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Archives for Egypt

Rise and Struggles of the Islamist Movements in North Africa

The popular movements that have toppled dictatorial regimes in North Africa have unwillingly paved the way for Islamists and conservative factions to take over governance. With the Islamists front and center, divisions and differences in ideas have emerged among them, dominated by four distinct factions:  those in governments tend to be moderate Islamists. But they are surrounded by factions that are pushing for more conservative policies through constitutional reforms.  Outside of these two groups are the Salafists who have shown willingness to use violent methods to reach their goals. Outside of these three, are the extremists terrorist groups that may be or not coordinated at the regional or international level to inflict greater damage to existing governments and Western interests. In this context, those who took part to the Arab Spring, from students and youth to labor unions and rights organizations, although initially felt sidelined, they continue to work hard to insure that their voices are not drowned.

The following is a series of articles focusing on the rise of the Islamists and the issues they currently face among themselves and in relations to the secular movement

With the Rise of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya and Tunisia, Al Qaeda Starts New Offensive in North Africa

The assassination of American diplomats in Libya has brought to the forefront a new Salafist group with Jihadist tendencies called Ansar al-Sharia. Although the attack against the American consular office was seemingly carried out as a retaliation for an amateur movie insulting to Islam and its Prophet Mohamed, all fingers point to Ansar al-Sharia as being behind the killings for reasons that are not necessarily related to the film in question.


The War Within: Salafists vs. Moderates

In the aftermath of the toppling of many Arab dictators, Islamist politicians have come into the forefront of governance and are now seemingly in control. But as they move into halls of power in Tunis, Cairo, Rabat and elsewhere, we discover that Political Islam is not as homogenous as many thought. Philosophical differences and ideological gaps exist between the various stakeholders that are likely to make the transition to a stable region a difficult and bumpy road.


 Tunisia and the Salafist Threat

The general security climate in Tunisia has deteriorated and government response has been timid and inefficient. Given the Islamist offensive appears well organized, it is likely part of an effort to destabilize Tunisia and derail its efforts to recover from a disastrous 2011. The recent call made by Al-Qaida leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri for the Tunisian people to rise up against the Ennahda Islamist ruling party was followed immediately by a series of actions that took place in Tunisia, demonstrating that Al-Qaeda and its remaining leaders have the ability to strike. Relaying Al-Zawahiri’s call, young clerics in Tunisia followed up with their own local calls for action. Among them is the extremist figure Abu Ayoub Ettounsi who called on the Tunisians to revolt after the prayer session of June 15, 2012. The same man called for the destruction of the studios of the TV channels Nessma. And so Tunisia may now very well be in the eye of the storm.

How to Secure the Sahel

Thursday night, the northern Mali region of Kidal witnessed the first wave of serious clashes between the Touaregs and so-called Islamist group Ansar Dine, a group under the influence of Al-Qaeda. The event is critically important in that it confirms that the two groups, the Touaregs organized under the independence movement of the MNLA and the Al-Qaeda operatives in the region (Ansar Dine) have different agendas. As their key leaders have often stated, the Touaregs have not pledged allegiance to foreign Jihadist influences and will not do any time soon. That in itself is not only encouraging, but a major opportunity for those fighting the Jihadists and seeking to root them out. A fresh approach to the Sahel is needed and without an active participation of the Touaregs, the Sahel will remain a dangerous zone. Here’s why.

Debt Crisis in the Moroccan Subsidy System: Undesirable Gift for Islamist PM

There is a bumpy road ahead for the new government leader in Rabat. As he enters his offices, both excited and energized by a fresh electoral victory with the prospect of governing a nation, Prime Minister Benkirane has to deal with the country’s accounting books, and what he sees does not please him. The ledger looks dangerous and could force him to chose between making unpopular decisions or maintain a financially unsustainable status quo.






