Given the fun historic events unfolding now in Egypt, many of us are dying to know more about what’s happening. Now, while Twitter is amazingly awesome, a stream of 140-character messages doesn’t really provide much context, and with Aljazeera’s operation in Egypt sort of broken, I’ve become increasingly annoyed, so I took matters into my own hands and called my friend in Cairo, the Egyptian blogger, Sandmonkey.
With the internet still mostly down there, it’s been difficult for him and many other Egyptian digital activists to get compelling perspectives and detailed contextualized information out.
Below is the recording of my revealing 20-minute interview with him.
Here’s what you’re going to learn from Sandmonkey’s perspective when you listen to it:
How protesters feel about the dwindling availability of basic resources and towards the military
What will probably happen if or when Mubarak steps down
Why Egyptian digital activists are dismissing the opposition’s committee
Why talk about the Muslim Brotherhood’s supposed involvement in the protests is greatly exaggerated
And a number of other things
Click play to stream and listen to the interview.
Please spread awareness about this interview, and share it on Facebook, and Twitter to help others learn more about what’s going on.
For years, after 9/11, some enlightened right-wing American pundits (in many ways similar to today’s Fox-Beck-Palin-Limbaugh fans and lovers), have offered a simplistic answer to the question:
“Why Do They Hate Us?”
And by “they,” they pretty much meant anti-US Arabs and Muslims lumped together with the 9/11 terrorists.
So what was the simplistic answer these genius pundits, and their like-minded friends, offered? Well, it was usually one of two brilliant assessments: “they hate us because of our freedoms” or “Islam!”
With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaching, and the United States’ wonderful reaction to the uprising in Egypt, it would be wise for all of us, global citizens who believe in cooperation, to revisit such assessments, demolish them, and replace them with ones that are actually grounded in facts and reality, and that more Americans must learn about.
And we need to do it in light of statements like this from influential people high up in the US government, in this case, from Vice President Joe Biden himself.
Asked if he would characterize Mubarak as a dictator Biden responded: “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator.”
Yup. Joe Biden refuses to refer to Mubarak as a dictator, and it’s not a surprise. His stance represents the overall and general position of the United States’ decades-long foreign policy towards the Arab world.
For years, America has supported many (but not all) oppressive and brutal Arab dictators, preferring to secure its regional geopolitical interests (and those of Israel’s of course) over the freedom and liberty of the Arab citizens it helps oppress.
Such images provoke a real sense of outrage as they should.
That’s why they, the protesters – the overwhelming majority of whom are not members of the Muslim Brotherhood – dislike you, and in some cases, hate you dear America. That’s why they’re outraged, and it is this kind of outrage that fuels the widespread anti-US sentiments in the Arab and Muslim worlds, which then groups like Al-Qaeda and Islamists exploit for their own gains and destructive ideological goals.
Now, speaking of Al-Qaeda, let us be crystal clear about something important.
If starting tomorrow, the United States stopped supporting the Israeli occupation and brutal Arab dictators, withdrew from Iraq and Afghanistan and basically stopped interfering and causing problems in Muslim countries, we would still end up with very tiny, albeit dangerous globally scattered groups, of radical militant Muslim fanatics motivated primarily by their wicked theology, and who hate America for her freedoms and her values. However, we must recognize that they will have a much harder time recruiting Muslims and radicalizing them.
Still, such groups must be combated everywhere and mercilessly crushed, which brings us to some critical distinctions that we must not fail to make.
Anti-Americanism in the Arab and Muslim worlds is neither uniform nor of the same type as too many right-wing American pundits make it seem.
The kind espoused by violent jihadist groups is far, far from anything like the much milder version you would find espoused by most Arabs and Muslims, and which is primarily caused and aggravated by various injustices of US foreign policy. Not theological reasons.
