Two recent terrorism cases


Some people made a big deal about Hani Nour Eldin, a member of Egypt’s dissolved parliament, getting a U.S. visa and meetings with U.S. officials despite his membership in Egypt’s Gama’a al-Islamiyya, which the State Department deems a “foreign terrorist organization.”  It didn’t matter to those same people that the group Gama’a al-Islamiyya renounced violence  at around the turn of this century.  Nor did it matter to them  that the group’s renounciation was accepted by our ally, Egypt’s Hosni Mubara.  The problem was/is  the US State department, now headed by the dreaded and hated spouse of Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton that the Right has pilloried ever since their appearance on the political stage had gone over to the Islamist/terrorist  side.  But as in most things that originate from the right side of America’s political spectrum these days, there really wasn’t much substance to their concern for America…..it did give the right the opportunity to sling mud at its two biggest political existential threats, the Obama Administration and Muslims.

It’s little wonder that members of the Right were silent about this bit of news. The Syrian government’s Muslim religious leader,  Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun was quoted last October as saying, ‘I say to all of Europe, I say to America, we will set up suicide bombers who are now in your countries, if you bomb Syria or Lebanon. From now on, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ The as dreaded as the Clinton’s State Department, CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) in today’s America wasn’t going to let that kind of rhetoric go unnoticed and protested

We urge you to deny entry to Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun, who has threatened our nation’s national security with calls for suicide attacks and whose state-appointed function is to provide a religious veneer for a brutal regime that has killed and tortured thousands of its own people…

Hassoun’s entry into the United States would only serve to provide credibility for his false claim that the ongoing revolution against the Assad dictatorship is inspired by foreign interests, instead of the Syrian people‘s clear desire for peace, freedom and the rule of law.

By allowing Hassoun entry to the United States, we would send a contradictory and counterproductive message to the beleaguered people of Syria at time when they are suffering such hardships at the hands of the regime’s forces.

No doubt CAIR’s diligence is due in no small part to criticism about how Muslims do very little self-policing of themselves which CAIR did to a rather successful conclusion but it will do little to stem the name calling they are part of a larger Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy.  They needn’t worry about that however, since it seems EVERYONE is a part of the takeover of America by the Muslim Brotherhood. Neither should CAIR expect anyone from the Right will give them credit for the organization’s  outspokenness on an issue that they, the Right  likes to call its own….pointing out or highlighting religiously connected terrorism.  By co opting the Right’s  issue of choice, CAIR has made the Right irrelevant.  At the least they deserve an ‘attaboy!

A New Day in Egypt


The Egyptian revolution has brought about a change in the attitude of many progressive minded Egyptian Muslims who recognize the importance of the cohesiveness of their society.

The Muslim Brotherhood has called on Egypt’s ruling military ‎council to provide security for Christian churches during Coptic ‎Christmas celebrations on 7 January as it did for polling stations ‎during the first two rounds of parliamentary elections.‎

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the group also promised ‎to draw up “popular committees” to help protect churches ‎against “iniquitous hands” that might attempt to spoil Christmas ‎celebrations as happened more than once under “the corrupt ‎regime” of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.‎

Almost one year ago, on New Year’s Eve, more than twenty Coptic ‎Christians were killed when a bomb exploded outside a church ‎in Alexandria. One year earlier, on 6 January, eight Copts were ‎killed outside a church in the Upper Egyptian city of Naga ‎Hammadi.‎

In January of this year, only weeks before the popular uprising ‎that culminated in Mubarak’s ouster, Muslim activists formed ‎human shields around churches on Coptic Christmas in an ‎expression of national unity. ‎

In its Wednesday statement, the Muslim Brotherhood also ‎announced that a delegation headed by leading group member ‎Mahmoud Ezzat would attend Christmas mass.‎

Many have been led to believe the Muslim Brotherhood, or MB, is the next anti-christ and no matter what they do they will always be portrayed as such but this move in an Egypt which is lawless and leaderless is a step in the right direction. It won’t be long before people in the media, and the pundits, return to the rhetoric of hate and racism in an attempt to add lawlessness to the Egyptian society.

The Oppression of Egyptian women under military rule


We may never know the name of the woman pictured here who was brutalized by the Egyptian army in horrific ways, but she is symbolic of what happens to Egyptians, men and particularly women, under the military rule of the government of Egypt.  There is nothing that this woman could have done to merit the public treatment she received at the hands of the men in this picture.  We will never know if the men are Christian or Muslim……does it matter, they  disrobed her purposefully and publicly and beat her mercilessly and senselessly.    This is the fate of women who protest against the government of Egypt and it doesn’t matter to the thugs who participate in this mass orgy of violence and sexual humiliation whether their victims are Muslim, Christian, Jewish,  Egyptian or foreign, expressions of dissent of any form is not tolerated and public examples must be made of those who violate that unwritten tradition or culture.  This is the face of totalitarianism, not Islam, of autocratic militarism that has plagued Egyptian society, our ally, for over 30 years.  It is what Lara Logan saw and faced during her last visit to Tahrir Square.  It is raw, naked brutal, and it is ugly.  You can read about what else women in Egypt are facing and have faced from the military regime here.  The accounts there are demoralizing, and inhumane and characteristic of military rule which has its own precepts and pillars, in that part of the world.

A Political Reality


Those who support democracy must welcome the rise of political Islam

From Tunisia to Egypt, Islamists are gaining the popular vote. Far from threatening stability, this makes it a real possibility

Wadah Khanfar

Andrzej Krauze 2811

Illustration by Andrzej Krauze

Ennahda, the Islamic party in Tunisia, won 41% of the seats of the Tunisian constitutional assembly last month, causing consternation in the west. But Ennahda will not be an exception on the Arab scene. Last Friday the Islamic Justice and Development Party took the biggest share of the vote in Morocco and will lead the new coalition government for the first time in history. And tomorrow Egypt’s elections begin, with the Muslim Brotherhood predicted to become the largest party. There may be more to come. Should free and fair elections be held in Yemen, once the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh falls, the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, also Islamic, will win by a significant majority. This pattern will repeat itself whenever the democratic process takes its course.

