- Justice Department: We’ll Go After ISIS’s Twitter Army
US could prosecute for remarks made on social media
- Anatomy of a Killing: How Shaimaa al-Sabbagh Was Shot Dead at a Cairo Protest
And how her friends had to fight police to stay with her body
- Chicago police detain Americans at an abusive 'black site'
- Secret interrogation sites at home, too
- Obscure Group Says It Set Off Blasts in Egypt, Raising Alarm - NYT
Attacks target businesses.
- How the Islamic State was Won
- The politics of "quietist" Salafism
New Brookings paper argues that quietist Salafists are plenty political.
- Men In Skirts Protest Violence Against Women In Turkey
Al Jazeera video
- The Clash of Civilizations That Isn’t
- Abu Aardvark: An Open Letter to John Legend
Urging him not to play a concert in Bahrain
- Ahmed Ezz: My exclusion from election goes against the revolution
- Israel cuts off electricity to thousands of West Bank Palestinians
- Emir of Qatar writes an open letter to Obama in the NYTimes
- Mali and the Sahel
Separatism, terrorism, smuggling networks
- Bernard Haykel, professor quoted in that Atlantic piece everyone is arguing about, has more to say
- How two Palestinian Americans plan to Pivot the world
App unveils history of Palestine
- The Verdict
In the Shura case
- Activist Alaa Abdel Fattah sentenced to 5 years
For a protest
- Mystery group defends UAE's rights record. Vitriolic response to criticisms
- The Middle East and China
Talk by Chas Freeman.
- The Hezbollah Connection
Great account of investigation of Hariri murder
- Activists Trying to Draw Attention to Killings in Syria Turn to ISIS Tactic: Shock Value
- Did Egypt’s President Sisi Just Fall Into ISIS’s Trap?
Steve Negus on how ISIS may be Sisi-baiting.
- The Battle for Benghazi
Good paper (PDF)
- Mr Freeze « LRB blog
Masterful takedown of de Mistura by Moin Rabbani
- Migrants scattered by Morocco's new immigration policy
- Egyptian student given prison sentence for atheist Facebook posts
He was reported by his science teacher
- Egypt confiscates revolution graffiti book for “instigating revolt”
- More Egyptians kidnapped by ISIS
Why didn't Egypt plan for retaliation/organize evacuations?
- Journaliste, j'ai été arrêté au Maroc : surréaliste et violent
French journalists tailed, searched and deported from Morocco
- "Once Upon a Revolution"
Review of Thanassis Cambanis' book on Egypt
- Why Syrian Refugees Risk the ‘Journey of Death’ to Europe
Reporting from Alexandria
- Simmering Unrest and Succession Challenges in Oman
On "the sleepy sultanate"
- Frantic Intrigue of King Abdullah's Last Hours
Another fascinating, plausible, but ultimately unsourced (single-sourced?) piece by David Hearst.
- Egypt Conducts Airstrikes on Islamic State Targets in Libya
Two very different takes, from two prominent middle east scholars, on the question of how Islamic the Islamic state is -- a debate that I am sure will be with us for a while.
This long piece in The Atlantic quotes Bernard Haykel (who was teaching at NYU when I studied there):
Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”
Every academic I asked about the Islamic State’s ideology sent me to Haykel. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States, and when he talks through his Mephistophelian goatee, there is a hint of an unplaceable foreign accent.
According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”
All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”
Meanwhile Juan Cole makes the opposite argument in a post entitled "Today's Top 7 Myths about Daesh/ISIL" on his blog:
1. It isn’t possible to determine whether Daesh a mainstream Muslim organization, since Muslim practice varies by time and place. I disagree. There is a center of gravity to any religion such that observers can tell when something is deviant. Aum Shinrikyo isn’t your run of the mill Buddhism, though it probably is on the fringes of the Buddhist tradition (it released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995). Like Aum Shinrikyo, Daesh is a fringe cult. There is nothing in formal Islam that would authorize summarily executing 21 Christians. The Qur’an says that Christians are closest in love to the Muslims, and that if they have faith and do good works, Christians need have no fear in the afterlife. Christians are people of the book and allowed religious freedom by Islamic law from the earliest times. Muslims haven’t always lived up to this ideal, but Christians were a big part of most Muslim states in the Middle East (in the early Abbasid Empire the Egyptian and Iraqi Christians were the majority). They obviously weren’t being taken out and beheaded on a regular basis. They did gradually largely convert to Islam, but we historians don’t find good evidence that they were coerced into it. Because they paid an extra poll tax, Christians had economic reasons to declare themselves Muslims.
We all know that Kentucky snake handlers are a Christian cult and that snake handling isn’t typical of the Christian tradition. Why pretend that we can’t judge when modern Muslim movements depart so far from the modern mainstream as to be a cult?
2. Daesh fighters are pious. Some may be. But very large numbers are just criminals who mouth pious slogans. The volunteers from other countries often have a gang past. They engage in drug and other smuggling and in human trafficking and delight in mass murder. They are criminals and sociopaths. Lots of religious cults authorize criminality.
Yesterday the Islamic State released another one of its disgusting spectacles, featuring the murder of 21 Egyptian Copts who were kidnapped while working in Libya.
TIMEP has an account of attacks on Coptic Christians in Libya, of which this is just the latest:
With the exception of the physician from Gharbeyya, who was killed with his family, the rest of the targeted Copts come from Upper Egypt, predominantly Minya, Assiout, and Sohag, which are among the least developed and poorest governorates in Egypt.
Recently, the Egyptian government and security apparatus swiftly intervened to successfully free kidnapped Egyptian embassy personnel in Tripoli in January 2014, and truck drivers in October of that same year. However, the government has not been as quick or as effective on the kidnapping of Copts. In fact, Egyptian officials often seem indifferent to the incidents.
