Thursday, December 31, 2009

Following an enemy

I am always questioning the motives forcing- I hope force is the adequate verb- Muslim women to join radical Islamist movements.
why would women engage a movement that sees them as sexual object needs to be tamed and covered. why do women agree to be identified as traps of the devil. Why do women accept to be called adulterer, if she wears perfume. why she trades her personal well for the obedience of the leader and the group, not only Allah. Why women march in masses supporting Umma (the nation) calls, but they never march for their own demands. Why do women constitute the wide base of support to the Islamist movement, but they are never allowed to join the elite of the movement as a person, only as a wife of X or a daughter of Y.
There are many arguments explaining the reason behind women's participation in Islamists movement. I reject the argument of false conciseness, which says that those women were fooled or mislead through many factors like socialization. So they will choose alternatives against their own interests. I reject this argument because it does not respect the personal choice of these women and perceive them as submissive creatures, who have no critical minds or well to question the illusions.
I agree with the argument of the Turkish scholar Deniz Kandyoti that women are forced that do a patriarchal bargain to give up their rights as individuals and women, to gain acceptance and agency. Those women adopt the same norms and discourse of the movement. They entrench the gender roles and images adopted by the movement. They know their limits and they never cross it. Kandyoti argument is opposite to Saba Mahmoud argument which claims that women create new form of agency and empowerment through engaging Islamist movement.
I believe that Islamist movements use women to gain support, to sustain societal statuesque and advocate for their ideas. I still remember how Muslim Brotherhood MB dealt with women in the movement or sisters, how they nominated two women in the parliamentary elections of 2000 and 2005 in Egypt, when all the political actors criticized them for excluding women from political arena. The two female candidtes of MB are Gihan el Halfawy in Alexandria in 2000, she is wife of prominent MB figure and Makarem el Deery in Cairo, Helipolis in 2005. she is a widow of prominent MB figure as well , they both failed and did not make to the parliament. It is obvious that both are related to prominent brothers and they are not real figures in the movement. In addition to that el Deery in one of her press statements affirmed that she took the permission of her eldest son before running for office and she commented saying that there are no powerful sisters in the movement as the icon Zeinab el Ghazaly. Also many critiques pointed that el Deery campaign manager was more powerful and charismatic than el Deery her self.
MB affirmed women inability to run for president office. And recently MB in its comments on the political momentum inside the movement after long period of stagnation, declared that women will not hold any senior position in the movement. MB pretext was protecting the sisters from any governmental backlash. MB is not the only example of opportunism of Islamist movements and their exploitation of women. what I hate most is that they claim that they can guide them to the only right path and they convince women that in order to be pious Muslim, they have to give up their rights as women and individuals.
Finally I will conclude by saying women are not herd who need to be shepherded, women will never follow an enemy.

photo found at:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Lets remember Gaza 2008.

Although I did not witness the major Arab tragedies, like 1948 and 1967 wars, but I remember by heart when the American troops entered Kuwait in 1991, it was for me like electronic game. Airplanes are bombarding the targets and only flashes appear in the night darkness. I did not feel the pains of Iraqi people in this time. On the contrary, I remember the second Intifada in 2000, I remember the walls of Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences, Cairo University with all the horrible photos of the injured and dead Palestinian people. That was a major change of the media coverage of the Middle East conflict and a major change in my life, I was turmatised by all the pain and suffering the Palestinian are facing on daily basis and I did not believe that human beings are capable of committing such atrocities. I also recall the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the students demonstrations in Cairo, I remember my attitude towards it. I totally ignored it and did not participate in it. And I still have major problem in participating physically in such events.
All these black memories are invading my mind now, because today is the first commeration of Gaza war, a year passed on the war but the siege is still ongoing. The number of casualties is still increasing. Pain and misery is spreading in Palestine not only in Gaza.
The crimes were not committed by the Israeli army alone. The handicapped International community contributed, the failure of application of Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court contributed, although all the crimes under its mandate took place in Gaza 2008, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression. However the rationale of the statue is ensuring impunity of the states.
The silence of the Arab states contributed. the fights between the Palestinian fictions contributed. and the collaboration of the US with Israel contributed
Lets light a candle to fight the dark shadows of Gaza 2008, lets talk for the unseen victims, lets document the massacre to avoid another massacre. lets remember Gaza 2008.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Today 18 of December is the International Day of Migrants and the New Hegri year. Today, I am thinking of the migrants and their status in the world and I recall the story of the greatest migrant, Prophet Mohammed ( PBUH). As many other migrants, he migrated from his homeland Mekka to Yuthreb( Medina), after suffering from the persecution.
These ideas touched me not only as Human Rights activist, but as a person belonging to Internally displaced population and a former migrant.
I am Nubian, descending from the south of Egypt and northern Sudan. My community suffered as many other African communities from the borders determined by the colonizers, Nubians were divided to Egyptians in the north and Sudanese in the south.
The sad story of Nubians does not stop here, however after the independence of Egypt and due to the developmental projects, Nubians were displaced from their historical land to Komopo valley. The tragedy is not only that the human population was not the priority, but the economic project is the main priority. the tragedy is in the aftermath of the displacement. The social, economic and political consequences were negative and they are persistent till now.
The Nubian case is a clear case that the Internally displaced persons IDP need protection under the auspices of international law. Although there is trial in the UN to fill in the gap of the absence of a binding treaty protecting the IDP, however the International community needs to exert more effort.
This is part of my story as the second generation of IDP population, the second part of my story was in Europe, in 2006 and 2007. I was studying in the University of Malta and University of Ghent. Before traveling I was afraid from all the rumors of racial discrimination against Arabs and Black people in Europe, however I was courageous enough to examine the situation myself and to build my point of view on my own experience.
In Malta the lovely Mediterranean island, I witnessed the dialogue in Europe about the illegal migration. I heard the racist calls to kill and deport all the illegal migrants and the calls to remember the Maltese historical role as the peaceful land welcoming the suffering migrants. I remember the talk of the Dean of Faculty of Law in Human Rights Day festival, he said Malta was always the small boat rescuing the migrants . also I remember the immigration office , the ugliest place in Malta, where people are classified according to their origins and skin color. I remember my anger when the immigration office delayed my visa for almost a month , although all my WHITE colleagues had it instantly from the first visit. I remember the support of MY Maltese friends especially Maria and Elaine, and their idea to write a petition to the police commissioner. I remember my anger speech to the police officer in the immigration officer and her smile to me saying " Good Morning", her nice gesture turned my mood, I felt that I might find kind souls in this ugly place.
Finally, I want to say that migrants, whether they are refugees or Internally Displaced persons or economic migrants are a very vulnerable group, they suffer from discrimination and exploitation. We need to highlight their suffering and try to alleviate their pain.
Please Listen to Radio 1812, a global initiative celebrating the International Migrants Day :
and the Arab version of Radio 1812, where I participated on :