Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Released after 3 days of detention and torture

Sherif Hassan Abdel Wahab, 34 year old, was released after spending three days in detention at the State Security headquarters in Giza, Egypt; he was beaten, tortured and humiliated while in detention.

Sherif was arrested last week in October 6 town, he had converted from Islam to Christianity 7 years ago. Security officials also mocked his conversion from Islam and accused him of contempt against Islam. Sherif was tortured for refusing to become an informer for the State Security against converts from Islam.
الافراج عن مواطن بعد تعذيبه
تم الافراج عن المواطن/شريف حسن عبد الوهاب 34 سنة بعد ان قضى ثلاثة ايام داخل مقر مباحث امن الدولة بالجيزة تعرض خلالها للضرب والتعذيب والاهانة والاستهزاء من عقيدته وقد رفض المذكور ان يقوم بدور المرشد السرى وتجدر الاشارة ان شريف عبد الوهاب والذى قبض عليه نهايه الاسبوع الماضى فى احد شوارع مدينه 6 اكتوبر قد اعتنق المسيحية منذ نحو سبع سنوات و ليس له اى نشاط دينى او سياسى من اى نوع ولكن عادة ما توجه تهمة ازدراء الاديان لمثل هؤلاء لاجبارهم على الارتداد او على الاقل ضمان عدم قيامهم باى نشاط تبشيرى

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Muslim Brotherhood and Women

The Muslim Brotherhood and Women
Mona Eltahawy

A quick tour of Islamist attitudes towards women in Arab countries is a warning of their damaging views.
In Palestine, just ask women how they have been marginalized by Hamas over the past few years. In Kuwait, ask women about the Islamist candidates who until this year blocked legislation giving them the right to vote.

And ask Algerian women about the violence unleashed on them by Islamists.

I cannot talk about the Muslim Brotherhood's position on women without mentioning hijab. For many in Egypt this might be a moot point. They will say that the majority of Egyptian women wear the hijab. While this might be true, it certainly isn't the point.

Regular readers of my articles will remember that in an interview in June with Mahdi Akef, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, I asked him if the group planned to change anything in the Egyptian constitution regarding women's rights should they ever come to power.

To prove to me that the Brotherhood would not endanger women's rights, Akef pointed to me and said that although I was "naked" I had been allowed to enter his office. I objected and insisted I was not "naked." I was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt and trousers. I said there were many views on Muslim women's dress but he insisted that there were no differences among the views.

Such an attitude not only belies the Brotherhood's true attitude towards women, but it also highlights the two languages they use: one with Egyptian or Muslim journalists and another with Western journalists. Akef would never have told a Western journalist she was "naked."

Egyptians are fed up of government authoritarianism and we certainly do not want to replace it with the Brotherhood's religiously-inspired authoritarianism.

For more

بلاغ عاجل إلى قداسة البابا شنودة الثالث

The Muslim Brotherhood group reveals its ugly face

Brotherhood against non-Muslim leaders

A senior figure in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood organisation has argued against non-Muslims holding leadership positions in Egypt, including the presidency.

Mohamed Habib, the first deputy of the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide, said that "if we are to apply the Islamic rule which says that non-Muslims have no guardianship over Muslims, then a Christian may not be president".

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Coptic Flag, Meanings and Colors

Few days ago, a number of Coptic activists from both Egypt and the Diaspora have adopted the design of a Coptic flag that underlines the Egyptian and Christian identities of the Copts. Yet, before certain people embark on accusing us of causing sectarian tensions, or of being the mouthpieces of Zionism, Imperialism, Crusaders, and all these meaningless accusations, we have decided to make our dear readers aware of the meaning of this flag and of the motive behind it.

