Monthly Archives: November 2010

>Copts will not vote in parliamentary poll, says bishop

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Naga Hammadi — Egyptian Christians in the southern city of Naga Hammadi where six Copts were killed in a drive-by shooting in January will not cast ballots in Sunday’s parliamentary elections if security authorities fail to provide guarantees for their safety, an influential bishop said on Saturday.
In October, al-Qaeda threatened to attack Egypt’s Christian minority if the Coptic Church fails to release women who have allegedly converted to Islam, and who claimed that they are being held captive in monasteries.

The measures came after the deadly attack on a Catholic church in Baghdad that killed 58 people and wounded nearly 80 when militants stormed the church during Sunday Mass.
“We told the people to go vote if polling stations are properly secured,” Bishop Kirollos of the Naga Hammadi Diocese told Al-Masry Al-Youm hours before the elections. “As you can see, the atmosphere is not that safe.”
In January, six Copts and a Muslim guard were killed in a drive-by shooting after they left a late night mass on the eve of Coptic Christmas.
At the time, local media quoted church officials as saying that the ruling National Democratic Party MP, Abdel Rahim al-Ghoul, is linked with a Muslim “thug” who is currently being tried for planning the attack.
Al-Ghoul, who is currently running for reelection in Sunday’s vote, vehemently denied the accusations.
On Wednesday, head of the Egyptian Coptic Church Pope Shenouda III denounced the use of force against Coptic protesters.
The statement followed Wednesday’s clashes with security forces over a decision to halt construction on a Giza church.
Authorities claim the church lacked the required permits.
The violence left two Copts dead and scores injured.
“God gives authority to some people so they can give comfort to those under their rule, but authority should not be violently exercised,” Shenouda said.
Bishop Kirollos called for the increased presence of security forces around Naga Hammadi’s churches.
“We got used to vandalism and attacks,” said Kirollos. “But recent violence has caused even more panic within the Coptic community in Naga Hammadi.”
Nearly two weeks ago, angry Muslim villagers torched dozens of Christian homes in the Nawahed village of Qena (twenty Kilometers north of Naga Hammadi), after rumors circulated that a Christian man was having an affair with a local Muslim girl.
In January, Copts blamed the police for not properly protecting the church where attacks took place despite the circulation of threat messages in the Christian dominated city following allegations that a Christian man raped a 12-year-old Muslim girl.
In recent weeks, the city has witnessed the proliferation of election related violence.
Eyewitnesses said that al-Ghoul’s car was completely destroyed on Thursday.
Last month, one election campaigner was killed in al-Raesiyya village, adjacent to Naga Hammadi.
Bishop Kirollos said that the Coptic community is largely disillusioned by the election candidates.
“The Coptic community feels badly discriminated against, and they think that none of the existing candidates are theirs” said Kirollos.  “All competing parties, whether belonging to the NDP or the opposition, have not addressed Coptic concerns in their election platforms.”
Copts, who account for nearly ten percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million, constitute the Middle East’s largest Christian community but complain of routine harassment and systematic discrimination.
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Symbolic skirmishes: Parliament candidates vie over electoral icons

Qena–“It was an unprecedented fuss,” said an official at the Security Directorate in the Upper Egyptian city of Qena, describing the battle between parliamentary candidates over the symbols that would accompany their names on the voting ballots in Sunday’s elections.
Symbols are meant primarily to enable voters in rural areas of Egypt–where large segments of the population are illiterate–to identify candidates listed on the ballots. Continue reading

The Brotherhood: No hope for the NDP in Alexandria

Sobhi Saleh, a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian, is convinced the upcoming parliamentary elections are going to be a fierce competition in Alexandria because the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) has been actively seeking to curb the political influence of Brotherhood members there. Continue reading

>Brotherhood woman candidate confident about electoral bid

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BY: Ahmed Zaki Osman
Al-Masry Al-Youm

Bushra al-Samny, the Muslim Brotherhood female candidate in Alexandria, is confident that she is going to win the woman quota seat in Alexandria in the 28 November parliamentary elections.

