Archive of ‘Uncategorized’ category

Tuesday is the New Friday!

 

Dear Egyptian Islamist Forces,

First of all, I would like to thank you. If it wasn’t for the massive organized effort and insane amount of money that you poured into having a strong showing in Giza and Alexandria last Saturday, and the full Panic mode that you put all the secular people of Egypt (who are now the majority after 5 months only of your rule), we wouldn’t have seen yesterday’s massive, nay, colossal turn out in all of the governorates. Not only did we pack Tahrir, we completely covered the huge area surrounding the Presidential palace (despite security checkpoints placed there by your security forces to divide the crowds & make the numbers look small, and which were naturally removed by the protesters), not to mention the massive turnout in Alexandria, Asuit, Minya, Daqahliya, Suez, Port Said, 6th of October, Mahalla, Hurghada, Sharm AlSheikh, Damanhour, Damiettia, Aswan and others. This is not surprising if compared to the turn-out last Tuesday in Tahrir, but definitely compared to the turn-out last Friday, which marks the first symbolic change of the second wave of this revolution: Tuesday is the New Friday.

It makes sense when you think about it: When we were all on one side, Friday made sense since we were mobilizing after Friday prayers, a tactic that you pioneered. The switch to Tuesday showcases the symbolic change in demographics in the revolution, after the Independents finally joined our side, who go down to the streets after work instead of getting bussed in after Friday prayers. Friday was the day we demonstrated with you, Tuesday is the day we demonstrate with all of Egypt, because-unlike you- we don’t need the Mosques to mobilize our people. Hell, we don’t even need to plan or provide Logistical support or pay people to increase the numbers: Our people come down on their own, and they are LEGIONS. If by your count the people you brought to the streets last Saturday were Six million, I estimate our people count by your Math to be around two Billion. Yeah, that sounds about right.

In light of Yesterday’s events, we urge you to convince your President to withdraw the constitutional declaration and cancel the referendum. I am sure you will find him very agreeable to this notion after his daring escape from the Presidential Palace yesterday. It must be very hard on him after to be the first Egyptian President to escape from the Presidential palace, especially 5 months after he stood in Tahrir opening his suit to prove the absence of a bulletproof vest as a show how unafraid he is from the people. But then again, he did escape from Protesters at a Mosque near his house last week, and before that from Prison, so escaping is kind of his thing. I would also scale back the threatening Jihad talk from now on, because, what will you do, exactly? You don’t obviously have the numbers to control the streets of Egypt, so your only option is Terrorism, which, meh, we’ve been through before in the 80′s and 90′s and survived it with no problem. And if you go down that route, it won’t be the MOI that will hunt you down, it will be the people this time, who will view you as an enemy and act accordingly by bringing you from your houses. You will lose. You will die. We don’t recommend it. Back down.

Also, don’t go on the media and try to maneuver your way out of this and try to have the referendum anyway. If all of those people went out against the constitutional declaration yesterday, then there is no consensus on the constitutional draft and it shouldn’t even be put on a referendum. Even if you go through with it, we know that the majority is with us, so you will either lose or you will forge it, and we will go after you and bring you down. What are you counting on? And why do you have people like Beltagy go on TV talking about how the protesters should abide by the rules of democracy? You mean the same rules of democracy your President broke by giving himself unprecedented powers, by sending his supporters to prevent the constitutional court from doing their job as a check on his decisions and by trying to push through a constitution that is rejected by everybody outside his base of support? Why do your Sheikh’s talk about conspiracies by the church in your media? Yes, naturally we have Christians in our demonstrations, like we have representatives of every other group in Egypt in our demonstration, because they are Egyptians, and as we keep telling you, we are a diverse population. Come to our rallies and you will find it representative of Egypt, while your rallies only have Islamists. And then your President speaks about how you have the majority? What Majority? He won the presidential elections by 1% with the help of non-islamists. Get a grip on reality.

Yesterday was called “The Final Warning”, and it was just that: our Final warning to you to back down from this insanity. We were at the gates of the Presidential palace and we could’ve stormed it, and we chose not to, and instead Grafiitied all over it to let you know that you are not untouchable behind palace walls. Our symbols have given you until Friday to back down on both the referendum and the declaration, a generous offer that you frankly don’t deserve, but we really find it distasteful to get into violent conflict with other Egyptians, and we really don’t want to bring down the first democratically elected President after only 5 months; But we will if we are forced to. If you don’t back down by Friday, then prepare yourselves for the wrath of an entire population next Tuesday. And Just in case you forgot, here is a friendly reminder: January 25 was also a Tuesday. ;)

I hope you listen.

Best Regards,

Mahmoud Salem

The Game no one wins

As the country continues to be horrified over the events of the past few days, and braces itself for the “epic showdown” that is supposed to take place on Tuesday, I find myself, as always, in awe of this country and what happens in it. The nature and the rapid pace of developments that took place over the past few days tells me that this country and revolution will continue to surprise me for a long while to come. I have spent the past year and a half studying other revolutions and their history, and let me assure you, what’s happening here has not happened in the history of any revolution before. Egyptians, you are still Pioneers; pat yourselves on the back.