These are the sort of people who enjoy consuming American pop culture – music, movies, brands, products, etc., and would love to study and maybe even live in the United States, but revile the American political establishment, just as many strongly leftist Americans themselves do. One actually doubts if such sentiments qualify to be labeled “anti-US.”
But then we have various Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and their form of anti-Americanism, which isn’t as strong as Al-Qaeda’s, but is nonetheless troublesome, and not just for the United States, but also for every Arab and Muslim throughout the world who believes in human rights, freedom and liberty, and democracy.
It’s these guys who make things tricky, and whom Tunisians, Egyptians and all democracy-supporting Arabs need to watch out for.
After all, look at what happened in Sudan after we had our own popular uprising against the military dictatorship of Nimeiri in 1985. Here’s an old video featuring the action:
The gains of the uprising were squandered. Merely a few years later, the Islamists took power in a coup and brought us to our miserable situation today.
The gains of the Tunisian people must not be squandered. Islamists must be encouraged to give up their theocractic tendencies and to participate in the democratic process, but more importantly to uphold democratic principles and human rights.
How that can happen is a task for Tunisia to figure out and work on, and for the military to hopefully enforce. They might want to use this video in their efforts.
As for Egypt, there seems to be a wide consensus that the Egyptian military has very low tolerance for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is good news.
Ultimately, it seems like the status-quo might be beginning to crumble. Moreover, the American people now have a unique opportunity to pressure their government to do the right thing and to stand on the side of Arabs demanding their rights.
And even if Tunisians and Egyptians still haven’t figured out exactly who’s going to lead them or how, it shouldn’t stop us from supporting them.
Post-communist Eastern Europe didn’t have everything figured out. Post-apartheid South Africa didn’t have everything figured out. And post-dictatorship Tunisia doesn’t have everything figured out either, but they’re all better off. And while the possibility of Tunisian Islamists resurfacing is quite a worrisome one, it shouldn’t scare us or stop us.
Whatever happens, we, global citizens and netizens, Arabs, Muslims, Americans, and people everywhere, East and West, who believe in human rights and democracy, need to work together towards goals that are in our common interests, and that serve a higher purpose regardless of how idealistic or impossible this might seem.
Whoever could have predicted the overthrow of an “impossible” dictator like Ben Ali?
Tunisians have made the seemingly impossible, possible, and in this age of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, we all got to see it, and as a result, have become inspired by it.
So again, let’s work together, and do what we can.
Lastly, allow me to leave you with these two tweets from @Gsquare86.
And so it begins. Check out the updates Global Voices has here, and read my recent roundup, “Sudan: President Announces North Will Be Ruled By Islamic Law If South Separates,” here.
After a few days of voting, it looks like the expected results are pretty much in. Not surprisingly and understandably, the Southerners are very happy about this historic moment, and I’d like to congratulate them. They’ve endured hell at the hands of this regime, especially in its early NIF days when that scumbag known as Hassan al-Turabi, the man responsible for inviting and hosting Bin Laden in Sudan during the 90′s, was still in power.
Those days are now over, and they’re behind us in many ways. However, by the time the South formally proceeds to separate, those days might return again in a new form.
The Iranian protests of 2009. WikiLeaks. And nowthe unrest in Tunisia. It doesn’t take a genius to observe the very different ways the US government has reacted and is currently reacting to those events as part of its internet freedom policy, one which is pretty much part of its foreign policy.
If we as a nation truly believed in Internet freedom, then we would focus not only on those countries that might benefit us (a free Iran, a capitalist China) but on all of those nations where citizens are restricted from speaking out. We would loosen the export controls on Syria–not just Iran–to allow Syrian citizens access to communications and circumvention tools, and we would give our ally Tunisia–secular, egalitarian Tunisia–incentive to stop oppressing its citizens.
Although, as Brian Whitwalker observes, it might not be such a bad thing that Tunisia isn’t getting much attention from the United States and its media.
