Archive for September, 2012

By Abdal Latif El-menawy

It seems we are about to lose the ability to feel astonished at what is happening in Egypt, one day after another. Take, for example, the release of a large number of Islamist militants who were charged with terrorism and the killing of innocent civilians. The last of those was Mustafa Hamza, the mastermind of the attempt on the former president’s life in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. I don’t think readers need to be told about Hamza’s ideological and organizational stance, but I would just like to remind them that all his co-militants stressed in their interviews and memoirs that he did not only plan the assassination of the president, but was also involved in the killing of tourists in Luxor in 1997.

Therefore, there is no way we can say that there is not enough evidence of his criminal activities or that State Security framed him at the time. Before Hamza, another extremist militant called Refaei Taha was also released, and after him, several others were granted presidential amnesty. This series of pardons was initiated by the military a few weeks after they became in charge of “running” the country then, by the “group” that later came to power. So, the criminals are set free and the families of those they killed are left in utter misery.

I was not also surprised when I knew that leaders of al-Gamaa al-Islamiya called upon the Egyptian authorities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to demand the Ethiopian government releases its members who were tried there for the assassination attempt. Similarly, I will not be surprised if the current government responds to this request which obviously defies all logic. A terrorist act is a terrorist act and murder and assassination are terrorist acts. This fact does not change with the change of regimes, but this happens only in Egypt. And we are not surprised!

My previous stances on militant groups in general, and al-Gamaa al-Islamiya in particular, are known to everyone. I have been close to several of their members over the years as I followed their ideological development and the initiative in which they denounced violence. I started to worry when some of their members expelled from the group the prominent leaders who were behind this historic initiative, namely Karam Zohdi and Nageh Ibrahim. It was then that I knew that the group could be planning to take back their pledges and follow a different path. It was also then that I felt they need to make clear statements about their position from the initiative because they owe this to the community. I was one of the people who believed them and actually took part in presenting this initiative to the public, and that is why I believe it is my right to ask them to clarify where they stand, especially that what they say now is contradictory to what they had said before.

I conducted hours-long interviews that have not been aired yet with all the previous and current leaders of the group, and without putting any pressure on them, they talked of renunciation of violence. Now, I find some of them retracting their earlier statements. This contradiction necessitates a clarification from them as well as from similar organizations, let alone the ruling “group” whose only source of legitimacy is that of a de facto situation that we have to bear with.

Meanwhile, neither the president nor his government described the Sinai attack that killed 16 Egyptians as a “terrorist” act, and some of them just labeled it “criminal.” Then, all of a sudden, 14 militants are sentenced to death for last year’s attack on a police station and a bank in the city of Arish which killed seven people.

I would like, though, to reassure the culprits that amnesty, or at least a more lenient sentence, is on its way. I don’t think we will be surprised then. We have gotten used to that!

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By ABDEL LATIF EL-MENAWY

The Sinai Peninsula can be a strategic treasure, but can also be a time bomb. It all depends on the way it is handled.

The Turkish Anatolia News Agency interviewed a Salafi leader called Hazem al-Masry, whom it described as having close ties to militant Islamist groups in Sinai. What disturbed me most in his statements was not his threat to target the Egyptian army nor was it his insistence on considering clashes with security forces as “legitimate self-defense” but rather his allusion to a reproduction of the Waziristan experience.

As far as I know, the Egyptian army is trying its best not to kill any of the members of militant groups in Sinai and is instead focusing on besieging them until they surrender. However, dealing with the situation in Sinai exclusively through the army would be a repetition of the mistakes of the former regime. Like what happened previously with the police, residents of Sinai can gradually develop an animosity towards the army and this is bound to trigger years of bloody confrontations.

The topography of the peninsula, the security vacuum and the unprecedented availability of weapons are all factors that help in making this scenario materialize. Furthermore, the new militant groups known for their jihadist activities have been flocking to Sinai and figures known for funding those groups are received in Cairo whereas they wouldn’t have dared to come anywhere near it in the past.

When extremist groups find in Egypt a safe haven and when a part of Egypt is gradually becoming out of control, it is important to take concerns about Sinai turning into another Waziristan seriously.

