IslamOnline

When Egypt imprisons the good guys

Within less than 24 hours of each other, two of my former bosses were forcibly detained by Egyptian

Hisham Gaafar

Hisham Gaafar

security forces. Both of their whereabouts are still unknown.

Hesham Gaafar was working in his office in the city of 6th of October in the suburbs of Cairo when armed Egyptian security forces entered the building. He was detained and questioned, money and documents were removed from the NGO’s safe, and all company computers were confiscated. Although the female employees were allowed to leave, the men were detained in the building for ten hours. They were then released and the offices of Mada Foundation were sealed.

Mada Foundation, founded in 2010, is a civil society nongovernmental organization dedicated to developmental journalism. The organization focuses on developing capacity building projects for the media. It also develops projects to empower women and Egyptian families. Hesham Gaafar is the head of its board of directors.

Hossam El-Sayed was at home when armed Egyptian security forces showed up at dawn, frightening his

Hossam El-Sayed

Hossam El-Sayed

young children and wife. Hossam has a serious heart condition that necessitates regular medication. He was not allowed to take his medication with him. Hossam is the managing director of Kenaya Media Partners, a production company that also provides consultation to media organizations.

I have known both of these men for 15 years from when we worked together at IslamOnline.net. It was at IslamOnline.net, where I worked mainly as its health and science editor, that I learned, through people like Hesham and Hossam, lessons in tolerance, acceptance, inclusion, journalism professionalism, and critical thinking.

Both Hesham and Hossam have dedicated their careers to building an egalitarian society through processes of constructive dialogue.

We have reached a critical phase in Egypt if men such as these are imprisoned with no clear charges made against them and no lawyers given access to them.

I owe so much to these men and to other former colleagues at IslamOnline. I owe my free mind to them. Egyptian authorities are imprisoning the builders of society while criminals, terrorists and corrupt officials run loose.

There is something seriously wrong about this.

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Trying to Understand IslamOnline’s Crisis

I’ve been horseback riding instinctively ever since I was a little girl. A year-and-a-half ago I decided to learn how to do it properly. One important thing I’ve learned is

IslamOnline employees gather around their lawyer on the 10th day of the strike

 that a relationship forms between horse and rider where there is a constant push-and-pull between the two; each trying to convince the other who is really in charge. While training, the half-ton horses have bucked, run wildly, and tried to throw me off. My role is then to show the horse that no matter what it does, I can hold on; I need to prove I’m a strong rider. Not only that, I need to bite back by pulling hard on one side of the reins and hurting the horse in the mouth to exert my control, otherwise it will continue trying to prove it’s boss.

After following the crisis at IslamOnline closely for the past 12 days, I think something similar to this analogy is happening between Cairo and Doha. I do not think it’s a battle between moderate and conservative Islam, as some would have us think. I do not think there’s a huge CIA conspiracy to eliminate moderate representations of Islam because “it is in the CIA’s best interests that Muslims continue to be seen as terrorists”; one possible explanation of what is happening at IslamOnline given by a worker on strike in the 6th of October building in Egypt.

From what I’ve seen, I think it’s a simple battle of one side showing the other who is in control; the sides being the Doha management at Al-Balagh Cultural Society – the legal owner of IslamOnline.net – and the Cairo editorial management of the IslamOnline website – the brains behind the content since day one.

The problem with this is that something in the range of 350 employees are caught in the middle.

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Egypt Journalists: Support IslamOnline Workers

I worked at IslamOnline for eight years. I started my career as a journalist with them. I occupied several positions within the institution: freelance writer, science editor, managing science editor, deputy editor-in-chief of English website, and director of communications. I left IslamOnline in 2008, but I have continued to be in touch with my friends and colleagues ever since. Anyone who has worked with or even visited IslamOnline will know that IslamOnline is a family.

I am inviting journalists in Egypt to show their support for the workers at IslamOnline by visiting the strikers on Thursday, March 25, at noon. I extend this invitation in my personal capacity as Nadia El-Awady and not in any professional capacity I currently occupy. I extend this invitation regardless of the very confusing circumstances that surround what’s happening at IslamOnline and why.

I ask you to join the workers; the workers who went to their office one morning nine days ago to suddenly learn that they were at risk of losing their jobs in two weeks’ time. I ask you to join the workers who have worked for ten years, providing content that has been followed by millions. You do not need to support the content itself to support the concept. And the concept, in my opinion, is the possibility of a unique media project disappearing from the Internet, or changing from what those workers had made it into.

I invite you to join the workers of IslamOnline in their strike by visiting their office in the 6th of October City in Egypt on Thursday, March 25 at noon.

Their address is:

West of Somid,Land Piece 7, 6th of October City

More information will be posted on the IslamOnline’s workers’ blog IslamOnline.net Voice for those interested. I am happy to take anyone wishing to go from Haram with me in my car.

See you there!

IslamOnline.net’s Future in Question

Employees at IslamOnline.net went on strike yesterday, March 15, after problems escalated with the relatively new Qatari board of directors. Some 50 employees have slept overnight at the organization’s offices in 6th of October City in Egypt as they negotiate acceptable severance packages with the board after learning Qatar intends on ending its contract with the Cairo office on March 31. Employees have announced that the new board has already taken over the website and that Cairo staff are unable to to manage the website or upload material. Sources close to Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradawi, the head of the organization’s board of directors, say that he is currently considering resigning from the board in protest to current board actions with IslamOnline employees. Employees have said that since the new board began its work, there have been strong indications that they want to see a more conservative approach on the website.

IslamOnline is owned by Qatar’s Al-Balagh Cultural Society.

Read more English language coverage of the employee strike:

Al-Masry Al-Yowm: Islam On-Strike 

Bikya Masr: Islam Online in crisis as administration threatens to fire journalists

Watch a live video stream of the strike

Join the IslamOnline Supporters Facebook Group

اعتصامات بإسلام أون لاين

وصلني البيان التالي من أحد الموظفين بإسلام أون لاين والمعلومات على مسئوليته لم أقم بمراجعتها بنفسي

اعتصامات في “إسلام أون لاين” وتهديدات بفصل 250 عاملا

بث مباشر للاعتصامات

 تصاعدت الأوضاع بشدة اليوم الاثنين داخل مقر موقع إسلام أون لاين في القاهرة، بعدما قامت الإدارة القطرية للموقع في الدوحة بإرسال محامين لاستلام المقر بكل ما فيه من ممتلكات وأوراق، والتحقيق مع 250 عامل كانوا قد أرسلوا بيانا للشيخ يوسف القرضاوي رئيس مجلس إدارة الموقع يتظلمون فيه من تصرفات الإدارة الجديدة لمؤسسة البلاغ القطرية المالكة للموقع. (more…)