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Offline Reginald Hudlin

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China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« on: February 06, 2011, 05:56:37 am »

February 5, 2011
China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
Amman, Jordan

Anyone who’s long followed the Middle East knows that the six most dangerous words after any cataclysmic event in this region are: “Things will never be the same.” After all, this region absorbed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of Google without a ripple.

But traveling through Israel, the West Bank and Jordan to measure the shock waves from Egypt, I’m convinced that the forces that were upholding the status quo here for so long — oil, autocracy, the distraction of Israel, and a fear of the chaos that could come with change — have finally met an engine of change that is even more powerful: China, Twitter and 20-year-olds.

Of course, China per se is not fueling the revolt here — but China and the whole Asian-led developing world’s rising consumption of meat, corn, sugar, wheat and oil certainly is. The rise in food and gasoline prices that slammed into this region in the last six months clearly sharpened discontent with the illegitimate regimes — particularly among the young, poor and unemployed.

This is why every government out here is now rushing to increase subsidies and boost wages — even without knowing how to pay for it, or worse, taking it from capital budgets to build schools and infrastructure. King Abdullah II of Jordan just gave every soldier and civil servant a $30-a-month pay raise, along with new food and gasoline subsidies. Kuwait’s government last week announced a “gift” of about $3,500 to each of Kuwait’s 1.1 million citizens and about $850 million in food subsidies.

But China is a challenge for Egypt and Jordan in other ways. Several years ago, I wrote about Egyptian entrepreneurs who were importing traditional lanterns for Ramadan — with microchips in them that played Egyptian folk songs — from China. When China can make Egyptian Ramadan toys more cheaply and appealingly than low-wage Egyptians, you know there is problem of competitiveness.

Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia today are overflowing with the most frustrated cohort in the world — “the educated unemployables.” They have college degrees on paper but really don’t have the skills to make them globally competitive. I was just in Singapore. Its government is obsessed with things as small as how to better teach fractions to third graders. That has not been Hosni Mubarak’s obsession.

I look at the young protesters who gathered in downtown Amman today, and the thousands who gathered in Egypt and Tunis, and my heart aches for them. So much human potential, but they have no idea how far behind they are — or maybe they do and that’s why they’re revolting. Egypt’s government has wasted the last 30 years — i.e., their whole lives — plying them with the soft bigotry of low expectations: “Be patient. Egypt moves at its own pace, like the Nile.” Well, great. Singapore also moves at its own pace, like the Internet.

The Arab world has 100 million young people today between the ages of 15 and 29, many of them males who do not have the education to get a good job, buy an apartment and get married. That is trouble. Add in rising food prices, and the diffusion of Twitter, Facebook and texting, which finally gives them a voice to talk back to their leaders and directly to each other, and you have a very powerful change engine.

I have not been to Jordan for a while, but my ears are ringing today with complaints about corruption, frustration with the king and queen, and disgust at the enormous gaps between rich and poor. King Abdullah, who sacked his cabinet last week and promised real reform and real political parties, has his work cut out for him. And given some of the blogs that my friends here have shared with me from the biggest local Web site,, the people are not going to settle for the same-old, same-old. They say so directly now, dropping the old pretense of signing antigovernment blog posts as “Mohammed living in Sweden.”

Jordan is not going to blow up — today. The country is balanced between East Bank Bedouin tribes and West Bank Palestinians, who fought a civil war in 1970. “There is no way that the East Bankers would join with the Palestinians to topple the Hashemite monarchy,” a retired Jordanian general remarked to me. But this balance also makes reform difficult. The East Bankers overwhelmingly staff the army and government jobs. They prefer the welfare state, and hate both “privatization” and what they call “the digitals,” the young Jordanian techies pushing for reform. The Palestinians dominate commerce but also greatly value the stability the Hashemite monarchy provides.

Egypt was definitely a wake-up call for Jordan’s monarchy. The king’s challenge going forward is to convince his people that “their voices are going to be louder in the voting booth than in the street,” said Salah Eddin al-Bashir, a member of Jordan’s Senate.

As for Cairo, I think the real story in Egypt today is the 1952 revolution, led from the top by the military, versus the 2011 revolution, led from below by the people. The Egyptian Army has become a huge patronage system, with business interests and vast perks for its leaders. For Egypt to have a happy ending, the army has to give up some of its power and set up a fair political transition process that gives the Egyptian center the space to build precisely what Mubarak refused to permit — legitimate, independent, modernizing, secular parties — that can compete in free elections against the Muslim Brotherhood, now the only authentic party.

If that happens, I am not the least bit worried about the Muslim Brotherhoods in Jordan or Egypt hijacking the future. Actually, they should be worried. The Brotherhoods have had it easy in a way. They had no legitimate secular political opponents. The regimes prevented that so they could tell the world it is either “us or the Islamists.” As a result, I think, the Islamists have gotten intellectually lazy. All they had to say was “Islam is the answer” or “Hosni Mubarak is a Zionist” and they could win 20 percent of the vote. Now, if Egypt and Jordan can build a new politics, the Muslim Brotherhood will, for the first time, have real competition from the moderate center in both countries — and they know it.

“If leaders don’t think in new ways, there are vacancies for them in museums,” said Zaki Bani Rsheid, political director of Jordan’s Islamic Action Front, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm. When I asked Rsheid if his own party was up for this competition, he stopped speaking in Arabic and said to me in English, with a little twinkle in his eye: “Yes we can.”

I hope so, and I also hope that events in Egypt and Jordan finally create a chance for legitimate modern Arab democratic parties to test him.


Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2011, 06:00:32 am »

February 5, 2011
Wallflowers at the Revolution
A month ago most Americans could not have picked Hosni Mubarak out of a police lineup. American foreign policy, even in Afghanistan, was all but invisible throughout the 2010 election season. Foreign aid is the only federal budget line that a clear-cut majority of Americans says should be cut. And so now — as the world’s most unstable neighborhood explodes before our eyes — does anyone seriously believe that most Americans are up to speed? Our government may be scrambling, but that’s nothing compared to its constituents. After a near-decade of fighting wars in the Arab world, we can still barely distinguish Sunni from Shia.

The live feed from Egypt is riveting. We can’t get enough of revolution video — even if, some nights, Middle West blizzards take precedence over Middle East battles on the networks’ evening news. But more often than not we have little or no context for what we’re watching. That’s the legacy of years of self-censored, superficial, provincial and at times Islamophobic coverage of the Arab world in a large swath of American news media. Even now we’re more likely to hear speculation about how many cents per gallon the day’s events might cost at the pump than to get an intimate look at the demonstrators’ lives.

Perhaps the most revealing window into America’s media-fed isolation from this crisis — small an example as it may seem — is the default assumption that the Egyptian uprising, like every other paroxysm in the region since the Green Revolution in Iran 18 months ago, must be powered by the twin American-born phenomena of Twitter and Facebook. Television news — at once threatened by the power of the Internet and fearful of appearing unhip — can’t get enough of this cliché.