We have a President who, after some praise from Obama over resolving this week’s episode of the Ghaza crisis, decided that he will grant himself the power to do anything he wants in the land, and then the consequences. The consequences are what’s new: 1) Clashes over the decision erupt all over Egypt, and not just Cairo as usual ; 2) His Presidential Team almost all quit, to the point that people joke that his wife will quit next; 3) His Islamist Party’s Branches got attacked and raided all over, with people finding election ballots, utilities receipts with a special party discount, and on more than one occasion female lingerie items; 4) His newly appointed Prosecutor General, and the head of the Shura Council- who is not only a member in the President’s party, but also his relative and In-law –both coming out against his decree, 5) Our Ministry of Interior, who has for decades persecuted and killed Islamists, is now killing for them ; 6) Our constituent assembly has now less than 50 out of the 100 people that are supposed to work on the new constitution in and it’s still hasn’t be resolved legally; and 7) The secular side has almost unified its front, to have the same people (leftists, anarchists figures and 6th of April) who promoted electing Morsy for President, are still trying to divide it, as if an Islamist Dictatorship will somehow differentiate between Shafiqistas, Independents or Revolutionaries when it comes to oppression or as if you don’t need every single able body in this fight.

What people don’t get about the declaration is this: It literally empowers the President to do anything he damn pleases. It’s not simply about shaping the government institutions to his whimsy, but will also move to the Private sector and Syndicates, the latter for which he issued a new syndicates law yesterday that will remove all the elected heads of the syndicates and having him appoint them. Morsy can now strip people from their citizenships or hand it out to others, try them in “special courts” for vague charges, shut down Private enterprises or Media outlets or seize them, reshape our judiciary branches and their roles singlehandedly, and even change your last name, and no one will be able to legally question or stop his decision. Granting yourself this level of Power is so in the essence of Fascism that President Morsy’s new nickname is Morsilini. It’s as if he is stating that while the old regime was autocratic, dictatorial and secular, thankfully the revolution happened and we are no longer secular.

Even the old regime couldn’t just do what Morsy is doing, because it always had to play the part of being a state. When Mubarak wanted to change the constitution for his liking, new amendments had to be discussed in parliament, and then a referendum had to be had over them. Even the SCAF had to have a referendum in order to grant themselves such Powers. Morsy didn’t even do that and now we are experiencing street warfare all over the country. And The sad part is, it didn’t have to be this way. Morsy did not have to go this route this quickly, but he did which is why his reign, even if he shuts down the current uprising, will not last , and if the Islamists are removed from Power, chances are that they will never be voted in again, iof there wasn’t excessive Violence and justified oppression against them from now on. We are now playing a game where there is no winning, only degrees of losing, and that’s not even the real problem.

If you want to know what is, imagine Egypt as a woman who was married for a long time, and her Husband cheated on her, lied to her and abused her throughout the relationship. She finally managed to get rid of her Husband, only to have Her Father insist that she gets remarried again ASAP, without going into the necessary therapy. A whole bunch of ill-suited individuals, who fit her Father’s insane conditions, propose to her, and when there were two of them left, people on each side pressured her to choose one over the other, not because their choice was good, but because they hated the other guy with a passion. She finally marries one who promises her the world, and the right to divorce him if he betrays her trust, and then within a few months, while she is still traumatized and Paranoid, he starts exhibiting similar behavior to her first Husband. When she confronts him, he assures her that it’s all in her head, until one day she catches him erasing and changing clauses in their marriage contract. When she accuses him of treachery and demands a divorce, he informs her that they are married and whatever God Unities, no man can separate, and then places a Gun on the table, threateningly. She will naturally fight it, he might kill her, but she will most likely get rid of him first. The Problem, the question, then becomes, how do you convince this woman to get remarried ever again?

Why the Salafis agreed to the constitution

Up until very recently the Salafi parties were planning to vote no on the constitutional draft that is being called to referendum in two weeks, on the basis that it’s not Islamist enough. The Salafi Parties wanted a strict implementation of Sharia, including Sharia judgments, in the constitution, and yet there is no clear article that states this in the proposed constitution. However, upon closer scrutiny, one find it hidden, in two unassuming words in article # 76 in the constitutional draft.

Article 76 states the following:

Penalty shall be personalized. There shall be no crime or penalty except by virtue of a constitutional text or of the law. No penalty shall be inflicted except by a judicial sentence. Penalty shall be inflicted only for acts committed subsequent to the promulgation of the law prescribing it.

Now please pay attention to the words “by the virtue of a constitutional text” here. The constitution doesn’t include penalties for crimes, that’s the law’s job. Even crimes that are listed in the constitution do not have the punishments in them as much as a reference to the law that regulates such punishment. So, if it was simply the law, why would anyone put in the words “constitutional text” instead of referring directly to a crime punishable by an existing law? The only reference is then for punishments for crimes that don’t exist in the law. So, how would that work exactly?

Simple, really: In this case, the search for a legislation that doesn’t exist in civil law will refer directly to article 2 , which states that “Principles of Islamic Sharia are the principal source of legislation” . Those Principles of Islamic Sharia are in turn explained by article 219 “The principles of Islamic Sharia include general evidence, foundational rules, rules of jurisprudence, and credible sources accepted in Sunni doctrines and by the larger community” , which means that if there is any Sharia-based judgment that exists in the 1600 years of Islamic jurisprudence or stated by a “credible source”, then it shall be found to be in accordance of this constitution. This includes anything from the famous punishments for theft , adultery, idolatry or murder (cutting hands, whipping, stoning to death, paying your way out, respectively) to less famous ones that include social crimes that no functioning moderate Muslim today knows to be crimes. It is the constitutional equivalent of allowing the punishment for witchcraft set by the Catholic Church in the middle ages, since it is part of historic Catholic jurisprudence.

