Egyptian-American woman freed in Egypt goes home on U.S. military plane

Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian who holds U.S. citizenship, was acquitted by a Cairo court on Sunday along with seven others who had worked with street children. Hijazi was released from jail on Tuesday, having been held for nearly three years.

She was flown to Joint Base Andrews, the U.S. military airfield on the outskirts of Washington.

President Donald Trump had privately asked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to help out in the case when Sisi visited the White House on April 3, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

‘Donald Trump destroyed my life,’ says barred Iraqi who worked for U.S.

CAIRO – The photos of the Sharef family spoke volumes about their plight.

In the first two, the Iraqis are happily seated on their plane, smiling. They were flying from their home in Irbil to New York. In the next few, they are seated in Cairo’s airport, their faces glum and haggard. By then, they had been taken off their plane — and informed they could no longer travel to the United States.

It did not matter that they had valid visas. It did not matter that they were headed to Nashville to start a new life. President Trump’s executive order banning entry to citizens of Iraq and six other mostly Muslim nations had caught up with the family of five.

‘The Square’ filmmakers capture a revolution — and then an Oscar nomination

January 17, 2014

 

On a recent afternoon, Jehane Noujaim apologized for checking her cellphone in the middle of an interview. The director of “The Square,” an immersion into the Egyptian revolution, wanted to make sure her producer, Karim Amer, was going to be able to get back into the country — his country — to see an ailing relative. Such apprehension was nothing new for Noujaim.

“The Square,” nominated Thursday for an Academy Award for best documentary, opened Friday in theaters and via Netflix, but has yet to be screened in Egypt, whose tumultuous recent history is its subject. “The film is in censorship,” she said. “They won’t issue a letter to show it publicly. There’s an attempt to whitewash the last three years. That period is given intimate perspective in the film, which tracks the downfall of dictatorial Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 after 18 days of mass protests and military intimidation in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

The story continues as Mubarak’s elected successor, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, also is toppled, amid rising violence and discord between religious and secular factions. The tilts and turns meant that, shortly after winning an audience award for “The Square” at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Noujaim went back to shooting and re-editing the film. “Most of these verite films, you make up a story that you think you’re following,” said Noujaim, whose films include “Control Room” and “Startup.com.”

“You make a plan and God laughs, right? And that’s the exciting thing about making these films. You don’t know which way a story is going to go. But this story, much more than anything I’ve ever worked on, I had no idea where it was going. We had to have people ready to film at any moment.” The Harvard-educated filmmaker, 39, was born in Washington but raised in Cairo between the ages of 7 and 17. She grew up a few minutes from Tahrir Square but never imagined that one day she’d be sleeping in it.

“There was no place else I wanted to be in the world when things started happening there,” Noujaim said. It was in the square that she met the film’s key figures, each a different piece of the populist puzzle that came together in the story. “You look for people who will take you into worlds that you will never ordinarily see.”

The Academy Award nomination is the first ever for an Egyptian film. Noujaim compared the moment to “getting accepted to the World Cup for the first time.” The timing is crucial, as the country voted last week on a new constitution — backed by the military government — with presidential and parliamentary elections expected soon. “What Ahmed said when we were short-listed was, this means that despite censorship that this film will be unstoppable and our story will never be able to be obliterated or silenced,” Noujaim said. “The government will be in a very uncomfortable place, which is exactly where they need to be put for censoring a film about a hugely important chapter of Egyptian history.”

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-square-filmmakers-capture-a-revolution–and-then-an-oscar-nomination/2014/01/17/9617eb6c-7ee1-11e3-93c1-0e888170b723_story.html

Vatican representative meets with Islam scholar in Cairo

December 4, 2013

 

Vatican City – The Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Msgr. Miguel Angel Ayuso, met Tuesday in Cairo with a senior scholar specializing in the Sunni Islam faith, said a Vatican spokesman. Ayuso met for 45 minutes with Abbas Shouman, the second-highest official with Al Azhar University, a world-renowned center of religious research of Sunni Islam, emphasizing the strong relationship between the pontifical council and the Islamic university, said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi. The meeting was positive and encouraging, said Lombardi. “The result is a willingness to resume…dialogue and collaboration,” he added. The Vatican has worked to mend fences with the university that suspended relations after the former Pope Benedict said in late 2011 that Christians were the world’s most persecuted religious group. Benedict’s comments came after a year of incidents including a bombing in Alexandria, Egypt in early 2011 where 23 Copts were killed.

