Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Day's Harvest

A hilariously inept article by a clueless journalist paints Nawal al-Sa'dawi as launching a one-woman feminist insurgency "in one of the world's most female-unfriendly political environments." Oh my God, this just in: Egypt's political environment is exceptionally unfriendly to.....EVERYBODY! (Where do they find these "reporters"?) The writer quotes Sa'dawi as saying she's waging "a campaign to unveil the minds of people. I want to mobilise people to think, to see the paradoxes of society".

Now with all due respect to Dr. Nawal (who is an actual doctor unlike the many charlatans who go by that label), she really has to stop this line she's been plugging about "waking up" the Egyptian people. Anyone who thinks Egyptians' minds are "veiled" (the double entendre is beyond stupid) isn't worthy of respect, least of all a 76-year-old with her latest vanity project of running for president. I respect Dr. Nawal, her medical past treating poor rural Egyptians, some of her writings, and her general presence as a gadfly in our public life. I respect her most of all when she's at her most Marxist and analytical, and least of all when she paints herself as the only thinking person in Egypt and talks down to all of us "veiled minds" apparently unaware of the "paradoxes of society." Dr. Nawal, instead of sounding suspiciously like all those other presidential candidates claiming "It was the young people who persuaded me to stand," please do something constructive and selfless (for once) and join Kifaya or any of the other myriad citizen initiatives to unseat Mubarak.

Sorry to break it to Dr. Nawal, but it's unseemly for someone who's 76 to be running for president, however symbolically. Not because hoary Egyptians shouldn't run, but what's the point of replacing Mubarak with another septuagenarian who shows a disturbing contempt for the people they're ostensibly bidding to serve?

A decent article on the Ikhwan highlights the multiple visions contending for influence within the group's ranks, the first in a foreign newspaper that finally gets this basic point. The journalist who wrote this article at least knows what he's doing; see his challenging of the ridiculous Mohamed Kamal, "political scientist", Shura Council member (don't laugh), and Gamal Mubarak crony.

Speaking of bogus "political scientists," I've decided to start a "political scientist" watch to track all the lies these people think they can feed us (See my previous rants about these individuals here and here). Who are these people, and why don't they get a real job? Their sole purpose in life is to write articles about how wrong everyone is and how wise and farsighted the regime is. They also all seem to be really against a new constitution. Hmmm, can anyone else smell the rotting fish here?

The latest "political scientist" outrage: Gehad Auda in al-Ahram has resurfaced to tell us that changing the 1971 constitution is a really really really bad idea. Why? "The 1971 constitution is a vanguard in its texts concerning social and political freedoms; abandoning it is a big mistake and the whole nation will pay the price. Let's all hold fast to the presidential system and disagree about the logic of organizing the powers." Now you should know that Gehad Auda is the selfsame political "scientist" who wrote that book about how Gamal Mubarak is Egypt's best hope for change (the one with Gamal Mubarak on the cover flanked by all the greats in Egyptian history, including Saad Zaghlul, Nasser, Huda Sha'rawi). Now Gehad Auda is defending the presidential system with some byzantine sophistry about parliamentary systems being suitable only for divided societies. I've got news for Gehad: I remember my introductory political science class ages ago, and there was nothing in there about parliamentary systems being for divided societies and presidential systems for homogeneous societies. So Gehad, with all due respect, please shut up and go back to figuring out how to kiss up to the president and his son. You wrote an entire book marketing Gamal Mubarak's unique gifts. How low can you go, and how do you live with yourself?

I much prefer proud, card-carrying sycophants. Don't miss Muhammad Magdi Morgaan's latest masterpiece: "As a citizen who's lived through the previous life of humiliation and whom luck has befriended by experiencing the era of light, freedom, and democracy, I call on Mubarak in the name of millions of loyal and knowledgeable ones not to abandon us while we're in the midst of the ocean struggling with whales and whirlpools and resisting rocks and hawks, and to run in the elections and go through the experience that he has sown, established and raised."

I don't know if Mr. President has had a chance to see Mr. Morgaan's piece yet, he's quite busy. For five hours, he toured farms and agricultural lands in Sharq al-Owaynat "in connection with his extreme concern for monitoring national projects aiming to ensure a secure future for the present generation and future generations." In a harbinger of spring, the president inaugurated the barley and wheat harvest in the area, and there's a lovely photo of him picking a ripe, green guava, shielded under a canopy of sun-dappled tree branches.

Fahmi Huwaidy has written an uncharacteristically restrained opinion piece on the current hoopla in the US led by self-described "progressive" Muslims "against terrorism". Huwaidy interprets these as efforts to "fragment Islam." I can't blame him when professional Muslim-hater Daniel Pipes is cooking up something called the "Center for Islamic Pluralism" to shove aside the elected leaders of the American Muslim community and replace them with "moderate," "progressive" stooges. The "Center for Islamic Pluralism" opened for business on March 25, 2005 (they list no address or headquarters), and is directed by a convert to Islam named Stephen Schwartz and a roster of other shady personalities with no constituencies. Apparently, this is not without parallel in the United States. Max Blumenthal in The Nation has an article ("The Minister of Minstrelsy") on unknown black conservatives backed by wealthy white conservatives who make a living vilifying recognized leaders of the African-American community.

al-Ahram Hebdo has an interesting gallery of potential presidential candidates, some downright scary. Even scarier is that the names of Amr Moussa and Muhammad Hasanayn Haykal are being thrown around as contenders.

Nabil Abdel Fattah (a real political scientist as opposed to all the fake ones we have) tends to write the same article over and over again, but this time his intervention is thought-provoking, if only for concluding with the political elite's inexcusable contempt for the public.

In response to Mubarak's comments to Le Figaro, Kifaya has challenged regime figures to a televised debate before the Egyptian public. To coincide with today's planned demonstrations, Kifaya has also issued a 7-point program outlining "a cluster of democratic demands" in the name of the "silent majority" of Egyptians. A slap in the face of those peddling the virtues of our rotten and abusive presidential system, Kifaya's program calls for a parliamentary republic with a strict separation of powers.

Huwayda Taha has a hilarious piece on the fleeing of the president and his kids....in Kyrgyzstan. She also has a sobering, on-point rumination on why Hasanein Haykal has irrevocably and rightly lost his hallowed mystique.