Pomp, ceremony but no public at Mahfouz's funeral By Aziz Kaissouni CAIRO, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz was given a state funeral on Thursday but the everyday Egyptians his novels depicted were kept out of sight by heavy security. Mahfouz's flag-draped coffin was carried on a horse-drawn carriage past rows of soldiers in ceremonial dress, ahead of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, to the sound of drums and trumpets. The writer's dedicated readers braved the scorching Cairo sun for hours, only to be told they would not be allowed to attend the procession. "He doesn't want a state funeral...he wants the people to bear him on their shoulders," shouted Mahfouz fan Amal. "Did he write for the flag? Did he write for the horses? He wrote for the poor. We should walk in his funeral." In keeping with Mahfouz's wishes, a small ceremony had been held earlier in the day in the Al-Hussein mosque, in the heart of historic Cairo where many of his novels were set. Only a few dozen people attended the ceremony, held under tight security. A Reuters witness said a group of men had attempted to enter the mosque in protest at prayers being held there for the novelist, whom they said was an infidel. The author, the only writer in Arabic to win the Nobel Literature Prize, in 1988, survived an assassination attempt six years later when Islamist militants stabbed him in the neck. Religious authorities said one of his novels broke Islamic rules by clearly depicting God and the prophets. After the prayer ceremony, Mahfouz's coffin was quickly bundled into a van for the state funeral. Thousands have attended similar funerals for other celebrities in recent years. For Mahfouz, tearful members of the public were replaced by thousands of black-clad security men who had brought traffic in the area to a standstill. Only mourners from Egypt's political elite were clearly visible. Less than 60 die-hard fans tried to get close to the procession which was not visible from where they were allowed to stand. Some of them had travelled from far-flung provinces to attend. Mohsen Khas, from one of Cairo's poorer suburbs, had arrived too late for the morning ceremony and had taken a big sign praising Mahfouz to the state funeral instead. Once again the coffin passed without him catching a glimpse. "Farewell, Arab Shakespeare," his sign read.
Arabic T-shirt sparks airport row A demonstrator wears a similar T-shirt at a New York protest in July An architect of Iraqi descent has said he was forced to remove a T-shirt that bore the words "We will not be silent" before boarding a flight at New York. Raed Jarrar said security officials warned him his clothing was offensive after he checked in for a JetBlue flight to California on 12 August. Mr Jarrar said he was shocked such an action could be taken in the US. US transport officials are conducting an inquiry after a complaint from the US Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. JetBlue said it was also investigating the incident but a spokeswoman said: "We're not clear exactly what happened."By the way, isn't Raed Jarrar the famous counterpart to Salam Pax on the original Iraq war blog "Where's Raed"?
TENERIFE, Canary Islands — It rains little on this island. There are no natural rivers, and the air is full of the dry heat of the nearby Sahara. But in a ravine on the island’s northern tip, tree limbs drip with water and a tropical forest flourishes, sustained almost entirely by condensation from the low-lying clouds that are regularly pinned against the mountainside. The area, called Cruz del Carmen, is only one example of the unusual evolutionary habitats on the Canary Islands that fascinated Charles Darwin more than 100 years ago, and that today reveal a new species or subspecies to scientists an average of once every six days. But the unique plant and animal life here is being steadily overtaken by an invasion of foreign species, which have been entering these Spanish islands in increasing numbers since border checkpoints within the European Union were abolished under the Schengen Agreement a decade ago, according to government officials and scientists here.Usually you hear about the Canary Islands' human migration problems. Over the last 2-3 years, hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants have crossed over from southern Morocco to the Islands, were they are usually caught and then released onto the Spanish mainland if their country of origin cannot be identified (they destroy all ID before they get there.) Not only is the trip dangerous and kills many migrants each year, but Spanish and European authorities are naturally concerned about how to stop the migration. Ironically, animal and plant migrants are potentially much more dangerous to a country's economy than people are. After all people tend to be productive, and migrants provide much-needed cheap labor. But imagine if a type of sub-Saharan African insect is introduced that turns out to be deadly to Spanish olive trees...
