Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Plot against Naguib (Sudan series, part II)

Breaking Point

Then came Thursday morning of the 25th of February 1954. Salah Salem went to the broadcasting headquarters to break the news of the resignation of Naguib, and to give excuses for the matter in pretexts that provoked people's laughter. He said that Naguib used to insist on having his pictures published in the newspapers and on having his speeches broadcasted on the radio, and used to wake up Salah Salem from his sleep, in his rank as minister of information, to ask him to broadcast a speech he had given...and Salah Salem said in his bulletin that at the height of the differences between himself and Naguib, Salem went himself to the military prison and imprisoned himself there.

And the important thing is that people were not convinced with Salah Salem's words; how can the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and leader of the Revolution be deprived from having his speeches broadcasted on the radio, and from having his pictures published in the papers? As for the issue that Salah Salem went to the military prison to lock himself up, it caused people to crack comments that were full of ridicule.

And in the meeting of the [Revolutionary Command] Council, Salah Salem said that his children attacked him strongly at home, and that that his servant passed by the shops of Abbassiyya to buy home supplies and the merchants refused to sell to him. And the relatives of Zakaria [Mohieddin] criticized him strongly. And the officers in general, as soon as they went down to the street on Thursday morning, were faced with the people's total refusal and sharp criticisms.

I myself was in downtown Thursday evening when I found people gathered in front of a shop listening to Salah Salem's speech. I got down from the car and stood there to listen with them. When the bulletin was finished one of the people standing there said:

"They turned out to be sons of bitches."

- Memoirs of Khaled Mohieddin, "And Now I Speak".

Before the of the SOBs (Mohieddin's words!) stands in a propaganda photo with his family before a picture of President Mohammed Naguib.

Khaled Mohieddin with his children in a similar picture.

Mohieddin was one of the Free Officers and original members of the RCC. He is also the founder and current leader of the leftist Tagammu' Party.

The papers publish the news. Guess whose picture now takes centre stage?:-) And as if borrowing a clip from 1984 or a farcical mobster movie...this paper dates Thursday the 25th, which means it was published at least the night before Salah Salem shocked the nation with his "bulletin".

*Source: Masr el Mahrousa magazine.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Two days ago, the Egyptian daily El Masry El Yom published the first half of this interview with a founding member of the Muslim Brotherhood, about the relationship between the brotherhood and the revolution, announcing that the rest of it would be published the following day. Yesterday's edition appeared with no trace or even mention of the unfinished interview. Was it censorship from above? Was it self-censorship? Or was the paper paying heed to angry Nasserists? Nobody knows. None of us know our rights and obligations as citizens of our country. I would be impressed to meet anyone who has actually read a copy of the constitution, I personally have never read it, or seen it for that matter. And even if you do know your constitution, the law doesn't really matter in they eyes of the enacted emergency laws.

Another case of self-censorship was the Grand Imam of Al Azhar. At the beginning of the "cartoon war" he gave reasonable statements to downplay the original act of provocation and put it in its suitable place. Soon after however, he succumbed to pressures and criticisms coming from all different directions and was seen on national television leading a demonstration in the streets against the cartoons.

Also there is our Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, who appears to be reasonable and moderate to anyone who hears him speak, and who recently gave the welcome statement that Sufism (Islamic mysticism) may contain the answer to our problems. Suddenly, and as if to dispel harmful rumors in our part of the world that the entrusted interpreter of the word of God is open-minded, I read yesterday that he proclaimed as haram (forbidden by God) the decorative adornment of houses with statues. Once again, the root of all intransigence in the three Abrahamic religions: the archaic concept of Idolatry.

Those of us who have brains are afraid to use them. And those of us who use them make it a point to conceal them. Meanwhile the only ones who are stepping into the void, besides the organized groups of religious fundamentalism, are the Nasserist opportunists* (* the Nasserists, not Baheyya) who are trying to re-write history.

