Why I am writing about the rubbish on the internet and why I, a staunch supporter of free expression, fierce opponent to censorship and anti-regulations, can see the point of ( and empathise with) many of the people who back a European court action to correct (good luck to them !!) information about them and their data on the internet. What inspired me is personal experience. Only yesterday I discovered, that a young lady, close to my heart, had the WRONG information about my date of birth and my faith ( which caused some serious damage to our affectionate relationship- I hope we can repair), from some rubbish on the internet. The other reason, unfortunately, my fellow hacks and hacketts, seldom check information for accuracy. Equally in 2009 the Media Editor of the Independent newspaper, PUBLISHED a story about me when I resigned my post as Director of the Media monitoring organisation Just Journalism, and labelled me wrongly ( ethnically), he neither bothered to contact me, nor to check his own newspaper archives.. I worked for The Independent since I joined when it was founded in 1986 and until 1998 ( and continued to write for the paper until four years ago), and my personal information and files were available in his newsdesk; instead of checking facts he ‘guessed’. This thought in my head also coincides with the row over google and correcting or deleting personal information. I sympathise with the people who scream for regulation, although as an old fashioned hack and a staunch libertarian, I am the last person in the world who’d agree on censorship or some regulation blocking access to information. but my personal experience and what you can do when WRONG and confusing information is out there for the world to see and you are powerless to correct them? Continue reading
This an editorial I did for the Norwegian magazine Perspective last month. not sure if it is available in UK, but here is the editorial now the magazine is out
The House of Commons vote on Syria, 29 August, triggered a chain of events not only thwarting a war that seemed inevitable that day but also set higher ethical and democratic standards beyond Britain’s shores. Instead of focusing on getting public to back attack on Syria’s despotic regime, western leaders began working with the Russia and United Nations ( which finally got Security Council to agree on the strongest resolution available) to end a bloody civil war by a political settlement and to get an ambitious humanitarian aid programme into action.
Once again fellow hacks in various sections of British media were quick to report rumours and gossip on streets of cairo and Egyptian social media as factual news, namely a false claim that the Egyptian government banned or outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood. This led to Egyptian government quickly denying media nonsense. Below are the full details of the judicial review, its recommendation and the background to who asked for the review, which was a group of Egyptian MPs, activists, women groups and others who have nothing to do withe the government. Several court case to challenge the MB charitable status were filed some 14 months before June 30 movement that ousted them from power with help from the army and both Muslim Church ( Azhar) and Christian Church ( coptic) as well as all other political parties, trends, NGOs and trade unions ina national council meetings 1-3 July 2013 . Below are the details.
Cairo Today (Qahera el Youm) have just reported a shocking police intervention that goes to confirm something we already knew. A bus was stopped en route to Rabaa Adawiya as part of a routine check. In the bus were dozens of orphans, street children and children of poor families under the supervision of an MB cleric. They were scruffily dressed but were clutching bags containing smart new clothes. They told the police that the ‘sheikh’ had given them the clothes plus LE 20 and promised them good food. They said their didn’t know where they were going. In a few cases, their parents had been given substantial sums to release their kids in the temporary care of the cleric. The program showed photos and videos of those poor kids scheduled to be used as human shields and to boost the MB’s PR campaign. This really is too much. I had heard about it but now I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
The Daily Telegraph is normally better informed about the Middle East and Africa than other Fleet street papers, especially the leftwing ones like the Independent or Guardian who’s ideology blind them to basic facts on the ground. What is shocking about today ( Monday 29 July) Telegraph leader on Egypt it got it wrong, misleading, message is meaningless and worst of all contains factual errors and inaccurate facts.
Celebrated Egyptian Playwright and commentator, peace activists and democrat Ali Salem calls upon western commentators arguing whether what happened in Egypt was coup to understand realities on the ground. Here is a translation of his column.
Gentlemen, thinkers and politicians of Western civilization, we have learned the thought of how to be practical from you, and it seems, the time has come to re-remind you . The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Rationally speaking, to prove how sound an idea is, or how correct is a theory, isn’t the components or philosophical structure of the wording of the theory, but the practical results, or the practical outcome of the theory/the idea. In theory, the questions raised and the argument about the rational of the idea. might be necessary or even logical in the forums of academe, but it seems, that such questions and arguments are designed to escape from reality due to an intellectual deficit in facing the facts and dealing with them as presented by real situation ion the ground.
Egypt 30 June revolution – despite the helping hand from the military ( some calling it a coup) is by all measure a people’s revolution, causing some ripples in the region and beyond, and certainly earthquakes in many places sending the gurus and prophets of political Islam into a panic sprint trying to save what they see as their survival in places where they are in power by fluke after the 2011 uprisings have upset the applecart mainly in North Africa, by means election, manipulation. or by army intervention, or a mixture of all, like Tunisia, or where they made remarkable advance towards power due to anarchy and arms like in Libya and Syria, or they were already in powers directly or indirectly like Sudan and Gaza.
