Egypt’s shark week: Mossad to blame?

December 7, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Five
tourists have been attacked by sharks (with one killed) over the past week in
the waters off Egypt’s Red Sea coast, a vacation area especially popular with snorkelers
and scuba divers. And nobody knows what to do.

Despite the
frequent depiction of the
cartilaginous fish as terrifying man eaters, these kinds of attacks are
actually very rare. The Egyptian government has brought in experts from
around the world to help solve the shark crisis. So far no one has arrived at a
definitive conclusion, but possible explanations include over fishing in the
Red Sea, an excess of resorts along the coast, and the effects of climate
change
.

There’s
another theory floating around, though: Israel’s infamous intelligence agency
is behind the attacks. Ahram Online reports (and refutes):

Speaking on
the public TV program "Egypt Today" yesterday, a specialist
introduced as "Captain Mustafa Ismael, a famous diver in Sharm El
Sheikh," said that the sharks involved in the attack are ocean sharks and
do not live in Egypt’s waters.

When asked
by the anchor how the shark entered Sharm El Sheikh waters, he burst out,
"no, who let them in."

Urged to
elaborate, Ismael said that he recently got a call from an Israeli diver in
Eilat telling him that they captured a small shark with a GPS planted in its
back, implying that the sharks were monitored to attack in Egypt’s waters only.

"Why would these
sharks travel 4000 km and not have any accidents until it entered Sinai?"
said Ismael.

Earlier
today, General Abdel Fadeel Shosha, the governor of South Sinai, backed
Ismael’s theory. In a phone call to the TV program, he said that it is possible
that Israeli intelligence, Mossad, is behind the incident and that they are
doing it to undermine the Egyptian tourism industry. He added that Egypt needs
time to investigate the theory.

The shark attacks
have the potential to do some real damage to Egypt, where tourism is pillar of
the economy and an important provider of jobs. But the idea that Israel (which
is currently dealing with its own Nature Channel-worthy crisis) is
behind the attacks is pretty farfetched.

FP Passport

Postmortem: Egypt’s parliamentary election

November 28, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Egypt’s parliamentary elections went off today basically as expected, with vote buying, voter intimidation and fraud the norm across the country despite protests. What will change in Egypt as a result of today’s parliamentary election? Probably nothing, but the election hints at what we might be able to expect in the future from the regime in Cairo.

"I apologize if I gave some people the impression that these elections were elections, in any real sense of the word. They were not," wrote Shadi Hamid, a researcher at the Brookings Institution and a blogger at Democracy Arsenal. They certainly weren’t elections as an American would recognize them. To an Egyptian, though, they are all too familiar.

It will probably be a few days until the results are announced, but it’s clear that President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party will take a majority of the votes and continue to control the parliament, as it has done for almost 30 years.

Over the course of the daythere were numerous reports of abuses: from democracy activists beaten in Nile Delta cities to repeated attacks on journalists by state security forces to candidates in Cairo slumspaying 100 Egyptian pounds (about $ 20) per vote, and much more.

"We all expected violence will be the name of the game today, but I think the level of violence that actually happened has surpassed some of our wildest expectations," Hossam el-Hamalawy, a blogger, activist and journalist told me in an online chat.

In the past weeks there was a discussion of whether or not to send monitors to the election in Arab world’s most populous country. President Mubarak, naturally, opposed the idea and monitors weren’t accredited. That didn’t stop the Middle East director of Human Rights Watch from dispatching himself to a small city in the Nile Delta. He was subsequently detained by police.

The elections have been violent, and, at times, deadly. In Alexandria, rival members of the rulingparty battled in the streets. At least three people are confirmed dead by the government from election-related violence and there is speculation that the number could actually be closer to seven. The son of an opposition candidate was stabbed todeath the night before elections while putting up posters for his father.

Then again, police don’t even need to directly intimidate voters. Police intimidation runs deep in Egypt, where police kill citizens with a startling regularity, as Jack Shenker reported in The Guardian.

Most reports of election-day irregularities came from the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest and best-organized opposition group. As Ashraf Khalil wrote for FP, the Brotherhood, which is officially banned, has been under tremendous pressure from the regime in the run up to the election. The group won an unprecedented number of seats in the last parliamentary election in 2005, an experience that the government doesn’t seem eager to repeat. 

Today’s parliamentary elections are largely being viewed as a test run for next year’s presidential election, when Egypt’s octogenarian ruler will be up for another six-year term. There is widespread speculation that Hosni Mubarak intends to pass the presidency on to his son Gamal at some point, but the mechanism for such a transfer of power is unclear.

