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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

African Cup...One More Time...Sorry!

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I know that some of you are crying "enough already!", and I can hear you. But I had to post this.
An Israeli journalist shot a video during the Egypt vs Congo match in the African Cup. His purpose was to document the rising phenomena of girls going to the stadium. Well,...whatever!
The video is a bit boring at times, and voyeuristic all over (and the journalist is really pathetic--watch him trying to sing the national anthem), but will give people who didn't have the chance to attend the matches, especially those who remember the stadium good ol' days (stones, horses, and the works), it will give them an idea of how was it like. Watch it, if only to hear the national anthem sung by 80,000 over-excited Egyptians. Goosebumps!

(Via Mostafa Hussein)

Moved on!

Negm's Congrats to the Bride and Groom

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Not that I am obsessed with this marriage thing or something, but this is a must-post situation.
Egypt's bad boy poet, Ahmed Fouad Negm, was quick in offering his deepest and warmest congrats to the groom.
In his monthly reading at El-Sakia on Monday, Negm improvised this message to the president's son (I have no idea how can that be translated to English, but I'll try) Here is the Arabic one first: (Audio--warning: one word in this poem can be a bit offensive)

مبروك يا عريسنا...يابو شنا و رنه
يا و اخدنا وراثه...افرح و اتهني
و اطلع من جنه حود علي جنه
...مش فارقه معانا و لا هاريه بدنا
...و لا تعبا قلوبنا و لا فاقعه ب*انا

يا عريس الغفله اطلب و اتمني
ما حناش كارهينك...لكن عارفينك
هاتكمل دينك...و تطلع دينا

Now, for the near impossible task of translating it to English.
A bit of Egyptian lingo first:
When somebody is said to have completed his faith, this means that he married (don't ask me why!) When it is said that his faith was kicked off, it means that he is being tormented. Capeesh?
Here goes:
Congrats our groom...you of fortune and fame
for who we're all inheritance...be merry, be game
We couldn't care less...we're not tormented by this
our hearts are not aching...nor do we give a piss

You groom of a doomed day...wish and order as you like
we don't hate you...but we know you're a tyke:
you'd complete your faith...only to kick ours the fuck out!!

Of course, it is really hilarious in Arabic, but you get the idea!

P.S.: If you're wondering why this is a tad harsh for an average congrat, read this

Update: Here is the audio file! (click on donwnload in the page that opens)

Moved on!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Australia: Give Me A Break!!

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Not that I'm not an animal lover or something. But we really don't need any other boycotts. Especially ones caused by a secretly filmed video of how cattle is slaughtered in Bassatin slaughterhouse.

Now that Australia is stopping cattle exports to Egypt because of inhuman treatment of cattle, I think that Egyptian 'humans' have every right to cry "double standards"!

Uh, the day we'll have to hold a grudge for sheep. Pity!!

Moved on!

Thoughts of an Uninvited Guest

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Yesterday was a time for chain-emails, holding grudges for the bride, and contemplating the age difference. Today, however, I think there is a more serious matter to be discussed; what the hell does that have to do us? (Especially now that I didn't receive any invitation for the engagement on Friday yet...Jimmy, don't expect me to come if you invited me in the last minute!!)
Well, I guess it has a lot to do with us.
Trying to be a public figure in Egypt, let alone president, without being married, is just asking for trouble. It is just the way it is. We're talkative people, with dirty little minds. Got it? Plus, there is a lot of emotional stress in sitting through those state dinners while another president is cuddling his snuggly, shuggly first lad-ee.
So, to be president you have to get married.
That's one part.
The other part has to do with the local councils elections which were postponed for 2 years without any obvious reasons. As you know, the way things are, only the NDP has enough representatives (in parliament and local councils) to back the nomination of Gamal Mubarak a candidate. If any other party (or a forbidden political group..huh?) wanted to field a contestant they had to get some sort of backing from representatives at local councils. Delaying the elections means that they won't be able to have this backing before 2 years.
So, to be president you have to run alone for elections.
That's the second part.
If we combined the two we find out that for Gamal Mubarak to be president he has to be married, and to run alone for elections. The second part is only guaranteed during the next 2 years. So my guess is: we'll have a presidential election during those 2 years.
I'm just dying to see the reason they will come up with to do that. (And no Jimmy, you can't take your dad hunting!!)

Moved on!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Another One To Abondon the Ship

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Jimmy (not you!) is finally jummping off the bachelor bandwagon!
Now that he has the "lady" thing covered, he can focus on making her the "first".
Oh God, have mercy!!

update: a conspiracy theorist pointed out this amazing fact: on the same day in 1981, Charles and Diana announced that they'll marry. If that is true, I have one word for Khadiga....run for your life, run!
Geez, I wonder if daddy Hosny will still be in power 25 years after his son's marriage!

Moved on!

The Death of Common Sense

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I recently read Big Pharoh's post about how we culturally encourage terrorism through our endorsement of the rationale behind suicide bombing; a very good read.
For me, I've never understood the rationale behind suicide bombing. Here is a story that happened back in the third grade, with my Arabic teacher.

Teacher: so, as you can see, the Egyptian soldiers in 1973 were very brave. A soldier would put explosives all around him, and jump on a tank and blow it away. This way he becomes a martyr...
Me: (interrupting) miss, miss...but why does he have to kill himself? Couldn't he just throw the bomb at them, and run?
Teacher: (wide-eyed, puzzled) what are you saying? He is a martyr! He sacrificed himself to liberate his land..
Me: (coolly--obviously this had roots in me!) yeah I get you, but he could've thrown the bomb, destructed the tank and moved on to other tanks...
Teacher: (trying to control her outrage and be kind) listen, if somebody comes to your home and kicks you out of it...won't you try to get him out?
Me: (shrugging) yeah!
Teacher: (triumphant) that's just what they were doing!
Me: no...actually you're missing the point...see...
Teacher: (firmly) end of discussion!
Me: (frustrated, I talk to the guy next to me) don't you agree that they would be better off throwing the bomb at distance....
Teacher: (crazy) TB!! Out!!!!