While we continue the pinhead-dance whether ousting of Egypt first freely elected Islamist president Mohammed Morsi was a coup d’état, or, as most Egyptian see it, the army forced carrying the will of the majority to salvage their revolution, situation on the ground deteriorated fast.
Meanwhile our British media is full of pundits – hardly any of them have experience on the ground (and many of them never set a foot in the country), or wheeling Islamists and non-Egyptian Hamas London members (although misleadingly labelled to hide their identity) warning of Egypt sliding into civil war. While it is understandable that Qatar owned Al-Jazeera might have its own agenda for deliberately using the evocative term’ civil war’, it is hard to understand why ITN and BBC join this orgy of ignorance and use the inaccurate term? Egypt demographic realities just doesn’t lend any credit to such foolish prediction. What opened the floodgates to these ignorant predictions was the Monday bloody clashes leaving 51 dead civilians and four times as many inured, while also claiming four lives among army and police with four dozen injuries. It was an unprecedented tragedy. While Muslim Brothers and secularist continue to exchange spin-salvos of who to blame, the truth might never be known. Acting president Chief Justice Adly Mansour ordered a judicial inquiry. From history of such inquiries, and thanks to greedy lawyers on high daily rate, it would take years to complete and the actual truth might never be known, although tether are basic realities: Security forces excessive force and Muslim Brotherhood deliberate arming of their militia and placing them among people encouraged to join the sit in.
From police and army videos, and tweets by residents living in tower-blocks overlooking the square, anti-riot police fired tear-gas at Muslim Brothers protestors who surged forward after dawn prayer, which the police seem to have not expected.
Shots heard, allegedly by MB men (Doctors treating injured army soldiers and policemen say they removed shotgun pellets from the injured) nearby army soldiers with panicking fingers on triggers responded resulting in 51 deaths and injuries. Conflicting tweets from activists near the scene, on how violence started inflamed an already combustible situation. It became clearer that MB tried to put a spin suggesting police attacked them while praying, while presenting no evidence especially with everyone carrying a video capable mobile phones that could have easily recorded or photographed attack on Mosque during prayer; it is also implausible that Muslim policemen would dare to break such social taboo as to attack a mosque during prayer.
Rabbah al-Adawaih mosque square a stone throw from the Republican Guard officers Club where MB believe Mr. Morsi is being kept their under-house arrest conditions. A group of armed MB tried to attack the club, the police spokesman said in a press conference Monday, blaming MB for the violence. A police helicopter video showed MB men throwing petrol bombs from rooftop. Another police video showed MB men taking aim and firing weapons at police.
Evidently incompetent Cairo police were caught unprepared. Armies don’t train their soldiers for crowd control or how to deal with street protest, many said on Monday, this is a police job. The MB have a long history of violence – although their supporter in the media claim otherwise the MB never issued a short clear direct statement denouncing violence or revising their long-standing theocratic justification off their 1930 -1950s terror campaign of bombing cinemas, theatres and hotels and assassinating judges and politicians-. Their supreme guide Mohammed Badie, and other leaders inflammatory speeches and calls for Jihad ( Muslim word for crusade ) last Friday outside the same mosque prompted Islamists mob to burn cars, destroy property and attack secular opponents leaving 12 people dead and 321 injured in Cairo and Alexandria, while MB affiliated terrorists attacked El-Arish airport killing five unarmed guards and raised al-Qaeda flags in Northern Sinai. Hence violence by MB should have been anticipated and police should have been on full alert. Police chiefs failed to provide officers in the area with metal detectors to make sure no weapons or fire arms find their way to the mosque which has been under Muslim Brothers occupation since Friday 28 June when the protest started. Police should have been prepared by water-cannons and more crowd-control methods if needed. Not ideal but preferable to death and injury.
While acting president Chief Justice Mansour issued the constitutional part of the road map ( constitution re-draft committee to work within two weeks, referendum on it in four months, elections for parliament and president next February) MB called for an uprising using an alien ( non-Egyptian) word intifada; but it didn’t materialise, so far, as less pro-Morsi protesters in the square than it was at the weekend. The call prompted some idiotic predictions of civil war Syria style from American and some British correspondents.
Unlike Iraq or Syria with their ethnic mosaic, Egypt demographic realities provide little, if any, conditions that would generate a civil war. Egyptians, regardless of faith are largely one ethnic group, Nioltic Egyptians, no clans and don’t geographically group by faiths in different geographical areas. On the contrary, urban areas (where over two thirds of population live) are Mediterranean style blocks of flats with people of different faith share. The countryside economic patterns of small holding or crop-sharing enforced sharing regarding of faith for thousands of years. The five percent of ethnically Arab population living in Sinai or eastern desert have a different way of life that they never cared who ruled in Cairo.