This time, while families mourned in the villages of Egypt's South, President Sisi has ordered air strikes in Libya. The piece in TIMEP points out the need to plan a safe evacuation for the thousands of Egyptian Copts in the country. There are already warning of possible retaliation against them.
Egyptian military incursions into Libya are a bad idea according to this article in the Cairo Review:
Yet the opposite is happening in Libya. First, Qatar and Turkey have and are providing arms and equipment to the Tripoli-based faction. Second, it has become evident—as well as openly announced by members of the Dignity operation—that Egypt is heavily involved in assisting efforts against Islamists in both the east and, as continuous airstrikes indicate, in the west. Libya is thus becoming a proxy for a larger regional struggle that pits anti-Islamist coalitions (led by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia) against the presumed supporters of Islamists (Turkey and Qatar). Such international support for the factions undermines UN mediation efforts. In particular, the backing that Egypt provides to General Haftar and Operation Dignity empowers those forces that want to continue the armed struggle until the whole country is “liberated” from those who understand that there is no military solution to the crisis, rather only a negotiated one.
Since the collapse of order in Libya, Egypt has been the most affected by the instability. The power vacuum allows extremist elements to infiltrate Egyptian territory and carry out attacks against security forces. The temptation then is very high for the Egyptian state to intervene directly in Libya and secure at least a buffer zone, but also possibly exert full control over as much of Libya’s eastern territory as feasible. An open intervention by Egypt’s military, however, would not only hinder a peaceful settlement in Libya, but also negatively affect Egypt’s interests. It would entrench the polarization of Libyan forces on the ground, further diminishing prospects for a political solution, and entangle Egypt in a war against forces that will gain wider support as the local population shifts from anti-Islamist sentiments to animosity toward a foreign invader.
Another piece worth reading is Jon Lee Anderson's profile of General Haftar, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates' strongman of choice in Libya.
Haftar reached out to contacts in what remained of Libya’s armed forces, in civil society, in tribal groups, and, finally, in Tripoli. “Everyone told me the same thing,” he said. “ ‘We are looking for a savior. Where are you?’ I told them, ‘If I have the approval of the people, I will act.’ After popular demonstrations took place all over Libya asking me to step in, I knew I was being pushed toward death, but I willingly accepted.”
Like many self-appointed saviors, Haftar spoke with a certain self-admiring fatalism. But his history is much more complex than he cares to acknowledge. As an Army cadet in 1969, he participated in Qaddafi’s coup against the Libyan monarchy, and eventually became one of his top officers. “He was my son,” Qaddafi once told an interviewer, “and I was like his spiritual father.”
- 'For the Love of Egypt' electoral list leaves political parties divided - Ahram Online
The usual elite divisions.
- The future of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf
- Behind the $57 Million Network Fueling Islamophobia in the U.S.
New doc by Center for American Progress
- The struggles - and hopes - of Hend Nafea
The Egyptian "girl in the blue bra" gets a life sentence
- Conservatives Dance On Grave Of ISIL Hostage: 'Jew-Hating, Anti-Israel B**ch'
Because she volunteered in Palestine
- Ali Abdulemam: I have not lost my identity.
Bahraini blogger on being stripped of his citizenship alongside 71 others.
- Dubai Unveils Plans For World’s Largest Human Rights Violation | The Onion
- Chapel Hill shooting: Three young Muslims gunned down in North Carolina family home
Looks like a hate crime.
- In Matareya, death unites
On a Cairo slum that has lost hundreds in clashes with police
- Russia to help build nuclear power plant in Egypt
What could possibly go wrong?
- An investigation by Le Monde gives rare glimpse into the assets of Morocco's royal family
- Morocco legalizes 18,000 migrants in 2014 under new policy
- Houthi Constitutional Declaration just issued in Yemen, translated by IDEA
- Mutual escalation in Egypt
Escalation in rhetoric towards violence.
- Steel tycoon and loathed symbol of Mubarak-era corruption, Ahmed Ezz, to run for Parliament
- The Muslims of Early America
"Like the rodeo, Islam is an indelible part of our culture."
- The Louvre Abu Dhabi Buys a Washington Portrait by Stuart
- Anonymous “Hacktivists” Go After ISIS Accounts
- Libya Against Itself by Nicolas Pelham
Essay-review of new book on Libya.
- The Egyptian judge sentencing hundreds to death and activists to life looks and acts exactly as you'd imagine
- More readers, better designs and unlikely bargains at the Cairo book fair
Interesting roundup what's new of Cairo's major book fair.
- Rafale en Égypte : l'accord est à portée de main
Reminds me of Jack Lemmon in Glencarry Glen Ross.
- Thugs Beat Up Monkeys At Alexandria Zoo
Makes you wish for Planet of the Apes reprisal
- Egypt's Sisi 'despised' and colluded with Gulf rulers
More leaks of high-level military calls -- where are they coming from?
- The Saudi palace coup | Middle East Eye
Tentative overtures to MB?
- F. Gregory Gause III | Saudi Arabia's Game of Thrones | Foreign Affairs
- Frederic Wehrey | Misrata and Hope for a Political Solution in Libya | Foreign Affairs
- Who Are the Billionaires Attacking Obama’s Iran Diplomacy? | The Nation
- Egyptian court sends prominent activist Ahmed Douma to jail for life
And a $2 million fine. Insane.
- Peter Greste is now free, but there are still 11 journalists left in Egypt's prisons
- Britons dislike Israel more than Iran – but North Korea beats them both as most maligned nation
- Israel's ambassador jokes on Twitter about undermining Obama