Three days after riot police first used tear gas and water hoses to chase away crowds in Tahrir Square, CNN’s new prime-time headliner, Piers Morgan, declared that “the use of social media” was “the most fascinating aspect of this whole revolution.” On MSNBC that same night, Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed a teacher who had spent a year at the American school in Cairo. “They are all on Facebook,” she said of her former fifth-grade students. The fact that a sampling of fifth graders in the American school might be unrepresentative of, and wholly irrelevant to, the events unfolding in the streets of Cairo never entered the equation.

The social networking hype eventually had to subside for a simple reason: The Egyptian government pulled the plug on its four main Internet providers and yet the revolution only got stronger. “Let’s get a reality check here,” said Jim Clancy, a CNN International anchor, who broke through the bloviation on Jan. 29 by noting that the biggest demonstrations to date occurred on a day when the Internet was down. “There wasn’t any Twitter. There wasn’t any Facebook,” he said. No less exasperated was another knowledgeable on-the-scene journalist, Richard Engel, who set the record straight on MSNBC in a satellite hook-up with Rachel Maddow. “This didn’t have anything to do with Twitter and Facebook,” he said. “This had to do with people’s dignity, people’s pride. People are not able to feed their families.”

No one would deny that social media do play a role in organizing, publicizing and empowering participants in political movements in the Middle East and elsewhere. But as Malcolm Gladwell wrote on The New Yorker’s Web site last week, “surely the least interesting fact” about the Egyptian protesters is that some of them “may (or may not) have at one point or another employed some of the tools of the new media to communicate with one another.” What’s important is “why they were driven to do it in the first place” — starting with the issues of human dignity and crushing poverty that Engel was trying to shove back to center stage.

Among cyber-intellectuals in America, a fascinating debate has broken out about whether social media can do as much harm as good in totalitarian states like Egypt. In his fiercely argued new book, “The Net Delusion,” Evgeny Morozov, a young scholar who was born in Belarus, challenges the conventional wisdom of what he calls “cyber-utopianism.” Among other mischievous facts, he reports that there were only 19,235 registered Twitter accounts in Iran (0.027 percent of the population) on the eve of what many American pundits rebranded its “Twitter Revolution.” More damning, Morozov also demonstrates how the digital tools so useful to citizens in a free society can be co-opted by tech-savvy dictators, police states and garden-variety autocrats to spread propaganda and to track (and arrest) conveniently networked dissidents, from Iran to Venezuela. Hugo Chávez first vilified Twitter as a “conspiracy,” but now has 1.2 million followers imbibing his self-sanctifying Tweets.

This provocative debate isn’t even being acknowledged in most American coverage of the Internet’s role in the current uprisings. The talking-head invocations of Twitter and Facebook instead take the form of implicit, simplistic Western chauvinism. How fabulous that two great American digital innovations can rescue the downtrodden, unwashed masses. That is indeed impressive if no one points out that, even in the case of the young and relatively wired populace of Egypt, only some 20 percent of those masses have Internet access.

That we often don’t know as much about the people in these countries as we do about their Tweets is a testament to the cutbacks in foreign coverage at many news organizations — and perhaps also to our own desire to escape a war zone that has for so long sapped American energy, resources and patience. We see the Middle East on television only when it flares up and then generally in medium or long shot. But there actually is an English-language cable channel — Al Jazeera English — that blankets the region with bureaus and that could have been illuminating Arab life and politics for American audiences since 2006, when it was established as an editorially separate sister channel to its Qatar-based namesake.

Al Jazeera English, run by a 35-year veteran of the Canadian Broadcasting Company, is routinely available in Israel and Canada. It provided coverage of the 2009 Gaza war and this year’s Tunisian revolt when no other television networks would or could. Yet in America, it can be found only in Washington, D.C., and on small cable systems in Ohio and Vermont. None of the biggest American cable and satellite companies — Comcast, DirecTV and Time Warner — offer it.

The noxious domestic political atmosphere fostering this near-blackout is obvious to all. It was made vivid last week when Bill O’Reilly of Fox News went on a tear about how Al Jazeera English is “anti-American.” This is the same “We report, you decide” Fox News that last week broke away from Cairo just as the confrontations turned violent so that viewers could watch Rupert Murdoch promote his new tablet news product at a publicity event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Unable to watch Al Jazeera English, and ravenous for comprehensive and sophisticated 24/7 television coverage of the Middle East otherwise unavailable on television, millions of Americans last week tracked down the network’s Internet stream on their computers. Such was the work-around required by the censorship practiced by America’s corporate gatekeepers. You’d almost think these news-starved Americans were Iron Curtain citizens clandestinely trying to pull in the jammed Voice of America signal in the 1950s — or Egyptians desperately seeking Al Jazeera after Mubarak disrupted its signal last week.

The consequence of a decade’s worth of indiscriminate demonization of Arabs in America — and of the low quotient of comprehensive adult news coverage that might have helped counter it — is the steady rise in Islamophobia. The “Ground Zero” mosque melee has given way to battles over mosques as far removed from Lower Manhattan as California. Soon to come is a national witch hunt — Congressional hearings called by Representative Peter King of New York — into the “radicalization of the American Muslim community.” Given the disconnect between America and the Arab world, it’s no wonder that Americans are invested in the fights for freedom in Egypt and its neighboring dictatorships only up to a point. We’ve been inculcated to assume that whoever comes out on top is ipso facto a jihadist.

This week brings the release of Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir. The eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is to follow. As we took in last week’s fiery video from Cairo — mesmerizing and yet populated by mostly anonymous extras we don’t understand and don’t know — it was hard not to flash back to those glory days of “Shock and Awe.” Those bombardments too were spectacular to watch from a safe distance — no Iraqi faces, voices or bodies cluttered up the shots. We lulled ourselves into believing that democracy and other good things were soon to come. It took months, even years, for us to learn the hard way that in truth we really had no idea what was going on.

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2011, 10:03:24 am »
uh huh, also from the NEW YORK TIMES:

February 5, 2011
Militants, Women and Tahrir Sq.

When Westerners watched television images of the popular uprising against President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, they winced at the government’s thuggery toward protesters. But some also flinched at the idea of a popular democracy that might give greater voice to Islamic fundamentalism.

In 1979, a grass-roots uprising in Iran led to an undemocratic regime that oppresses women and minorities and destabilizes the region. In 1989, uprisings in Eastern Europe led to the rise of stable democracies. So if Egyptian protesters overcome the government, would this be 1979 or 1989?

No one can predict with certainty. But let me try to offer a dose of reassurance.

After spending last week here on Tahrir Square, talking to protesters — even as President Mubarak’s thugs attacked our perimeter with bricks, Molotov cocktails, machetes and occasional gunfire — I emerge struck by the moderation and tolerance of most protesters.

Maybe my judgment is skewed because pro-Mubarak thugs tried to hunt down journalists, leading some of us to be stabbed, beaten and arrested — and forcing me to abandon hotel rooms and sneak with heart racing around mobs carrying clubs with nails embedded in them. The place I felt safest was Tahrir Square — “free Egypt,” in the protesters’ lexicon — where I could pull out a camera and notebook and ask anybody any question.