If this Constitution is passed, Cairo will truly become Kendhar, with the blessing of the Egyptian President and the Muslim Brotherhood. Hope that Gaza cease-fire was worth it, dear President Obama.

 

Down with Sharia in the constitution

With every semblance of what is commonly referred to as “the civil forces” (The churches representatives, the secular parties & members) withdrawn from it, the Egyptian constituent assembly’s fate seems more precarious than ever. While many speculate about its fate and the fate of the constitution it is supposed to present to the public soon, it is safe to say that the current draft is not satisfactory for neither the islamist or the secular factions, each believing that the constitution is too secular or too islamist, respectively, because of the argument of the meaning of the word Sharia in it. Having followed its news with increasing boredom like the rest of you, I have reached a sense of moral clarity towards it: I don’t want the word Sharia , or any amendment that refers to it, to be in our constitution. I want all of it, gone, and here are my reasons for this very unreasonable request.

First of all, I would like a solid definition of what Sharia actually means from the islamist side. I am willing to bet that if you gathered a representative from every islamist political party and asked them for their vision and definition of Sharia and what it means in terms of governance and implementation, they would come up with very different answers from each other. Islamic jurisprudence and schools of thought is a vast field with many contradictory interpretations, hence why there are so many islamist parties in existence in Egypt today: they all think the others understand or implement Sharia the wrong way. If you think the secular side has problems uniting and unifying, then you should try uniting or unifying the islamist side. It should be a hilarious experiment. They all think each other are extremists or infidels.

The constituent committee tried to side-step that by creating an amendment that states that AlAzhar’s Scholars should be the ones that interpret what Sharia means and how it should be implemented, which brings us to the second reason behind my decision: I do not trust AlAzhar with that role either. It was an AlAzhar scholar who came up with the Fatwa that would allow strange men and women to share office space if the women breastfeed the men. It was an AlAzhar scholar who came up with the Fatwa that any journalist that criticized Mubarak would get 40 lashes. Both cases were based on flimsy reasoning or interpretations for purposes of insanity in the former and corruption in the latter, and both came from AlAzhar.

If we choose to ignore insanity for a second (despite having Islamist politicians who see nothing wrong with kidnapping a 14 year old Christian girl & claiming she converted & marrying her off without parental consent, or others who see nothing wrong with having AlQaeda operating in Egypt as long as they don’t attack us), we will have to face the Problem of corruption. AlAzhar scholars can be as corrupt as any other institution in the fantastically corrupt entity referred to as the Egyptian state. There are Scholars who tailor fatwas for reasons ranging from gaining favor from whomever is in power, to whomever pays them more. Are they all like that? No, of course not, but given that Fatwas are based on interpretation, a scholar could easily come up with two opposing fatwas based on the same “evidence”, which creates a very flexible environment for corruption to grow and prosper, in a land that already suffers from a corruption epidemic in its government. Here is another fun experiment: try to bribe an Azhar scholars for a tailored Fatwa and see if he will have a problem with it.

This brings us to the final reason why I am against having Sharia in our constitution: I don’t trust our government one bit , and I believe this distrust is commonly shared by Egyptians all over after the events of the past two years, especially after the Asuit School bus incident. The question then becomes: how do you trust this fabulously corrupt government not to abuse its powers under the cover of Sharia? Hell, my level of distrust in them is so high, I don’t even want them teaching our children religion in public schools, especially with an Islamist President in office. Our public school teachers find it acceptable to beat up their students, cut their hair because they were not veiled, and have them clean their shoes , examples of which we all saw in the past few months, so do you trust those people to teach the next generation of Egyptians- your children- religion? Do you even trust them to not mess with the curriculum to have it suit their political ends?

I had no problem with keeping the Sharia clause in the constitution before, but it has become increasingly obvious that the islamist parties won’t just contend with having it there, but will increasingly try to use it to “fix us” , which is something I am totally opposed to. I am not the one who wants to sleep with children or finds it acceptable to kidnap teenage girls & marry them off without the consent of their parents. I don’t need fixing, and neither do any of you. The level of potential abuse of power that having even the word Sharia in the constitution with the islamists in charge is so high that I fear we will continue witnessing horrifying events, laws and justifications- like the ones we have been hearing for months- for years to come if it stays in its current form. So ask yourself this question today: Does that seem like a country you want to live in?

 

 

The Rights of the Martyrs

As the first anniversary to the Clashes of Mohamed Mahmoud approaches, my social media timelines are bombarded with the images of the martyrs who died there and how we should never forget until we get back their rights. As the pictures and the names keep rolling in, it becomes impossible to distinguish the faces and the names anymore, and all that you are left with is a blurry memory and a sense of helplessness and guilt for being alive and unable to get their rights back. You are then left with two questions: 1) how do we get the rights of the martyrs back and, more importantly, 2) what does that even mean?

