Opinion – Daily News Egypt https://dailynewsegypt.com Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Thu, 17 Aug 2017 14:32:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Moonrise Kingdom: leaning into fantasy motif https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/08/14/moonrise-kingdom-leaning-fantasy-motif/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/08/14/moonrise-kingdom-leaning-fantasy-motif/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 18:00:57 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=633799 On the fictional island of New Penzance, Sam (played by Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hyward) are two troubled twelve-year olds who decide to run away together. Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom follows the pair and the troupe of adults in search of them, the entire ensemble cast in danger of an oncoming storm. The film …

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On the fictional island of New Penzance, Sam (played by Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hyward) are two troubled twelve-year olds who decide to run away together. Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom follows the pair and the troupe of adults in search of them, the entire ensemble cast in danger of an oncoming storm. The film is a story of young love, escape, and fantasy, brought to life by Anderson’s signature visual style and unique storytelling. It is enchanting, endearing, and poignant.

The most important feature of the film is its grounding in a thoroughly fantastical realm, thanks to Anderson’s signature visual dialect. His colour palettes are striking and carefully curated, each scene boasting only a few complimentary colours. His frames are tightly composed, allowing for only one focus point in a shot. His flat, perfectly symmetrical shots are prominently featured in almost every scene.

These combine with elements of the story, such as the use of a narrator/cartography teacher in a striking red jacket. He relays the layout of the island to the camera and foreshadows the oncoming storm, effectively setting a timer against which the characters must run. This all results in a storybook-feel that dominates the film. We could very easily be inside one of the fantasy novels Suzy lugs around and reads aloud from.

This, along with subtler techniques, achieves a kind of distance between viewer and film. As the camera pans around the Bishop household, we see the family members in their natural habitat, performing menial tasks or going about their normal hobbies. The camera transitions smoothly from one room to the next, turning sharply at a sudden sound. This makes of us, the viewer, a kind of spying interloper. We are not part of the story, but simply observers to it.

Anderson thus does what so many directors and authors shrink away from: he creates a work of art that does not run away from its artifice. Again and again, the film calls attention to its own fictiveness, never trying to present its reality as the viewer’s own. Jorge Luis Borges was of this same school, and he believed that this unreality was “one of art’s prerequisites.” Anderson’s made-up island of New Penzance is anachronistic, outside of our own sense of time. His symmetrical shots evoke an open story-book. He riddles the film with maps and trails, leaning into the fantasy motif.

Though Anderson creates this fantasy world perfectly, this would have only made half a movie. What makes Moonrise Kingdom so interesting is Anderson’s creation of a kind of dissonance that forces the viewer in, but keeps them at arm’s length. He does not simply show us a fantasy, but makes us care about it.

He does this by simply embracing the innocent earnestness of childhood as the perspective of the film. The love story between Sam and Suzy is not treated condescendingly, but fleshed out and given its dues as the crux of the film. The pair are both troubled children on the verge of adolescence, who run away from homes that are confusing, frustrating, and alienating. The connection between them and the salvation both find are endowed with emotional depth that the viewer cannot help rooting for.

Anderson follows this struggle between childhood and adulthood, all the while achieving a dissonance in the viewer. Close-up shots of Suzy show her turmoil, but the striking teal eyeshadow she sports (lasting through hikes, swims, and rain) remind the viewer of her otherworldly nature. A married couple speak of the pain they have caused each other, but they do so in a frame so symmetrically flat it seems painted. Anderson keeps the viewer in this tension, gripping us into a story that is still unreal and heavily stylized.

Overall, the film is a wonderful leap away from our own reality, into a world that is similar, but not quite our own. Anderson’s film consists of perfectly crafted set-pieces that fit together and set the stage for a whimsical, poignant, curated fantasy for us to experience. We enter into beautiful woods and beaches, look out from a white-and-red-storybook lighthouse, and relive all the hopes, anxieties, and charms of young love.

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Investigating Paradise: Women are stigmatized to be cursed whenever https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/08/07/investigating-paradise-women-stigmatized-cursed-whenever/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/08/07/investigating-paradise-women-stigmatized-cursed-whenever/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 12:00:50 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=633234 Film is directed by Merzak Allouache

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One of the main issues in the east is centring all attention on women. In a time where people have surpassed their physical needs, heaven remains for the eastern people a collection of food and women.

In Merzak Allouache’s 2017 docunarrative Investigating Heaven, we follow the story of Nejma, a journalist who is doing an investigative report on the concept of heaven in the Algerian society. She asks her subjects what paradise will be when the pious dead men are promised a 72 sex-driven virgins by the divine.

The film is indeed a brave tackling of an ever existing issue in the world, especially eastern societies, which is obsession with heaven and the concept of reward and punishment. Although these concepts are global, they prevalent in the Arab world.

Allouache’s documentary explores this by surveying the different narratives coming from different generations, social classes about the concept of heaven.

The female protagonist Nedjma (Salima Abada) investigates these opinions after seeing the videos that propagates jihadist thoughts in the mind of Arab youth, by seducing them with having sex with the 72 virgins.

This technique, a primitive one, makes uncultured youth an easy prey in the hands of those clerics who spread the virus of Whabism that is sponsored by Saudi Arabia.

In an interview with the main character in the film, Nedjma (Salima Abada), during the Luxor African Film Festival (LAFF) she said that the Algerian cinema and cultural sphere in general received a lethal blow after the civil war in the 1990s.

During this period, she adds, Algerians have lived while being deprived of the cinematic culture, which made a gap between the Algerian scene and others in the Arab countries.

What young Arab filmmakers are doing, is trying to keep up with the international cinema.

No doubt that after the influx of Arab refugees to Europe, Arab affairs are becoming a topic of interest for the European audience. The eagerness to understand how the newcomers in Europe think, gained the film much attention in this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.

In Egypt, the film was screened in The Luxor African Film Festival (LAFF) as well as the Cairo Cinema Days.

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Gazans are the victims of their own and Israel’s leadership https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/08/06/gazans-victims-israels-leadership-2/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/08/06/gazans-victims-israels-leadership-2/#respond Sun, 06 Aug 2017 11:00:14 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=633149 The curtailing of electricity to Gaza conducted by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah in connivance with Israeli authorities seriously hurts the people of that region. They have become the victims of the political fighting between the PA, ruled by Fatah, and the Palestinian leadership in Gaza, ruled by Hamas. The PA pays Israel for …

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The curtailing of electricity to Gaza conducted by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah in connivance with Israeli authorities seriously hurts the people of that region. They have become the victims of the political fighting between the PA, ruled by Fatah, and the Palestinian leadership in Gaza, ruled by Hamas. The PA pays Israel for the provision of electricity to Gaza. However, it has decided to reduce the electricity supply to Gaza from three hours a day to only two hours, thus worsening an already serious situation.

Gazans’ health has been particularly affected. “The health sector is able to provide only the absolute minimum standard of care—hospitals are being forced to cancel some operations, are cutting back on maintenance, and are dependent on the UN for emergency fuel to run their generators,” stated Michael Lynk, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied territories. With his characteristic nonchalance, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defence minister, declared, “We are not a side in this issue. They pay, they get electricity. They don’t pay, they don’t get electricity.”

He doesn’t seem to realise the tremendous cost Israel’s Gaza siege is imposing on Gaza’s inhabitants.

Haaretz has reported that to punish the Hamas government in Gaza, the PA has also threatened to stop providing medicine and baby formula to hospitals there. This move would have terrible consequences on residents of the strip, particularly on the chronically ill and children, warned Dr. Munir al-Bursh, director of the pharmacy department in Gaza’s Health Ministry.

These actions were approved by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as reprisal for Hamas’ establishment of its own administrative unit to run Gaza. This decision was preceded by a 30% reduction of salaries paid by the PA to its employees in Gaza. Abbas admitted that he would continue taking such strong measures against Hamas in order to pressure the group and force it to decide whether it will govern fully by itself or cooperate with the PA and end the split between them.

Robert Piper, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, warned in June about the tragic consequences on the health and living situation of two million Palestinians if there is further reduction in electricity to Gaza. He asked the PA, Hamas, and the Israeli government to put the welfare of Gaza’s residents first and to take the necessary measures to avoid further suffering. “The people in Gaza should not be held hostage to this longstanding internal Palestinian dispute,” said Piper.

Uri Avnery, a former Israeli soldier and former member of the Knesset, recently wrote, “the uninvolved bystander wonders: how can that be? After all, the entire Palestinian people are in existential danger. The Israeli government tyrannises all Palestinians, both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. It keeps the strip under a strangling blockade, on land, in the sea, and in the air, and is setting up settlements all over the West Bank, to drive the population out.”

Because Israel continues to have effective control of life in Gaza, it is also responsible for the welfare of its residents, as per the laws of occupation specified in the Hague and Geneva Conventions. In addition, international humanitarian law and human rights conventions require Israel to protect civilians, safeguard wounded and sick persons, and enable the shipment of necessary medicines. Instead, according to Dr. Munir al-Bursh, 90% of cancer patients in Gaza have no drugs today.

Siham is a 53-year-old woman from Gaza and a mother of 10 children. She was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 2013, in what was the start of a painful and expensive journey. She exemplifies the difficulties Gazans are going through. “To be a cancer patient from Gaza is to be at the mercy of the occupation. It is like being sentenced to a slow death by the permit regime, the harsh living condition, the poverty, and the blockade. We want to live the little time left for us in dignity.”

César Chelala is an international public health consultant and the foreign correspondent for The Middle East Times International (Australia). He is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

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Wonder Woman Challenges Evil’s Archetype https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/17/wonder-woman-challenges-evils-archetype/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/17/wonder-woman-challenges-evils-archetype/#comments Mon, 17 Jul 2017 11:00:50 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=631634 Because, as much as we might wish we did, we don’t have a Wonder Woman of our own flying into the sky

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“Wonder Woman” starts, as most stories do, with a hero on a mission, an evil that must be conquered, and, if executed right, a viewer already enamored.

On that last front, “Wonder Woman” definitively succeeds. The movie opens with Diana Prince’s upbringing on Themyscira Island, a Pandora-meets-Mykonos wonderland inhabited by the all-female, all-powerful Amazons. The island was created and cloaked from the rest of the world by Zeus, and the Amazons are training on it to defeat Ares, the god of war, who wants to see humanity perish. Diana was molded out of clay to spearhead this battle. She is strong and effeminate, noble and naïve, a compilation of juxtapositions put together charmingly by Gal Gadot. The movie is set during World War I, and, with the help of Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Diana sets out to end the war to end all wars by killing Ares.

In this world, like in most superhero worlds, evil starts out obvious—ugly, heinous, cloaked in black, and armed with a dagger. There are no illusions about who the villain is; no illusions about what their demise will denote. In the end, though, the overarching message is that evil is ubiquitous. Diana originally has unyielding faith that humans are pure and unblemished, and that Ares is to blame for the bloodshed. It isn’t until she defeats the villain, her version of the war’s puppet master, that she realizes that not everything is comic book black and white. The fall of Ares didn’t mean the rise of mankind. That responsibility is equally on the shoulders of all humans.

In the current political climate, this is an important lesson to note. At the end of the day, directing all our disdain and grievances at one person isn’t the solution. Blaming them, berating them, standing with posters demanding their resignations letters—all this creates is a cycle of shoving the weight of the world onto one person, something simply implausible, even if that person is a president. We saw this ourselves in 2011, when we believed that knocking down one man (nefarious and corrupted as he was) would change everything. It didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. When someone in power is handing down injustice and inequality (oh, I don’t know, Donald Trump?), victims of their vendettas are entitled to their emotions, and they should absolutely use that fire to spur on change. However, at the end of the day, taking to a street or a screen to beg for impeachment is not what’s going to fix everything. If Trump resigns, Pence takes over. When Mubarak got the boot, Morsi stepped in. It’s a valuable lesson to heed: sometimes, even when change is as big and burgeoning as bringing down the god of war, nothing actually changes. At least, not the way we expect it to.

More often than not, a person running a country is using a framework built in by others before him or by people besides him. More often than not, power dilutes judgment, and the core of a person is mixed between both good and evil, meaning we can’t always look to them for our misfortunes, unemployment, and foreclosures.

“Maybe there’s not one bad guy to blame; maybe we’re all to blame,” Steve tells a disillusioned Diana at the end of “Wonder Woman”. If that’s true, then it is the responsibility of every single one of us to choose to be heroes, every single day. It’s not an idealistic notion. It’s not a romanticism of reality. It is a duty.

Because, as much as we might wish we did, we don’t have a Wonder Woman of our own flying into the sky. Batman went to bed, Ironman found out he was made of plastic, and Spiderman exists only in a costume store. In the real world, there are no superpowers. When the studio lights go off and the CGI effects are stripped, and the villains rise from their death beds and wipe off their fake blood, we are only left with two things: a beautiful solution, and the acting and animation that went into making it.

It is up to us then to embody the qualities our favorite heroes possess and direct them at the whole world, or at least, our whole world. When Wonder Woman walks into No Man’s Land and hears the pleas of grieving families, she doesn’t pause to assess how her actions will impact her. She doesn’t look up at the sky and yell at Ares for causing such distress. She runs into the heart of the turmoil and doesn’t look back. And yes, maybe we’re not all capable of deflecting bullets with our forearms or doing 360-degree kicks into the night sky, but we can all be courageous, compassionate, and strong—something every hero, real or make believe, is known to be.

The moment we realize that the solution already exists within us, not outside us, and that there is more than just one person to hold accountable, is the moment that real change can happen.

Asmae Fahmy is a graduate of the University of Miami who studied journalism and psychology. She is currently interning for M. Shanken Communications in New York. 

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Wonder Woman: between empowerment and imperialism https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/17/wonder-woman-empowerment-imperialism/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/17/wonder-woman-empowerment-imperialism/#comments Mon, 17 Jul 2017 10:00:49 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=631628 What does it mean for a young woman in Egypt or the Arab World who—as this reviewer does—wants to respond to the message of empowerment this film provides, but cannot separate it from the violence in which it was created?

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Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, follows the origins of one of DC Comics’ most popular superheroes from her life among the Amazonians in the sheltered island of Themyscira to the frontlines of World War I. The film is beautifully shot, with remarkable colours, solid acting, and impeccable choreography. It cannot, however, escape its political dimensions.

Diana (played by Gal Gadot) is raised on the island, knowing that the duty of the Amazonians is to protect humanity from the corruption of Ares, Greek god of war. From its first moments, the film uses colour schemes to set up a dichotomy between the idyllic landscape of the dome-enclosed island—endless green and Mediterranean blues evoking peace—and the world outside: grey, chaotic, violent.

The duty to protect humanity against the violence of war is the driving force behind the film. Diana leaves the island because she cannot fathom that the death and destruction left behind by World War I could be anything other than the work of Ares. She vehemently defends humanity’s goodness, repeatedly affirming that she need only kill Ares for mankind to return to its peaceful ways.

Diana is a profoundly humane character. She cannot pass a hungry, wounded, or weak human without insisting that she and Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine) stop and help. When she passes No Man’s Land among a hailstorm of German bullets, she destroys the machine guns and attacks the weapons, not the soldiers.

As a liberated village applauds and thanks her, Diana keeps her eyes wide, a smile playing at her lips. Although she just catapulted herself into a church tower to take down a sniper, she is not depicted as a posing superhero and does not take much space in the frame. She is letting her surroundings control her for the moment. She is emotional, easy to relate to, and human.

More than just femininity, the film opens up a new vulnerability and emotionality previously untapped in superhero movies. The likes of the Avengers, Superman, and Batman remain dependent on strong-jawed brooding, lacking the dexterity with which Wonder Woman expresses emotional anguish. Diana is pained at humanity’s horrors, and Gadot’s performance achieves this vulnerability in a way that complements the character’s strength.

This “feminine” performance thus never falls into the trap Black Widow’s makers did while portraying Natasha Romanova’s forced “tragic” backstory in Avengers: Age of Ultron. While Natasha’s takes on the traits of violent masculinity, keeping the emotional deminsion shallow and largely unbelievable, Diana is a far more real character. However, it is also in this vulnerability that the viewer is forced to face the politics of the film, namely Gadot herself.

“Soldiers and civilians … women and children slaughtered … their homes and villages looted,” Trevor says, conveying the horrors of World War I to a tearful Diana, who is played by an ex-Israeli soldier who has repeatedly defended the actions of the IDF and the apartheid state it upholds. It is viscerally difficult to watch Gadot’s admittedly brilliant acting as she listens to words that could as accurately describe her tour of duty in the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon.

To a viewer with an even cursory awareness of Israel’s atrocities, Gadot’s position is ludicrous: how could an ex-soldier who tweets supporting the attacks on Gaza and is unapologetic about her past embody a character who only ever advocates for truth, justice, and humanity? Above all, the Diana portrayed in Wonder Woman is a woman of peace. For instance, a civilian with a baby on her arm and a scarf around her head cries out to Diana for help. Visibly upset, Diana comforts the woman and takes it upon herself to stand against the soldiers who have destroyed the woman’s village. She charges into the battlefield, a beam of light and hope among a storm of bullets.

The movie—as all superhero epics do—requires a high degree of suspension of disbelief. The setting, story, and characters are all fantastical. But this break from reality can never occur completely. The viewer is never allowed to forget the political context in which the film exists, either because of a small moment (like when Gadot perfectly pronounces the Arabic name “Sami”, raising goosebumps on this reviewer’s arms) or because the film is in itself irrevocably political.

Art is never produced in a vacuum. Wonder Woman is an explicitly feminist film created for a feminist world. It panders to its audience of empowered women, through quips like “when it comes to pleasure, men are unnecessary”; modern commentary on restrictive Victorian English dress; and the fulfilment of the fantasy of every woman ever told a variation of “stay back”. Steve begins by trying to protect Diana, pushing her back. Every time he does so, she asserts her power and ignores him, fiercely charging through. This is repeated enough times that the dynamic and its subversion become a cliché.