In the west, this phenomenon has led to a debate about the “problem” of the rise of political Islam. In the Arab world, too, there has been mounting tension between Islamists and secularists, who feel anxious about Islamic groups. Many voices warn that the Arab spring will lead to an Islamic winter, and that the Islamists, though claiming to support democracy, will soon turn against it. In the west, stereotypical images that took root in the aftermath of 9/11 have come to the fore again. In the Arab world, a secular anti-democracy camp has emerged in both Tunisia and Egypt whose pretext for opposing democratisation is that the Islamists are likely to be the victors.

But the uproar that has accompanied the Islamists’ gains is unhelpful; a calm and well-informed debate about the rise of political Islam is long overdue.

First, we must define our terms. “Islamist” is used in the Muslim world to describe Muslims who participate in the public sphere, using Islam as a basis. It is understood that this participation is not at odds with democracy. In the west, however, the term routinely describes those who use violence as a means and an end – thus Jihadist Salafism, exemplified by al-Qaida, is called “Islamist” in the west, despite the fact that it rejects democratic political participation (Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida, criticised Hamas when it decided to take part in the elections for the Palestinian legislative council, and has repeatedly criticised the Muslim Brotherhood for opposing the use of violence).

This disconnect in the understanding of the term in the west and in the Muslim world was often exploited by despotic Arab regimes to suppress Islamic movements with democratic political programmes. It is time we were clear.

Reform-based Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, work within the political process. They learned a bitter lesson from their armed conflict in Syria against the regime of Hafez al-Assad in 1982, which cost the lives of more than 20,000 people and led to the incarceration or banishment of many thousands more. The Syrian experience convinced mainstream Islamic movements to avoid armed struggle and to observe “strategic patience” instead.

Second, we must understand the history of the region. In western discourse Islamists are seen as newcomers to politics, gullible zealots who are motivated by a radical ideology and lack experience. In fact, they have played a major role in the Arab political scene since the 1920s. Islamic movements have often been in opposition, but since the 1940s they have participated in parliamentary elections, entered alliances with secular, nationalist and socialist groups, and participated in several governments – in Sudan, Jordan, Yemen and Algeria. They have also forged alliances with non-Islamic regimes, like the Nimeiri regime in Sudan in 1977.

A number of other events have had an impact on the collective Muslim mind, and have led to the maturation of political Islam: the much-debated Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979; the military coup in Sudan in 1989; the success of the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front in the 1991 elections and the army’s subsequent denial of its right to govern; the conquest of much of Afghan territory by the Taliban in 1996 leading to the establishment of its Islamic emirate; and the success in 2006 of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The Hamas win was not recognised, nor was the national unity government formed. Instead, a siege was imposed on Gaza to suffocate the movement.

Perhaps one of the most influential experiences has been that of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, which won the elections in 2002. It has been a source of inspiration for many Islamic movements. Although the AKP does not describe itself as Islamic, its 10 years of political experience have led to a model that many Islamists regard as successful. The model has three important characteristics: a general Islamic frame of reference; a multi-party democracy; and significant economic growth.

These varied political experiences have had a profound impact on political Islam’s flexibility and capacity for political action, and on its philosophy, too.

However, political Islam has also faced enormous pressures from dictatorial Arab regimes, pressures that became more intense after 9/11. Islamic institutions were suppressed. Islamic activists were imprisoned, tortured and killed. Such experiences gave rise to a profound bitterness. Given the history, it is only natural that we should hear overzealous slogans or intolerant threats from some activists. Some of those now at the forefront of election campaigns were only recently released from prison. It would not be fair to expect them to use the voice of professional diplomats.

Despite this, the Islamic political discourse has generally been balanced. The Tunisian Islamic movement has set a good example. Although Ennahda suffered under Ben Ali’s regime, its leaders developed a tolerant discourse and managed to open up to moderate secular and leftist political groups. The movement’s leaders have reassured Tunisian citizens that it will not interfere in their personal lives and that it will respect their right to choose. The movement also presented a progressive model of women’s participation, with 42 female Ennahda members in the constitutional assembly.

The Islamic movement’s approach to the west has also been balanced, despite the fact that western countries supported despotic Arab regimes. Islamists know the importance of international communication in an economically and politically interconnected world.

Now there is a unique opportunity for the west: to demonstrate that it will no longer support despotic regimes by supporting instead the democratic process in the Arab world, by refusing to intervene in favour of one party against another and by accepting the results of the democratic process, even when it is not the result they would have chosen. Democracy is the only option for bringing stability, security and tolerance to the region, and it is the dearest thing to the hearts of Arabs, who will not forgive any attempts to derail it.

The region has suffered a lot as a result of attempts to exclude Islamists and deny them a role in the public sphere. Undoubtedly, Islamists’ participation in governance will give rise to a number of challenges, both within the Islamic ranks and with regard to relations with other local and international forces. Islamists should be careful not to fall into the trap of feeling overconfident: they must accommodate other trends, even if it means making painful concessions. Our societies need political consensus, and the participation of all political groups, regardless of their electoral weight. It is this interplay between Islamists and others that will both guarantee the maturation of the Arab democratic transition and lead to an Arab political consensus and stability that has been missing for decades.

More rape news out of Egypt


More female reporters alleged they were sexually abused by crowds in Tahrir Square in Cairo Egypt last week.  It’s interesting that their claim has received far less notoriety than the one made by CBS News’ Lara Logan earlier this year. We wrote, in response to the Islamophobia that sprung up about her assault, that it had less to do with religion or Israel and more to do with the very rage of rape and its presence in Egyptian society.  So now the stories of other women being molested, two of them Egyptian and one French receive barely a notice in sensational American media.