Flags and Emblems:
It is well known that any group has the right to create an emblem or a flag that represents it and which would be its window on the world. Examples of such in the Middle East include the emblem of the Muslim Brotherhood (two swords surrounding the Koran), and the flag of the Lebanese phalanges (a red circle surrounding a green cedar tree). Furthermore, there is the flag of the Lebanese Hezbollah or the flag of the Assyrian minority, which flies side by side with the Iraqi flag at the Assyrian churches. It is thus noteworthy that flags do not call for isolation from their surrounding entities, but rather represent certain components of these surroundings. Therefore, in view of the above examples, the suspicion of national betrayal or sectarian isolation that some might raise as we talk about the Coptic flag would be groundless, particularly in light of the fact that the number of Copts worldwide (more than ten millions) surpasses that of entire countries.

The Motive behind the Coptic Flag:
It is indubitable that Copts have taken too long to voice their opposition to many aspects of the Egyptian political life. One of the things that bother Copts the most is the actual Egyptian flag, and that in turn is due to many reasons. First are its colors that closely resemble those of other Arabic-speaking countries, then there is this odd insistence to add the word Arab next to Egypt’s name, as if to distinguish between an Arab Egypt and one that is not. In this respect, taking into consideration that Copts are Egyptians and not Arabs, the current Egyptian flag represents an alienation of the Egyptian Christian minority in its homeland. Nevertheless, in view of the Copts’ nationalism and their attachment to their country, and from the standpoint of respecting the opinion of the majority of the Egyptians who might consider Egypt to be an Arab country, we as Copts are called upon to respect the current flag of Egypt as a representation of our Land, in spite of our disagreement with what it represents. Therefore, we found that the best solution for this dilemma is designing a Coptic flag that represents us and highlights our non-Arab identity. This flag would be used by the Copts alongside the official Egyptian flag. In that way we would have reconciled our pride of our Coptic identity, our allegiance to our beloved Egypt, and our respect for the opinion of the majority of our Egyptian Muslim brothers.

The Coptic Flag:
The Coptic Flag consists of two main components: a blue cross and a colorful coat of arms.
1. The cross represents Christianity, the religion of the Copts. The blue color of he cross stems from the blueness of the Egyptian sky and water. It also reminds the Copts of their persecution, when the Arab rulers and tyrants forced their ancestors to wear heavy crosses around their necks until their neck bones became blue.

2. The top of the coat of arms is decorated with some crosses, which refer to the Christianity of the Copts, intertwined with lotus flowers, which refer to their Egyptian identity. The three main crosses are Coptic crosses, for they are made of four arms equal in length, each of which is crossed by a shorter arm. Those crosses are different in that respect from the more conventional crosses that possess three short arms on top of one longer arm. The lotus flower, also known as the Egyptian White Water Lily Nymphaea lotus, is one of Ancient Egypt’s most famous flowers. It used to represent creation and resurrection, for it closes during the night and disappears under water, then resurfaces and opens at dawn. A creation myth from Ancient Egypt states that the first thing to have been born from the watery chaos of the beginning of time was a giant lotus flower, which, on the first day of creation, gave birth to the sun. The black background behind the ornaments is a symbol of Kimi or Kemet, the Egyptian name of Egypt, which means the black land. Ancient Egyptians gave their country this name since the waters of the Nile used to bring black African soil during the inundation season and deposit it on the banks of the Nile, thus fertilizing them. The contrast between the yellow and the black is a symbol of the Copts’ Christian faith and Egyptian identity that still shine amid the darkness of the persecutions they have been suffering over the centuries. Beneath these ornaments is a green line in the Middle of the coat of arms, which represents the Nile Valley. Around it are two yellow lines that symbolize the Eastern and Western Deserts of Egypt. These two lines are in turn flanked by two blue lines that represent the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea that surround Egypt. Finally, these lines are separated by red lines symbolizing the Coptic blood, which has been shed all over Egypt since Egyptians adopted Christianity and until today.