The film is designed and marketed as a “feminist” victory. And this reviewer must admit that it is undoubtedly wonderful to have a superhero story led by a strong, steadfast, emotionally accessible woman that young girls can look up to. We have a multi-layered woman who can kick butt and be kind. But once again we are faced with the question: why do these women only come in white?

The film illustrates so-called “white” or liberal feminism. This is the same feminism that heralded Hilary Clinton and Madeline Albright before her as powerful women, ignoring their contributions to American state violence around the world. It is why both women could claim to speak of “a global sisterhood,” greeting female refugees from the same communities they bombed. It is the impossible position Arab women are placed in, between the patriarchal societies that oppress them and the neo-colonial societies co-opting messages of empowerment: what Gayatri Spivak called “white men saving brown women from white men.” It is the same position black women in the 1960s America were in, between a male-dominated civil rights movement and a white feminist project, with no room for them in either. It is the Israeli state condemning the lack of women’s rights in occupied Palestine and neglecting its role in the matter. It is the fixation on shallow mottos of empowerment or sexual liberation without paying attention to the endemic, violent structures and contexts women exist within.

What does it mean for a young woman in Egypt or the Arab World who—as this reviewer does—wants to respond to the message of empowerment this film provides, but cannot separate it from the violence in which it was created? I want to revel in Diana’s rebellion against Trevor’s protection, a vicarious liberation from every time I was told to “stay in the car” or “go inside”. But I cannot divorce Gadot’s impeccably choreographed fight scenes from the training her body underwent in the Israeli army. I cannot consider her victory in a small WWI-era German town apart from the endless “triumphs” her fellow countrymen celebrate on Palestinian graves. Once again, we find ourselves between women empowerment that does not make room for us and glorified imperialism masking itself as our liberation.

 Bahira Amin is an aspiring writer, poet, and editor, with a passion for all forms of artistic expression (including film, books, and visual art). She is currently a student, double majoring in Literature and Political Science.

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Gazans are the victims of their own and Israel’s leadership https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/16/gazans-victims-israels-leadership/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/16/gazans-victims-israels-leadership/#respond Sun, 16 Jul 2017 11:00:20 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=631527 The curtailing of electricity to Gaza conducted by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in connivance with Israeli authorities seriously hurts the people of that region. They have become the victims of the political fighting between the Palestinian Authority (PA) ruled by Fatah, and the Palestinian leadership in Gaza ruled by Hamas. The PA pays Israel …

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The curtailing of electricity to Gaza conducted by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in connivance with Israeli authorities seriously hurts the people of that region. They have become the victims of the political fighting between the Palestinian Authority (PA) ruled by Fatah, and the Palestinian leadership in Gaza ruled by Hamas. The PA pays Israel for the provision of electricity to Gaza. However, the PA has decided to reduce the electricity supply to Gaza from three hours a day to only two hours, thus worsening an already serious situation.

Gazans’ health has been particularly affected. “The health sector is able to provide only the absolute minimum standard of care; hospitals are being forced to cancel some operations, are cutting back on maintenance, and are dependent on the UN for emergency fuel to run their generators,” stated Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied territories. With his characteristic nonchalance, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defence minister, declared, “We are not a side in this issue. They pay, they get electricity. They don’t pay, they don’t get electricity.” He doesn’t seem to realize the tremendous cost Israel’s Gaza siege is imposing on Gaza’s inhabitants.

Haaretz has reported that to punish the Hamas government in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority has also threatened to stop providing medicines and baby formula to hospitals in Gaza. This move would have terrible consequences for residents of the Strip, particularly the chronically ill and children, warned Dr. Munir al-Bursh, director of the pharmacy department in Gaza’s Health Ministry.

These actions were approved by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as reprisal for Hamas’ establishment of its own administrative unit to run Gaza. This decision was preceded by a 30 percent reduction of salaries paid by the PA to its employees in Gaza. Abbas admitted that he would continue taking such strong measures against Hamas in order to pressure the group and force it to decide if it will govern fully by itself or cooperate with the PA and end the split between them.

Robert Piper, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, warned in June about the tragic consequences on the health and living situation of two million Palestinians if there is a further reduction in electricity to Gaza. He asked the PA, Hamas, and the Israeli government to put the welfare of Gaza’s residents first and to take the necessary measures to avoid further suffering. “The people in Gaza should not be held hostage to this longstanding internal Palestinian dispute,” said Piper.

Uri Avnery, a former Israeli soldier and former member of the Knesset, recently wrote, “The uninvolved bystander wonders: how can that be? After all, the entire Palestinian people are in existential danger. The Israeli government tyrannizes all Palestinians, both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. It keeps the Strip under a strangling blockade, on land, in the sea, and in the air, and is setting up settlements all over the West Bank to drive the population out.”

Because Israel continues to have effective control of life in Gaza, it is also responsible for the welfare of its residents, as per to the laws of occupation specified in the Hague and Geneva Conventions. In addition, international humanitarian law and human rights conventions require Israel to protect civilians, safeguard wounded and sick persons, and enable the shipment of necessary medicines. Instead, according to Dr. Munir al-Bursh, ninety percent of cancer patients have no drugs today in Gaza.

Siham is a 53-year-old woman from Gaza and a mother of 10 children. She was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 2013, in what was the start of a painful and expensive journey. She exemplifies the difficulties Gazans are going through. “To be a cancer patient from Gaza is to be at the mercy of the occupation. It is being sentenced to a slow death by the permit regime, the harsh living conditions, the poverty, and the blockade. We want to live the little time left for us in dignity.”

César Chelala is an international public health consultant and the foreign correspondent for The Middle East Times International (Australia). He is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

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On current political moment, future of the democratic forces in Egypt: Egyptian Social Democratic Party (Part 3) https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/16/current-political-moment-future-democratic-forces-egypt-egyptian-social-democratic-party-part-3/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/16/current-political-moment-future-democratic-forces-egypt-egyptian-social-democratic-party-part-3/#respond Sun, 16 Jul 2017 10:00:51 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=631532 In the previous article, we made nine observations on what we considered to be the main features of the current political scene, so that we could anticipate the changes that could occur in the coming period. Overall, these observations included a decline in the popularity of the authority and its insistence on moving along the …

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In the previous article, we made nine observations on what we considered to be the main features of the current political scene, so that we could anticipate the changes that could occur in the coming period. Overall, these observations included a decline in the popularity of the authority and its insistence on moving along the same pathways; in addition to the lack of interest in consulting with the opposition or even the rest of the ruling elites. This means that the power is concentrated in the hands of a handful of people that will rely on repression even more by time. On the other hand, the Brotherhood forces and Mubarak supporters are the most latent potential forces in light of the increasing weakness of democratic forces as a result of increased vulnerability, in light of the continued fear of a large proportion of the public that the outbreak of any popular movements could lead to chaos. Moreover, youth are also abandoning the scene and are becoming reluctant to participate in the political movement, as a direct result of the growing imprisonment and spread of frustration.

Meanwhile, based on the previously mentioned observations, we can anticipate, in the short term starting now and ending with the 2018 presidential elections– and perhaps the medium term as well, which is between the presidential election in 2018 to the pre-presidential elections of 2022, the polarization of the political community is likely to increase. The concentration of power in the hands of a few could become even more concentrated, and the number of opposition forces is likely to increase, and repression could worsen. The political arena, and even the political work space, could recede, or rather fade and dry out.

Nevertheless, on the short and medium terms, the factors of discontent that accumulate with no peaceful and safe mechanisms for change will inevitably lead to a change by “coup,” “sudden,” or “explosive change.” The main constituency of governance may succeed in avoiding this type of change through taking precautionary measures. The regime could fulfil some demands and answer to pressure and amend some aspects of governance. This will be done either with the consent of all parties or by forcing some of them to obedience, especially the parties that will be excluded.

Whether the change was made before the explosion, during or after it; there is a possibility that the Muslim brotherhood and/or the “remnants of the old regime” will return to the top of the political scene at any sharp political turning point (again: we mean any precautionary or precautionary change or sudden change during or after a popular explosion). This comeback is likely to be by building an alliance or a deal with some of the current authority figures, a small but an important possibility, is that the alliance of these symbols with what might be left of the democratic forces according to the first scenario:

The alliance of some of the current symbols of power with the Muslim Brotherhood would lead to a change in the direction of building a state that mixes between the model of the Muslim religious state—even if slightly less conservative—with the model of the 1953 state. This will be similar to the model adopted by Mubarak and later on Abdel Fattah el-Sisi—a slightly different versions of the same model. In general, it is an anti-democratic coalition, but its first days will see a kind of democratic détente imposed by the necessities of absorbing the forces of anger that are about to explode, or have already exploded.  This deflation will give the opportunity for perhaps a few years of a democratic political activity that might consolidate the democratic forces on the ground.

However, the most important obstacle to the possibility of achieving this scenario is not the hostility that resulted from the clash between the current authority and the Brotherhood only. This had happened before, yet, they shook hands and allied again. What really hinders this possibility is the failure of last time’s alliance was not a matter for the parties, but rather the large public discontent after monitoring the performance of the MB. The same people will not be easily convinced with the brotherhood again.

According to the second scenario, the alliance between some of the current symbols of power and the “Gamal Mubarak” group in the broad political-economic sense of the word means the economic construction of an economic market in accordance with the dictates of “savage capitalism”. It is noteworthy that the current regime took a long course in this direction, but on the political level, it means many more administrative reforms with the alleviation of tyranny together with the “alleviation of poverty”!!

We can say that what hinders this scenario is the lack of popularity on which the parties can build. In addition, after implementing the entire “savage capital program”, the situation will require more than the IMF protocols that aim for “alleviation of poverty”!!

Finally, according to the third scenario, the alliance between some of the current symbols of power and the rest of the democratic forces could lead to a stage of democratic transformation and social reform, as it may be the only way out of scenarios will reproduce the crisis again from bad edition to worse edition.

In light of the above, in the short and medium term, and with the narrowing of the public sphere and the decline of any possibility of “legitimate” political action, the parties push into one of two possibilities:

– To make concessions to the authority time after time to mingle with the regime and become a follower. Some of the parties have already done that and lost some of the credibility and justification for their existence.

– The transformation into a radical revolutionary circle. Parties that try to maintain their credibility and the purity of their positions are motivated by the practices of the security services and the repression they are subjected to taking radical and confrontational positions. This leads to the moderate currents within these parties that desire a safe political action. In order to distance themselves from the parties. In time, these parties, after the imprisonment of a few of their members and their leaders, and the withdrawal of many more members and leaders, may turn into radical circles without influence.

The party now and even all the political parties are at the crossroads. What is certain is that our party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, will not give up its positions and will maintain its credibility until the end. It will not be compatible with the authority and will not become a follower or a substitute for its positions and policies. We can not, as a legitimate social democratic party operating under the constitution, consider ourselves part of the institutions of the Egyptian state, and not a radical revolutionary group operating outside the constitution and aimed at undermining the state. Can we continue to work and move under the current conditions?

Is there an open field of movement and influence in light of the repeated postponement of the elections of local councils, syndicates and student unions. Does the authoritarian atmosphere hint any real presidential elections or any other elections in the pipelines, following the previous parliamentary elections, which were marred by many abuses and violations?!

Will our party, and the opposition parties, become a mere platform for issuing data that will not find widespread media coverage? Will we accept that our only possible and available role is to provide support and assistance to our imprisoned colleagues and activists?

It is not about our readiness, I mean, our willingness, not just a group of us, to provide a heavy cost for political action, which is not about courage or cowardice, but about the feasibility of making sacrifices for the expected results. It also relates that our party members eventually joined the party under conditions and data confirm that we are about a stage of democratic transition, and that political action in general has become secure for previous historical periods. On the other hand it is also linked to whether or not there is room for action and movement originally or not,  in the absence of electoral processes either by postponement or brutal tyranny. Under the confiscation of the media, and in preventing the parties from organizing any public events—in light of all this; what can we do except issuing limited data, meeting at the party headquarters or “running behind people in prisons”?

Based on the above, this trend calls for the dissolution of the party or the freezing of activity until the political circumstances change.

On the other hand, another trend sees that the continuation and survival of our party will be a raised banner in which the forces of change can converge and, at the next moment, can join forces with other forces to save the country at any sharp political juncture. In addition, the role of our party at the political level is now important and necessary and illuminates a glimmer of light in the current blackness of the country. The absence of this light means more frustration and the despair of the forces of change, and finish off the rest of the spirit of resistance. We can practice our political role is a certain degree of balance and wisdom, in addition we can try to play a bigger role in the struggle of any local or factional aimed at improving people’s lives.

This trend, which demands that we continue to recognize that our forces will be eroded in the short term, and that we may be subject to security strikes because of our political positions no matter how we try to avoid this, and in clear and specific wording: We can minimize the losses but we can not avoid them completely.

Farid Zahran is a publisher and writer. He is the co-founder of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party

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On current political moment, future of democratic forces in Egypt: Egyptian Social Democratic Party as an example https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/10/current-political-moment-future-democratic-forces-egypt-egyptian-social-democratic-party-example/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/10/current-political-moment-future-democratic-forces-egypt-egyptian-social-democratic-party-example/#respond Mon, 10 Jul 2017 09:00:40 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=630933 Founders and leaders of many parties that emerged after the revolution, including our party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, have taken part in the 25 January Revolution. Long before the founding of these parties, many of these leaders played great roles in paving the way for the revolution and preparing for it. Besides several other …

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Founders and leaders of many parties that emerged after the revolution, including our party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, have taken part in the 25 January Revolution. Long before the founding of these parties, many of these leaders played great roles in paving the way for the revolution and preparing for it.

Besides several other democratic parties, these parties were keen on being part of the battles of Egyptians towards achieving the goals of the revolution. When the Muslim Brotherhood tried to monopolise power and started to create a religious authoritarian state, our party stood against them, together with the National Salvation Front, and took part in their ousting. Our party encouraged the various bodies of the state to move forward after the ousting, and it agreed to allow senior figures in the party to be part of the first government formed after 30 June.

Our party did not support President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on 3 July, and it was not one of the democratic parties that elected him in the presidential elections in 2014, nor was it one of those that announced supporting him.

It is clear now, three years after the elections, that our party, like other parties, has taken clear stances that may have opposed the authority’s general trends. It was keen, on the other hand, to offer clear alternatives for the policies they opposed as the following lines will explain.

First: regarding socioeconomic policies, democratic parties and forces have criticised—in varying degrees of intensity—some or all of those policies, especially those related to the randomness of these decisions.

There was also criticism of the authority’s growing dependence on the army, not only in the management of some political aspects, but also in the implementation and management of several economic projects, something that these parties and forces see as harmful for the army, because it takes away its ability to focus on securing borders and maintaining the country’s safety. These are the army’s main tasks, which we all respect. The army is an Egyptian entity that belongs to the people, supports the people, and helps them through hardships and crises. These parties believe that the over-presence of the Egyptian army in the economy damages Egyptian entities that are deprived of implementing projects that get assigned to the army through direct orders—with no competition whatsoever, which may be beneficial for the market’s prices and quality.

For its part, the Egyptian Social Democratic party considered the socioeconomic policies adopted by the authority contributing to making the rich richer and the poor poorer; therefore, the party opposed these policies, which mostly sought to overbear the poorer and even middle class with the burdens of the economic crisis.

The party offered a group of alternatives to these policies, the most prominent of which was introducing progressive taxes, paying attention to the sectors of health and education as part of the attention given to comprehensive development, and putting an end to the depletion of the state’s resources in projects whose feasibility remains unclear. In addition, some of these policies include directing the army to pay more attention to the tasks assigned to it to avoid putting it in situations that may harm it and leaving room for different economic entities to play their assigned role in development.

Second: regarding fighting terrorism, our party opposes the strategy the authority adopts to counter it. The strategy relies on army and police forces in fighting terrorism, making every power in the state a force that should, by default, only support the army and the police. Our party has always called on everyone to consider the battle against terrorism their own battle, including parties, syndicates, the judiciary, the parliament, and others. So we always called for a comprehensive strategy to counter terrorism, as was the case on 30 June, which lead to a strong victory against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Third: handing Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia; the party was always against the agreement and considered it an abandonment of Egyptian lands. We are still unsure of how that decision was made and who the international parties the Egyptian state negotiated with were, and who the members of the Egyptian delegation that took part in the negotiations were. We were against the decision even more after noticing that the decision to abandon the two Egyptian islands was not based on any consultation between the state’s various entities. When there was a judiciary verdict that the islands were Egyptian, the authority did not respect the judicial ruling and passed the issue to the parliament. Despite the immense pressure on the parliament’s members, over 120 of them, including the representatives of our party, opposed the agreement and were in clear opposition to the political authority, something we carry a lot of pride in.

Fourth: regarding the policies of tyranny, our party has opposed all the measures that have deprived workers of their right to build their independent trade unions, which is why Egypt was blacklisted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and this comes with several economic consequences. Our party has also opposed the Civil Organisations Law, which deprived civil society from playing its independent role.

Last, our party opposed all security practices that relied on inherited laws that restrict freedom. These practices aimed to erase the 25 January Revolution, its youth, leaders, and parties, from suppressing peaceful demonstrations, to arresting political party figures on fabricated charges, in addition to torturing detainees and putting restrictions on those that call for a new religious discourse.

In the face of these policies, our party called for broadening political and societal participation, as well as the declaration of publishing, expression, and peaceful protesting rights based on the Constitution. The party has stressed before that fighting terrorism will never work without democracy and participation, neither will development or fighting corruption, unless democracy is achieved.

In light of all the above, we can say that due to the practices of the authority and its rejection to alternatives provided by the democratic opposition, the country is subjected to severe political and social tensions that may lead to unexpected major changes. It is importation to try to reach these changes with ourselves in order to adopt the stances suitable for them. What are these expected changes? This is the question we will answer in the next article.