 

Gazzette del Sud: http://www.gazzettadelsud.it/news/71338/Vatican-representative-meets-with-Islam-scholar-in-Cairo.html

Francis calls for mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims in letter to Al-Azhar

September 18, 2013

The Nuncio to Cairo, Mgr. Gobel, has delivered a letter to the Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University calling for a steady return to dialogue

The Al-Azhar University in Cairo – considered one of the most important centres of Sunni Islamic learning  – has announced that Pope Francis has sent a personal message to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al Tayyeb. The most important Catholic website in Arabic, www.abouna.org, published the communiqué issued by Al-Azhar, which mentions that a meeting took place yesterday between Al Tayyeb and the Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt, Mgr. Jean-Paul Gobel. During the face-to-face meeting the Nuncio delivered the message of wishes Pope Francis sent to the Muslim world for the end of the month of Ramadan, along with a personal message from to Pope to Al Tayyeb.

According to Al-Azhar, in his message the Pope stressed the Vatican’s respect for Islam and said he hoped every effort would be made towards achieving “mutual understanding between the world’s Christians and Muslims in order to build peace and justice.” Al Tayyeb apparently replied that the message Al-Azhar wished to get out is one of “respect for people of every religion and the safeguarding of human dignity and the highest values described in the Quran and the Sunnah.” He also said that Muslims are willing “to collaborate to help justice and progress grow among the people of the Earth.”

The communiqué issued by the University of Al-Azhar is important in light of the tensions between the Sunni centre of learning and the Vatican, which exploded in January 2011 after Benedict XVI’s strong condemnation of the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of Alexandria. This led the university to announce it was suspending dialogue with the Holy See. Prior to this, a university delegation would hold meetings with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue every two years. Today’s communiqué alluded to this incident, saying that Al Tayyeb apparently told the Nuncio that casting Islam in a negative light is “a red line” that must not be crossed.

The communiqué does not make explicit reference to the resumption of dialogue. But it is important to bear in mind that in June Al-Azhar said it was waiting for a response to the message of congratulations which Al Tayyeb sent Pope Francis after his election. And it expressed the hope that there would be “a clear demonstration of respect for Islam and Muslims”. This was clearly demonstrated in today’s message. The President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran responded by saying that it was Al-Azhar that had interrupted dialogue with the Holy See. The Holy See had kept the door of dialogue open.

The facts seem to suggest that this rift is healing fast: Al Tayyeb and the University of Al-Azhar have proven to be an important reference point for Christians during the difficult past few months in Egypt. Even during Mohammed Morsi’s presidency the Great Imam had tried on more than one occasion to act as a mediator with Christians, attracting the wrath of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Then, after the 30 June demonstrations he openly supported the ousting of the Islamist president by the military. Importantly, when Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attacked him for this, the Secretary of the Council of Churches of Egypt, Fr. Bishoy Helmy came to his defence. The Apostolic Vicar of Alexandria, Mgr. Adel Zaki told Fides news agency that “a strong collaborative agreement between Al Azhar and the Council of Christian Churches is being registered.”

Michele Bachmann thanking the Egyptian military for the coup and crackdowns

Three U.S. lawmakers who have generated controversy for their statements about Islam and Muslim Americans released a video Saturday praising the Egyptian military and thanking it for staging the July 3 and subsequent crackdowns against their “common enemy,” the Muslim Brotherhood. The video, apparently taken a few hours after meeting with coup leader General Abdel Fatah el-Sissi in Cairo, features Rep. Michele Bachmann reading a statement to the camera. She’s flanked by Reps. Steve King and Louie Gohmert.

The video, posted below, is a doozy. Bachmann, presumably supported by King and Gohmert, offers fulsome praise for the coup and the military-led government’s subsequent actions, describing its crackdowns against sit-ins and demonstrations as “the front lines” in “the war on terrorism.” She described the Muslim Brotherhood as a common enemy and a “great evil,” implying that it had been responsible for the attacks against the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. King and Gohmert offered similar but more tempered remarks.

Bachmann’s remarks appeared deeply consistent with Egyptian state propaganda that has portrayed the Muslim Brotherhood as a secret terrorist organization and an internal enemy.

Allen West: Muslim Brotherhood ‘Infiltrated’ Obama Administration

Former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) claimed individuals tied to the Muslim Brotherhood have “infiltrated” President Barack Obama’s administration.

 

“[W]e do have Muslim Brotherhood affiliated groups and individuals infiltrated into this current Obama administration,” West wrote on his Facebook page. “This is serious.”

West slammed Obama’s Middle East policies, criticizing his “very conciliatory speech”in Cairo in 2009 and his stance on former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation in 2011.

“Many warned of the rise of the ‘granddaddy of Islamic terrorism,’ the Muslim Brotherhood, in Egypt as the only viable and organized political entity,” West wrote. “We were castigated as alarmists and Islamophobes. The Muslim Brotherhood even lied about running a candidate for President. We are now witnessing the result of our blindness.”

This isn’t the first time West has suggested the Muslim Brotherhood has influence in American government. In April 2012, West said “we should not allow the Muslim Brotherhood-associated groups to be influencing our national security strategy” in response to the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ decision to scrap nearly 900 pages of training materials that had been determined offensive, culturally insensitive and in some cases entirely misleading or incorrect.