What provoked my ire about the Logan rape story is how it was elevated above what normally happens in that country……as if Logan herself was single out and abused.  To the contrary asserts one of the more recent victims of sexual assault in Tahrir square, Mona Eltahawy who said, ‘It was an awful night, but what happened to me is just a taste of what happens to so many Egyptians. The brutality of Egyptian security forces has long been documented and I experienced just a bit of it.’

The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree


This is what the father, Said Ramadan, taught the son

Muslims have ignored the task which should be their specific concern, namely love of God and the strengthening of the ties of love among people for His sake.  If a person should succeed in this task he would have set the firmest foundation in the depths of soul, sown the seed for every flourishing virtue and established an impregnable fortress against most external threats and tests.

The word “love” which people have so misused and abused, is that mighty word which distinguishes the followers of the Prophets and on which their societies were built.  It is the ‘elixir’ which binds these followers to goodness, creating a true bond which even makes suffering seem sweet in its pursuit.  By the same token it  has fashioned the ties that bind them together – ties of soul over and above the intellect, ties which are not subverted by differences of opinion.  These ties are above materialistic interests and are not swayed by any particular passing whim.

and this is what the son internalized and remembers of  his father

I remember still his presence and his silence. The long silences lodged deep in mind and memory ; the thoughts that were often bitter. The keen eye and piercing gaze that bore his warmth, his kindness and his tears ; that carried his determination, his commitment and anger as well. How often I attempted, as a child, to read the look in the powerful, suggestive and questioning eyes that accompanied his words to my heart. Those same words awakened me, troubled and shook me. I was not alone. Everyone who met him experienced his power. He had penetrated to the heart of things, and expected others to do the same. And yet he did so with compassion, with intelligence, for he feared causing harm, causing hurt. Behind his hesitancy lay his kindness, and often his awkwardness.

Early on, I learned at his side how the world feeds on lies, rumors and scandal mongering. When men lose morality they return to the jungle and become wolves. Around him were many such men ; men who fought and sullied him for political gain, men who turned their backs on him for professional gain and men who betrayed him for financial gain. So much was said, written and lied about him : that he’d met men whom he’d never seen, heard words that had never been spoken, had been involved in secret plots he never dreamed of. In my memory echo the words of one of his traveling companions : “He could have been a millionaire, not by flattering kings, but by simply agreeing to keep silent. He refused ; he spoke the truth and spoke it again and again, before God, without fear of loosing everything.”

I remember a story that my elder brother Aymen retold what seemed like a thousand times, a story that always brought tears to my eyes. He was fifteen years old when he heard it, in the course of a journey that found him and our father in the presence of wealthy princes : “The money that you wish to give me is placed in the palm of my hand ; as for myself, by God’s command, I only work for that which is deposited in and reaches men’s hearts…” Despite his material difficulties, he rejected the exorbitant amounts of money he was offered, and did so in the name of his faith in God, of his devotion to the truth and of his love for justice. Aymen has never forgotten ; it shaped him and he passed it on.

My father learned everything from the man who gave him so much, offered him so much and who, from a very early age, trained and protected him. On that subject he was inexhaustible. Hasan al-Banna, through his total devotion to God and His teachings, brought light to his heart and showed him the way to commitment. To those who criticized al-Banna without ever having met or heard him, or those who had simply read him, my father explained how much spirituality, love, fraternity and humility he had learnt at his side. For hours on end, he could summon up from memory the events and instants that had left their mark on him when he was just like his son ; and when he was respectfully known throughout Egypt as “little Hasan al-Banna,” or the “little Guide.” His master’s profound faith, his devotion and his intelligence, his knowledge, open-mindedness and kindness were the qualities that sprang to mind whenever his name was mentioned.

How often father spoke of his mentor’s unyielding commitment to the struggle against colonialism and injustice and for the sake of Islam. But Hasan al-Banna’s determination never justified violence, which he rejected just as he rejected the idea of “an Islamic revolution.” The only exception was Palestine. Here, al-Banna’s message was clear : armed resistance was the only way to foil the plans of the Irgun terrorists and to confront the Zionist colonizers. Father had learned from Hasan al-Banna, as he put it one day, “to put my forehead to the ground.” For the true meaning of prayer is to give meaning, in humility, to an entire life. At his feet he learned love for God, patience, painstaking work, the value of education and of solidarity. Finally, he learned to give everything. After the assassination of his master, in 1949, he integrated what he had learned and sacrificed everything in order to give voice to the liberating message of Islam. History is written by the mighty ; the worst calumnies were uttered about Imam Hasan al-Banna. Never did he cease to write, and to speak the truths that had nurtured him. But the despots’ love of power brought only death, bloodshed and torture.

He had just turned twenty when al-Banna named him editor of his magazine, al-Shihab. Then he volunteered for service in Palestine, at age twenty-one, fighting to defend Jerusalem. In 1948, at twenty-two, he went to Pakistan where he was approached about assuming the post of Secretary General of the World Islamic Congress. But his determination terrified the “diplomats.” He stayed on in Pakistan for several months, participating in debates about constitutional questions and producing a weekly radio program on Islam and the Muslim world that brought him wide popularity among young people and intellectuals.