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Basics of Citizenship https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/09/basics-of-citizenship/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/09/basics-of-citizenship/#comments Sun, 09 Jul 2017 15:47:10 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=630936 1. Motherland is the highest value The motherland makes you motivated to love it ever since you were born. When you do not feel strange inside it, the motherland becomes a universal energy. Citizens may differ in cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds; however, at the end, they all belong to one nation. In Egypt, there …

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1. Motherland is the highest value

The motherland makes you motivated to love it ever since you were born. When you do not feel strange inside it, the motherland becomes a universal energy. Citizens may differ in cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds; however, at the end, they all belong to one nation.

In Egypt, there are Sunni Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Catholics, Baha’is, and a few Shiites. There are also some agnostics. And this should not in anyway affect the sense of belonging to Egypt. They all belong to Egypt. When national identity interferes with religious identity, minorities become vulnerable and mistreated, if not second-class citizens. This acquires a lot of awareness.

For example, the first non-Protestant president of the United States of America is John F. Kennedy (20 January 1961 until his assassination on 22 November 1963) and is the first Catholic president. Barrack Obama came in 2008 as the first African-American president of the United States. This demonstrates the change process at the popular and cultural levels. Nubar Pasha (1825-1899) is the first Christian Armenian prime minister in Egypt in the era of Muhammad Ali Pasha. Tasking him with this position was not driven by religious tolerance or the acceptance of others during those days, but rather by the presence of a strong and strict governor who is Muhammad Ali—who favoured success over anything else.

2. Non-exclusionary

The community based on the values of citizenship does not exclude its citizens, but, on the contrary, it increases the integration of all its members. A citizenship-based community does not tolerate the budding of isolated communities—there are no ghettos. A ghetto is defined as an aggregation of a group of citizens with the same faith and race to be isolated from the rest of society. There are factors that affect the creation of “ghettos”.

First factor: executive and legislative bodies

In my opinion, this is the most important factor, and it includes executive and legislative authorities. Both the executive and the legislative apparatuses must help in the integration of all elements of society. They should not also allow the creation of any type of ghetto, as those appear only when the state cannot carry out its duties, as a result of citizens not feeling equal before the law. There must be legislation and legislators who support and increase the values of citizenship.

Successive governments in Egypt contributed in the creation of those closed societies, as they did not provide services that accommodates everyone. We grew up not knowing much about each other. Collectively, this contributed greatly to the formation of myths about different groups, leading to misunderstanding, misappreciation, and devaluation of the value of the differences. Nevertheless, traditional Egyptian educational curricula still do not stimulate any kind of thinking and do not welcome the flood of diversity that can bring us out of darkness.

In Egypt, there are many ghetto formations. The Christian community is still not sufficiently integrated. If we look at the Shiites in Egypt and the Baha’is, we will find that they are worse off than the rest of the minorities.

Second factor: the majority

The majority must be aware that they are one of the most important sources of integration, and they must work hard to help minorities become part of the integrated system of the society.

Third factor: the minorities

Minorities must work together in all ways possible. They must contribute to all walks of life and call for integration through work and dedication and not through weeping and howling. Christians abated in churches for too long. They demanded their rights in confined sessions. Sometimes only with their Muslim friends in cafes. They only started working hard after the bombing of the Church of the Saints on 31 December 2010. Voices echoed on the streets. The quiet whispers tuned up. It was no longer a matter of of Christians’ problem. When Egyptian society reaches a stage in which citizens defend each others’ rights, regardless of differences of creed, race, or sect, a very important social cohesion is then created. And, thus, the cause of any minority becomes, essentially, a national issue. An issue that is related with absolute justice—an attribute of God.

Sherif Rizk

International Relations Researcher

sherifaq@gmail.com

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Solving Donald Trump’s Mystery https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/05/solving-donald-trumps-mystery/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/05/solving-donald-trumps-mystery/#comments Wed, 05 Jul 2017 08:00:49 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=630510 Recently, as I picked up a book from my bookcase, I realised that one word in its title had the answer to a problem that had been bothering me for months. The book is “The Voice Imitator” by Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. And the word that solved the mystery, you may already have guessed it, …

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Recently, as I picked up a book from my bookcase, I realised that one word in its title had the answer to a problem that had been bothering me for months. The book is “The Voice Imitator” by Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. And the word that solved the mystery, you may already have guessed it, is “imitator”. What imitators do, in many cases, is impersonate a celebrity.

According to Wikipedia, “celebrity impersonators are entertainers who look [like] celebrities and dress in such a way as to imitate them. Impersonators are known as look-alikes, impressionists, imitators, tribute artists, and wannabees.” And there, bingo! I had the answer to my problem: Donald Trump is impersonating a president!

Several excellent comedians have proven to be excellent impersonators: Tina Fey, Rich Little, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, to name a few. And the most popular figures impersonated were presidents (such as Richard Nixon, Barack Obama, Gerald Ford) or artists (such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Elvis Presley). Not one to be topped, Donald Trump decided to impersonate a president: himself.

By becoming an impersonator, President Trump can now say that he is not responsible for the multitude of inane tweets his impersonator has been writing lately, which seem to be coming out of him at an even faster pace. In refusing responsibility, we have one more example of his brilliant thoughts.

His most recent, and abusive, tweets against Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski have reached an almost unstoppable crescendo, which worry his supporters. They are concerned about the president’s own sanity. When he wrote, “Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad!” he was not only saying something unbecoming to the dignity of the office, but also making an indefensible, gratuitously insulting remark.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended her boss at a White House press briefing saying, “Look, the American people elected a fighter. They didn’t elect somebody to sit back and do nothing.” She later told MSNBC, “There have been an outrageous number of personal attacks, not just to him, but people around him.”

Sanders’ opinion was not shared by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham who tweeted, “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America,” an opinion shared by many of his Republican colleagues.

On 30 June, Scarborough and Brzezinski wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post titled “Donald Trump is not well.” In that piece, they detailed the several insulting remarks he has been making about them (“low I.Q. Crazy Mika”, “Psycho Joe”) which prompted them to state, “America’s leaders and allies are asking themselves yet again whether this man is fit to be president. We have our doubts, but we are both certain that the man is not mentally equipped to continue watching our show, ‘Morning Joe’.”

Mr. Trump’s behaviour seems to be taking a turn for the worst. This is a fact, according to Ms. Brzezinski and Mr. Scarborough, acknowledged by even some of Mr. Trump’s associates. In their op-ed piece, they conclude, “We, too, have noticed a change in his behavior over the past few years. Perhaps that is why we were neither shocked nor insulted by the president’s personal attack. The Donald Trump we knew before the campaign was a flawed character, but one who still seemed capable of keeping his worst instincts in check.”

Never before in recent history has an American president been as questioned about his mental health to hold office as Mr. Trump. His erratic behaviour has prompted some Democrats to urge their colleagues to get behind a bill that could potentially oust the real President Trump from office should it be proven that he is mentally or physically unfit. By becoming the real president, Mr. Trump can avoid such a tragic fate.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a winner of several journalism awards

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Not all novels are meant for TV: La Totfe Al Shams https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/04/not-novels-meant-tv-la-totfe-al-shams/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/04/not-novels-meant-tv-la-totfe-al-shams/#respond Tue, 04 Jul 2017 11:00:56 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=630336 La Totfe Al Shams is one of the most discussed and talked about Egyptian TV series this Ramadan. The series is an adaptation of Ihsan Abdel Quddous’ hugely successful novel that had already been turned into a hit feature film in 1961. Although it is very intriguing to start comparing the series’ casting choices, performances, …

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La Totfe Al Shams is one of the most discussed and talked about Egyptian TV series this Ramadan. The series is an adaptation of Ihsan Abdel Quddous’ hugely successful novel that had already been turned into a hit feature film in 1961.

Although it is very intriguing to start comparing the series’ casting choices, performances, and events to those of the movie’s, it would be worthless, as the series’ characters are loosely based on those of the novel’s, and the era that the story takes place in is totally different than the one from the novel, making it an entirely new take on the story and a fresh approach to imagining the source material.

On the other hand, being the latest work from the creators of last Ramadan’s massively acclaimed TV series Grand Hotel, it draws an instant comparison between the two pieces of art; a comparison that would definitely benefit Grand Hotel’s side in this case.

One could really imagine how hard it would be to follow an act as acknowledged as Grand Hotel, which satisfied both audiences and critics on the same level; a TV series that reached previously unimaginable heights for Egyptian drama. From the beauty of the scenery to the amazing performances to the optimum pacing of events, all served in making watching Grand Hotel a unique experience that will act as the bench mark of TV drama for years to come.

With La Totfe Al Shams, the audience isn’t treated with a plot as flashy as that of Grand Hotel’s. It follows the chronicles of five siblings and their mother—after the death of their father—and their individual journeys to self-discovery.

Translating this story to the screen this time around is writer Tamer Habib. While not unlike the rest of his scripts so far, whether in cinema (Hob El Banat, Sahar El Layali, An El Eshq Wal Hawa) or in TV (Taree’i, Grand Hotel), La Totfe Al Shams unveils the depths of its characters through their behavior in their romantic relationships.

But unlike all of his previous efforts, nothing much goes on other than that. What starts as a thorough display of an unconventional Egyptian family, starts suffering from being uneventful and reaches near stagnancy at a point. Combining this with the fact that some of the episodes, which should supposedly be 45 minutes long, are only shy of 30 minutes of duration, only shows how some stories should not be turned into the typical 30-episode long series and only be turned into movies. It just feels like there is not enough content for the plot to move on in any direction, to the point that some of its purposeless characters keep repeating the same kind of dialogue in different ways.

One of the major problems in La Totfe Al Shams’ screenplay is that by the end of the series one might find it really hard to cheer for any of the characters. This may actually be the result of adding as many realistic details as possible to the characters to make them more relatable and help the audience connect with them easily. But in this case (except for one or two minor characters), with such overabundance of negative qualities that all main characters acquire over their long development arcs, they could not feel more distant from being likeable.

When it comes to dialogue, Habib, who’s known for his masterful ability to inject intensity into any conversation between two characters—no matter how hard it seems at the beginning—delivers some of the most heartfelt moments of the series, only through his powerful-as-usual dialogue.

The star-studded cast of La Totfe Al Shams gives a collectively good job, if not as great as one would expect it to be. The quality of performances range from excellent (Mohamed Mamdouh’s performance as Ahmed is delivered with such spontaneity that helps in transcending the character’s melancholy in an effortless way; Ahmed Malek’s equally believable portrayal of two different sides of a very multilayered character; and Riham Abdel Ghafour’s fresh take on FiFi, which shows the audience a level of talent they never knew existed within her) to awful (Jamila Awad gives a career low performance with her emotionally detached portrayal of a supposedly insanely romantic character; Salma Abu Deif’s uncharismatic presence on screen; and Gehad Saad’s monotonous display of the character Abdel Salam).

The series definitely benefits from the range of quality actors in supporting roles, with memorable roles from the likes of Fathy Abdel Wahab, Sherine Reda, Khaled Kamal, Arfa Abdel Rasoul, Mahmoud El Leithy, and Mohamed El Sharnouby. This proves that director Mohamed Shaker Khodeir was not only successful in most of his casting choices, but also in guiding many of the actors to deliver the best they could—an effort that must be commended, especially under such pressure as that of Ramadan’s compacted production schedules.

Shaker also assimilates the technical aspects of the series with a high level of talent, including Bishoy Roosevelt’s cinematography, which gives a realistic and lively feeling to each episode, allowing the audience to connect more to what happens in front of their eyes, and his daring use of some interesting angles (several close ups on actresses faces for example) just to help in exposing the character’s feelings at the scene.

Amin Bouhafa’s touching score always feels like a boost that heightens the scene’s emotional magnitude as well, along with the detailed and character-specific set decorations by Ahmed Shaker Khodeir. The brilliant choice of the intro’s song, ‘El Hobb’ by Assala, acts as a buffer to the audience’s emotional state, transferring them to the dream-like, romantic state of each episode before it even begins.

If the series suffers from one technical let down though, this certainly goes to the sound department, with many dialogues deemed impossible to hear due to the background score being higher than the actors’ voices, to the other scenes where one can barely make two words of what’s being said. It is undeniable that the sound of the whole series could have been tremendously improved.

It is noteworthy to state the fact that the novel La Totfe’ Al Shams has been turned into a TV series that starred Salah El Saadany before but has been totally forgotten since. Although the 2017 series has already garnered the attention of many viewers, only time could tell whether it’s going to be the memorable TV version of the famous novel and movie or going to suffer the same fate as it’s TV predecessor with the same title.

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30 Youm: a worthy thriller, or a waste of time? https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/04/30-youm-worthy-thriller-waste-time/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/04/30-youm-worthy-thriller-waste-time/#respond Tue, 04 Jul 2017 10:00:45 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=630342 When it is estimated that there are more than 37 new Egyptian TV series released, one has to be picky when deciding which of them to give their time to. Usually, people decide which series they should watch based on the cast (an actor who they know always chooses the right scripts to play, a …

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When it is estimated that there are more than 37 new Egyptian TV series released, one has to be picky when deciding which of them to give their time to. Usually, people decide which series they should watch based on the cast (an actor who they know always chooses the right scripts to play, a director who they have not forgotten their previous work, or, rarely, a writer who always gives them something original).

This strategy of attaching acclaimed names to a series and increasing its overall “star power” is one that producers consistently use to attract audiences to pick their show. This only guarantees an audience attachment for a couple of episodes, where they test whether the series deserves dedicating their time to it or whether there are better ones that could satisfy their entertainment and artistic needs.

In the case of 30 Youm (the 2017 Ramadan psychological thriller), to watch the first episode was sufficient to hook the most undedicated viewer to watching it until the finale.

The first episode starts with a conversation between a psychiatrist (Asser Yassin) and a patient he meets for the first time (Bassel Khayyat), where the latter explains that he will use the doctor as a lab rat for an experiment titled “How to kill a person, and then leave them staying alive”. The experiment’s duration is 30 days, where the victim will experience his life falling apart piece-by-piece on a daily basis, until the 30th day comes and the reason behind the experiment is revealed.

With such a very well written dialogue in the first episode, the audience is promised with a mysterious and thrilling ride that is accompanied with many question marks. Why is this patient doing this to the psychiatrist? What will the conclusion of the experiment be? And, most importantly, how will the writers find enough material to convince the audience that a person could find ways—and succeed—for 30 consecutive days in destroying another person’s life without being caught?

Unfortunately, the answer to the last question is that they utterly fail in providing enough content for the premise to stay as solid as it started. It only takes 4-5 episodes before the plot purposelessly detours and accumulates a great amount of unnecessary details. This also gives the way for plot holes to pile up episode after episode. The events in Mostafa Gamal Hashem’s script often depend on a great amount of luck and a numerous number of coincidences to help his story stay alive, which is a sign of weakness in a screenplay.

Hashem’s screenplay heavily relies on the amount of mystery it creates at the beginning, and he knows that no matter how tired the audience might get from the repetitiveness and the slacking in the middle, they will still be attached to the series until they get the answers to the questions that linger in their heads since the first episode.

On a different note, the characterisation in Hashem’s screenplay is mostly successful. Almost every major character in the series has many different sides to their personalities. There are no angels and demons in 30 Youm. Even the most villainous characters are written with such depth that makes it a very easy task for the audience to connect with them.

And even though the grand revelation at the finale might prove to be very predictable, it is the sense of redemption that some of these characters reach at the end that still gives a satisfactory end result to the story—a huge accomplishment for the very bumpy journey that is the screenplay of 30 Youm.

Director Hossam Aly creates a unique atmosphere, with a dark enough tone to give a certain style to the episodes, yet one that never falls victim to over-dramatisation. His confidence in the screenplay and in his actors’ abilities allowed him to stay focused on what to show the audience in each episode and what not to waste time on.

It is easy to understand how a director could have that much confidence in the actors when the cast is led by the tour de force: Bassel Khayyat. As the role of Tawfik, the lunatic who plays with others’ lives like a game, Khayyat has the most crucial role that could either make or break 30 Youm. The role needed a highly accomplished actor to carry such a responsibility.

If there is one right decision the director has made for the series, it is selecting Khayyat for this role. The actor’s presence and command on screen are second to none. One might confidently say that he creates one of the most memorable villains in the history of Egyptian drama. From his body language and tone of voice to the wide range of emotions he shows through the episodes, Khayyat’s meticulous portrayal grabs the audience’s attention from the minute he appears on screen and never gives a boring moment. It seldom happens that a viewer could effortlessly relate to a villain they know almost nothing about, and it happens in 30 Youm, solely as a result of Khayyat’s groundbreaking performance.

One must also commend Asser Yassin’s role as Tarek for being able to shine and showcase his talent around the presence of Khayyat. With a character that is hard to portray, Yassin plays the role of a psychiatrist whose emotional stability is nearly impossible to crack, which needs a certain level of character understanding to be able to transcend every fine change of emotional state to the viewer—and Yassin definitely succeeds at delivering that in one of the best roles of his career. The two lead actors only meet in a few scenes on screen, and it always feels like a duel between two acting powerhouses, and the only winner is the viewer.

With the exception of Waleed Fawaz (who gives a strong performance as Abdel Wahab, Tarek’s closest friend and a cop who investigates the case), the rest of the cast members are subpar. Naglaas Badr, Ingy El Mokaddem, Hend Abdel Halim, Doaa Teima, Ismail Sharaf, and Hamada Barakat struggle to deliver suitable performances to what their characters are going through, ranging from over-acting to totally indifferent portrayals.

There is a saying that the best cinematographer is the one who you never feel their presence—meaning that if the scenery feels natural and comfortable to the eye, the cinematographer has done a successful job. This is not the case with Karim Ashraf’s cinematography in 30 Youm. With the unnecessary usage of the shaky camera technique in many scenes and the sometimes forced sources of light that do not match the feeling of the place they come from, the cinematography feels distracting to the eye on many different occasions.