العلم القبطي، معانٍ والوان

منذ أيام قلائل قام عدة نشطاء من أقباط مصر والمهجر بالتصديق على تصميم لعلم قبطي يبرز الهوية المصرية المسيحية للأقباط. وقبل أن يتهمنا البعض بإحداث فتنة طائفية وبالعمالة للصهيونية والامبريالية والصليبية إلى أخر تلك الاتهامات التي لا معنى لها، فقد قررنا تعريف قرائنا الأعزاء بمعنى العلم وبالمغزى من ورائه

الأعلام والشعارات
من المتعارف عليه أن من حق أي جماعة أو فرقة استحداث شعار أو علم يرمز لها ويمثل واجهتها على العالم. ومن أمثلة ذلك في الشرق الأوسط شعار الأخوان المسلمين وهو سيفان يتوسطهما القرآن، أو علم القوات اللبنانية (الكتائب) وهو عبارة عن دائرة حمراء تتوسطها شجرة أرز خضراء. وبالإضافة لتلك الأمثلة فهناك علم حزب الله اللبناني أو علم الطائفة الأشورية الذي يرفرف جنبا إلى جنب مع العلم العراقي في الكنائس الأشورية. وهذه الأعلام لا تدعوا للانعزال أو الاستقلال عن محيطها الإقليمي، بل تمثل بالأحرى بعض مكونات هذا المحيط. وبالنظر لهذه الأمثلة تنتفي شبهة الخيانة أو الإنعزال الطائفي عند الحديث عن العلم القبطي، خاصة وأن عدد الأقباط في العالم (أكثر من عشرة ملايين) يفوق تعداد سكان دول بأكملها

المغزى من وراء العلم القبطي
ومن الملاحظ أن الأقباط قد تأخروا كثيرا في الإعلان عن معارضتهم للعديد من مظاهر الحياة السياسية المصرية. ولعل أبرز ما يثير ضجر الأقباط العلم المصري الحالي وذلك لعدة أسباب منها ألوانه التي تشابه ألوان أعلام العديد من الدول الناطقة بالعربية، أو الإصرار العجيب على إضافة كلمة "العربية" لاسم مصر على العلم وكأن هناك مصرا عربية وأخرى غير ذلك. وبالنظر لأن الأقباط مصريون وليسوا عربا فإن العلم المصري الحالي يمثل تهميشا للأقلية المصرية المسيحية في بلادها. وعلى الرغم من ذلك، وبالنظر لوطنية الأقباط وارتباطهم ببلادهم، ومن منطلق احترام رأي أغلبية الشعب المصري التي قد لا ترى غضاضة في اعتبار مصر دولة عربية، فقد وجب علينا كأقباط احترام العلم المصري الحالي كرمز لبلادنا على الرغم من اختلافنا مع ما يمثله. وعلى هذا فقد رأينا أن الحل الأمثل هو تصميم علم قبطي يعبر عننا ويبرز هويتنا المصرية الغير العربية، ويستخدم هذا العلم جنبا إلى جنب من قبل الأقباط مع العلم الرسمي لمصر. وبهذا نكون قد مزجنا بين فخرنا بقبطيتنا وولائنا لمصرنا واحترامنا لرأي أغلبية اخوتنا المصريين المسلمين

العلم القبطي
يتكون العلم القبطي من مكونيّن أساسييّن: صليب أزرق ودرع ملون
1. الصليب يرمز للمسيحية التي يدين ويتمسك بها الأقباط. أما زرقة الصليب فتنبع من زرقة سماء مصر ومياهها، كما تذكر الأقباط بعصور الإضطهاد حين اجبرهم مضطهديهم على ارتداء صلبان ثقيلة في رقابهم حتى ازرقت عظام أعناقهم