Returning to Egypt, he threw himself into a campaign for social and political reform, traveling across the country, giving lectures, and chairing meetings. In 1952, he launched a monthly magazine modeled on al-Shihab, called al-Muslimun , for which some of the greatest Muslim scholars were to write and which would be distributed from Morocco to Indonesia in both Arabic and English. But Hasan al-Banna, well before his assassination, had given his followers a stern warning : the road will be long, and its mileposts will be pain, sadness and adversity. He knew, as did all those who accompanied him, that they would endure lies, humiliation, torture, exile and death. For him it was to be exile. Nasser had deceived him and his colleagues, jailed them, executed them. In 1954 he was forced to leave Egypt, not to return until August 8,1995, in his coffin : forty-one years of exile, suffering, commitment and sacrifice for God and justice—and against dictatorship and hypocrisy. Exile is the ultimate condition of faith. His path was a long one, the hardships and the sorrows manifold and unending. First in Palestine where he was named General Secretary of the World Islamic Congress of Jerusalem before being banned from the city by Glubb Pasha, himself following American orders. Then, in Damascus were he relaunched al-Muslimun with Mustafa al-Siba’i, and soon after, to Lebanon, before arriving in Geneva in 1958. In 1959 he obtained his Doctorate in Cologne, and published his thesis under the title ‘Islamic Law : its Scope and Equity’ in which he presented a synthesis of the fundamental positions of Hasan al-Banna on the subject of the Shari’a, law, political organization and religious pluralism. It was an essential book, the first of its kind in a European language, to posit Islam as a universal reference. It reflected is author’s conviction and determination and at the same time a clear-cut and unmistakable commitment to open mindedness—and never once the slightest acceptance of violence.

IN 1961 he founded the Islamic Centre of Geneva with the support and participation of Muhammad Natsir, Muhammad Asad, Muhammad Hamidullah, Zafar Ahmad Ansari and Abu al-Hasan al-Nadwi—outstanding figures and faithful brothers in the same struggle. This Islamic centre was to be a model for others like it in Munich, London, Washington and, more generally, throughout the West. Its aim was to provide immigrant Muslims in Europe or the USA stay connected with their religion and to find a place of welcome and reflection. The Centre would likewise be a hub of activity for the presentation of Islam, for a publication program, and for analysis of current issues—all without external constraint. The Geneva Centre published numerous books and facsimiles in Arabic, English, French and German, and re-launched al-Muslimun, which ceased publication in 1967. Meanwhile he planned the creation of the Muslim World League, whose first statutes he drafted. His commitment was total ; the Saudi funds he received via the League, which was at that time opposed to the Nasser regime, came with no particular conditions, commitment or obligation of political silence. When, at the end of the 1960s, the Muslim World League, which had by them come under much more direct Saudi influence, made its financial support conditional, insisting that it would take over the Islamic Centre and its activities, he refused. Then in 1971, all funding was cut off. He had never doubted that the road he must travel would be long and hard ; such was the cost of independent thought and action. Many came to know and appreciate him during those years. He traveled to many countries—speaking publicly in Malaysia, staying for protracted periods in England, Austria or in the USA, creating links as he went, introducing his profound, analytical thought with its underpinning of spirituality and love. Even such a luminary as Mawdudi thanked him for awakening him from his unconsciousness ; Muhammad Asad was grateful to him for having brought him to know, or rather to feel profoundly the thought of Hasan al-Banna. Malek Shabbaz (Malcolm X) heard in the kitchen of the Islamic Centre of Geneva that no race is chosen and that no Arab, no more than a black person, is superior to his white brother, except by piety. Malcolm X took the lesson to heart so deeply that his last written words, at the eve of his death in February 1965, were addressed to my father. Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) paid him numerous visits in his London hostel ; later he would tell me how much he remembered Said Ramadan’s fine intelligence, calling him “so sweet a man.” In 1993, in a meeting at Geneva Airport, the scholar Abu al-Hasan al-Nadwi showed him all the signs of infinite respect. When I visited him years later in Lucknow, India, the site of the Nadwat al-‘Ulama’, al-Nadwi recalled with deep emotion one of his visits and the memories that it had left him. In exile, far from his own, exposed to political and financial harassment, and assailed by problems large and small, he worried and tormented his mind while keeping intact the essential : a deep faith and sense of fraternity, the eyes of tenderness and the highest standards of behavior.

His room : piles of documents and magazines ; here a telephone, there a radio and a television set, stacks of books, opened or annotated. The world was at his fingertips. Whoever stepped into his universe could not but be struck by a story, a past, a life, by sadness and solitude, by the multitude of memories alongside an incomparable grasp of current events. He maintained constant contact—that of emotional involvement—with the most distant lands. He knew almost everything that was going on in Tajikistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. He kept track of developments in Washington, Los Angeles, Harlem, London, Munich, Paris, Karachi and Geneva. His horizon seethed with information. He suffered so much and with such intensity in that room of his, from the state of the world, from the lies and the massacres, the prison sentences and the torture. His political intuition was breathtaking ; it was easy to understand why he was feared.

But analysis of current events was not enough for him. Everything interested him, from technology and medicine to science and ecology. He knew what was needed for a thoroughgoing reform in Islam. His curiosity, always alert, always lucid, knew no limits. He had traveled the world ; henceforth the world would come into his room. Where once there had been crowds, scholars, presidents and kings, now only observation, analysis and deep sadness remained. In his solitude, though, there was the Qur’an ; and in his isolation, there were invocations mingled with tears. He gave his children symbolic names, names from the history of persecution and boundless determination. A thread of complicity connected him with each one of us ; we held his undivided attention, shared the sensitivity of our relationship with him, and his love. With Aymen, it was his success and wounds ; with Bilal, his potential and his heartbreak ; with Yasser, his presence, his generous devotion and his patience ; with Arwa, his complicity and silences ; with Hani, his commitment and his determination. He convinced each of us to believe in our own qualities. He reminded each of us that he had given us the best of mothers, she who is, with all the qualities of her heart, his most precious gift.

After more than forty years in exile, after an entire life lived for God, faith and justice, he knew that his last hour had come. In night’s darkest hours he spoke again and again of love, fraternity and affection. A few months before returning to God, he told me, with all the power of his sad, tearful gaze : “Our problem is one of spirituality. If a man comes to speak to me about reform in the Muslim world, about political strategy and geopolitical schemes, my first question to him would be whether he performed the dawn prayer (fajr) on time.” He had a keen eye for the agitation in each of us, including my own. He reminded not to forget the essentials, to be close to God in order to know how to be close to men. After an entire lifetime of struggle, his hair turned grey by time, he reminded me : “Power is not our objective ; we have nothing to do with it. Our goal is love of the Creator, the fraternity and justice of Islam. This is our message to dictators.” Late at night, in that famous room, he spoke of himself. The link with God is the path, spirituality, the light of the road. One day as he looked back upon his life, he told me : “Our ethical behavior, our awareness of good and evil is weapon used against us by despots, lovers of titles, power and money. They do what we cannot do ; they lie as we cannot lie ; they betray as we cannot betray and kill as we cannot kill. Our accountability before God is, in their eyes, our weakness. This apparent weakness is our real strength.”

