and flagged down a taxi, which she took to Halal Hospital, near Tahrir Square. At the hospital she received treatment for the wounds she had sustained to her face and body.

 

Alaa Saad before confrontations and after. Photo: Alaa Saad

Alaa was not trying to take photos of graffiti so she could write an article about it. Rather, she went to Tahrir Square to reminisce about the days of the January 25 Revolution on the anniversary of the 2011 "Day of Rage," when Egyptians revolted against police injustice. After taking some photos, she had planned to stroll the same streets that witnessed the events of the revolution. Instead, she was met with violence from the police and citizens themselves, without knowing what she had done that was so wrong. She now says, "I just want to get out of this country. It is no longer for me."

Saad refused to file a report at the police station since she felt it would be of no use. She said hundreds of youth have been killed at the hands of the police and there has been no justice served for them, so she didn't expect it to be any different for her. 

The Interior Ministry's response to the incident came through its spokesman, Maj. Gen. Hani Abdel-Latif, who denied any knowledge of the incident. He told Al-Monitor: "She should have filed a report at the nearest police station to prove the incident occurred and so that we could deal with the [alleged] attackers."

Abdel-Latif also denied that there were any female police in Tahrir Square on that day. "Many Egyptians were in the square celebrating the anniversary of the [January 25] Revolution, so how could [the accused] attack a girl who did nothing?" he added.

On the other hand, Azza Kamel, the director of the Appropriate Communications Techniques for Development Center (ACT), told Al-Monitor that the sexual assault Saad was exposed was not the first, nor will be the last, in the series of attacks against women in Egypt. She noted that conditions in the country are not to blame for the disrespect women face in Egypt, since such incidents began many years ago. 

Kamel confirmed that the incident involving Saad was the first time she had heard about a female police officer assaulting a woman. She said that all of the reports she has received have involved women being sexually assaulted or attacked by normal citizens. 

 

 
On Jan. 27, two important developments took place in Cairo. The first was that interim President Adly Mansour promoted army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the rank of field marshal. Hours later, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which is headed by Sisi, officially convened to discuss the latest developments in the country as well as the issue of Sisi’s much debated and expected (and much demanded in some circles) nomination to the nation’s presidency.

While SCAF's resulting statement said that Egyptians will eventually make their will known through the ballot boxes, it did say that “SCAF could only look with respect and high regard to the will of the broad masses of Egypt’s great people in nominating Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the presidency of the republic, and it considers this a [formal] commissioning and commitment.” The rest of the statement followed in the same tone, focusing on the voice of the public as being the main driving force behind this move. Sisi has yet to officially announce his candidacy, likely in part due to procedural issues including the necessity of his registration in the voters database, but it is largely seen right now as a foregone conclusion.

Obviously, a slew of commentary followed, mostly divided between those who proclaimed the prospects of a progressive civilian democracy in Egypt comatose and those proclaiming Sisi to be the man Egypt needs, the only one who could exercise real influence over Egypt’s Pandora’s box of state institutions, and even going so far as to suggest that he might even prove to be a reformer once he is officially in charge. But four main questions stood out:

1.  Why did he (at least officially) change his mind and run for office, considering all the previous statements and analyses that argued that it would be better for him to stay on as head of the military? To recap one chief argument of such an analysis, the upcoming president would be embroiled in the whirlpool of quotidian politics and will lose any buffer he once had from the merciless daily pressures of politics and economics. Thus, Sisi would be better off as the savior who returned to his post after intervening. Another argument reasoned that Sisi’s presidency, if not well performing, would negatively reflect on the military as a whole, something particularly unhelpful after SCAF’s unsuccessful turn at the helm in 2011-2012. A third major argument went that it would weaken the narrative that held the military intervened in July 2013 to “correct the nation’s democratic course” and not to take power. The question of why Sisi has seemingly decided to run becomes even more pertinent given the passage of the new constitution, which gives the SCAF veto power for two presidential terms over nominations for defense minister. 

In the end, two broad categories of answers are suggested. The first is the pragmatic and analytical, considering what could be seen as a lack of attractive alternative candidates the military could effectively support and whose potential for victory is solid, a desire (and perhaps perceived necessity) to remain at the heart of the transitional and post-transition phases Sisi and the military put in place and making sure no unexpected figures rise to the office of the presidency (and perhaps to avoid unwanted surprises, à la Morsi’s November 2012 decree, coming from whoever might inhabit that office at this critical time). But the second is more personal in nature: The man appears to be a true believer. While mindful of all the analysis, a sense of personal calling perhaps eventually persuaded Sisi. Of course, that sense hasn’t exactly been discouraged by the intense media campaign to get him to run as well as what seems to be an undeniably substantial degree of popularity.