I really think what the Egyptian army did in 1973 was brave. I also know that soldiers on the field aren't thinking in the romantic fashion we do sitting in air-conditioned homes. They're more practical, and would probably put something like that as the last option. In fact, from a military point of view, killing yourself is considered treason because you're denying your side numeral advantage. But the problem is that we're failing to appreciate the value of life, any life. Probably, because ours is not that appreciated anyhow. That's why we endorse such foolish acts as suicide bombing so blindly.
That's why I was kicked out of class!!

Moved on!

This is Just Stupid

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Here is the result of the phobic mindset induced by thousands of cassette sheikhs and satellite imams (true story):
A man hails a taxi. The taxi stops. The man seems like a very old and kind man with a white beard and wearing a white dress. He asks the taxi driver to take him down the street. The taxi driver let him in. The man sits in the rear seat. The taxi moves for about 200m when somebody else hails the taxi. The taxi stops (normal in Egypt!). The man asks to go a specific place before he steps into the car (also normal in Egypt). The driver answers by telling the man that it's OK, but they'll have to first drop the old guy in the back. "What old guy?" the man asks. "The one in the back!" the driver answers as he points to the old guy. The man is truly angered; "you seem like a crazy driver, there is no one back there" the man says "if you don't want to go, just say so". The man walks away, and the driver is really puzzled. 200m later, the same incident happens again. The driver is really frightened. He looks to the old man. The old man looks back and says "listen, I didn't intend to tell you, but I'm Azrael, and I'm here to take your soul away" Now, the driver is really petrified. The old guy continues "but, you have been given a chance to repent. Go to any mosque immediately and pray until it's your time" The driver, who is still shattering with fear, drives to the nearest mosque, leaves the car outside, with Azrael inside, and runs right into the mosque. He prays, and prays for a couple of hours, but nothing happens. An hour later he goes out of the mosque, and to his surprise.....he doesn't find the car!!

Ha...he had it coming!
I'm becoming so mean!!

Moved on!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Positively Wicked Trade News!

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That's a bit late (well, actually very!) but I can't begin to tell you how proud I was to learn that we're dumping any market!

Moved on!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Buy Chicken: Part Doux

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I asked readers before (at least the ones in Egypt) to cut it with this stupid boycott of chickens, as it is scientifically proven that eating chickens can not possibly cause human infection with bird flu. I also urged them to reconsider this boycott, as it is directly affecting the only source of income for thousands of families, and will inevitably force a lot of people out of their jobs.
Now, thanks to my good, economic-whiz friend El-Zeni Barakat, I have an even better reason to think that this boycott thing is stupid.
Here is what I understand: in 'normal' markets, demand and supply are closely related; when demand for something decreases, prices will go down, and manufacturers would be able to cut back on their production to limit supply and return prices to normal level, almost immediately. This happens all the time in nearly every market(free ones of course). Except for agricultural products and poultry. The reason? Supply can never respond immediately to changes in demand. So, when we boycott chicken under ignorant pretenses, suppliers have no way to cut back on their supply immediately (the chicken, the cow, or the vegetable is already there) What they can do however is to decide now to cut back on growing or breeding. This will affect the actual levels of supply 2,3, or 4 months from now. By then we would have forgotten all about the bird flu thing, and will be looking forward for delicious chickens, only to find out that there isn't enough supply, because 3 months ago the manufacturers were on the brink of bankruptcy. By this time we'll be faced with one of two situations: 1)A Chicken would cost 100 pounds!! (see why I wrote it with a capital C!), or 2)We'll have to import chickens in order to keep prices balanced, an option which I think we'll choose, and thus force the country deeper into trade-deficit land, and push the pound further down the drain.
And all of this because we are refusing to listen to reason, and opting instead to follow rumors and myths.
That's pathetic!

Moved on!

Arrivederci Da Vinci

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Here is a piece of investigative journalism carried out by somebody other than me:
According to a friend of mine, the Arabic edition of Dan Brown's international bestseller 'The Da Vinci Code' is , hold on to your seats, banned in Egypt!! (The English one is still in circulation)
Despite the fact that he is a good friend and all, I didn't take his word for it, and I asked around. What I found out was really shocking.
The book was on sale approximately 6 months ago, but only a month ago (when the Cairo International Book Fair started) the Arabic edition vanished into thin air. People asking for it in the fair were either told that it was sold out (a highly unlikely state for a book in Egypt) or were given the book in the most secretive manner (a la buying pot in the park).
Trying to figure out the state of the book today, my friend called Diwan (a bookstore in Zamalek), which informed him that the book is banned and cannot be pre-ordered (something which they did with Naguieb Mahfouz's Children of the Alley which was banned as well). The shop assistants at Madboly, and Shoroq downtown were both highly suspicious of the guy when he went there, and told him that the book was banned after a lot of nagging on his side.

Now, I don't know who is behind this ban. It could possibly be the Coptic Church, which, naturally, will have a lot of issues with Dan Brown's interpretation of the history of Christianity.

Whoever motivating this ban, the Egyptian government has demonstrated once again how easily it can be pushed around by extremists on all sides.
I wouldn't even bother going through the freedom of speech routine. I guess by now you all know the drill. But I have a quote to sum up the thing. I know I keep quoting a lot of movies these days, but this one seems really appropriate. When Averroès' books are caught by Catholic soldiers at a river on the border of Andalusia in the movie Destiny (Al-Massir), a Muslim turncoat grabs them, and says in a sarcastic tone: "Smuggled books! What a dismantled State!!"
Nazif, this one is for you!

Moved on!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Call For Danes...

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You know what? In a weird, twisted kind of way (I'm addicted to this sentence!), this whole Danish cartoons debacle had some very good side effects.
The most obvious for me as a blogger was the surge in the number of Danish and Norwegian readers of my blog. I am sure that the same happened to a lot of mid-eastern bloggers.
I think this enabled some Danish readers to understand a little bit more about us as real people, and not abstracted media characters, which I'm sure would lead them to realize that not all of us are embassy-torching, foreigners-beating bunch of lunatics. So, in a way what happened was a good thing.
I, however, feel envious because their attempts at connecting with us and reading about us is not equally repaid.
So for all my newly found Danish, and Scandinavians friends (Denmark isn't Scandinavia, right?), can you please provide me with links to good blogs of yours! I want to start understanding more about you, but I don't know where to start; be my guide!

P.S.: Wow, I have a reader from Estonia! Feel free to contribute, but I guess I will need some information which are more on the, what should I say?, basic stuff. Like, what's up with the flag colors? (well intentioned!)

Moved on!

The Conspiracy Theory To End All Conspiracy Theories

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What's worse than a conspiracy theorist?
A conspiracy theorist with integrative tendencies!
Let me elaborate. As you all know of course, Egypt won the African Cup because Cote D'Ivoire passed over the match to repay Egypt's elimination of Cameroon in the World Cup qualification round, which took Cote D'Ivoire to Germany. It is also common knowledge that the Danish cartoons are part of a Zionist plot to humiliate Muslims and incite them to react violently and diminish their image (which, ironically enough, was exactly what happened!). The ferry of course drowned because of a plan by the ship owner to claim the insurance money for himself. And the bird flu is, as you know, caused by devious, 'foreign' birds.
We all know this!
But when a guy told me that: the government encouraged people to follow the African cup so that they ignore the Danish cartoon thing, and that the ferry sank because port officials were busy following the cup, which we won as a result of an agreement with the Ivorians again to dismiss attention from the ferry tragedy, only to be punished for our feeble response to the Danes by the bird flu epidemic, which the government delayed announcing because of, you guessed it, the damn cup, when he said that I didn't know whether to punch him in the face or to congratulate him on his ability to think about the 'big picture'!!

Moved on!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Capitalistic Salvation

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I always thought that capitalism has the favorable side effect of promoting peace, harmony, and understanding between different races, and religions (read The Golden Arches theory of conflict prevention)
Once again, I was proven right.

Via: we make money not art

Moved on!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Buy Chicken! Buy Chicken for God's Sake!!

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Listen I didn't even want to talk about the water contamination rumor, but really just don't tell me that you didn't see it coming. I knew this water thing was coming sooner or later (Heck, I was even watching El Nom Fel Assal yesterday, where a bystander in one scene comments on the sexual impotence endemic 'Yalmaya yal hawa!' 'it's either water or air that is causing this'). But what really amazed me was the speed by which the rumor spread.
In, literally, 30 minutes this happened:
  • A rumor spread that the government is shutting off water supply in all Egypt, to sterilize it because dead birds fell into the Nile.
  • News spread all over work that El-Gezira Club, the German School (DEO), and the Zoo were closed because dead birds were found there! (Good luck trying to figure out what's in common between those three places)
  • Mineral water stocks literally vanished from markets everywhere
  • Somebody drank a cup of water, then looked at it in disgust. "You know what?" he said "it tastes like chicken"!!!
Now, I know that a lot of people are terrified by this. I also know that I can keep pulling jokes out of this thing all night. But I couldn't care less for neither.
What is really bugging me, beside the fact that we're an ignorant, easily-manipulated mob, is the fact that our ignorance is affecting other people's only source of income.
In a matter of days, this ignorant, rumor-filled boycott of chickens had cost chicken manufacturers and dealers millions of pounds. Now, those guys have nothing to do with Denmark, and I'm pretty sure most of them don't even know a thing about it, but we're foolishly pushing them into bankruptcy.
So please, and if even only for the sake of making a statement or aiding your fellow Egyptians, Arabs, Muslims, or Copts (whatever turns you on...), please, please buy chicken.
It is harmless, it is halal, it never complained about being stuck by the thousands in tiny rooms, it didn't insult anybody, or abuse the children of Iraq and Sudan. Most importantly it cannot possibly infect anybody with bird flu through eating. It is just not possible.
So for the sake of reason, and for the sake of the thousands of families which are losing their only source of income:
Buy Chicken! Buy Chicken for God's Sake!!

Moved on!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Democracy From Above

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Normally I don't like to do the "hey I thought that was cool, I'm gonna blog about it" thing. But this thing is really C.O.O.L!
It is the closest Bush will get to implementing his "spread peace and prosperity into every oppressed corner of the middle-east" sound bites.
This is an inflatable parliament (German) that can be, conveniently enough, dropped from air in regions where it is deemed necessary to spread democracy, and prosperity! The thing becomes ready for housing parliamentary meetings in less than 90 minutes! (still longer than the attention span of most of our parliamentarians, but we can work with that!)

Remember, however, that it was me who proposed that the speaker's chair be mobile to prevent any attempts of overthrowing the man. I am now sure that, inspired by this project, our government will work on a mobile parliament so as to maintain it's 'grip' on power!

Via "We make money not art", and "Neural"

, , ,

Moved on!

Egyptians Are Like...

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I've tried, technologically, to know what Egyptians are known for. And while that was fun, it really doesn't begin to show how Egyptians are really like.
Not that any one thing does. The ability to defy stereotyping is I think the only stereotype that can be applied to Egyptians. Ethnically we're part Arabs, part Mediterranean, part Turkish, part African; it is really a mix. We have blondes, brunettes, and niqb-clad chicks. We have religious fanatics, and we have party animals. We have Nobel laureates, and dumb-as-a-knob fellows. We have miserably poor people, and filthy rich ones. At the same street, and at the same time you can feel that we have too much money, or have too few.
It is just like that over here in Egypt.
But, a discussion with a friend last night, made me really realize a common trait among all Egyptians.
We were talking about politics, and succession in Egypt, when my friend said that if Hosny Mubarak died, nobody will go to his funeral. "Do you really think?" I asked. And then we thought about it for a minute, and remembered how Hosny Mubarak was cheered for in the stadium during the African Cup final, despite the fact that almost everyone had a joke or a cheeky comment about the man. "You know what?" my friend said as he nodded his head "people would probably go to the funeral anyhow". And I agreed.
I know that this line is repeated to an almost masturbatory degree, but I really believe that Egyptians are benign, kind-hearted people. To an almost naive degree.
Think about it this way: Almost every Egyptian (especially taxi drivers) will go on and on about how much he despises America, and about the conspiracy the "west" is plotting against Muslims and Arabs, but I highly doubt that any American, European (or even Danish--you can get out now don't worry) will tell you that he was mistreated by the simplest Egyptian because of his nationality, or religion. I have seen a taxi driver who was taken back by the fact that my professor, who was sharing the taxi with me, was in fact Jewish, only to start throwing out jokes a few minutes later about how we're all cousins, and how his "cousin" should find him a job in Israel that will surely pay better (despite the fact that the professor guy kept trying to convince him that he is in fact American!). And I have seen Egyptian men crying in front of TV sets when school kids were massacred in Baslan, despite the fact that everybody will go on and on babbling about how he/she supports the Chechnyens.
My point is: we can speak in the cruelest kind of language, make the toughest remarks, say the most inconsiderate jokes, and take the extremist positions, but when matters come to basic human feelings and relations, we are as naive as a clueless schoolgirl.

That's why I think Mubarak's funeral would be a hit. Can't wait!

Moved on!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Waiting For A Melody...

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One of my favorite songs ever is Madonna's "American Pie". Not as much for the artist (not a big fan), as for a line of lyrics:
Now, do you believe in Rock n Roll?
And, can music save your mortal soul?

I'd hear that and go: "Yeah!"

It is something I believe in; arts in general, and music and cinema in particular over here in the middle east, have tremendous transformational powers. I was reminded of this fact, when I read this NYT article on Sayyed Darweesh. Here is a man who, only through his musical talent, and refusal to comply with earlier musical traditions, was able to inspire a whole country to revolt against a formidable oppressor (the British occupying forces). He was considered by some, as the second leader of the 1919 revolution, together with Sa'ad Zaghloul.
His songs are still memorable to this day, and the goose bumps I get everytime I hear our anthem being sung (not played, that's part of the genius) is the best evidence of how far reaching his influence is.

For songs by Sayeed Darweesh, go here (Arabic)

Moved on!

The Great Chicken Scare of 2006

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Fighting the temptation to poke fun at a serious matter is an Egyptian everyday struggle. Failing to do so is a reality. And although the possibility of an outbreak of a bird-flu endemic isn't really something to make fun of, the Egyptian Prime Minister (Dr. Ahmed Nazif) tried to lighten things up a bit. He described in comic details how Egypt was prepared to defend itself against infected birds which were migrating from north to south, but was surprised to find out that the birds were in fact migrating from the south to the north! This, apparently, gave them the opportunity to land on rooftops where they were able to mingle with local chicks and spread their love. He said that! (Well not the chicks and love bit!)
But I think that the matter is much more serious. Here is how I see it developing:
  • Desperate housewives, freaked at the fact that they're losing one of the pillars of their cuisine, call religious programs at satellite channels hoping for guidance.
  • Satellite sheikhs jump at the opportunity by saying that while eating chicken is halal, those chickens that actually mingled with foreign roosters are infidel trumps and thus they should be denied the honor of being eaten by Muslims.
  • Posters of crossed out chicken, with slogans like "Defend Islam, Kick Out the Chicks" appear everywhere.
  • E-mails are filled with chain mails about somebody who defied the agreement of the Muslim Ummah on boycotting chicken and actually ate one on dinner, only to wake up crowing next morning.
  • Trying to keep things under control, the government starts a campaign to curtail hate crimes towards chickens.
  • Because the government is doing this, satellite sheikhs reason, then we can safely assume that chicken are part of a global conspiracy to humiliate the Ummah, and thus it is the duty of every Muslim male to avenge his honor. "But, let's try to control our reactions"
  • Chicken coops are torched everywhere!
  • Angry mobs burn the Egyptian flag, after a rumor spread through sms that it is not an eagle but the chicken of Jehovah that is on the flag. Apparently, a book written in the early 19th century outlined the plan to humiliate Muslims by making them submit to a flag that has a chick on it.
  • Calls for boycotting Doux chicken, extends to include every product the French produce. After all it was the French who slew Muslims at the Battle of Tours in 732, and making their chicken pay for it is the least any Muslim male can do.
  • Distressed and confused, the French president has this to say to TV5: "I cannot get it, zes Arabe fellows, France hat alwayz been zere for zem, but ef it come to our chicken zen we have to reponde...I am afraid, I'll have to order our militarie to uze da bomb!"
  • Chicken banquets are thrown all over Egypt. The faithful take comfort in the fact that it was their active boycotting of the chicken that forced the chicken to mind their sinful ways.
See? I told you the matter was gravy...err...I mean grave!

Moved on!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"I'm the Man"

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I'm not really sure that you saw this coming, but I'd like to talk today about sexual dysfunction. Yup, that's what you've heard. (A note though: the fact that I'm writing about sexual dysfunction early in the morning is really inconsequential...just don't jump to any conclusions!)
Here is the thing: I spend around 3-4 hours driving everyday, during which I listen to a particular "sexual performance medicine" ad around 90-120 times. It is played ALOT!
Now, I'm not the world's foremost expert on sexual impotence (again, means absolutely nothing!) but I guess that being reminded every 30 minutes that "70% of marriages fail because of man's sexual incompetence", or that "50% of men above 40 have sexual problems" isn't really good for your "performance". As if that wasn't enough, a recent ad they ran suggests that blood pressure medications can affect your performance, but then in a footnote sort of way they say that it is, you know, not appropriate to stop taking your blood pressure medications! "Not appropriate"!!
The funny thing about these ads is that the medicine name is never mentioned. Apparently there are laws in Egypt against that. Now, picture somebody who was really persuaded by this ad; what should he do? He can go ask his doctor about this magic pill. That would be priceless:
Impotent: doctor...I have been having some troubles lately..
Dr: what kind of trouble?
Impotent: you know....those kinds of troubles
Dr: [understanding] ah...ok...I can prescribe you some Viagra..
Impotent: I don't know...why don't we try the 36 hours thing?
Dr: [freaked out] 36 HOURS??!! what in God's name would you do in 36 hours??
Impotent: you know...stuff!
At this point the doctor calls the police suspecting that his patient is some sort of a serial rapist!

But don't despair...I have an alternative solution (inspired by the movie "ُEl-Nom Fel Assal"). Every time you hear this radio ad, take a deep breath and say with all conviction: "I'm not a wimp...I'm the man...I can do it...I can do it" 3 times, and I can promise you that absolutely nothing would happen!

Let the insanity begin!!

Moved on!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

To All Struggling Bloggers Out There...

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Remember my talk about how quantitative measurments of a blog performance arent important? Forget it! This article in the New York magazine talks about the blog "industry" and how average Joes like me and you can break into it...(yeah, right!!)
A must read though!

Moved on!

To My City

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From what I gathered from my discussions with people who haven't been to this part of the world, I can make the safe assumption that they're clueless about how is life like over here. And as much as I would like to describe to you every minute detail about the way we live, I think that Said Hegab makes a tremendous job of eloquently describing the most electrifying, controversial, and certainly, liveliest city that ever existed.

I tried to translate the poem to the best of my ability (and vocabulary), but obviously nothing beats the original text, so I included the Arabic text for those of you who can read it. Enjoy!

This is the charming, captivating, noisy, lively, concealing, sinning Cairo
This is the prosperous, odorous, poetic, ingenious, benevolent, sacred Cairo
This is the cynical, able, patient, grim, rebellious, victorious Cairo

The echo of the whispers in crowd, and commotion
The pain of solitude in gatherings, and dispersion
Here is love, lying, and shamming
Here is straight-faced deception and backstabbing
Here is the penny, the kickback, the ripping-off, and the cut-in
Here is love, justice, mercy and forgiveness

And, me, in the middle of your swarming currents,
Is screaming “I love you, most beautiful city…
You sad smile, you poised and wild,
I love you and will cover my face in your dust,
And live in your spaciousness, and stand by your gate,
As a gardener watering with blood the flower of your youth,
You pride of our life’s damned garden,
I love you, I love you, you bastard city!

هنا القاهرة الساحرة الآسِرة الهادرة الساهرة الساترة السافرة
هنا القاهرة الزاهرة العاطرة الشاعرة النيّرة الخيّرة الطاهرة
هنا القاهرة الساخرة القادرة الصابرة المنذرة الثائرة الظافرة

صدى الهمس في الزحمة و الشوشرة
أسى الوحدة في اللمة و النتورة
هنا الحب و الكدب و المنظرة
نشا الغش في الوش و الإفترا
هنا القرش و الرش و القش و السمسرة
هنا الحب و الحق و الرحمة و المغفرة

و انا ف قلب دوامتك الدايرة بينا
بصرّخ بحبّك يا أجمل مدينة
يا ضحكة حزينة .. يا طايشة و رزينة
بحبّك و اعفّر جبيني في ترابك
و اعيش في رحابِك و أقف جنب بابك
جنايني أروي بالدم وردة شبابك
يا زينة جنينة حياتنا اللعينة
بحبّك يا بنت اللذين

This is my city. This is where I live!

Thanks ElAghani Blog, for the text.

Moved on!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Au Revoir Cote D'Ivoire...Welcome Cup!

Moved on! Check TheCairoCalls

It had been a hell of a day!
Football can't possibly offer more excitement, or suspense than this. A 120 minutes match, a 1-minute-before-time-ruled-out goal, a lost penalty kick in extra time, 3 near-impossible-to-miss Ivorian chances, and it all came down to the dreaded penalty kicks.
Millions, upon millions of Egyptians were literally shaking through out the penalty shoot-out. If it weren't for the heroics of goalkeeper Essam El-Hadry, the cup would have ended in a Greek tragedy sort of way, but God had mercy with the millions!

Let's just dive right into the action:

The stadium is packed at 2 pm (4 hours before kick off)

..some fans even brought their own cups...just in case

Lots of signs and flags:


..no comment..

"Pharohs have landed" (talk about validating a myth!)

"Au Revoir Cote d'Ivoire" -- this is how the fans cheered out the Ivorians at the end of the game...this is how sophisticated the Egyptian fans became...they're cheering in French!!!

"Game Over Cote D'Ivoire"

Wow...marching bands!!! This guys are awesome

They played Opera Aida by Verdi...the fans really reacted well...(between this and the cheering in French, I don't know where are we going with these fans...what's next...cappuchino in the stands??...wait a minute there was actually cappuchino stalls!!)

Minutes before the game Mubarak arrives to the stadium (...to be kissed towards the end by his wife!)

6:00 PM the game kicks off...

8:40 PM penalty shootout (for what happened in between refer to the beginning of the post)
Derogba getting ready...to miss!!

Abo Treka shooting to win the 25th Africa Cup of Nations (you can see how I was shaking!)

The fans went wild....

...and the players, and the staff, and the press



the cup is here somewhere..

10:00 PM...getting ready to dance the night away..

ah...one more sign....

P.S. For more coverage check sandmonkey's and big pharoh's excellent coverage of after match reactions!
Tam Tram Tam Tam Masr...Tam Tram Tam Tam Masr

Moved on!

It's 12 PM in London, And This is The BBC. Our Guest For Tonight is Tomanbay!!!

Moved on! Check TheCairoCalls

I'll have to admit I am absolutely, utterly, vehemently, enthusiastically excited!
It seems like I'll be on BBC's Radio Five Live, on a program called "Up All Night" tomorrow (Monday)...still don't know the time, but I'll tell you as soon as I find out.
They called me yesterday, and I'll have to admit I was a bit nervous. We talked about the ACN final match on Friday, and I think I stuttered a bit. I even did a major broadcasting faux-pas, which is using a word for the first time (if you're curious it's raunchy...I said ranchy..I thought it had something to do with ranches!!...it made sense!)
This is not the first time for me with the media. I appeared on TV, was interviewed by Al-Jazeera, and the CNN, and had numerous bits in newspapers (it's true), but this is especially important to me, because it was done in recognition of an effort that I'm doing in something which I consider, for better or worse, a hobby. The other times it was mainly for my position, without regard to how good I was.
Anyways, I think this wraps my Africa Cup of Nations coverage nicely (I might only do one postscript thing, as there are somethings which are worth noting about the tournament).
I hope you all tune-in your browsers on Monday night for the bit (nothing more than 2-3 minutes, mind you). I'll tell you the details as soon as I get them. Thank you!

Moved on!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Egypt Prays Its Way To The Final

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This is going to be short and sweet.
After a disappointing performance, an overlooked penalty kick for Senegal, and a near-punch raw between Mido and Coach Hassan Shehata, Egypt is through to the semi-final! Can you believe this??!
I love this game!

Anyways, as always I was in the stands armed with a camera, an Egyptian flag, and a worn-out voice.

4:00 PM 3 hours before the game, the stadium is in full tilt! Wow, those Egyptians are real football freaks!

6:45 PM Minutes before the game started; you can cut the tension in the stands with a knife!

More than half way into the first half, Egypt is awarded a penalty kick after a very stupid error from Senegal defender. You can see Ahmed Hassan burying it...

...but you can't see it hitting the net (it did...you have to take my word for it, I guess!)

7:55 PM From this angle Sphinx seems every bit as interested as his fellow Egyptians!

8:00 PM "Hello, my cute American friend. Thanks for the cheering, we'll repay you one day...uh, sorry...I forgot you suck in football--our football"...just kidding, seriously, thanks! Appreciated!

To the surprise of everybody in the stadium, Amr Zaki, Mido's sub, scores the second goal after a magnificent header. Despite my humble opinion about his footballing skills, I'll have to thank him for that. Touche!
(Celebrating afterwards)

Tam, tram, tam, tam Misr..Tam, tram, tam, tam Misr..

The Eagles of Saladin are flying all around me. (Inspired by my favorite football song, Football is coming home, it is more appropriate for eagles than crosses of St. George anyways!)

The fans celebrating afterwards. Or are they rushing to get next game's tickets?

That's all folks!

For next game I plan to do something different: I am planning a blow-by-blow account of the game as it unfolds, i.e. live!! I'm all geared up for blogging-on-the-move. But, I'll only do it if enough people are interested. The way I see it, the gratification I get from pretending to be a real journalist, should at least approach the excessive fees I'll have to pay for GPRS throughout the match.

So tell me what you think...

Moved on!

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Moved on! Check TheCairoCalls

I am a genius!
This is not a very modest way to start a post (nor end it, if you think about it), but sometimes one has to bow to the most evident of facts, and accept the unquestionable truth: I am a genius.
"What sent you on this ego-maniacal frenzy?" you might ask, and you have every right to do so.

But before I answer you, let me just speak to the coming generations, from which a bright young man will spend hours upon hours trying hieroglyphic Chkdsk commands in an effort to get this piece of junk he got at Silico-Junk for $999.99 (a real bargain in their times), to release the brilliant thoughts and words entrapped onto them. To this young guy: I salute you, for you had uncovered the secret code of ever lasting peace and harmony between all mankind.
But, let me talk to my time-mates now kid, will you?

Notice all the madness that is going all around us? Notice how great wars and conflicts can arise from the smallest of misunderstandings, and the tiniest of cultural discrepancies?
Ever wanted to feel safe in a world that is increasingly polarized, and where an especially psychopathic French president is threatening that if somebody does something to some French interests, he will blow da'bomb ("Stay away from me...I'm dangerous...I'm mad, really mad...get back!")? Ever wanted to have the freedom to practice what you believe is true without fear of prosecution, humiliation, or getting your embassy bombed?
Well, I did. But now I found the cure, which you can all apply!
Eliminate "THEY"!! (as in "they are plotting against us...", "they made me do it...", "they should rot in hell..", etc,etc...)
Yes, cross it out from dictionaries. And don't try to smart-ass me. Cross out them, ellos, ils, and هم from the dictionarioes as well.
This word is from the devil. It had always been used to collect un-harmonious objects in big chunks which essentially has nothing to do with each other. It had been used by all wackos through out history to vindicate themselves from blame. (From Marie Antoinette's "they had it coming", referring to the French peasants'' starvation, to Nero's "they left milk to boil too long" when asked about the cause of Rome's burning).
And it is still in use to this very day to denote fear of the other and, sometimes, unjustified inferiority complexes. Take this discussion I had with my imaginary radical friend (the inside of my mind is a really fabulous place!):

Me: Why are you so angry?
IRF (for Imaginary Radical Friend, duh!): Because these sick morons insulted the prophet in a cartoon they made, that's why.
Me: You know what, you're right, those cartoonists should really be held responsible for their actions, they should apologize for what they did, they should....
IRF: [interrupting me] cartoonists? Do you want to punish only the cartoonists?
Me: [perplexed] Yeah, I guess...
IRF: [with a mad look on his face] THEY should all pay the price for this. It is only fair after all what have THEY done for us!
Me: [really confused] They have done to you? Who do you mean? Taxi drivers?? 'cuz the only problem I think you have is in getting a cab to work, that's about it!
IRF: [with the I-can't-stand-hearing-what-you-say-but-I'll-redeem-you-anyways look]: Are you kidding me in such a grave matter?? I mean THEY! All of them who are killing Palestinians and Iraqis.
Me: The Danes?!!
IRF: All of them, THEY're plotting against us, we have to teach THEM a lesson!
Me: So what we should do?
IRF: We should fight them to the end!!
Me: What end?
IRF: Their end!!!
Me: [fed up] yeah, sure....tell me when you're ready. Meanwhile say Hola to Sancho Panza

But to be fair a similar thing happened with my other imaginary, dude friend from their part of the world (still all in the little fabulous place, I like to call me head):

IDF: (yeah, you guessed it) Yo, ma man these are some crazy ass wackos out there
Me: Chill out man...who's getting' on your back...
IDF: Those Muslim niggas, they're throwing bombs and shootin bullets every otha way...it's crazy man, it's like the bronx out there man..
Me: [a little taken back] You know, I'm one of those, you know, crazy-ass wackos
IDF: No, no nigga, You ma dawg...I mean THEM. They're all crazy, angry nutjobs
Me: [really lost] Crazy, and angry? I mean, I can't even hold my turn in the fuckin' train queue. For the conductor guy, I am passenger number 5, that's the nearest I got to getting on the train. I had a friend who is really shy, he doesn't use cellphone because he wants to save himself the impressment of being asked to "call again later"...what crazy, angry Muslims are you talking about?
IDF: Well, maybe not you two, but the rest of them Muslims...uh...what should I say...THEY will kill you the moment you give them you're back....it is like...BAM....and [he looks to me as if he is about to let me on a secret] THEY want to rule the world...those sandniggas!
Me: When we rule the world, I'll let you get the tacos you like...
IDF: Thanks Bro!

Imagine the loss of words those two nut-jobs (who are both inside my head, mind you) will suffer if the satanic word was crossed out! Now that's eliminating hate! Because people will then have to think a bit harder about who they're really talking about. And from what I know about similar people, thinking would be really tiring to them, that it's ought to let off most of their steam anyways. So, you know, we would all have more time to rationalise things, and COMMUNICATE about our differences.
If this works out, we can then start wiping out words like east and west (after all they're just directions for God's sake!)

Until then, be proactive: CROSS OUT "THEY"

P.S. feel free to create banners, logos, or tiny tanktops with the slogan on!

Moved on!

Egyptian Citizen-o-hip!

Moved on! Check TheCairoCalls

As you can tell, I am really excited about this whole African Cup thing, especially now that we're through to the semi-final, and we're only two matches away from the title.
A really fascinating phenomena of this tournament have been the fans. Other than the fact that there are more girls in the stadium than is recommended to really focus on a football match (not to mention to "react" to it), there seems to be a very "festive" sense of belonging.
Now, before I go into any hyperboles, I know these are just football matches, and that most of these guys couldn't tell a flag from a table cloth. But, and here is my point, now they do!
Societies work in mysterious ways, and I'm not being blasphemous here, so don't just kill me yet. Some societies perception of "nation" is centered around achievement, liberty, geographic location, history, or language. Most of the times these are mixed and matched, and these different combinations invoke the feeling of what is it like being a national of a specific nation.
When most of Egyptians are feeling increasingly apathetic to the notion of Egyptian citizenship, and belonging, enters football to change all that. Now I know that this football induced patriotic feelings are only temporal, and cannot be sustained for a long time, but if this football thing will make people, young ones especially, think "Hey, you know what, it is cool to be Egyptian", then football had done its part. It remains to us to capitalize on this.
If you think that I'm being extremely silly and superficial, then you're partly right! But for the sake of the other part think about the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon for a minute, and tell me what kinds of images come to mind. (BMWs, hot-flag-painted-on-their-faces chicks, multilingual chants, right? Now did Syria go out?...ummm)

P.S. On second reading, this sounds really silly and superficial, but I am posting it so, you know, it might give you ideas!!

Ah, remember how I was bitching about not being able to get tickets for Egypt vs Congo match. Well, I pulled some strings, and hey presto I'm there (it is really depressing when you need to have connections to do about anything in this country!).
The highlight of the evening was Hossam Hassan's second goal for Egypt. It absolutely sent the full house to a frenzy, and cemented Hossam's reputation, as probably the greatest Egyptian footballer ever.
Here are some of the pics of the day:




And the obligatory "Boycott Denmark" sign

Next day, the tickets saga continues:



Moved on!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

This Man's Blues

Moved on! Check TheCairoCalls

Unless he had been living under a rock for the past 5 years or something, any reasonable human being can see that the world is spinning out of control. And to be extremely frank and up front, let me say this: whether we like it or not, mean to or we don't, Muslims are involved in a lot of the tragic events that are unfolding all around us. That's far from saying that they're responsible for all the tragedies in the world, but increasingly they are the highest common factors among those tragedies.
Of course if you're being purely academic about Islam, it will be really hard to see how this situation came around. In essence Islam is a religion that promotes tolerance and peace. It is a religion whose prophet, while triumphantly entering Mecca, gave amnesty to it's "infidels" (whom I'm pretty sure had done much more than mocking him in a cartoon). It is also a religion that promotes intellectual discussion. Long before Voltaire said his immortal quote ("I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"), El-Imam El-Shafeai established that "my opinion is right, that can turn out to be wrong; and yours is wrong, that can turn out to be right" (approximate translation). I guess you know all of that, and are starting to get tired of the repetition.
So, let's just move to how that Islam, ended in today's "Islam". Again, let me stress that I am talking about the Islam the west is seeing, the louder, violent "Islam", but that's not IT. I for one have lived, and been taught another kind of Islam which is centered around "You have your religion and I have mine"--a Quranic verse, and was first asked to pray as Muslims do, by a nun. I swear, it's a true story. But let's again focus: how was Islam distorted in such a way, not just in the minds of Westerners, but more importantly in the minds of its followers in the first place.
I've talked about how the coalition between Arabic "secular" governments and the forces of radical political Islam is to be blamed for part of the insanity that is going around. But more importantly, I guess, is the effort by these groups to debase any sort of moderate Muslim leadership.
Nowhere is that more evident than in Egypt. For centuries, the Azhar mosque and University had been the de facto leader of the Sunni Muslim world (ironically enough, it was established as a Shiite mosque, but this is another story). Muslims came from al over the world to Cairo to learn about Islam. And it had always been a form of Islam that promoted tolerance and respect for science, and knowledge. One of the most prominent Azhar alumnus, Mohammed Abdo, traveled to Paris in the 19th century, and returned to Egypt to tell his fellow Azharians that he found there "Islam, but no Muslims, and what we have here is Muslims, but no Islam" (i.e. the values of "western" Paris are more in line with Islam, than the values of "eastern" Cairo). To give you another example of how open minded were Azhar scholars, let me tell you this. In the 20s of the last century, an Azhar scholar led a movement to close legalized brothels in Cairo. So what? you might say, that's expected. Well, hear this: his justification was: health hazards!!! Nothing about halal or haram or stoning anybody...he knew that others might not share his faith (Cairo at that time was a truly cosmopolitan city) and he wanted to speak to them in their own language: reason, and science.
Of course, Azhar had been through so many changes since those times, but we won't get into that now. I will zoom forward to the current Grand-Sheikh of Azhar (Sheikh Mohamed Tantawy). He is a very soft spoken man. For most of his career he was a very respected man, until he was appointed (as opposed to elected, which I'll give you that, doesn't make him any more credible) to his position and was asked to give a fatwa about whether bank interest was permissible by Islam or not (can you believe we are still debating this!) He answered with what a lot of moderate scholars said before: it is ok! All kinds of criticism was targeted to him by Islamists: from being called a government "puppy" to questioning whether he was a true Muslim. But the man never budged. For Islamists that was a big deal, because ruling banks as haram would really undermine one of the pillars of modern society, and will make people rush to invest in some money management companies they founded under religious pretenses, and which had shady relations with terrorist groups at the time.
Today, the image they had drawn for him is, sadly, the image most people have. Most people, at least younger ones, consider the man a joke.
When he was asked by a Danish minister about the Prophet's cartoons, he, true to form, answered with an answer that caused a firestorm. "The prophet is a dead man, and I don't think that it is respectable or decent to portray him like this". For everybody that was outrageous. People started saying things like "he is alive in our hearts", and "is that all you can do?". And again there were all the accusations, and name-calling.
What the man simply done was trying to talk to the Danish guy using his sensibility. If he said that portraying the Prophet is haram, the guy wouldn't care less. If he said that you'll be punished, and thrown to hell, I wouldn't imagine the Danish guy getting on his knees and crying. Instead, he talked about decency, respect and responsibility. Values which I think the majority of the west would uphold.
And now we find ourselves in this whole mess, which I believe that nobody except this man (the Grand Sheikh of Azhar, not necessarily Tantawy), the one they're calling a hypocrite and government agent, can only turn around.

update: I have a suggestion to end this raw. Check it out here.

Moved on!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Dirty Dozen (Plus Another Two)

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I have been quite tight lipped about the whole “Boycott the Denmark” thing. Everything has been said, and I felt that I had nothing more to contribute to the subject. And frankly, at some level I felt that I wasn’t quite sure of where my stance is. This has been one of those stinking situations, where not only the two sides are in fault, but worse, you are expected by everybody to take a side. Also, I really think that the worst thing one could do is to try to reason things out when tempers are raging, as they have been for every side of the argument (read the comments on this).
Here is the 10 seconds summary of the whole issue: A Danish newspaper publishes 12 caricatures of prophet Mohammed in an effort to test Muslim tolerance, some people fret about it, but all in all the matter passes peacefully. A month and a half later, out of the blue sky, the issue is raised again, Arabic governments lead the calls for an apology from the Danish government, the Danish PM says they won’t apologize because they simply didn’t do anything; it was a private entity entitled to free speech that published the cartoons, and they are the ones who should be addressed, hell breaks loose, every body is calling for a boycott of Danish products, the movement is stronger in the gulf, but has considerable following elsewhere, a Norwegian newspaper publishes the cartoons, nobody takes notice, calls for targeting Danish targets everywhere in the world fills the internet, Arab government are giggling in closed rooms, and angrily urging the Danish government to punish those responsible in public, the newspaper apologize, nobody gives a damn, the Norwegian government apologize, nobody cares, a church is bombed in Iraq, some Danes are beaten in Saudi Arabia, and some people are preparing themselves for the end of the world. (Well, that was a little bit more than 10 seconds)
Only with us (Arabs) a sentence can start with “12 caricatures” and end with “the end of the world”. You get the idea?
I am not going to start pointing fingers at people, for the simple reason that I hate playing God. Even from a religious perspective it doesn’t make any sense, for the simple fact that everybody (absolutely everybody) has the option of repenting even as his soul is leaving his body, and everybody else has a whole life ahead of him, during which he can do all kinds of sins. So if I think that I am religiously right and that somebody else is Kafir, infidel, or whatever they’re calling them those days, it can very easily happen that we switch places at the very last moment. So you know, there isn’t one point in life when it is appropriate to judge the righteousness of anybody else. QED
But what’s more important, I guess, is how the whole thing oscillated. I might seem every bit of a conspiracy theorist now, but bear with me. I think that the whole thing is a result of an unholy, unspoken alliance between the forces of political Islam, and the Arabic, secular governments.
It is easy; it goes like this:
Islamists want to rise to power. They try violence but they discover that they’re playing the military-governments’ favorite pastime, so they retreat. They start directing their efforts at the grassroots. They condemn violence, because it didn’t go well with the masses. They know that we’re people who believe that “El Nearafo Ahsan Men El Meanrafosh” (what we know is better than what we don’t), so they don’t try to clash with the existing governments, because they know that people would prefer what they know rather than experimenting with anything new. Also, they have no real solutions to any problems the people are facing in their life, so they, in the manner of every good politician who doesn’t have the solution to a certain problem, invent another one and try to solve it. So they go “forget about life, let’s focus on death”. And then they go on with the very largest implementation of the “carrot and the stick” technique in history. In every satellite channel, sits a sheikh (not even an approved or educated one) who speaks about paradise and another one who speaks about hell. In every cassette, book, email, website, and sms message, the same occurs; paradise is promised to those who do so and so, while hell is promised to those who won’t. After a while the people are conditioned to think of the world as a two-way street (paradise and hell, righteous and infidel, halal and haram, us and THEM). And this way, the mission becomes much easier for radicals (some help from divisive, enraging, polarizing westerners won’t harm either). All they had to do now was to get into the political scene and tell people you’re either with us or against us. You’re either with the righteous, or the infidels. You’re either with the right, or the wrong, etc…I guess you all know what the choice would be. The Egyptian parliamentary elections are the best example. A movement with no real plan to do anything (at least none that any of us know about) is now controlling 20% of the parliament (not that the other 80% are any credible, but at least we know how they came)
So, this is the radicals part, what about the “secular” governments?
After years and years of practice, they finally understood that politics are moved by what people want, not what they want. Unluckily for us (or luckily, I can’t make my mind on this yet) they became aware to the fact a bit late. They missed the needs for democracy, reform, proper education, clean streets, inhabitable cities, efficient governments, etc, etc…and only caught on when people, disillusioned by the hopelessness of their conditions, were demanding religious salvation. Not to be outdone by radical religious groups, the Arabic governments went in full force trying to appear as the defenders of Islamic faith. They agitated people and were the first to demand the unreasonable apology of the Danish state! (On several occasion, Mubarak was asked by the Israeli government to apologize for what the Egyptian newspapers were saying against Israel, which is stupid—demanding apology, and he responded by saying that we have free press and they have every right to write whatever they want…fair enough….so why demand it from Denmark who has real free press!)
And so, for the very first time, through their mutual greed for power, the “secular” governments and the “islamist” groups find themselves in the same camp. It is only a pity that what they’re fighting is tolerance, acceptance, art, writing, freedom, fun, civil discourse, books, good times, and life. And as for people? They’re finding themselves between a rock and a hard place; they have to either follow suit or burn eternally in hell. Combine that with chronicle cases of inferiority complex, and paranoia, and you have a really explosive cocktail!

P.S. You came here looking for my opinion on what should have been done in the Denmark case? Well, here it is: sue the hell out of the newspaper, if you can take them down playing with their own rules, nobody else would dare do such an outrageous act. It would be clean, civilized, elegant, devastating, and to the point. You won’t be asking for the enmity of a whole country, and you’d have made your point in a very clear manner; money!
Why do I think that should have been done? Because I know that any attempt to speak about tolerance now would fail miserably, and frankly—as much as I hate lawyers—I am willing to put up with a thousand of them, rather than hearing a single death threat thrown around so easily.

update: I have a suggestion to end this raw. Check it out here.

Moved on!