Friday, July 14, 2006

Egyptian Policeman wounded at Gaza Gate.

Militants forced open a border gate between Egypt and Gaza on Friday, wounding an Egyptian officer and letting hundreds of Palestinians who had been trapped on the Egyptian side of the border to get into Gaza.

Armed militants stood by as people carrying suitcases crossed into Gaza. Some walked through on crutches while others walked or ran through the gate.

Egyptian police Capt. Mohammed Abdel Hadi said masked Palestinian militants firing guns broke into the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, clearing the way for the trapped Gazans.

One Egyptian border policeman was wounded when the militants stormed the frontier, said Abdel Hadi, who heads police on the Egyptian side of Rafah.
The crossing, Gaza's main gateway to the outside world, has largely been closed since June 25, when Palestinian militants carried out a raid on a military outpost, killing two Israeli soldiers and capturing one.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Islamists Tighten Grip on Mogadishu.

Islamists tightened their grip on the Somali capital, Mogadishu, taking control of its main port and demanding that all government property be turned over to them.

In separate developments, Islamic militia opened fire to quell a tax protest in a former warlord stronghold north of the capital, shooting dead at least one person, wounding several others and arresting dozens, witnesses said.

And heavily armed Islamic gunmen stormed a village in Somalia's central Galgudud region after receiving reports that several warlords were attempting to regroup there, residents said.
The Islamists took custody of Mogadishu's port from a local militia leader, witnesses said, two days after they ousted the last remaining member of a US-backed coalition of warlords from the capital. The other warlords were routed in June.

As a local militia chief peacefully surrendered the port, a senior official from the Islamist union, the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS), ordered that all public facilities in Mogadishu be ceded to the SICS, a demand likely to further antagonize the country's transitional government.
"The other remaining government properties must be handed over to the Islamic courts," SICS executive committee chairman Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said."Mogadishu is right now under control of the Islamic courts," he said. "We will control every other important thing in Mogadishu. I encourage everybody who is opposed to the Islamic courts to change that stance and support them."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

High Level Dialogue Between Egypt and USA.

Egypt and the United States are to start holding frequent inter-ministerial consultations on key issues in the Middle East, Washington's top regional envoy David Welch said.
"I conveyed this morning an invitation from Secretary (of State Condoleezza) Rice to Foreign Minister Abul Gheit to begin a high-level strategic dialogue between Egypt and the United States," Welch told reporters after meeting Abul Gheit.

"The foreign minister has accepted this invitation," said Welch, who added that Abul Gheit and an Egyptian delegation were expected in Washington on Tuesday.

"We will cover all the topics of interest in our relationship. This means naturally that we shall discuss the critical regional issues, that will include Iran, Iraq, issues of concern in Africa, for example Sudan and Somalia, and particularly the Israeli-Palestinian question," Welch said.
He said the concept had been in the works for some time and stressed that "a good format" was needed for exchanges between "two countries like Egypt and the United States that have important responsibilities on the global stage."

Welch said that bilateral issues would also be discussed in the new framework, including political reform and human rights.
Egypt, the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel, has acted as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and several other hotspots in the region.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Article By H.H Pope Shenouda.

On the occasion of the safe return of H.H Pope Shenouda III to the land of Egypt, here is an article written by him in English. The Pope's articles, in Arabic, English, and French, can be found on his web site


Do Not Despair

However weak your spiritual life may be, do not despair; for desperation is one of Satan's wars by which he wants to weaken your morals and stop your resistance, to fall in his hands. Even though you despair of yourself, never despair of the grace of God.

If your deeds do not lead you to repentance, God's work for you might do. Sometimes, in your spiritual life, the cause of despair may be setting before you ideals above your level, or taking steps which do not comply with the necessary gradual progress. And because you cannot achieve what you want, you despair. Therefore, it is better to put before you a gradual system within your power and abilities and within the gifts God gave you. Be aware that God wants only one step from you and if you take it He will lead you to the next and so on.

You might despair because you cannot stand before the Lord unless, first, you make yourself better. It is preferable to say to Him I cannot reform myself and then come to you, but I come to You so you can make me better.

Do not despair if you feel that you do not love God. Do not say what is the use of all my works since I do not love Him! Say rather if I do not love God, it is a comfort that He loves me and with His love He can make me love Him.
If you practise the spiritual means but do not feel a true attachment to God, do not despair. Keep on the spiritual readings, even without understanding. Keep on praying, even without warmth, confess always even though you feel no penitence. Perhaps because of your perseverance, the Grace of God may seek you and give you the understanding, warmth and penitence. Your mere perseverance in the spiritual means puts God in your mind even without repentance! But if you despair and break the commandments, you might go downwards and forget God completely. Even if you are in a weak state, do not despair. It is better for you to stay as you are than to be lead through despair to worse.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

To Veil or Not To Veil.

Recent news that one of Egypt’s best loved actresses, Hanan Turk, was taking up the Islamic veil or higab has been the talk of the town. The popular talk show al-Beit-Beitak—literally, The House is Yours meaning ‘feel at home’, broadcast on the national TV Channel II, could not let the matter pass without comment. The host introduced the story as if the actress had finally found illumination and was being guided along the correct path, while the actress-turned-preacher lectured the audience with a sermon on religious opinions and morality.

Clearly it is not for us to comment on whether or not any woman decides to wear the veil, which is a very personal matter. We do have a right to comment, however, on the fact that the conversation on the show switched to a discussion and an implied comparison on life before and after wearing the veil, where life before the veil was characterised by lack of religiosity and life after by spirituality and devotion. This comparison is a slap in the face for a freedom of choice based on liberalism and coexistence, a principle that should overrule other conventions.

Since the decision to wear the veil is personal and warrants no comment from viewers, the same should apply to the decision not to wear the veil. Biased opinions should not be broadcast on national TV, which is financed by all tax payers in the country—Muslims, veiled and non-veiled, and Christians—and feeds the concept of viewing the non-veiled woman as less pious and less moral than the veiled.

Worth noting is that these views were broadcast on the same TV channel that shows non-veiled women broadcasters who are very open-minded, and many programmes, video-clips and films that lead to comments on ‘extra’ liberalism. What does all this mean? Is the host of al-Beit-Beitak recording an objection against the association he works for? Or is he transmitting his personal opinions on life and religion? Or is the whole issue just a conflict of coincidence, reflecting the lack of a definite media policy? The answer may be all of the above.