Rosa al-Youssef hits new rock bottom

It's unbelievable what Rosa al-Youssef is doing these days. The daily paper, which is regarded as close to Gamal Mubarak's NDP Policies' Secretariat, is launching a crusade against journalist/blogger and friend Wael Abbas for helping to expose the downtown Cairo molestation fiesta during Eid. The horrific incidents went unreported by the local media, except for Al-Masry Al-Youm which published an article about it yesterday based on the bloggers' testimonies. MP Mustafa Bakri has submitted questions to the government today about the incidents, while the Interior Ministry is claiming nothing happened, as always. Karam Gabr, the paper's editor is claiming Wael is fabricating the incidents using his "sick fantasies", and started the usual overdose of flag-waving with accusations of "defaming Egypt's image" BS. Gabr is the same guy who back in the summer was claiming that Mohamed Sharqawi was also fabricating stories about his torture and sexual abuse. Shame on you Rosa! And as for you Gabr, your seat in President Gamal Mubarak's Ministry of Truth is surely waiting...
Read More

Clashes in Ain Shams University

Bloody clashes have been going on for the third day on the row at Ain Shams University campus in Abbassiya, as student union elections approach. Pro-government students assaulted Muslim Brotherhood activists at the Faculty of Education at Ain Shams University, and tore down their electoral posters. The MB mobilized demos to denounce the attacks, but they were only met by violence. Pro-government students, armed with sticks and knives, viciously attacked the Brothers, and brought into campus truckloads of Baltaggiya (criminal thugs), who have spread terror on campus. Click on the pic below to watch a slideshow of the clashes…
Criminal thug, armed with knive, terrorizing students

Above: A criminal thug, armed with knife, brought to campus by pro-government students to participate in the assaults on opposition activists. Photo taken by MB students

And where was the University's Security, which Minister of Education Dr. Hani Helal described in today's Al-Masry Al-Youm as "without it, we would have been screwed"? (I'm not joking. That's the quote.) NO WHERE! The security did not intervene to stop the assaults, and actually aided them. Under their watchful eyes that those herds of Baltaggiya were allowed into campus. I've spoken with Emad Mubarak, the director of the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression, who follows abuses against students closely, and he said this year the government is not taking it lightly at all with the SU elections. "Already the intimidations started before Eid," he said. "Posters were torn down several times before, but for two days this bloodshed has went out of control. Three students at least have been hospitalized with serious injuries. This exposes what sort of lies the minister of education is spreading in the press about freedoms on campuses." UPDATE: Here's also a report from the Socialist Students' blog. UPDATE: Protests at Helwan University after security banned MB candidates from running.
Read More

Seminar: The Coptic QuestionÙ�

The Center for Socialist Studies will hold a seminar on Discrimination against Copts in Egypt, Friday 3 November.

The First Session, 1pm to 2:30 pm: The Roots of the Problem
The session will try to situate the historical roles of the parties involved, the Egyptian state, Coptic Church, and the Coptic masses, within the socio-economic and political contexts. The session will try to answer questions including: Did the rise of political Islam trigger a sectarian polarization? Is the state a neutral arbitrator or part of the problem? Is the Coptic Church confronting the current status quo, or reinforcing it?

The Second Session, 3pm to 4:30pm, The Stand towards the Coptic Question:
This session will shed light on the class factors and stands of different political tendencies towards the Coptic Question and the alternatives for emancipation. The role of the Diaspora Copts will be discussed, together with questions regarding: Is the Secular State a solution? How do the Muslim Brothers deal with the concept of "citizenship"?
The Third Session, 5pm to 6:30pm, Developing a Leftist View of the Coptic Question

The Seminar will be attended by representatives of different political tendencies. The Center is located 7 Mourad Street, Giza.