2. في أعلى الدرع تتشابك زخارف صلبان تشير لمسيحية الأقباط مع زخارف زهرة اللوتس التي ترمز لمصريتهم. والثلاثة صلبان الكبرى صلبان قبطية حيث تتكون من أربعة أذرع متساوية الطول تتخللها أذرع أقل طولاً، وهي في ذلك تختلف عن الصلبان الأخرى التي تتميز بقصر الثلاثة أذرع العليا للصليب وطول الذراع السفلى
أما زهرة اللوتس، التي تُعرف ايضاً بزهرة الليلي البيضاء، فهي من أشهر زهور مصر القديمة، وكانت ترمز للخليقة والبعث، حيث تغلق الزهرة ليلاً وتختفي تحت الماء لتعود وتتفتح مع إطلالة الصباح. كما تروي أحدى روايات الخلق المصرية أن زهرة لوتس عملاقة كانت أول ما ظهر من مياه الكون الخرب في البدء ومن هذه الزهرة انبثقت الشمس في أول أيام الخليقة
والخلفية السوداء للزخارف رمز لكيمي أو كيميت، وهو الاسم المصري لمصر، ويعني الأرض السوداء، حيث كانت مياه النيل تأتي مع كل فيضان بتربة افريقيا السوداء تاركة اياها في مصر لتخصب ضفتي النيل. وتتطابق الزخارف الصفراء مع الخلفية السوداء يعني أن مصرية ومسيحية الأقباط ما زالا يشرقان وسط سواد الاضطهاد الذي تعرضوا له على مدار القرون
وأسفل الزخارف يتوسط الدرع خط أخضر يرمز لوادي النيل، وعلى جانبيه خطان صفراوان يرمزان لصحراءي مصر الشرقية والغربية
وعلى جانبيّ هذيّن الخطيّن خطان أزرقان يمثلان البحر الأحمر والبحر المتوسط اللذيّن يحيطان بمصر
كما تتخلل هذه الألوان خطوط حمراء ترمز للدماء القبطية التى روت مصر منذ أن اعتنق المصريون المسيحية وحتى الآن

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Are you a Christian in the Middle East?

Across the Middle East, it is thought that approximately 14* million people are followers of the Christian faith.

Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories all have sizeable Christian populations.
The BBC News website is planning a series on the many different communities and "they" want to hear your stories
Click here to share your story

Are you a Christian living in the Middle East? How does your faith affect your way of life and that of your family and friends?

Send your comments and experiences to the BBC (here)

Do you have any images of your community or place of worship?
You can send them to

* The number of Christians in the Middle East is controversial. Last week, Mr. Osama Al Baz, an advisor to the Egyptian president said there is no less than 9 million Christians in Egypt

Friday, December 02, 2005

Calling on the Muslim Brotherhood to Share in Political Power

Will Democracy Survive?

(Part 1 of 2)
By Magdi Khalil *

For the last twenty-five years Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the Egyptian human rights activist, has committed himself to the issue of social and political reform. His relentless efforts have, undeniably, made a strong impact on the Arab community.

A founding member of the Arab Organization for Human rights (AOHR), Dr. Ibrahim played an instrumental role in raising pubic awareness with respect to human rights and civil society concepts

He dedicated himself to the cause of minorities, sponsoring a conference entitled, “Sects, Ethnicity and Minority Groups” in the Arab world in 1994, as well as writing a book of the same title - both of which are well acknowledged. Ten years earlier, Dr. Ibrahim’s request to hold the founding conference of the AOHR was firmly denied by all Arab countries, an incident that recurred in 1994, forcing him – in both cases – to hold the conference in Cyprus to escape the Arab authorities’ harassment.

Dr. Ibrahim’s research and advocacy efforts were mostly consistent with the international community’s reform trends and agenda, and he has been working diligently to pass these ideas on to the Arab communities.

The International Community: Current Trends and Agenda

Since the events of September 11, 2001, the international community has been greatly concerned with the situation in the Islamic world, and most importantly with the issues of religious reform and the renewal of Islamic discourse, as well as the prospect of Islamists sharing political power in the Islamic countries in general, and the Arab countries in particular.

Dr. Ibrahim and Ibn Khaldun Center have also devoted great attention to those same issues.

The reform of Islamic discourse has been the subject of wide, local and international interest. It has been openly discussed in newspapers, research centers and decision- making institutions, with very little or no controversy. However, the case is different with the second issue. Calling on Islamists to share in political power is –understandably- a thorny topic that would spark extensive and heated debates.

Comparisons are made between the Iranian, Taliban and Sudanese models on one hand, and the Turkish, Indonesian and Moroccan models on the other hand.

Recently, members in the American administration have enthusiastically acclaimed the “Turkish” model, expressing their wish to see it mirrored in the Arab world. The American approval of Turkish policies was clearly demonstrated a few months ago, when the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan received a fervent welcome in Washington while visiting American research centers and decision-making institutes.

