The Talented Mr. Abdel Aaziz

For the past 2 days my mailbox and the egyptian bloggers group have been abuzz with discussion regarding one man: Dr. Mohamed Mossad Abdel Aaziz. What makes him so special? Well, the man is an expert on the egyptian blogsphere it seems, to the degree that he gets invited to conferences to talk about egyptian bloggers and the state of the egyptian blogsphere. He touts his research on the blogsphere and his personal knoweldge of all egyptian bloggers as his credentials, and for that gets invited to acedmic conferences to speak, the last of which is the Reform, Resistance, and
Conflicts in the Middle East
conference that was held at the Ben Gurion University in Israel on January the 9th. He was on the "weblogging as space resistance" panel, right next to Iranian regime informant famous iranian blogger Hoder, and presented his views on the egyptian blogsphere, again touting his personal knowledge of all of us as proof to his claims, which were videotaped and reported on in the Israeli media. There is only one problem: No one in the egyptian blogsphere has ever heard of this guy and all of his statements are straight out lies.

Here is what the man said in this article (there is also a video in the link, where you get to hear his lies for yoruself, he is the dude with the weird beard), which was translated by the lovely Lisa:

Al Aziz the Egyptian is, in contrast [to Hoder] much more pessimistic -
or, as he puts it, realistic -  regarding the potential of blogs as a
political space. Al Aziz is a handsome young man with a well-groomed
small beard. He is a psychiatrist, anthropologist and writer – who next
week will bring out a book on Islam and post-modernism. He quotes
Foucault every second sentence. They say he had an excellent blog, but
he stopped writing and says he is very disappointed by the Egyptian
blogosphere.

According to his claims, there are abour 100 bloggers in Egypt
and he knows them all. They live in Cairo. They are spoiled kids from
bourgeois families who are equipped with laptops. They meet at the same
cafe – the only one in Cairo that has free WiFi, where a meal costs the
same as the monthly salary of an Egyptian worker. They live in a bubble
and that's how they are online – they write about each other and
respond to one another and nothing they write has any influence.

He said that most of them are opposition journalists who
write the same things on their blogs as they write for their
newspapers, so that what appears to be opposition to the government is
in fact part of the accepted discourse amongst the Egyptian opposition.
In the end they are part of the same elite and the same discourse. "One
blogger who is also a journalist told me he can insult the president on
his blog," recounted Al Aziz. "I told him that he can also insult the
president in the oppposition newspaper he writes for. His response was,
'Yes, but on my blog I can really curse.' So that is what they think
will bring democracy to Egypt?"

Al Aziz said he stopped writing on his blog when he understood
it would not bring change. He recommends that bloggers return to the
original idea of blogging – the personal diary. Instead of trying to be
journalists and regurgitating the same journalistic discourse, just
write about day-to-day problems. "Write about the fact that there is
not enough parking in the city, talk about your daily experiences: that
is what will bring real change."

Let's go over what he said shall we?

First of all, the man doesn't have an excellent blog, he doesn't even have a known blog. Hell, it took a gorup effort to search and find his blog, which nobody had ever heard of until yesterday. And his writing is horrible. For an example, please read this english piece that he wrote on the mid-east conflict. Should give you an idea of the kind of " thinker" he is. Anyway, on to his claims.

First of all, there aren't 100 bloggers in Egypt, there is actually about 6000 egyptian blogs at the moment, and 1100 already registerd on the egyptian blogring, which anybody who had done any reasearch on egyptian blogs would find out in less than 20 seconds. Second of all, he knows them all? He knows all of the egyptian blogsphere? That's a bold statement if I ever heard one. Even Alaa, who runs the egyptian blogs aggregator can not claim to know every single blogger in Egypt. But nevermind. Third factualy wrong statment: "all of them are from cairo and are spoiled kids from burgeouis family".  Ok, where d I start with that one? The egyptian blogsphere is nothing but pluralistic : egyptian bloggers come from every social class, every egyptian governrate and from various income levels, even the so called stars of the blogsphere.  The group that did get famous for its activism comes from Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Al Sharqiya, Al Qalubiyah, and the list goes on and on. The supreme majority come form the egyptian middle class with all of its variations. What the hell is this guy talking about? Nevermind, moving on to his next lie mis-statement, the one about the wi-fi cafe.

