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Who writes the constitution?

Youseef Sidhom | 28 August 2011
The groups which have chosen to break with the “national community” are untiringly shrieking in defence of “the people, and only the people, must draft the constitution”. In doing so, they deliberately deceive and distort public awareness by alleging that they singlehandedly care for the people’s interest, while they in fact seek to monopolise the process of drafting the constitution... More

Betting on the democratic spirit

Others | 28 August 2011
What do we mean by a “civil state”? Is it the civil state of supra-constitutional principles advocated by the army and liberals that raises the hackles of Islamists who view it as an undemocratic attempt to install secularism? This is not the kind of civil state I support. .. More

Governing principles: virtue or vice?

Youseef Sidhom | 21 August 2011
On 19 May, a significant meeting was held under the auspices of the Egyptian National Council (ENC) and attended by constitutional and legal experts, political party chairmen, political movements leaders, presidential candidates in-waiting, representatives of independent unions and social groups, and a number of public figures. The gathering, which may truly be dubbed the “national community”, reviewed the documents published concerning the principles which ought to be taken into account in drafting the new Egyptian constitution. These documents included those drafted by the ENC, al-Azhar, ElBaradie, the National Accord Committee, the Democratic Alliance, Judge Hisham al-Bastawisi, the Human Rights groups, and the Future of Egypt... More

Revolutionary justice

Others | 21 August 2011
"President Mubarak, Egyptian judges appreciate you deeply. It was you who restored the Egyptian Supreme Judicial Council at the outset of your rule. And, you deserve credit for deciding conclusively that the Public Prosecution is an authentic branch of the judiciary.”.. More

Shredding the ranks

Youseef Sidhom | 14 August 2011
It goes to the credit of the Islamists, including the Salafis, that Tahrir Square’s 29 July “Friday of popular will and unity” was effectively, and deliberately, transformed into a “Friday of hijacking popular will and dividing ranks”. Despite prior agreement among 38 factions from across the political spectrum to join forces and unify ranks, Islamists took everyone aback when they reneged on their promise and exclusively controlled the square with clamorous voices and divisive slogans. I say “deliberately” because it is hard for any rational individual to believe the Salafi leaders attempt to explain it all off by claiming they found it impossible to control the crowds they had brought into the square. Such naive allegations contradict all obvious evidence as well as the course of events. Everything was organised to the utmost precision: the religious slogans chanted, the racial flags raised and the statement distributed. There can be no doubt it was all predetermined... More

Where are the Mubarakists?

Others | 14 August 2011
The opening of Hosni Mubarak’s trial last week was undoubtedly a historic day for Egyptians. With the trial now underway, Egypt has escaped two extreme fates: A failure to bring their ex-president to trial, on the one hand, and holding him accountable before an exceptional revolutionary court, on the other. Both scenarios would have posed a serious threat to the rule of law that Egyptians wish to establish. Thankfully, Mubarak is being tried by a regular court in accordance with normal laws... More

Is Democracy Enough?

Others | 7 August 2011
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali grew up in Karachi, Pakistan and was the Bishop of Rochester for 15 years. He has since devoted his time to advocating for the persecuted church, most recently as Director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy & Dialogue. I had the privilege of meeting with him in July to get his thoughts about the future of the Middle East and North Africa in light of the recent protests... More

Islamists play kora sharaab

Youseef Sidhom | 7 August 2011
A former coach of Egypt’s National Football Team once said it was beyond him to understand the nature of the character of some of Egypt’s national team players. They carefully abided by training routines, they comprehended strategies and carried them out on the green field, and they knew very well their assigned roles. Yet when they played against foreign teams, he said, they started with remarkable commitment to plans, tactics and positions, until the other team scored an early goal. This would throw them into disarray; they would lose control and recklessly scramble for the ball to compensate for their loss. It would look, the coach said, as though they went back to the old ways of their childhood when they used to play kora sharaab, a haphazard football game played with a ball made of old socks, in the alleyways and lanes. Needles to say, he said, this method results in abject failure... More

Principles to govern the constitution

Youseef Sidhom | 31 July 2011
The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) recently declared that principles should be instated to govern the writing of a new constitution for Egypt. The SCAF made it very clear that it would not itself instate these principles but would decree the basis upon which the constituent assembly charged with writing the constitution would be formed. Notwithstanding, proposals for principles that would govern the drafting of a new Egyptian constitution have been inundating the public landscape, suggested by prominent political figures and various groups, and triggering heated debate across the Egyptian political divide. The situation proves that, contrary to claims by pundits and politicians, drafting the constitution ahead of holding parliamentary elections would not necessarily lead to a stable transitional period, but may generate a political tsunami that would imperil the entire nation... More

Dear Washington: We've had a revolution

Others | 31 July 2011
It seems that many American policy-makers and think tanks are unaware that Egypt has had a revolution. Even after the fall of Mubarak, they still want us to keep his domestic and foreign policies.They still handle Egyptian affairs in the same haughty manner, assuming the regime is prepared to make any foreign policy concessions to stay in power... More

Reining in the rage

Youseef Sidhom | 24 July 2011
I was never used to go along with the current, nor had I ever any qualms about swimming upstream. I thus express my disagreement with not-a-few events involving Chapter 2 of the Revolution: the 8 July “Friday of the revolution first” and the 15 July “Friday of the last warning”. I still share the enthusiasm of the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square and in all other town squares in Egypt, but I feel deeply concerned about the non-discipline, chaos and mob spirit which has come to dominate these squares. I defend the right of the revolutionaries to remain camped in Tahrir—our very own Hyde Park which has become the admiration and inspiration of the whole world—until the transfer to a legitimate civil State is achieved. However, I strongly condemn what Tahrir and the other squares have become in terms of threatening national security and societal and economic stability, and striving to impose the will of the revolutionaries over the legitimacy of the State, judiciary, and rule of law. .. More