Security agents breaking the leg of coptic protestor in Alexandria, April 2006

(Above: Security agents breaking the leg of a Coptic protestor, during Alexandria's sectarian rioting last April. Photo by Nasser Nouri)

شـــــــــارك معنا... إن توحيد الص�و� �ي مواجهة الإمبريالية والاستبداد يتطلب مواجهة قضايا محورية وشائكة، منها قضية التمييز ضد المسيحيين المصريين. وتأكيدا منا على ضرورة إدراك القوى الوطنية لأهمية القضية وأهمية بلورة موق� مشترك تجاهها.يقيم مركز الدراسات الاشتراكية سيمينار بعنوان المسألة القبطية: بين الإنكار والتبعية للإستعماروذلك بوم الجمعة 3/11/2006برنامج اليوم:
1-2:30 ظهرا
الجلسة الأولى : جذور المشكلة
تتناول هذه الجلسة بحث وتحليل لجذور مشكلة التمييز الديني �ي مصر مشتملا على الدور الذي لعبته، وما زالت تمارسه الدولة �ي مقابل دور الكنيسة وجماهير الأقباط وذلك �ي إطار التطورات الاقتصادية، والاجتماعية والسياسية التي شهدتها الساحة المصرية.
ونحاول �ي هذه الجلسة الإجابة على عدة تساؤلات منها: هل أدى صعود الإسلام السياسي إلى عملية استقطاب على أساس ديني؟ أين الحقوق التي يك�لها الدستور المصري لأقباط من ممارسات الدولة؟ الدور الذب لعبته الكنيسة �ي تعزيز الوضع القائم أو مواجهته؟

الجلسة الثانية: الموق� من مسألة الأقباط
تحاول هذه الجلسة إلقاء الضوء على المواق� المختل�ة من المسألة القبطية والحلول المطروحة للتعامل معها. و�ي هذا الإطار نطرح عدد من القضايا مثل الدور الأمريكي وعلاقته بأقباط المهجر. وكذلك البعد الطبقي لهذه المسألة. وتطرح الجلسة أسئلة ملحة منها: هل الدولة العلمانية هي الحل؟ كي� بتعامل الأخوان المسلمين مع م�هوم المواطنة؟

5:00-6:30 مساء
الجلسة الثالثة تطوير رؤية يسارية من المسألة القبطية
تركز هذه الجلسة على إجابة السؤال التالي: هل هناك رؤية يسارية موحدة حول مسألة التمييز الديني؟

يشارك �ي الجلسات ممثلون من مختل� القوى السياسية، وذلك �ي مقر المركز : 7 شارع مراد- الجيزة

Read More

Police kidnaps labor activist

Police kidnapped Mohamed Hassan, an activist with Workers For Change, an hour ago in front of the General Federation of Trade Unions HQ in Cairo. Hassan was distributing leaflets denouncing the security intervention in the labor unions electoral process, and warning of serious vote rigging to come. Security personnel nabbed him, and took him to Al-Azbakeyya Police Station which has a notorious history of police brutality. Hassan is still locked up at this moment. Meanwhile, 25 transportation workers are currently on a sit in inside the Federation's HQ, protesting the hassels they are facing from the union bureaucracy in issuing their "candidacy certificate" (one of the red tape procedures a union candidate has to go through). And 13 other left-leaning workers from the Helwan steel mills have been eliminated from the candidacy list by State Security. Workers For Change are calling for a demo, Monday 1 pm in front of the Public Prosecutor office in Ramses St., to protest the violations by the security services. UPDATE: Mohamed Hassan has been released, after he was kept for three hours in police custody.
Read More

Sinai leftist released

Hassan Abdallah, the coordinator of Sinai's Youth For Change, has been released few hours ago and is on his way home to Al-Arish, according to Kefaya's website. Hassan was detained by State Security in Arish on 7 September, then transferred to Bourg el-Arab prison in Alexandria, with no access to lawyers or family visits. His two brothers Wael and Mohamed have been taking refuge in the Tagammu's office in Arish, after State Security officers threatened to kill them. For more background on the Abdallahs' case, check the following posting: Sinai Torture Fields.
Posters calling for Hassan's release at Arish Tagammu Office
Mabrouk ya Hassan...
Read More