When revolutionaries talk about it, it’s placed in the following context: Desire for Justice for those who died a quest for revenge and accountability against those who killed them. However, nobody wants to publically admit that both are impossible at this point. Judicial Justice would require having real investigations into the conditions of their deaths from the day they died, which didn’t happen, and would also require non-corrupt Police & judicial institutions to transact this Justice, which we don’t have either, and don’t seem like we will any time soon, since we haven’t done any real efforts in that area for the past year and a half. And once you reconcile those two realizations, you are then hit with the third: in the context of the revolution, there is really no such thing as the rights of or Justice for the martyrs.

When we went down in 18 days or in the subsequent events of the revolution, we knew that we were placing ourselves in the face of mortal danger, and we had implicitly reconciled ourselves with the fact that we might die for the cause of getting rid of the Mubarak/Military rule. We were soldiers in a war, not looking for martyrdom but knew that death was always a possibility with the regime we are dealing with. And we were also Ok with that, if our death was the price that needed to be paid for a better Egypt: One with functional institutions, better governance, and a future. The Supreme majority of us survived it physically mostly unharmed (psychologically most of us are still reeling), but there are those who didn’t and were martyrs for that Cause, a cause that we are nowhere near achieving. And instead of focusing on it, we are fighting to bring their killers to a justice that is administered by institutions that facilitated their deaths.

The revolutionaries figured out before anyone else that most of our governmental institutions were mirages of the real deal and beyond reform, and set their sights at exposing them and destroying their credibility, which is fine, but only half of the equation. The Other unfulfilled half was the building of parallel institutions with policies and methods that actually function to replace those that were being destroyed. And we had the people as well, some of the best young minds in their fields who wanted to do it, but they were dragged into protest, and then sit-ins, and then battle, reducing them to numbers and cannon fodder in battles that both sides would lose. Those who attempted to build those institutions or form new ones were scoffed at, were told that this isn’t the time for such endeavors, labeled reformists or sell-outs, and guilted into participation for their desire to not leave their friends and comrades alone in danger. And then, the inevitable conclusion: nothing got built, the institutions got destroyed, but with nothing to replace them with they were left to continue to function, and we ended up with even more martyrs on our hands.

You don’t destroy a state unless you are ready or willing to built one to replace it, the same way you don’t start a revolution unless you intend on ruling, but we had symbols and intellgentsia who steered us to the path we were in, side-battle after side-battle instead of focusing on winning the war, because they simply couldn’t stop being the opposition. They had won, removed Mubarak, and were still doing protests and making demands, instead of enforcing their will as winners. We followed them because we couldn’t comprehend the truth at the time: They didn’t have the desire, capacity, knowledge or experience to rule or build institutions; they just wanted to stay as the opposition. If you think I am too harsh, consider this: They are the same people who told us to vote in for Morsy- a president who values and goals have nothing to do with us or theirs- so we can oppose him later, and are now opposing him. Joy.

The Martyrs wanted accountability, not just for their deaths, but for those who die daily due to our governments’ ineptitude. They wanted Justice, not just over their murder, but for every single Egyptian who would survive them. They wanted not to be forgotten, but not as our fallen comrades, but as the price we had to pay for our complacency towards tyranny and corruption. The Martyrs died for a better Egypt, one that they entrusted us to build and wanted their memory to fuel our desire to do so, and we didn’t. And had we did, had we done the work, built the state we wanted, we could’ve had a shot to actually bring justice to their killers, instead of simply demanding it. The battle to bring justice to them is a symptom of a disease, not the disease itself, and we occupied ourselves with the symptoms instead of treating the disease. We are not responsible for their deaths, we didn’t kill them, but we did nothing real to bring true justice to them, and that is our Guilt. That’s what we have to live with.

Open Letter to the Egyptian President

Dear Morsy,

Like many Egyptians, I was looking forward to your government’s attempt to implement its decision to close down shops at 10 pm out of the sheer comic value it would’ve presented. I had set up an observation post in front of my building in Roxy Square, chairs, Shisha, et all, to have a front row seat to the Tom & Jerry-style shenanigans that would take place the moment you tried to shut down the shops there. And then the news came in that your government backed down on its decision and were delaying it for another week, which at first got me into a fit of laughter, which to my amazement got replaced with increasing levels of anger as time went by, with a single thought dominating my head: Have you no shame, at all?

The Point of any state is its ability to enforce its authority on the ground; it is what is referred to as political will. Any state that doesn’t do that is basically turning itself into another Mirage state, one that only exists on paper, which is not what the Egyptian people signed up for when they went to the election polls. The people wanted a functioning government: one that has a vision, runs the country based on that vision and can enforce rule of law, which your government fails on all fronts. Is the Decision to shut down the shops a bad idea? Yes! Absolutely; but here are the options that any government has when it gets such a bad idea: 1) Don’t propose it at all, or 2) Go through with it and try to enforce it, even if it is doomed to failure from the beginning. Since you decided to propose it, I wanted you to try to close the shops, and fail, but at least you would’ve failed with some semblance of dignity or self-respect. Your government now has neither and has become the laughing stock of the entire country, which brings us to the real question: Dear President, what the Hell are you doing exactly?

