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

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

Islam in America: Great Series by al-Jazeera

August 10, 2009 Posted by | International Affairs, Islam, Media/Press | Leave a comment

American Christian Spends 30 Days as a Muslim

Very interesting series!

Of course there were some ridiculous parts, like the way the narrator kept saying “they must follow the rules of halaal” which literally means “they must follow the rules of permissible”. I mean, that’s just bad grammar!

Also, when David was on the radio show and the host said something like “you’re now living in an Arab household” and David nodded, although the narrator at the beginning clearly said that the Haques were of Pakistania descent.

And that Imam that David first went to was just useless! I am so glad he found another one who was much better at explaining things. I have heard from many American Muslims that they often feel there is a communication gap between immigrant Muslims and those who are born and bred Americans. I have also been told that most Imams are immigrants, and so many born and bred Americans, especially youth, find turning to the Imams for advice or guidance to be trying.  That seemed to be exemplified by that first Imam, versus the second Imam who was able to actually have a conversation with David.

I’ve always been fascinated with American Muslims, and with Dearborn because I’ve heard so much about it. So I really enjoyed watching this.

August 8, 2009 Posted by | International Affairs, Islam, Media/Press | 5 Comments

Interesting Movie Trailer: Amreeka

I want to see this film

August 5, 2009 Posted by | Media/Press | Leave a comment

Traditional Vocations in Egypt

I am LOVING the Daily News Egypt’s new video channel on YouTube. So far they have put up a few really good videos that shed light on some of the remaining traditional vocations in Egypt. I only wish they were a bit longer and more in-depth. It would also be interesting to see them get out of Cairo and start searching the rest of Egypt – as I’m sure they’d find plenty of material there.

These three are my favourites so far:


Coptic Christian Tattoos:


July 12, 2009 Posted by | Egyptian Affairs, Media/Press, Portraits of Egypt | Leave a comment

All Eyes on Iran

This is breathtaking. Estimates say that 1-2 million people were there. The protests are still going on and will probably continue despite the pro-Ahmedinejad Guardian Council’s agreement to re-count. CNN had only minor coverage until Twitter users shamed them but using the hashtag #CNNFail which became a top trending topic that day. Since then CNN has been covering the protests extensively and even set up a webpage just for the Iran election. People are speaking of a cyber-revolution and are marvelling at the active role Twitter users have played, some staying up all night just to desemminate messages coming from inside Iran. Iranian government has attempted to block almost every online information-dessemination tool, and protesters have managed to find workdarounds almost everytime with the help of tech-savvy twitter users.

The question of whether or not the election was truly rigged is not one that we can answer for sure at this point. I agree that it is “curious” that Moussavi lost in his hometown and lost Azerbaijan even though he’s Azeri. This in addition to the many irregularities that have been pointed out (lost ballots, speed of anouncing results, immense number and diversity of those protesting the outcome, etc.) But it is not impossible for Ahmedinejad to have won. That is up to the Iranian people to decide.

Which is why I am satisfied with Obama’s relative silence on this matter. This situation provided ample opporunity to sensationalize the situation using Bush-esque rhetoric along the lines of “the Iranian people are following our example of democracy because they want to be free like us, we must support them or else the scary Muslims terrorists will win”.  Expectedly, it is the right-wing neocon republicans (yes, I realize those are all somewhat synonymous) that are criticizing Obama the most for not speaking up.

I don’t know how this situation will turn out. Nobody knows, despite those who may claim otherwise. A line was crossed the day the conflict turned violent – with several videos emerging on YouTube of unarmed civilians being shot (reportedly by Basij militia) and killed for no apparent reason. There has been a sudden increase in overnight Iran experts, and predictions are as varied as they come (e.g. a ballot recount that forces protesters to accept Nejad as winner and stop protesting, a power-sharing agreement between Nejad and Moussavi, an all-out revolution toppling the current regime, etc.). A key point is that the protests are slowly shifting away from a pro-Moussavi affair and towards an anti-Khamenei movement. This raises the question of whether even a power-sharing agreement would be enough to quell the protesters.

Related reading:

You can follow Tweets coming from Iran in real-time through http://iran.twazzup.com/

Article by Ibrahim Eissa (Arabic) http://dostor.org/ar/content/view/25133/64/

Article arguing that the Iran situation is an intra-Islamist conflict, and not a struggle between Islam and Western Secularism (English) http://arabicsource.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/what-islamist-backlash/

Op-Ed in NYT by Roger Cohen describing his experience there (English) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/opinion/21tehran.html?th&emc=th

An overview of the Iran situation by al-Masry al-Youm journalist Joseph Mayton (English) http://bit.ly/148gXl

Videos of the protests http://www.mideastyouth.com/2009/06/20/round-up-of-todays-protests-in-iran-from-youtube/

Op-ed in NYT about use of Twitter in the Iran protests http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/weekinreview/21cohenweb.html?_r=2

June 16, 2009 Posted by | International Affairs, Media/Press | Leave a comment

On the 2009 6th of April protest (better late than never!)

