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Wild terrorism; tame authorities

Youseef Sidhom | 18 September 2011
Amid rampant acts of thuggery and the absence of a unified law for building places of worship—which Prime Minister Essam Sharaf seems to have forgotten all about—new forms of aggression have emerged. Extremist Islamic groups have put aside the law, undermined the authority of the State, and imposed their custody on public will in the most audacious, assertive, insolent manner. And why should not they when the official response to their threats and crimes is at best feeble and helpless. The authorities never go beyond holding traditional ‘reconciliation meetings’, a measure which victims see as an unequivocal insult and the utmost in humiliation since it places victim and offender on the same footing, and imposes on the former unjust settlements which flagrantly violate citizenship rights... More

The politics of symbolic forms

Others | 18 September 2011
Where does Israel live in the Egyptian public imagination? Some unfortunate instances are usefully recalled: Jewish settlement in Palestine; a few wars, and the loss of Palestine; bloody incursions into Lebanon and Gaza; the destruction of Arab cities, including the Suez Canal towns. Then there is the saga of intelligence struggles against the Israeli espionage machine, folklore that captured many an Egyptian mind as it emerged from screens big and small... More

Will America destroy Israel?

Others | 13 September 2011
Creative Chaos, the well-known and most famous slogan, raised and set by New Conservatives Team of the former U.S administration, was aiming to reformulate the political map and scene in the Middle East, especially around Israel, and, at the same time, to end the old formula that was working for the last sixty years.. More

What if it was the Egyptian flag?

Youseef Sidhom | 11 September 2011
The wrath which raged, and is still raging, against Israel in the Egyptian street is both legitimate and justified. It is a show of public fury at the killing of five Egyptian security personnel last month during an Israeli operation against cross-border terrorist raiders who had assassinated eight Israelis and injured 30 before escaping inside Egyptian territory near Eilat. Angry demonstrations and sit-ins were held in front of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, protesting Israeli transgression against Egyptian sovereignty. The public hostility and anti-Israeli sentiments express bitterness which has been for decades building up against Israeli aggression, and is fully understandable. The burning of the Israeli flag was a condemnation of Israeli practices and came as an expression of protest used worldwide... More

A little fear, a lot of worry

Others | 11 September 2011
Where is Egypt headed? I’ve heard this question being asked by everyone, everywhere, as if there were no other questions worth asking. No doubt this clearly reflects a state of collective anxiety, uncertainty, and perhaps concern over what the future holds. Therefore, I believe the question deserves an answer, complete with explanations and analysis, in the hope of identifying the causes behind the country’s current impasse and overcoming it. In my opinion, there are three main reasons for this state of affairs: .. More

Wanted: An anti-discrimination law

Youseef Sidhom | 4 September 2011
No matter what successes Prime Minister Essam Sharaf achieves together with his cabinet, he will always be discredited for underestimating public memory—a memory by no means poor. With that memory alertly registering details big and small on the Egyptian arena, Dr Sharaf has miserably failed. The public well remembers that he promised last May to form a committee to draft a unified law for building places of worship, within a maximum one-month period. They remember he declared the same committee would be charged with drafting a law to criminalise discrimination. And they remember he promised to form a committee to investigate the long list of closed churches in preparation for their reopening. When, that same month, Salafis rioted against the reopening of a church in Ain Shams, the church was again closed until an official committee checks its legal documents and issues a decision on it within one month. To date, no decision. .. More

Accountability, compensation, justice

Others | 4 September 2011
Revolutionary justice in Egypt requires not only that we activate procedures that already exist in Egyptian law, but also that we set up new legal authorities that can fulfill special tasks during the transitional period. Towards that end, I propose the establishment of three new bodies:.. More

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