It is not longer possible that Arab human rights organizations ignore the governmental approach, both Arab and western, towards the Israeli practices considering them in isolation and overlooking the systematic policy they follow. It is time we consolidate a more progressive and positive approach towards those practices and the continuous violations by the successive Israeli governments throughout their history. We look forward to serious and tangible actions that aim to expose this Israeli state, isolate it and work towards freezing its membership in the UN. We realize that this is a difficult and long term task that has to being by simple and slowly mounting, although clear and solid, actions. We take this statement to be an initial and simple step on the way towards this achievement of this task. We wish it to be the beginning of an international campaign that may involve, among others, regional and international meetings and joint actions.I leave it to readers to debate whether this is useful or not. You may want to keep in mind the current situation in Gaza. English: It is time to freeze Israel's membership in the UN (1)-1.doc Arabic: تجميد عضوية اسرائيل-1.doc
Ahmed Zewail: We Arabs must wage a new form of jihad We must not be distracted by old ideologies and conspiracy theories Published: 24 August 2006 The cataclysmic wars in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq have uncovered the reality of Arab unity and plight, and the collective conscience of international society. It is abundantly clear that the Arab people must themselves build a new system for a new future. The current state, as judged by a low GDP, high level of illiteracy, and deteriorating performance in education and science, is neither in consonance with their hearts and minds nor does it provide for their political, economic, and educational aspirations. Yet this is the same Arab world that produced leading civilisations, world-class universities, and renowned scholars and scientists. Clearly, something has gone seriously astray.
As someone from, and directly involved with, this part of the world, I am convinced Arabs are qualified to regain their glorious past. Arabs have two-thirds of "proved oil reserves", and copious sunlight for possible alternative energy. They have their own market, the potential for an Arab Union, and many Arab countries are strategically positioned, geographically and politically. The people have a unique culture of community and family values, and their faith is inclusive and pluralistic. Above all, the Arab world has people with talent and creativity, with nearly half of the population in its youth. These are forces for progress, but without nurturing intrinsic talent and establishing a cogent system of governance the status quo will prevail. In my view, there are four "pillars of change" that would support an imperative historic renaissance for transforming the current state of affairs. First, a new political system must be established with, at its core, a constitution defining the democratic principles of human rights, freedom of speech, and governance through contested elections. A select delegation of honorable intellectuals, respected political personalities, and thoughtful religious scholars, perhaps under the patronage of supreme-court judges, should form a council to debate and chart a new constitution for a final referendum involving the people.TThe co-existence of religious values in the lives of individuals and secular rules in the governance of the state should be clearly defined. There is no need to fear conflict, as reason and faith are driving forces in western democratic societies and in some Muslim countries such as Turkey and Malaysia. Second, the rule of law must in practice be applied to every individual, independent of caste, faith, or background. Currently, some rules of law are either unenforced or selectively enforced, resulting in demoralising practices. Besides being a prime cause of poor economic growth, poor governance breeds corruption which cripples investment, wastes resources, and diminishes confidence. If rules are applied fairly, people acquire security and faith in their system. Third, the methods used in education, cultural practices, and scientific research must be revisited, reviewed, and revitalised. The goal should be to promote critical thinking and a value system of reasoning, discipline, and teamwork. The government should remain responsible for the primary education of all. Higher education should be based on quality not quantity, receive merit-based funding, and be free of unnecessary bureaucracy. Not the least of the benefits of educational reform is to foster the pride of achievement at national and international levels. Fourth, an overhauling of the Arab media is necessary. Currently, there are numerous satellite TV channels and several so-called media cities generously financed, perhaps much more than research institutions. Yet people are inundated with mind-numbing and propaganda programmes. The conceptually new al-Jazeera