CAIRO, April 30 (Reuters) - The cousin of an Egyptian man wanted in connection with a bombing in Cairo this month has died in police custody, police sources said on Saturday.
Mohamed Suleiman Youssef, 40, was the cousin of Ashraf Said Youssef, identified by the Interior Ministry as the fugitive who recruited the bomber who killed two French people, an American man and himself in a Cairo bazaar on April 7.
The police sources, who asked not to be named, said police sent the man's body back to his village north of Cairo for burial. The man was a primary school teacher in the north Cairo suburb of Shubra al-Khaima, where the bomber also lived.
Friends of the man went to the village to pay condolences to his family but found no one at home, one friend said. Two of the dead man's brothers are also in custody, he added.
The circumstances of Youssef's death were unclear and a spokesman at the Interior Ministry said he had no information about the case.And then they wonder why there are more bombings...
CAIRO, Egypt - A bomb was thrown from a bridge in Cairo to the street below, killing an Arab man and injuring four foreigners, police said.
Remains of a body, covered with newspapers, were seen beneath the bridge a few minutes after the 3:15 p.m. (7:15 a.m. ET) explosion was heard through downtown Cairo. The blast happened on a road adjacent to a public bus station down the street from the Egyptian Museum.Reuters reports it might be a suicide bomber, but with these things the first reports are always very hazy.
Freedom, Freedom where are you? Mubarak is between me and you. (in this one, they sometime insert Emergency - as in the laws- instead of Mubarak)
Hey Alaa Hey Alaa (president's son) tell your father the Egyptian people hate him
Hey Suzanne, Hey Suzanne (president's wife) ask the bey how much he sold the country for
Hey Gamal, Hey Gamal (other president's son) tell you daddy to ease up on the down-trodden people (al-Sh`ab al-Ghalban)There were also the the usual calls "Asqut Mubarak" (down with Mubarak), Down with Bush, Down with Blair (in English) The other chants list the Kifaya demands: "Kifaya Mubarak, Kifaya new term, Kifaya inheritance, Kifaya emergency laws" - you get the idea. _________ Yesterday's protest was billed to be a nation-wide multi-city/governate protest. Initially, it was supposed to go off in 13 governates. This number was said to have increased to 15 at one point in the day. Arab government-leaning Al-`Arabiya said that it only went down in 7 governates. And AP and BBC have conflicting reports about how widespread the demos were. There is no way to be sure. Kifaya is a loosely organized structure - good for democracy, but bad for information. There were various reports at different times. Al-Jazeera was saying that 52 were arrested (high majority - like 98% were outside of Cairo). Then there was a report that 30 people were being detained in the Gamal Abdel Nasser Metro Station. My sense is that the demonstrations did not happen in all the governates the organizers suggested. For example, I was speaking to a Kifaya organizer from Monsura (in the Delta). His story was that at 230am the night before, security sieged his house awaking his wife and children -terrorizing the children. He receives a call from his wife. He speaks with the security officers and they order him to come in. He agrees. They detain him until 930am and then he is released, grabs all the Kifaya banners and whatnot. He darts down to Cairo. He notes that people were detained in the tube stations and then it was a miracle that he joined the demonstration. I asked him directly, "So are demos happening in Monsura?" He said, "Well, the people are scared". I asked again. He looking more uncertain says, "he did not think so." I also sat in on an interview with one of Kifaya's secretariat organizing members. He made some good points such as "the state is doing everything to prevent Kifaya from spreading throughout the country but by documenting it though arresting people everywhere, they prove we have a presence throughout the country." As he is finishing this quote, another person brings him a new note with the names of those arrested. I see there is Suez, Minya, Qena, and Alexandria. The protest was energetic in the beginning and then was a bit boring. Occasionally the CSF would prevent someone from entering the blocked street to join the protest and they would chant "Leave him be" but the rest of the time Kamal Khalil and Kamil Abu `Eta kept their rhymes and chants going. Eventually, it was decided that they were staying until all those detained were released. One reporter asked me, "Do you think they will release them?" I said, "No." It was warm outside and the CSF soldiers looked bored, hungry and thirsty. The demonstrators started to give them sweets and water since they were not getting it from their side. After about 4 hours, a group of us took the decision to leave. As we stood on the security side of the protest, Kamal Khalil suggested a choice would be put to public vote to determine Kifaya's next move. His suggestions were "We stay here until everyone is released" or " We leave now and come back the day after tomorrow". The steps broke out in chit-chat. One of the officers (not a conscript), responding to the latter choice said "the day after tomorrow is a day-off" (agaza). The vote was taken. The protesters voted in favor to stay the course. As soon as it was announced, you could feel the CSF conscripts and security officers frustratingly but collectively moan. It was almost like they saw what they were doing as a waste of time. Tired, Hungry, and ready to go - I left the scene with my friends. I don't know if they stayed or how long they stayed. There were scattered reports that detainees were being released. But this means little - you can always release someone and re-arrest them (a common practice here), say you have released someone when you have not, or release one person and arrest other activists. It is sort of a revolving door policy for arresting people. _________ In a country currently witnessing political problems in the urban centers and economic problems in the countryside and non-urban based factories, it would seem something has to give. Politically, the prospect of what would surely be perceived humiliating "inheritance of power" - be it to the president's son or a chosen successor - continues to empower Kifaya without necessarily increasing their numbers (in Cairo Demonstrations at least). Economically - the sons of former Bashas' are reclaiming their lands and kicking peasants off in places like Surad and Sarando (both Delta - by Tanta and Damahour). It is making a situation ripe for the discontented and marginalized to join the opposition against the regime. The question is....can they connect the two strands in to a bigger movement? Kifaya has been in the making for a long time. Beginning with the Palestinian intifada, empowered by the US's internationally illegal war in Iraq, and focused on Mubarak's every move - it seems that there are more cities signing up but the numbers don't seem to increase. ___________ The Kifaya organizing member I spoke with yesterday remained defiant. He spoke of his credentials as a protest leader since his university days. He said, "I have protested Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, Israel. We are not going to stop now. We know that change is not going to come without pain or blood. But we have to lead the change. Everyday that the regime fails to change, it does more damage to the country's future than they can inflict on our protesters and the movement. Don't worry though....the world has tired of these repressive Arab regimes and change is coming. Change is definitely coming." With a brief thought of Fouad Ajami and George W. smiling in my head, I thanked him for his time. I watched all six-hours of the Mubarak interviews and I did not feel like I was listening to reality - or, at least, to a reality in which I pretend to live. Yet, speaking to the Kifaya people, I oddly get a similar feeling that I am not listening to reality. Sympathies aside, I feel like I live in a different reality where no struggle is taking place. Neither the regime nor the opposition present viable alternatives. Instead, Mubarak is for this and for that and Kifaya is against this and against that.....