Egypt under Morsi

Egypt—a transcontinental country, having African-Middle Eastern border, and a deep geo-strategic significance in the Middle East, Africa, Mediterranean Basin and the Muslim world suffered 60 years of dictatorship until an Arab Spring starting in 2011 led to an overthrow of Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Muhammed Morsi became Egyptian President defeating his rival, ex-Mubarak premier Ahmed Shafiq with 51.7% of votes. The trailblazing elections brought sweet delight and a first of many things for Egypt-he is the first democratically elected President, the first Islamist to rule the nation and the first President who is not from the military.

Although Morsi, member of the once scrutinized Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Freedom and Justice party, was sworn in as Egypt’s first civil President, his victory was anything but a sweeping win and  the revolutionary battle is far from over, as among the earlier challenges that Morsi has to coup up with included, national reconciliation and engagement with liberal opposition, to deal with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) in context to the dissolution of parliament and the SCAF’s constitutional declaration that limited much of his powers, had undercut state budget and granted the military power to arrest protestors and civilians, then drafting a new constitution and election of a new Parliament,the rehabilitation of state economy and defunct security apparatus.

While on the external front, to review Cairo’s relations with Turkey, US, Saudi Arabia and Iran, must convince and reasssure the paranoid Western world, terrfied of an Islamist government and the Shariah Rule that this loyal old Western ally would remain an open and tolerant society, and this new regime does not mark ‘ the beginning of Islamization’ in Egypt. Howere the real concern here was the  impact of the 180 degree change in goverence on the Arab-Isreal issue but the fiercely pro-Palestinian leader has pledged to honour Egypt’s international treaties, which include a 1979 peace treaty with Israel and take control of Sinai after recent attacks at Israeli border. He also paid an official visit to Saudi Arabia, met Hamas leader, khaled Meeshal, and attended African Union Summit to improve his diplomatic relations with foreign countries.

Under the recent developments in Egypt, Morsi not only ordered to reconvene the Parliament, announced the release of political war detainees, many of which are from Islamist groups, and the appointment of a woman and a Christian to a vice president positions in the government but also appointed Hesham Kandil, a religious Muslim- a technocrat rather than a hardliner and not member of Muslim brotherhood as his Prime Minister. His newly elected cabinet comprises figures of the Egyptian financial elite with representatives from the Egyptian military, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB), former ministers of the interim government of Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri, and various technocrats.  He made no move to antagonize Egypt’s military and the Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, kept his post.Two of the 35 ministers are women, and only one is a Coptic Christian. All this has raised skepticism about Morsi’s administration which has shown little luck in placating secular and other liberal opponents but the Egypt’s current leader understands well that his country not only needs a political reform but a practical socio-economic uplifting as the future of the democracy and stability in the region depends on what would happen in Egypt. Mr. Morsi put it himself ‘“The revolution goes on, carries on until all the objectives of the revolution are achieved and together we will complete this march.”

With such drastic and unprecedented change in the leadership of Egypt, the world is watching, fingers are crossed that would this middle-eastern power under Morsi actually succeed in achieving the democratic freedom for which it has fought for nearly 17 months, for which it sacrificed nearly 850 lives or would this country relapse and slip back into the hands of the more experienced and established military autocracy?

 The writer, Aymen Ijaz works for the Islamabad Policy Research Institute.

Election Fever in Egypt

[pro-player width=’550′ height=’500′ autostart=’true’ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6AU54rqiEw[/pro-player]
Millions of Egyptians stood in long lines Wednesday to cast ballots in the first presidential election since President Hosni Mubarak resigned last year amid massive protests.

The buildup to the contentious election has largely pitted candidates representing the old guard tied to Mubarak against Islamists trying to form new coalitions. In all, 13 candidates are on the ballot, but one has dropped out of the race. The voting will stretch over two days.  Voters lined up for blocks, waiting sometimes for hours to cast their ballot. Voter Noha Kamal is relieved that, finally, her vote will count, after years of Mubarak winning tightly-controlled votes. “This is the first time that we can choose, yes,” Kamal said. “In the past 30 years we passed through a lot of questionnaires – ‘is it ok or not to retain our president.’ Every time, I didn’t go.”