has become a very effective news media among millions of Arabs; similar media outlets concerned with cultural, social, and educational events should be established. The primary objective is to stimulate minds and encourage critical thinking for civilised debates and dialogues. Governments should control neither the news nor appointment of editors; quality and appropriateness should be controlled by the judgement of professionals and the wisdom of society in accordance with the rule of law. We Arabs can accomplish the transition to the world of the 21st century, but the people and leaders must embark on a new course. Incremental changes - so-called gradual reforms - are inappropriate for a system that has been ineffective for decades. We should have confidence in ourselves and in global participation, and not blame others for current calamities or use religion for political gains. The responsibility of the individual for self and societal improvement is clearly stated in The Koran: "Indeed! God will not change the good condition of the people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves." I appeal to the Arab people to participate in this process of historic change and not to be distracted by the ideologies of the past and conspiracy theories of the future. Being passive creates a state of apathy and legitimises the status quo. I call on intellectuals to focus on the greater good, not just for personal gain. Conscience and integrity are national responsibilities in this critical period of history. I urge the leaders of the Arab world to implement these historical changes and, in so doing, become makers of history. A genuine and peaceful transition to democracy is both legitimate and timely. Before too long the oil will run out and human talent will migrate, but if we commit to "pillars of change", with jihad for modernity and enlightenment, we will realise our rightful place in the future. The writer is the only Arab to receive the Nobel Prize in Science, 1999There's an argument to be made Zewail didn't need to use Islamic language and references, but I think in this case it does no harm.
Gaza, 28 August: Ramattan news agency learned today from sources close to Hamas that the movement plans to launch its satellite television channel on 1 October. About a year ago, Hamas launched its private television station, Al-Aqsa Television, but the station remained an experimental terrestrial channel. The station served Hamas in the legislative elections that were held early this year, and helped it win most of the parliamentary seats by airing propaganda and reports on Hamas's leaders, candidates and political programme. According to sources close to the television station, its will begin its trial broadcast through Nile Sat, in early October, adding that it would become the first party-owned Palestinian satellite channel. It is noteworthy that more than one private Palestinian television channel is expected to be launched during the next few months. Source: Ramattan News Agency website, Gaza.There several things that are remarkable about this. First, if it goes ahead on NileSat, it will mean the Egyptian government is agreeing to this -- possibly as another bargaining chip in Cairo's ongoing negotiations with various Palestinian factions. Secondly, as the article points out, this will be the second time that an Arab political party (especially one that remains essentially in opposition, even if it won elections and formed a government) gets its own satellite channel -- the first is Hizbullah's Al Manar, which is getting plenty of attention these days. Of course, it could be that this channel will be too poorly funded and vulnerable to Israeli attacks (on the physical studios, for instance) to amount to much. But it has the potential to become an influential source of information in the Arab world, much as Al Manar has during the Lebanon war. And there's no shortage of emotionally-charged news coming from the Occupied Territories...
Eight Egyptians killed in building collapses 28 Aug 2006 10:07:54 GMT CAIRO, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Eight people were killed when two buildings collapsed within hours of each other in Egypt, and rescuers were searching for any others who could be trapped in the rubble, security sources said on Monday. The two residential buildings, one in Cairo and another in the town of Qalyoub 20 km (12 miles) north of the city, collapsed between Sunday evening and Monday morning. Qalyoub was also the scene of a train crash which killed 58 people last week. Building collapses are frequent in Egyptian cities because of poor construction and maintenance.Nasser Nouri went to Hadayeq el-Qobba, where the Cairo building collapsed. He stayed from 2am till 7am, taking pix of the disaster, and following the rescue efforts. I've uploaded the pix to my flickr account. On another note, I won't be posting regularly for the coming couple of weeks, due to work commitments. I trust Issandr and Mathew will keep you updated on any important current events.