It's an Orwellian state of total intellectual confusion. And I for one find this very depressing.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


I borrowed this photo from Baheyya:

This is a demonstration in support of the independence of the Egyptian judiciary, and one of the protestors is waving a picture of Nasser, the perpetrator of the eternally infamous mazbahit el qodah, or "massacre of the judiciary", and the totalitarian dictator whose cronies unabashadly declared that "the law is on vacation". The man whose zowwar el fagr, literally "visitors of the dawn", kidnapped, tortured and indefinitely imprisoned any Egyptian with a hint of an independent intellect. You can tell from the uneasy smile on his face that even he feels he doesn't belong there. How stupid is the Egyptian opposition? And they wonder why they have no support in the street. Damn morons.

To all respectable people from the Egyptian left, I say dissociate yourself clearly from the slayer of modern Egypt and his lot if you wish to maintain a semblance of respect for your movement in the eyes of the Egyptian people. This is my humble opinion, and at least until then you will never have my vote, or even my support.

I can only leave you with this segment from El Masry El Yom's interview with 86 year old Mohamed Helal, who was among the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood:

What are the real reasons for the deterioration of relations between the Brotherhood and Nasser?

He who knows the truth about Abdel Nasser and his family circumstances that he lived, fully knows that he was mentally sick and that the war between the brotherhood and him started early. I remember that I was sitting attending a meeting of el-Hodeiby [former Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood] with Nasser who said: "I want to have two buttons; to press on the first one and the people rise and get angry...and press on the second one and the people quite down and settle." And when Hodeiby asked him for the reason of this, he answered that this goes back to his whim. So Hodeiby learned that the man was mentally troubled, and came out of that meeting assured that Nasser is not fit to lead a nation and informed the Brotherhood of this. And the proof of this was that
Nasser turned on all his friends and got rid of them all either through imprisonment or murder, and the incident of Abdel Hakim Amer [former Field Mashal who is thought by many to have been murdered, or "suicided" ] is known after the defeat of 1967 and the performance that he made, which is known as "the abdication."

And let me let you in on an event regarding the abdication. I was imprisoned then, and orders were issued for the security soldiers to exchange their military clothes so they can go out in demonstrations, or "the performance", so all they did was confiscate the civilian clothes belonging to the thousands of imprisoned brothers and went out to the street chanting "Don't abdicate...Don't abdicate". These clothes were in the prison deposits, and this is an event I saw with my own eyes, especially that they took my clothes as well.

[*Speaking of mentally ill, it was Nasser's personal physician who first diagnosed him as such. He observed that he was obsessed with following reports of the suffering of his opponents (and not really his opponents but people that just differed from him in their opinions nonetheless) that he had had imprisoned. Unfortunately the physician let word of this get out to his family and friends, and he was soon murdered himself. At least this is what I read somewhere, incidentally in a book arguing the case that Abdelhakim Amer was himself murdered by Nasser.]

"I want to have two buttons, to press on the first one for the people to rise and get angry...and press on the second one for the people to quite down and settle." - This is Big Brother personified. I hate to take on Baheyya - I respect everything she says in regards to our culture and its pioneers - but I can no longer bear to swallow her irrational portrayals of Sadat, the liberator and peacemaker of Egypt (from the legacy of continuous occupation and war of, guess who: Nasser), as some kind of erratic Pharoah, while portraying Nasser as a great man in the ranks of Saad Zaghlul.

I hate to tell you what Saad would have done to him if he were alive to see him (and really this grouping makes absolutely no sense when it was Nasser who disbanded the Wafd and threw Zaghlul's successor Mustafa el-Nahhas under house arrest for the remainder of his days, in fear of his undisputed popularity among Egyptians).

Baheyya speaks so often of the Orwellian world we live in today, yet fails to see that she herself is the ultimate victim of Orwell's brilliant prognosis of double think. She, and even the pillars of the Nasserist party on which its paper and party today relies, belong not to the older generation which witnessed the era of the King and the subsequence of the revolution; she and they belong to a younger generation which didn't even witness the days of Nasser, but came into mature being in the age of the left-wing upheaval of the 70s against Sadat; she and the Nasserist generation of today are the ultimate institutionalized product of Big Brother's factory of double think; unlike Winston, the lead of 1984 who reluctantly gets broken down by Big Brother only after years of horrifying torture and humiliation at his hands, and who as a result finally comes to genuinely love him by the end of the story, Baheyya and her generation are the youth squads of double think.