I constantly asked women and Coptic Christians whether a democratic Egypt might end up a more oppressive country. They invariably said no — and looked so reproachfully at me for doubting democracy that I sometimes retreated in embarrassment.

“If there is a democracy, we will not allow our rights to be taken away from us,” Sherine, a university professor, told me (I’m not using full names to protect the protesters). Like many, she said that Americans were too obsessed with the possibility of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood gaining power in elections.

“We do not worry about the Muslim Brotherhood,” Sherine said. “They might win 25 percent of the votes, but if they do not perform then they will not get votes the next time.”

Sherine has a point. Partly because of Western anxieties, fundamentalist Muslims have rarely run anything — so instead they lead the way in denouncing the corruption, incompetence and brutality of pro-Western autocrats like Mr. Mubarak. The upshot is that they win respect from many ordinary citizens, but my hunch is that they would lose support if they actually tried to administer anything.

For example, in 1990s Yemen, an Islamic party named Islah became part of a coalition government after doing well in elections. As a result, Islah was put in charge of the Education Ministry. Secular Yemenis and outsiders were aghast that fundamentalists might brainwash children, but the Islamists mostly proved that they were incompetent at governing. In the next election, their support tumbled.

It’s true that one of the most common protester slogans described Mr. Mubarak as a stooge of America, and many Egyptians chafe at what they see as a supine foreign policy. I saw one caricature of Mr. Mubarak with a Star of David on his forehead and, separately, a sign declaring: “Tell him in Hebrew, and then he might get the message!” Yet most people sounded pragmatic, favoring continued peace with Israel while also more outspoken support for Palestinians, especially those suffering in Gaza.

I asked an old friend here in Cairo, a woman with Western tastes that include an occasional glass of whiskey, whether the Muslim Brotherhood might be bad for peace. She thought for a moment and said: “Yes, possibly. But, from my point of view, in America the Republican Party is bad for peace as well.”

If democracy gains in the Middle East, there will be some demagogues, nationalists and jingoists, just as there are in America and Israel, and they may make diplomacy more complicated. But remember that it’s Mr. Mubarak’s repression, imprisonment and torture that nurtured angry extremists like Ayman al-Zawahri of Al Qaeda, the right-hand man of Osama bin Laden. It would be tragic if we let our anxieties impede our embrace of freedom and democracy in the world’s most populous Arab nation.

I’m so deeply moved by the grit that Egyptians have shown in struggling against the regime — and by the help that some provided me, at great personal risk, in protecting me from thugs dispatched by America’s ally. Let’s show some faith in the democratic ideals for which these Egyptians are risking their lives.

I think of Hamdi, a businessman who looked pained when I asked whether Egyptian democracy might lead to oppression or to upheavals with Israel or the price of oil. “The Middle East is not only for oil,” he reminded me. “We are human beings, exactly like you people.”

“We don’t hate the American people,” he added. “They are pioneers. We want to be like them. Is that a crime?”


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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2011, 07:29:10 pm »
I can't help but think of Lebanon, Gaza, Iran.

None of the problems in the Middle East described in the articles above, particularly the economic problems, are amendable to easy solutions. One can only wonder how the rage surrounding those unresolved problems will be exploited in the next several years. And who will be scapegoated. 

Let's see who fills the power vacuum.

Celebrate? Let's first check back in this thread in, say, a year's time. 2012.


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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2011, 08:48:52 pm »
For anyone seriously interested in the rights of women, for anyone who honestly views the oppression of women to be barbaric, there is another concern surrounding the recent events in Egypt and what they might lead to.

The following article raises issues that we don't hear enough about. While I don't agree with every point Ms. Burleigh makes, I agree with most, and I certainly share her concern.

Egypt and the universal rights of women
by Nina Burleigh
February 8, 2011

In 1799, the French artist Vivant Denon, accompanying a team of scientists traveling to Egypt with Napoleon (who excused his invasion with the logic that he was bringing democracy to the Arabs) was touring some ancient sites along the upper Nile when he came across an 8-year-old girl in severe pain. Writing in his journal, Denon noted that “a cut, inflicted with equal brutality and cruelty, has deprived her of the means of satisfying the most pressing want, and occasioned the most horrible convulsions.” Denon was referring, of course, to female genital mutilation. The Frenchman quickly pulled out a knife and performed a counter-operation, by which he “was able to save the life of this unfortunate little creature.”

On another occasion, Denon (who went on to become the first director of the Louvre) encountered a bleeding, recently blinded woman carrying an infant in the desert outside Alexandria. She was begging for food and water. As the French stopped to offer aid, a man galloped up, claiming to be her husband, and demanded that they leave her alone. “She has lost her honor,’” the man shouted, according to Denon. “She has wounded mine, this child is my shame, it is the son of guilt!” The horrified French artist watched as the man then drew a dagger, stabbed the women and hurled the infant to the ground, killing it as well. Denon asked his Egyptian guides whether the man was not liable under the law for murder, and was informed that the man was within his rights, although the actual murder was frowned upon, and that after 40 days of wandering, the woman would have been eligible for charitable services.

The French in 1800 were among the first Westerners to visit and write about the lives of modern Arabs in Egypt. Besides the great pyramids, what struck them most forcibly was the abominable treatment of women. And while the archaeological treasure has been studied and secured, 200 years later, unfortunately, much remains the same with respect to women’s rights.

Ninety percent of Egyptian women are genitally mutilated, according to aid worker estimates. Although the practice was officially outlawed in 2007, gynecologists can still legally perform it “for health reasons.” Egyptian women can vote; they are a significant part of the workforce, and there were women in the recently disbanded Egyptian cabinet. But Egyptian women are not allowed to travel abroad without the permission of their husbands; they have difficulty initiating divorce; and they can’t become judges.

As Egyptians rise up to demonstrate for their civil rights, the world watches with bated breath, wondering what man (for surely it will be a man) will succeed Mubarak, and whether he will be moderate — that is, “friendly to Israel and Western ideas and mores” — or a fundamentalist, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose strict interpretation of the Quran and anti-Western political and cultural bias would turn the delicate global balance upside down.

What no one is talking about, though, is how deeply dangerous this time is for Egyptian women. The influence of extreme Islam has been growing there in recent years, so that for a bare-headed female to walk the streets of Cairo, even the tourist areas near the Egyptian Museum where I worked in 2004 on my book about the French in Egypt, is to invite menacing looks and muttered obscenities from men on the street.

Whatever happens in Egypt, there’s an elephant in the room, and it’s pink. Despite the years of discussion around our “War on Terror,” we have not focused on the fact that misogyny is a fundamental pillar on which radical Islam is based. Women’s freedom is what the al-Qaeda jihadis, as much as the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, most revile about the West. Women living in these parts of the world are severely discriminated against in ways that would be considered human rights violations if the same abuses were applied specifically to racial or ethnic groups.

While women in the West, and many Asian nations, have begun to move toward gender equality in the past century, the Islamic fundamentalist regimes in Saudi Arabia and Iran, some African nations, and especially the Taliban, have moved backward, with great violence and repression that harms millions of women and feeds jihadi fervor against the West. The influence of the Islamist/fundamentalist attitude toward women has spread to neighboring countries, and into countries in Europe where migration is occurring.

