democracy

Terrorism and the Need to Acknowledge Accountability

I have a mixture of feelings of relief, angst, and anger following yesterday’s dramatic end to the search Earth_Western_Hemisphere_transparent_backgroundfor the Charlie Hebdo attackers.

Relief, because two psychotic murderers no longer roam the streets of France.

Angst, because of the brutal backlash that has already started against Muslim communities in the West.

And anger, partly at my fellow Muslims for seemingly wanting to fully distance themselves from any accountability for the current state of the general Muslim mindset/culture. And partly at the general Western world for not wanting to take accountability for a whole context they have played a huge role in creating.

I was glued to the television set as I watched events unfold live yesterday in Dammartin-en-Goele and Porte de Vincennes. I was awash with relief to see them come to an end. But at the same time I was horrified that yet four more had died in the midst of it all. For some reason I need to know who those four people are. I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was to turn on the news, hoping more information had been released. It hasn’t. There is a connection I need to make with those remaining four.

Yesterday night, just as the events ended, I learned that a friend of mine had recently moved to France. “Today they put a pig’s head in front of the mosque,” he told me. “Several women had their hijab pulled off their heads and there is a horrifying incitement campaign [against Muslims]. People are directing their anger at Islam and not just the murderers,” he said.

Early this morning I woke up to a status from a Dutch Muslim friend reporting that within her own limited network two mosques were firebombed, two women were soaked in beer by a co-passenger on the train while being called “fucking terrorists”, the mother of a friend was pelted with coca cola bottles, a young woman was told at the supermarket register that she should feel ashamed to still wear “that rag on her head”, numerous friends of friends were cussed at, slapped, lectured on their obligation to apologize, violated, etc., while bystanders did nothing. All the victims she had heard of were veiled women, she said.

I fear for my friends’ lives and for their families’ safety.

What frustrates me the most, I think, is the constant blame game that ensues after these sort of horrific events. No one wants to take responsibility for the mess we’re all in.

There is no simple answer to the question: what makes a person become a terrorist. Terrorism is the result of a very large number of complex factors. What acutely annoys me is that most of us have a very good idea what they are.  (more…)

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The Day I Became a Spy

I woke up this morning to what is probably the most hilarious news I have ever read.spy

A Facebook page called Revolutions & Secret Facts posted the following in Arabic:

“I have personally seen files originating from the State Security Apparatus posted on the official website of an international organization called Global Voices. This organization is sponsored and funded by Jewish Israelis. Spies who broke into the State Security Apparatus in Egypt sent these files to the organization. The files contain secrets about the Apparatus and the types of equipment they use. These files are still published on the [Global Voices] website. We haven’t previously alluded to this information so as not to aid in spreading State secrets. Among the official publicly acknowledged members of Global Voices inside Egypt are: …”

The status goes on to list the names of 19 people, all quite well known journalists, bloggers, and social media activists in Egypt. My name was among them. (more…)

26 Things I Learned in 2012 (and Thereabouts)

  1. Your family and your personal wellbeing always trump work.
  2. Your personal integrity is more important than a good salary.
  3. Love can be found on the tops of mountains.
  4. Never give up on the idea of finding your prince charming. He’s out there somewhere if you look hard enough.
  5. The very very hard times WILL be followed by good times so just hang in there a little bit longer. It will get better.
  6. Don’t worry too much about the details. Focus on the big picture.
  7. Sometimes your psyche and your body are yelling, “Give us a break!” Listen to them. Every now and then we need to give ourselves time to heal and to rejuvenate.
  8. Earth is such a beautiful planet. Make a point to see as much of it as you can manage.
  9. Earth is such a beautiful planet. It’s your responsibility to take care of it.
  10. Great friends are few and priceless. Hold onto them for dear life.
  11. Children are God’s greatest blessing. Treat them with respect and sensitivity.
  12. Be true to yourself. To do that you must know who you are. To do that, look within. Do not be confused by other people’s perceptions of who they think you are or who they want you to be.
  13. Value relationships with loved ones by keeping them strong. This requires lots of hard work. It’s worth it.
  14. To keep fit and healthy one must work hard and feel the pain.
  15. Don’t let the fitness of others demotivate you. If you continue to exercise, you can be as fit as they are one day.
  16. 70-year-olds who are consistent in their workout routines can be more fit than many 30-year-olds. These people deserve respect.
  17. Nothing bad will happen to you if you run in the rain or in sub-zero temperatures so just toughen up and get your jogging routine done.
  18. Live life. You only have one chance to do it.
  19. Don’t live your life through others. Decide what it is you would rather be doing and put together a plan to do it.
  20. There is nothing wrong with being 44-years-old and still not knowing what you want to be when you grow up (or wanting to be lots of different things).
  21. As you get older, your skin will droop and your hair will grow grey. Deal with it.
  22. When your country and your countrymen seem to be drowning in a sea of negativity, do what you can to be a drop of positivity in that sea.
  23. Democracy doesn’t come in 18 days. Hope and dignity do.
  24. Faith is a very personal matter. Do not let others tell you how your faith should be.
  25. Never dispose of common sense…especially when it comes to matters of faith.
  26. Do not allow others to dictate to you how your life should be lived, what you should believe, or how you should behave. They are doing what they want to do. You do what you want to do.