Five constitutional principles

Others | 24 July 2011
Contemporary discussions about the state of Egypt are largely focused on avenging the past rather than pondering over the future. Whether in the country’s freedom squares or in the media, strategic plans are mixed up with tactical imperatives, and core issues that require national consensus are combined with marginal ones over which people may safely disagree... More

Awaiting the new law

Youseef Sidhom | 17 July 2011
The rapid turn of events in Egypt over the past few weeks has of necessity calmed down the heated debate over the unified law for building places of worship. What with the recent al-Azhar document reflecting the venerable institution’s enlightened vision of the future; the disgruntled revolutionaries back in Tahrir expressing severe discontent with the rulers’ failure to meet their aspirations; in addition to all the frenzied mobility on the political arena, Egyptians are out of breath to catch up with and respond to the sweeping turmoil. .. More

Transparency and borrowing

Others | 17 July 2011
In the midst of the excitement about our historic revolution, we as Egyptians are naturally facing challenges around our national budget. Should we accept loans from international financial institutions or should we seek alternative sources of financing? Should we accept loans with strings attached? If so, what should those strings be?.. More

Opinion: The Mickey Mouse connection

Others | 13 July 2011
CAIRO - Post-Mubarak Egypt is trying hard to chart a course for a democratic future, but the road ahead appears to be a bumpy one. Politics, religion and business, when overlapping, add to its woes. The formula seems to underline a heated dispute, pitting celebrated Christian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris against Islamists. The latter are campaigning for the boycott of companies owned by Sawiris for .. More

Politics of inclusion and exclusion

Youseef Sidhom | 10 July 2011
The press brought us two remarkable pieces of news during the last weeks. One was the announcement by US secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the Obama administration was “continuing the approach of limited contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] that have existed on and off for about five or six years”, stressing that the US would engage with all parties “seeking peace and non-violence”. The second was the emergence of an alliance between al-Azhar, the MB, and Salafis within the framework of the Islamic Authority for Rights and Reforms (IARF) headed by Egypt’s former Mufti Sheikh Nasr Farid Wassel. It is likely that these news will be highlighted by conspiracy theory advocates and those fond of terrifying the public... More

Egypt must embrace an independent South Sudan

Others | 10 July 2011
As the world warmly embraces South Sudan as the newest member of the global community, Egypt is not expected to give more than lukewarm wave from afar. For years the Egyptian establishment has seemed bitter that its initiative - centered around maintaining the unity of the Sudan, was developed jointly with the Libyans and peddled by the Arab League - was passed on by Sudanese parties at peace talks in the early 2000s in favour of the US-backed IGAD initiative which had at its core the right of self-determination for the Southern Sudanese... More

Why I’m against ‘The Poor First’

Others | 3 July 2011
A recent blog post entitled “The Poor First, You Bastards” has received a lot attention in the Egyptian media and cyber world. The blogger, Mohamed Abul Gheit, highlights the role the Egyptian poor played in violent clashes with the police during the revolution and draws attention to a set of pictures of lower-class martyrs – most of which were taken at popular studios with poses and colors that some may look down upon as tacky. Abul Gheit points out that these images never made it to the mainstream media, where photos of young, educated martyrs from the middle class dominated instead... More

A new national charter

Youseef Sidhom | 3 July 2011
The 25 January Revolution was a spontaneous upheaval of Egypt’s young, venting the anger Egyptians had for years sustained. Although some argue otherwise, I see the fact that it had neither programme nor leadership an asset rather than a liability. The miracle of the Revolution was that it succeeded where movements and protests by older generations had failed: it dealt a fatal blow to a despotic, corrupt regime and opened new horizons for building the country. In this light, it does not matter that the Revolution did not come up with a new line of thought. More important is that it restored the people’s enthusiasm for reshaping their future on their own: exactly what is taking place in the current transitional phase. Underway is a crucial process of shaping the future to take Egypt into a modern era of welfare and prosperity... More

Hijacking the unified law

Youseef Sidhom | 26 June 2011
The past couple of weeks in Egypt have witnessed intense discussions within the national political forces and the media regarding the recently-released draft of the unified law for building places of worship. There have also been disquieting attempts by sceptics, hard-liners, and extremists to hijack the long-awaited law. It has been years on end today that numerous political circles, among which was none less than the National Council for Human Rights, have untiringly called for the promulgation of the law. It was hoped that it would put an end to the attacks against Copts, which frequently erupted due to the lack of a law of the kind. Yet no sooner had the draft law been released—first as a bill by the Justice Ministry then a draft decree by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces—than a fierce campaign erupted criticising, rejecting, and condemning it. Some went so far as to go to court to prevent the law from seeing light. The irony of it is that the draft law never did come as a bolt from the blue, as if people had never heard it mentioned... More

Whose ‘civil state’?

Others | 26 June 2011
It appears we need to agree not only on major issues of controversy, but also on the meanings of the terms that we use. These days, many Egyptians are using the same concepts to mean different things. Take for instance the term “civil state”, which is currently the subject of intense public debate. Anyone following the current discussion will quickly discover that the term is used to mean various things... More