That strength gave him energy until the very last. He remained deeply faithful to the message. To him I owe the understanding that to speak of God means, above all else, to speak of love, of the heart and fraternity. To him I owe the knowledge that solitude with God is better than neglect with men. To him I owe the feeling that deep sadness can never exhaust one’s faith in God. His generosity, his kindness and his knowledge were his most precious gifts. I thank God for giving me the gift of this father, at whose side I discovered that faith is love. Love of God and men in the face of trial and adversity. Hasan al-Banna taught us : “Be like a fruit tree. If they attack you with stones, respond with fruits.” How well he had learned the lesson, then made it his own in the most intimate sense of the word. Observer of the world, far from the crowd, in the solitude of his room, after years of combat without respite for the sake of God, against treachery and corruption, his words drew their energy from the Sources and from the rabbaniyya (the essential link with the Creator). He never ceased speaking about God, about the heart and about the intimacy of this Presence. He had learnt the essential, and he summoned people directly to the essential.

Now he lies at rest next to the one who taught him the way, Hasan al-Banna. May God have mercy on them. He had returned from exile only in death for despots fear the words of the living. But the silence of the dead is fraught with meaning, just like the supplications of those who suffer injustice : bitter words, but words of truth. Thus the Prophet (pbuh) has commanded us : “We are from God and to Him is our return.” on Friday August 4 1995, just before dusk, God called to him a man. A man, a son, a husband, a brother, a father-in-law, a grandfather, my father. The sole merit of those who remain will be to testify, day after day, their faithfulness to his memory and teaching. To love God, to respond to His call, walk side by side with men, to live and learn how to die, to live in order to learn how to die, whatever the obstacles and whatever the cost. Said Ramadan spent 41 years, almost an entire lifetime, in exile. What remains are his words, his vision and his determination. This life is not Life.

May God receive him in His mercy, forgive him his sins and open for him the gates of Peace in the company of the Prophets, the pious and the just.

May God make me for my children the father my father was for me.

Two generations and more drilled with the theme of love and devotion to God first and to one another and the rest of humanity under the banner of Islam.  That’s not a theme, love, that we commonly hear associated by corporate media with Islam, but it is an authentic one, practiced by Tariq Ramadan and his father before him and his grandfather before him. It is consistently practiced by Muslims like the Ramadan family all over the world and its face needs to be seen more often, internalized and passed on to more and more people.

Finally! An ally who embraces, at least in part, some of our principles and DOES NOT want our money! Imagine that!


We talked before about how many in the newly emerging Egypt have said no to US funds because they see such money as a way to negatively influence their burgeoning “new” democracy.  It’s not that these Egyptians don’t like America, what’s not to like about America the leader of the free world, it’s just that they want to define their social movements and institutions and not have that done for them by others.

“There are development partners that have for some time now been pushing the democracy and human rights agenda,” said Talaat Abdel Malek, an advisor to the Ministry of International Cooperation, which overseas foreign aid. “And I understand that and I understand the need for it, but there comes a point when there is something that is called national sovereignty that has to be respected.”

Every nook and cranny of Egyptian society, except for the marxists, has called for a democratic Egypt so their reasoning goes, there is no need to make that such a strong push by outside forces.  There are even some in Egypt who sound like today’s American GOP

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is campaigning for September’s parliamentary elections on a platform to trim the country’s budget deficit.

“It’s always better for any country to build on the basis of investment and not loans,” Khairat el-Shater, 61, deputy leader of the Brotherhood, said in an interview in Cairo.

“A lot of investors have been very nervous of the prospects of a government with a strong Brotherhood representation,” said Elijah Zarwan, a Cairo-based senior analyst at the International Crisis Group research group. “The Brotherhood is aware of this and they are trying to reassure foreign investors by saying ‘look, we are businessmen, we are business owners and professionals.’” The Brotherhood is also proposing to cut spending, sell state-run media, link subsidies to job creation and slow inflation.

All of the above sounds like talking points for any candidate running for office in America.  To further underscore the convergence of American ideals with a surfacing Egyptian “democracy” explained in its own terms comes this

The rector of what is arguably the world’s oldest university, a bastion of Sunni scholarship with international influence, has come out in favour of a modern, democratic, constitutional Egyptian state…Ahmed el-Tayyeb, the grand sheik of Al-Azhar University in Cairo  denies that Islam permits a “priesthood state” – an implied criticism of Iran. (The Al-Azhar) document is not apolitical, however; it endorses the separation of powers and equal rights for all citizens…it says that the principles of sharia should be the basic source of law. But at least this is not new; since 1981, the Constitution of Egypt, under an ostensibly secularist regime on the Kemal Ataturk model, has a clause saying the same thing. For some reason, perhaps in an attempt to compete with the Muslim Brotherhood, Anwar Sadat added a mild version of this clause in 1971; Hosni Mubarak took it further in 1981.

The Al-Azhar document is, however, based on the work of a broad range of scholars and activists, including Coptic Christians, several of whom signed it. The paper says that Christians and Jews should be free to govern their own lives with guidance from their own authorities.

With such proclamations coming from a post Mubarak Egypt, what could only be construed as assurances to the West that embrace Western concepts of governance, rights and responsibilities,  it’s easy for this observer to understand the unease Egyptians have with continued attempts of foreign institutions and governments to change the course of Egyptian “democracy” into something else.  By not accepting funds, Egyptians seem to be saying while they like what we stand for, they don’t want us telling them how to do it themselves.  In America’s present state of budget deficits, lost and or stolen money and calls for more austerity on the backs of the poor and middle class, ordinarily one would welcome such a friend who says thanks but no thanks to offers that neither help them or us.  We should do more to encourage such friendship among our international allies.