Now, on a related note, sadly, it looks like Tunisian activist and blogger, Slim Amamou, whom I personally know and had the pleasure of meeting in Beirut and chilling with, has been arrested by the Tunisian authorities for the horrible evil crime of peacefully expressing his views and advocating for freedom of speech.
Appelbaum is the public face of Tor Project, an organization that, by introducing intermediaries between computers, is used to prevent some of the world’s most repressive regimes from tracking activists’ movements online. Dissidents from China, Tunisia and a suspected high-level member of the Iranian military have used it to protect their identities.
While Appelbaum’s work for Tor has been substantial, more notorious is his extensive work for Wikileaks. “Jake has been a tireless promoter behind the scenes of our cause,” founder Julian Assange said.
I’ve had the fortune of being trained by Jake on how to properly use Tor and other anti-censorship and anonymity tools, twice so far at two separate events, and I certainly hope he can endure the crap he’s been facinglately.
The next days and weeks are going to be interesting for sure, especially as the US Department of Justice builds up its case against Assange, and the unrest hopefully continues in Tunisia and produces some fruitful results. Until then, many questions will remain unanswered, but one thing is for sure. America’s “Net Freedom” policy needs some serious uniformity.
UPDATE: It’s official. Dictator Ben Ali is bye bye. What a glorious, historic moment. What an inspiration. What a beautiful scene.
Like many others, I’ve been following the news closely, and while I am excited about the future prospects of something similar happening in other Arab countries, I remain cautious, because Tunisia is quite a unique case. Also, while social media played a significant role in what happened, it’s only a single factor amongst others, and it can’t take all the credit, or even most of it, as Ethan Zuckerman has explained.
Whatever happens after this, remains to be seen, but I do predict one thing. Governments in the region are going to start thinking about ways of controlling the internet more effectively to preempt any similar developments from taking place within their countries. Good luck to us netizens and bloggers.
Where YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are blocked. I arrived just in time for the New Year celebrations, and had a pretty damn good time with friends out here. I’m currently doing a little traveling around the country, and right now I’m at Shanghai. It’s a big, massive, fun city. I’ll write a thing or two later about my observations when if I have some time. Until then, happy new year everyone!
Happy holidays and have a kick-ass wonderful new year everyone. I’m super pumped up about 2011, and I hope you are too. 2010 was big in terms of news. (Which year isn’t?)
We’ve learned that George W. Bush doesn’t feel bad about waterboarding, but instead mourned the terrible, terrible moment when Kanye West pretty much implied that he’s a racist bitch. Boohoo, how mean of Kanye West to say that!
We’ve also learned that President Obama enjoys talking about his big audacious goals and getting everyone excited more than actually implementing them. Still, I prefer Obama, even though I have mixed feelings about how he, as Sandmonkey highlighted, has pretty much sold out on democracy promotion in favor of regional stability.
If anything though, this whole WikiLeaks affair has probably been the biggest and most mind boggling thing ever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an issue that has confused Americans as much as this one.
Julian Assange is a terrorist! Assassinate that dog! Julian Assange is a hero! Yes, Michael Moore, help pay for his bail!
Jeez. In order to get down to the bottom of this topic, I think people need to answer one main question. Can WikiLeaks be categorized as a media entity in this new internet age we live? If your answer is yes, then we need to admit that we’re witnessing some potentially dangerous precedents.
Here’s the thing. What makes WikiLeaks different from other media entities around the world that have stances which annoy certain regimes?
For instance, what will prevent the Chinese or American governments from targeting and pressuring media organizations and people they hate by using tactics such as denying them access to financial services?
See what I mean? Do you see where this is going?
2011 is going to be a fun year for Internet Freedom.
This week a YouTube video surfaced showing an unidentified woman in a voluminous cloak on her knees screaming and pleading in agony and pain with blue-uniformed policemen who took turns whipping her across the head and feet.
The policemen are shown to be laughing as the woman received the punishment and they are heard saying that she is sentenced to 50 lashes.