Varied candidates:

Opinion polls show four front runners.  They include two Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi and independent Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, and two members of the old guard – veteran diplomat Amr Moussa and former Air Force commander Ahmed Shafik.  Another candidate, socialist Hamdeen Sabahi has also been emerging in recent polls.

Religion has been central to most campaigns, but Cairo University student Howaida Magdi wishes otherwise. She says she’s a Muslim, but she focuses on politics.  Religion, she says, is everyone’s personal choice, but it’s “not the way to judge politicians.”
There are other key issues – the faltering economy and ongoing instability, with continuing protests, crackdowns and crime – issues that play into the campaigns of Moussa and Shafik who emphasize a return to order.

Egypt's Presidential Elections

Egypt's Presidential Elections

For some Egyptians, like voter Galal, the transition has been overwhelming, something he hopes whoever wins, be they old guard, or Islamists, will fix.  “We’re tired,” he said. “Flour is sold on the black market, People do not fear God.”  He wants “the Egyptian nation to be united.”

Voters uncertain

Others worry that the recent upheaval and decades of political repression have left Egyptians unprepared. Voter Said Zaki says people are too easily swayed by the last candidate they heard from. “We don’t have confidence,” he said, “not even in ourselves.”

But Human Rights Watch researcher Heba Morayef says perhaps more important will be if people have confidence in the outcome of the vote, which could go to a run-off next month. “We are also entering these elections without a constitution and you need a judiciary that Egyptians can trust, you need a president who is seen as legitimate even if he is not the preferred candidate,” she said. Morayef feels there may be some irregularities, but not the full-scale vote-rigging of the past.  At a polling station in southern Cairo, a woman who identifies herself only as “an Egyptian voter” acknowledges the vote isn’t perfect. “I don’t think this election – it’s fantastic to have an election – but I don’t think it’s going to represent the true wishes of the Egyptian people,” she said. But, she added, it’s a first step – a first step on a very long road.

Article by Elizabeth  Arrott of VOANews.

Women’s Domination in Egypt and Beyond

Women’s domination has been a fact that the world is witnessing through this era, not only in developed countries, but in developing ones too like Egypt. Their domination is reflected in the three most powerful things in life; economy, art and psychology.

Women’s power in economy does not only prove that she can be financially dependent and earn more money than a man too, depending on her wits, but it also reflects her existence in the money market and in the cycle of production.

Her power in art proves her understanding to the environment and her adventure to communicate with its wildness, and succeed to either tame it or make it wilder.

The power of a woman in psychology is a gift that she always had, but when combining it with her new gained powers, she becomes a mistress in wielding them altogether to reach her goal.

In our multi-cultural Egypt, there are some women who are still against the concept of feminism. However, the foundation defines feminism in a very simple way: “The right for all women to speak up.” That’s why anyone is free to participate in this competition with any kind of thoughts, for we strongly believe that there is much more science than that exists in our already published books.

Feminism itself as a concept is considered a separate revolution on politics, traditions and upon the Egyptian minds, although it is known through the ancient Egyptian history that Egyptians glorified the woman figure to a great extent.

Feminism in Egypt started to finally grow as a beautiful rose rising within a hot and thirsty desert. We long to let others know about this divine Rose and get inspired with it, and perhaps this rose will be the new Lighthouse shining from our Alexandria

The Forgotten Writers Foundation – formed after the Egyptian revolution to empower Egyptian literature – is issuing its second short story competition about “Women’s Domination” to make a study through the submissions on how different cultures and genders perceive the power of women psychologically and philosophically.

The winning stories will be published in one book – after the award ceremony is held – with a foreign publisher to deliver our own science and work to the other side of the world, and that they start knowing about Egyptians directly rather than through reporters and newspapers. It is unfair to have our intellectuals buying and reading English books and giving nothing back in return to the world except their money. Globalization will be fulfilled in the world of Literature and Egypt will then have its recognizable place among readers all over the world.




31 / July / 2012



(002) 0100 92 818 08

Best of Luck!
Mahmoud Mansi

The Forgotten Writers Foundation