Baheyya, I am in full confidence and admiration of your integrity, but I hope you keep your promise to your readers to follow in the footsteps of our ancient god of wisdom, Hermes; Tut; Djehuti - and re-read matters of our history, and rethink them in a clear conscience and unbiased logic.

Until then, when I see some moron waving a banner of Nasser in a demonstration that is calling for the independence of our Judiciary, the inheritor of Maat, symbol and Goddess of Justice, I really will enthusiastically chant: "Ofrom, Ofrom ya Sadaat!"

May Reason be with us,


Blogging 1984: (1952-1970)

"For some time he sat gazing stupidly at the paper. The telescreen had changed over to strident military music. It was curious that he seemed not merely to have lost the power of expressing himself, but even to have forgotten what it was that he had originally intended to say. For weeks past he had been making ready for this moment, and it had never crossed his mind that anything would be needed except courage. The actual writing would be easy. All he had to do was to transfer to paper the interminable restless monologue that had been running inside his head, literally for years. At this moment, however, even the monologue had dried up. Moreover, his varicose ulcer had begun itching unbearably. He dared not scratch it, because if he did so it always became inflamed. The seconds were ticking by. He was conscious of nothing except the blankness of the page in front of him, the itching of the skin above his ankle, the blaring of the music, and a slight booziness caused by the gin.

Suddenly he began writing in sheer panic, only imperfectly aware of what he was setting down. His small but childish handwriting straggled up and down the page, shedding first its capital letters and finally even its stops:


Winston stopped writing, partly because he was suffering from cramp. He did not know what had made him pour out this stream of rubbish. But the curious thing was that while he was doing so a totally different memory had clarified itself in his mind, to the point where he almost felt equal to writing it down. It was, he now realized, because of this other incident that he had suddenly decided to come home and begin the diary today.

...He could not help feeling a twinge of panic. It was absurd, since the writing of those particular words was not more dangerous than the initial act of opening the diary; but for a moment he was temped to tear out the spoiled pages and abandon the enterprise altogether.

But he did not do so, however, because he knew that it was useless. Whether he wrote DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER, or whether he refrained from writing it, made not difference. Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. He had committed - would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper - the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.

It was always at night - the arrests invariably happened at night. The sudden jerk out of sleep, the rough hand shaking your shoulder, the lights glaring in your eyes, the ring of hard faces round the bed. In the vast majority of cases there was no trial, no report of the arrest. People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the register, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.

For a moment he was seized by a kind of hysteria. He began writing in a hurried untidy scrawl:

theyll shoot me I dont care theyll shoot me in the back of the neck I dont care down with big brother they always shoot you in the back of the neck I dont care down with big brother-

He sat back in his chair, slightly ashamed of himself, and laid down his pen. The next moment he started violently. There was a knocking at his door.

Already! He sat as still as a mouse, in the futile hope that whoever it was might go away after a single attempt. But no, the knocking was repeated. The worst thing of all would be to delay. His heart was thumping like a drum, but his face, from long habit, was probably expressionless. He got up and moved heavily toward the door."

- George Orwell, segment from 1984.

How is it, you imagine, that we are still terrified of Nasser's legacy...35+ years after his death?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

This is why I love the Egyptian Gazette

It's a naturally occurring Onion or Fictitious Journalist, so to speak. Such natural occurrances should be marvelled at, not shunned:

'Muslim women suffer under Western laws'

Manal Abdul Aziz
Gazette staff

Under the title of "Condition of the Muslim Women between the Islamic legislation and the Western Culture", 90 Muslim scholars gathered yesterday in Cairo to debate the condition of Muslim women around the world.

The speakers explained the rights and duties of the Muslim women as defined by sharia (Islamic law) that preceded all man-made legislation to ensure women's dignity and rights on an equal footing with men.

"A few decades ago, Western women were not allowed to even sign a cheque, but some 14 centuries ago Islam came to endorse women's financial independence," said Professor Gaafar Abdul Salam, Secretary General of the Islamic Universities Association at the opening session of the conference.

Apparently, women in Saudi Arabia still can't drive in the 21st century.

He added that until now Muslim women continued to enjoy more privileges than their Western counterparts in many respects.

Salem el-Sheikhi, member of the European Fatwa Council said Muslim women in Europe suffered from living under European laws that deprive them of some basic rights guaranteed by sharia.