Ahmed El Tarabily’s editing helps in delivering a suitable pace for each episode, allowing even the most unnecessary episodes to not feel as dull as they should be. Editing is also a critical tool El Tarabily used in heightening the tension of many conversations, especially in the last episode, hitting a high note when it was significantly needed. Mohamed Medhat’s original score is a key element in creating the series’ one-of-a-kind atmosphere. His use of jazz instruments gives a unique quality to the music and to every location in which the events take place.

Although it suffers from many problems, specifically on the screenplay side, 30 Youm offers one of the more entertaining watching experiences this year and some of the most memorable characters that come to mind.

Ahmed El Goarany is an Egyptian movie blogger, aspiring filmmaker, and pharmacist

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Gulf crisis: Surrender or dig in for the long haul https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/02/gulf-crisis-surrender-dig-long-haul/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/07/02/gulf-crisis-surrender-dig-long-haul/#respond Sun, 02 Jul 2017 08:00:37 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=630168 Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), by breaking off not only diplomatic but also economic relations with Qatar, are likely to make it this time round far more difficult for the Gulf state to resist pressure to change its controversial policies. The stakes are far higher than when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and …

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Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), by breaking off not only diplomatic but also economic relations with Qatar, are likely to make it this time round far more difficult for the Gulf state to resist pressure to change its controversial policies.

The stakes are far higher than when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha in 2014 for a period of 10 months but failed to force Qatar to change its policies. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, by now also breaking off economic ties, are also seeking to disrupt Qatar’s air, sea, and land links and complicate its exports and imports—particularly its food supplies.

The stakes are also higher given that Qatari fulfillment of Saudi and UAE demands would humiliate the Gulf state to a degree that it would become a vassal of its bigger Gulf brethren.

The demands are believed to include the muzzling, if not closing of Qatar-backed media, including Al Jazeera, the Arabic version of The Huffington Post, and London-based Al Araby Al Jadid and Middle East Eye. Saudi Arabia on Monday ordered the closure of Al Jazeera’s bureau in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also seeking the expulsion of all leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip, as well as Azmi Bishara, a close associate of Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, who heads the Doha Institute.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), by breaking off not only diplomatic but also economic relations with Qatar, are likely to make it this time round far more difficult for the Gulf state to resist pressure to change its controversial policies.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are further demanding that Qatar limit its relations with Iran to economics, based on the fact that it shares the world’s largest gas field with the Islamic republic.

Fuelling the hard line against Qatar is fury over the Gulf state’s alleged payment of a $1bn ransom to an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria and Iranian security officials for the release of 26 members of the Qatari royal family and about 50 militants captured by jihadis in Syria. The Qatari royals were kidnapped in December 2015 while on a falcon hunt in southern Iraq.

By targeting food supplies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are testing Sheikh Tamim’s mettle and seeking to engineer a situation that potentially would be conducive to his replacement if he fails to bow to Saudi and UAE demands. Various media reports have already suggested that the two states may be gunning for his removal as emir.

Qatar’s ability to resist the Saudi and UAE pressure is likely to be determined by how the United States responds to the Gulf crisis, to what extent Saudi Arabia and the UAE seek to force third parties to abide by their boycott, and whether Qatar can maintain food supplies and ensure that prices don’t go through the roof.

Trade sources said that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had halted their exports to Qatar of white sugar. Consumption of sugar in the Gulf state, like elsewhere in the Muslim world, is highest during the current holy month of Ramadan. Qatar imports an average of 100,000 tonnes of white sugar a year.

Panicked Qataris rushed Monday to supermarkets to hoard food and water supplies after news broke that their country’s frontier with Saudi Arabia, Qatar’s only land border, had been closed.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE accounted for roughly one third of Qatar’s $1.05bn worth of food imports in 2015. Much of the imports, especially dairy products, came over the Saudi land border.

As food trucks reportedly lined up at the closed Saudi border with Qatar, Iran’s Fars news agency quoted Reza Nourani, chairperson of the Union of Exporters of Agricultural Products, as saying that Iran could supply the Gulf state with what it needs. Mr. Nourani said it would take 12 hours for shipments from Iran to reach Qatar by sea.

Working in Qatar’s favour is the fact that the Gulf state’s main source of revenue, its oil and gas exports, remain untouched by the economic sanctions. Qatar, the world’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplier, maintains access to international shipping route even if Qatar-bound vessels and ships leaving the Gulf state are barred from entering the territorial waters of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain.

Japan’s JERA Co, the world’s biggest buyer of LNG, said in a statement that Qatar gas had informed it that the crisis in the Gulf would not impact LNG supplies.

The UAE, moreover, in what appears to be a self-serving move, has not included the import of Qatari natural gas in its sanctions. The gas is exported to the UAE as well as Oman through a pipeline that is co-owned by Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Mubadala Development Company. Sources said there was no indication that the pipeline would be closed.

The UAE may have wanted to prevent the schism in the Gulf from widening if Oman would have been penalised by a closure of the pipeline. Oman, like Qatar, maintains close relations with Iran and has sought to distance itself from the Saudi-UAE campaign against the Islamic republic.

Both Gulf states have leveraged their relationships to mediate at times, but Oman, unlike Qatar, remains low key and keeps more distance to Islamist and militant groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Dubai, moreover, depends on Qatar for 40% of its gas imports, while Egypt, which joined the Gulf states in breaking off diplomatic relations with Qatar, relies 60% on its imports from Qatar. S&P Global Platts reported that Egypt expects two Qatari gas shipments to arrive on 10 and 11 June.

One Qatari entity that is likely to be hard hit by the Saudi-UAE-led boycott is Qatar Airways. The suspension of flights between Qatar and its Arab detractors constitutes a loss of lucrative destinations and forces it to fly longer routes to Asian and African destinations in its need to circumvent Gulf airspace. The suspension comes on the back of dented earnings as a result of the prolonged slump in oil prices and a ban on carrying some electronics in cabins aboard US-bound flights.

Similarly, Qatari banks, already struggling with declining cash reserves and higher interest rates, could be hard hit if Saudi Arabia and the UAE opt to withdraw their foreign deposits. Non-resident deposits made up 24% of deposits in the country’s 18 lenders in April, according to Qatar’s central bank. It also remained unclear whether Saudi and UAE commercial banks would continue dealing with their Qatari counterparts.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE could also squeeze Qatar where it hurts by rekindling the campaign to deprive the Gulf state of its 2022 World Cup hosting rights. The awarding of the tournament to Qatar sparked widespread protests because of its controversial labour regime that is common to the Gulf and allegations of bribery and corruption in its bid. World football body FIFA said in a statement that it was “in regular contact with Qatar,” but had no further comment.

In emails leaked this week, UAE ambassador to Washington Yousef al-Otaiba, responded to a recommendation by a Washington policy wonk that he watch a documentary about FIFA’s legal troubles by saying, “FIFA and Qatar combined are the poster children for corruption.” Loss of the World Cup would drive a fatal nail in the coffin of Qatar’s soft power ploy. The cutting of all transportation links to Qatar could, moreover, further cause a rise in the cost of World Cup-related infrastructure and fuel inflation.

The rupture in diplomatic and economic relations came as Washington was engaged in a debate about alleged Qatari support for militant groups and its failure to act against militants listed by the US treasury as globally designated terrorists.

The debate was in part driven by a long-standing UAE campaign against Qatar. It was further fuelled in recent days by Mr. Otaiba’s efforts to get the Trump administration to move the US Central Command’s forward base and some 10,000 American troops stationed at Qatar’s sprawling Al-Udeid Air Base, the largest US military facility in the Middle East, to somewhere else in the region. Moving the base to either Saudi Arabia or the UAE would constitute a body blow to Qatar.

Ed Royce, the Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee further raised the stakes last week when he told a UAE-backed gathering in Washington that “if it doesn’t change, Qatar will be sanctioned under a new bill I’m introducing to punish Hamas backers.”

Ironically, US forces moved to Qatar in the 1990s after Saudi Arabia, afraid of a public backlash against the presence of foreign troops, asked them to leave the kingdom, and the UAE at the time was unable to accommodate the forces.

The kingdom’s state-owned Saudi Press Agency reported that the kingdom would “start immediate legal procedures for understanding with fraternal and friendly countries and international companies to implement the same procedure as soon as possible for all means of transport to and from the state of Qatar for reasons relating to Saudi national security.”

The statement appeared to be referring to Saudi transport links with Qatar but seemed to hold out the possibility of Saudi Arabia pressuring its public and private economic and commercial partners to follow suit in cutting ties with the Gulf state in what would amount to an attempt at imposing a more global boycott. Mr. Al Otaiba’s leaked emails showed that he supported efforts to persuade US companies not to pursue opportunities in Iran, an approach that could be also applied to Qatar.

The long and short of all of this is that short of Sheikh Tamim caving into demands, Qatar could be in for a prolonged fight. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have become far more assertive as a result of former US president Barak Obama’s perceived withdrawal from the Middle East and lack of empathy for their concerns. The rise of Donald Trump has not only given them a measure of reassurance, but also a sense that they now have in the White House an ally that shares their visceral opposition to Iran and political Islam.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom

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Baheya foundation honors Hend Sabry’s latest TV shows  https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/06/13/baheya-foundation-honors-hend-sabrys-latest-tv-shows/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/06/13/baheya-foundation-honors-hend-sabrys-latest-tv-shows/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 10:00:25 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=628889 Actress Hend Sabry Baheya has been honoured by the Foundation for Early Detection and Treatment of Breast Cancer for her latest role in Halawyet El donia. The role spotlights the process of cancer treatment in Egypt, and raises awareness on different forms of the disease, The Sohour charity event was attended by several public figures, …

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Actress Hend Sabry Baheya has been honoured by the Foundation for Early Detection and Treatment of Breast Cancer for her latest role in Halawyet El donia. The role spotlights the process of cancer treatment in Egypt, and raises awareness on different forms of the disease,

The Sohour charity event was attended by several public figures, with the motto of the night as “Today’s Dream is Tomorrow’s Reality.”

On the TV show Sabry plays the role of Salma El- Shamaa, who goes for regular checkup shortly before her marriage only to discover that she suffers from late stage leukemia. After the initial shock she begins to reshape her life and falls into an unexpectedly love story.

The foundation has always held the event to honour the cast and crew of TV series for their roles in raising cancer awareness and supporting patients.

The series is unique in their use of an actual cancer recovery patient, Yasmin Gheith, who plays a similar role on the show. The series stars are Dhafer L’Abidine, Mostafa Fahmy, Anoushka, Hanan Motawie and Hany Adel and was directed by Hussien El Menbawy.

Since it aired Halawet Al Dounia has received wide acclaim, especially among Egyptian women. Breast cancer is considered one of the most widespread forms of cancer in Egypt. When the fourth episode aired, hashtags for Hend Sabry and Halawat Al Dounia were among the top trending hashtags on Twitter.

 

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A politicised Cannes Festival reflects on immigration crisis  https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/06/05/politicised-cannes-festival-reflects-immigration-crisis/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/06/05/politicised-cannes-festival-reflects-immigration-crisis/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2017 10:00:10 +0000 http://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=627862 Some of the films can be considered explicit messages to world leaders in hope of reconsidering policies related to refugees

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One of the heated topics that dominated debates in this year’s French elections was the refugee question. Days after the news of the winning of French president Emmanuel Macron, the Cannes Film Festival started with a politicised lineup that has attempted to tackle critical contemporary issues: women in film industry, environment, new forms of production in the cinema scene, and the immigrant crisis. However, the question of unorganised immigration and the humanitarian stories of people in this process, which is arguably the most critical and dangerous, had a lion share and was represented and deconstructed in several films and mediums during the festival.

A standout in the festival, with a braver discourse, was the debut documentary of Vanessa Redgrave, named Sea Sorrow, which directly calls upon statesmen and politicians to intervene to end the crisis by bluntly demanding to aid and foster young immigrants seeking refuge in Europe. Redgrave, an 80-year-old Academy award actor and political activist, has been a supporter of refugee rights and is using her documentary to warn of child refugees who fall victim to extremist discourse, human traffickers, or criminal activities in general.

The documentary briefly aims to survey the history of the crisis. Redgrave does not shy away from using her personal trauma as a child witnessing the Blitzkrieg in the Second World War. Sea Sorrow didn’t necessarily care about style as much as content, something that left it with little praise from critics, who argued that activism has confused the structure of the dense work.

Sea Sorrow

However, we can say that the style of the film has gone Shakespearian. Redgrave, a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, has utilised William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” to draw the connotation. In the play, the exiled Duke of Milan tells his daughter about the suffering when he escaped. For the western audience, who are showered with hard TV reports and documentaries about Syrians and Africans drowning in boats on the coast of Italy and Greece, Sea Sorrow shows a different approach of giving context to the crisis—personal, but effective.

Sometimes political rhetoric needs art to be more efficient. Sea Sorrow is an example, to deconstruct the shameful positions of governments towards the crisis that they somehow created.

In another context, two short films in the main competition tackled the question of immigration. The first was Fiona Godivier’s “Across My Land”, which brilliantly portrays the other side of the struggle by showing one night in the life of an American family at the Mexican border in their daily routine: a young girl plays with her dolls, a teenage boy is taught by his father how to assemble a machine gun, and a wife cooking dinner and sleeping in front of the TV set. The father and his boy take a trip to join other armed civilian “border watchers” to hunt down Mexican immigrants, but this backfires in a dramatic way as the film develops.

The film intends to show a normal, “stable”—even peaceful—American life, and how it can produce such antagonism and organised hatred towards another group of people.

Simplicity in Godivier’s film urges viewers to think more than to just consume the visual product of the film: why/how could such a beautiful family be part of this wider system of operation? Is it the lack of gun control? Is it white supremacy? Is it the negligence of the government? Is it the radicalism of popular culture?

But as Godivier argues, such radicalism eventually backfires, even if done unintentionally. The usage of “my land” in the film is very suitable with the ongoing calls to build walls around so-called privileged countries in order to restrict other individuals from more unfortunate countries, even if the privileged has, in many ways, caused the unfortunate to be what he is.

Another short was Mehdi Felifel’s “Drowning Man”. An unemployed and unregistered Palestinian refugee in Greece agrees (more of having no choice) to be abused, either by his fellow refugees or Greek locals. One fellow immigrant asks him to steal sneakers from a department store in return for money. The shoe is so big, so the deal is not done. The protagonist walks around with the box of shoes and faces other abuses until he gets some money to eat. Afterwards, we see footage of the box floating on the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the camera follows the shoebox, I remember the writings of French film critic Serge Daneh about the new cinema coming out of Europe after the Second World War. Take for example Alain Resnais’ “Night and Fog” about concentration camps in Nazi Germany. The film does not show the process of killing or oppression of millions of Jews, Gypsies, Communists, opposition, and others. It, however, shows what has remained of these places: the railways, the doors, the empty bunkers where hundreds used to sleep away the pain of slavery.

The same is with Felifel’s “Drowning Man”: showing the floating shoe box in the sea is more powerful and thought provoking.

And speaking of thought provoking, we should mention Kornel Mundruczo’s “Jupiter’s Moon”, which depicts an action/drama about a Syrian refugee trying to cross the Hungarian border with his family, only to be shot by a racist cop. A doctor who works in a refugee camp, who sometimes makes profit of the immigrants’ miseries by accepting bribes to help them escape, meets the Syrian refugee who was shot, only to find that the man has special powers.

The plot escalates as the doctor abuses the powers of the refugee and manages to profit out of it. But this backfires, as the refugee gets involved in a terrorist attack, which leaves dozens dead, and is then hunted down by the police. The doctor and the refugee become wanted by the police, losing the sympathy of many people who previously helped them.

The political connotation here is very interesting. Mundruczo’s argument is that European governments (played by the doctor), filled with guilt from what is happening in the Middle East, are allowing refugees (played by the Syrian refugee) in only to benefit from them both financially and politically (referring to the superpowers of the character).

This exploitative relationship, however, eventually ends, when some of these refugees are radicalised and commit terrorist attacks. This leads to more extremist and racist forces (the security apparatus hunting down the Syrian boy), with no differentiation or sympathy, and leads also to losing the support of people who once helped refugees, after they realise that their everyday life might be endangered.

The discourse in “Jupiter’s Moon”, as director Mundruczo put it, is not just about the problem in Hungary but about the question of immigrants in Europe.

Another film was Fatih Akin’s “Aus Dem Nichts” (In the Fade), which takes on the struggle of an immigrant to seek justice and avenge her family, within the umbrella of the law or outside it. The film points out that due to the prejudice, victims of assault can be looked at as the perpetrators, only because they are immigrants.

Filmgoers and guests at Cannes were also given the opportunity to witness an extraordinary virtual reality experience. Directed by four-time Oscar-winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Carne y Arena” (Flesh and Sand) gave the audience a sense of terror of what it feels like to cross the Mexican border as an immigrant.

In the screening halls of Cannes, with the attendance of hundreds of journalists, critics, producers, filmmakers, and artists, these films among others were screened, giving space for the conversation about the immigration question worldwide in all its humane angles, not just from the oppressed point of view, and not just the Middle East crisis.

The question/hope remains whether the films can assist in raising our consciousness of our surroundings, with the attempt to create more dialogue, acceptance, solidarity, and resistance. I always remember the famous words of Communist Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci when he wrote in 1929 that he is “a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” The discussed films are brave to tackle and openly express the pessimism over the immigrant crisis, and the shameful position of world leaders towards it, but the films should also act as a starting point for more activism.

After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the rise of militancy against occupation forces, the Pentagon held a screening of “The Battle of Algiers”, with the objective of giving security officials a sense of how to counter guerrilla warfare in conflict-torn Iraq. Obviously that didn’t work and militancy has reached its highest peaks, and the occupation became more and more oppressive and violent. Some might argue that had former US president George W. Bush and his aides learned anything from the film, we might have had a different Iraq and a different Middle East.