To varying degrees, women in Islamist regimes are forced to wear blankets over their heads, marry in childhood, are denied education, denied freedom of movement, have little or no control over their finances, cannot divorce. Their most basic desires are thwarted at every turn: those who dare choose their own lovers are routinely murdered in so-called “honor killings.” Rape victims may be forced to marry their attackers.

These horrific examples should make it ever more obvious to the world that subjugating females is the driving force behind Islamist rage. It was there in 9/11 attacker Mohammed Atta’s will, in which he demanded that no pregnant woman be allowed to come near his grave; it’s there in the acid attacks on pretty girls who dare say no to their men in Pakistan; it’s there in the stoning sentences for “adulterers” in Iran and Somalia; it’s there in the prohibition on women driving cars in Saudi Arabia; it’s there in the black blankets millions of women think — know — they must throw over their heads whenever they dare step outside their homes.

With so much evidence piled up that the status of women in the West is what radical Islamist fighters revile most about us, the only question left is why haven’t the Western countries made support of women a fundamental element of the diplomatic, military and political response?

The issue gets very little discussion in the foreign policy community. Five years ago, the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP) deemed it appropriate to convene a roundtable on “Arab Women and the Future of the Middle East.” Afterward, a not-for-attribution summary report was produced for the foreign policy community containing the views and suggestions voiced at the April 14, 2005, roundtable. The first three recommendations were:

• American foreign policy should be consistent: The United States must apply human rights standards uniformly in its relations with all the countries of the region;
• When dealing with officials of Middle East countries, U.S. officials should always remind them of their obligations to respect human rights and women’s rights enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
• The State Department should expand the section concerning women’s rights in its annual report.

The United States has had three female secretaries of state in the last 15 years, yet the human rights of women remain unaddressed, and the above recommendations have never been implemented.

In March 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was interviewed on MSNBC and asked what the Obama administration was doing for women’s rights globally. She mentioned three fronts: health care, which affects the infant mortality rate; food security; and climate change. While these certainly help all people, they do not remotely rise to the level of a real response to the abuses women specifically face simple because they are female.

For years, our governments have treated outrageous depredations against women as quaint cultural customs. Only the French have officially rejected the burqa, and for that faced international criticism about “racism.”

Of course womanhood is not a “race,” and that may be the problem. If blacks or Jews were consistently mistreated the way women are from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan, and in many of the nations in between, the United Nations, the Europeans and the people of the United States wouldn’t stand for it, and our elected representatives would be holding hearings, issuing sanctions, putting the issue front and center every single day.

In Egypt in 1899, a male judge named Qassem Amin caused an uproar when he penned a book titled “The Liberation of Women,” arguing that improving the status of women would help Egypt develop. Amin blamed Egypt’s falling under European power, despite centuries of ancient learning and civilization, on the low social and educational standing of Egyptian women.

A century on, women remain severely discriminated against in Egypt and throughout the region, especially in extremist regimes in the Gulf States and under the Taliban. The reversals women face after revolutions in these areas are horrific. The case of Iran is well known. In Iraq, so recently secular under the dictator, millions of women have now donned the black blanket out of sheer fear and have seen their mobility decrease.

The effort to keep women segregated is at the heart of the regional cultural bias against women, and it is true that it is an old tradition. When Napoleon invaded Cairo, the Egyptians barely resisted at first. They only revolted when Napoleon ordered his soldiers to break down the many doors in Cairo streets and alleys that kept neighborhoods walled off and women safely incarcerated in their communities.

But Islamist efforts to keep women segregated in these modern times have reached ridiculous levels. Iraqis whisper that extremists have even shot storekeepers for stowing “male and female vegetables” (cucumbers and tomatoes apparently) together. An Egyptian cleric in 2009 decreed that men and women may only work together in offices if the women have breast-fed the men. That cleric was forced to retract the decree, and was fired, then reinstated. But the decree was reiterated by another cleric in Saudi Arabia.

Increased limitation on female mobility is a hallmark of Islamic resurgence, and this should be recognized as a backlash against the model of increasing women’s rights elsewhere. “Women’s liberation movements in the Muslim world were viewed as Western contaminations aimed at the destruction of Islam from within,” wrote Lamia Rustum Shahedah, in Arab Studies Quarterly, in an article about the theoretical bases of Islamic fundamentalist attitudes toward women. “Accordingly, all resurgents allotted the female status a major part of their corpus, the most radical stipulating complete segregation of women to the home environment. Thus, men will direct the Islamic society while women sustain, nurture, and propagate the family, the nucleus of society.”

We in the West should reconsider our own definition of the boundary between a cultural trait and a human rights violation, as it pertains to women. An extremist takeover of Egypt will be a disaster for Egyptian women, who must hope that the future will be better for their daughters than for them, and that whatever new society is being formed takes into account the universal — not just Western — human rights of women. The world and moderates among the Egyptian people must keep the human rights of women front and center in the discourse as they watch Cairo, and other Arab nations, transform themselves.

Nina Burleigh, who has lived and worked in Italy, France and the Middle East, is the author of, most recently, “Unholy Business” (Harper Collins, 2008), about an archaeological forgery trial under way in Israel.  


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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2011, 09:53:48 am »
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Testifies before Congress:

"Don't worry boys and girls ..."

"The Muslim Brotherhood is ..."

"... largely secular"

... Clapper indeed. To what organ grinder?

Our Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, certainly needs to work on his own. In Congressional hearings, the following exchange took place. As quoted USA Today and other news outlets:

The possible departure of Mubarak in Egypt was generating much concern in Washington, where Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., told Clapper she was worried that the leadership void would be filled by the extremist Muslim Brotherhood.

"Do you consider the Muslim Brotherhood a danger based on their extremist ideology?" Myrick asked the director of National Intelligence.

Clapper described the group as an "umbrella" organization for a "variety of movements."

In the case of Egypt, he said, the brotherhood is "a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam."

Clapper said there was "no overarching agenda" of violence internationally. But FBI Director Robert Mueller appeared to disagree, saying that "obviously, elements of the Muslim Brotherhood here and overseas have supported terrorism."

The Administration had to later backtrack on Clapper's obviously idiotic statement:

Some naive fools desperately wish to believe that the Brotherhood's change in tactics represents a change of heart. They claim that the Brotherhood is a moderate group. As evidence, they note that the Muslim Brotherhood participates in free elections in countries where they are permitted to (and why not, if they can achieve their Islamist goals though the ballot box?). However, messages delivered by the group's Supreme Guides have made clear the Brotherhood remains committed to militancy. In September 2010, Muhammad Badi’ gave a sermon in which he said, "... the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death, just as the enemies pursue life."

During the present crisis in Egypt, the Brotherhood supported Mohamed ElBaradei to lead opposition forces against President Mubarak's government. In the protesting crowds of Cairo, Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators in referred to people like ElBaradei as "hamir al-thawra," donkeys of the revolution, suggesting they hoped to exploit ElBaradei in order to hijack the Egyptian revolution for their own agenda.