What exactly was the point of the MB running you for President in the first place? To be in Power? What Power? What’s the point of power if you are incapable of exercising it or enforcing it? So far me and every Egyptian I know can count at least 5 major decisions that you or your government took in the past 4 months and couldn’t enforce. And it’s not like those decisions were great ones and there is a conspiracy preventing you from executing them; they were simply bas decisions, either legally or practically, and they showed an embarrassing amateurish style of governance. If you can’t handle the trappings of power, why go for it? So you could give us a weekly sermon every Friday? So that your governments gets us more in debt and executes shady international business deals that we know very little about? I mean, we get that the grand ambition of the MB is to have the same kind of business corruption that the NDP enjoyed, and that unlike every other Egyptian, the top honchos in your secret society are enjoying ridiculous sudden economic prosperity, but at least the NDP were trying to make it look good, and they were not scared to enforce their will, two things your people can’t seem to do. And yet again, is that really all there is to you? Did you not learn from your predecessor at all?

Listen , when the people elected you they didn’t do so in order to watch you make a mockery of the national symbol of the Presidency by having you touch your privates, nor did they do it so that you can give us religious sermons that, are not only boring, but are falsely interpreting the Quran verses you are citing as well. They elected you so that you can make things better, fix the country, and create a functioning government. They basically elected you to work, your Excellency, and you are not doing your job at all, and it’s starting to show. Not only that, but the people are slowly getting the message that this is a government without vision, plans or tools to execute or enforce their laws and decisions, and will start ignoring you. And then the question won’t be whether or not the opposition will be able to unseat you or your party in the next elections, but whether if there will be a point to another election in the first place, because nobody wants to be part of a government that has no power of execution. And why would they? If they wanted a place to go exchange ideas and draft laws that won’t be implemented, they would start a Think Tank or a social club, and it would be one where they don’t have to debate with idiots whether or not a 9 year old is eligible for marriage because she had her period. It’s not only you that’s failing, it’s the entire concept of the state, and if that falls, well, good luck bringing that back. Am I getting through to you? Do you understand what’s at stake here? Do you get that you are taking the country into anarchy?

And mind you, anarchy will not bother me nor my friends. We will adapt, get guns and electric generators and generally be fine. Others won’t be though. We will turn into the land of do as you please, and the supreme majority of the country- some of which are MB- will suffer greatly. Is that what you want? No? Then stop being such a joke, and work. Do your job. Or step aside if you are unable to. Whichever choice you make, you better make it quick. We have serious problems that require serious solutions implemented by serious people, and so far you have shown that you neither have the solutions nor are you serious about finding them. You better change that quickly, because we can’t take 4 years of this. It has been only 4 months and we are already cracking.

Sincerely yours,

Mahmoud Salem

 

The First Egyptian Revolution

It is said to have started sometime around 2181 B.C. , although the exact date cannot be pinpointed for sure. The first Egyptian popular uprising took place around then, thus ending the reign of the 6th dynasty and the era of the old Kingdom. It overthrew the rule of King Pepi II, who has ruled the country for a very long time, some even say into his 90′s, with the documents usually describing him as an ageing King secluded in his palace and disconnected from the outside world. Stop me when this starts to sound familiar.

The causes behind the first Egyptian revolution were as follows: The long reign of the King created problems with succession in the royal household, where there was no clear heir apparent who could hold the keys of the Kingdom and stop the infighting that had plagued the royal court for years. The Infighting was mainly due to the weakening of the King and the centralized authority, which lead to emergence of many forces and individuals who were part of the royal court but started to act with impunity, prompting many to question the authority of the King. Extravagance and corruption reigned supreme all over the land, along with extensive injustice and class discrimination. The agricultural based economy was getting controlled by Feudal Lords who cared very little for their workers, and who were more interested in conflicts over political influence and economic prosperity between each other than the well-being of the country. These conflicts dominated the life of the general Egyptian population until one day they had enough, and started the first Egyptian revolution.

Like any revolution, the first Egyptian revolution had its negative and positive consequences. On the negative side we have the complete destruction of state authority and institutions (local and central), the collapse of the security and judicial apparatus, and unprecedented wave of crime and looting. This lead to the eventual economic breakdown, with production collapsing and internal and external trade halted due to production and security issues, and the people refused to pay their taxes, which lead to the complete failure of the little state services they had. This, in turn, lead to the collapse of the religious and moral values that defined the Egyptian society for decades, and to a wave of atheism unprecedented amongst the Egyptian population, with many of them feeling that if the gods existed, then they have forsaken them.

The positive consequences were mainly in the area of rising political awareness of the population, with the ideas of equality and rights taking hold amongst them against the previous stringent class system that existed before, and with the establishment of schools of political thought, which aimed to come up with policies that would ensure good governance of the land and the rules rulers must follow. This era was also marked with the emergence of new artists, who brought new styles and interpretations to classical Egyptian artworks and archoitecture.

The first Egyptian revolution spanned 4 different dynasties, rising, trying to rule the country, and failing, to the point that Manheto, a historian of the Ptolemaic era, describes a period in it where 70 kings ruled for 70 days. This era was marked with a divided Kingdom filled with civil strife and conflict, not to mention attacks from invading tribes from our Asian and Libyan borders. The general weakness of the country, and the insufficiency of regional and minority rulers, made Egyptians very wary and tired of localized governance. Eventually Egyptians decided that what they needed was a strong centralized monarchy that doesn’t infringe upon their rights, which paved the way for the 11th dynasty to take over the country in absolute monarchial rule once again, under Menuhotep II , who unified the country and ushered in the era of the middle Kingdom, which was marked as an era of great wealth and prosperity, ending the revolution.