"For example a Muslim woman in Europe who wants to divorce her husband cannot do so as easily as she can under the (divorce) law of 'khul' which is enforced in many Muslim countries now. Even if she manages to obtain a divorce outside the European country where she lives, that country will not recognize it," he added.

"In the eyes of European law, she is still married and thus she forfeits all her rights, and she certainly will not be allowed to re-marry."

Take that, you frigid European legal systems: You are preventing our good Muslim women from getting their groove on!

The three-day gathering discusses equality between men and women in all rights and duties, women's rights regarding marriage contract, divorce, and work and women's image in the media and art.

Among the topics covered on the first day of the conference was women's contributions to political life.

The Deputy President of Al Azhar University, Ezz Eddin el-Sawi, criticized the weak political representation of women in the legislative councils and parliament in Muslim and Arab states, especially in Egypt.

"Women's representation in Moroccan parliament is 30 percent, but it is no more than 2 per cent in Egypt. It might be surprising to learn that the percentage is as high as 50 in some African countries, such as Uganda," el-Sawi said.

I am getting really tired of hearing Egyptians make some lame comparison to any random sub-Saharan African country that they happen to name, such as Burkina Faso or Uganda in this instant, to lament the sad state of affairs that we have now reached. These are countries whose people have had civilizations for thousands of years. If you want to make a better comparison, then compare Egypt to the recently uncivilized Arabian gulf states of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, for example. They are the source of our theological retardation in the last 50 years, aren't they? What did Burkina Faso or Uganda ever do to you? The strides in progression that these gulf states have made in this short period of time are the ones that are truly impressive, and truly deserving of our depression when comparing to our own [also impressive] degree of retardation during this same period of time.

The conference opened with a Qur'anic recital by a female student of the Faculty of the Islamic studies, thus refuting the claim by extremist Muslims that the voice of woman is awra, i.e. should not be heard in public...

Ahem...let me give you a more accurate translation of this term awra: When you walk in the street exposing yourself to the passerbys, that is called a awra ; i.e. a private bodily part which would be shameful to expose in public.

...This departure from normal procedure, which was taken by the Dean of the Faculty of the Islamic Studies Soad Saleh, the conference rapporteur, drew praise from Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi who attended the opening session.

Impressive, the woman's voice is not a awra !

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Idolatry again

This one is funny. The timely infidel is none other than Ayman Nour:

Meanwhile, the second-place finisher in last year's presidential election, Ayman Nour, is serving a five-year prison sentence on charges of forging documents. Human rights groups say the charges are trumped up, and a chief witness in the case told the court that police forced him to testify against Nour.

Nour is also being investigated for other alleged crimes, including assaulting an NDP member and setting up a statue in a public square, which, under Egyptian law, can qualify as an offense against Islam. Last month, police questioned his wife, Gamila Ismael, for allegedly assaulting policemen.

Modern Cairo is adorned with beautiful statues in each of its public squares. The statues are all government sanctioned. They date back to Egypt's pre-revolutionary addition to one ugly new one placed in Tahrir square just a few years ago. You can see the obvious difference in workmanship and taste between then and now.

When the poor guy is already serving an unfair prison sentence, and in addition to that they want to invoke this archaicly latent and embarassingly comedic law (what are they thinking?), you can only agree that yes, they do really "have it in for him".

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Notes on Football and Al Jazeera

This post is largely a response to a comment made by Faisal to this post on the African Cup.

Faisal's comment:

Anti-Egyptian or not, Al Jazeera is more non-biased than any Egyptian news or Tv channel (Public ones I mean).

They are also one of the only decent Arabic news channels.

Furthermore, Ahmed Shobeir is a pompous fool who thinks the world of himself. This is a man who kept criticizing Hassan Shehata so much that Mubarak told him to shut it... and of course, being the government dog that he is, he Shut Up.

I will not, of course, deny that what Mido did was inappropriate in every way.

My response:

I don't know how I am supposed to explain the concept of constructive criticism when you think in terms of this slave/master mentality. Before the final, and on national television, Ahmed Shobeir denied these critical statements attributed to the president by the media, and no - he did not "shut it": he continued in the same line of commentary that he had made before. The national team - being Hassan Shehata and the players - were the first to proclaim, after they had won the championship, that they succeeded not because they were better players than those of the other teams (they actually gave statements to the contrary), but because of good planning and determination.