The Muslim Brotherhood: A Socialist View

Socialist activist Sameh Naguib's booklet on the Muslim Brothers is available now online, in a pdf format, here.
الإخوان المسلمون - رؤية إشتراكية.. تألي� سامح نجيب
The booklet is in Arabic, and provides a Marxist analysis of Egypt's largest Islamist opposition group, and outlines the Socialist strategy vis a vis it. A must read... الإخوان المسلمون: رؤية اشتراكية... تألي� سامح نجيب
Read More

Hassan el-Banna Super Star?

I'm away from the computer for sometime because of IT problems and work commitments. Happy Eid to all of you... When you get the time please check out the following feature I co-authored with Al-Masry Al-Youm's Ali Zalat, on the Muslim Brotherhood's plans to produce a movie about its founder, Hassan el-Banna. Hassan el-Banna Super Star? The feature was co-written back on 13 October, but only went online two days ago. I have also uploaded to my flickr account some historical photos of el-Banna, that we obtained from the Brotherhood.
Click to view slideshow
Read More

concrete solutions

The New York Times, which, despite its manifold faults, has at least remained reasonably critical of the trough-feeding manner in which the Iraqi “reconstruction� business has been funded, is retailing a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Construction that criticizes contractors for spending too much on “overhead.� There seem to have been a bunch of issues involved in padding out the cost of doing business in Iraq (my favorite is “egregiously poor building practices.� Who saw that one coming?), but this story emphasizes “inactivity.� Bad coordination meant that (according to a spokesman for the office that released the report) contractors “…billed for sometimes nine months before work began.� Presumably that whole thing about having snipers trying to take your head off as you drive to the site in the morning plays in there somehow as well, and the whole piece tip toes very quiet through the tulips when it comes to anything less mundane. KBR (when did they change the name from Kellog Brown & Root?), apparently managed to skim off around half of their $300 million to “overhead.� Does Cheney see any of that directly as cash, or at his level does it accrue as strictly political capital? Best comes last though, where Maj. Gen. William H. McCoy of the Army Corps of Engineers points out testily that “waiting for concrete to cure� is work too. Tell it to Jimmie Hoffa. Meanwhile, on the same note, if you can find a copy of this month’s Harper’s, don’t bother to read the piece by George McGovern and William Polk on getting out of Iraq. On the one hand, a rethink about how the $250 million a day that the States is spending to stay in Iraq could better be spent getting out, is welcome. Add up the numbers and look at the cost of staying even another year, and billion dollar payoffs make good financial sense. Clearly McGovern and Polk are right in saying that US forces are making things worse at this point and that they have “no useful role to play� in the domestic stabilization of Iraq. However, their assertion that, should US forces withdraw, the insurgency is going to wither away into something that could be mopped up by a force of 15,000 troops from Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia, makes you wonder whether these guys shouldn’t have stayed in bed with a soft boiled egg and a nice cup of decaf, rather than pulling out the old Dictaphones and recalling their secretaries from retirement. “Tribal home guards� will be restricted to “their communities� in this new, America-free, Iraq, by a “central government police� who will operate in a country free of the “disrupting� influence of a heavily armed national army. Sounds nice. Sounds like a cartoon show I used to watch.
Read More

The coup option in Iraq

I don't believe a coup in Iraq will happen, but it's interesting that this is being reported -- it suggests that there are feelers out there at the very least. (Sorry, no link.)
Oct 23, 2006- United Press International: Coup against Maliki reported in the making Iraqi army officers are reportedly planning to stage a military coup with U.S. help to oust the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Cairo-based Iraqi and Arab sources said Monday several officers visited Washington recently for talks with U.S. officials on plans for replacing Maliki's administration by a "national salvation" government with the mission to re-establish security and stability in Iraq. One Iraqi source told United Press International that the Iraqi army officers' visit to the United States was aimed at coordinating the military coup in case the efforts of Maliki's government to restore order reached a dead end. He said among the prominent officers were the deputy chief of staff, a Muslim Shiite, the intelligence chief, a Sunni, and the commander of the air force, a Kurd. It is believed the three would constitute the nucleus of the next government after the army takes over power. The proposed plan, according to the source, stipulates that the new Iraqi army, with the assistance of U.S. forces, will take control of power, suspend the constitution, dissolve parliament and form a new government. The military will also take direct control of the various provinces and the administration after imposing a state of emergency. An Arab source also told UPI that certain Arab countries were informed of the plan and requested to offer their help in convincing the former leaders of the deposed Baath Party regime residing in their countries to refrain from obstructing the move and stop violence perpetrated by the party in Iraq. In return, they will be invited to participate in the government at a later stage. Washington is becoming increasingly impatient with the failure of Maliki's government in quelling sectarian violence threatening to plunge Iraq in an all-out civil war.
One possibly related thing I've noticed being the US for the past week is that much of the Bush administration's comments in Iraq revolves around the meme that the Iraqis must now stop the civil war, that things are in the Iraqis hands, etc. Well obviously they are not, things are out of control, and this is just a pre- midterm election attempt to avoid responsibility for the mess that is Iraq. A responsibility, it must be emphasized, rests largely on the current administration, even if there are many other forces at play in Iraq. I don't think it could have been predicted three years ago that things would be as bad as to make this kind of reporting from Iraq routine:
OUTSIDE BALAD, Iraq -- At midweek, Shiite Interior Ministry commandos and their Shiite militia allies cruised the four-lane hardtop outside the besieged city of Balad, trying to stave off retaliation for a deadly four-day rampage in which they had all but emptied Balad of Sunnis. Sunni insurgents pouring in to take that revenge patrolled the same highway, driving battered white pickups and minivans, their guns stashed out of sight. Affecting casualness, more Sunni men gathered on rooftops or clustered on the reed-lined edge of the highway, keeping an eye on the Shiite forces and the few frightened civilians who dared to travel the highway past Balad. What brought this Tigris River city north of Baghdad to this state of siege was a series of events that have displayed in miniature the factors drawing the entire country into a sectarian bloodbath: Retaliatory violence between Sunnis and Shiites has soared to its highest level of the war, increasingly forcing moderates on both sides to look to armed extremists for protection. The Shiite-led government's security forces, trained by the United States, proved immediately incapable of dealing with the sectarian violence in Balad, or, in many cases, abetted it, residents and police said. More than 20,000 U.S. troops are based within 15 miles of Balad, but, uncertain how to respond, they hesitated, waiting for Iraqi government forces to step up, according to residents, police and U.S. military officials. And all that was left holding Balad, and Iraq, together -- the desire for peace and normality still held by the great majority of Iraqis, and the generations of intermarriage and neighborliness between ordinary Shiite and Sunni Muslims -- was ripping apart.
I can understand in this context how a return to military dictatorship may seem like a tempting move. I remember Daniel Pipes was advocating that "Iraq needs a strongman" immediately after the invasion. Well I suppose Iraq does if it is going to be a docile client state like Egypt. But at this point, it's probably already too late to install a military dictator (not to mention this would presumably involve the help of US troops.)
Read More

Iraq = Mordor

According to Rick Santorum, anyway:
In an interview with the editorial board of the Bucks County Courier Times, embattled Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has equated the war in Iraq with J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." According to the paper, Santorum said that the United States has avoided terrorist attacks at home over the past five years because the "Eye of Mordor" has been focused on Iraq instead. "As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else," Santorum said. "It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."
So then Bin Laden is Sauron, Bush is Aragorn, Cheney is Gandalf, Rumsfeld is Gimli and American special forces are hobbits? Hmm, it seems they're having a hard time finding the One Ring and defeating (even catching) Sauron. Oh, Sam... Update: Paul sends this pic with the caption "Frodo failed." Bushring
Read More

HRW and the Lobby

Since I attacked Human Rights Watch on this site for what I still maintain was a biased (in favor of Israel) coverage of the first two weeks (at least) of this summer's Lebanon war, it seems fair to me to bring attention for the virulent attack against HRW and its head, Kenneth Roth, by the usual Zionist agitators in response to its more balanced coverage starting about three weeks into the war. This NYRB article looks at that in depth, especially the role of a newspaper that regular readers will know I consider one of the most dangerous and hateful mainstream publications in the US, the New York Sun:
To the extent that the current campaign against Human Rights Watch is organized the driving force has been a newspaper launched in 2002, The New York Sun, which accused Kenneth Roth of anti-Semitism in a two-column editorial. The Sun is edited by Seth Lipsky, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal who was the founding editor in 1990 of The Forward, an English-language Jewish weekly that sought to link itself to the tradition of the Yiddish-language Jewish Daily Forward, a newspaper with a social-democratic political outlook that had a wide readership among Yiddish-speaking immigrants. (Isaac Bashevis Singer published most of his work in the Jewish Daily Forward.) But Lipsky was forced out in 2000 because some of the owners of The Forward found him too right-wing. He launched The New York Sun with investments from the publishing tycoon Conrad Black (who is now being prosecuted for corporate crimes) and other financial backers intent on promoting neoconservative views. Black's wife, Barbara Amiel, became a columnist and the Sun's contributors have included right-wing commentators such as R. Emmett Tyrell Jr. and Peggy Noonan. On July 25, just two weeks after the beginning of the war in Lebanon, the Sun published an attack on Human Rights Watch by Avi Bell, whom it identified as a law professor at Israel's Bar Ilan University and a visiting professor at Fordham University Law School. Bell attacked a Human Rights Watch statement published the previous week entitled "Questions and Answers on Hostilities Between Israel and Hezbollah"; he particularly objected to a question it posed, "What is Hezbollah's status in relation to the conflict?," and to the answer supplied by HRW: Hezbollah is an organized political Islamist group based in Lebanon, with a military arm and a civilian arm, and is represented in the Lebanese parliament and government. As such a group, and as a party to the conflict with Israel, it is bound to conduct hostilities in compliance with customary international humanitarian law and common Article 3. This was deficient, according to Bell, because it did not address the question of aggression, and he accused Human Rights Watch of "whitewashing Hezbollah's crimes of aggression." Another alleged fault was the failure to label Hezbollah's acts as genocide despite the fact that Hezbollah's leader had made statements indicating a desire to kill Jews. In early September Joshua Muravchik, writing in The Weekly Standard, also criticized HRW's failure to denounce aggression and claimed that HRW failed to accuse Hezbollah of genocide because this would divert it "from its main mission of attacking Israel."
Read on -- it's really a fascinating piece about how some media institutions such as the Sun and that act as an informal right-wing Israel "lobby" of the kind Walt and Mearsheimer wrote about -- as well as about how an institution such as HRW (which despite its different standards for Israel and other states does a great job reporting on the Arab world generally, especially Egypt and Iraq) has to do to defend itself from these attacks. (By the way: what is it about New York City; it has no decent daily newspaper!?! Don't even bring up the Times...)
Read More