 

 

 

 

Too Many Strings Attached


The Egyptian government has decided not to accept any funds from Washington to help it along with its democratization after the overthrow, somewhat peacefully I might add, of former president Hosni Mubarak.  The government has warned non-governmental organizations not to accept money from Washington saying doing so only undermines the security of Egypt at a very delicate time in its history.  Normally that would be good advice and even Americans should be happy that an ally is not extending its hand during our hard times but removing Washington’s ability to control the internal politics of a country once under its sway is most likely an anathema to career politicians who will use such information as this to start to discredit the Egyptian government.  Let’s not forget elections have not taken place in Egypt yet; it is still under the control of the  military which means any rejection of US aid could merely be posturing on Egypt’s part.  Moreover there may be some things that have to be addressed as far as Washington is concerned before such aid is actually given, or perhaps more sinisterly such aid is extended to lay the seeds for future discord should things not go according to Washington’s plan.  For now, Egypt with a history that dates Americas by several centuries has declared itself independent of American money, and that’s a good thing for them and us.

Raped by hands


Lara Logan, the CBS correspondent who was assaulted in Cairo, Egypt during the “Egyptian revolution” has finally come out and spoken about what happened to her.  It sounds very dramatic and Logan does an excellent job of provoking the imagery, stimulating the schemata but it rings flat on my dead old ears.  Not because I assume the typical attitude of many who don’t believe a rape victim’s story or dismiss it but because Logan, a member of the main stream media elite, has a job that depends on her exciting such mental images of noble wars of empire and chivalrous soldiers intent on serving the Nation or rescuing damsels like herself from the hordes of grabbing, prodding savages of far away place.

Initially we were told she was raped or suffered a violent assault.  Now we are told, by her, that she was ‘raped by hands’ an equally evocative expression.  It’s second nature to her, it’s her job to blur distinctions and make things equivalent when they are not.  Cairo, the city where the ‘rape by hands’ took place is 20 million strong and about a million of them were in Tahrir Square the night Logan’s attack took place.  Raping by hands undoubtedly happened to a lot of people there, men and women, who were jammed in an area not meant for their numbers.

Logan had previously been expelled from Egypt by the Mubarak regime, who at that time was an ally with America in its war on terror, but she was able to re-enter the country shortly thereafter. It appears even from her account she was recognized or identified as being a spy, an Israeli, a Jew or any other appellation to single her out from the rest and then set upon, but how and by whom it is not clear.  One account seems to suggest that Logan wasn’t raped by hands, but rather man handled as she was led away from the place where she was reporting.   Another female reporter claims she too was groped, fondled, sexually assaulted by the crowd but certainly not to the extent that her clothes were ripped off or that she felt fear for  her life.  Instead, this female reporter  claims, defiance at how she was violated;

In the middle of that crowd I suddenly found hands in the intimate parts of my body. When I realised that this was not a one-off incident, but that many people were interested in touching me, I felt vulnerable and became angry.

In an instinctive response, I wanted to smack the molesters, but they disappeared fast. Touching and pulling went on for some minutes when people around me started to notice what was happening.

My Egyptian friends and other friendly Egyptians closed the space around me, and gave precise instructions: while I was pulled forward, they told me to finger point to those people who were molesting me. They looked different from the bright, celebrating faces. After taking me out of the crowd, my new bodyguards turned against the attackers. An awful quarrel started.

With the right embellishment, the account above can turn into ‘rape by hands’ as well as a fear of an impending death, but the above account doesn’t give one that impression; moreover, she doesn’t seem to have assumed the role of  victim and is far too combative to warrant collective sympathy.  I get the impression she would and could readily wipe the floor with her attackers and instead of pitying her want to cheer her on to just such an end.  Yet that’s not what I  feel when I  listen to Logan.

What happened to her reminds me of  an amplified Adela Quested of A Passage to India, the book by E.M. Forster.  Quested an adventurous woman visiting colonized India  became confused after venturing alone into one of the Marabar Caves and emerges from it accusing her host of raping her.  What really happened is a story of human psychology, where a young woman backed up by a cultural belief in her absolute desirability focuses her rage and confusion on one man because of the damage he and by extension everyone in his group, i.e. Indians  have done to her emotional well being.  Logan reminds me of that Quested character , as she spoke of how she was penetrated front and back by the hands of rape during her 60 Minutes interview.  Yet all we have is her word.  None of the people who were with her have been interviewed, she does identify them and one was American, nor do we hear  from any of her rescuers even though she speaks pointedly of how they helped her.  Do we, the general public need to hear any of this or that?  Is it necessary to be allowed into Logan’s pain and suffering?  No, but Logan chose to reveal it to us, to take us there, and give a face to rape.  For me it’s hard to disassociate it from the other faces she’s given us in her role as a reporter.

The Politics of Rape


It will be interesting to see if CBS reporter Lara Logan will come out and set the record straight on what happened to her when she was in Cairo, Egypt covering the downfall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime.  Surely she is reading, listening and watching the coverage about her alleged rape and the motivation behind it; some news reports claim the attackers were shouting Jew, Jew while raping her.  We here in America have been conditioned to believe that rape is a crime of violence, but in today’s hatred drenched society, where everything that has to do with the Middle East, Arabs, Muslims and Islam is magnified and collective guilt is the order of the day, rape has become a political football tossed about to further denigrate Muslims and Arabs in order to advance a political agenda.