With the Cannes films expected to be screened later in different parts of the world and to diverse audiences, which is the purpose of the very professional film festival, one can only hope that the films could also act as explicit messages to world leaders.

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Yusuf Sameh Alaraby: martyr of chaos, negligence, recklessness, and absence of law https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/06/04/yusuf-sameh-alaraby-martyr-chaos-negligence-recklessness-absence-law/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/06/04/yusuf-sameh-alaraby-martyr-chaos-negligence-recklessness-absence-law/#comments Sun, 04 Jun 2017 09:30:21 +0000 http://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=627742 "Dance him to heaven" were the sad mother’s, Marwa Kennawy, last words, lamenting her 14-year-old only child, Youssef, paying him farewell for the last time before burying him

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While Yusuf Alaraby, a 14 year-old–boy, was hanging out with his friends as usual on his way back home, suddenly, in the middle of a crowded street, he fell to the ground—a victim to a stray bullet that struck him directly in the head.

His friends, as young and innocent as him, were horrified and did not hear any gunshots in the vicinity; they only saw their little beloved friend who was just talking and laughing with them drowning in his own blood! Just like that—after a stray bullet caused him to lose consciousness! The ambulance took him to the nearest hospital to where the accident took place, “October University Hospital.”

After Youssef was transferred to the hospital and his condition had been examined, doctors told his mother, human rights activist Marwa Kennawy, that her son’s heart has completely stopped, that he was put on the ventilator after he had suffered a complete coma, and that he is waiting for a divine miracle. The mother didn’t give up hope, day and night praying to God for eleven days that her only child gets up and recover; however, sadly after the incident, the young boy, who was full of life and hope, died. All attempts to rescue him failed. Youssef died on Monday, and his funeral was held at Al-Hossari Mosque.

Well known for his patriotism, Youssef died and left his mother suffering the bitterness of his loss.

The question still remains: who guarantees that this incident will not be repeated again involving another innocent soul and destroying another family.

The sovereignty of the law and the justice in applying it on everybody is the only guarantee for a secure and stable life for all citizens.

Three of the five defendants were arrested; they confessed and admitted they were shooting bullets happily while celebrating the wedding of one of them, carelessly killing Youssef and wounding another girl who was in the vicinity as well.

One of the fugitives accused is an officer called T.M. Abu Talib, the son of major general Mohammed Amin Abu Talib, the former Beni Suef security director.

The second fugitive is the son of the current deputy secretary of the Defence and National Security Committee, general Ahmed Abdul Talawab.

We all demand promptly arresting the fugitives no matter who they are, putting them on trial, and quickly punishing them. That is the least we can do for his mother who will never see her beloved son again.

This terrible incident occurred as a result of negligence, recklessness, and misuse of weapons, with no care for the lives of people and children. For more than 12 days now, the fugitives did not turn themselves in to the authorities in charge of the case, nor were they arrested or interrogated. Therefore, we must all continue to press for this to happen and wait for justice to take its course.

Who is going to compensate this bereaved mother for her lost son? Who is going to compensate his family and friends?

Every day, innocent lives are wasted due to negligence and the feeling that some citizens are above the law. Until when will a bunch of corrupted beneficiaries wreak havoc without being accounted for their shameful actions that cause the destruction of a whole family, a whole country?

We have to press and demand fiercely through each and every media platform that Youssef’s killers be subject to trials and be convicted. We must never give up demanding justice for everybody; we should insist on purifying our country from some of the corrupted officials in charge, those who adopt the policy of negligence and the trend of being above the law. Youssef’s killers must be subjected to trial; only then can we declare that we live in a country that respect all citizens equally; only then can we feel that we repaid Youssef and every Youssef in this country their dues.

Youssef’s right will remain our debt to his mum, who will never rest until she sees justice taking its course. And until then, may Youssef’s soul rest in peace and his mother be granted patience and solace.

Sahar Qassem is a former radio announcer and news editor, and a freelance translator

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On the sidelines of “Belt and Road” https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/06/04/sidelines-belt-road/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/06/04/sidelines-belt-road/#respond Sun, 04 Jun 2017 09:00:24 +0000 http://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=627740 Egypt knocks on doors of Chinese dragon…7 steps to activate strategic partnerships

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China is better, even if it is far. This sentence is still valid, and the Chinese dragon woke up again. The dragon explored its “old cards” and restored “the Silk Road” not for nostalgia, but to win the battle of the future.

The Chinese elite want to win this battle without waging a war. Chinese president Chi Jinping has chosen the “Belt and Road” initiative to be China’s way of winning the future. Certainly, many countries in the west, especially the USA, do not believe in these moves, as Beijing probably has a different vision and style. They prefer “strategic patience” rather than “rushing”—building now to harvest in the future.

We have to remember that China was patient in restoring Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan; however, it could restore them by force. The leaders of Beijing chose to wait at the border of the river until the “bodies of their enemies” came floating to them. Hence, China chose a set of vital points in its strategy, including six vital sea lanes, most notably the Suez Canal. It also chose “strategic countries” to form an alliance that would be strengthened over time.

I think the Chinese elite is aware that Egypt is in the middle of the golden triangle of the three major continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa, which was described by Soviet foreign minister Gromyko as the great prize in the Middle East! In the present time, Egypt is the leader of the Arab World and one of the coming tigers with great gas and renewable energy resources. Egypt can reach 1.6 billion people benefiting from the Free Trade Agreements. But how can we benefit from the strategic relationship with the Chinese dragon? So far, the answer is “unsatisfactory”, as China’s trade balance is not good, investments are not big, and Chinese tourism is low.

In short, the distance between desire and reality—not capacity—is still wide! I participated in the Belt and Road Forum to search for some answers to this common “desire” between the Egyptian and Chinese sides.

During the forum, Wang Gangi, the vice chairperson of the Chinese International Publishing Group, stressed the keenness of his country to cooperate with Egypt. Gangi and his colleagues asserted during the meetings their interest to cooperate with Al-Ahram Association—one of the largest publishing houses in the east. They discussed ways of cooperation, through the exchange of publications and holding exhibitions, cultural weeks, and training sessions, etc.

Calming conflicts

All what we have is just asking a question of whether China is ready to work hard on calming the conflicts, especially in the Middle East and Africa. It is a vital question that comes in response to the Chinese president’s assertion that some areas located on the old silk road are now linked to conflicts, turmoils, crises, and challenges.

Jinping said that “these conditions should not be allowed to continue.” He provided the solution to the current situation by promoting common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security, and by creating a secure environment that is built and shared by all.

“I think that the ‘Chinese recipe’ is creating common interests that are tempting to go beyond the bitterness of the past,” Jinping stated. However, the Middle East and Africa, and some of the old bitterness between Pakistan and India, overshadow the Chinese projects in Pakistan! Most likely, we should try hard, and Cairo should cooperate with Beijing in Africa.

I think that Egypt should have a “bigger share” of the trade and infrastructure networks linking Asia with Europe and Africa, because this is what it has done over the past years. It has enhanced this through the Suez Canal—Egypt’s gift to the world—and the most critical artery for international trade.

In an interview with the Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry, Tarek Kabil, he explained that Egypt is ready to receive “huge investments” and that it focuses on the engineering industries (most notably the automotive industry), chemical industries, textiles, garment industries, and building materials industry. He pointed out that Egypt wants part of the cake of the ready-made clothes and textiles that are exported outside China.

In an open statement, Kabil said that he emphasised to the Chinese side during the talks on the importance of implementing the priority projects agreed upon. These are 18 projects in the fields of energy, transportation, and industry. I think the man was clear about China’s poor investment in Egypt.

The negotiations between the Egyptian delegation, which included Kabil; Sahar Nasr, the Minister of Investment and International Cooperation; representatives of the ministries of transport and electricity; and the vice chairperson of the Suez Canal Development Authority, were encouraging.

The cooperation and dialogue should continue. The Chinese company aims to make Egypt the largest country in the world in the field of fibreglass. They also talked about investments in the construction of new cities and projects of electricity and building materials.

Meetings were busy, but what about the other aspect of the relationship, namely tourism?!

One of the most important points was attracting 10 million Chinese tourists to Egypt, and I learned that the matter is already under study at the highest levels. I know that this is being discussed with the Chinese side, because the trade balance is in China’s favour and the matter of Chinese tourism to Egypt may be one of the areas where we can boost our exports to China.

In an interview with the Egyptian journalist and a foreign expert in Xinhua News Agency, Mohamed Mazen—who has been living in Beijing for years—said, “we can do that.” However, he acknowledged the lack of Chinese knowledge of Egypt, and the dominant idea is the Pyramids only!

Mazen offered a series of measures: the establishment of an Egyptian tourist year in China, as Turkey will do next year, and the use of unconventional ideas to attract Chinese tourists .

He also suggested enhancing the cooperation with the travel agencies, because the Chinese tourist cares about the language, the cost, and visa procedures. Therefore, we should benefit from social media as a tool to attract Chinese tourists, and we must focus on popular applications, such as “Wichat”, as sharing special moments attracts friends and family, and Egypt should focus on inviting public figures and celebrities as well.

Mazen said that the Chinese president’s visit to Luxor at the beginning of the Egyptian cultural year played a role in attracting Chinese tourists to Egypt.

The most important thing is to lay the foundations for a new strategic relationship between Egypt and China, and I think there are seven bases we can start with.

First: A joint strategic dialogue is needed to formulate a future vision on major strategic interests.

Second: A common strategy to settle conflicts in the Middle East.

Third: An anti-terrorism plan to put an end to extremism that threatens the Middle East and the world.

Fourth: The relationship between Egypt and China should rely on new foundations. The historical relations are very important, but the most important now is to set new foundations that meet aspirations of the new generations. “The Battle of Development” and “The Great Revival” should be the cornerstone of Egyptian relations with any country.

Fifth: The energy supplies witness major changes. The gas market went global, similar to the oil market, so the stability of these markets and supply routes have a direct impact on global growth and prosperity.

Sixth: It is very clear that China’s trade and economic interests in the Middle East in general and Egypt in particular are very large. Hence, more talks are needed to maximise the common interests of China and Egypt.

Seventh: The relations between people is very important, so we must promote cultural exchange and achieve the dream of increasing Chinese tourists to Egypt to five million people as soon as possible.

All these plans depend on the willingness of the parties. When we have the desire, the path would inevitably exist.

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Egypt needs huge investments and 10 million tourists https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/28/egypt-needs-huge-investments-10-million-tourists/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/28/egypt-needs-huge-investments-10-million-tourists/#comments Sun, 28 May 2017 13:00:07 +0000 http://www.thedailynewsegypt.com/?p=626986 During my participation in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, I have seen and heard many things that I have heard before, but the vital question here is: how could we activate the strategic relationship between Egypt and China? I think the relations of the two countries are weird. A senior Egyptian official …

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During my participation in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, I have seen and heard many things that I have heard before, but the vital question here is: how could we activate the strategic relationship between Egypt and China? I think the relations of the two countries are weird. A senior Egyptian official told me that Chinese investments in Egypt are less than Yemen’s! I told him that I was surprised to know that Thailand is the largest Asian investor in Egypt. Moreover, the number of Chinese tourists who come to Egypt does not exceed 180,000, out of 120 million Chinese tourists worldwide.

I was also surprised that there was no Arab leader at the summit held on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, which included 28 leaders, notably Vladimir Putin. I think that the Chinese side has the right to be deeply disturbed by the absence of Arabs. There was a strong debate over western confusion and the problems of the Belt and Road Initiative, as the Chinese side has been forced to change the name several times as a result of claims that “China attempts to dominate the world” or “a new way to plunder the wealth of developing countries.”

I think Beijing needs to exert more effort and increase its investments in Egypt so as to gain more friends who appreciate its efforts. Egypt is one of the first countries to join the initiative. I think that Egypt can dispel the doubts of developing countries, especially African ones, and work with Beijing in mega projects on a multilateral scale, as it does with Japan. Egypt should set a successful model as the Suez Canal is one of the six main axes of China’s project. I think that Egypt is really the “Silk Road Gate” as it was described in the Egyptian investment summit, held in Beijing on the sidelines of the forum.

I think China really understands the importance of Egypt, but it has not yet realised that Egypt changed after two revolutions and that Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is a popular leader who has an “ambitious project” and not enough time to turn his hopes into reality.

The current Egyptian situation obliges the Egyptian leadership to deal with serious investment partners, whether the United States, Japan, South Korea, or even Taiwan. There is now a long line of countries willing to establish a “fruitful partnership” with Egypt. These powers understand the importance of Egypt. The Chinese speakers from major Chinese companies and institutions in the Egyptian Investment Summit held on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum praised the historical relationship between Cairo and Beijing. They all know that Egypt is the gate of the golden triangle, which includes the countries that signed the free trade and partnership agreements with Egypt, whether in the European Union, Africa, or Arab countries. A representative of one of the largest Chinese companies said, “they do not see other powerful nations in Africa but Egypt. He asked me to keep it as a secret because his company was negotiating over the largest project ever seen on the African continent. He promised that we would meet in Cairo soon to complete our dialogue because they would be attending further negotiations in Egypt.

I think the new thing in the game is that Egypt is actually negotiating well, and the ministers do not spend their time abroad for fun, because they know very well that the Egyptian political leadership expects certain results. It may explain why only the ministers of trade, industry, and investment attended the forum, while the other six ministers that were to take part in it did not travel.

I believe that Minister of Trade Tarik Kabil revealed some messages that indicate that the Chinese side understands the situation in Egypt has changed, referring to the decline of Chinese investments in Cairo. The minister expressed Egypt’s desire to obtain a large part of the advantages of the Belt and Road initiative, mainly the spinning and weaving industry that China wants to transfer abroad because of its inability to compete.

Beautiful statements are no longer sufficient. Egypt now needs huge investments, labour-intensive projects, and millions of tourists. Egypt wants more than 10 million Chinese tourists. It is no secret that Cairo evaluates ​​its relations with others on all levels.

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Polezni Durak and the summit of Riyadh https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/28/polezni-durak-summit-riyadh/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/28/polezni-durak-summit-riyadh/#comments Sun, 28 May 2017 12:00:00 +0000 http://www.thedailynewsegypt.com/?p=626983 “Escape to the front” is one of the tactical plans known in war, politics, and economy. Tactics are flexible plans​ to achieve a partial goal that responds to the moment’s data and necessities. Tactics are also a kind of maneuver to improve one’s own position, whether it’s executed by a state, a government, or a …

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“Escape to the front” is one of the tactical plans known in war, politics, and economy. Tactics are flexible plans​ to achieve a partial goal that responds to the moment’s data and necessities. Tactics are also a kind of maneuver to improve one’s own position, whether it’s executed by a state, a government, or a president. Tactics are considered a successful method when it serves the strategy, which is a comprehensive plan to reach the final goals of deliberate and specific goals that target the future’s aspirations.

Donald Trump, in his visit to the region, is escaping to the front from the problems and complexities of US politics and internal problems that have surrounded him. He has come in danger after he sacked FBI director James Comey when he was close to implicating the US president and his men in an investigation regarding their relations with the Kremlin and Russian intelligence, who are accused of interfering in the presidential elections in November 2016.

According to the Washington Post, he revealed sensitive intelligence information about ISIS to the Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting in the Oval Office. This added up with the growing accusations to Rod Jay Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general of the United States at the department of justice, to appoint Robert Mueller as a special investigator, in circumstances similar to what happened with former US president Nixon during the Watergate scandal that led to his resignation.

Perhaps these repercussions took a long time to interact in the US political and intelligence circles and struck a cordon around president Trump and his administration for the past two months, even before the visits of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to Washington.

It is also the same crisis that forced Trump to accept the resignation of his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and suspend the appointment of his White House strategist Stephen Bannon to the National Security Council.

Hence our reading of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and his meeting with the leaders of the Islamic countries—along with his attempt to mobilise the region to serve his policies and help him get rid of his crises—as a tactical move to “escape to the front”, searching for free meals paid by the Gulf countries—led by  Saudi Arabia, but how?

Quoting the American newspaper headlines: “what can Trump achieve in Riyadh?”

Trump’s visit to Riyadh and the region seems ambitious in terms of geography, politics, and economics, but it will not make breakthroughs in the complicated issues, according to Simon Henderson, director of the Washington Institute’s Gulf and Energy Policy Program.

The political commentator on Israeli Channel 2, Audi Siegel, said that Trump will demand Arab rulers to lift the ban on travel of Israelis to Arab countries and allow direct flights to and from Tel Aviv, cooperate in the telecommunications sector, and open more channels of free trade, allowing Israeli sports and arts teams to participate in the international and regional events organised in the Arab countries.

On the contrary to what the Palestinian Authority leadership and the Arab rulers are betting on, the new US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, revealed that Trump, who calls for “the deal of the century”, has no plan to achieve it.

Friedman denied in an interview with the Israeli​ Hayom newspaper and its Arabic translation that Israel is required to make any concessions in order to achieve a settlement to the conflict—not even freezing the construction of the settlements.

As you see, it is a free meal for Trump and Israel at the expense of the Arabs. It is his adventure to summon Baghdad and Nuri al-Said allies under the name “Arabian Nato” to justify the consumption of the region’s potentials and the surplus of its oil revenues in a sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites, which Trump and Israel would benefit from. It’s a project that we can never allow to happen.

I think that the Egyptian leadership, which has refused to enter the quagmire of Yemen or to divide Syria and change the regimes by armed force, cannot agree to revive the policy of alliances dropped by Egypt in the fifties under its then-leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. Egypt can’t agree on that today with President Al-Sisi, as we see him smarter than that.

Here is the question: If so, why did Al-Sisi participate in Trump’s meeting?