So yes, there is reason for concern. Both as to Egypt, and as to who is minding the store here at home.

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2011, 10:06:38 am »
So you point is, once again, all muslims are the same, and they should be judged by the worst of them?


Your prejudice is boring....


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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2011, 09:05:17 pm »
So you point is, once again, all muslims are the same, and they should be judged by the worst of them?


Your prejudice is boring....

Sheesh, Reginald, throw your insults because I don't join your rah rah rah cheerleaders? Because I dared to make fun of Obama's Director of National Intelligence? Please quote what I specifically wrote that in any way suggests what you viciously assert I stated. You will not find it, as it is not there.

Truthfully, Reginald, it is YOUR prejudice that is boring. As evidenced by your again putting words in my mouth, rather than fairly reading what I said and what the authors actually said in the articles I cited.

Shame on you.

I have expressed a concern that any rational person would express in the present unsettled circumstances. Nothing more than that. The Muslim Brotherhood is bad bad news. ALL Muslims are not. But the Brotherhood is the most organized group in Egypt, as you should know. And the economic problems that in part are precipitating this unrest are not going away any time soon. Please stop pretending that you are so stupid (you are not) that you cannot understand the legitimate concerns expressed above. Concerns that are both fair and entirely well motivated.

Also, please stop pretending that you have the capacity to predict with any accuracy what is going to happen in Egypt (for the good or for the bad) over the next five years. That is why I said we would have to wait and see.

Perhaps from your perspective the rights of women count for sh*t, the religious persecution of Christians is a yawn, and a potential regional genocidal war is a joke, so long as the perpetrators are people of color? If so, that smells a lot like prejudice to me. Because, Reginald Hudlin, from your reaction you certainly seem to exhibit a selective tolerance for certain haters and abusers. And that too is shameful.

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2011, 09:18:30 pm »
from THE WRAP:

Created 02/13/2011 - 00:37
The Day After the Revolution: Puncturing the Myth of Arab Immaturity
Published: February 13, 2011 @ 12:37 am
It’s the day after the Egyptian revolution, and now it’s time for us in the West to take our man-pill.

Our public posture has always been that we support democracy for everyone, everywhere.

But privately we have never embraced that belief for the Arab world. The Arabs were not mature enough to handle democracy. We would never say this aloud. But it was the conventional wisdom nonetheless, even within the upper echelons of Arab society.

As a geopolitical choice, U.S. governments have long preferred the stability of an autocrat like Hosni Mubarak to the high-risk uncertainty of true democracy. (Photo left of celebrants outside Egypt embassy in Lebanon.)

And not just in Egypt. We are buddy-buddy with repressive self-made royals in the Arabian Gulf. We truck with Morocco, Jordan, and tolerate the tyrants in Syria and Libya. We helped create Saddam Hussein and propped him up for decades. 

But the attitude that Arab society is best served by strongmen rather than elections was not limited to American policy-makers. I heard this countless times over my years covering the Middle East; I recall hearing it from a senior Jordanian official more than a decade ago, explaining why King Abdullah (or was it then King Hussein?) was necessary to maintain stability.

Then we invaded Iraq. Does anyone among us really believe that the purpose was to bring the Iraqis democracy? It was about deposing Saddam, the dictator we created and then lost control over.

But change has arrived, and we had better decide where we stand.

In Egypt, the people showed a remarkable maturity, gathering peacefully day after day to make their demands. Their nonviolent persistence, so very moving, showed the world the moral imperative of protest in the service of a just cause.

It is remarkable. Now two Arab nations within a month have deposed dictators of decades-long reign, without firing a single shot. And with blessedly little loss of life.
And it is set to spread.

The Egyptians we are seeing speak on television show intelligence and poise. Will they prevail in this next period of transition?

We don’t know.

There are many who are quietly worried that Egypt and Arabs are not ready, or will never be ready, for the messy imbalances of democracy.

Too bad. We’d better get on this train, and help guide it, steer it, support it. 

And don’t turn off Twitter just yet.

The revolution that has just occurred in Egypt is sending out ripples even now.


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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2011, 06:00:23 am »
The article below, despite the hopeful headline, raises concerns.  It is written by an Egyptian, who feels it necessary to write under a pseudonym.

What’s at stake in Egypt
Egyptians would oppose Muslim Brotherhood rule

by Al-Qotb
February 8, 2011

There is such a huge flow of news here in Cairo these days that Salah Abdullah, an Egyptian carpenter in his 30s, says he is not able to keep track of everything.

However, in the midst of all the coverage following the series of massive demonstrations against the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the growing presence of Islamists among the anti-Mubarak demonstrators has caused alarm among Egyptians like Abdullah.

“Can they really rule Egypt one day?” he asked. “This will be catastrophic.”

Abdullah’s fear was reverberating strongly among Egypt’s intellectual circles earlier this week, as the demonstrators refused to leave Cairo’s Tahrir Square for the 11th day in a row.

Seeing the protests, which began Jan. 25, rock Egypt and weaken Mubarak, who has ruled since 1981, Egypt’s secularists, leftists, liberals, Christians and even some observant Muslims are gripped by fear at the prospect that their country might fall into the hands of the fundamental Islamist group know as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Adel Hamouda, a leading Egyptian political analyst, called the Muslim Brotherhood “the only political movement capable of action at the present time, particularly as Mubarak reaches his weakest point.”

The Brotherhood, which began as an educational charity movement in 1927 and keeps flashing the “Islam is the solution” slogan, has had a fluctuating relationship with successive Egyptian regimes since Gamal Abdel Nasser enlisted their help in ousting King Farouk in the Egyptian revolution of 1952.

Under Mubarak, the Brotherhood has suffered a complete political siege at times and superficial freedoms at others. Thousands of its members and affiliates have been sent to jail at times.

“Mubarak has given none of this country’s political powers any chance for political freedom,” said Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a prominent Brotherhood leader. “He has failed to present Egypt’s political powers with any practical solutions,” he added.

Perhaps Aboul Fotouh and his colleagues in the Brotherhood, who tend to be highly educated Egyptians who permeate the nation’s professional unions, mosques, and universities and whose utmost goal is to apply Shariah (Islamic law) in Egypt, see in Mubarak’s potential ouster one of these practical solutions.

As soon as Egypt’s security system showed signs of crumbling at the outset of the Jan. 25 demonstrations, the organization started to deploy tens of thousands of its members and sympathizers to protest centers so that they could make their presence strongly felt.

This has worried ordinary Egyptians like Abdullah. He expressed fears that the Islamists will hijack the revolution, which was started by the poor, the afflicted and the politically un-affiliated, but has evolved into a show of anger by all Egyptians against the corruption and the economic and political failure of Mubarak’s ruling party.

“These people want to take Egypt hundreds of years back,” Abdullah said. “If they reach the presidency, they will turn our life into mere hell.” Abdullah prays five times a day like all observant Muslims. He reads the Quran and pays alms, but finds the seeds of his fear in the platform the Muslim Brotherhood announced four years ago, when it applied for a political party license.