Waziristan is a mountainous area in northwestern Pakistan on the borders with Afghanistan. The province’s self-autonomy and the government’s inability to control it did not happen overnight or as a result of some coup or revolution, but mainly owing to the nature of the place since time immemorial. Waziristan was ruled by tribes since 1893 and stayed outside the empire of the Indian Subcontinent which was occupied by Britain as well as out of Afghanistan’s control. This remained the case even when Pakistan gained its independence and the province became Pakistani only on paper.

The demographic and tribal makeup of Waziristan is very complicated. Three main tribes live in the province: Wazir, Mahsud, and Bahtani in addition to several smaller tribes. Members of Wazir and Mahsud are involved in all the regular tribal rivalries, including even the formation of terrorist groups.

Taliban took control of Afghanistan following the defeat of the Soviets and after al-Qaeda had started coming into being. A large numbers of residents in Waziristan sympathized with Taliban. With lack, or rather absence, of government control, Waziristan became a fertile soil for terrorism and this was more the case after the fall of Taliban at the hands of American troops in 2001 and which made of the caves and mountains of Waziristan a safe haven for all runaway militants whether from Taliban or al-Qaeda.

The border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been subjected to intensive strikes by the Pakistani army, which is backed by the United States, in the period between March 2004 and September 2006 in an attempt to regain control of the province and uproot all terrorist cells. However, most of these strikes failed to achieve their goals owing to the rugged topography of the area and which made it very hard to infiltrate. The conflict between the Pakistani army on one hand and Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives and their sympathizers in Waziristan on the other hand is still ongoing.

The end result is that Waziristan is no longer just a shelter for extremist groups, but it has now become a certified international training center for terrorists. We do not want another of those centers in Egypt and that is exactly why we should not be repeating the mistakes of the past through prioritizing the interests of the “group” over that of the nation.

By Abdel Latif El-menawy

First, by all means, this anti Prophet (PBUH) film does not fall under the category of art work at all; but instead, it is a criminal act on the moral, humanitarian, religious, cultural and artistic levels. Therefore, it is a mistake to consider it as a movie or as a work of art; it is rather a kind of personal hallucination of a mentally and psychologically ill people.

Another important note is that this so-called movie has been filmed over a year ago, with estimated costs of $5 million, which were collected, according to the U.S. media reports, from about one hundred Jewish contributors. Moreover, before it was screened at a cinema hall in Holywood with almost no viewers earlier this year. A clip of that movies has been uploaded on YouTube since last July and has been dubbed in the Egyptian accent, but no one paid any attention to it at the time and it was completely neglected. This is what has emerged so far, and logically, we should ask some questions based on those facts and many other facts, so let us start.

We all know that there are ill people who like to work on provoking sectarian tension from both sides. We also know that those same ill people have positions, visions and hatred that, if made available on mass media, will ignite a strife fire that can never be put off. Moreover, we know that in all doctrines, there are beliefs that cannot be touched or debated. We also know that if we want to find reasons for disagreement and fighting between believers of both religions through written publications, television programs or recorded statements for some people who dress like religious men from both sides, we would find infinite fuel to further ignite the fire. However, it is the combination of awareness, tolerance, the desire to live together, intellectual capacity and the power of faith — all these things combined — that make us move beyond this sectarian madness.

All the above lead us to one question that had vanished amid the sectarian fire and smoke of teargas: who provoked this sectarian demon to come out its nest, and put this abnormal so-called anti-prophet film under the spotlights? This “thing” has been available for months and it was treated with carelessness, so who resubmitted it and insisted to link it directly to the Coptic migrants?

Subsequently, this would mean sowing the strife between Egyptian Muslims and Copts. This strife would have been ongoing if it was not for the wind of change that took the reactions towards another direction, which is linking the film with the country it was produced in: The United States. Consequently, the anger was directed toward the U.S. embassies in several countries including Egypt, so the sectarian fire was relatively extinguished, after it was ignited among Egyptians. God knows that if things did not turn towards this direction, the situation would have taken another track. This simply means that there is a side that is trying to ignite the sectarian tansion in Egypt, and we should be aware and should not accept these calls.