The video stirred widespread outcry among Sudanese around the world and even some pro-government columnists wrote critically of the incident.
“The investigation was started immediately after the images of the young woman, being punished under Articles 154 and 155 of the 1991 Sudanese penal code, appeared on the Internet,” the judiciary said in a statement.
The statement said the investigation would look into whether the punishment was carried out improperly.
The investigation would look into whether the punishment was carried out improperly? Are you kidding me? That’s a serious load of bullshit. The only “investigation” anyone needs to conduct to know if this punishment was carried out improperly is to simply watch the damn video.
You see dear ladies and gentlemen, if you’re wondering what the proper way to implement this punishment is, then let me briefly break it down for you according to the wide-spread traditionalist interpretation of Islam, and without getting too technical.
Firstly, there obviously needs to be a fair trial.
Secondly, the scourger must not at any point raise his hand above his shoulder when he flogs.
And thirdly, the scourger is required to hold a copy of the Koran under the armpit of his striking arm while carrying out the sentence, to discourage him from whipping too hard and potentially dropping the holy book on the ground.
Now, not only where there two men whipping the poor girl at the same time, and in the midst of other people’s humiliating laughter, but they also had no Korans held under their armpits. And my, oh my, if only they held them. If only there was just one man flogging her softly. Gosh, that would have made the situation so much better, right? It would have made it a lot less cruel, right? It would have made the punishment proper and less humiliating, right?
And that’s precisely the thing that upset me the most and boiled my blood when I read too many of the reactions of angry Sudanese to this appalling video, reactions and opinions that are very similar to the one voiced by Khartoum’s Governor.
What we should be outraged about is not how this punishment should have been applied “properly,” but instead, we should be outraged that such punishments continue to exist at all. Flogging should be abolished completely, and we should stop shying away from criticizing troubling aspects of all organized religions.
Yes, there are things about Sharia—dietary laws, the amount of money you should pay for charity, rules that eliminate the practice of usury—that in many ways are actually good and beneficial when we willingly apply them in our lifestyles, and they are not imposed on us.
However, deeply troubling punishments such as stonings, beheadings, and lashings are not good, not humane, and not fit for modern times, and we need to have a frank conversation about that. But when is it going to happen on a large scale? When? If anything, that conversation needs to happen now. The video above should trigger it, but it looks like it hasn’t, at least not adequately… at least not very publicly.
Maybe it’s time they stopped being fooled by the Islamist notion that Sharia is sacred and hence automatically beyond criticism. Maybe they should repeatedly watch that video of that poor girl getting whipped, ehm, not so “properly,” and agonizing in pain. Maybe only then, they’ll reconsider and rethink their stance.
Ttoday, we have this amazing piece of news, that I first came across on The Guardian. It’s all over the media, and I highly doubt its accuracy for several reasons.
Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, has siphoned as much as $9bn out of his impoverished country, and much of it may be stashed in London banks, according to secret US diplomatic cables that recount conversations with the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court.
Some of the funds may be held by the part-nationalised Lloyds Banking Group, according to prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who told US officials it was time to go public with the scale of Bashir’s theft in order to turn Sudanese public opinion against him.
First of all, it’s obvious that Ocampo wants al-Bashir arrested, which makes his speculations biased. Secondly, why on earth would al-Bashir pick banks in the UK of all places? That’s a risk, because a country like the UK could easily co-operate with its ally the United States to freeze accounts if needed. Plus, it’s also a known fact that many, if not most Northern Sudanese politicians, prefer stashing “their” money in UAE’s and Malaysia’s banks.
Thirdly and lastly, $9 billion? Really? That’s it? How about, I don’t know, maybe $20 billion? Yeah, maybe with that we’ll be getting closer to the real figure, which is 100% Halal money I’m sure.
Some of you might remember my (in)famous post, “The Reboot,” which officially marked the relaunch of this blog with a new design, and its self-proclaimed heretical direction. The conclusions I reached in that post are still very much a part of me, but they no longer really describe what I think or how I feel, which I guess is expected given how much I’ve grown since then.