In the case of Egypt, it’s not hard to know what that agenda is.  Mubarak, a long time ally of America is gone.  As the second largest recipient of US aid Egypt was instrumental  in allowing the genocide of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to go on unflinchingly by a bloodthirsty and determined Israeli military.  His loss is a blow to the aim of eliminating, wiping Palestinians off the face of the map.  The prevailing mood in Western societies today is to set up the straw man of Islam as something to be feared and there is no greater victim that is ravaged by Islam than a white woman.  Much like the fear of 20th century America to African-Americans and the thought that every white female was the center of their lust, the perpetrator has been replaced by the Arab Muslim.

There’s no doubt Egypt and Egyptian men have a problem with sexual harassment.  Just ask the countless number of Egyptian women who have had to bear the brunt of that despicable act, something I might add we wrote about here when no one else was talking about it but their problem has nothing to do with their religion if we believe in the conventional wisdom that says rape is violence.  Otherwise, what do we account for the statistics found here about rape and the American woman on American soil, far removed from the so called Islamic menace?

There were 248,300 rapes/sexual assaults in the United States in 2007, more than 500 per day, up from 190,600 in 2005. Women were more likely than men to be victims; the rate for rape/sexual assault for persons age 12 or older in 2007 was 1.8 per 1,000 for females and 0.1 per 1,000 for males.7

Nearly one in four women in the United States reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life.4

Do these statistics mean that 25% of all American men are liars when they say they love the women in their lives who they eventually go on to rape, and that therefore ALL American men are liars and rapists?    Or what about this comment from a person in a position of authority who had this to say about the rape of a woman who had gone to him for help

…’it must have been God’s will for her to be raped’ and recommended that she attend church more frequently.”

are we to conclude therefore that the Judeo-Christian ethic at work in America turns a blind eye to victims of rape and suggests their only remedy is increased attendance at their houses of worship, thereby making the law as impotent as their rapist no doubt was?  Yet pundits like Michael Graham of the Boston Herald too readily dismiss such connections to American culture and rape while reaping it upon Arab and Muslim culture because such shoddy journalism is en vogue in today’s media.

Having 200 “good guys” gang assault a female reporter while screaming “Jew! Jew!” doesn’t fit the narrative. Is that why CBS sat on the story?

Or is it the cultural issue? A rape in a bar is a sex crime. But a pack of political protesters who rape a “Jew” in public is a story about culture.

Graham gets it wrong on both counts; a rape in a bar is a violent crime, that has nothing to do with sex, but with control and a rape in public by people shouting Jew, if that’s what they were shouting, is also a crime of violence but in today’s journalism, the goal posts can be easily moved around in order to validate the racism inherent in the notions about Islam and Muslims, and no one sees anything wrong with that.  Men, who may never commit a rape or wouldn’t even dream of it are able to cast aspersions against those who do and make huge leaps to ascribe motive when rape is as simple, or bestial if you were, as inherent and primal as human nature itself; as murder, assault, or any other crime against humanity.  Logan wasn’t assaulted because of  politics…..ask the countless numbers of women in Egypt and America if their rape had anything to do with politics or religion.  She was assaulted because of the rage and violence, the fantasy and the lust that whipped her attackers into a frenzied orgy of lawlessness.  If you don’t believe me, just ask one of the women you might know who was raped.  Chances are you do know someone who was.

More from Egypt


Cairo, prayers at dusk in the shadow of the army, bloodied but unbowed (photograph by Guy Martin)

The Egyptian Unrest


It’s very difficult to know what’s going on in Egypt.  You can be sure there’s as much going on behind the scenes as what is shown on TV or found on the printed page.  It appears however that the demonstrations against Mubarak are secular in nature, and widespread, although why it has taken this manifestation at this time is unclear.  Mubarak has been the only president since Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981, which means he has been in power for thirty years.  Of course we here in the West wouldn’t accept a ruler come to power, declare martial law and remain in power for that long.  Many people can’t bear an Obama administration that lasts only four years, so the excuse that Mubarak is necessary for peace and stability in the Middle East is ludicrous.

Also ludicrous is the insane fear surrounding one of the largest parties in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood.  A very good piece that you probably won’t read or hear about in main stream press here makes some very good points about that party.  Even the  mild mannered former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, for now says he is willing to work with them to build Egypt.

The Egyptian Brotherhood renounced violence years ago, but its relative moderation has made it the target of extreme vilification by more radical Islamists…..Egypt’s new opposition leader, former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, has formed a loose alliance with the Brotherhood because he knows it is the only opposition group that can mobilize masses of Egyptians, especially the poor. He says he can work with it to change Egypt. Many scholars of political Islam also judge the Brotherhood is the most reasonable face of Islamic politics in the Arab world today.

Meanwhile, Egyptians from across all religious denominations have come together to oppose the 30 year reign of Mubarak, with the rallying cry, ‘Muslims, Christians we are all Egyptians’;  this coming after recent attacks against Christian churches, which were blamed on Egyptian Muslims but were roundly and uniformly condemned by them,  will surely be exploited by Israel and other secularists who want to drive a wedge between the two groups. The Mubarak regime won’t relinquish power easily and is even willing to allow lawlessness to reign during the unrest in order to make the point he is indispensable.  Moreover there is now the threat of the Army or some other forces which have the ability to do so to shed blood on a score sufficient to get the people to stop for what is now a spontaneous eruption against a despot.  Look for just that result; it will be meant as a sign for all Middle Easterner who are chaffing under oppressive regimes not to follow the examples of Tunisia or Egypt.

Robert Fisk on Tunisia


The end of the age of dictators in the Arab world? Certainly they are shaking in their boots across the Middle East, the well-heeled sheiks and emirs, and the kings, including one very old one in Saudi Arabia and a young one in Jordan, and presidents – another very old one in Egypt and a young one in Syria – because Tunisia wasn’t meant to happen. Food price riots in Algeria, too, and demonstrations against price increases in Amman. Not to mention scores more dead in Tunisia, whose own despot sought refuge in Riyadh – exactly the same city to which a man called Idi Amin once fled.