In that platform, the Brotherhood says it believes Egypt’s presidency should be a no-go area for both women and Christians, a reason that women might not welcome a Brotherhood rule.

More important still, Egypt’s Christians, which make up about 10 percent of the 80 million population, seem to also shudder at the possibility of a Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt. Some Christians have said that if the Brotherhood comes to power, they will be in for yet more persecution.

“This is a very sensitive issue for us,” said Fayez Girgis, an Egyptian Coptic Christian in his late 40s. “An Islamist rule in Egypt will naturally curb religious freedoms.”

Aboul Fotouh and other group members, however, are quick to reassure Girgis and fellow Christians that they have nothing to fear.

“The Brotherhood believes in citizenship rights,” Aboul Fotouh said. “This means that men, women, Muslims and Christians are all equal,” he added.

But the organization’s political manifesto, which does not mention the word equality, sends fear down the spines of Egyptians even more as they see the Brotherhood gaining recognition within the faltering regime of Hosni Mubarak and his newly formed government.

Newly named Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman met with the Brotherhood on Sunday to discuss a way out of the current political stalemate, which has cost Egypt billions of dollars in losses to date.

This despite the fact that diplomatic cables leaked over the weekend reveal Suleiman has long demonized the Brotherhood, according to media reports.

Those who have seen the confident discourse of the Muslim Brotherhood over the past few days predict that a scenario like the Islamic revolution that took over Iran might grip Egypt if Mubarak leaves. They see the Brotherhood as a strong force able to turn the situation in their favor. In a recent interview on ABC, Mubarak himself said that he does not want to resign, out of fear that Egypt should fall in the hands of the Islamists.

In 2005, the Brotherhood won one-fifth of the seats of the Egyptian parliament. However, in the last parliamentary elections, held in Egypt late last year, the group won only one seat, casting doubts about its popularity on Egypt’s streets. Election monitoring groups, however, said the vote had been rigged among almost all constituencies by the National Democratic Party, leaving questions as to the extent of the group’s standing.

Nevertheless, some observers see the Brotherhood as close to reaping the fruits of the current Egyptian revolution. They see the Brotherhood’s ability to offer a political message and lead the action against Mubarak, and expect it will take a strong role in Egypt’s future.

“There’s no reason why the Brotherhood shouldn’t fight to reach power in Mubarak’s absence,” the analyst Hamouda said. “The only solution is for Egyptians to join the demonstrations in large numbers, so that the Brotherhood will be a minority,” he added.

To Abdullah, this is a practical solution. He recalls a Brotherhood legislator who was selective in whom he would help, once elected.

“He didn’t offer any help to other constituents who were not members of the Brotherhood,” he said. “They are a mere group of discriminative beings,” he added.

Abdullah is not a Mubarak admirer. But like millions in this country, he still thinks the octogenarian president’s biggest achievement has been his ability to preserve the peace with Israel over his 30 years of rule.

Egypt has fought four wars against Israel — in 1948, ’56, ’67 and ’73 — and many fear that peace might end if Mubarak is ousted.

In an interview with a foreign journalist a few years ago, former Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Mahdi Akef said that if the Brotherhood were to come to power in Egypt, it would put the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979 to a public referendum.

“If the people say ‘yes’ to the treaty, we will abide by it,” Akef said. “If they say ‘no,’ we will have no obligation to abide by it,” he said.

Aboul Fotouh himself says he believes most of Egypt’s political powers oppose the peace with Israel. Despite this, he said the Brotherhood, which has links with the Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas, will respect international treaties.

“International treaties must be respected,” he said. “They are agreements among countries, not among governments or regimes, and this is why everybody must be committed to them,” he said.


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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2011, 10:13:05 pm »
The Egyptians we are seeing speak on television show intelligence and poise. Will they prevail in this next period of transition?

Note the author that Reginald quotes asks the very same question I do.  And his answer is ...

We don’t know.

Which, of course, is my point. It is certainly not an expression of "prejudice" to express concern as to what is going to happen in Egypt over the next several years. It is frankly hard for me to imagine a person of any decency NOT being concerned.

Let us hope that Egypt does not ultimately follow the examples of Lebanon, Iran and Gaza. That is a laudable hope. As we "get on the train" we need to do all in our power to support those elements in Egypt who are dedicated to the prevention of such a disaster.

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2011, 05:41:42 am »

February 15, 2011
Pharaoh Without a Mummy

One thing I can tell you about Egypt: It is not Las Vegas. What happens in Egypt does not stay in Egypt.

For the last 30 years, that has been the bad news. Egypt was in a state of drift and decline and, as a result, so was the Arab world at large. Egypt has now been awakened by its youth in a unique way — not to fight Israel, or America, but in a quest for personal empowerment, dignity and freedom. In this part of the world, people have very sensitive antennae for legitimacy and authenticity because they have been fed so many lies by their leaders. Because Egypt’s democracy revolution is so homegrown because the young people who led it suffered more dead to liberate Egypt than the entire Egyptian Army has suffered since the 1973 war to defend it, this movement here has enormous Arab street cred — and that is why, if it succeeds (and the odds are still long), other young Arabs and Muslims will emulate it.

Indeed, if it can move Egypt to democracy, this movement, combined with social media, will be more subversive to autocratic regimes than Nasserism, Islamism or Baathism combined. What emerged from below in Egypt is, for now, the first pan-Arab movement that is not focused on expelling someone, or excluding someone, but on universal values with the goal of overcoming the backwardness produced by all previous ideologies and leaders.

I understand why Israel is worried; a stable relationship with Hosni Mubarak has given way to a totally uncertain relationship with Egypt’s people. But Egypt’s stability under Mubarak was at the expense of those people, and they finally had had enough. There will be ugliness aplenty in the days ahead as Egyptians are free to vent. There is still a lot of pent-up fear and anger boiling here. But at least other authentic voices, with a different, more hopeful song, are also emerging.

Every Israeli and Saudi should watch this video made by the youth in Tahrir — — about their quest to bring their country “back from the dead.”

The Arab tyrants, precisely because they were illegitimate, were the ones who fed their people hatred of Israel as a diversion. If Israel could finalize a deal with the Palestinians, it will find that a more democratic Arab world is a more stable partner. Not because everyone will suddenly love Israel (they won’t). But because the voices that would continue calling for conflict would have legitimate competition, and democratically elected leaders will have to be much more responsive to their people’s priorities, which are for more schools not wars.

That is why the most valuable thing America could do now is to help Egypt’s democracy movement consolidate itself. And the best way to do that would be to speak its language. It would be to announce that the U.S. intends to divert $100 million of the $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt this year to build 10 world-class science and technology high schools — from Aswan to Alexandria — in honor of all Egyptians who brought about this democratic transformation.

“Nothing would have a bigger impact here,” said Ahmed Zewail, the Egyptian-American Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry. Nothing would have a bigger impact on youth across the Middle East.

After all, the Egyptian Army has no external predators today. Egypt’s only predators today are poverty and illiteracy. Forty percent of Egyptians live on $2 a day and some 30 percent are illiterate.