There is an almost unanimous agreement on the necessity of religious reform, but doubts and fears are highly provoked by the prospect of a rule shared by Islamists. Both issues have the potential to change the entire political, social and cultural map of the Arab world, either to propel it forwards towards reform or to hurl it back into a bottomless pit.

A fierce opposition, inspired by different reasons, is to be expected. Some fear that the well-established alliance between the military institutions currently in power and the traditional religious authority will collapse, and others –including civil society advocators who call for the unrestricted right of political participation- fear the disastrous repercussions on freedom and democracy, if those changes come to pass.

Dr. Ibrahim has equally endorsed both issues. In an article entitled “Reclaiming Democracy … the Participation of Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian Political Life,” published in newspaper on Oct. 7, 2004; Dr. Ibrahim noted that the Muslim Brotherhood should be allowed to share in political power. My name was mentioned among others who are dismayed by this prospect, on the basis that - without adequate safeguards - the Islamists would use the democratic system to further their own purposes, and when no longer needed, reject democracy - a fear that Dr. Ibrahim admits is well founded, and that he himself shares.

Dr. Ibrahim and I agree that all citizens, alike, should enjoy the right of political participation, engage in political activities and hold all types of political posts including presidency. On the other hand, we are also in agreement that adequate safeguards should be put in place to prevent the manipulation and abuse of the democratic system.

Dr. Ibrahim is specifically interested in the Muslim Brotherhood movement as he mentioned them in his article’s heading. Actually, the Muslim Brotherhood represents the major Islamist faction in Egypt, as well as in a number of other Arab countries. Given Egypt’s influential role in the Arab world, most Arab countries would, predictably, follow the Egyptian example as regards the integration of Islamists into political life.

Two important questions come to mind in this regard:
First: What is the basis for this sudden optimistic call? In other words, did the Muslim Brotherhood have a recent change of heart that justifies such confidence?

Second: What type of measures should be implemented to safeguard the political and institutional system, in case our confidence proves later to have been misplaced?

In response to the first question, there has been no substantial changes in the attitudes and agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood; and nothing at any rate, that could justify this surge of optimism; only marginal changes that have not touched on the main vision of the Muslim Brotherhood, namely to establish a Muslim state.

Putting aside the old records of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, I would like to focus on their recent history, going back to 1984 when they allied themselves with party, which allowed them a partial participation in political life. At the moment they have more than 15 members in the parliament, in addition to a disturbing measure of control over important segments of the Egyptian society

The Muslim Brotherhood’s reform initiative, issued in March 2004, is in fact a proposal for a Muslim state.

To quote the initiative “Our mission is to implement a comprehensive reform in order to uphold God’s law in secular as well as religious matters”; adding that: “our only hope, if we wish to achieve any type of progress, is to adhere to our religion, as we used to, and to apply the “Shari’a”. They clearly state: “Our mission is to build a Muslim individual, a Muslim family and an Islamic rule to lead other Islamic states.”

How would an Islamic identity reflect on the media, economy, politics, education, social welfare, women’s issues and culture?

The Muslim Brotherhood elaborate on these issues in their initiative:
“The Media should be cleansed of anything that disagrees with the decrees of Islam”.
“We believe in an economic system that is derived from Islam”.
“The state should have a democratic system compatible with Islam”.
About education: “To increase the number of Kuttab (a rudimentary religious school) and nurseries, and the focus of education should be on learning the Quran by heart”.

“The Zakah (alms) institutions should be in charge of distributing wealth and income”.

“Women should only hold the kind of posts that would preserve their virtue”.

“Our culture has to be derived from Islamic sources” that would also impact television “there should be a ban on improper and offensive series and television programs”.

The Muslim Brotherhood took obvious pride in their reform initiative, which turned out to be no more than a comprehensive project for an Islamist Fascist state. Is this project any different than Iran’s version of democracy, recently labeled “The Islamic democracy?”