The first Egyptian revolution lasted 141 years, with the people, in the end, demanding the return of the monarchial rule that they revolted against in the first place. If you are a believer that history repeats itself, and this information is disturbing you, please remember one thing: they didn’t have internet back then.

 

 

 

 

The Circle Jerk

 

Just the other day I was contacted by my good friend (whom we shall call here A.) to inform me that he intends to marry his foreign girlfriend (we shall call her B.) and mother of his future twin babies the next day, and asked me to be his witness during the efficiation of the marriage with the egyptian government. I was naturally honored to be chosen, but also intensly curious, since he intended to have an Egyptian “civil marriage”, which is the same as the regular one, but instead of going to an Islamic efficiarry to register his marriage, he would do it directly with the Egyptian department of Justice. Given eternal fascination with Egyptian beauracracy, I couldn’t let the opprutunity go to witness it in action, especially in a civil marriage situation. The experience that I went through with them, the one I will share in this column, has been nothing short of affirming to my commitment phobia.

When A first went to the DOJ, they simply informed him that they needed simply his and her ID, and the embassy’s approval of theiur marriage, with them confirming B. citizenship, religion and marital availability. This required A to go get papers from everyone that he knew stating that they knew him and verify him, as well as all his personal papers, and then go to our ministry of foreign affairs, to get it stamped. After stamping it, he had to take the papers to a MFA-certified translator to translate everything, then back to the MFA to get it stamped again, then take it all to the embassy to start the paperwork cycle and get the confirmation regarding B. The embassy took a month and a half to process the papers and interview them, and then informed them that they can give them everything that the Egyptian government needs, except the religion of B. since the government there is secular and it has no reason to keep records of its citizens’ religion. So, in order to satisfy the requirement, B. went and converted to Islam, to get that ball rolling. After finishing all the paperwork, they went back to the DOJ to finally get their marriage contract, a journey which I accompanied them on.

After submitting all the papers, and verifying that everything in order, the government employee started to go ahead with the paperwork, when he noticed B’s baby bump, which started this exchange:

“You are pregnant?”

“Yes.”

” Are you married?”

“No”

“Were you previously married?”

“Ehh..No!”

“Ehh…then how could you be pregnant?”

“I am not sure..It’s a mystery!”

It took the government official a few minutes to get that she is kidding and that he isn’t witnessing an immaculate conception, before informing her and A that he can’t go through with the paperwork unless they were originally married. After pointing out that this is insane, since they are there to get married, he informed them that they need to create a urfi “custom” marriage that is dated before the pregnany so that he could go through with giving them an official marriage certificate. Ignoring the fact that the government employee is asking them to forge a piece of paper, they asked him how could they get Urfi married right now, to which he informed them to go to the bookstore in front of the ministry, where they sell the Urfi Marriage forms. So, we went to the bookstore, bought the form, filled it, and then submitted it. Satisfied that now the couple in front of him are officially not having babies out of wedlock, and thus not sinful infidels that should not grace his presence, the government official started asking B. about the conditions she wants in her marriage contract.

B simply wanted to state in the contract that she has the right to travel with the children when she pleases, which the official informed her is illegal, since the marriage contract conditions can not cover future conditions, and since there are no children yet, and she could miscarry, this condition could not be inserted. When she asked what she can have as conditions in the contract, he informed her that she has the right to 1)Divorce him if she wishes , 2) to work without his permission, 3) travel without his consent and 4) keep separate finances. He then assured her that Islam protects her right as a mother and that she will have equal control over her children by the law and religion, and when she asked him why he can’t add that to the contracts, he informed her because it would be illegal to do so. You figure it out.

After 3 and a half hours, and a ton of signitures and photocopies and paperwork, we were finally in the stage of printing the marriage contract and signing it. The female government official handeling that aspect noted the exhaustaion that all of us were in, and then asked me what was the problem. When I informed her that the process simply took longer than originally anticipated, she told me “By the way, this is very quickly. Did you know that had they come in two months ago, they wouldn’t be able to get the marriage certificate before a week of submitting their papers?” Astonished, I asked her what happened to change this. Was there a new law that we were not aware of? Or is the new minister maybe pushing for more efficiency? She snorted at the notion, and told me : “No. we are the ones that were bothered by it, and staged a meeting with upper management to change the delay, since it made no sense to delay people who wanted to get married.” “And they agreed?”, I asked, and she replied with a smile, as she is giving us the marriage contract, “Of course. They had no choice when they realized we were all united here on this. Didn’t we have a revolution to make everything better? ”

Ahh, man. Faith truly gets rewarded in the strangest of places….

 

Hope

 

Legend has it that when Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus took vengeance by creating the first woman, Pandora, and presenting her to Epimetheus, Prometheus’ brother. With her, Pandora had a jar which she was not to open under any circumstance. Impelled by her natural curiosity, Pandora opened the jar, and all evil contained- every kind of disease and sickness, hate and envy- escaped and spread over the earth. She hastened to close the lid, but the whole contents of the jar had escaped, except for one thing which lay at the bottom, and that was Hope. When she opened the Jar again, Hope sprang free, and flew out into the world, a world that now held Envy, Crime, Hate, and Disease – and Hope.