We shall not mention this point without discussing it. Many have almost fallen under the generalization error when they accused the migrant Copts, because a very small number of Copts participated in this work .Those who deliberately accused the Coptic migrants, have forgotten — or pretended so — that this expression applies to nearly two million Egyptian Copts living abroad. I will not stop here to analyze their situation or the reasons of their immigration, but I will only refer to the first letter I received from an Egyptian Coptis resident in the U.S., the day after accusing the migrant Copts by the U.S. media, about what is really happening and asked me to deliver this message in order to correct this misunderstanding.

Another stance among multiple attitudes, was when a dear Copt friend, who spent his life away from Egypt, but he and his children kept this special bonding alive until now, when he sincerely told me: “I was really ashamed when I saw the movie and the reactions that emerged, this is against the ethics and religion,” and he asked me about what can he do or say to his Muslim and foreign friends. Such reactions are healthy and right for all Egyptian Copts and Muslims.

As for the official reaction, it was very slow and confusing, especially when the events developed and attacks were oriented against the U.S. Embassy, after calls for demonstrations by the allies of the new rulers, who did not participate in the demonstrations, but instead have remained silent and were ashamed to address the situation when their internal allies protested against their external.

The conflict was to choose whose behavior to adopt: the state’s behavior or Muslim Brotherhood’s behavior? Perhaps this confusion was obvious from the speeches of both sites: they addressed the internal allies in the Arabic language by declaring a position that would satisfy their internal allies, while they declared pleasing positions for the Americans and the West on the English site. But they were put in an awkward position when the U.S. embassy declared in a statement that the Muslim Brotherhood group should be aware that the embassy can understand both languages! As for the demonstrations and their consequences, they shall be discussed later on.

The Republic of Terror

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Abdellatif El-menawy

Creating a republic of fear and terror will never move society forward. It will only reinforce the domination of the new ruling power to which the country has fallen prey to.

This owes to the serious drawbacks other political factions in the scene are suffering from.

The current ruling power in Egypt seems to be raising the banner of vengeance against the different echelons of society. They get back at those who criticize them or threaten their interests and all according to the law and in a way that does not violate Islamic principles, as they keep repeating!!!

Now every Egyptian is guilty until pledging allegiance to the ruling group. This was made clear in the massive clampdown on national newspapers, in which they managed to use their legislative and legal powers. This attack was overlooked by syndicate leaderships who have always supported journalists and the press throughout the toughest of times and this is bound to incur a very dear price. This coincided with another attack on the part of preachers, in which they accused anyone who disagreed with them of apostasy with absolute impunity.

The vengeance saga continues as the new ruling clique instructs its legal militias to file all sorts of complaints against all sorts of people who may have nothing in common except their opposition to the group’s actions or stances or possibly that they had a disagreement with them some time ago and now the time has come for reckoning.

What is funny are the statements issued by these new rulers, in which they keep stressing that they have nothing to do with these complaints, which they say are filed by honorable citizens who aim to rid society of corruption … again a million exclamation marks are needed here!!!

It did not stop at that. There is also a tendency to reopen old cases. There is even talk among legal veterans that one of the new officials asked his assistants to bring him all the lawsuits in which anyone related to the former regime was involved and said that he will even re-investigate ones that have already been closed. There has also been talk of 300 people being in this “vengeance list” and that measures against each and every one of them will be taken very soon. This is what I call the republic of terror.

Those coming to Egypt or going out of Egypt, whether activists or businessmen, have become increasingly concerned. The ones who leave Egypt do not know if they will find their name on a travel ban list and the ones entering Egypt are not sure whether they will go from the airport to their homes or somewhere else.

When I read that former Minister of Culture Farouk Hosny is to be referred to the criminal court I was not surprised because this fits perfectly into the current context. It doesn’t matter if the man has always been known for his honesty, since revenge is the crux of the matter here. The same applies to a wide range of politicians, businessmen, and free thinkers and who are now constantly threatened by the vindictive machine of a group that monopolized the country which had once been a homeland for all of us.

Again, there is no way a society can move forward under this prevalence of terror and this intolerance to difference. We have so far not seen anything but this attitude in which people are judged by their past stances on the ruling group regardless of how much they served the country at any point. Paying the price for your opposition to the group is what takes precedence here!!!