I would like Dr. Ibrahim to take a close look at the parliamentary inquiries presented by the Muslim Brotherhood since 1984 through the present day. They have mostly pursued trivial matters, and targeted general freedoms: pursuing writers and creative thinkers, haunting young singers or requesting that kissing scenes be banned from movies, putting pressures on institution and its enlightened , confiscating books and planting the seeds of sedition. A sad history that reveals an unhealthy fixation on shallow issues, and a blatant disregard for the vital causes that are related to the development and progress of the nation they were entrusted to represent

For many years the Muslim Brotherhood have exercised ironclad control on a number of Egyptian syndicates with alarming results. Their involvement in the syndicates brought about corruption, fanaticism and dissention. The major concern of the Muslim Brotherhood was to raise funds to support fundamentalists all over the world, from Chechnya to Afghanistan and Bosnia. Terrorist groups have used those same funds to threaten Egypt’s national security, its Christian citizens, and foreign guests; giving us a small horrendous taste of what is to come should they succeed in achieving power

The Muslim Brotherhood have never condemned, verbally or otherwise, the barbaric terrorist acts that have plagued the whole world. They showed no inclination to help their homeland brothers who fell victim to the horrific violence, though they could have made use of the syndicates’ funds to offer some sort of material compensation. Sadly, the opposite is true; the majority of the Muslim Brotherhood’ statements are in support of fundamentalism and extremism, proclaiming that their objective is “mastering the world with Islam”.

The language used by the “Muslim Brotherhood” leaders clearly fosters religious fascism, as we can deduce from the following recorded excerpts:

“The application of the Islamic law “Shari’a” in Sudan was truly an act inspired by God. I believe that Sudan is now experiencing an unprecedented beatific and pure phase thanks to the application of “Shari’a” that delivered the country from the plague of secular law”. [Late Sheikh Mohamed El Ghazali]

“Nemeri has achieved our hopes, the hopes of Muslims and Sudan’s hope to apply the “Shari’a”. [Late Sheikh Salah Abu Ismail]

“The Sudanese president should not give leeway to those who criticize the application of “Shari’a”, they should be subdued and given no opportunity to proceed with their foolishness under pretext of freedom of opinion or speech”. [Late spiritual guide of the movement Omar El Telmesani]

Sheikh Youssef El Kardawi liked to call Afghanistan “an Islamic Emirate”. Upon visiting Afghanistan, he declared that, “he wanted to reassure himself that the Brotherhood were doing well in this Islamic Emirate.”

The declarations of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders all revolve around the establishment of a Muslim state, Muslim unity and Islamic . As far as we can tell, they have no nationalistic vision. To quote Sheikh Mohamed El Ghazali “A Muslim’s homeland is his faith, a Muslim’s government is the “Shari’a” and the Muslim’s homeland and those who live in it may all be sacrificed for the sake of Islam”.

The newspaper conducted an interview with the former leader and guide Mamoun El Hudeibi during which he announced that the Muslim Brotherhood’s purpose is to establish Islamic unity and Islamic <Khelafa>.

And it is our turn to ask: How did the Muslims actually fare during the age of Islamic ?

brief look at history indicates that the enemies of Islam did not suffer as much as the Muslims themselves did at the hand of Islamic Khalifs; in fact, the number of Muslims who lost their lives at the hand of Islamic Khalifs far exceeds that of their enemies.

During that age, three of the were murdered, and all four Imams were tortured. Dark and bloody incidents mar this age: the great sedition, the battle of El Gamal, the battle of Kurbalaa, the battle of El Hora, not to mention that the Holy was twice attacked. In brief, Muslims’ properties, honor and lives were forfeited. Bitter conflicts arose, such as the conflict between the Amawyeen and Hashemeyeen, the vicious disputes over power, the attack on El Hussein grave, the Khawareg sect, the dreadful acts of the Hashasheen.

Drinking and indulging in all sorts of immoral practices and perversions tainted that age. Brothels and gambling houses abounded in Baghdad, while Mecca was filled with male and female singers and an obscene, corrupted entourage. The Khalifa El Rashid owned one thousand female slaves, while El Metwakel owned more than four thousand, since slaves were preferred over free women. Shockingly, the khalifs publicly committed acts of depravity and infidelity (<Islamic Khelafa> by Said El Ashmawi).