The Mb call for intifada (non-Egyptian word first used by Palestinians for their uprising against Israeli occupation) could usher sporadic terrorist attacks by sleeper cells made of few hundred of Hamas activists who were given Egyptian ID cards by Morsi regime, intelligence sources claim after. MB leader Mohammed el-Beltagi said Monday that terror attacks against Egyptian government buildings in Sinai “could stop in one hour if Morsi is reinstated”, is taken seriously by Egyptian security. The next step expected is Egyptian army blowing up most of the smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Sinai where pro MB terrorist are carrying various terror attacks.
In the 1990s Muslim Brothers affiliated groups or born out of MBs works like Gamaat Islamiyah , Takfeer wal-Higrah, Nagoon min al-Nar, or Islamic jihad carried out series of terror attacks against Tourist sites, the worst was Luxor massacre killing 632 people ( 58 tourists) attacks on hotels, assonating artists and writers; but at the end a brutal campaign by Mubarak police managed to contain them. The regime made an historic error when tried to appear more Islamist in state media opening it to evangelists resulting in Islamisation by stealth. Given the mood this time and with spread of many independent and commercial media outlets, it is likely to be the reverse. The country can take a bit of some MB terrorism, as an Egyptian diplomat says, but this would ensure Muslim Brothers would never be able to get any more than single figure in any poll (latest Poll by American Arab institute found their support under 10% down from 22% six months ago and over 55% a year ago).
The background to how anti Morsi movement gathered momentum was that a group of younger generation activists known as tamrud (rebellion) emulated the 1919 nationalist revolution, by starting a campaign in April collecting signatures collecting signatures on printed petitions calling for president Morsi’s resignation, and holding fresh new presidential elections as people got disillusioned with an autocracy in the process of Islamisation of all facets of their lives, turning quickly into a totalitarian fascist theocracy. By June 25th they collected 22 Million signatures (two and half times those voted for Morsi). Tamrud and another dozens of political parties called for nationwide marches to overthrow Morsi on June 30 but was overtaken by simultaneous protest of millions on June 28, with initiatives taken out of the hands of politicians by street momentum.
The army had little choice but to act, as Tony Blair went around media studios say so. It was a case of damned if they acted and damned if they didn’t. The generals by default are not democrats or have patience or training for political intricacies. They flew in their helicopters observing what they estimated to be 18 million on afternoon of 30 June, (secularists say 35 million, and impendent media put it somewhere in between.) it wasn’t just question of siding with the majority of 15:1 against Morsi, but the army chiefs faced a real dilemma. They do not have the manpower or training for mass crowd control on large scale, and this time it was five to seven-fold the numbers of demonstrators who toppled Mubarak 30 months earlier. What would any army do in this situation? Asked Blair. They had to stop the country sliding into unpredictable anarchy.
Intelligence reports were accurate that Muslim broths secrete organisation have arms and many ready to use them as shown on Monday morning confrontation.
The army couldn’t wait with two sides come face to face the streets. Army chief, Gen abdel-Fatah al-Sisi (a devout Muslim handpicked by Morsi last November and thought to be Muslim Brothers sympathiser), in three separate meetings pleaded with Morsi to share power with all political parties in broad coalition. ( same advice given to him by his backer the American ambassador Anne Patterson – ) He refused encouraged by Muslim Brothers hardliners radical Islamist group Hamas in Gaza against advice from MB international organisation to make concessions in Egypt in order to keep regional gains ( getting US & EU to supply arms to Syria Rebels who are predominantly of MB affiliate, control of Tunisia, Libya and, Gaza). The army gave 48 hours ultimatum to ALL political trends and parties to come up with a power-sharing plan called roadmap out of the crisis. They all participated including ultra-orthodox Islamises like salafies and heads of Muslim Church ( al-Azhar) & Christian church ( al-Morqusiyah) , while MB refused. The power-sharing roadmap doesn’t stop Morsi or MBs from running for coming elections. There is no role for army in political life in the plan. There was no martial law declared (which remained in effect since Col Nasser days until Mubarak’s overthrow in 2011). They went by the constitution making the Supreme Constitutional Court, the interim ruling body until election is held.
The MB rejection of Chief Justice Mansour election timetable can only be understood as temporary tactics in their attempt to create tension hoping for American intervention to bed the will of the army. This is dangerous calculation as would further alienate them form the voters and reduce their ability to get enough seats in the next parliament to be of any effect.
- Mirna el-Helbawy is a journalist here is a Summary of her account of the incident at Rabaah Mosque Square where Muslim Brothers are gathering and holding a pro Morsi Protest. Continue reading
Speaking to Egyptian secular and liberal activists and political leaders, there is a consensus that nobody should get into a deal ( as advised by the Americans and our British government) with President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brothers party and/or other Islamists like Salafis. Egyptian secular and nationalists politicians and activists are wary of Morsi’s ability to double-cross them and using the deal or “dialogue to accommodate people’s’ demands ” ( as advised bt President Barak Obama) just to buy time then welsh back on his agreement as he did last year once the momentum of people in the streets wears-off.