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Egypt's Other Extremists

Others | 8 May 2011
Judging the likely trajectory of post-Mubarak Egypt requires assessing the depth of public support for Islamism, and usually this has meant assessing the strength and intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood. While the Brotherhood remains central, however, the country is also facing a frequently violent upsurge of Salafist versions of Islam... More

A test for the Muslim Brotherhood

Others | 8 May 2011
Since the 1970s, the Muslim Brotherhood has been gaining valuable political experience by participating is student and trade union union activism, as well as parliamentary elections. This level of engagement political affairs was unknown to the Brotherhood prior to the July 1952 revolution, when the group had virtually no parliamentary or trade union representation. At the time, the Brotherhood organized social and religious activities and maintained a strong presence in student circles, but had no political representation... More

State dignity…victimised by Salafis or by the State?

Youseef Sidhom | 1 May 2011
No matter what the outcome of the Qena governor predicament until these lines go into print, the core of this article remains true and pressing. The appointment earlier this month of a Coptic governor to the southern province of Qena provoked widespread demonstrations by hardline Islamist Qenawis. The protests culminated in civil disobedience, with demonstrators taking over government buildings, blocking roads in town, and stopping buses to segregate men and women passengers. They blocked the Cairo Aswan highway and railroad line, and threatened to cut off fresh water and power from towns and villages whose water supply or power comes from Qena. .. More

New governors, old ways

Others | 1 May 2011
Curious is the process by which 13 new governors have been appointed across Egypt. It's as if most of them were picked a by a modified version of Hosni Mubarak. The new governors include no youth and most of them have served in the police, the military or the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). The appointments do not reflect a country that has just undergone a revolution. Instead, they seem to suggest that Egypt’s youth are incapable of playing a leading role during the interim period and that there are no qualified candidates. The new governors have been selected on the basis of the same old standards... More

A revival for Egypt

Youseef Sidhom | 24 April 2011
As Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Christ… Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He launched a new era, an era of reconciliation and salvation, where the old things are done with and everything becomes new. It is an era in which man is released from retribution, and is consequently able to enjoy peace, happiness, and serenity. The Light of the Resurrection of Christ brings us all these comforting sentiments, and we in turn carry them with us on our long strife in this world, assured of victory and eternal life. .. More

Christians in the Middle East: Harder to Bear

Others | 24 April 2011
In a square in Nazareth, right below the Basilica of the Annunciation, a Koranic verse warns that "whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers". Yet it is the spectre of losing in the here-and-now that most haunts the dwindling number of adherents to Christianity in the land of its birthplace. .. More

History of Coptic Persecution

Others | 18 April 2011
The Coptic people have been victims of persecution throughout most of their history. Despite the change of rulers, persecution has continued. Copts resisted and continue to resist in order to preserve their faith and their national identity. Early on in their history, Copts were victims of ethnic cleansing especially in the lower Delta after the different Coptic revolts. The 829-831 revolt ended in a bloodbath by Caliph Al-Maamoon. The remaining population of this area was expelled by force to Syria. Copts suffered from policies of heavy taxation, land confiscation and deportation of Coptic peasants to plundered areas. Copts got under heavy pressure during the middle ages especially under the rule of the Mamluks and Turks. This led to a slow demographic shift allover Egypt. .. More

Its irrational position on the equitable utilization of the Nile water.

Others | 17 April 2011
Ethiopia is blessed with abundant water resources and hydropower potential. Yet only a miniscule amount of this potential has been used to reduce poverty in the country. Realizing this obvious fact, the Ethiopian government is pursuing programs to develop hydropower to fight and conquer poverty. The Millennium Dam is one such project. When completed it will be the largest hydropower dam in Africa and the tenth largest in the World. Located in Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State, the dam is expected to hold 63.5 billion cubic meters of water, a reservoir almost twice the amount of water in Ethiopia’s largest natural lake, Lake Tana... More

Salafis again humble the State?