I thought Shobeir's commentary was intelligent and most welcome. What, would you rather have him sing the "mabrouk aleikom we aleina" song before and after every match? (Much like our own government?) Shehata succeeded because he was objective and critical, in other words; professional. Our government on the other hand is failing because it is the opposite of these traits.

As for your statements regarding Al Jazeera, I disagree entirely. Your argument would be like saying that Mussolini was a good man because he killed less people than Hitler. But even on this dubious ground your argument still does not stand: tell me of one time that Al Jazeera, this alleged pan-Arab and Islamic channel, dared to criticize the Qatari government which hosts one of the largest American military bases outside the United States. The Egyptian alleged "opposition press" on the other hand has clearly crossed the line from useful criticism into the realm of the plain vulgar - an unfortunate reality in itself.

For this reason it is not easy to challenge the argument that Al Jazeera is a farce; a dangerous play-toy of political leverage in the hands of the blatantly pro-American and pro-Israeli, duplicitous Qatari government.

On a side note:

I can't believe that Giddo Hossam Hassan gave the following statements of ingratitude, according to the Egyptian Gazette:

Egypt's super-star and formerly the world's most capped player, in an interview with a Gulf-based newspaper, Hossam Hassan said he would prefer an international manager for Egypt's National Football Team to take over from Hassan Shehata in order to prepare the squad for their upcoming fixtures.

Hassan pointed out that only the players' fighting spirit and unending support of fans were behind the success in the recent African Cup of Nations.

On the work of their chief coach, Hassan Shehata, the veteran striker said the time has come for the country's football governing body to consider replacing him with a new manager with an international reputation.

Regarding the move of the Tottenham Hotspur's Ahmed Hossam 'Mido' to protest against his substitution in the semi-final against Senegal, Hassan said there was nothing wrong in that.

"I think what Mido has done was justifiable. He is an international player and full of love and enthusiasm. I used to do the same when I was young, but not against the coaches," he said.

I appreciate the important role in the brief moments played by the 40ish year old Hassan, thanks to the appropriate and suitable timing chosen by the coach for him to hit the field, but I can only agree with "Mr. A. A.", the sports editor's concluding words:

Hassan is reminded that these matters are best left to the decision-makers because they know better than him.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

In defense of the Sandmonkey

Tomanbay, I won't get into details of the brawl you have with Sandmonkey, so my feedback will be a brief commentary in form of a belated response to this strange comment that you made last month to this post "The trouble with Egyptian bloggers" which I stumbled upon by chance - something I've been wanting to do, but refrained from responding to in avoidance of an unnecessary row. But now that you have let the issue out of the bottle, this would be the appropriate time for my response.

Anyway, this is the disputed comment that you made:

"hawkish Egyptian bloggers"! that's the word I was looking for...I couldn't agree more with both of you. A lot of Egyptian bloggers are trying to be more royal than the king. And as you put it they're trying to distance themselves from their ppl by actually trying to take just opposite decisions. If ppl hate America, then they're all for America. Which I think is plain stupid, because there are many shades in between, which they're failing to see. I for once like the US (just like every other country out there really). I have no reason to hate the country, but I have every reason to despise the administration. Even from an American prespective I have reasons to do so. Of course if I went on in my blog and said that, you'll have reactions like : you arabs, so and so!!!In a way I see most of the bloggers that you're referring to are guilty of the same sins they're tring to pint out in their own people: narrow focus, intolerance, and inferiority complexes.