I mean, damn, that thing was published nearly two years ago. Yeah, I know, it’s been two freaking years. Ah, how time flies, and how minds evolve.
“Transcend and include,” as philosopher Ken Wilber likes to say.
Here’s the interesting thing though. I don’t think I would have been able to notice that change if it weren’t for the archive of this blog, which I’ve contemplated completely deleting on a few occasions. Thing is, while it’s sometimes nice to look back, reflect, and think about the journey you’ve been on, at times, you’d rather not do that. You’d rather not be reminded of who you were. You’d rather avoid confronting your former self, but it’s a small price to pay for what you gain in return.
No matter what, look back or not, what you’ve done, and where you’ve been play a significant role in who you become. And even if going where you’ve gone before wasn’t a choice that you made, your reaction to what you’ve faced was.
If you get what I mean, good. If you don’t, then that’s fine. I’m not really trying to convey my thoughts clearly to a specific audience here. I’m just simply thinking aloud. I miss doing that. I miss writing this way. I miss the feeling that I had when I first began blogging in 2006, but even that is okay. Even that is a small price to pay in return for what I’ve gained in the last two years, and especially in 2010.
I used to view the world in black-and-white. Eventually, that got replaced with white-and-black, which I found to be lacking still. The key at at the end of the day I realize is nuance, and that comes with the ability to contextualize, which is what I’m doing a lot more of these days.
Better still, Drima is now also officially on his way to getting a Master’s in Islamic Philosophy, and has begun working on a thesis focused on the impact of new media on Islamic theology.
Qatar! Yes, Qatar, my childhood home, a country that’s very close to my heart. And I have to say, I was absolutely overjoyed when I heard the news two days ago. This is huge. It’s going to be the first time the World Cup gets hosted in the Middle East, and the event is surely going to help change the world’s perception of Arabs, and the region for the better.
Qatar did one hell of a job winning this bid. Their presentation to the FIFA voting body was simply brilliant (watch it all right here). Now, let’s just hope that the next 12 years don’t witness some crazy shit happening.
In case you haven’t hard, the documents that were recently released by WikiLeaks show that numerous Arab leaders have urged the United States to bomb Iran and stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons.
I don’t know, but it seems to me that my generation sometimes tends to look back at events like WW2 and assumes that they can’t and won’t happen during our lifetime. I really hope they don’t, but the developments in Iran’s situation aren’t comforting, and I think it’s just a matter of time before the showdown happens. Let’s hope it will be quick and not too destructive. Oh, and it better not be anytime close to the 2022 World Cup.
You’ve probably heard the news on Kareem Amer, the Egyptian blogger who was jailed a few years ago for criticizing the Egyptian president and Al-Azhar University. The guy is now finally free after completing his prison sentence.
Unfortunately though, there’s another blogger, and someone I personally know, who is still in jail, simply for the evil horrendous horrible crime of peacefully expressing his views in a very civil way and advocating freedom of speech in his country, Bahrain.
As the date for the Southern Sudan referendum approaches, we Sudanese await the fate of our country’s future, and whether things will go smoothly, or the country will descend back to chaos.
Thing is, both sides are already preparing for war. Moreover, if war does indeed break out again, this time, unlike in the 90′s, the fighting will probably reach Khartoum.
This is because over the past few years, the Southern Sudanese have been busy modernizing their military, which now apparently includes an air force capable of striking within the Sudanese capital.
On a personal level, that is what worries me as Northerner, since Khartoum is my hometown.
On a regional and international political level, one only needs to take a look at this map to understand why this potential ticking time bomb is a huge deal.
Yup, those are nine countries around Sudan.
Clearly, the stakes are high, but what has been quite baffling to me are the mixed reactions I kept getting from my fellow Northern Sudanese in Khartoum when I was there just three weeks ago.