Youseef Sidhom | 17 April 2011
Here is the second episode in a dreadful series of events that appear to have no end in sight. We had thought that the 25 January revolution would open a new chapter in the relations between Muslims and Copts—given their obvious solidarity and sympathy all through the 18-day uprising. The then prevalent climate of Muslim Coptic solidarity urged Coptic pundits to stress that the transformation to a civil democratic State should top the demands for reform, rightfully eclipsing all else. In that sense, the Coptic file with its deep grievances, they argued, had to be temporarily shelved until the foundation of the aspired modern State is laid. Then, they believed, Coptic grievances would be spontaneously, automatically resolved within the expected dominance of equality and citizenship rights... More

Should We Blame a Florida Pastor for Deaths in Afghanistan?

Others | 10 April 2011
When Pastor Terry Jones, 59, announced an intent to burn a Koran on the anniversary of 9/11 in 2010, the U.S. government, fearing attacks on American troops abroad, put intense pressure on him to desist and eventually he called off his plans... More

When sports become irksome

Youseef Sidhom | 10 April 2011
Last weekend saw a very sorry sight at the Cairo Stadium as the game between the Egyptian and Tunisian football teams drew to a close with a tie between the Zamalek Club and the Tunisian Club Africain team. An unbridled mob of Zamalek fans armed with knives and sticks broke into the field and assaulted the referee, his assistant, and members of the Tunisian team. It was an incident that brought shame to all Egyptians... More

The Salafis humble the State?

Youseef Sidhom | 3 April 2011
Egypt in its entirety stood horrified a few days ago at the Salafis in the southern town of Qena, who challenged the authority of the State and the rule of law and enforced hudoud (Islamic penalty) on a Copt. Basing on what they claimed to be allegations of sexual immorality, they cut his ear and burned his home and car. Never mind that the allegations were groundless. Stunned by the horrific crime, the nation questioned how dare some group hijack State authority and assign itself the combined roles of jury, judge and executioner? How come the State apparatuses were not able to prevent this crime? And why did they not bring the culprits to justice? And, even much worse, who stands behind the second crime, that of forging a ‘reconciliation’ between the victim and his attacker, in the course of which the victim had to relinquish all his legal rights? As I see it, this was nothing short of a reward to the attacker, a gross offence to the victim and a severe blow to the rule of law and the civil State... More

What do Salafis really want?

Others | 3 April 2011
A Salafi fear industry has developed in the Egyptian media, especially after the group’s sudden emergence in the aftermath of the revolution — to the shock of many secular Egyptian elites. There are indeed legitimate fears about the religious intolerance that may spread as a result of Salafi activism. But to properly grasp the “Salafi phenomenon” requires an understanding of the new political context in which Egyptian Islamist groups are operating... More

One party…or more

Youseef Sidhom | 27 March 2011
With a new law that allows the formation of political parties upon simple notification just around the corner, the upcoming period is expected to see the formation of a host of parties. Indeed, some of these have been already announced, while many others will likely emerge soon. Over the past few weeks, the media has been disclosing information on several nascent parties, their leaders, as well as hints of their platforms. Many others promise to be formed... More

Democracy vs liberalism

Others | 27 March 2011
Is Egypt heading towards some form of liberal democracy? More importantly, does democracy always imply liberalism, with free and fair elections, the right to political expression and association and the rotation of power?.. More

Party regulation, old and new

Youseef Sidhom | 20 March 2011
Last week, a responsible source from the ruling military establishment was quoted to have declared that, following the 19 March public referendum on the constitutional amendments, a new law removing the restrictions on the formation of political parties would be promulgated. According to the new law, the official said, a party would be recognised immediately following a simple notification. The Egyptian political arena hailed the declaration as a materialisation of the long-awaited principle of free formation of political parties. It came as a comfort to those concerned with political reform in Egypt. .. More

Five positions on the revolution

Others | 20 March 2011
One night in Tahrir Square, during the revolution, I lit a cigarette and threw the empty box on the floor. An old lady came up and warmly greeted me. She identified herself as one of my readers and complemented my writings. I thanked her, but she suddenly stared at me and said: “Please pick this box up off the floor.” I was embarrassed. I bent down and picked up the empty box. “Throw it away where the garbage belongs,” she continued. .. More

Is the revolution eating itself up?