On my way back from Tahrir Square on Saturday, I ran into five young Egyptians who were trying to wipe off “Leave Now, Mubarak” graffiti spray-painted on a stone wall. You don’t see students removing graffiti very often, so I asked them why. “Because he is not our president anymore,” said a youth with the rubber gloves and solvent. They just didn’t want to see his name anymore — even as the object of an insult.

As I kept walking to my hotel, I realized why. When I looked down at the Nile embankment — and this was central Cairo — all I saw was garbage strewn about, a crumbling sidewalk and weeds sprouting everywhere. I thought: If this were Sydney, Singapore or Istanbul, the government would have built a beautiful walkway along the banks of the Nile where Egyptians and visitors could stroll with families in the afternoon. Not here.

And that in my view was Mubarak’s greatest crime against his people. He had no vision, no high aspiration, no will for great educational attainment. He just had this wildly exaggerated sense of Egypt’s greatness based on the past. That is why I feel sorry for those Egyptians now clamoring to get back money they claim the Mubaraks stole. That is surely a crime, if true, but Mubarak is guilty of a much bigger, more profound, theft: all the wealth Egypt did not generate these past 30 years because of the poverty of his vision and the incompetence of his cronies.

“He is a pharaoh without a mummy,” the Egyptian playwright Ali Salem said to me of Mubarak. He left little trace. “Every Egyptian citizen is carrying inside them 100 short stories of pain and novels of grievance. Everyone has to pay for their children to take private lessons after school because the schools are so bad. Can you imagine? You prevent yourself from eating to pay for private lessons?” At least these rebellious youth, he added, “don’t know the rules, so they are not afraid of anything. They can do what our generation did not dare to think of.”



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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2011, 06:59:26 am »
… and that is why, if it succeeds (and the odds are still long), other young Arabs and Muslims will emulate it.

… There will be ugliness aplenty in the days ahead as Egyptians are free to vent. There is still a lot of pent-up fear and anger boiling here.

… Egypt’s only predators today are poverty and illiteracy. Forty percent of Egyptians live on $2 a day and some 30 percent are illiterate.

Reginald, is it “prejudiced” of Friedman to say that “the odds are still long” …? That “there will be ugliness aplenty” and that there is “still a lot of pent-up fear and anger boiling here.” Do these “prejudiced” observations provoke an insulting and dismissive “yawn” in you?

Do you believe it to be the case that new democracies with significant numbers of poor, ignorant and illiterate people are more easily swayed by extremist ideologies?  That in times if severe economic hardship larger numbers of a suffering population are more easily lured to hateful ideologies that target scapegoats? That dissatisfaction is likely to grow and anger erupt against any moderate transitional government if under its watch the economy continues to worsen (even if that worsening is due to global factors beyond that government’s control)? Is it “prejudiced” to raise such questions? Do such questions bore you?

Reginald, I have to ask.  What really prompted your hostile, dismissive and insulting reaction to what I posted above? What is really going on with you? You know full well I don’t damn all Muslims. You know I’ve even reached out to a Muslim writer and activist whom you quoted. I’ve considered you an internet friend for years now, and to suddenly get such a hostile response from you, out of the blue, without any provocation on my part, was quite a shock. Unless making fun of the Director of National Intelligence (Clapper, clapping monkey, not funny?), or posting a feminist article advocating women’s rights (something wrong with treating women as equals?), or condemning the Muslim Brotherhood (are they the Boy Scouts?), or expressing strong concern that the end-story in Egypt may not be a happy one (does anyone know what will happen?) … that these things were somehow a provocation in your mind? I really don’t get it.
The Arab tyrants, precisely because they were illegitimate, were the ones who fed their people hatred of Israel as a diversion.

A half-truth. As well as some of the (secular) Arab tyrants, radical Islamists not in power have been very very outspoken in demanding the expulsion, subjugation and/or extermination of Jews in the eradication of Israel … the very existence of which they view to be a theological affront. The Media in these countries at times also promotes overt prejudice against Jews, as do clerics who broadcast messages of hate.

If Israel could finalize a deal with the Palestinians, it will find that a more democratic Arab world is a more stable partner. Not because everyone will suddenly love Israel (they won’t). But because the voices that would continue calling for conflict would have legitimate competition, and democratically elected leaders will have to be much more responsive to their people’s priorities, which are for more schools not wars.

So long as the Muslim Brotherhood’s HAMAS holds any meaningful sway in Gaza (and to some extent the West Bank), there will be no peace agreement with “the Palestinians.” Because a permanent two-state solution is a non-starter for Hamas.  When they reference liberation of the Occupied Territories they are referring to the totality of the state of Israel, from the West Bank to the Mediterranean. This goal is firmly based in Islamic theology, as these lands are in the heart of Dar el Salaam. For heaven’s sake, even the secular Arafat and his PLO rejected peace when given the opportunity to embrace it.

So … let’s assume a peace agreement is not reached any time soon between Israel and the Palestinians. Not an insane assumption, since such an agreement would clearly not be in the interest of Hamas. What then?  Friedman does not address this more likely scenario. Of some relevance is that fact that the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood have stated that they would (with a referendum) like to repudiate the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.

As to whether the prospects for peace are enhanced or undermined over the long run by the events in Egypt, on a certain level at this point is moot.  Mubarak was an old man, and now he’s out. The question is … what and who will replace him over the long-term? I am not as sanguine as Thomas Friedman (and for that matter, George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice, whose “Bush Doctrine” Friedman now seems to parrot) that democratic masses will beat their swords into plowshares and not make war anymore. See my comments above as to why this might not be the case. Also, Friedman’s comments assume that a real stable pluralistic democracy flourishes in Egypt, with minority rights and women’s rights and diversity of opinion respected. Even the commentators quoted by Reginald say this is a long-shot and that we just don’t know what will really happen.     

Look, I hope Friedman is right, that the more secular intellectual students become the guiding force for the New Egypt. I hope that in their pursuit of economic betterment they recognize that a continued stable regional peace is critical, and that the rights of women and religious minorities must be respected (not just given lip service). I hope, despite the odds against it, that a moderate transitional government will be successful in turning the Egyptian economy around to give hope to the masses, rather than failing and fostering greater support for the Islamists (who, interestingly, are not seeking the Presidency at this time … in part no doubt because they don’t think they could win in this initial round; but perhaps also to avoid blame when the economy continues to tank; I wonder if they are thinking it is better to allow their secular opposition to assume the highest positions and fail, setting the stage for the Brotherhood to later “volunteer” to step in and save the people from the impotent and morally corrupt Western-style pluralistic democrats?).

I do like the idea of diverting a chunk of the military aid to educational programs. (Provided that the funds are not used to finance radical indoctrination). The only chance of things going right is if the average Egyptian sees some tangible economic betterment or hope of betterment in his own life. 

Of course one problem is that some folk feel that their lives are bettered if they are given the opportunity to feel superior to others, to hate others, to blame others, to subjugate others (women, different ethnic or racial groups, adherents of other faiths, etc). Even if their economic position is not significantly improved such people just “feel better” about themselves if they can “look down” on someone else. We’ve seen this in popular oppressive movements worldwide from time immemorial.