The use of the internet for political mobilization and facilitating citizens’ access to information has been steadily increasing in Egypt. Several Egyptian bloggers have seen massive increases in readership after waves of arrests over the course of the past few years. International media organizations have taken an interest in the phenomenon of online activism in Egypt and profiled many Egyptian bloggers. Many have come to obtain the majority of their updates on current affairs from Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and online news services such as GlobalVoicesOnline.

The 6 of April Youth Movement has further reinforced the notion that the internet has become a foremost means of youth activism in Egypt. This especially rang true after the first 6 of April strike in 2008 which was by most accounts a success. According to al-Jazeera English, “the power of online activists reached its height in 2008 when they backed a call for a strike at a textile mill, urging nation-wide civil disobedience…which resulted in deadly riots”. Many agree that it is precisely because the strike originated with the textile workers, and only later gave birth to the online 6 of April Movement, that it saw such strong participation. In 2009, on the other hand, the call to strike was made by the 6 of April Youth themselves online and through posters, rather than backing an already existing citizen protest.

However, opinions as to the success/failure of this year’s strike vary widely. Egyptian writer Belal Fadl waxes poetic about the 6 of April youth, stating that that the mere attention this year’s strike received both in terms of media coverage and government mobilization of security forces is an indicator of its success. Others disagree, such as the Egyptian state press who gloat about the failure of the strike, and many in the opposition press who acknowledge the weakness of this year’s participation. Well-known blog “The Arabist” goes even further by advising Egyptian opposition activists to distance themselves from the movement, stating that “Egypt’s activists and opposition politicians are discrediting themselves if they make a big deal about a day of protests that most don’t even participate in – and no, joining a Facebook group does not count”.

It may be true that internet activism is becoming a central means for Egyptian youth to become politically and socially active. However, the weak participation in this year’s strike is a strong indicator of what internet activism is not: namely, the new form of activism for the Egyptian masses. In a country where it is estimated that only 15% of the population are regular internet users it is clear that merely issuing an online call for a nation-wide strike is not enough to gain broad citizen support. This year’s strike makes it unabashedly clear that it is not sufficient for a marginal disgruntled middleclass to claim to speak on behalf of the discontented masses. Rather, equitable social change is instigated only when all segments of society are equal participants with equal voice.

This is an edited version of the original article which appeared in the April issue of the Civil Society Nesletter published by the Ibn Khaldun Centre

June 12, 2009 Posted by | Egyptian Affairs, Media/Press | Leave a comment

The Revolutionary Jad Choeiry? I think not.

The first thing that came to mind when I started watching Jad Choeiri’s new video was “why is he rapping in English?” followed by, “why is he rapping at all?” Let’s set aside the fact that the song sounds how I imagine 50 Cent would sound if he were to attempt to sing a Celine Dion song: it just doesn’t work. The video screams “inferiority complex”.

What exactly is the point of including Logic, the rapper? Is that supposed to add some kind of credibility to Jad’s horrible rapping skills? FYI Jad, just because he’s African-American doesn’t automatically mean he can rap. Let’s get one thing straight: yelling “everybody, on your feet” doesn’t exactly make this guy Tupac, alright?

Jad sings oh-so-eloquently about how his song is going to provide “an Arabic touch with a modern sense”. So I guess by this logic then anything that is not shisha-smoking men staring at half naked women gyrating for their entertainment is not modern? Any Arabs who are not “sexy girls” or “funky Arabs turning you on” are, I guess, backwards and uncivilized.

Speaking of naked gyrating women, I’m willing to bet that Jad’s been receiving thank-you letters for fulfilling every Orientalist’s fantasy through that scene with the woman belly-dancing for a group of men. Apparently Jad sees women, or perhaps only Arab women in particular, as no more than half-naked, Botox-shooting, mindless beings? Sadly, the picture he paints of Arab men is no more flattering.

So the benevolent Jad is dispelling the bomber stereotype by replacing it with the harem stereotype, the rich-Arab-with-money-to-burn stereotype, and the inferior-Arab-grovelling-for-western-approval stereotype.
Keep up the good work, Jad.

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Media/Press, Personal | 3 Comments