 

West also called on Obama to “repudiate the Muslim Brotherhood” in June 2012, calling the Arab Spring “nothing more than a radical Islamic nightmare.”

Children of Irish Imam arrested during Ramses Square mosque siege

Four children of Sheikh Hussein Halawa, the imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Dublin, Ireland’s largest mosque, were arrested on Saturday, 17 August 2013, following the overnight siege of the Al-Fath Mosque near Ramses Square in central Cairo. Three of the imam’s daughters and his teenage son took part in the march leading to Ramses Square on Friday, 16 August 2013, after participating at the pro-Mursi sit-in near the Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Mosque.

They are held in military detention at the Tora prison in Cairo and are due to appear at court on Monday, 19 August 2013. As all four hold Irish citizenship, the Irish government has been asked to intervene with the Egyptian authorities in their behalf. Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Joe Costello, could confirm that they were “in good health” and that a Turkish diplomat had visited them.

The four siblings are among a growing number of young Irish of Arab background have been caught up in the events and turmoil around the Arab Spring for the last two years, undertaking online campaigns, setting up charities or joining rebel forces to fight initially in Libya and later in Syria.

Sheikh Hussein Halawa has been living in Ireland for the last 18 years. He heads the largest mosque in Ireland and is also the secretary of the European Council for Fatwa and Research which is based at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland. Both the Islamic Cultural Centre and the European Council for Fatwa and Research are funded by the Maktoum Foundation, led by Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, deputy ruler of Dubai and Minister for Finance and Industry of the United Arab Emirates.

D.C. area Egyptians celebrate Morsi’s ouster

Zeinab Mansour, 70, a librarian from Chevy Chase, returned to her native Cairo two years ago to participate in the democratic revolution that toppled Egypt’s longtime dictator, Hosni Mubarak. Last year, the dual citizen voted in Egypt’s first free elections, which led to the presidency of Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

On Saturday, Mansour was out on the streets again, this time joining a rally in front of the White House to celebrate Morsi’s ouster by the Egyptian army Wednesday and to ask the Obama administration to support a second chance for democracy in her homeland after a year of turmoil and religious pressure under Morsi and his Islamist followers.

 

But even as many members of the Washington area’s large, middle-class Egyptian American community welcomed Morsi’s overthrow, calling it a “revolution, not a coup,” others warned that the sudden power vacuum and ongoing violent clashes involving secular, Islamist and security forces could lead to wider religious and social conflict in the poor Middle Eastern nation of 90 million.

 

“This is a very, very dangerous situation,” said Nancy Okiel, an Egyptian Muslim and staff member at the nonprofit rights group Freedom House in the District. “I am not optimistic at all when I see people dying in the streets, and I don’t think the issue is whether there was a coup or not. The country is very divided, and no matter how it settles, a lot of lives will be lost first.”

The demonstrators, along with many online Egyptian American commentators, expressed frustration at the Obama administration’s cautious reaction to the unfolding events in Egypt. Many suspect that Washington seeks to restore stability in Egypt at the expense of popular demands. The administration, which provides huge amounts of aid to Egypt, accepted Morsi’s election but also has close ties to the army.

 

“A lot of people are very angry at President Obama, and what he said has been lost in translation,” said Samia Harris, who heads a private school in Woodbridge. “The Egyptian people want freedom, human rights, justice and respect for law, and we want Mr. Obama and his administration to listen to them. This was not a coup. It was a marching order from the Egyptian people.”

 

Commentator Arrested for Defacing Anti-Jihad Subway Poster

An Egyptian-American columnist, who rose to prominence on social media last year for her commentary during the revolution in Egypt, was arrested in the Times Square subway station on Tuesday for spraying pink paint on a pro-Israel poster that calls Islamist opponents of the Jewish state “savage.”

The poster was one of 10 placed in subway stations across the transit system this week, on the heels of violent and sometimes deadly protests across the Muslim world in response to an American-made video mocking the Prophet Muhammad.

The columnist, Mona Eltahawy, is a former Reuters correspondent now based in New York who became a dual citizen of Egypt and the United States last year. Her Twitter feed, which has more than 160,000 followers, became popular last year as a source of information on the Egyptian revolution.

Ms. Eltahawy, initially known for her commentary on the Egyptian revolution from afar, became personally involved in the protest movement last November, when she used her Twitter feed to document her physical and sexual abuse by Egyptian police officers following a crackdown on a demonstration near Tahrir Square in Cairo.

In May, she earned the enmity of many Egyptians for writing a Foreign Policy cover story on women’s rights in the Middle East published with the headline “Why Do They Hate Us?

News of Ms. Eltahawy’s arrest made headlines in Egypt and earned her praise from like-minded Internet activists. A Lebanese blogger, who was less impressed with the stunt, wrote a satirical blog post accusing Ms. Eltahawy of attention-seeking.