There are mainly two camps. The first is enthusiastic about the idea of separation and wants all Southern Sudanese to “get lost,” leave the North and have their own country. The second camp keeps insisting that separation is simply not going to happen and that the majority of Southern Sudanese don’t want it either, which sounds ridiculous to me and so out of touch with what the majority of Southern Sudanese feel.
Also, I have friends working in the oil industry who have “insider info,” which doesn’t seem credible at all, because what I hear is very conflicting. On one hand, I am told by some that the North has enormous oil and natural gas reserves, and that its economy won’t be affected much if the South separates. On the other hand, there are those who tell me the exact opposite, and that the Northern economy is going to be severely affected.
It all seems so black and white. I haven’t experienced any shades of gray during my conversations with the numerous Sudanese I’ve talked to about this topic, some of whom are well-connected to insiders within the government. Even Omar Al-Bashir’s ruling NCP seems split in its rhetoric, whereas Sudanese TV has been busy broadcasting messages of love and unity, unlike any I’ve seen before. Many of the TV shows and events simply just made me go “eh, where was all this love for the Southerners before, and where did it appear from all of a sudden?”
It’s pretty confusing to me to be quite frank, and I’m not sure who to believe, or what to expect. I don’t want to make any predictions, but at the end of the day, I don’t think the NCP is dumb or stupid. If anything, they’ve repeatedly proven themselves to be very smart cunning strategists. Plus, China has some significant influence and certainly won’t want the oil to stop flowing. Nobody wants that. It’s neither in the interest of the North nor the South anyway. But then again, history might repeat itself.
Whatever happens, I just hope it won’t be ugly.
Meanwhile, let me leave you with this article which covers important details I didn’t go into (h/t: Nobody), and this cool music video on the issue:
Now, speaking of social media and what it would have been like if Facebook existed years ago, I highly encourage you to check out this excellent critique by Sami Ben Gharbia entitled “The Internet Freedom Fallacy and the Arab Digital activism.” If you’re a new media enthusiast or you’ve got a strong interest in political blogging, it’s a must-read.
In light of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque circus, and wave of hatred and bigotry that the beloved Robert Spencer and his deluded sick-minded sidekick, Pamella Geller helped start, I am officially linking to what I think is one of the best responses so far to this retardedness.
Also, kudos to Charles Johnson over at LGF for his outspoken rightful opposition to this whole “Ground-Zero Mosque” business, and to the big stinking pile of shit the GOP has sadly become in the last year.
What a shame. Aren’t there any decent prominent Republican politicians anymore? Seriously, what a shame. What we now have instead is people like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and the increasingly entertaining Glenn Beck shaping the conversation on the right.
Now on a not-so-related note, I’ve also officially had it with Israel’s policies thanks to its wonderful right-wing government under the leadership of Netanyahu and the ongoing despicable blockade of Gaza.
Heck, screw Arab opinion of the situation. One only needs to check the sentiments on the Israeli left to start getting a decent grasp of the Israeli government’s worsening stances.
Oh, and about those potential peace talks, gosh, I’m sooo optimistic.
Enough said for now.
Peace, Ramadan Kareem, and Happy Eid in advance, but just be sure that you celebrate it in October, and not September. Wait, no. October might be too close, how about January next year?
And FYI, commenting on this post is disabled. We’re taking the party over to Sudanese Optimist’s side here instead.
Location: Deep, deep down the orgasmic rabbit hole of epistemology.
The Bio of Awesomeness: Fundamentalist Muslim, turned hippie Sufi and fan of science. Total blogging junkie since 2006. Social entrepreneur and digital media and marketing consultant. Proud Sudanese and cultural nomad. Author of upcoming book on Islam and new media. Pro-democracy guitar-strumming activist. Loud and drop dead gorgeous. Fan of integral theory and spiral dynamics. Sarcastic Afro-Arab goofy genius. The High Priest of Mischief. Welcome. You've Been Warned! ;)
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