We are comforted by the seemingly happy ending of this legend, but the truth is, it’s a false and misleading ending to the story. You see, hope is not what we think it to be. Hope was locked in Pandora’s jar for a reason. Hope was not a force of good, but rather the worst evil of them all; a demon so vile, it was hidden and buried deep in the bottom of the jar. Hope was a demon that fed on human suffering, and aimed to prolong man’s torment as much as possible. It clutches itself to humans in their darkest hour, and whispers in their ears to wait, to be patient, that the misery and suffering in the world must end, and that all will be magically well some day. And the humans believed the demon and grew to feel comforted by its whispers, so when misery and decay takes over their lives, they remain calm, still and hopeful, and end up suffering longer then they would, had they just confronted the evil that’s in the world. They lied to themselves and let it into their hearts, even though what they needed to do to fix the world didn’t require it one bit.

You see, upon further reading, we discover that Hope, the demon succubus of our souls, alongside with every other evil that was in that jar, can only be truly vanquished by Tabbris, the Angel of self-determination, choice and free will. The truth that nobody told you was this: You don’t need hope. You never did. Even at your darkest hour, it wasn’t necessary. What you truly needed to overcome it was determination; to make the choice to face the evil and the suffering head-on, without blinking or hesitation, or hope. We urge you to remember the evidence of this throughout the history of humanity; that those who fought the great wars of old, those who faced the might and machines of evil men, they did it without hope, and they confronted it directly and fiercely regardless, which is why they won.

So, if what’s going around in your life, your country, or in the world, is terrifying you, and the situation seems so gloomy and ominous, to the point where you admittedly claim to have lost all hope, well, be glad, for getting rid of it is half the battle. Once you are at that point, all that is left for you to do is to make a choice. You can either decide to vanquish the rest of the evil, the source of your suffering, if you wish to live, or you can choose to run away, forever a quarry to suffering and misery, and a possible prey to Hope once again. If you make the second choice, you will live the rest of your life a victim, without having any power over it, which, when you think about it, isn’t a way to live, at all.

 

So please remember, when the world is at its darkest, when your friends fail you, when your allies betray you by their malice, cowardice or surrender, when your best-laid plans fall into disarray and all seems lost, please, abandon all hope, for it only buys evil time…

 

..and make the choice, to live or not, once and for all.

 

 

The view from here

    

Dear World,

I have a confession to make: while the whole world was transfixed on us, yet again, due to that whole attack the embassy business, I was going through a tumultuous emotional journey, alternating between bewilderment, horror and shock-based laughter, ending with the most unexpected of feelings: Pride. I must say that currently I am filled with a sense of ironic pride with my country and my revolution, for the status both have achieved over the past 19 months. The attention and importance given to Egypt, well, it has been nothing short of overwhelming. We sure have wow-ed you.

Sure, the scenes on your screens might be so disturbing , that some of you openly wonderd if we are going through a second revolution or something, but let me assure you with both facts and personal experience: There is no second revolution, there are no open riots on the streets, the action was totally confined to a 250 meter radius around the embassy, with people going to eat, drink, smoke hookah right nearby it. This whole video thing didn’t affect us at all, with the majority of the 2500 stationed around the embassy in the following clashes were the Zamalek Ultras (Super Football fans) who were there simply to clash with the police the following days. Really. Nope, in reality, we are doing just fine.

Sure, there are scary indications of things to come, like the attack on the MFO camp where the AlQaeda flag was hoisted, the same flag that became a Tshirt being sold in Tahrir; or the arrest of Alber Saber, a guy whose crime was sharing the trailer of “innocence of Muslims” on his facebook page while being a copt and an atheist as well, and whose house was attacked by a mob as this glorious movie shows, but such things are trivialities compared to our other Problems.

I mean, sure, it’s brilliant that we have AlQaeda now openly operating in Egypt, or that a revolution that was organized by a facebook page presenting ideas that the previous regime thought offensive and dangerous for national unity would end up with a government that actually arrests a guy for sharing content on facebook that it considerd offensive and dangerous for national unity, but really, such things are besides the point. What is the point you may ask? Well, the fulfillment of the Pakistan model of government in Egypt, of course. How we are slowly becoming a dangerous broken rogue state, just like them. We are implementing the Pakistan model here, you see, and the results have been fantastic. Just yesterday we had a salafi member of the constuient assembly (the people who are writing the constitution) talking about efforts to remove or change the amendment of human trafficking to allow the bringing down of the legal Marriage age for girls to the moment they reach puberty and have their first period, even if she was as young as 9 years old. Yes, we might end up having a constitution that grants us Child marriages. And you thought you had a culture war.