Let's ignore for a second his redicilous claim that there is only one wifi cafe in all of Cairo, given that every freakin food or shisa place in Cairo now offers free wifi (shit, even mcdonalds and a couple of really low class baladi egyptian cafes offer that now) and move on to the idea of how the 100 bloggers that make up the egyptian blogsphere meet up there once a month. Now, to my knowledge, egyptian bloggers have never done any monthly meet-up meetings, let alone a consistant one in a specific cafe, but let's also ignore that and think about one thing: What kind of a wifi cafe could take a meeting of 100 people once a month? 100 people. Can you imagine? How the reporter didn't even question him on that statement is beyond me. Anyway…

Needless to say his point about how the majority of bloggers are opposition journalists is an utter lie as well. Not a single known blogger writes currently for an opposition newspaper, nor is our focus the ability to insult the president. Plus, what would rich spoiled burgeois kids do working in opposition newspapers anyway?  But also nevermind that. Let's move to his genius idea to use blogs to facilitate change in Egypt: stop trying to be journalists and instead turn your blog into a diary. Oh, Ok. Nevermind that if it wasn't for blogs the people wouldn't know in details the secterian clashes that took place in Alexandria, nor would they have found out about the Eid sexual assaults, or would the world know about the egyptian police's abuses and torture of regular egyptian citizens. Nevermind all that. Let's talk about Gas prices and not finding parking spaces, that will really solve Egypt's porblems.

I  have no idea where the Ben Gerion University people have found this guy, but they did, and they presented him as an expert of egyptian blogs and the blogsphere, which means one of two things: 1) They deliberately mislead their audience and presnted this guy as an expert when they knew he wasn't, which is very bad academic ethics or 2) They didn't do their research on the man, and paid for his visit and promoted him as some form of expert without doing any background checks, which is equally as bad. And the thing is, the man they brought in did nothing but tarnish the reputation of egyptian bloggers, whom he proved he knew nothing about, which either makes them accomplices who wanted to deliberately tarnish our reputation or Fools who got conned by someone and gave him a podium to spread his lies and promote himself. Either way it looks really bad.

Anyway, as I said before, every egyptian blogger I know is angry about this slander, and we have agreed to draft a letter to the people who organized the conference demanding an apology and sign it. I think we deserve one and we will get it! 

Conversation:Honeymoon

* Me and cousin Y. discussing her honeymoon plans*

SM: So, where are you spending your honeymoon?

Y.: Asia. We are spending it in Asia.

SM:Where in Asia? Phucket?

Y.: Yes. We are going to Phucket. We are also thinking about going to Thailand as well.

SM: (silent for a second): Ehh, excuse me? What?

Y.: What? I can go to two countries on my honeymoon.

SM: Oh, but aren't you afraid that it might be too exhausting to visit Phucket and then go all the way to Thailand? 

Y.: Ehh, I will have O. handle the all the flight arrangments. We are flying first class anyway.

SM: Ok, fun time is over. Listen to me sweetie before you mention what you just told me to O. and make him realize what a stupid clueless airhead you are: Phucket is in Thailand.

Y.: No, it's not.

SM: Oh, Yes, it is!

Y.: No, the capital of Thailand is Bangok. Phucket is a totally seperate place.

SM: Jesus effin Christ. Ok, try to follow me here: Egypt..Thailand, Cairo…Bangok, Sharm Al Sheikh….Phucket!

Y.: Ahhhhhh.

SM: Finally sunk in? Get it now.

Y.: Yep yep.

SM (mumbeling to myself): Thank god we found someone to marry you, you are a walking scandal.

Y.: What?

SM: Nothing… 

Something fishy here

You know, this was supposed to be a post making fun of the Burqini ( A Burqa-Bikini, don't ask) until I read this:

Mecca Laalaa is the lone exception. Instead of a barely there bikini,
she's in a burqini – a top-to-toe two-piece lycra suit complete with
hijab, or Islamic head covering.

[...]