I don't fault you for an opinion you may have, and as you know, it would be unnatural for you to agree with everything that somebody says. But I was taken aback by how different what you said here was from the comments that you left in these people's blogs, and how different it was from the posts you wrote in your own blog. And I can't help but state the obvious basic presumption that what you say here is an unfair misrepresentation of these "so and so" bloggers, given the fact that they openly welcome and receive your posts in their own blogs. And while you admit here that you don't express your opinions of America in fear of anticipated reaction from possible critics, at least these people openly express how they feel about the issues that they cover and about their political and cultural affiliations, and as far as I can see, they do the best they can in answering critical challenges to their opinions. I can only ask the same of you now; to write clearly about your opinions of the world in your blog, rather than keep them bottled up for so long until you surprise us all when you eventually explode in the midst of us (and no, I am not calling you a suicide bomber - but you can see the similarity). Only then, if somebody has an issue with an opinion that you state, can he challege it - and if he does not, he may leave it alone. But hiding your opinions in the dark, and resting all your criticism on what Sandmonkey says or does not say just doesn't cut it (and Mohamed, especially you come to mind when I say this: step forward into the light from behind this obscurity) - and is not in any way considered fair play. Sandmonkey is an intelligent and champion blogger, but he is not preaching the gospel, and to the best of my knowledge, he never claimed to do so; the world does not rest on what Sandmonkey does or does not say.

So Sandmonkey,

Keep up the good work. We love your blog.

And Toman,

Also keep up the good posts (but no more plagiarism! Just kidding...but really!:)) , but please from now on try to shed some more light in your own posts on what you think of these worldly issues that you agree on or disagree with. Only in such a transparent atmosphere can we then have a worthy and civilized debate.

Good luck to both of you,


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Protestantism and Idolatry

Hallalhippie left an interesting comment explaining Denmark's exprience in converting from Catholicism to Protestantism 500 years ago, and how through this process the icons in churches "were painted over", and only now "the pictures are being reconstructed for historical value." Hallal's explanation was given in good faith, but I dispute the official reasoning given to him/her that the icons were erased to "keep people listening" - a clever excuse by the Protestant Church to pass by the logical modern folk of today - and assert that the real reason behind it was to destroy the perceived "idolatry" of Catholicism. I searched google and found this interesting piece on Protestantism and idolatry:

Many Protestants, especially those of evangelical or fundamentalist sects, believe that in attributing holiness or power to human artifacts, they foster disbelief in God's omnipotence, and his independent and sovereign will, and suggest instead to human fallibility that God can be manipulated. To them, this is the essence of idolatry considered as a sin. They also consider the Roman Catholic cult of relics to be idolatry, as is the practice of pilgrimage to distant shrines; they hold instead that God is no less accessible here and now than he is in a distant holy place. Especially suspect in Protestant eyes is the belief that articles such as Lourdes water, holy water, blessed handkerchiefs, and so forth possess supernatural powers, such as for healing. To the Protestant mind, this seems akin to the forbidden practice of magic. For these believers, idolatry can be viewed as a sort of fetishism. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23) Jesus spoke these words to a Samaritan woman who wished to discuss sectarian divisions about the right shrine to worship at; many Protestants read Jesus' response as dismissing the importance of such divisions. Instead, they interpret this passage to mean that true worship is a matter of the spirit, the mind and the heart - in other words, it is highly abstract. Sacred places, shrines, and ritual tools and forms are, at the very least, not of the essence of the faith. Worse, if a special sanctity is thought to abide in some object, it represents a spiritual danger.

Almost all Protestants (as well as most Jews and most leading Muslims) hold that veneration and worship are for all practical purposes identical. Protestants who hold this position also believe that sacrificial worship (which Roman Catholics and the Orthodox call latria, see below) no longer holds a place in Christian worship; Christ's sacrifice on the Cross is unique, unrepeatable, and complete for all time, so that no human act can add or subtract from its power, or lay claim to its saving efficacy.

Most typically, non-Catholic Christians are not offended by religious art, or pictorial representations of Christ, especially as he is depicted in biblical or historical settings. However, some consider it necessary to avoid religious use of these objects, especially as the focus of communal worship. In order to avoid praying before them, lighting candles to them, and other acts that make it appear as if the image itself is holy or an object of devotion, many Protestants avoid locating any representational art in front of the congregation, although exceptions may be made for the Christian cross. In most cases, it is the devotional use, especially, that is avoided.
In some cases, it is not only the veneration of images, but also the making of an image that is avoided. Any visual representations of Jesus of Nazareth, including drawings, paintings, stained glass windows, sculpture, and other forms of representational art, are considered a violation of the commandment of God prohibiting the pretended depiction of deity by images. Calvinist theologian
J. I. Packer, in chapter 3 of his book Knowing God, asserted that even to imagine Jesus Christ as having a specific physical appearance would be a form of idol worship. A typical Christian argument for this position might be that, God was incarnate as a human being, not as an object of wood, stone or canvas; and, therefore the only God-directed service of images permitted, is the service of other people.