2.  What is the significance of this turn of events? Clearly, this could be debated at length. But one key issue here is how the military’s short statement appears to have brought the institution deeper into national politics, and in a truly unique way. Sisi has effectively now become the military’s nominee. As the military is the key state institution, especially right now, he also becomes the state’s nominee by extension. This effectively renders the upcoming presidential elections an asymmetrical game from the start, to say the least. Already one major alternative candidate — for example, Ahmed Shafiq (who was former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister and a former presidential candidate in the runoff against Morsi) — has announced that he is indeed no longer running and will support Sisi. Also, those who had hoped for some degree of eventual detente with the Islamists under a more dovish president (someone potentially like Hamdeen Sabahi), someone who could be relatively more acceptable for the Muslim Brotherhood to reach out to, are seeing such a detente as an even more unlikely scenario now.

3.  An extension of the second question: Can he lose the elections? Highly unlikely. Almost no real competitor comes to mind right now. Ahmed Shafiq, as explained above, is out. Former SCAF second in command Sami Anan is running, and he seems very adamant about his campaign. But he’s increasingly seen as a representation of a bygone era, and the army’s statement endorsing Sisi’s nomination effectively squashes Anan’s candidacy and many of his own presumed selling points as a figure of stability and the military, while his campaign has already received a not-so-warm response thus far. Amr Moussa is both of a advanced age to run and has wholeheartedly jumped on the Sisi support bandwagon. Hamdeen Sabahi remains theoretically in the race, but he’s unlikely to be able to defeat Sisi in the elections. Abdel-Mon’eim Abul-Fotouh’s chances are also very limited if he does run. Meanwhile, the Salafist Nour Party said it will neither field a candidate nor support an Islamist in the upcoming elections, while the Brotherhood is quite unlikely to even try to field an official candidate, nor would it find it easy to work on any form of campaigning. Sisi is likely to win in the first round.

 4.  What kind of president would he make? Obviously, no one could answer that kind of question right now. As a man who spent his life away from the limelight, very little is still known with regard to Sisi’s political and economic outlooks. But certain factors will likely be of great influence. The first is his personal drive, which appears genuinely nationalist, populist and impassioned. The second is why he was pretty much called upon to run: the need for security and stability. This would thus likely be at the forefront of at least the first year or two of his presidential term, while support from Egypt’s Gulf allies could temporarily help alleviate the economic woes. But the question then becomes what more could he be expected to do that the current heavy handed government hasn’t already been doing? The third, very potentially, could remarkably be the January 25 Revolution. Having publicly and repeatedly endorsed the revolution and criticized the Mubarak era, Sisi could likely find himself forced to maintain some distance from some of the more key figures from that time and eventually embark on some reform, especially to push the narrative that Egypt is moving forward, not backward. The Mubarak-distancing issue will become a very complex matter come the parliamentary elections. There simply does not appear to be a single party or coalition that is clearly poised to become the new ruling party of Egypt, which the president would either chair, come from or have a relationship with. Eventually, such a party or coalition is expected have a strong influence on where the country heads.

In any case, as one finds himself increasingly saying lately about all things Egypt, time will tell.

 

Jehane Noujaim's documentary The Square has been short-listed for the Oscar, is now available on Netflix, and recently won her an Directors' Guild Award. But it has still not been released or even screened at a festival here.

There have been a number of recent reviews, which in one way or another have raised the question of the film's viewpoint and its portrayal of a deeply divided, deeply confusing reality. 

At the New Republic, Eric Trager argues that Egypt's protesters also "bear responsibility for the mess that followed." 

But one year later—and only 15 minutes after Morsi’s victory in the 100-minute film’s run-time—the activists are suddenly willing to accept the military’s return to power. Morsi’s dictatorial maneuvers and theocratic ambitions, combined with his use of Muslim Brotherhood thugs to torture and kill protesters, has incited a mass movement against him, and the film’s protagonists eagerly take to the streets. “Do you think the Army will act in the same way it did?” Ahmed asks rhetorically. He clearly doesn’t think so, because he is once again caught up in the enthusiasm of yet another mass protest, and thus convinced that “Now the power is in the hands of the people.” It’s as if the film’s first hour and ten minutes never happened. It’s as if the previous military regime hadn’t shot Ahmed in the head.

(Author not mentioned, The Arabist, Jan. 30, 2014) Read Original