Ms. Laalaa is one of 24 young people of Arab descent who signed up for a 10-week surf lifesaving-training course.

Mecca Laalaa? Mecca..Laalaa? What?

Ok, maybe I am just rusty, but dear arab readers, does that sound like an arab name to you? Cause it seems made up to me. I have never met a girl called Mecca or seen the last name Laalaa anywhere. It almost sounds like a parody of what an arab name should sound like. 

Our fun arab world

I have been following the reactions of the arab population in regards to Saddam's death and those items sprang out to me as share-worthy:

Libya has declared 3 days of mourning over the death of Saddam and Qhaddafi is planning to build a statue of him in the capital.

Saddam's lawyer declared that in the final houres with Saddam, Saddam asked him about the Editors in Chief who were on his payroll. The Lawyer responded that all of them have falterd on his support, except for Mostafa Bakry, the editor of el Osboa, and the editor of Al Quds newspaper. Saddam replied: "well as long as those 2 are still standing their ground, then I have no fear for the future of the arab nations".

The Egyptian Journalists syndicate did a commoneration for Saddam yesterday, where he was decalred "in rank with the greatest leaders and the
national symbols of the Arab nation; those who live eternally in the
minds and hearts of the Arab people like Saladdin, Omar Al-Mukhtar and Saad Zaghloul. He is one of those who sacrificed for the good of the nation and it's liberty." Yes, cause when I think Saddam, I think Saladdin and Saad Zaghloul. Are those people high?

And finally, last but not least, Shaabola , at the meeting of national forces that oppose Saddam's execution, has declared that he believes that the US and Zionist entity will try to assassinate him for his fiery position against them. He then asked everyone there to take care of his children if that ever happened. Cause, you know how dangerous Shaabola is to the jewish zionist conpiracy!

Have a nice day!

The Eid sexual harassment incident

I didn’t want to write about this.

Hell, I didn’t even want to know about it.

I remember the first time I heard of it while I was in Amman. Eblis sent me an e-mail titled “Behold the revolution in Egypt” with a link to malek’s post on it and I stupidly clicked on it and was presented with a reality that I didn’t want or desire to confront.

The story is as follows for the those of you who didn’t hear about it: It was the first day of Eid, and a new film was opening downtown. Mobs of males gatherd trying to get in, but when the show was sold out, they decided they will destroy the box office. After accomplishing that, they went on what can only be described as a sexual frenxy: They ran around grabbing any and every girl in sight, whether a niqabi, a Hijabi or uncoverd. Whether egyptian or foreigner. Even pregnant ones. They grabbed them, molested them, tried to rip their cloths off and rape them, all in front of the police, who didn’t do shit. The good people of downtown tried their best to protect the girls. Shop owners would let the girls in and lock the doors, while the mobs tried to break in. Taxi drivers put the girls in the cars while the mobs were trying to break the glass and grab the girls out. It was a disgusting pandamonium of sexual assaults that lasted for 5 houres from 7:30 PM to 12:30 am, and it truns my stomach just to think about it.

I called my father when I heard of that happening, and he informed me that he didn’t hear of it at all. They watched Al Jazeerah, CNN, flipped through opposition newspapers, and nothing. Nada. Nobody mentioned it. As if it didn’t happen.

But it did.

The bloggers available downtown documented the whole thing, and provided pictures of it as well. Reading their accounts I can’t help by feel my heart being torn on what the people of the country has turned to. The one that broke my heart the most was Sharqawi’s account (remember, he is the guy who got sexually assaulted by the police during interrogation ) and how it suddenly danwed at him that what happend to him wasn;t an isolated incident. That The Police forces didn;t came from another planet, that they were born and raised egyptians, amongst the egyptian people, the same egyptian people who have produced those mobs who found it in their right to attack girls in middle of crowded downtown for 5 houres under the police’s watchdul eyes. The ones who approached the police asking them to do something were told : “what do you want us to do? It’s Eid. Happy Eid to you too!” The same response was given to women who went to the police stations to report the incidents. The police refused to do their jobs and take a report, because it would probably reflect badly on their downtown peers. Some people were surprised at the Police’s reaction, but the majoirty of us weren’t. Those are the same police officers who facilitated the assaults on women last year during the referendum. This is business as usual for them.

