Thursday, June 22, 2006

Egyptian Singer Views on Danish Cartoons, Bird Flu.

Memri web site is showing an interview with the Egyptian singer Shabaan Abdel Reheem (Sometimes referred to as Shabolla) who is known for his song titled "I hate Israel".

In this interesting video clip, Shabaan talks about the Danish cartoons. He also discusses Bird Flu, and explains what he would do if he had the chance to be the head of the government in Egypt.

The video is in Arabic, with English subtitles. The link is :

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Book of Isaiah Under the Sands of Egypt.

The archaeological mystery has been solved! The latest research shows that the manuscript found by Polish archaeologists in the village of Gourna (Sheikh abd el-Gourna) near Luxor in Upper Egypt contains the entire biblical book of Isaiah in the Coptic translation. “This is the first complete translation of this book in Coptic” – says Prof. Ewa Wipszycka-Bravo of the Institute of Archaeology at Warsaw University.

In February last year, Tomasz Górecki heading the Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology at the Warsaw University mission in Gourna, made a unique find in the rubbish heap of a monastery. It consisted of two papyrus books in leather covers and a collection of parchment sheets bound by two bits of wood. This was the first discovery of Coptic manuscripts in Egypt since 1952, which are well preserved and supported by a well-researched archaeological context.

One of the books is the “Code of Pseudo-Basili” – the only preserved full text in Coptic, which is a collection of rules regulating Church life. The other contains the life of St. Pistentios, one of the Coptic bishops. Both texts date back to the 7th/8th centuries.

The books are under conservation in the National Museum in Alexandria and only then will the full text be known, says Górecki. However, their character and content are already known.
Identifying the third manuscript was much harder. An untitled collection of 50 richly decorated parchment sheets written in Coptic, bound by two pieces of wood. The Polish archaeologists turned to researchers from the University of Rome to help decipher the texts. Prof. Wipszycka-Bravo says that Tito Orlandi, who reads Coptic documents like most people read a newspaper, has pronounced them to be the book of Isaiah. Many fragments of this book have already been found, but never the whole book.
The wooden planks binding the books were supported by parchment from old texts, one a known apocrypha – “The suffering of St. Peter”, another religious text and tax bills – the professor explains.

It is still not known how these books reached the hermitage. According to specialists, they must have been written in distant scriptoriums. Moreover, an Italian expert dates the book from the 9th-10th centuries, which makes them more recent than the other books.

“The hermitage was abandoned at the beginning of the 8th century, so the parchment could not have belonged to the monks in Gourna. Who brought them there if no Christians were there anymore remains a mystery” – says Prof. Wipszycka-Bravo.
On being transported to Gourna, the books were dumped on the rubbish heap, presumably by the Arabs after chasing out the Christians.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Terror-tied Group Gets Major Cash Infusion from Dubai.

UAE, which formally recognized the Taliban and acted as a launching point for the 9-11 hijackers, has already taken a nearly $1 million stake in CAIR's existing headquarters near the U.S. Capitol.

An Arab nation with ties to 9-11 has pledged a major endowment to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, even as the Washington-based nonprofit group insists it receives no foreign support.

The United Arab Emirates recently announced that it has set up an endowment serving as a source of income for CAIR. The amount of the funding is undisclosed, but sources say it will be enough to help CAIR finance the construction of a new $24 million office building and a planned $50 million public-relations campaign aimed at repairing Islam's -- and the UAE's -- image in America.

A recent Washington Post-ABC poll found that a majority of Americans think Muslims are more prone to resort to violence, and more Americans now have a negative view of Islam than right after the 9-11 terror attacks.Americans also have a lower opinion of the UAE now, thanks to its recent bid to take over U.S. port operations. The political storm over the deal drew increased attention to the Arab country's ties to terrorism.

CAIR -- Washington's biggest Muslim lobbying group -- is quoted in the UAE statement, but has not released its own statement. It is not commenting publicly about the size of the endowment or other details.But the UAE, which formally recognized the Taliban and acted as a launching point for the 9-11 hijackers, has already taken a nearly $1 million stake in CAIR's existing headquarters near the U.S. Capitol. As first reported in the book, Infiltration, Dubai holds the deed to the building. The transaction took place in 2002, according to local property records.
The strengthened financial partnership comes at a critical time for both parties.The UAE is still reeling from a spate of bad press following its controversial bid to take over control of shipping terminals at major U.S. ports. Partnering with CAIR gives it a voice in U.S. politics and media, which it hopes will help repair its image and protect its business interests.UAE's minister of finance, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, personally approved the deal with CAIR. After meeting with Sheikh Hamdan in Dubai, CAIR Chairman Parvez Ahmad was quoted in the Arab press saying: "If the image of Islam and Muslims is not repaired in America, Muslim and Arab business interests will continue to be on a downward slide in the U.S."CAIR, meanwhile, has suffered its own image problems and has lost some of its political clout in Washington. The group recently was dealt a series of legal setbacks in civil court. Its image has also been damaged by counterterrorism investigations of several of its officials, some of whom have been convicted of felonies.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Presidential Decree is Without Effect.

Mr.Youssef Sidhom writes in the Watani weekly about the stark discrimination in the procedure to obtain a church building permit in Egypt.

The presidential decree of December 2005 provided remarkable procedural facilities to church building. The decree moved the approval of the rebuilding of already existing churches form the president’s hands into those of the governors. It stipulated a 30-day deadline, since the submission of a rebuilding application and the consultation of authorities concerned, for an approval to be issued. No application could be rejected without an official explanation. As for the restoration of churches, approvals were no longer required; it was sufficient to notify the administration.

Although the decree was widely praised, there were worries that it would be emptied of its content by the administration’s arbitrary instructions, as previous ones had been. So we insisted that only a unified law for building places of worship would ever attain equality among Egyptians—as stipulated by the Constitution —in that respect. Presidential decrees, if implemented properly instead of being trifled with, were indeed helpful in eliminating some hindrances to building churches, but these decrees were in themselves a telling sign of the inequality of Egyptians. Churches alone required such decrees to be built, while mosques were subject to no restrictions whatsoever.

Our worries materialised as the administration saved no effort to hinder the implementation of the decree. The executive instructions issued by some governors inadequately confused demolishing with rebuilding, restoring, repairing, and the like; the result being that the entire process was again placed under the thumb of the administration. Arbitrary instructions insisting on providing the original building permits of the churches, no matter how old were a further complication. In some cases the permits had been issued by royal decrees—the monarchy was abolished in 1953. Did the administration ever ask for the royal building permit of a mosque? Furthermore, the countless small village and hamlet churches which had been erected without permits, due to years of failure of the congregation to obtain the required permits, were targeted.

The fact that the civil and security authorities put these churches under their thumb, and kept a close eye on what went on inside—be it even the reparation of toilets—in an adamant attempt to stop any improvements, implied that the authorities acknowledged the existence of the churches. But when matters came to rebuilding or restoring them, the administration appeared to have been hit with a sudden fit of amnesia as to how the churches were built in the first place. They forgot the humiliation of the congregation in pleading for and pursuing approvals which never came, and disregarded the fact that many churches were built upon verbal approval. The authorities turned a blind eye to unlicensed churches, but later used this fact to hinder restoration.