“I’m not going to speak about other candidates,” al-Samny told Al-Masry Al-Youm. “People in Alexandria know who’s Bushra,” she said, seated in the official headquarters of the Brotherhood parliamentary bloc in Alexandria, surrounded by banners. Some carried the group’s newly adopted slogan, “Together we will change”, while others featured the traditional slogan “Islam is the solution” painted in Islamic calligraphy.

‫ ‬Al-Samny was born in 1960 has been a lifelong supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. She was a leading female student activist at the University of Alexandria where she did her undergraduates studies in political sciences. Currently a schoolteacher, she is married to Ahmed al-Sokaily, a local leader of the Brotherhood in Alexandria. She has four daughters, three of whom are married to members of the Brotherhood.
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“I graduated in 1982. At that time the Brotherhood wasn’t very strong. Now, after 30 years, we have succeeded in making the group the most influential political and social force in the city.”
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After graduation, al-Samny got more involved in the Brotherhood’s activities such as supporting candidates in various elections, doing charity work and mobilizing activists in professional syndicates.
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Speaking quietly and maintaining confident eye contact, al-Samny, who tends to quote extensively from the Qur’an, doesn’t see any difference between religious and political duties.
“Elections are a religious duty. I was one of the women who were trained to run for election. When the Brotherhood assigned me to run in this race I agreed because it is a religious and national duty for a Muslim woman.”
Experts argue that the Brotherhood has historically taken a conservative stance against women and their perceived roles in society. In their first political party platform draft, issued in September 2007, women and Christians were denied the right to be president. The platform draft celebrates women as wives who bring up their kids in a good Islamic manner.
However, women affiliated with the group have been raising their voices and pressing for more presence in the group’s structural hierarchy.
In 2007, a female activist affiliated with the group criticized its conservative stance in a letter to the Supreme Guide at the time, Mohamed Mahdi Akef. The move was considered the first of its kind since 1928.
Al-Samny argues that men and women are equal in the eyes of the Brotherhood. “People who speak about discrimination against women in the Brotherhood don’t know the movement very well. We are equal and united around building an Islamic society. There is no difference in this context between men and women.”
Asked about why there isn’t any woman in the higher positions in the group such as in the Guidance Bureau, al-Samny argues, “we (women) will not be safe if we go for posts like that.”
“In such political contexts where the group is subject to systematic intimidation, it is agreed that women are better not to be in positions like that.”
However, the movement has been increasingly encouraging women’s participation, not only in the parliamentary elections but on other matters as well, according to al-Samny.
In the 2000 parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood’s first female candidate Jihan al-Halafawy forced the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) to cancel the results of the elections in Alexandria’s al-Raml district after achieving a big victory against her ruling party rival.
In 2005, another female candidate from the Brotherhood, Makarem al-Deiri, a lecturer in Arabic literature at Al-Azhar University, lost an intensely-followed runoff in Nasr City against NDP tycoon Mustafa al-Sallab.
Al-Samny is following suit. Her campaign is fierce and competitive, but may also spur intimidation from ruling party rivals.
Last week, she was prevented from submitting her candidacy application to the Security Directorate of Alexandria. However, authorities accepted the papers the next day after a protest by her supporters in front of the Directorate.
“I am struggling even before the battle kicks off,” al-Samny exclaims.
At the beginning of her campaign, 70 supporters were detained as they started hanging her posters in the streets.
“I know that the restrictions will be huge for any independent candidate and for the Brotherhood in particular,” says al-Samny, “But I trust my popularity in the street,” she says, confidently.
Al-Samny will run for a woman quota seat in Alexandria, which brings the total number of Brotherhood candidates in Alexandria to nine, as opposed to eight in the 2005 elections.
Last year, the People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament, passed a law allocating a quota of 64 seats for women. The quota should raise the presence of women in the assembly to more than 12 percent of the seats in an expanded parliament of 518 seats as opposed to 454.
The Muslim Brotherhood, who won a fifth of the seats in the 2005 elections, refused the quota law, claiming it is a maneuver to extend the NDP’s hegemony over the electoral process.  “I am running because we need to challenge the NDP and provide an alternative,” says al-Samny.
Last year, Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Moufid Shehab said that the quota law, “ensures parity for women and promotes their role in society, as stipulated by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Egypt has signed.”
Al-Samny doesn’t subscribe to such a belief. “I’m against this treaty [CEDAW] along with all the international conferences such as the Population Summit since they threaten the unity and customs of the Muslim family.”
In 1994, Egypt hosted the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which stirred a controversy for allegedly promoting abortion and pre-martial sexual relations.
“We don’t need to import western concepts to address our concerns. By adopting an Islamic approach, we can have a more appealing solutions to address women’s problems.”