One has to wonder as to why the Muslim Brotherhood wish so desperately to revisit that age.

Would the Muslim Brotherhood make good use of what democracy has to offer and later decide that it has outlived its usefulness? Would they hesitate to sacrifice democracy if it no longer served their purposes or complied with their agenda? A frightening scenario, but neither irrational nor exaggerated, since it is inspired by the declarations of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders themselves. To quote the former Guide Mostafa Mashour: “We accept the concept of pluralism for the time being; however, when we will have an Islamic rule we might then reject this concept or accept it.” (<Against Islamization>, by Refaat El Said).

The internal structure of the Muslim Brotherhood movement does not take democracy into account. Though, on the surface, it seems relentless in its quest for democracy, it is in fact, a fascist obscure movement, shrouded in mystery and secrecy. If its members are incapable of practicing tolerance, diversity and transparency among themselves, could they adhere to these principles when dealing with others? Not likely! Their partners in the “Middle” () Party (under foundation) can attest to this fact.

The Western World wishes to dampen the burning violence in the Islamic World. However, a reduced level of violence cannot, by itself, accelerate the society’s slow movement towards modernization.
approve of a religious state.

In his article, Dr. Ibrahim mentioned the Islamic countries that, from his perspective, have successfully applied democratic practices. Nonetheless, I believe that by allowing the Islamists to share in political power, these countries have only managed to reach a temporary truce, but still failed to foster social progress. Regrettably, a religious rule is a fertile ground for social retardation. While Islamic countries have experienced periods of renewal, those were the exception rather than the rule, and were only possible when the civil society forged close ties with the government, and when the state rejected isolation in favor of constructive interaction with other societies and with Western civilization.

The Coptic community, with the exception of an isolated few, does not approve of a religious state. The Copts have unanimously rejected the notion of a religious state, as well as a citizenship that is based on a religious text, since it can be as easily revoked by another text! They believe that citizenship rights and duties should be formulated on a civil, national and institutional basis rather than a religious one, thus placing national identity high above religious identity.

The image depicted in this article is seemingly pessimistic and dark; yet, reality may even prove to be worse. Though my dear friend, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, is far more optimistic than I am, he also shares the same fears. I truly appreciate his unwavering courage and how he strives to stir the stagnant water of the Arab political system. Nonetheless we have to make sure that we will not accidentally cause irrevocable damage in our eagerness to achieve the long-desired dream of democracy

A question remains though: what type of “safety measures” should be devised to protect the political system once the Islamists come to power? Would local measures be sufficient or is a combination of local and international safeguards required?

We will explore both issues in Part 2 of this article.

* Magdi Khalil is a political analyst, researcher, and author. Executive Editor of the Egyptian weekly Watani International. Columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, London. Free- Lance writer for several Arabic language newspapers. Frequent contributor for Middle East broadcast news TV. Published three books and written numerous research papers on citizenship rights, civil society, and the situation of minorities in the Middle East.

Modern Egypt and Khedive Mohamed Ali

By: Sameh Fawzy

Khaled Fahmi, a graduate of the American University in Cairo and holder of a doctorate in modern history from Oxford University, is currently an assistant professor at New York University. As Egypt celebrates 200 years since Mohamed Ali ruled, an occasion honoured by a three-day seminar last week in Cairo and Alexandria, Watani Forum hosted Dr Fahmi to speak on Mohamed Ali as founder of modern Egypt.

Rereading Mohamed Ali
Dr Fahmi began by saying that he had his own reservations about the common perception that Mohamed Ali was the founder of modern Egypt. That would imply he had an ambitious plan to develop the country, and if that were true then why did the plan fail?

A quick answer says that the West did not allow Egypt to develop. The strategic situation of Egypt made Great Britain unwilling to allow the development of Egypt, and Mohamed Ali’s scheme was aborted during the 1840s, to be followed 40 years later by the British occupation of Egypt.