The Syrian opposition and Washington

Credit where credit is due: the generally anti-Arab, uber-neocon New York Sun does a decent job of keeping track of Arab opposition movements and their interaction with Washington. Here it writes about a Syrian opposition group -- a rather loose group that includes Islamists -- that is about to open a formal Washington office:
The National Salvation Front also has been wary of working with the Americans. But in the past two months, the leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni, has taken a series of steps aimed at casting himself in a more moderate light. In August, Mr. Bayanouni told Al-Jazeera that he would be open to negotiations with Israel over the return of the Golan Heights. Mr. Dairi said yesterday that Mr. Bayanouni would even be open to meeting with American officials. "Mr. Bayanouni would not have a problem meeting with Americans. If he is invited, he will not refuse the invitation. He has told this to me personally, and I believe him," Mr. Dairi said. Over the last six months, the Bush administration has expressed cautious interest in a coalition that includes the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, in part because of its frustration with the Assad regime, which the Brotherhood opposes. In March, for example, the assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, David Welch, noted that the State Department was interested in what the Front had to say. Those remarks came a few weeks after a summit between a former Syrian vice president who defected in 2005, Abdul Halim Khaddam, and Mr. Bayanouni, who agreed to work together toward the ouster of the Assad regime.
This new group is apparently anchored by old regime stalwarts such as Khaddam (remember his odd pan-Arab media appearance and then, when the Saudis got tired of promoting him, disappearance) and old opposition stalwarts from the local Muslim Brotherhood. The article mentions that the Reform Party of Syria, the more "liberal" Chalabi-like opposition movement, is not happy about the new office opening. Perhaps the lesson learned here from the administration, as it reportedly considers imposing a "strongman" on Iraq, is that you're better off going with the strongmen in the first place rather than take a chance with "liberals" in the Chalabist mold. Or quite simply, that taking people with no support base in the country, no matter how impeccable their credentials might seem, is not a solution that's going to work.
Read More

The 4:34 dance

An interesting article about Islam, the Quran, and wife-beating. The author tackles the kind of issue that is fundamentally difficult when talking about "liberal interpretation" of Islam: if it's written pretty unambiguously in the Quran, it's difficult to justify change. What these interpretations miss out however is that just because something is written in the Quran doesn't mean it's universally followed or even known about. Not to mention that certain patriarchal practices are probably more about traditional conservatism and misogyny (two traits certainly prevalent among both Arab Muslims and Arab Christians) than an understanding of religion.
Read More

Fernandez and Arabic public diplomacy

I completely agree with Abu Aardvark's analysis of the Fernandez controversy (the State Dept. spokesman who said that the US had on occasion been stupid and arrogant in the region on Al Jazeera):
The State Department, and especially Karen Hughes, must back Alberto Fernandez to the hilt in this StupidStorm. If he's fired, or transfered to Mongolia, the United States unilaterally disarms in the 'war of ideas' as currently waged in the Arab media. While we do have 'rapid reaction' units coming online in Dubai and London, and CENTCOM has its own media outreach team, the fact is that Fernandez has been single-handedly carrying the American flag on the Arab broadcast media for years. America simply can not afford to lose him over a silly partisan media frenzy. And if Fernandez is punished, it's safe to guess that nobody will be foolish enough to step up and take his place and do what he did.  And that will be a major loss for America in a place where it can ill-afford any more losses at all.
Another point is that sympathy for the US in the region, which is deservedly low after the Lebanon war fiasco, is bound to stay low unless American officials begin to admit that they have made mistakes in the region. President Bush did so a few days ago with regards to Iraq -- at last. Why can't a State Dept spokesman admit that mistakes were made too? One other point is that, among my American friends, I know a lot of people who speak at least some Arabic and were at one point interested in a government career. Most of them declined to pursue a foreign service career (or, despite lucrative offers, go work in Iraq even when it was relatively safe) because of the administration's policies and arrogance. They have so few people with skills because those tend to know more about the region and refuse, for moral reasons, to work with this administration (and under the likes of Elliott Abrams). The first step to correcting the Bushies' disastrous Middle East policy would be to admit they are wrong (as the president vaguely, reluctantly but partly has) and begin with a strong change of direction, notably in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (this is what the Egyptians have been asking for a long time now, by the way). Part of that change of direction will have to be a public acceptance that mistakes were made.
Read More

Just a passing phase (19)

October 22, 2006

They beat up one of our photographers today.

And smashed his cameras. Now that's pretty tough – not so much slapping around our photographer and threatening to drag him into a car so that he could join the ranks of nameless corpses, that's common. But destroying these big clunky professional Canons, with metal frames takes a lot of effort.