As to how far and wide in the Islamic World the net-connected youth “revolution” will spread:  We should not be too hopeful that it will successfully spread to nations with strong Islamist Regimes. Sure, old secular authoritarians like Mubarak may be willing to step aside. All those old “Presidents for Life” have to think of is themselves and their own personal survival. With the Islamists it is different. Their perspective is much broader. In their minds, they are fighting on the side of God, against apostates, against the corrupt non-Muslim West, against Christian Crusaders, against the evil scheming Jews, and against …Satan.  Heaven is their reward if they remain true to their struggle and hellfire their punishment if they betray the cause. It should, therefore, come as no surprise to anyone that similar protests in Iran proved unsuccessful. True Believers are not so quick to buckle in response to nonviolent protesters.

Reginald, I admit that I am a pessimist. Sure, I try to think the best of people unless they give me strong reason to think otherwise, because that’s only fair, but I know that people are frequently disappointing. When things go right, I’m pleasantly surprised. But they often do not. This is not an expression of prejudice. I believe it to be an expression of realism.

With regard to Egypt: I am concerned. I am worried.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say in response to the Friedman article. Feel free to throw more insults and “yawns” my way. 


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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2011, 11:04:41 pm »
“Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them—even though they exaggerated this issue—he managed to put them in their place.” - Muslim Brotherhood’s Current Spiritual Head Yusuf el-Qaradawi (2009)

For a concise and informative report on the history, current thinking and status of the Muslim Brotherhood, in relation to the revolution in Egypt, the following from the Simon Wiesenthal Center is very interesting:

“Hitler Put Them in Their Place”: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s Jihad Against Jews, Judaism, and Israel
by Dr. Harold Brackman for The Simon Wiesenthal Center


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Re: China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2011, 07:23:08 am »
I have not been “looking for” articles to post on this thread.  However, as I was riding the bus I happened to see a passenger reading his newspaper with the headline below regarding women, and later saw the one about Egypt and Israel.  Similarly, the Wiesenthal report on the Muslim Brotherhood, which I urge you to read (posted above), was from an email I received.  In the interest of providing some eye-opening facts, I thought that it too was worth sharing.

Regarding the issue of women’s rights in Egypt, here is an article from the very-liberal Los Angeles Times that describes contemporary attitudes and behavior in Egypt regarding women. Sexual harassment and assaults are commonplace. Other forms of brutal psychological and physical oppression are not uncommon.

Egypt's women face growing sexual harassment
Some women in Egypt say they suffer catcalls, groping and other sexual harassment daily. For a time it seemed that the Tahrir Square protests might point to progress, but the attack on TV reporter Lara Logan and others showed otherwise.

By Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times
February 23, 2011
Reporting from Cairo,0,5655445,full.story

The article states in part:

Catcalls, fondling, indecent exposure and other forms of sexual harassment by strangers are an everyday occurrence for women on the streets of Cairo, according to human rights groups, social scientists, diplomats and interviews with Egyptians. Moreover, predatory packs have brutalized women at several public places, including a soccer stadium, in recent years, according to witnesses and local news accounts.

"There is increasing violence against women in our society," said Nehad Abul Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, a nongovernmental group that campaigns against such abuse.

Theories abound to explain the violence. Unable to find decent jobs or affordable apartments, many men don't marry until their mid-30s, social scientists say. Premarital sex is taboo, so sexual frustration is said to run abnormally high.

At the same time, analysts say, prosecutions are rare. Many families pressure wives, daughters and sisters to keep quiet after being attacked rather than invite scandal. So-called honor killings, the slaying of women by male relatives for supposedly tarnishing the family's honor, ensure their silence. Such killings are common in Egypt, according to the National Center for Social and Criminological Research.

Politics are also to blame. Civil society was shredded under Mubarak and traditional respect for women frayed as well. Then, in May 2005, government security officers were filmed tearing the clothes and pulling the hair of four women — three journalists and a lawyer — at a protest rally.

"After that, we saw dramatic change," said Komsan, of the women's rights center. "It was like a very clear message that anything was allowed. Women became an open target."

In the summer of 2006, authorities were embarrassed when women were molested on a major street in Cairo during celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. The following year, police announced that a crackdown had resulted in hundreds of arrests.

But rights lawyers said most of the men were quickly released.

In 2008, Komsan's group polled 2,020 Egyptians and 109 non-Egyptian women. The results: 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women surveyed said they had suffered sexual harassment. About half the women said they were harassed every day.

The research showed that more than two-thirds of the women reporting abuse wore traditional Muslim head scarves or robes. Some even wore a flowing body-length black burka, with veil and gloves. Fewer than a third of the women wore Western attire.

[Regarding sexual assaults and harassment during the later stage of the protests, after a brief respite] Komsan, the women's rights activist, said the assault shows that violence against women isn't just a problem of the past.

"The respite we saw at Tahrir was temporary," she said sadly. "It means a revolution doesn't end all our problems."

[For the entire article, click the link above]

Regarding the geopolitical attitudes of the protestors, some cause for concern is certainly warranted. I sure hope down the line things do not spin out of control, into a major regional (or global) war. Again, from the Los Angeles Times:

Fear grows in Israel over backlash from Egypt
The idea of Iranian warships in the Suez Canal, calls for the 'conquest' of Al Aqsa mosque and suspended natural gas shipments add to anxiety over the nations' relationship.

By Edmund Sanders and Batsheva Sobelman, Los Angeles Times
February 22, 2011
Reporting from Jerusalem,0,3980230.story

Israel's so-called cold peace with Egypt is looking colder by the day.

Early Tuesday, Egypt reportedly permitted two Iranian warships to enter the Suez Canal for the first time since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

During a mass prayer service Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square, anti-Israel cleric Yusuf Qaradawi— who returned to Egypt after years in exile — called for the "conquest" of Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque, Islam's third-holiest site, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War and sits atop a Jewish holy site.

As well, natural gas shipments to Israel, Jordan and Syria remain suspended after unknown assailants this month tried to bomb the pipeline route in the Sinai peninsula. An organizer of the protests that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said last week that his group opposed resumption of exports to the "Zionist entity."

Though Israelis have taken comfort in assurances from Egypt's military that international agreements such as the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty will be honored during its interim control of the country, opposition leaders in Egypt are talking about the need to "reassess" or "revise" the landmark pact.

Some Israelis fear they are already seeing signs of an anti-Israel backlash stemming from decades of pent-up hostility on the streets of Egypt, where many still view Israel as an enemy.

"One must bear in mind that many of the young Egyptians who took to the streets demanding democracy and prosperity are anti-American and anti-Israel," said Michael Laskier, Mideast studies professor at Bar-Ilan University. "They may decide to settle a score with the two."

Even if Egypt's next government opts to maintain the peace treaty, many Israelis are worried that a future democratic Egypt could follow the path of Turkey, a onetime Israeli ally with whom relations have soured over the last year.

[To read the full article, click link above]