“I differ with these ideas, either totally or in detail,” Dr Fahmi said.
“I think it necessary to reread Mohamed Ali’s experiment.”

Engine of development

Dr Fahmi said he considered the Egyptian army the key to Mohamed Ali’s experiment. The army was a development leader and influenced other sectors, such as advanced technology and services like education, health and publishing. Dr Fahmi conducted research on his hypothesis in the UK and read references in the original language, Turkish, to learn how far Egyptian peasants had benefited from Mohamed Ali’s experiment and his army. He found that relations between the peasants and their Turkish rulers were far from smooth. Egyptian soldiers did not consider Mohamed Ali’s army an Egyptian army, and neither did Mohamed Ali nor his son Ibrahim, see the army as a national force defending Egypt. Rather, they used the army to expand their authority outside Egypt.

Like no other

It must be understood that Mohamed Ali was a mere viceroy of the Ottoman state, who reached that position by means of a firman issued in July 1805. Although in the beginning he enjoyed the popularity of the Egyptian middle class and received the acknowledgement of national leadership, he soon ousted the ruling class either by deportating or dismissing them. Mohamed Ali, an Albanian by birth, depended mainly on his fellow Ottomans to control the country.

Following his regional military victories of 1841 Mohamed Ali was compelled by Britain, Russia, Austria, France and the Ottoman Sultan to withdraw from the areas he had conquered in return for his, and his sons after him, being granted sovereignty of Egypt and the Sudan.
“Such an agreement, described by some as a defeat for Mohamed Ali’s grand ambitions, was in my opinion an achievement that no other Ottoman ruler in the history of the Ottoman State ever attained,” Dr Fahmi said. I believe Mohamed Ali got more than he expected or desired.”

Personal glory

When the floor was thrown open to discussion, Emad Khalil asked Dr Fahmi: “You said Mohamed Ali was seeking personal glory, but if that were so, how can we explain the educational missions he sent to the West for benefit of scientific development?”“Rulers in general seek to attain personal glory, and Mohamed Ali was no exception,” Dr Fahmi replied.
“The educational renaissance began from the top, to serve his urgent military requirements.” Nevertheless ordinary people did benefit, and to a high degree, from education and health reforms such as fighting epidemics.

Robeir al-Fares asked how Copts fared under Mohamed Ali. Dr Fahmi replied that he had not made an adequate study of the Coptic topic. What was known, however, was that Mohamed Ali soon came to notice a reluctance among the peasant classes to attend military service, from which Copts were originally exempt. Muslims adopted many ploys to hinder their admission, such as cutting off their fingers, or tattooing a cross on their arms. Mohamed Ali decreed that military service should be served by all citizens, Muslims and Christians.

Middle class
Nader Shukry asked what would have happened had Mohamed Ali not come to be ruler of Egypt? It was hard to answer a question beginning with “if”, Dr Fahmi said, but he referred to an article by Mohamed Abdou which stated that the Egyptian people benefited from the institutions established by Mohamed Ali; if he had not ruled Egypt its history would have been quite different.There had been a long struggle for authority among the Mamluke rulers who preceded Mohamed Ali. An amicable agreement was reached with the Egyptian peasants based on the reasonable imposition of fees and taxes. “In the meantime there was a class of landowners and prominent people which constituted the beginning of a middle class, and which had the power to face the French forces and later the British. Yet this category was undermined by Mohamed Ali,” Dr Khaled said.

Egyptian dream
Adel al-Dawwi indicated that a modern State had been an Egyptian dream since the days of Mohamed Ali, and asked what could have hindered it. Sameh Fawzy commented that Mohamed Ali did have his own scheme, yet his policies had led in the long run to deep changes in the Egyptian social infrastructure.

Citizenship concepts emerged, as well as political institutions and civil community in the second half of the 19th century.“Many people tend to make a comparison between Mohamed Ali and the Nasser era, and believe there was a scheme in each era,” Dr Fahmi said. “While agreeing that both were great leaders who introduced important reforms, I still say that Egyptians deserve more.”