Today’s events show that the regime is willing to use violence or outright fraud to maintain power. That’s a lesson both Hosni Mubarak and his opponents will keep in mind next year.

FP Passport

Egyptian blogger released after 4 years in jail for “insulting” Islam and Egypt’s president

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In recent months, every criticism of Islam in the West has been met with accusations of hatred (often “incitement” as well), and with the demand that one should just stop all of that. “Tolerance” and criticism are now mutually exclusive, lest someone be insulted.

But have restricted rights to free speech for the sake of avoiding “insults” made Egypt a kinder, gentler, happier, and more compassionate society? No, quite the opposite, and the West should take note as the Organization of the Islamic Conference seeks a “legally binding institutional instrument” at the UN to protect Islam from insults.

The climate of fear created over absurd and arbitrary laws does not make anyone “nicer.” It just cows them into submission, and paves the way for a less open, more brutal society as laws that are inherently abusive of human rights lend themselves to further abuse. Add to that the sense of entitlement to rule and to use violence to maintain Islamic rule that permeates the letter and spirit of Sharia (which informs Egyptian law even where the letter does not), and brutality is all but assured.

Just ask Kareem Amer. “Egypt blogger released after 4 years in jail: rights group,” by Marwa Awad for Reuters, November 17:

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian blogger has been released after serving four years in prison on charges of insulting Islam and the president, a human rights group said on Wednesday.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil, 26, known as Kareem Amer, was in bad health and was beaten by security officers before his release on Tuesday. The Interior Ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Amer, a student at the state-run religious al-Azhar University, was arrested in 2006 on charges of insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak in his blog posts. He was sentenced to four years in prison and expelled from the university.

“Kareem was released on Tuesday morning and his health is bad but he is safe now,” Gamal Eid, head of ANHRI, which represented Amer at court, told Reuters.

“He was detained for 11 days beyond his court sentence and beaten by officers who did not give any reasons,” Eid added.

The first blogger to face trial in Egypt for online content, Amer was first released on November 5 from Alexandria’s Borg el-Arab prison where he stayed for four years.

But he was immediately re-arrested by state security for 11 days without charge and beaten, ANRHI said.

“His situation has gotten worse after he was detained despite completing his sentence,” said Eid.

Amer was unavailable for comment but Eid said the blogger would speak to the media in a few days.

International human rights groups had protested Amer’s detention beyond his court-sentence and called for his release.

Jihad Watch

Raymond Ibrahim: The Ultimate Lesson of Egypt’s Fake Photo

September 30, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In “The Ultimate Lesson of Egypt’s Fake Photo” in Pajamas Media (via RaymondIbrahim.com), September 22, the ever-insightful Raymond Ibrahim offers a provocative assessment of the influence of Sharia in the Islamic world based on a doctored photo circulated by the Egyptian media:

One of the most widely circulated newspapers in the world, Egypt’s Al Ahram, recently ran a fake picture depicting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak walking in front of U.S. President Barack Obama and a pack of other Mideast leaders. In fact, based on the original photo, Mubarak, the octogenarian, appeared trailing last.

Why the outlandish deception by an internationally recognized newspaper founded in 1875? Al Ahram editor Ossama al-Saraya defended the fraudulent photo by referring to it as an “expressionist photo … a brief, live and true expression of the prominent stance of President Mubarak in the Palestinian issue, his unique role in leading it before Washington.” All well and good, but beyond the euphemisms and rationalizations, the fact remains: by portraying something that was not true, the state-run Al Ahram intentionally tried to deceive the people.

On the one hand, as Wael Khalil, the Egyptian blogger who first called attention to the altered photo pointed out, this anecdote is a snapshot of the routine deception the Egyptian government foists on the people: “They lie to us all the time. Instead of addressing the real issues, they just Photoshop it.” On a deeper level, this incident reveals that, contrary to common belief, the fundamental problem facing the reformation of the Islamic world is not merely doctrinal; it is cultural.

Consider: even though sharia law promotes various troubling doctrines — the subjugation of non-Muslims and women, animosity to the non-Muslim world, even the use of deception, as in the case of the Mubarak picture — the one hope has been that only “radical” Muslims follow these mandates. And this is true, consciously speaking. Unconsciously, however, sharia’s teachings have become so embedded in the Muslim psyche, permeating the worldview of all people born or bred in the Islamic world, regardless of whether they are “moderate” or “radical,” indeed, regardless of whether they are Muslim at all….

There is more.

Jihad Watch

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