Tuesday, December 27, 2005

On Mona Eltahawy

Mona Eltahawy is a bright, young, female egyptian journalist who lives in New York. I knew her primarily through the weekly article she writes for the panarab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, and I found most of her articles to be pretty mature for her relatively young age (she was born in 1967). She also writes in english, and I found some of the articles she published in western journals to denounce extremism in our midst [sample no. 1, sample no. 2], or to promote a better understanding of Islam in the West [sample no. 3] to be pretty good. (In some instances, I also found that she missed the mark, like here - but that's an other story.)

So much for the introduction. Recently, I learned that Mona Eltahawy has got herself in trouble after she published a coureageous opinion piece in the International Herald Tribune, in which she expressed sharp criticism of the elections in Egypt. Ms. Eltahawy was summoned to a meeting with egyptian officials, during which she was told that her actions are being monitored by the egyptian government.

Two thoughts about this incident. First, the egyptian government, by taking this step, actually lends credence to Ms. Eltahawy's assessment of the status of democracy and civil liberties in her country. Second, I think that the Egyptian government must feel in a position of force that enables it to do this, and sentence Ayman Nour to five years in prison for some rather dubious forgery allegations, without fearing an international uproar. In my opinion, this is evidence that Egypt is still being needed as one of Washington's key allies in the war on terror. Thus, in this particular case, we may again conclude that the threat of terrorism has only served to further strengthen a repressive arab regime and western ally, not exactly what the extremists sought.

Monday, December 19, 2005


In yesterday's issue of the International Herald Tribune, an interesting article on the occasion of the centenary of the law separating the Church and the State in France. I especially liked the passage where the author likens the French interpretation of secularism to a new "state religion", which in my opinion is a fairly accurate characterization. France's brand of secularism is a self-centered, intolerant ideology that severely limits people's religious freedoms. What is worse is that, despite the recent riots and despite all the tensions that traverse French society because of it, the French people are not prepared to do anything about it.

There were also some disquieting comments by the iranian president. After eight years of conciliatory policies under former president Mohammad Khatami, Ahmadinejad is trying to revive the revolutionary zeal of the early days of the revolution, and his fiery comments are attracting growing suspicion from neighboring countries as well as from the West. I don't like bragging, and I find Ahmadinejad's bragging about Iran being the standard-bearer of "true islam" a little offensive. True islam, Mr. President, will shine through your actions, not just through your words. When your actions will measure up to the fairly high standards of your religion, people will notice, even if you don't say a single bragging word about it. This ideological bragging makes all the difference between Ahmadinejad and someone like Khatami. For while both were devout muslims, Khatami never bragged about it, or about his nation being at the forefront of "the struggle for Islam": he just let his actions speak for him. I am afraid that Ahmadinejad's comments will only invite trouble for his country and for the whole region.

[Note added: after I wrote the above, I discovered that Ghassan Sharbal has an opinion piece just about this in today's issue of al-Hayat. Take a look: it's a great read, as usual ;-) ]

Friday, December 16, 2005

"The French Democracy"

C'est le titre d'un "film" qu'Alex Chan, un jeune parisien issu de l'immigration (ses parents sont des immigres chinois), a produit au sujet des recents evenements de violence dans les banlieues francaises. Le film, qui a ete applaudi aussi bien par les internautes que par la presse internationale, dure a peu pres 13 minutes, et peut etre visionne avec Windows Media Player.

Pour voir le film, cliquez ici.

Pour lire des articles sur le film et son producteur, cliquez ici, ou bien ici :-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Avian flu: is it a hoax ?

Wanna know more ? Click here, and read on :-)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

On Mohamed El-Baradei

In today's al-Hayat, there was a short biography of Mohamed el-Baradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who was this year's recipient of the Nobel peace prize.

Apparently, el-Baradei has declared that he would offer half his share of the prize money to support orphans in Egypt. A humane gesture worthy of great respect.

My sincere congratulations to Mr. El-Baradei, and to the egyptian people. The Egyptians now have four Nobel laureates. Very diplomatic and hard working, they definitely deserve their title of leaders of the arab world.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Un grand peuple

Alain Peyrefitte raconte dans ses memoires que le General de Gaulle, lors de son premier voyage en Allemagne de l'ouest apres la deuxieme guerre mondiale (c'etait en fait a la fin des annees 50, il s'etait rendu en RFA pour rencontrer le chancellier allemand Konrad Adenauer et sceller la reconciliation franco-allemande), etait tellement impressionne par la rapidite avec laquelle les allemands etaient entrain de reconstruire leur pays qu'il s'etait exclame a haute voix dans sa cabine de train: "Quel grand peuple !" Venant d'un leader nationaliste dont le pays avait ete envahi et occupe par les allemands, et qui avait combattu l'allemagne au cours d'une guerre specialement meurtriere, cette exclamation admirative etait pour le moins surprenante.

Je n'ai pas pu m'empecher de penser a de Gaulle et a sa fameuse exclamation quand, hier matin, j'ai lu dans un article du New York Times qu'un jury a Tampa avait disculpe un professeur palestinien de l'accusation "d'association avec un groupe terroriste" sur laquelle il avait ete demis de ses fonctions et emprisonne pendant de longs mois (certains ont vu dans son emprisonnement une volonte d'intimider les activistes pro-palestiniens, l'accuse ayant lui-meme ete un ardent activiste de la cause palestinienne aux Etats Unis). Dans l'amerique du "Patriot Act", des americains ordinaires donnent une lecon de justice et de liberte d'expression a leur gouvernement, et montrent encore une fois que ce sont en fait les gens ordinaires qui tiennent le plus aux ideaux d'egalite et de justice sur laquelle cette nation a ete fondee.

Malgre toutes ses contradictions et toutes ses tares, le peuple americain reste un grand peuple. Et il le demeurera tant qu'il y aura des gens comme les membres de ce jury de Floride pour croire a des ideaux que les politiciens ont depuis longtemps repudie.