A few days ago I met three cleaning ladies in one of the Kingdom's upscale hotels. Three young women, all of them graduates in law and younger than 30. It made me feel ashamed. Rarely has such a moment been so intense for me. For here are young women from some of the poorest background in the country that we made believe that studying and success at school and then university would then allow to have a better life, but the result is a social nightmare. Lucid? -- yes, I am. Morocco is a poor country, I am well aware of it... Especially because I know that in our country a quasi-feudal tradition is perpetuated that blocks social ascension for thousands of people because they do not bear the "right" name or come from the "proper" social background.That applies to a lot of places in the Arab world, but it is something I see in Morocco more than most other countries. Good to see some quality Moroccan blogs out there.
The history of the past 50 years in Egypt, as seen by Al Qemani, is the history of the state forging its legitimacy through the exploitation of religion. The rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser, commonly portrayed as a relatively secular period in Egyptian history, was in fact “the golden age for the revival of Islam and its men,” according to Al Qemani.
Nasser, he points out, established the High Council for Islamic Affairs in 1960 and then the Islamic Research Council, a conservative bastion with Al Azhar, and gave it wide-ranging censorship powers. In addition, says Al Qemani, under Nasser the number of Azhari institutes in the governorates of Egypt grew from seven in 1952 to over 2,000 at the time of Nasser’s death.
That Sadat allowed the Brotherhood back into Egypt and allowed them to operate openly in the street and on university campuses to counter the Marxist left is well known. More recently, President Mubarak has given significantly expanded censorship power to Al Azhar.The article ends with a quote from Gamal Al Banna, the grandfatherly brother of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al Banna, self-styled "liberal Islamist" and civil society activist (he sits on the board of the Ibn Khaldoun Center):
Al Banna, is blunt in his criticism of Al Azhar’s position, accusing the institution of stifling debate that might undermine its hold on power.
“From the perspective of their private position, Al Azhar doesn’t want reform and they strangle all who talk about Islam without being Azhari,” says Al Banna. “This is the powerful religious authority that enjoys the care of the state and the cooperation of the state. Reform cannot happen as long this traditional thought controls the Islamic world.”The problem now is, as I see it, how to undo the instrumentalization of Al Azhar that has made it both an extension of the state (which is not its intended role in society) and the tool of traditional, non-political conservatives. Another question would be whether, considering its prestige, Egyptian Muslims would want it to recede from being an interventionist force in Egypt's moral life or not. After all, there are a legitimate grounds to moral censorship in any country, and many people may welcome that role. But how do you draw the line between legitimate censorship and excessive conservatism? The solution, I suspect, probably has to do with how Al Azhar functions as an institution and the type of leadership that it creates -- as well as having a government that doesn't keep trying to outdo conservatives outside the regime like the Muslim Brotherhood for political gain. Another issue that Charles' story raises is the shift in 20th century Islamic thinkerrs between relative liberals like Muhammad Abdou to conservatives like Rashid Reda and Hassan Al Banna. I was speaking about liberal Islamist political parties at a seminar a few weeks ago at the Dutch Institute in Cairo along with Paul Schemm, my old Cairo Times colleague and friend, and Hugh Roberts, the head of the International Crisis Group's North Africa project. (He's been the one writing the recent great overviews on political Islam.) Hugh had quite an elegant way of summing up why the really quite progressive early 20th century Islamist thought became more conservative. It goes something like this: in the aftermath of the First World War and the division of the Ottoman Empire's Arab provinces among Britain and France, progressive Islamist thought that was mostly focused on internal reform and catching up with the advances of the West was abandoned of anti-colonialist, nationalist Islamist thought mostly concerned with ending foreign occupation and dropped the progressive elements. That foreign occupation (or at times the perception thereof), in various guises, survives today in much of the Arab world, and 80 years later it has produced extremist xenophobic movements like Al Qaeda. Compare Abdou's comment when he visited Paris in the 1900s ("In France I see Islam without Muslims, whereas in Egypt I see Muslims without Islam") to Sayyid Qutb's writings when he visited the US in the 1950s ("Even the Western world realizes that Western civilization is unable to present any healthy values for the guidance of mankind. It knows that it does not possess anything which will satisfy its own conscience and justify its existence.”) Kind of says it all. Finally, do check out other articles this week in Cairo, including: