Reasons to Vote NO to Egypt’s Constitutional Amendments


1) I refuse to be forced to vote on a a package of amendments. I demand the right to vote yes to one amendment and no to another.

2) As almost everyone has agreed, we don’t need to amend the old constitution, we need a completely new one as there are many problematic articles aside from the ones that were amended. The amended constitution still doesn’t take away all the immense presidential authorities that Mubarak had given himself over the years.

3) The constitution represents the identity of the country and it must represent the post-revolutionary identity! When the regime was toppled the constitution was suspended, and bringing that same constitution back with some articles amended doesn’t make sense at all.

4) There should be a national committee, representing the different sectors of the population, that together draws up a new constitution in a transparent and democratic way. I have a lot of respect for Tarek el-Bishry and others on the committee, but because they are “technicians” i.e. dealing with the technical legal issues, they treated this like a technical process and not a political one, although it is necessarily political.


The two most important points:

5) According to the constitution, even after the amendments, there is no constitutional basis on which the army can assume power. This means that the army’s current role is unconstitutional. Let’s assume we all vote YES to the amendments and the constitution is accepted. What are the logical next steps? The next step is for the army to call for new presidential or parliamentary elections. Since the army is unconstitutional it has no legal right to call for elections. This places anyone we elect in a position of being declared unconstitutional in the future! Meaning that after we elect a new president, anybody could accuse that president of being unconstitutional and thus invalid.


6) In response to the argument that voting YES can give us a temporary constitution until we create a new permament one, Article 189 gives only one person the right to call for a new constitution: the president. In case he does, an Assembly of 100 members is created to oversee the creation of the new constitution. This Assembly is elected by the Parliament and Shura Council, but the article does not specify whether these 100 Assembly members are from within the two Councils or not. Here is the Arabic text:


لكل من رئيس الجمهورية و مجلس الشعب طلب تعديل مادة أو أكثر من مواد الدستور و يجب أن يذكر في طلب التعديل المواد المطلوب تعديلها و الأسباب الداعية إلى هذه التعديل فإذا كان الطلب صادرا من مجلس الشعب وجب أن يكون موقعا من ثلث أعضاء المجلس على الأقل و في جميع الأحوال يناقش المجلس مبدأ التعديل و يصدر قراره في شأنه بأغلبية أعضائه فإذا رفض الطلب لا يجوز إعادة طلب تعديل المواد ذاتها قبل مضي سنة على هذا الرفض و إذا وافق مجلس الشعب على مبدأ التعديل يناقش بعد شهرين من تاريخ الموافقة المواد المطلوب تعديلها فإذا وافق على التعديل ثلث أعضاء المجلس عرض على الشعب لاستفتائه في شأنه فإذا ووفق على التعديل اعتبر نافذا من تاريخ إعلان نتيجة الاستفتاء

و لكل من رئيس الجمهورية و بعد موافقة مجلس الوزراء و انصف أعضاء مجلسي الشعب و الشورى طلب إصدار دستور جديد و تتولى جمعية تأسيسية من مائة عضو ينتخبهم أغلبية أعضاء المجلسين غير المعينين في اجتماع مشترك إعداد مشروع الدستور في موعد غايته ستة أشهر من تاريخ تشكيلها و يعرض رئيس الجمهورية المشروع خلال خمس عشرة يوما من إعداده على الشعب لاستفتائه في شانه و يعمل بالدستور من تاريخ إعلان موافقة الشعب عليه في الاستفتاء.


Let’s assume we all vote YES and elect a new president and he refuses to call for a new constitution. What are we supposed to do? Revolt again? Or wait until his term is up and do our best to vote him out? Let’s say that he agrees to request a new constitution but the Assembly is formed entirely from with the members of the two Councils. Can we really ensure that their members will truly be representative of our desires? Can we expect to go from a completely forged Parliament to a comletely legitimate one on our first try?


These are the reasons why I insist that this constitution is completely dismissed and we form an Assembly to create a new one that is truly representative of the new Egypt, or at least the Egypt we would like to become. This is why I insha’Allah I will vote NO.



The above quote is taken from here.



March 9, 2011 Posted by | Personal | 1 Comment

Why we’re on Strike at IslamOnline

And here is another article written by my friend and co-worker Bibi-Aisha for the Guardian. You can read the original here.

On Monday, there were many on Facebook and Twitter who posted a reminder: “Beware the Ides of March”. I laughed at their superstition. But just as Caesar failed to see the betrayal by Brutus, so did we atIslamOnline (IOL) fail to see the treachery that would befall us on that portentous day.

We weren’t oblivious, nor ostrich-like; we were just trusting. When the new management at al-Balagh Cultural Society, the holding company in Qatar, imposed their dictates on IOL’s editorial tone, and issued guidelines for rather conservative content, the pluralistic body of staff balked at the editorial interference.

Pluralism was what had attracted me to IslamOnline. Impressed the first time I visited its website, I set myself a goal to write for IOL. It was my involvement with IslamOnline that transported me from science graduate to journalist.

Being sent to Lebanon on assignment after the July 2006 war catalysed my future. It created in me a desire to be a news journalist. In 2007, I represented IslamOnline at the Highway Africa conference, where IOL won in the category of Most Innovative Use of New Media. Networking at the conference led me to write for SciDev.net, and land my dream job at SAfm radio in South Africa. In 2009 I returned to Egypt, after being asked to start an internet radio station for IOL’s English site.

As a female, I feel honoured to work at IOL, where women sit alongside men in equality, and where travel opportunities for conferences are not the sole preserve of men, as in other Muslim organisations. As a managing editor, I’m allowed autonomy in setting my editorial agenda.

Heavy-handedness by the board led to the resignation of the site’s general manager and a Qatari, Dr Atef Abdel Mughny, was sent to preside over the Egypt office. Two hundred and fifty employees protested against the behaviour of the board, by signing a petition sent to both the board and Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, under whose guidance IslamOnline was founded. A chill silence was the response.

A game of Chinese whispers ensued, with talks of restructuring and layoffs. A committee was sent from Qatar to deal with the concerns of employees. However, their presence heightened the speculation, especially after some lower-level staff were laid off. Insidiously, the password to the server was appropriated by Mughny, and the Arabic youth site was transferred to a smaller server. The purge spread, obliterating “luxuries” such as milk and toilet paper. A few employees resigned, afraid we’d all be consumed by the hunger for editorial control exhibited by the board.

Were the rest of us blind to the writing on the wall? No, just trusting. We believed in the soothing words cooed to us by upper management, who pleaded for calm. Since I abhor paranoia and conspiracy theories, I too dismissed the wild notion the website would be shut down; but anticipated downsizing. I thought IOL Radio would be the first to fall, since it was still in a fledgling state. My boss assured me this wouldn’t happen.

So, when we fell down the rabbit hole on Monday, we became cognisant we’d been duped by our own trust. The dominoes came falling down as we learned that Qatar had blocked Egypt’s access to the server. Then it was revealed that a contract – of which nobody seemed aware – between al-Balagh and Media International (which produces the website for al-Balagh) ends on 31 March and will not be renewed, and all employees will be released. The duplicity by Qatar persisted, with promises made to compensate those who resigned. They reneged on the deal a day later.

We vacillated between hope and fear, but never despair. A spirit of resistance reigned. Bound by unity, our hearts were also with those resisting the occupation of al-Aqsa. There were expressions of outrage and disbelief at our inability to cover the al-Aqsa clashes.

While others lamented the impending unemployment of more than 300 people, I also mourned for the loss of opportunity for freelancers worldwide. I had started as a freelance writer, and until this week I was living my dream of building up an internet radio station on a Muslim platform.

But it could all come to an inglorious end. Calling for more religious content, but behaving in this manner towards employees, is an insult to the ideals on which IslamOnline was built.

The clash between homogenous and pluralistic Islam is one of great importance. At IOL we make local news global, truly connecting Muslims and non-Muslims around the world. We offer content far more diverse and inclusive than that of other Muslim websites.

One defining chant rang out on Monday: “Where is Sheikh Qaradawi?” He finally answered the call on Wednesday, at the 11th hour. An emergency meeting was held where he revoked the decisions of al-Balagh’s general manager, Ibrahim al-Ansari, and his deputy, Ali el-Amady. Both were duly suspended and a Qatari woman, Mariam al-Thany, has been appointed general manager. But these are only interim measures; a meeting of al-Balagh will be held in two weeks where they will be put to a vote.

Meanwhile, the strike continues until we are given access to the website’s server and normality is regained.

We float in limbo. We can only wait and see what the final answer will be, and play our part in perpetuating the truths as we believe them to be.

Pluralistic Islam must win.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Personal | 1 Comment

IslamOnline was More than a Job

This article was originally published at BikyaMasr.com. You can read the original here.

’ve only been working here for 4 months, but I’ve grown so attached to this place. I’m trying to fathom what it means to work somewhere for 5, 7, and some even 10 years only to find out that over the course of 24 hours that in a couple of weeks it will be gone. This is the state of so many of those working at IslamOnline, the most well-known Islamic website in English.

This week started off just like any other; on Sunday we came to work, we had meetings, we decided on the events we would be covering that week – Al-Aqsa, of course, was at the top of the list. Little did we know that by Monday we would all be out of jobs, and the project we were all so passionate about would be hijacked by people whose agendas we do not know.

We had been hearing rumors for over a month about new management that had recently joined the Al-Balagh organization in Qatar, the entity through which IslamOnline receives its funding, and were planning on making some “changes.”

Over the course of the past several weeks rumors abounded. We heard that for financial reasons the company would be restructured and that would result in mass layoffs. We heard that the new management was unhappy that the website was delving into issues like health, homosexuality, art and youth, and wanted the content to revolve totally around Islam. The woman that cleans the bathroom on my floor went to ask for a loan and was told she might not even get paid that month. They started cutting back on “luxury expenses” like milk and toilet paper. We heard they were Wahabis and were developing a new editorial policy that would go against IslamOnline’s current editorial policies. The current editorial policy can be summarized in the following statement:

Islam is a way of life and seeps into every aspect of a Muslim’s life, and thus, the site’s content should reflect that

We, the editors of IslamOnline.net and all its subsidiary websites, hold strong to the Qur’anic verse that says “Thus we have created you a community of the middle way” (Al-Baqarah 2:143). We are passionate about Islam, and we are passionate about the Islamic principle of moderation in all things. We are not here just because this is our job, we are here because we believe in this message, and we love this message, and we want to contribute to its being heard.

I can safely say that the overwhelming majority of IoL workers, from managers to editors to journalists to everyone else, has lived every minute in this company based on this statement. IoL is not a normal company. This place has so much heart, it really did feel like one big family.

After we began protesting on Monday, the first demand on the list was that none of us will leave until every single person gets there financial rights, and those whose salaries are less than 1000 EGP must get the equivalent of an entire year’s salary. There are workers that come and clean the building at night after we leave, people we’ve never seen, but we’ve been told they have no formal documents in the company. We are trying to ensure that these people also get compensation for being let go.

There were people that had been working here since the website started over 10 years ago. There are couples that met, got married, and had children while both worked here; and their children would spend the day in the daycare room. I can only imagine what those couples are going through now, after finding out that they are both about to lose their jobs.

We sent letter after letter to Qatar, asking them for more information, telling them what we’ve been hearing and asking them to show us the respect we deserve by informing us what’s going on. We sent a letter to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi that contained over 250 signatures from IoL workers, asking for the facts.

To make a long story short, a series of events followed that led us to Monday morning. It started off as a normal day, it’s time to pray the dhuhr prayer so we go to pray, and when we come back, we see that some workers have gathered in the entrance of the building to strike in protest against something we are not yet aware of. Word spread and we found out that Qatar had sent a committee currently on the top floor conducting some kind of business, the nature of this business differed depending on who you asked. The more information we gained about the committee, the more we realized how important it was for us to continue the strike. The committee made mishap after mishap, insulting major figures in the company, attempting to fire one of the strike instigators, and generally coming off as liars with no integrity. Towards the end of the workday, we finally learned what Qatar had known for months but refused to tell us: The contract between Al-Balagh organization and the other organization that own the building we were working in ends March 31st, and would not be renewed. Instead, all IoL operations would be transferred to Qatar, and all current employees would be let go.

During the sit-in, one girl stood up and told everyone that a gross violation is happening now in Al-Aqsa, and while IslamOnline would usually be a top source for Muslims to get coverage of this event, instead we’re busy with this committee from Qatar and we’re not even allowed access to the site. We should not forget that.

We are currently protesting for several reasons:

1. We want the financial rights of every single person in the company

2. We want the world to know that these editors and journalists and workers you see striking are the true voice of moderation. Without them, who knows what IslamOnline will be like, we are all praying that the voice of moderation is preserved. But if it is not, we want everyone to know that these are not the same people that have been running IoL for the past 10 years.

3. We are protesting against 10 years of effort and talent and experience that might quite possibly all go to waste in the near future.

4. We are protesting for the fact that they blocked our access to the server and have rendered us unable to cover what’s going on in Al-Aqsa.

We need the prayers and support of everyone that we can stand up again on our feet, without the help of Al-Balagh, and continue to voice the Islam of moderation we are so passionate about.

**Deena Khalil is a Bikya Masr blogumnist and work(ed) at Islam Online.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment

Al-Aqsa Under Attack

What happened in al-Aqsa today is scandalous and it just shows how low the Israelis are willing to sink. What do you expect when an entire nation is founded on the premise that they are chosen by God while everyone else is inferior? We the editors at IslamOnline.Net are dying to cover the situation there, but we are unable to as the management in Qatar has blocked our access to the server (more on that in the near future). In light of that, we have prepared a short collection of links to all previous material we have published related to al-Aqsa. Please circulate it. You can also see it at IoL Interact (the only site we still have access to).

al-Aqsa Coverage

March 16, 2010 Posted by | Personal | 1 Comment

I love the desert.

By the awesome TGaaly http://tgaaly.blogspot.com/

By the awesome TGaaly http://tgaaly.blogspot.com/

This picture was taking while I was sandboarding at an area called Qataneyya dunes, about an hour and a half outside of Cairo. It’s incredibly breathtaking. And sandboarding is so much fun, I recommend to anyone at least once.

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Personal | 5 Comments

Ikhwanweb takes random comments from Facebook?

So apparently I was interviewed by the Muslim Brotherhood without even knowing about it. Imagine that!

Someone pointed out to me the other day that I was quoted on Ikhwanweb, who made it sound as if we had actually had a conversation. Far from a conversation, this quote they attribute to me is actually a comment I made on a friend’s wall on facebook. Ikhwanweb had apparently no journalistic or ethical qualms with copy-pasting that comment and using it in their article as if they had interviewed me without asking my permission.

This is how they used my comment in their article:

“Not exactly shocking I guess, the Nobel has always been colored by Western interests. Nothing new there. But what’s crazy is that he got it after being in office for less than a year and after accomplishing nothing substantial,” said Deena Khalil, an Egyptian blogger. “He basically got it for talking a good talk, without having to walk the walk.”

Khalil believes that speeches are one thing, but “results are another. But, I guess if Begin could win it then really, anybody can.”

Like many Egyptians and Arabs, the belief is Obama has yet to accomplish much in deserving to win the prize. Khalil says that this is not surprising, as the President has only been in power for less than one year.

“What are they giving him the Nobel for, if not his actions?” she questioned.

Ha! Yes, I question indeed.

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Egyptian Affairs, Media/Press | Leave a comment

Can the eternal victim ever be empowered?

This article was originally published at BikyaMasr.com

In the intellectually bankrupt world of dichotomies we seem to be living in, the issue of empowerment of women is caught in the middle of a reductionist whirlpool just like every other complex multi-layered issue. Women are either eastern or western (posing interesting identity politics for those of us who are both), they are either oppressed or liberated, and when they are oppressed, they are either eternal victims or they are themselves to blame for their own oppression.

The world has had a strange victim fetish for as long as injustice has existed, and it is by no means exclusive to the realm of the portrayal of women. During the recent Egypt/Algeria scandal we saw this fetish manifest itself in the opinion that the thugs who vandalized and bullied others are just poor Egyptians who have no other outlet for their frustration. As if they are so victimized that they have contracted some irrepressible urge to act as hooligans. The same pattern can be detected when analyzing rhetoric surrounding economic development. For years the dominant development paradigm was based on a theory called “dependency theory”. This theory posits that many nations are underdeveloped because they have been victims of colonization, which is true, but the theory takes it one step further by claiming that their victimization is so extensive that they are no longer capable of even participating in their own development.

When it comes to women, this pattern of thought is alive and stronger than ever. Whether its the cliche Hollywood damsel in distress, or the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim women by the media as oppressed downtrodden souls, the world is always looking for someone to save, liberate, or enlighten. This worldview becomes especially problematic when speaking of women’s empowerment because a belief in chronic victimhood directly conflicts with the notion of self-empowerment. And there is not an issue that stands in the way of women’s empowerment today that can be solved without their own initiative.

The issue of sexual harassment in Egypt provides a prime example. Those who aren’t busy denying sexual harassment usually explain it using one of many predictably simplistic approaches. There’s the camp that feels sorry for the male perpetrators of harassment and blames the female victims for somehow bringing on this abnormal behavior. And there’s the camp that acknowledges the issue, but sees women as the silent victim who can do nothing but wait for the problem to be solved by somebody else.

I am not pointing this out because I am against providing explanations for such a phenomenon. Quite the contrary, I believe that understanding the root causes of any problem is crucial before we can find a solution. What worries me is that such a simplistic perception of a complex phenomenon necessarily results in ineffective solutions.

Consequentially, the “blame the victim” camp, rather than advocating for the education of men, advocates to place restrictions on women so as to avoid posing any temptations to potential perpetrators. On the other side of the coin, the “eternal victim” camp believes women should not speak up against harassment but should rather suffer in silence and wait for somebody else to do the talking. Interestingly, many (and I dare say most) women subscribe to these opinions just as often as men do.

It is important to acknowledge and admit the sad state that many women find themselves in today before we can ever hope to alleviate these horrible circumstances. The problem is that oftentimes the victimhood of women is talked about, and then talked about some more, and then it turns into a kind of obsession. By the time we begin to talk about solutions it’s time to go home.

Any strategy for long-term empowerment must have two wings: the outcome wing and the process wing. Even though the intended outcomes may be economic, social, or cultural, the process must necessarily be political in order for it to be sustainable, and this can never be achieved without the full commitment and active participation of women.

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Development, Egyptian Affairs, International Affairs, Media/Press | Leave a comment

The Feminist Anti-Niqabi: Freeing Women from their Free Choice

This piece was originally published at BikyaMasr.com.

In the midst of all the hullabaloo about the niqab we are witnessing the formation of an unlikely alliance. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Egyptian Sheikh al-Azhar Muhammad Tantawi both stirred controversy after expressing anti-niqab sentiments, and many of the reactions have been quite predictable. But certain opinions – the opinions of two groups in particular – strike me as somewhat self-contradictory: the Muslims who are for the niqab-ban because they see the niqab as an imposition on Islam, and the liberals who are for the ban because they see the niqab as oppressive to women.

Responding to the former group requires delving into issues of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) which may be appropriate for another post. But in this post I will address the latter group: the self-proclaimed feminist freedom-of-choice-gender-equality-empowerment-of-women-espousing liberals.

This opinion is one that I just don’t understand. Personally, I have more respect for a secularist ideologue that hates all religious symbols than I do for a liberal who cries freedom of choice and calls for banning the niqab in the same breath. At least the secularists are consistent. But this particular group has taken on the cause of liberating women from the shackles of backwardness – these shackles being according to their own personal definition, and the women themselves get no say in the matter.

Read the rest of my piece here.

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment

Why I wear the Hijab.

This piece was originally published at BikyaMasr.com.

Although I derive great pleasure from bemoaning the world’s obsession with – (cue sinister music) – THE VEIL, I have agreed to contribute my own two cents to this never-ending discussion. Between the “Aren’t you hot under that thing”, the “Babe if you took that veil off you would be soooo hot, like I would totally date you”, the “Do you wear the veil like all the time? Like even in the shower?”, and the “You’re oppressed, let me save you” I have no grandiose ambitions of ending this obsession. The world will continue to marvel over women’s bodies and the various ways in which we dare to exercise our own personal autonomy over them. I do not intend to discount the fact that many women are deprived of the right to free choice when it comes to what they wear. This applies to women who are forced to cover, those who are forced to uncover, and the many other atrocities we continue to hear about around the world. I am in no way making light of these atrocities. The below piece does not intend to end this debate (although I can’t say it wouldn’t be nice if that happened), but rather it is solely to provide a personal answer to a personal question I have received many times:

Why do you choose to wear the hijab?

Read the rest of my piece here.

October 22, 2009 Posted by | Islam, Personal | 2 Comments

Really Interesting Film: White Girl

Bafta award-winning White Girl is about a white non-Muslim family that moves to an area in the UK populated by Muslims. Really interesting, watch it!

October 5, 2009 Posted by | International Affairs, Islam, Media/Press | 1 Comment