Apparently, though, grabbing a camera by its lens and hurling it with all force onto a stone floor, will do the trick.
Read More

religious art

Virgin-Mary-Ams.jpg So here we are in Antwerp, where it seems that the friendly face of the diamond trade is now a Russian with watermelon forearms and eyes like a three-day-dead fish. Passed on the diamond-rimed .357 pendant and hit the Koninklijk Museum for a bit of high-culture in low-land light. An hour of perusing paintings of martyrdom and judgment and I’d had my fill of the burning, hacking, drowning, beating and skewering (the kind of stuff New York Times pieces on Iraq report generically as “signs of torture�) that were, until relatively recently, the centerpiece of public diplomacy here. Back on the street, there was a heavily made-up lady busking in the shadow of the Gothic cathedral. She was pretending—quite credibly—to be a statue of the Virgin Mary (she even had a little Baby Jesus on her lap), except, when you tossed a coin in her plate, she came alive and blew you a kiss. This in the heartland of a vicious, protracted, sectarian conflict that took as a centerpiece Rome’s idolatry and venality. That smashed statues and people with equal abandon. Nice to see they’ve learned to crack a smile, toss a coin, and move on. And it only took five-hundred years, a few dozen major wars and a mountain range of corpses. There are a few more pics of my current European tour here.
Read More

Hassan al-Banna: the movie

A few days ago, Muslim Brothers celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hassan al-Banna, their movement's founder. Among the things planned to mark this event is a new film biopic of al-Banna's life:
Muhsin Radi says too little is known about Hasan Al-Banna, the founder of a movement which would become Egypt's strongest opposition group and inspire Islamists across the Arab world.     "I hope that there will not be fears about this production. We do not want, as some people think, to spread the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood," Radi said. "Rather, we want people to be acquainted with the character of Hasan Al-Banna."    
I wonder if it will be banned in the current environment... It will definitely be seen as MB propaganda, especially with all the nationalist overtones of al-Banna's leadership in the fight against the British. On a related note: Last night I found out that NYU was hosting a talk about the Muslim Brotherhood, featuring prominent middle-generation Muslim Brother Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh as well as Western "experts." I rushed to get there on time only to find out that Aboul Fotouh and a Jordanian Islamist who was also due to speak were prevented from entering the United States. No reasons were officially given for this, although the NYU people said they were looking into it. Making this stupidity worse, we were left with a panel on the Muslim Brotherhood manned entirely by Western terrorism experts -- the chair was Peter Bergen -- and people who seem to have a rather sophomoric understanding of the MB. I don't claim expertise myself, but former Sunday Times journalist Nick Fielding talked about the Muslim Brothers in the vaguest possible terms and mentioned it existing across the region, including in Morocco and Algeria (where he said it was similar to the FIS). The other panelist, a researcher called Alexis Debat, was a bit better but started talking about the MB's economic policy based on its writings in the 1940s and 1950s (or more accurately, Sayyid Qutb's Social Justice in Islam). It's an interesting topic, but since then the global economic system has changed two or three times, so it all seemed rather beside the point. None of the panelists mentioned, except in passing, the MB's parliamentary performance, the ongoing crackdown against it (biggest since the 1960s, remember), or more specific internal issues of governance and changes in the way it operates. And since Peter Bergen is an al-Qaeda expert, much of the discussion (at least until the point I walked out in disgust) revolved around whether the MB is a violent group, or whether it will get violent, and how Osama Bin Laden joined the MB in Jeddah when he was 17. I'm not saying that's not interesting, but surely a little academic precision would be in order and focusing on the MB's role in Egyptian politics would be more useful, especially as it's highly dubious that a world Muslim Brotherhood really exists as an organized institution -- a country-by-country approach seems much more fruitful. In any case, NYU students and staff could have had information about the MB from the horse's mouth, and in Aboul Fotouh they would have had one of its most articulate spokesmen. I would have loved to grill him on a number of issues, but instead I got Whitey and Whitey. A waste of time.
Read More