Welcome, Egypt, to democracy

The 2012 Egyptian presidential elections are not just any elections. They are the first democratic presidential elections to happen in this country. And they come at a great cost of life and limb from the Egyptian people. There is a lot at stake for Egyptians. Egypt turned over the souls of many of its sons and daughters to their Maker for these elections to happen. Eyes were lost, limbs were broken, and every single person who participated in the revolution risked their lives.

Egypt’s revolutionaries and their supporters wish to see true change in Egypt.  But as it happens, the picture those revolutionaries and their supporters have in their heads of what that change needs to be varies widely.

But what is democracy if it is not to give the people the tools with which to dictate which change is most desired by the majority?

Egyptians revolted from January 25 to February 11 and onwards in order to bring democracy to their country. But did they all truly understand what it means to live in a democracy? (more…)

A Stranger In My Own Country

As time goes by, post-revolution, I’m beginning to realize more and more that every person who participated in the revolution had different dreams in their heads for Egypt. We all had one shared dream: we wanted to remove Mubarak and his regime. General chants calling for freedom and social justice were common among all. But my concept of freedom and social justice evidently is different from my neighbor’s concept, and his concept is different from the concept of our farmer friend down south.

When I was demonstrating between January 25 and February 11, I was dreaming of a more progressive Egypt. I was dreaming of an Egypt with less corruption, less bureaucracy, more freedom of choice, openness to information and knowledge. I’m surrounded by friends and family who want similar things for Egypt, albeit not always in the same exact way. But the differences between me and my friends and family are differences I can tolerate. They are small differences, not large differences. They are expected differences. When I thought of “democracy”, I thought of democracy between me and my friends. Sometimes I’d be part of the majority on issues and sometimes I’d be part of the minority. Either way, we’d all get along and we’d accept each other and the results of our overall democratic decisions. After all, the differences were always differences I could tolerate.

But I live in my own bubble. Too many of us live in our own bubbles. (more…)

Egypt’s revolution: eyewitness account January 25 to 29

The following is my eyewitness account of events between Tuesday, January 25 and Saturday, January 29. I took all pictures and video footage below. This account only represents that which I have witnessed/filmed personally. It shows only one angle of the events of that week. An account of subsequent days will follow.

Day 1: On January 25, thousands of Egyptians in Cairo answered a call to protest against Mubarak’s regime. It was Police Day; a national holiday. Marches started in various parts of Cairo around noon and eventually started to merge in the early afternoon. Marches continued throughout the afternoon in the downtown area of Cairo with some hindrances by the police in the form of barricades to separate protesters. Protesters continued, nevertheless, to march throughout the downtown area until most of the groups eventually reached Tahrir Square. At 4:50pm, police fire the first tear gas canisters into the crowds to disperse protesters. Tear gas is then fired several more times. Angry protesters start forcing the police back. Rocks are thrown at police. Police rush the protesters, use more tear gas, and use water hoses. The upper hand goes back and forth between protesters and police, each pushed back for awhile and then the process is reversed. I leave protesters that night in the square in a relatively less violent atmosphere, singing the national anthem. Protesters eventually disperse and all go home.

2:44 pm

3:01 pm: "No to poverty, high prices, unemployment, corruption, and emergency law" were the demands on Jan 25

(more…)