Others go even farther to eliminate, if it were possible, any kind of religiously symbolic art of any kind, in addition to any representational art. The use of a cross, censer, candles, or vestments in a place of worship, is considered idolatrous by some. By using tools and items of furniture or clothing only in the context of religious ritual, these implements seem set apart as holy; they would be profaned by ordinary use. This too is believed to pose a danger that these objects are being worshipped or are becoming talismans. During the period of Archbishop William Laud's conflicts with Puritans within the Church of England, the use of ritual implements prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer was a frequent cause of conflict. (See vestments controversy)

Some Protestant groups have criticized the use of stained-glass windows by many other denominations, while Jehovah's Witnesses criticize the use of windows, statuary, as well as the wearing of a cross. The Amish are the only Christian group that forbids the use of images in secular life. In their critiques, these groups argue that such practices are in effect little different from idolatry, and that they localize and particularize God, whom they argue is beyond human depiction.

The concluding explanation is given here:

Every sensory or mental image we have of the Deity is a figment of human imagination that falls short of the truth. For Protestants, the prohibition of the worship of graven images is the beginning of the acknowledgment of this limitation on the human mind and imagination.

The Islamic world of today may be guilty of falling behind the ages (not really our fault; the Wahhabis bought a considerable amount of influence with their oil money over the last 40 years), but the "Western" establishment is also guilty of forgetfullness of the history through which it itself had evolved.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

All leads point to Wahhabism

[Update: see photos below.]

This article appeared last month in the Egyptian daily El Masry El Yom. I thought the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia wouldn't be too happy about the news it reported, but it was only later in that day that I learned of the explosion of this golden-domed mosque of Iraq that supposedly held the remains of the Imams Hassan and Hussein. Ever since, the Iraqi Sunnis and Shias have been engaged in this tit-for-tat mini civil war...

The article talks of a conference that was held in Al Azhar by the Sufi 'Azmiya sect, which called for the internationalization of all the sites in Saudi Arabia which had to do with the holy pilgrimage and Islamic heritage, which it said belonged to all the world's Muslims, with all their different sects, and not to the "extremist Wahhabis" alone, "who were dividing the world's Muslims from within, and weakening them abroad".

More importantly, and this was the essence of the conference, it called for the protection of these holy sites that were related to the lives and burial places of the Prophet and his family. Why, you may ask? Because the Wahhabis, ever since they came to power, have been intent on destroying them! According to them, all sanctification of these sites is considered a form of idolatry.

Wahhabism is the culture of the cave. Nothing runs there, from "post-Islamic" "inventions" of how to say hello, to even, as I suspect, terrorist leader and doctor-gone-mad Ayman El Zawahri's own inventive poetry from the cave.

Wahhabism - the degradation from all material means - is not invalid as a concept in itself. However the self-proclaimed fundamentalists of all the ages and creeds - Jewish, Christian and Muslim - have failed to grasp the idea that monasticism, while proving a necessary and even desirable path for the spiritual leaders of the faiths, was never meant to be set as a way of life for the multitude.

So in essence, the civil strife we see in the Islamic world today, from the furor over the cartoons, to the brewing civil war in Iraq, comes down to the very simple/tragic tenet of Wahhabism - that of idolatry. Both campaigns, I believe, are directed from above by few governmental and terrorist entities, but this doesn't change the fact that their malicious exploitations rest on the rock of this archaic and now misunderstood concept.

Egyptians celebrate Mulid El Rifaei

Women attendees

Together at the mosque of Ahmad El Badawi

Muslims celebrate the Mulid of the Virgin Mary

El Leila El Kebira

* Photos by Sherif Sonbol, from "Mulid! Carnivals of Faith".

Blogger plagiarism?

I know this is the internet, but it doesn't hurt to give credit where it is due.

I wrote some comments earlier to a post here, that a few days later were mysteriously resonated in this post here.

(I hate to sound petty, but...)


Mahmoud Mokhtar, modern Egypt's greatest sculptor. Check the photo at Baheyya's.