14 November 2011
Preceding the parliamentary elections to be held in Egypt from 28 November, Radio Netherlands Worldwide and the VU University Amsterdam have launched an online ‘vote compass’. The site presents respondents with multiple choice questions as a means for determining which political party best represents their interests. The test was compiled through analysis of official documents and the stated views of the parties or statements made by their leaders. The Egyptian version of the Vote Compass site, which is not affiliated with any political or government body, also involves several Egyptian collaborative partners, from al-Jazeera to Cairo University.
The social conditions depicted in some of these movies lend perspective to the events of Arab Spring, organizers say.
Eight months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt continues to grapple with the revolution’s aftermath as it prepares for parliamentary elections next month. But at this year’s Arab Film Festival, which opens Friday at the Writers Guild of America theater in Beverly Hills, it will be pre-revolutionary Egypt that appears on the screen.
In “The Birds of the Nile,” a man from a small village moves to Cairo in search of a better life but runs up against the disintegrating structures of Egyptian society. Another Egyptian film, “The Ring Road,” tells the story of a man trying to save his daughter’s life while struggling against the country’s endemic corruption.
“Egyptian Maidens,” about two unmarried women, sheds light on the daily struggles and mounting frustrations of many Egyptians.
Other festival offerings from Tunisia, Jordan and Iraq reflect similar undercurrents of anger that erupted into mass protests that spread across the Arab world this year.
14 October 2010
The first course launched by Al-Azhar University in collaboration with the University of Cambridge has come to an end. Al-Azhar University in Cairo offered British Muslims studying at the Prince Alwaleed Centre of Islamic Studies in Cambridge the chance to attend its Imam training. The course was especially designed for young British Muslims studying in Darul Ulooms (Islamic seminaries) which often produce future Imams and Muslim chaplains.
The 15 week programme hoped to provide students with a challenging series of seminars, lectures and personal study assignments that will help them with potential roles as leaders in their faith communities. During the course, students spent time at both Cambridge and Al-Azhar and met with representatives from community organisations of different faiths to learn about pastoral care, interfaith working and community leadership.
Beth Caldwell, a British Council English teacher, said, “Our students are now engaging with the world — the real and the virtual — on a level which would have been impossible with their level of English just a short time ago.” Al-Azhar student Alaa Eddin Ibrahim is using his English to speak to others via social networking. He said, “Al Azhar graduates need to have the opportunity to interact with the world outside of Egypt, to show the world, particularly the West, the right image of Islam.”
Espersen herself suggests that the misunderstanding may have occurred as a result of her explanation of Danish law: “I can confirm that I have told several of my conversation partners that freedom of speech is not without limits in Denmark. There are two limits: the blasphemy paragraph, which is paragraph 140 in criminal law and the racism paragraph as in paragraph 266b,” Espersen says.
The Danish embassy in Cairo has issued a news release in which it has clarified what Espersen said. Linguistically, the part of the statement concerned could be misinterpreted as an apology for the cartoons, as it is not fully clear what the regret refers to, and in translation into Arabic, or in oral conversation, could easily be misconstrued as an apology for them.
October 14, 2010
Denmark’s Foreign Minister Lene Espersen says that claims in Egypt that she should have apologised for the media printing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, are a misunderstanding.
The English-language Egyptian Gazette has reported under the headline ‘Denmark apologises to Musims for cartoons’ that Espersen apologised for the cartoons during a visit to Cairo recently.
In response Lene Espersen says: “I fully refute having apologised… I am always very careful in explaining exactly what Denmark’s position is on this issue. So I can fully deny having apologised”.
By Muhammad Sahimi
Aside from the symbolic meaning of that choice –choosing Cairo as a place for delivering his speech-, we need to look at what the President and his administration have done to Muslims and the Islamic world ever since he took over in January 2009. I look at this at the levels of both Muslim individuals and Islamic countries. Let us consider first the developments at the country-to-country level….
Although she’d cultivated an academic interest in Islam at university, Willow Wilson’s religious awakening really came in the hospital. She was suffering from adrenal distress, and its symptoms – including insomnia and hair loss – would last for a year and a half. “Being ill had shaken something loose in my head,” the 27-year-old writes in her new memoir The Butterfly Mosque (Grove Press, 2010). “That so many people were well – that I had been well for so long – seemed miraculous.”
After she recovered, Ms. Wilson accepted a teaching position in Cairo: Her decision to convert to Islam came mid-flight, over the Mediterranean. Days later, she would meet her future husband Omar, a pious Muslim and heavy-metal aficionado, at their English-language school. He showed her markets and cafés free of Westerners, and later steered her through her first Ramadan.
Background: More than a year after Barack Obama’s landmark speech in Cairo, where he laid out his vision to repair relations with the Muslim world, Muslims are growing weary and disillusioned with the U.S. president and his international policies, according to a new survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.
Summary: Publics of largely Muslim countries continue to hold overwhelmingly negative views of the U.S. In both Turkey and Pakistan – where ratings for the U.S. have been consistently low in recent years – only 17% hold a positive opinion. Indeed, the new poll finds opinion of the U.S. slipping in some Muslim countries where opinion had edged up in 2009. In Egypt, America’s favorability rating dropped from 27% to 17% – the lowest percentage observed in any of the Pew Global Attitudes surveys conducted in that country since 2006. The modest levels of confidence and approval observed in 2009 have slipped markedly. In Egypt the percentage of Muslims expressing confidence in Obama fell from 41% to 31% and in Turkey from 33% to 23%. Last year only 13% of Pakistani Muslims expressed confidence in Obama, but this year even fewer (8%) hold this view. And while views of Obama are still more positive than were attitudes toward President Bush among most Muslim publics, significant percentages continue to worry that the U.S. could become a military threat to their country.
In his June 4, 2009 Cairo speech, U.S. President Barack Obama emphasized that Muslim women in the U.S. are free to don the hijab. Obama’s statements triggered strong criticism among Arab intellectuals in France..
Reformist writer Abdelwahab Meddeb, a professor of comparative literature at the University of Paris X in Nanterre and author of The Malady of Islam (New York: Basic Books, 2003) and Counter-Preaching (Contre-Prêches, Seuil, Paris, 2006) wrote: “Obama’s pertinent speech in Cairo was wrong in at least one respect. Let us say [for the sake of the argument] – though I find it difficult to do so – that women should be free to wear the veil. [Still, Obama] should have added that they must [also] be free to remove it.”
Leila Barbès, a professor of religion and sociology at the Catholic University of Lille, also referred to the hijab issue. She explained that, in the context of the veil, “free choice” was an illusion: “The moment [wearing] the veil is presented as a divine duty, the issue of free choice is no longer valid, [and] all Muslim women are exposed to [this religious] propaganda. How can we pretend they have a choice when they are told that [their] religion obligates [them to wear a veil]? The women [who wear] a full veil [i.e. a niqab, which covers everything but the eyes,] do so in order to comply with what is requested and expected of them by their husbands or their sect.
President Obama announced that the United States would embark on a business exchange program in areas such as telecommunication and electronic technology, health care, education and infrastructure with the Muslim World. It is a part of the larger outreach efforts by his administration to begin a new era in US relations with Muslims. He declared that such new era “has already begun.” The announcement came in the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship in Washington D.C. The idea of the Summit had been mentioned in Obama’s Cairo speech last June.