Youseef Sidhom | 13 March 2011
Every week that transpires without life in Egypt going back to normal and people returning to work is detrimental for the 25 January revolution which had the world holding its breath in thrall. Every additional week of chaos and lack of security represents an added, worrying indication for the future of the revolution. Every additional week with mobs tightening their grip on streets, terrorising pedestrians, plundering and devastating private and public property, deducts from the revolution’s credit. And every additional week when anger prevails over wisdom begs the question of whether the revolution has begun eating itself up? .. More

A note to Copts abroad

Others | 13 March 2011
Perhaps the single greatest reason for our parents’ emigration from Egypt tocountries like the United States, Canada, and Great Britain was their desireto ensure a better life for their children. It was thishope which carriedthem through the struggle of leaving their homeland and starting over intheir adoptive countries. .. More

Convergence of Forces Drives Change in Mideast

Others | 6 March 2011
Future historians will long puzzle over how the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, in protest over the confiscation of his fruit stand, managed to trigger popular uprisings across the Arab/Muslim world. We know the big causes — tyranny, rising food prices, youth unemployment and social media. But since being in Egypt, I’ve been putting together my own back-of-the-envelope guess list of what I’d call the “not-so-obvious forces” that fed this mass revolt. Here it is: .. More

For a slate system

Youseef Sidhom | 6 March 2011
Last week, the committee tasked by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) with amending several articles of the Constitution completed its mission. The committee chairman Counsellor Tareq al-Bishri announced the amendments introduced to drive political reform in Egypt. These cover conditions to contend for the presidency, and propose a maximum of two terms in office as well as full judicial supervision of polls. The President is committed to appoint a vice president—or more than one—in a maximum of two months following his accession to power. In my view, all the amendments are reassuring as they meet the public's aspirations for change—before and after the 25 January revolution. In the same context, the amendments restrict the power of the President, especially in relation to declaring a state of emergency. Egyptians see the emergency law as a nightmare. For decades, calls and efforts to abrogate the law have been to no avail as the parliament—dominated by the then ruling National Democratic Party (NDP)—was reluctant to touch the law. Now Parliament’s approval is a must before invoking a state of emergency, the validity period of which should not exceed six months. For the state of emergency to be extended, the public should approve it in a referendum. The amendments went further to propose the formation of a 100-member constituent assembly to draft a new constitution, again approved via a public referendum. The articles covered by the amendments are 75, 76, 77, 88, 93, 139, 148 and 189. As for article 179, which allows the president to refer civilians to military tribunals, it was annulled. Yet the committee’s work did not touch upon the constitutional articles which deal with the foundation of political parties or with the elections of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council (the lower and upper houses of Egypt’s Parliament). In the eyes of the revolutionary masses, however, these demands are no less important than those concerning the prerogatives of the President. Now that the SCAF has dissolved both houses of parliament, the rules regulating their reformation have to be set as soon as possible to put an end to the ambiguity characterising this question. After disclosing the proposed amendments, al-Bishri announced that from now on voters will need no more than their ID cards to cast their ballots. This marks a welcome farewell to the infamous voting cards with all the problems they cause. Other things need further clarification, however. A host of pundits and observers asked whether the upcoming elections will be held in accordance with the existing system or they will be postponed until the free formation of political parties is allowed; this would surely give an opportunity to inject new blood into political life. With the demise of the ruling NDP—which might possibly disappear altogether—and the disarray most parties are now suffering from, competition will be inconceivable without the introduction of new political parties. Otherwise, the parliament would consist mainly of independents. In this case, problems will arise when trying to give an account of the majority and minority—the government and opposition. In addition to this thorny issue, the committee has not said a word about changing the current individual candidacy to a slate system. I cannot understand how the committee overlooked such a matter—which I consider the most important in this regard. On the ground, the individual candidacy system prevents free competition in favour of family loyalties and the power of money. It turns voters to mere tools ready to be misused by corrupt candidates. If we are to bring about genuine political reform, and if we are to listen attentively to the voices raised after and before 25 January, the present individual candidacy should give way to a slate system. This way, free competition based upon parties’ platforms would govern our political life, and corruption would vanish. Around the world, there is variety of systems that could be examined to choose a formula which suits us best—these include the combination of the slate and individual candidacy. I hope this issue would cease to be placed on hold in the coming period. Otherwise, elections will in all likelihood produce an incompetent, self-interested and corrupt parliament similar to those we used to have in the past... More