What was unusual was the silence of the press. Nobody was mentioning it. Nobody was bringing it up. It seemed like there was some consensus of just not reporting it and maybe it will just go away. What at first seemed like a conspiracy got later on confirmed by my sources in the news media. Al Jazeera had taped the incidents but were forbidden to air it at the request of the egyptian authorities. The editor at a leading newspaper refused to touch it with a 6 foot pole. This was going to be one of those incidents that only the blogsphere would talk about, while the mainstream media ignored.

Until Nawarah Negm blew the whole thing wide open on live television on the Dream Channel.

She was brought in as a writer to be part of a fluffy segment on Mona Al Shazly show talking about the Ramadan TV shows, and the girl’s first response to the question was: “What Television shows do you want to discuss, when egyptian girls are assaulted on the streets of Cairo while the police watched and did nothing?” When Mona counterd that she never heard of it before, Nawarah told her all about it, in details and how it’s all over the internet.

All of Egypt saw that. The cat was out of the bag. A cover-up was no longer feasiable.

When I spoke to the brilliant Nawarah yesterday, she told me that she was debating talking about it or not on television, that was until she was faced with the camera and found herself on the air, and just couldn’t hold herself back. She went for it, and god bless her for having the guts to do that.

The next day, Mona Al Shazly went and did a segment on the incident and interviewed the people on the street. The video of the segment is here (arabic, sorry). She even contacted the Ministery of Interior for a statement. You know what their response was?

“We didn’t hear of anything. This didn’t happen. Things were just crowded in downtown that day, but no girls were assaulted, because no police reports were filed in that regard!”

FUCKERS!

I am not one of those people who claims to be above hate. I do hate, and I hate quite passionately, the same way when I love I love passionately. But I have to say that I have never hated anyone or group as much as I hate the egyptian police at this moment. It’s a hate of unequaled proportions. I really wouldn’t mind them all dying horrible deaths right now. A police force that doesn’t protect its citizens, especially its women, has no business being on the streets. They become nothing more than an organized armed gang now in my opinion, even lower, because they are shaming everyone who wore theat uniform before and did his job. THEY DESERVE TO DIE!

Anyway, the TV show brought it up, and now Egypt’s leading newspaper, Al Masry Al youm, featured two columns on the incident. More is bound to come and this national shame will be exposed and confronted.

Now, the egyptian blogsphere has been abuzz in debate over the incident. Some are writing posts on why it happend, possible causes, what it means, the social and political factors that could possibly lead to this behavior, and quite honestly, I can’t be botherd. I don’t care why it happend. Rape is not up for debate. I just care that it happend. What we should discuss right now isn’t what caused it, but what kind of horrible punishment that should be enacted on any egyptian male who thinks that it is well into his right to sexually harass a female on the street. That’s it. Pure and simple.

I am often told that I am too westernized or too liberal by people I know, and they are not wrong or inaccurate. My values are for the most part western values. However, there are two middle-eastern traits in me that I can never give up: The first is my stupid insistince on always paying for the bill when I am with a girl I am dating, and the second is my protectiveness of women. I have no tolerance for those who assault women sexually in any way, and that almost got me kicked out of my school in Boston when I broke the leg of one of my roommates who raped a friend of mine. The incident only resulted in him getting a broken leg because people stoped me before I killed him. And I had the full intention of killing him. Rapists do not deserve to live. And that’s how I feel towards every single one of those pieces of shit that attacked women on the streets of cairo the other day.

People can debate solutions based on dialogue, education, or whatever and that’s their right. My solution is far simpler: Any egyptian man whose mother raised him right should beat the living crap of any man he sees on the street that assaults or harasses a female. Think of them as your sisters, and act accordingly. The Police isn’t interested in protecting the women, and that’s fine, but that means that we should take this job as our own. Those who insist on  acting like animals will be treated as such, and deserve no sympathy or mercy from us. I assure you, if we did this, if we undertook this as part of our national duty, there will no longer be a problem on our streets.

That is all!