If it can happen in the holiday destination Tunisia, it can happen anywhere, can’t it? It was feted by the West for its “stability” when Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was in charge. The French and the Germans and the Brits, dare we mention this, always praised the dictator for being a “friend” of civilised Europe, keeping a firm hand on all those Islamists.

Tunisians won’t forget this little history, even if we would like them to. The Arabs used to say that two-thirds of the entire Tunisian population – seven million out of 10 million, virtually the whole adult population – worked in one way or another for Mr Ben Ali’s secret police. They must have been on the streets too, then, protesting at the man we loved until last week. But don’t get too excited. Yes, Tunisian youths have used the internet to rally each other – in Algeria, too – and the demographic explosion of youth (born in the Eighties and Nineties with no jobs to go to after university) is on the streets. But the “unity” government is to be formed by Mohamed Ghannouchi, a satrap of Mr Ben Ali’s for almost 20 years, a safe pair of hands who will have our interests – rather than his people’s interests – at heart.

For I fear this is going to be the same old story. Yes, we would like a democracy in Tunisia – but not too much democracy. Remember how we wanted Algeria to have a democracy back in the early Nineties?

Then when it looked like the Islamists might win the second round of voting, we supported its military-backed government in suspending elections and crushing the Islamists and initiating a civil war in which 150,000 died.

No, in the Arab world, we want law and order and stability. Even in Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt and corrupted Egypt, that’s what we want. And we will get it.

The truth, of course, is that the Arab world is so dysfunctional, sclerotic, corrupt, humiliated and ruthless – and remember that Mr Ben Ali was calling Tunisian protesters “terrorists” only last week – and so totally incapable of any social or political progress, that the chances of a series of working democracies emerging from the chaos of the Middle East stand at around zero per cent.

The job of the Arab potentates will be what it has always been – to “manage” their people, to control them, to keep the lid on, to love the West and to hate Iran.

Indeed, what was Hillary Clinton doing last week as Tunisia burned? She was telling the corrupted princes of the Gulf that their job was to support sanctions against Iran, to confront the Islamic republic, to prepare for another strike against a Muslim state after the two catastrophes the United States and the UK have already inflicted in the region.

The Muslim world – at least, that bit of it between India and the Mediterranean – is a more than sorry mess. Iraq has a sort-of-government that is now a satrap of Iran, Hamid Karzai is no more than the mayor of Kabul, Pakistan stands on the edge of endless disaster, Egypt has just emerged from another fake election.

And Lebanon… Well, poor old Lebanon hasn’t even got a government. Southern Sudan – if the elections are fair – might be a tiny candle, but don’t bet on it.

It’s the same old problem for us in the West. We mouth the word “democracy” and we are all for fair elections – providing the Arabs vote for whom we want them to vote for.

In Algeria 20 years ago, they didn’t. In “Palestine” they didn’t. And in Lebanon, because of the so-called Doha accord, they didn’t. So we sanction them, threaten them and warn them about Iran and expect them to keep their mouths shut when Israel steals more Palestinian land for its colonies on the West Bank.

There was a fearful irony that the police theft of an ex-student’s fruit produce – and his suicide in Tunis – should have started all this off, not least because Mr Ben Ali made a failed attempt to gather public support by visiting the dying youth in hospital.

For years, this wretched man had been talking about a “slow liberalising” of his country. But all dictators know they are in greatest danger when they start freeing their entrapped countrymen from their chains.

And the Arabs behaved accordingly. No sooner had Ben Ali flown off into exile than Arab newspapers which have been stroking his fur and polishing his shoes and receiving his money for so many years were vilifying the man. “Misrule”, “corruption”, “authoritarian reign”, “a total lack of human rights”, their journalists are saying now. Rarely have the words of the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran sounded so painfully accurate: “Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings, and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another with trumpetings again.” Mohamed Ghannouchi, perhaps?

Of course, everyone is lowering their prices now – or promising to. Cooking oil and bread are the staple of the masses. So prices will come down in Tunisia and Algeria and Egypt. But why should they be so high in the first place?

Algeria should be as rich as Saudi Arabia – it has the oil and gas – but it has one of the worst unemployment rates in the Middle East, no social security, no pensions, nothing for its people because its generals have salted their country’s wealth away in Switzerland.

And police brutality. The torture chambers will keep going. We will maintain our good relations with the dictators. We will continue to arm their armies and tell them to seek peace with Israel.

And they will do what we want. Ben Ali has fled. The search is now on for a more pliable dictator in Tunisia – a “benevolent strongman” as the news agencies like to call these ghastly men.

And the shooting will go on – as it did yesterday in Tunisia – until “stability” has been restored.

No, on balance, I don’t think the age of the Arab dictators is over. We will see to that.

 

Robert Fisk

The Independent

Because you won’t see this in MSM


An Egyptian church was attacked at the start of the new year and scores of people were killed.  That incident was highlighted prominently by worldwide mainstream media and it brought out the usual Islamophobes, including the president of France, who lamented the supposed ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Christians from the Middle East.  The irony of such remarks coming from a president of France who wants to condemn to failure the appearance of  Islam in France is blatantly hypocritical to say the least.  But what you haven’t seen or perhaps heard much of is the response of Egyptians to this attack and in light of the Islamophobic drenched atmosphere it might surprise you.

Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

In the days following the brutal attack on Saints Church in Alexandria, which left 21 dead on New Year’ eve, solidarity between Muslims and Copts has seen an unprecedented peak. Millions of Egyptians changed their Facebook profile pictures to the image of a cross within a crescent – the symbol of an “Egypt for All”. Around the city, banners went up calling for unity, and depicting mosques and churches, crosses and crescents, together as one.

 

The blogsphere picked up on this show of solidarity but main stream media chose to ignore it, although they covered the deaths of Egypt’s Christians rather extensively.  Perhaps that’s why Sarkozy reacted so impetuously to the tragedy; he should read more than his government controlled press.  It should be noted that the terrorist attack on Egypt’s Christians was roundly condemned by most major Muslim organizations and leaders.