By Abdellatif Elmenawy

One of the most imperative problems that Egypt has suffered from in the past few decades, and which has escalated during the last few years of the former regime, is the state of extreme weakness that has afflicted all opposition forces and movements; I precisely mean the civilian groups. This problem has many reasons that cannot be specified by order of importance or influence. With its existence and interaction, this problem has caused a state of severe weakness that was the number one characteristic of the civilian opposition that has disappointed many during serious events.

The behavior of the ruling party at that time, which has evolved in the last few years, was mainly based on a monopolistic and obsessed behavior that adopted the strategy of enrolling in its ranks each and every person who could have been included, and most importantly, to prevent any other civilian opposition force from strengthening its ranks and its political and popular presence. The ruling party has worked to weaken the civilian opposition, and at an earlier stage, it has exercised management and security practices that prevented the opposition from getting a real opportunity to propagate naturally. So when these restrictions and administrative obstacles were alleviated, and later on, when the opposition was actually able to work, the latter was so weak and paralyzed and this is what prevented it from taking control of the country. That weakness was in parallel with the unlimited possibilities of the ruling party that allowed the latter to move and spread in a society whose members seek to get closer to the authorities even if they did not agree with them. The outcome was a severe loss for the civilian forces and subsequently, the acquisition state of the country for the ruling party.

However, the rulers do not carry all the responsibilities; It was the responsibility of the civilian opposition forces, a large number of liberals in addition to those who are linked to liberals’ payrolls. Those who occupied the elites’ positions, surrendered to this situation: some of them found that the best thing is to surrender to the fait accompli so they traded the opposition and its years of suffering, and then became an ally to the ruling power under other titles and names. Moreover, some of these powers have decided to play the role of the analyst, examining any action or move to acquire the legitimate existence, approval or participation of the analyst himself. However, some other forces have been affected by the regime’s disease related to aging leadership, ideas and struggle for positions within their opposition organizations that are not even represented in the streets. I can say that civilian forces have had more than one opportunity to have an influential role on the ground, but they were not seized because the opposition was at that time like the bird that was used to live in a cage, so it refused to fly.

This situation was one of the main reasons that contributed in the spread and infiltration of the religious political movements into the society; they are movements that naturally have the ability to live and spread despite the unfavorable circumstances, especially in the absence of the regime’s real political vision regarding the civil opposition concept, in addition to the lack of vision regarding the dangerous absence of such opposition groups and underestimation of the religious political groups capabilities.

The question now is whether there has been a significant change in the community or not? Did the ruling power or opposition civil forces recognize the new reality? I think the answer to this question is the duty of all the interested parties in maintaining the civil state, and more importantly, to act in order to overcome the problems of the former reign. I can brief my answer, but it should be seriously treated and examined. What I can approve at this point, is that the new rulers policies confirm that they follow the same monopolistic obsessive path that was practiced before, with some dangerous adjustments on the ground. The current ruling party is limiting its monopoly and acquisition on the brotherhood members and followers, and it is driving away the non-followers. It is even expanding within the state’s departments to completely control the junction, which allows the ruling party to use the administrative means in the process of “weakening” the community and preventing the rise of a strong civil current that would create a relative balance in the community. The details are numerous and the examples are unlimited, during the short previous era.

The above is in regards to the new rulers, but with reference to the civil forces, it seems that a part of the former reign diseases is still rooted in some of these forces. Some of them have kept on playing the old analyst role that they excelled in, while others sustained their internal disagreement on the leadership of a ship that does not yet exist. As for other civil powers, they have been busy confirming their identity and authority; they have selfishly behaved and turned into separate islands that turned out to be often conflicting, and instead of looking for points of agreement and broaden the agreement base, they were preoccupied with some mutual accusations of revolutionary treason related to being part of the former regime, questioning the positions in the inside and outside axis, in addition to leadership desires that hinders the coalition and agreement between these powers. The motto of those wanting to protect the Egypt society is “Dear Egyptian citizens unite!” but unfortunately, they are either too busy or still suffering from the disease of the past era. The result is a deafness that hampers hearing the call and a failure to act properly.

(This article was first published on Alarabiya news )