The answer is, it’s Egypt’s role and circumstances that drive it to cooperate, participate, and play its cards. It is not prudent for the president not to accept the Saudi king’s call and Trump’s telephone call last Monday expressing his interest in meeting in Riyadh.

The delegations accompanying the two sides discussed arrangements for combating terrorism.

Al-Sisi might know how to manage and use Trump’s impulsiveness to be useful in serious cooperation and shifting some of his tactics to serve the region.

Read with me what was published by the Washington Post on Wednesday about the former National Security Ageny (NSA)/Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director and current professor at George Mason University, Michael Hayden, who named Donald Trump “Polezni Durak”, or Useful Idiot in the Russian language, used during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Hayden used the name to refer to the vision of Russian president Vladimir Putin to use Trump’s foolishness to serve Russia’s interests in the world. Ruling America is a new experiment for Trump, and he is one of the least experienced presidents in American history.

If American specialists see their president this way, why aren’t we alerted?

Arabs should know that Trump is not a trustworthy partner and friend, and they shouldn’t invite him or his ally “Israel” for such expensive free meals that our future generations will definitely pay for, both in their present and future.

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Limitations of illusion and cheap propaganda https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/17/limitations-illusion-cheap-propaganda/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/17/limitations-illusion-cheap-propaganda/#comments Wed, 17 May 2017 08:00:09 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=625692 Give me my freedom, release my hands Indeed, I’ve given you yours and did not try to retain anything Ah, your chains have bloodied my wrists I haven’t kept them, nor have they spared me Why do I keep promises that you do not honour? When will this captivity end, when the world is before …

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Give me my freedom, release my hands
Indeed, I’ve given you yours and did not try to retain anything
Ah, your chains have bloodied my wrists
I haven’t kept them, nor have they spared me
Why do I keep promises that you do not honour?
When will this captivity end, when the world is before us?

This was how Om Kolthoum sang Ibrahim Nagy’s poem Al Atlal” (The Ruins). While I was looking at Alexandria’s angry sea, I was stunned by the words when Om Kolthoum said, “your chains have bloodied my wrists” and “why do I keep promises that you do not honour?”

Maybe she voluntarily left herself in this illusionary captivity, which she could free herself from, especially that her lover is keeping her captive without anything in return. What I found weird, though, was how she asked for her freedom instead of actually practising it. I then stopped the song.

My thinking took me to a traditional story, a paradox of the famous character, Djoha.

The stories about Djoha and his donkey are genius, probably made up by people to offer cynical humour inspired by life’s stories to criticise authorities in discreet mockery, at a time when the price of overt mockery was getting killed and imprisoned.

If you look back at the history of most of the older civilisations, you will find Djohas in Istanbul, Anatolia, Rome, Baghdad, Iran, Armenia, Bulgaria, Kurdistan, India, and China. Wherever there were tyrannical rulers, people’s wrists were tied by chains that bloodied them and spoiled their lives.

I thought of one of the stories told by people about Djoha. The story said that a farmer went to Djoha to ask him for a rope to tie his donkey in front of his house. Djoha did not have a rope, but he gave advice to the farmer, saying, “you have to make this donkey think that you tie his neck with a rope. Pretend you tied him, and this donkey will not leave his place. That is what I did several times with my donkey who eventually believed the trick.”

The farmer listened to Djoha’s advice. The next day he found his donkey right where he left him. The farmer patted the donkey and moved him to take him to the field; however, the donkey refused to move. The farmer tried relentlessly until he felt despair.

He returned to Djoha to ask for his advice. He asked him, “did you pretend untying the donkey?”

The farmer responded, “it was not a tie.”

Djoha said, “but the donkey thought he was tied.” The man returned and pretended to unfasten the rope, so the donkey moved with him deliberately.

It inspired me an unfair comparison between the chain of “Ruins” and the chains of “Djoha’s donkey”. There is no big difference between what happens in the wild and in the world of humans. We do not mean to compare the donkey to nations and people. We want to say that the people may fall under false pretenses that restrict their minds and seize their souls, bringing them despair and frustration. It happens perhaps because of wrong habits, unconsciousness, or someone who seeks every day to convince people that it is impossible to do better. The media also tells them that they are very poor and that the whole world conspires against them.

The government continues its bias towards savage capitalism through tax exemptions, financial policies, and laws formed by the parliamentarians in favour of businesspeople.

The new Investment Law returned the private free zones wasting billions of pounds of taxes and customs. Propaganda stupidly harms the regime when it fools the people and tells them that all these measures are in favour of the people, while the citizen is actually suffering from chains.

Does the media realise its crimes’ impact? Does it not know that a nation whose generations always talk about the weakness of the state and the failures of its institutions will stay desperate? Does the propaganda realise that the people know well that media tycoons get paid millions of pounds while they demand them to be patient and endure low living conditions?

Gentlemen, you should give the people hope and free them from the illusions of fear, poverty, and weakness. Egypt will never die, and you should not stigmatise the state of disintegration.

Do not compare Egypt to Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Libya, as you should compare it to Germany and Japan after World War II. You should also show some respect and appreciation for the people, and free yourselves from the restrictions and delusions of Djoha’s donkey.
Prof. Dr. Mohamed El Saadany is the Vice President for Graduate Studies & Research at Misr University.

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Egypt’s image and the country’s soft power https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/17/egypts-image-countrys-soft-power/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/17/egypts-image-countrys-soft-power/#comments Wed, 17 May 2017 07:00:21 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=625688 It is a confusing question: Who is responsible for Egypt’s image? Perhaps the mystery lies in Egypt’s “important cards”, which are capable of producing a “wonderful image”, but the new image of Egypt is usually “temporary”. The investment conference in Sharm El-Sheikh created an “attractive atmosphere”, however the Egyptian government did not complete it. The …

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It is a confusing question: Who is responsible for Egypt’s image? Perhaps the mystery lies in Egypt’s “important cards”, which are capable of producing a “wonderful image”, but the new image of Egypt is usually “temporary”.

The investment conference in Sharm El-Sheikh created an “attractive atmosphere”, however the Egyptian government did not complete it. The same thing happened with Lionel Messi when he came to Cairo to promote the treatment of Hepatitis C in Egypt. Finally, Pope Francis’ visit to Egypt shed light on Egypt’s efforts in religious tolerance. After the visit, we were very happy and exchanged congratulations, but we did not realise, as usual, that the difficult part would be in the next day. It leads us to the same question: Who is responsible for Egypt’s image?

Despite the danger of terrorist threats, they offer an opportunity for Egyptians to set a model of cohesion and coexistence. In the midst of these terrorist tragedies, the world is looking for a “light of hope.”

Recently, the Christian Science Monitor published an article about Egypt’s goodwill, in which the American newspaper pointed out that Egypt sets a model of goodwill among different religions.

It added that the coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Egypt is a result of the great efforts exerted by the two major religious leaders, Imam Ahmad al-Tayeb of Al-Azhar and Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II. The newspaper pointed out that the two leaders launched the “Egyptian Family House” body to reform the religious teachings about others. The rest of the Middle East needs similar models of religious harmony among Egyptian society, because it creates a soft and powerful weapon against the hatred and violence of terrorist organisations like the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda.

I think that Pope Francis’ II visit was successful, as international media covered it very well. Hence, it seems for me that Egypt has already adopted a “different policy” created by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi regarding the renewal of religious discourse and the comprehensive confrontation of terrorism.

Being a symbol of the state and its leader, President Al-Sisi can guarantee coexistence and harmony within the society and ensure the security of both Christians and Muslims.

We cannot forget the role of the great national institution—the Egyptian military—in protecting Egypt and its people from the terrorism threat. However, these different efforts need to be used in building something more, and in linking the internal community with foreign media and communities.

Nart Bouran, CEO of the Sky News Arabia channel, once said, “There is no international channel capable of competing with the Egyptian media in its country.” I guess he meant that we have a powerful local media.

When Bouran is besieged, “Do the Egyptian news channels live up to the international competition?”

The man said that the competition is available, but honestly I did not see any of the institutions developing a plan to compete with Sky News Arabia or any other channels. I think that the answer is clear, but the man is back to ease the harsh reality.

Competition is no longer just on TV, and Egypt is distinct and a strong competitor to international sites, but it doesn’t communicate with the world using its language to increase the impact. I think the problem is that we are talking to ourselves, and we haven’t gotten tired of self-flagellation and complaining that others do not appreciate what we are doing, or talking about the wonderful things that we have. In addition, we haven’t realised that the battlefield is outside, and that the process of making the image of Egypt is the essence of the Egyptian soft power, which has become one of the most important challenges of the Egyptian national security.

Weapons are diverse in the hands of nations, and they fight their battles with soft power—most notably media, cinema, drama, and documentaries.

In addition, science has now given us the “new media” and the means of social media communication, and it is enough to refer to the Australian film “Walk like an Egyptian” [this film is available on YouTube]. The film is about an Australian man, his fiancée, and his friends visiting Egypt as tourists, and the film has half a million views.

To be honest, its more impressive than most of the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism. We have already discussed the importance of tourism, and here we pointed to the need to work on the Chinese market and attracting 5 million Chinese tourists. Efforts come from 300 Egyptian tourism companies that attend a tourism conference to support Egyptian tourism in the Chinese market, and they are doing this under the title “The campaign of one million Chinese tourists to visit Egypt”.

I think that president Al-Sisi needs the unity of the Egyptian soft power. This unity must be formed as soon as possible, and it should work on developing perceptions and strategies for making the image of Egypt. However, the starting point is to focus on communicating with the international world and moving in three directions. The first is highlighting the Egyptian uniqueness of experience in the harmonious religious coexistence and the efforts of the president and the religious establishments in combating extremism and renewing the religious discourse.

The second point is to communicate with the foreign media as Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and Malaysia do.

The third point is to highlight Egypt as a promising region with investment and serious openness to the world, and perhaps the project of the century is the “Suez Canal Economic Zone.”

These are just points, therefore all the Egyptian minds should be activated, and efforts should be coordinated.

I think that this dispute and the conflict of competencies is the last thing that needs to be resolved, and to make a stable image of Egypt, we need to cooperate with others to make the image of Egypt, not to be coordinated by the ministers themselves.

Mohamed Sabrin is a journalist at Al-Ahram

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Threat of terrorism and necessity of changing political and legal convictions https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/10/threat-terrorism-necessity-changing-political-legal-convictions/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/10/threat-terrorism-necessity-changing-political-legal-convictions/#comments Wed, 10 May 2017 10:00:12 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624928 Terrorism hits again with its evil hand in the heart of Cairo, the Egyptian capital, targeting this time police forces stationed on the outskirts of Nasr City in a semi-desert region. The blow’s circumstances in terms of timing and method of implementation is indicative of the bankruptcy and weakness of such organisations and also a …

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Terrorism hits again with its evil hand in the heart of Cairo, the Egyptian capital, targeting this time police forces stationed on the outskirts of Nasr City in a semi-desert region. The blow’s circumstances in terms of timing and method of implementation is indicative of the bankruptcy and weakness of such organisations and also a function of the relative ability of the Egyptian security services to pre-empt successful strikes of its own. These strikes led these organisations to try to change their tactics and shift from the mechanisms of bombing, booby-trapping, and suicide operations to the mechanism of armed attacks with automatic rifles and fast vehicles.

We are not discussing the tactics and techniques of terrorist groups. There are experts who have the ability and knowledge to discuss this and to provide systematic information related to the change in these tactics, but we are talking here about the political, societal, informational, and human dimensions of this crime and its predecessors targeting the police and army forces and Christian religious institutions since the beginning of this year.

What draws attention to this aspect is the gap between the ugliness and deception of successive terrorist crimes and the great sacrifices made by law-enforcement agencies, as well as the fluidity of political and media situations (sometimes human rights) towards these attitudes.

It seems that there are those who deal with these crimes through the glasses of political affiliation and the position of the ruling power, and they mix the variable system with the nature of the democratic game and the fixed systems of the state. We find that the analysis and positions of those people is dyed with a certain political color in situations in which we should not confuse between what’s political and what’s national.

It is strange to find political figures exploiting terrorist crimes in attacking the regime, not from the standpoint of criticising security defaults or to reject the security policies—which is legitimate—but from the angle of a political practice and economic options of the regime. This angle of criticism is legitimate if it’s in a political context, not to be only used at the moment of terrorist danger and with the bodies of victims who paid their lives to counter this danger. This is unacceptable and opens the door to many questions.

The term “national alignment”, which is frequently said by many people without determining its dimensions, features, and requirements, turns into a hollow logo afterwards. If we understand the origin of the phrase, we will discover that we should look down on the political positions and ideological trenches, and separate between our position from the condemnation of terrorist crimes and violence in all its forms and our position from the ruling power and its institutions.

The term also obligates everyone to work as a harmonious and integrated team that aims at eliminating terrorism intellectually, financially, and politically. This term means that we should stop justifying terrorist crimes in any degree at any level.

Terrorism as a global criminal phenomenon that is beyond borders, political blocs, and religions can only be eliminated through a comprehensive national vision and solidarity among all parties and forces of society—governmental, political, media, legal, religious, and security—as well as the harmonious international positions that are aware of the nature and dimensions of this danger and its impact on human rights, peace, and security on the national and international levels.

In view of the current local and global scenes, we find ourselves facing many gaps that weaken our ability—as a nation and as a world—to defeat terrorism and extremism. These gaps are not made by those who sacrifice their lives in the confrontation of terrorism. Unfortunately, politicians, jurists, and international officials have only repeated meaningless statements; they haven’t exerted any effort to see the scene from all angles and discover that the danger that we face requires us to change our convictions and develop our political and legal tools.

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Social media credibility and latest trends in news reporting https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/09/social-media-credibility-latest-trends-news-reporting/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/09/social-media-credibility-latest-trends-news-reporting/#respond Tue, 09 May 2017 20:00:19 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624930 The AUC kicked off the first-ever virtual session series at the Adham Center for Television and Digital Journalism, a conference call with professor Vince Gonzales, who is an investigative journalist, professor of professional practice at the University of South California, and coordinator of the University’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s masters degree programme in …

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The AUC kicked off the first-ever virtual session series at the Adham Center for Television and Digital Journalism, a conference call with professor Vince Gonzales, who is an investigative journalist, professor of professional practice at the University of South California, and coordinator of the University’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s masters degree programme in journalism. He spoke to students about credible news-making on social media. It was a great discussion titled “Critical News-Making for Social Media.” The session was moderated by professor Dr. Hussein Amin, director of the Kamal Adham Center for Television and Digital Journalism, and in the presence of guest of honour Mr. Brian A. Shott, press attaché at the US embassy.

The interactive session discussed how to maintain credibility, standards, and traditions that make media organisations look great and how traditional media organizations, such as the New York Times and CNN, had to change in the presentation of themselves and in their tone of journalism.

In understanding how to reach audiences, Professor Gonzales focused on how to maintain them and how to get them to deeper content, how to thread each piece of journalism through a complex maze of different sites and applications, which fundamentally changed the way newsrooms operate.

He also explained that the essential nature of journalism has not changed and that it is still about reporting stories, about being balanced, and adding perspective and context to help explain the world. But now it is threaded through a system built for scale, speed, and revenue.

Furthermore, highlighting the integration between the news business and social platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Google and how those are significantly influencing the direction and practices of journalism.

He also discussed researches that proved that people like to spend more time with longer articles on their cellphones rather than with shorter ones as they need context, perspective, and sources they can trust.

Professor Gonzales emphasised and explained the central role of audience strategists and social platform editors at the United States. On the other hand, the strategy which should be followed by reporters in using social media is to understand the most common traps and knowing what to report to people through giving them the information they need—for example, not to tell them how to vote and for whom but telling them to go to the voting booth and be a responsible citizen.

In his presentation, he also discussed targeting potential audiences and how to drive them to your broadcast, main site, or premier platform, as well as the importance of verification of what you see and read online as a fundamental step during the process of reporting, knowing when a short video can replace graphs and texts, and taking advantage of the thirst for news in breaking situations to reach new audiences.

An open discussion between Professor Vince Gonzales and AUC scholars covered several issues regarding media illiteracy in Egypt and the United States.

He explained the wide-spread belief regarding a strong political bias in the media with various notable newspapers having made endorsements of candidates in the 2016 US presidential elections and to some extent had a significant effect on shaping the voters’ views. There are organisations which now have political point of view, but 10 to 20 years ago these organisations were objective and not part of the political process. Nowadays, there is a shift in perceptions, political stances, and ways people operate in the media.

He stressed that it’s perfectly acceptable to create separate accounts for personal and professional uses. Many professionals open two accounts within the same social media site, one for each purpose. However, be aware that just because your students or audiences are connected to you through a professional account only, there is still a chance they could find and view your personal account. Sometimes when reporting on professional account, you get a response from people on your personal one. Unfortunately, when merging both professional and personal social media accounts, the pros and cons need to be considered.

Regarding the emergency law and the publishing of negative news, he said that the press’ watchdog role in monitoring the conduct of government officials is assumed to be vital for democracy. The effectiveness of this watchdog role is less clearly understood. The exact role of journalists is to examine the actions of the government and whether the government attacks them. The role of a journalist in case of emergency is not about attacking the government, but about preventing any violations or malpractices.

On a question about how to balance and promote your story, or in other words your brand, professor Gonzales asserted that they teach their students in the public diplomacy and public relations community how to present the information in a way that make their audience do not feel that they are pushing a certain message on them, but presenting it in the form of a good story.

Professor Gonzales replied to a question about the most creative way to cover the visit of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to Washington, that organisations such as CNN would not like it to be a non-traditional coverage; however, if you are just covering what everybody else is covering, that is not news. For example, Jimmy Breslin, one of the most famous columnists, wrote his most famous story by literally stepping away from what his peers were covering. For example, when the media was focusing on president John F. Kennedy’s funeral, Breslin followed Clifton Pollard, the man who dug the assassinated leader’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, and came out with a better story than anyone else who was just covering the news. He explained that as a journalist, you have to cover the story from a different perspective and find voices which other reporters are ignoring and what deeper reporting you can do to present a very different view to the public.