But this all sounds horrifying ,you say? Where would such pride that I spoke of come from, you ask? Well…

For me, and others, the most fascinating aspect of all of this has to be our effect on the American elections, and how suddenly we became an important campaign issue in the snoozefest that is the Obama vs. Romney elections, primarily against Obama. How Obama, he of the message of peace and understanding with the Muslim world, must now contend with islamist rage fueled by those whom he – and a million thinker, analyst and pundit- referred to as a moderate Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood. The same moderate Islamic group whose people met with his people over 14 times this past year and a half, who convinced them that they should support them because Salafis and Liberals are unpredictable and undesirable, and because they will bring peace to the region. The same moderate Islamic Group who actually called for and facilitated the protests at the US embassy on the anniversary of 9/11, all the while pretending to have nothing with it to the English-speaking world. The same moderate Islamic Group that now controls all aspects of Egyptian government, and the source of his current dilemma. How in 4 years Obama’s name went from the praised American President who wasn’t Bush, to the target of hostile chants by religious extreemists that utilize the “Obama/Osama” rhyme scheme, the one pioneered by anti-Obama American religious extremists, in anti-US demonstrations. If this ends up becoming a hot campaign issue, and Obama loses, pundit and historians will say that the Obama presidency started with Egypt and ended because of Egypt. As an egyptian political geek always enamored with international Political Theatre, well, how can I not be proud of that? How awesome is that?

The cherry on the cake in this whole Obama/Embassy affair has to be the role that the MB had in this attack, and how it provides fantastic fodder for conspiracy theorists and political analysts alike. Here is what we know: A bunch of Mulsim Brotherhood and Salafi figures started making an issue of this movie, who no one heard of before, a few days before the anniversary of 9/11. A call for protests was made by both the MB and supported by the salafis at the US embassy was made on the anniversary of 9/11. That day, as a friend who works for the embassy has informed me, the employees who left at 4 pm noticed that both the Police and the Army forces protecting the embassy had both vanished, followed by the attack that you all watched on your television. The following days the MB would praise the attackers in Arabic media and condemn the attack on their English language media, prompting a testy exchange between the US embassy and the MB’s English twitter account, and for Obama to inform the world that he no longer views Egypt as an ally.

Damage control by MB operatives and apologists was exerted, asking the world to understand Muslim anger (the demonstration again never exceeded 2500 people from a city of 20 million)and blaming the affair on the Police who assured them that they had this under control. Any person with half a brain would’ve asked about why the army- who Morsy now fully controls- didn’t defend the embassy, or why Morsy didn’t fire or even reprimand a single employee of the Ministry of Interior for failing to fulfill their duty, but really, no one botherd because no one believes the MB on this. While analysts and conspiracy theorists scrambled to come up with a theory explaining why the MB did this, and how maybe the MB hopes to have Obama lose since having Romney would give them the external enemy that they can use to silence internal dissent, the rest of us marveled at the circus that took place internationally because of it, one that we know will lead to nowhere, like all such manufactured crises, just like the Danish cartoon affair, although far more entertaining: We now have a call to reinstate the emergency law, again, and a call to boycott Google, which is so absured it’s hilarious. I wonder if they will have Gmail account deletion parties and android-phone-burning events soon.

For real, how can I not be proud of all of this? On how, my little country, is affecting the world the way it is? How we inspired the world with our revolution, and then broke its heart? How, because of us, a at least half a dozen other uprisings, not to mention general social upheavals, took place all over the world, at a time when it simply can’t afford them? How the images that occupied news about Egypt changed from a cute flag-waving westernized-looking Egyptian girl, to the image of Previous Grand Marshall Tantawy in army uniform, looking like the dictator of some African banana republic, with the image of the army beating up protesters in the background, finally ending with the bearded image of our newly elected President, Mohamed Morsy, with images of islamist protests in the background, to the horror of anyone who was still watching? How we became another cautionary tale, your favorite world drama, the harbinger of bad things to come, the uprising that singlehandedly saved journalism internationally, changed governments, broke international markets and now threatens the US elections, and whose twists and turns rivals that of the Game of Thrones? How my little country, my beloved Egypt, did all of this with one peaceful revolution. Imagine.

Sure, it is safe to say that the original revolution is now over for the time being, with the secular minded revolutionaries, so abused and traumatized by the bloodbaths carried against them by both the MOI and the Army , are now solely focused on holding the army and the police accountable, instead of actually working to create the country of rights and freedoms that they originally set out to do. Sure, it is safe to say that with Islamists in power, the whole child-marriages amendment affair is nothing but a taste of the horror we are bound to see under their rule. Sure, it is safe to say that the dream of a modern functional Egypt is destined to remain just a dream at this point, and that this breaks my heart in ways I can’t even begin to describe. But, on the bright nihilistic side, we will continue to amaze you for the time being and you won’t be able to to be smug about how much of a broken state we have become for long, because you are joining our ranks very very soon.

You see, when we called for this revolution we were dissatisfied with the conditions of our country compared to those shiny clean advanced first world countries of yours, and many were driven with the desire to fix this country so that we-as a country- can advance and hopefully one day keep up with you. But now, looking at the ensuing economical tsunami that is bound to hit this entire world- especially first world countries- the hardest, we realize that we don’t have to worry about advancing to keep up with you anymore, because you will be brought down and regress to our level very soon. We don’t have to come to you; you will come to us. We will all be miserable equally. That horrifying Egalitarian Ideal. And we started it. US. We broke the world. Without Armies. What a remarkable achievement. How can I not be proud?

Egypt is firmly in the big leagues now, people. Get used to it!

Best Regards,

Mahmoud Salem

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