Chicago Tribune Reporter Charged With Espionage in Sudanese Court Associated Press August 26, 2006 5:15 p.m. CHICAGO -- A Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune was charged in a Sudanese court Saturday with espionage and two other criminal counts, the paper said. The 40-minute court hearing involving Paul Salopek, 44, took place three weeks after he and two Chadian nationals were arrested by pro-government forces in the war-torn region of Darfur, the Tribune reported Saturday on its Web site. He was working on a freelance assignment for National Geographic magazine when he was arrested. "He is not a spy," Chicago Tribune Editor and Senior Vice President Ann Marie Lipinski said in a statement. "Our fervent hope is that the authorities in Sudan will recognize his innocence and quickly allow Paul to return home to his wife, Linda, and to his colleagues." Chris Johns, National Geographic's editor in chief, said Mr. Salopek was in Sudan writing an article on a sub-Saharan African region known as the Sahel. "He had no agenda other than to fairly and accurately report on the region," Mr. Johns said. Mr. Salopek has been in telephone contact with National Geographic and Tribune editors, who have "worked through political and diplomatic channels in the U.S. and overseas to secure their release," the paper said. "We are deeply worried about Paul and his well-being, and appeal to the government of Sudan to return him safely home," said Ms. Lipinski, who called Mr. Salopek "one of the most accomplished and admired journalists of our time." Mr. Salopek was arrested with his interpreter and driver on Aug. 6, the Tribune said. All three were charged Saturday with espionage, passing information illegally and writing "false news." Mr. Salopek was on a scheduled leave of absence from the Tribune when he was detained. A judge in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state in western Sudan, granted a defense motion for a continuance, delaying the start of the trial until Sept. 10. In 2001, Mr. Salopek won a Pulitzer for international reporting for his work covering Africa. In 1998, he won a Pulitzer for explanatory reporting for his coverage of the Human Genome Diversity Project. Copyright © 2006 Associated Press
Egypt's Mubarak dismisses Lebanon, train criticism By Aziz El-Kaissouni CAIRO, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak lashed out at critics who have slammed his handling of the conflict in Lebanon as indecisive and slow. In an interview with Al Massai newspaper published on Thursday, Mubarak dismissed criticism of Egypt's diplomatic handling of the war in Lebanon, saying that suggestions Egypt was absent from the crisis were wrong. "My nerves are strong, thank God, and I am fortified against provocation, and I ask God to guide all those who lose their cool, which leads them to slips of the tongue," Mubarak said, when asked how he felt about attacks from Arab politicians. He said Egypt's stance had been clear during the war, with its support for Lebanon and its condemnation of Israeli attacks. But critics have blasted his lack of support for Hizbollah and what they say was Egypt's slow response to the crisis.
Mubarak indirectly criticised the Islamist guerrilla group at the start of the conflict, and his son's visit to Beirut to show solidarity with the Lebanese was seen as having come too late. Hizbollah is now seen by many Arabs as having won the war. Scathing attacks on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Hizbollah patron, have appeared in state newspaper editorials in recent days, following Assad's thinly veiled attack on some Arab states for not supporting Hizbollah. Without mentioning a state by name, Assad called leaders of those countries "half men". Syria has since denied the comments were directed at Mubarak. Mubarak also rebuffed accusations that state negligence caused Monday's train crash in which 58 died, accusing the paper of unfairness in an editorial on the accident. "The suspicion of negligence is not a possibility. Perhaps mistakes are made ... but there's a big difference between unintentional error and negligence deserving of questioning and holding to account," Mubarak told the newspaper. The government has faced a barrage of media criticism after Monday's train crash, Egypt's worst in four years. The crash was one of a string of recent Egyptian transport accidents. Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif had ordered Transport Minister Mohamed Lutfi Mansour to report preliminary findings on the crash by Wednesday, but no announcements had been made as of 1200 GMT on Thursday. In the interview Mubarak said the government had been aware of the need to update and repair the railways for years, but that difficult economic conditions had led it to postpone the project "year after year."