Helmy Alnamnam: Taha Hussein was not a Zionist

Taha Hussein (1889- 1973), the most prominent intellectual in twentieth century Egypt, was regularly accused by ultra-nationalists and Islamists as being a mouthpiece for Zionism and apathetic in terms of the Palestinian issue. A new book by journalist Helmy Alnamnam, “Taha Hussein and Zionism,” attempts to refute these charges. Continue reading

الأمير عمر طوسون يكتب عن سياسة مصر التوسعية في منابع النيل

وكان المغفور له الخديو “إسماعيل” يريد أن يضمن لمصر امتلاك منابع النيل، فأمر مراعاة للإنسانية والسياسة والاقتداء بجده العظيم “محمد على باشا” بتجهيز حملة لضم الأراضي الواقعة في جنوب فاشودة لغاية البحيرات الكبرى إلى أملاك الحكومة المصرية لكي يقضي على الحالة الهمجية التي في تلك البلاد، وليكفل لمصر امتياز مراقبة منابع النيل التي تستمد منه ثروتها وعليه مدار حياتها
الأمير عمر طوسون، مقتبسات من تاريخ مديرية خط الاستواء، مجلة الجيش المصري(وزارة الدفاع الوطني)، العدد الخامس، مايو سنة 1939

>Shia Muslims in Egypt face ‘systematic’ discrimination, say rights groups

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Ahmed Zaki Osman
Al-Masry Al-Youm

Egypt’s Emergency State Security Court on Sunday ordered–for the seventh time–the release of an Egyptian Shia Muslim arrested for alleged involvement in planned terrorist activity.
Mohammed Farouk al-Sayed was one of 12 Egyptian Shia Muslims to have been arrested since May of last year. Some of the men were later released, while five currently remain in detention.
When the court previously ruled to release al-Sayed, the Ministry of Interior simply countermanded the order.

Such a policy, read a statement issued on Sunday by the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), “reveals the despotic nature of the Ministry of Interior and [the fact] that it’s not subject to the rule of law.”

Apart from its large Christian minority, Egypt is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. Some local rights groups claim that non-Sunni Muslims, including Shias, are regularly exposed to systematic intimidation.

According to Adel Ramadan, a lawyer with EIPR, Shia Muslims–Egyptian nationals or otherwise–are subject to “systematic violations by the state.”

Al-Sayed had been one of a group of Shia Muslims who had held regular peaceful meetings. Egypt’s State Security Investigations Service, however, suspected the gatherings were related to terrorism and therefore represented a possible threat to Egyptian national security, Ramadan noted.

“In the arrest memo [issued by the Ministry of Interior], the report must indicate the reason for arrest,” Ramadan said. “In all cases involving Shia Muslims, there’s a reference to ‘terrorist’ operations.”

Crackdowns on Shia Muslims have become commonplace in Egypt–including arrests, detention and lawsuits–in recent years, according to reports by local human rights groups.

Last week, a group of detained Shia Muslims, some of whom were foreign nationals, won a court ruling ordering their release. Nevertheless, several of them still remain in detention.

Since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the sectarian divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims has deepened, allowing some regimes in the predominantly Sunni-Muslim Middle East to accuse their Shia brethren of “threatening regional stability” to serve “Iranian interests. President Hosni Mubarak, for his part, has accused Shia Muslims in the Gulf of being more loyal to Tehran than to their home countries.

Egypt has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979–a year that witnessed both the signing of the Egypt-Israel Camp David peace treaty and Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

Generally, Shia Muslims believe that Ali, first cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, should have succeeded the latter as Islam’s first caliph instead of the Prophet’s companion, Abu Bakr.

Read Also:
Experts: Iran fatwa on Prophet’s wife will not bridge Sunni-Shia divide