Another question was raised by professor Dr. Hussein Amin on the use of visualisation in news reporting. Professor Gonzales explained that it is an important tool used in the US in which journalists are able to create their own interactive graphics and add visual components to their reports in order to engage users, to turn paragraphs into an interactive timeline with videos and photos. Some others use sound sites to augment their texts, by adding an audio for users to hear a longer version of the story.

I encourage you to watch the video of this informative presentation and discussion about the credibility of different social media platforms and latest trends in journalism and news reporting.

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The Montreux Convention of 1937: a key step towards Egyptian independence https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/08/montreux-convention-1937-key-step-towards-egyptian-independence/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/08/montreux-convention-1937-key-step-towards-egyptian-independence/#respond Mon, 08 May 2017 05:45:31 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624622 Neutral Switzerland has been a renowned facilitator in peace negotiations and a traditional meeting place for parties in conflict. At the same time, little is known about Switzerland’s role in a historic step that helped Egypt establish sovereignty and gain full independence. Eighty years ago, on 8 May 1937, the Montreux Convention Regarding the Abolition …

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Neutral Switzerland has been a renowned facilitator in peace negotiations and a traditional meeting place for parties in conflict. At the same time, little is known about Switzerland’s role in a historic step that helped Egypt establish sovereignty and gain full independence. Eighty years ago, on 8 May 1937, the Montreux Convention Regarding the Abolition of the Capitulations in Egypt was concluded. Foreigners in Egypt were finally placed under the Egyptian legal system.

The capitulations phenomenon, started by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, was a fundamental impediment to Egyptian sovereignty. Based on the principle of extraterritorial jurisdiction, it allowed capitulatory powers—Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United States—to manage judiciary, legislative, and fiscal issues of their nationals living on Egyptian territory. Not only did this deprive Egypt of its right to exercise self-determination, but it also resulted in unequal treatment. Any civil or commercial disagreements between foreigners and Egyptians had been handled in mixed courts, which often tended to favour nationals of capitulatory powers at the expense of Egyptians.

Following the First World War and based on the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936, nationalism gained ground in Egypt, and the government, backed by the newly established Wafd Party, stepped up its demands to the British government—then in control of Egypt—to place foreigners under the local Egyptian legal system. On 12 April 1937, the president of the Swiss Confederation, Mr. Giuseppe Motta, opened the Montreux conference. By highlighting the importance of the Anglo-Egyptian treaty, he noted that the Egyptian institutions were comparable to those in European countries and showed his support for the Egyptian request to revise the legal status of foreigners. The Egyptian delegation was headed by Mustapha El-Nahas Pasha, Egyptian president of the Council of Ministers, and president of the Egyptian delegation in Montreux. Switzerland, with no colonial past, was an obvious choice to host the conference. The participants recognised the symbolic importance of the venue. By providing a neutral platform, Switzerland offered a conducive atmosphere to these multilateral dialogues and thus enabled room for compromise.

However, due to the importance of interests at stake and the complexity of the legal issues involved, the Capitulations Conference was not an easy one. What proved to be a main stumbling block between Egypt and several capitulatory powers was the duration of the transitional period to effectively abolish mixed courts. Some delegation representatives wanted to preserve this judiciary tool of distinction between Egyptians and foreigners as long as possible, ignoring the fact that Egypt had come to Montreux to gain more independence. The last week of the conference was marked by intense negotiations and various non-official discussions between delegations. The issue on the transition phase was eventually resolved during intense talks between El-Nahas Pasha and Francois de Tessan, head of the French delegation. The following day, the transition phase was officially settled to 12 years, during which there would be a gradual “Egyptianisation” of courts, which was in accordance with the Egyptians’ initial request.

Thereupon, it was on the shore of Lake Geneva that the Capitulations Conference successfully came to an end and paved the way for Egypt to join the League of Nations. In spring 1937, El-Nahas Pasha stated in his closing speech at the conference that “the whole Orient will benefit from the outcome of the conference, since it marks the end of prejudices between the Orient and the Occident. From this day forward, the two regions are taking another step along the road to civilisation and progress.” In Egypt, the abolition of capitulations was a historic moment for the nationalist movement and a significant step towards independence.

Switzerland in general and the Lake Geneva region in particular have continued to host many important conferences and negotiations over the past decades. Today, it is the international Geneva that perhaps best symbolises Switzerland’s good offices. The city of Calvin started off as the headquarters of the League of Nations in 1920, later becoming the host of the United Nations and many other international organisations, NGOs, and academia. To this day, Geneva earns the trust of the international community by remaining true to its values of neutrality, openness, and respect. With the evolution of international relations and forms of conflicts, Switzerland’s good offices adapted to the changes by moving beyond passively offering its territory as a negotiating venue. Today, the country plays an active role as mediator and offers services such as dialogue facilitation or protection power mandates by representing diplomatic interests between two states in conflicts.

 

By Markus Leitner, the Ambassador of Switzerland to Egypt

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Between choice and inevitability https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/04/between-choice-and-inevitability/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/04/between-choice-and-inevitability/#comments Thu, 04 May 2017 10:00:47 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624239 The law of nature is inevitability, and the law of life is choice. Humans live between the ability to choose and the inevitability of life. You might wonder “how?” and the answer is that the law of nature does not recognise exceptions. Despite the renewing nature of life, it is stable and unchangeable. The change …

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The law of nature is inevitability, and the law of life is choice. Humans live between the ability to choose and the inevitability of life. You might wonder “how?” and the answer is that the law of nature does not recognise exceptions. Despite the renewing nature of life, it is stable and unchangeable. The change of seasons is inevitable, because the sun cannot just rise from the west. It is inevitable for the sun to rise from the east. The same goes for night and day. This is the law of nature that will not let an apple float; it falls on the ground instead where there is gravity and Newton’s law that knows no exceptions. Law in nature is the rule, not a coincidence.

Everyone is subject to this law; however, despite its cohesion, it is divided into sections, with the laws of physics, chemistry, the movement of celestial bodies, gravity, tides, the science of earth layers, biology, relativity, and the theories of thermodynamics.

In the law of nature, there is a large section called “genetics science”, from which developments made in modern sciences were derived, such as biotechnology and genetic engineering, resulting in cloning and new definitions through it; however, all of this never crossed the limits and inevitability of life. The process of cloning Dolly the sheep in the Rosalin Institute resulted in cloning a sheep, not another animal. It did not result in an elephant, giraffe, deer, monkey, or cow. It is the genetics law that determines the skin colour of humans, their height, and hair colour and texture—curly or straight for example—in addition to the eye colour and the gender of the foetus.

So as to nature, body, shape, and composition, the human being is subjected to the law, which is vanquished by nature and its inevitability that he can’t choose.

The human-being’s will in life and in his career is his choice. If he is willing good, he will do good, and if he is willing evil, he will find evil.

The law of life is a choice. He who is working hard, will be rewarded. Ask and you will find an answer. Request and you will get what you want. Knock on doors and they will be opened.

In life you are the one who chooses to be successful in your study, according to your ability of studying, understanding, and achievement, along with your choice to be committed or disobedient.

It is also like choosing to be politically supportive or opposed; it’s up to you. To be a good player in the game of politics, you should be armed by science, experience, expertise, and knowledge, or stay pale without a spirit or identity or initiatives, even if you became a minister; this is also your own choice.

If you get out of the playground of life as a loser scoring zero goals, you should only blame yourself for what you have done; your work and your weak will that failed to pass the tests of life.

If you like being in the audience seats, you should not dream of a lead role in the movie of life. Then you can only watch. If this is what you actually do, then you should know that you have not heard the calls of life to get up and work. It is choice, and unfortunately, we are not very good at making choices. We tend to blame life, when we are actually the ones to be blamed. The blame is on you; you were the one who turned a blind eye to your own will and your ability to keep fighting.

You determine your own will. When you have higher ambitions, you achieve more things that you are proud of. It is your choice now to give your life a new dimension.

Read, try, learn, interact, manage your time, and ask yourself what you added to yourself, your work, and your family. What have you read or watched recently? What has affected you? Which newspaper are you keen on reading regularly? If these questions have answers in you, you are someone who really deserves to live and be. If you do not have clear answers to these questions, you have chosen to be one of the people who are distinct only by what they eat and drink, and whom they marry—according to Darwin’s evolution theory—without a value added by them to life, community, and people. This means that no one will notice you, and this is when it becomes no right of yours to give opinion about people’s affairs or ask for people’s respect. Respect is something you receive based on what you give and the impact you leave, not through superiority over commoners and the humbler people who were not able to receive good education. They are classified based on what they do. Some of them are clever craftsmen and really good at what they do. They leave their own impact.

The point is not about your profession or the nature of your job; it is about your performance. This is the standard and indicator. In all cases, the door is still open before you. You can always start working, asking, and learning.

I believe I have answered several questions by many readers. I apologise if I do not answer everybody’s questions. Days are busy and it is difficult to keep up with everything. And your energy, no matter how large, is still considered limited before the force of time and the absurdities thrown our way by people and officials every day.

You live your life and walk your path between inevitability and freedom. Your being and physical presence is inevitable. Your life, personality, decisions, and biases are your choices. It is up to you to choose.

Prof. Dr. Mohamed El Saadany is the Vice President for Graduate Studies & Research at Misr University.

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The heritage of economic citizenship: a‘refuge’ for advancement https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/04/heritage-economic-citizenship-arefuge-advancement/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/04/heritage-economic-citizenship-arefuge-advancement/#comments Thu, 04 May 2017 09:00:31 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624230 A lot of unnecessary energy has already been expended on Egyptian television arguing over the planned reforms ofresidency and naturalisation procedures, with accusations of treason flying both ways. The idea is that you get a five-year long residency if you stash a lot money in the bank that the government will then spend and invest …

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A lot of unnecessary energy has already been expended on Egyptian television arguing over the planned reforms ofresidency and naturalisation procedures, with accusations of treason flying both ways. The idea is that you get a five-year long residency if you stash a lot money in the bank that the government will then spend and invest as it sees fit, with an IOU certificate promising to hand it all back when the residency permit expires.

Knowing the government’s record, such as old-age pensioners’ funds of workers’ syndicates, maybe this isn’t the best way of going about things. But that’s a concern for those depositing the money, not the self-righteous brigade here thatisafraid that the country will somehow be swamped by necessarily ‘evil’ foreigners who want to change the ethnic-sectarian composition of the country or spy on behalf of a foreign country. (If a Russian or a Chinaman wanted to come here to ‘invest’ in the country, say in the Suez Canal industrial zone, would anybody be up in arms against them?) This, in turn, is seen as a stepping stone towards naturalisation, since after ten years you can apply for the passport. This just goes to show how paranoid, and how ungrateful, some people are,given that places like Syria and Lebanon have always housed Egyptians in exile. Mohammad Abdu in Lebanon is the most famous case on display—somebody who was welcomed with open arms by everybody in Lebanon, Muslims and Christians alike, whohelped him and Gamal Al-Din al-Afghani set up newspapers calling for unity between Christians and Muslims and among Arabs in general.

Let’s not forget that Gamal Al-Din al-Afghani himself was the tutor of the first generation of nationalist leaders—SaadZaghloul and Qasim Amin. And Mr.al-Afghani was neither an Egyptian nor an Arab to begin with. How far we have fallen behind since then. But it just goes to show how you can create problems for yourself, intractable problems, if you don’t factor history into the equation. There are lots of solutions out there that can defuse the situation, not least in the Arab world.

In one particular Gulf Arab state—without givingnames—you have different gradesof nationality. Just having a passport doesn’t mean you’re a full citizen, with the bare minimum being a glorified travel document,which does not mean you are entitled to join the army or run for public office. Buying and selling land are allowed, but not muchmore. There’s all sorts of other restrictions too over dual citizenship, over being a member of a political party or in the armed forces of another country or having a criminal record, even somewhere else. And then there are the Bedouins who are Bedoon, ‘without’ nationality. They can come and go as they please—through designated border points—but they don’t have any social entitlements or rights to political participation.

Even in the US, a naturalised US citizen can’t run for the presidency, and there are constant ‘reviews’ of someone’s activities in the country of origin. This was true in the McCarthyism era of anti-Communist paranoia and is just as true now in the war on terror mania era. With the United Kingdom, you have special allowances made for citizens of Northern Ireland and Scotland and you have the category of British dependent state and ofCommonwealth states too.

What is more is that such arrangements have always existed from time immemorial and to great effect. In the glory days of the Roman republic, you had a layer cake of citizenship with full citizenship at the top—including running for the senate and leading the army—to a lesser state where you who could vote but not run for office, then those who could live there, buy and sell, and at the bottom those who could just live and work there but nothing more. Rome itself presided over a federation of Latin city-states that allowed it to stock up on cavalry and shipping crews, making up for key weaknesses in their otherwise impeccable army. Their allies, likewise, were organised in a senate with elected representatives. This way the Romans got the best of both worlds, earning the loyalty and the human capital of a far-flung landmass—Italy—without incurring too much in terms of costs, whether social entitlements or political risks. Can’t something like this exist in Egypt?

It can and it did. Dr. Hazem El-Biblawi, before he became prime minister, gave a talk at a conference held at the American University in Cairo back in 2012, which was organised by the Council on Foreign Relations from the US. His idea for enlivening the Arab economic situation was a kind of pan-regional citizenship, like the old Islamic caliphate, where an Arab could travel wherever he liked, take residence, own property, work, and invest, but not have political entitlements. What is more, Dr. Biblawionce pitched this idea to former president Hosni Mubarak, saying this would solve key manpower shortage problems Egypt was suffering from, mainly white collar professionals and other skilled workers. President Mubarak was willing to go along with the idea, provided that it was mutually binding—Arab countries had to open up their borders if Egypt was going to open its borders to them.

Dr. Biblawi said that was unnecessary, because Arab countries were being faced with their own shortages—people leaving for Egypt—and would be forced to open their borders in likewise fashion. Sadly, his arguments fell on deaf ears, and we’ve been stuck in the same rut ever since. Nobody denies that Egypt is an overpopulated country suffering from unemployment, but foreigners are not the cause of this unemployment.

People who want cushy desk jobs and permanent civil service posts are the problem, in addition to degree holders who don’t have any practical work skills or lack the necessary connectionseven if they do have the requisite skills. And it’s not like we don’t already have lots and lots of foreigners here, and I’m pretty sure most of them don’t have the kind of cash needed to deposit it in the trustedhands of the government. The real problem afflicting the Egyptian economy is, needless to say, bureaucracy: a six month residency is hardly long enough for proper investment planning. Butalmost as importantis the atrophied marketplace. Egypt is a ‘big’ country butit’snot that big, especially when it comes to sustaining the economies of scale demanded by the manufacturing sector—I was checking out the book market today and even the illicit books, printed on cheap photocopied paper, weren’t selling. Why? Every single bookshop had the same items in the same numbers, so people had stocked up already, leaving individual shopkeepers none the wiser. I can add an extra historical dimension here.

I once met a historian from New Zealand who specialised in Arab nationalism prior to Gamal Abdel Nasser and he told me that Saad Zaghloul and his whole generation of nationalist leaders wanted to transform the Ottoman caliphatefrom a political empire into a giant free trade zone.They even wanted to build a navy—a merchant marine, not a military armada—to connect Egypt through commerce to such far-flung places as Indonesia, a kind of prequel to the Chinese “One Belt, One Road” initiative, a new silk road.

In the process, you have the best of both worlds: political independence without economic isolation. Ah, how far we have fallen behind since then!

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Startups in the Middle East: a fun(ding) adventure https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/03/startups-middle-east-funding-adventure/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/03/startups-middle-east-funding-adventure/#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 08:30:01 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624088 The Middle East is a region of great opportunity. We have a large and young population with more than its fair share of problems, and as every entrepreneur knows, every problem is an opportunity; the bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity. As a region, we are also one of the largest exporters of capital …

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The Middle East is a region of great opportunity. We have a large and young population with more than its fair share of problems, and as every entrepreneur knows, every problem is an opportunity; the bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity. As a region, we are also one of the largest exporters of capital to the world. Investors from the region own the priciest global real estates and are shareholders in the largest companies of the world. The big question facing local entrepreneurs is how to attract big regional capital into opportunities from the region, for the region. Having successfully raised multiple rounds of funding from the region, we believe the Careem’s journey has teachings that can help us solve this puzzle.

I believe external capital follows traction in a big opportunity. In the beginning, the only capital that will bet on you is your own money or that of people who trust you. As an example, we started Careem with $100,000 of our own money. In about 6-9 months when that was running out, we managed to convince our friends and family to invest. That ‘friends, family, and fools’ round comprised of old friends, ex-colleagues, and against all advice, my mother-in-law. Beyond that round, we had to earn the right to take people’s money. It boiled down to convincing investors of the bigness of the opportunity, showing solid traction week after week, building an awesome team, and just not giving up.

Big opportunity

If you want to raise institutional money, then you must be solving a big problem. Small problems and opportunities can make great lifestyle businesses that you can fund with your own capital or that of friends, but they will not get you institutional interest. Investors know that many of their investments will not succeed, so the ones that make it need to be home-runs, and the only way to have home-runs is to only bet on big opportunities. In pre-Careem 2012, when we were thinking of ideas, one of the first things we did with any idea that came up was to calculate its market size. The initial market size for Careem was $5bn, which was the amount spent on taxis in the GCC. Our current view of Careem’s market size is significantly higher since we have expanded beyond GCC and the platform is filling the mass transit void in the region. If your idea has a market size of less than a few billion dollars, you will most likely have a tough time raising external capital. Big capital is attracted to big opportunities.

Solid traction

What may seem like an obvious opportunity to you will not be so obvious to others. To the others, you need to show proof of the opportunity in the form of traction. This is your ability to grow your business week-on-week. And growth does not just happen. It is a function of deeply understanding the needs of your customers, building products that address those needs, and making sure you do whatever it takes to make customers happy. Happy customers come back and bring many others with them, and this starts showing in your growth numbers. At Careem, we have been obsessed about our customers and growth. In the early days, we would track each and every trip to make sure it went well. Every failure (of which there were many in the beginning) was an opportunity for us to understand what went wrong and to change our systems/processes to prevent the same from happening again. And we monitored our growth like a hawk! Every week, every day, every 15 minutes. As I write this post, Dubai is up 7.8% from the same time last week. For an investor, growth is the truth, it is validation, it is proof.

Awesome team

You can’t do it alone, and investors know it. You will need a team, and the better the team and the more passionate it is about the opportunity, the better are your chances of success. As an entrepreneur, it is one of your foremost responsibilities to excite people to join the mission. Inability to build a great team is a leading indicator of challenges down the road. At Careem, we did not know many things about the business we were starting, but the one thing we did know was that investing in talent and culture would take us places. And we did many things on this front. We allocated a large pool of Careem equity for our colleagues, we hired companies to get talent on board, we chased amazing people to join us even after they had turned us down, and we invested time in designing a culture based on a set of core values. Team strength is a key criterion for investment decisions. No team, no chance of success, no funding.

Not giving up

You are not going to get it right the first time, maybe not even the second time; and you will be rejected by many. They key is to not give up, keep learning, and keep improving. This is an essential trait for an entrepreneur and it is needed more in the fundraising process than in any other part of the business. In our first round, we were rejected by all venture capital funds in the region except for one (thank you STC Ventures!). Today, alhamdulillah, we have most of them on board. We kept knocking on their doors, kept showing them our growth numbers, and kept at them until we convinced them to invest. Every time you feel like giving up, know that we have all gone through it and that better times wait on the other side of perseverance.

We are blessed to be in a region with so much opportunity and significant local capital. Our regional investors have had their reasons to invest outside the region, whether it is diversification away from the region, the lack of exits, or the shortage of professional teams to back. Times are changing though. The purchase of Souq by Amazon is a landmark transaction that will make regional investors pay attention to local opportunities. When they look, let’s make sure that they find us going after big opportunities with solid traction and with awesome teams. If they decide not to invest at first, let’s not give up. It is worth our time to get them onboard, because once they start investing in local startups, the region will change forever.

 

Mudassir Sheikha, CEO and Co-Founder, Careem

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FIFA Congress: An Israeli-Palestinian battleground https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/23/622800/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/23/622800/#respond Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:15 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=622800 Next month’s annual congress of the world soccer body, FIFA, is likely to become the first international forum since US president Donald Trump took office to debate Israel’s controversial settlement policy in the occupied West Bank. Israeli efforts to prevent FIFA from debating and possibly censoring it for allowing soccer teams from Jewish settlements in …

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Next month’s annual congress of the world soccer body, FIFA, is likely to become the first international forum since US president Donald Trump took office to debate Israel’s controversial settlement policy in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli efforts to prevent FIFA from debating and possibly censoring it for allowing soccer teams from Jewish settlements in occupied territory since 1967 to play in Israeli leagues are further complicated by the fact that Mr. Trump has called on Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu to freeze settlement activity.

Mr. Trump has expressed unconditional support for Israel and has sharply criticised a resolution in December in the United Nations Security Council that, with acquiescence of the Obama administration, condemned the Israeli settlement policy. Mr. Trump, who has made achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace one of his foreign policy goals, nevertheless advised Mr. Netanyahu on an official visit to Washington earlier this year that settlements “don’t help the process.”

The settlement issue is likely to again occupy centre stage when Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas meets Mr. Trump in Washington in early May before the FIFA congress in Bahrain. In a rare, official Israeli visit to a Gulf state, representatives of the Israel Football Association (IFA) will be granted visas to Bahrain, a country with which Israel has no diplomatic relations, to attend the congress.

Israel has in recent years succeeded in thwarting repeated Palestinian efforts to get its membership in FIFA suspended. FIFA, in a bid to prevent a situation that would put it in a tight spot at a time that the US justice department is prosecuting a number of its senior officials on corruption charges, appointed last year South African anti-apartheid icon Tokyo Sexwale to negotiate a solution.

Mr. Sexwale proposed three options, all of which are unlikely to provide relief. Mr. Sexwale reportedly initially suggested that FIFA could take the legal risk of throwing in the towel, give Israel six months to rectify the status of the disputed clubs, or continue to attempt to achieve a negotiated solution. Mr. Sexwale, under pressure from Israel, dropped any reference to a suspension of Israeli membership. In advance of submission of Mr. Sexwale’s report to FIFA, Israel is seeking to ensure that any references to punitive action against the Jewish state are removed.

The Palestine Football Association (PFA), human rights groups, and a coalition of sports associations, trade unions, and faith based groups are pressuring FIFA to act against Israel. The groups charge that the participation of settlement teams in Israeli competitions violates FIFA rules, FIFA’s adoption of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and international law, which sees Israeli settlements as illegal. FIFA’s bylaws bar any country from setting up teams in another country’s territory, or letting such teams play in its own leagues without the other country’s consent.

The Israeli foreign ministry’s communications with its embassies abroad suggest that Israel fears that it may be able to avert the Jewish state’s suspension by FIFA, but is unlikely to completely avoid punitive measures against it.

“Our growing assessment is that the FIFA Congress is liable to make a decision on suspending six Israeli teams that play over the Green Line, or even on suspending Israel from FIFA. We urge you to contact your countries’ representatives on the FIFA Council as soon as possible to obtain their support for Israel’s position, which rejects mixing politics with sport and calls for reaching an agreed solution between the parties…and to thwart an anti-Israel decision if it is brought before the council,” the foreign ministry said in a cable. The Green Line constitutes the line dividing the West Bank from Israel proper and demarks territory occupied in Israel during the 1967 Middle East War.

Ironically, the cable spotlights the fundamental problem underlying a lack of integrity in international sports governance: the ungoverned relationship between politics and sports. International sports associations and governments maintain a fiction that sports and politics are separate, even if the two are inextricably joined at the hip. The cable serves as evidence of how governments and associations use the fiction of a separation to corrupt the integrity of sports.

The relationship of sports and politics is equally evident in Palestinian soccer. The PFA is headed by Jibril Rajoub, Palestine’s sports czar, secretary of the central council of Mr. Abbas’s ruling Al Fatah group, and a former security chief who spent 17 years in Israeli prison.

Mr. Rajoub recently weakened the PFA’s battle with the IFA by repeatedly refusing in a debate in New York with an Israeli peace negotiator to condemn Palestinian attacks on Israeli Jews. Mr. Rajoub has praised in recent years a wave of knife attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

FIFA may well attempt to buy time by adopting Mr. Sexwale’s option to give Israel six months to rectify the situation. A FIFA congress decision to that effect would, however, effectively constitute a defeat for Israel, because it implicitly acknowledges that allowing West Bank teams to play in Israeli leagues constitutes a violation of FIFA rules as well as international law.

While Israel is certain to reject the notion, a six-month grace period would also buy Israel time to further counter the growing Boycott, Diversification, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to penalise Israel for continued occupation of the West Bank. Israel has made countering the BDS one of its foreign policy priorities. The Netanyahu government recently emulated Mr. Trump’s disputed ban on travel to the United States from six Muslim-majority counties by banning BDS supporters from travel to Israel.

FIFA’s groping with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to serve as a bell weather of international attitudes towards Jewish settlements at a time that many members of the international community are exasperated with the policies of the Netanyahu government, the most right-wing in Israeli history. It is also likely to put the Trump administration’s support for Israel to the test.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa as well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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Blame Egypt, think why later https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/21/blame-egypt-think-later/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/21/blame-egypt-think-later/#comments Fri, 21 Apr 2017 19:30:03 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=622701 In a research paper I am currently preparing, I found out that there was some kind of a decision taken by opinion-making circles in the west to blame Egypt and Egyptians every day and then look for justifications later. The presidency of Egypt is the most undermined, followed by the armed forces, the police, media, …

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In a research paper I am currently preparing, I found out that there was some kind of a decision taken by opinion-making circles in the west to blame Egypt and Egyptians every day and then look for justifications later.

The presidency of Egypt is the most undermined, followed by the armed forces, the police, media, intelligence, judiciary, and then the parliament.

Yet, the presidency is almost always blamed.

If a court ruling acquitted a defendant, western media would say the ruling was politicised and came by pressure or orders from the presidency, the government, or intelligence, at the discretion of the author.

At the same time, if some defendant is found guilty, it will also be a presidential or government decision. When the Court of Cassation acquits this same person later, the accusation is at hand: this was driven by orders issued from a security agency.

Egypt is wrong in any case, from their point of view.

We have an example showing the gap in the different assessments of the Egyptian administration. The Egyptian-American activist Aya Hegazy returned to the US after three years of pre-trial detention during a trial that accused her of human trafficking.

On Sunday, an Egyptian court acquitted Aya Hegazy and seven more from several charges, including human trafficking. The case was publicly known as the Belady Foundation case. All eight defendants were accused of human trafficking, abduction of children, abusing them sexually, and forcing them to take part in political demonstrations.

Her lawyer affirmed several times that Hegazy was only doing charity for the benefit of street children.

Hegazy is a good example of someone who does a good thing in a wrong way. She is providing a service to Egypt and Egyptians, but in line with her own standards and rules, without considering the laws and procedures [Editor’s note: her acquittal suggests that she followed the law].

She wants to help street children, but Egypt has witnessed dozens of associations that raised similar slogans and were later found to have damaged Egypt.

The court issued its decision based on the information it had.

The previous US administration had asked the Egyptian authorities to release Aya Hegazy. A statement issued by the White House in September 2016 demanded Egypt to drop all charges against her and release Hegazy.

But the Egyptian Foreign Ministry condemned the statement and hinted that some American official circles insist on disregarding the principle of the rule of law [editor’s note: the Trump White House, after her release, noted that it had intervened on Hegazy’s behalf to secure her release].

But talks about the case remained in the hallways of the Egyptian judiciary, insisting the case must be processed carefully so that Hegazy does not fall victim to injustice despite her good intentions. When she was acquitted, the court was as courageous as it was when it decided to detain her before.

I have information that she decided to return to the United States on a civilian aircraft by her own will [editor’s note: she was taken on a US military aircraft and met US president Trump on Thursday]. But what concerns me more is that she and her colleagues must understand that Egypt is witnessing exceptional circumstances. She had to make sure the procedures she followed as a civil society foundation were correct because Egypt suffered a lot from those who claimed to have good intentions but had done bad.

Hegazy’s innocence shows the size of the dilemma faced by Egypt: government and people. Many countries turned into tribes under different flags, carrying weapons on the ruins of their states.

Egypt has chosen a difficult path: keeping the state institutions, even if these institutions suffer from corruption, whether it is neglect, wasting people’s time and energy, or financial corruption. But it is important that the state is still intact and subject to reform.

In the period after the 25 January revolution and throughout the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptians used to say: if we are to be stopped for inspection, let it be the police or the army, rather than terrorists or loggers.

Egyptians want a strong state with active institutions.

Any assessment of the situation in Egypt without accounting for the current circumstances and fears is an evaluation away from reality.

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Withdrawing into the arts: a local, two-pronged strategy for fighting ISIS https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/19/withdrawing-arts-local-two-pronged-strategy-fighting-isis/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/19/withdrawing-arts-local-two-pronged-strategy-fighting-isis/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 10:00:38 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=622366 Just the other day, I was meeting with a Christian friend at a cafeteria on the top of a building, and he was afraid the place would fall down if a terrorist bomb targeted it. He was reacting—rightly it seems—to what had just happened in Stockholm. Now look what’s happened here: two churches were targeted …

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Just the other day, I was meeting with a Christian friend at a cafeteria on the top of a building, and he was afraid the place would fall down if a terrorist bomb targeted it. He was reacting—rightly it seems—to what had just happened in Stockholm. Now look what’s happened here: two churches were targeted on Palm Sunday, with scores dead and wounded in Alexandria and Tanta.

It’s fair to say this is all political, meant to embarrass President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in the US and kill off any chances for Egypt to rebuild its ailing tourist industry. But that doesn’t exonerate the rest of us for not doing enough to combat extremism. It is worth noting that this brand of fanatic likes to attack shrines and mortuaries, such as the shameless ransacking of the remains of the Prophet Yunus (PBUH) in Iraq. Following Sunday’s terrorist attacks, former Grand Mufti Dr. Ali Gomaa was talking about these fanatics and how they’d attacked the mortuary of Imam Al-Nawawi in Syria. I can relate a personal experience in this regard. I once got fired from a place, without naming names, with no “clear” explanation as to why. But, curiously enough, something that came up in the complaints from the administration was that I had the audacity to use a book by Wasif Boutrous Ghali in class. I don’t think the specific book I used was the issue, but just the fact that I was using a book written by a Copt.

Wouldn’t you know it, shrines and mortuaries—by pure coincidence—are characteristic of Christianity also? We’re back to the debate about iconoclasm and how extremist groups in religious history—everybody’s religions—have attacked holy places and symbols to rupture the ability of these religious institutions to pass on their beliefs to the next generation. I don’t know for a fact that ISIS is behind the Alexandria and Tanta attacks, but I can believe it.

It’s their style. They’re feeling the pinch in Iraq and Syria, so they’re lashing out elsewhere, in the not-so-far-off theatres in Egypt and Libya. And this analysis gives us an indicator as to what precisely we should be doing to combat this way of thinking. We have to expose iconoclasm for what it really is—a ploy—and settle once and for all the place of works of art and physical locations in religious practice and divinations. To cite Dr. Ali Gomaa again, one means of combating these groups is Sufism, a favourite target of Salafism and Wahabism. He quoted a religious saying calling on Muslims to withdraw themselves from the political scene in the event of the absence of an imam (meaning leader here), because taking the law in your own hands inevitably leads to bloodshed and charges of apostasy.

In those circumstances, it is better to live like a monk and focus on prayer and good deeds. I can add that good old-fashioned art is another strategic weapon we need to deploy, particularly the visual variety castigated by Salafis and Wahabis. Here’s why: I watched an Iranian movie some time ago called Son of Maryam (1998). It was a children’s movie about interfaith dialogue, telling the story of a young Muslim boy whose best friend is an old, old priest—the vicar of their village. The reason the boy loves him so much is that the priest knew the boy’s mother, who died in childbirth. He asks the priest if his mother was as pretty as the Virgin Mary, so the old man replies that all mothers are like the Virgin Mary.

The boy repeatedly goes into the church and looks at the paintings and statues. When his father objects, it’s not because he’s afraid the boy will be “seduced” by Christianity, but because he thinks the boy is wasting his time and should be working with his father, training to be a blacksmith. (It’s notable that the father makes weapons—daggers, swords, helmets.) The boy also takes care of the church when the priest has an accident, and he even heads off to town in search of the old man’s brother, a priest who got fed up of village life and went to the big city where the larger congregations were. (The boy’s village is so small, it doesn’t even have a hospital, hence his mother’s death and his desire to become a doctor, not a blacksmith like his father.)

While in the big city, the boy befriends a Christian boy who helps him out. When the hero shows the Christian boy a picture of the Kaaba, telling him it’s the house of God, the Christian boy replies that his father told him that churches were the houses of God. So what does the hero do? He says that God is everywhere. The boy hero’s name, not coincidentally, is Abdel Rahman—servant of the All-Merciful God. The upshot of all this, apart from portraying Christians as fellow believers, is self-confidence, particularly in the face of statues and images. You constantly witness scenes where Abdel Rahman takes care of himself, buying a silk scarf to pray on (a Shiite practice), buying popcorn for himself, asking for directions, etc. The boy, moreover, is a mu’azzin (one who makes the call to prayer) and has a blind Muslim friend named Dawoud (after the Prophet David, PBUH), and he takes him into the church at one point too, describing to him what he sees.

Dawoud even insists on touching the face of the Virgin Mary to see how pretty and pure she is for himself, and Abdel Rahman obliges him. Could you imagine an Egyptian movie depicting such things? People here are terrified of everything—their own shadows even—as evidenced by the re-emergence of the hubbub over Devil-worshipping heavy metal cults and “Emos”, and the Baha’is and Shiites before them, not to forget the Sufis and any odd Egyptian movie that has something good to say about them—again without naming names. People forget, or have been made to forget, that the Fatimid’s ruled Egypt for four centuries, but they failed to remake the country on a Shiite mould.

It was the Fatimids who were eventually forced to reaffirm the Sunni adhan (call to prayer) and the Sunni jurisprudential schools (Hanafi, Shafi’i, Hanbali, and Malaki), with Al-Azhar—a Fatimid creation—itself becoming a bastion of Sunni learning. So there’s nothing to be afraid of. If you look at that Iranian movie again, you find hints of dissatisfaction with the sectarian divide also, since the hero has to look for the priest’s brother at both the local Catholic and Orthodox churches. He never knew there were different kinds of Christianity.

Religious problems and antagonisms always start off as internal, and then wash up onto the doorstep of another religion. Oh, and that goes for the Americans too. They’re more responsible for this than anybody, invading and then dismembering Iraq so that George W. Bush could be a self-professed “crusader”.

So, everybody’s to blame, but that still doesn’t exonerate us from setting our own house in order first. If we wait for the Americans to mend the error of their ways, hell will freeze over in the meantime!

Emad El-Din Aysha received his PhD in International Studies from the University of Sheffield in the UK and has taught, from 2001, at the American University in Cairo, the British University in Egypt, and the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development. From 2003 he has worked in English-language journalism in Egypt, first at the Egyptian Gazette and Egyptian Mail and most recently as a staff writer with Egypt Oil and Gas.

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