Monday, 2 February 2015


You either love it or hate it. 

Marmite is the thick spread covering Egypt today.
Although my personal preference is irrelevant I do declare and solemnly swear:
I love Marmite.
An oath for all to abide by lest we are put to the stand and are sworn in, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Before reading any further, the Marmageddon path must be averted ~ its rich texture not overlooked
There will always be those who turn a blind eye to injustice, who either do not care or see it as well-deserved. But there is a constant that remains at the heart of the matter; what can possibly justify the jailing of journalists who do nothing other than their job?
Ecstatic, relieved, grateful?
All of the above. Peter Greste is released after a grueling 400 days of imprisonment for 'aiding and abetting a terrorist group, so officials said.'
However it should be noted that although formerly it was declared that the matter was entirely a jurisdictional one, Peter was freed through presidential amnesty.
Now, Egypt awaits the release of the other two, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, jailed for similar offense, though no evidence stands up in court.

"The timing of Greste's release came as a surprise, just days after Egypt suffered one of the bloodiest militant attacks in years. More than 30 members of the security forces were killed on Thursday night in Sinai, and ensuing comments from Sisi suggested he was in no mood for compromise."
Either way: Opportune Release. And it must be repeated, we are truly grateful, relieved and indeed ecstatic. Thank you.

Timing is everything in politics.
Peter Greste is released, just as the fate of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto is so cruelly sealed by the murderous gang ISIL. The world is watching and sees all in black and white. With evil so clear, a contrasting action glows whiter than white.
May the release of the other two journalists, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy follow. After so many days, weeks and months ~ all once released, even if falsely accused, must declare themselves free of resentment ~ grateful for small mercies.

But just to squeeze a little more out of the marmite metaphor, let us see how large a surface it can cover. Perhaps we should try mixing it in with a flavour-enhanced milkshake, it might even become more palatable for those who cannot appreciate it in its pure state.
In place of the holier than thou religiosity there is now a frothy holier than thou patriotism, with a franchise for national pride and identity.
Anything that remotely questions authority of present rule is condemned and labelled as a negative influence and a threat to national security. There can be no parties grouping in order to eventually instigate a democracy, there can be no allegiance to any thoughts or ideas of reform that do not abide by that general consensus: the sanctity of Military Rule. For any free thought to exist there must be a consequence, for marmite in its pure state is no longer deemed fit for consumption.

Egypt may appear to be back to square one. Tahrir Square now remains etched in the memory of a few as a fleeting moment  in time; one free of milkshakes but then again one of so many in the course of Egypt's history that its after taste may well be considered negligible.*

And yet, beneath that frothy surface a pulse continues to beat, inaudible to those who have added a deaf ear to the blind eye, a pulse that beats even though silenced by fear. Somewhere among the glory lies an abyss ... where hope and despair merge.

A faint whisper is carried by desert sands where once a spring of hope sprang ... 'Free all detainees'

"Oh gosh! I'm watching a few sunsets ... I haven't seen those at all for a very long time... watching the stars... feeling the sand under my toes... the little things... this has been like a rebirth and you realise that it is those little beautiful moments of life that are really precious and spending time with my family of course too...THAT'S what's important.. not the big issues." 
Peter Greste in his first interview after release.
 "If it's appropriate ~ if it's right for me to be free, then it's right for all of them to be free and for those who are convicted in abstentia to be free of these convictions."
For video link click: 

*For a rounded summary of what appears to be Egypt's eternal struggle, following some notable figureheads may aid general perspective. 
In no particular order: eminent historian Professor Khaled Fahmy~ Short story writer, novelist and political and cultural commentator Ahdaf Soueif, ~ among other notable journalists, writers and figureheads such as Bilal Fadl, Yosry Foda and Alaa el Aswany; for although some may have lost general appeal and popularity they nevertheless retain immense credibility through their astute and insightful, long-term observations and acknowledgement of the fact that there is no, can be no, easy fix.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Arabic, not just another language

I feel such affinity for a share so beautifully written by Hani El-Masri ~ Artist,Concept and show designer at Walt Disney Imagineering and Storyteller at Self ~ I felt compelled to say just a little of what I feel in reciprocation. Perhaps I should rephrase that: my reaction is 'a glimpse' nothing more. His Facebook status, in Arabic, you can find here: 

The following is quite naturally a very personal point of view from an angle that relates to little things that count. To be understood by another experiencing life abroad, which is what the status share refers to, it would need to be tailored, quite individually.

At the risk of appearing banal, I would nevertheless feel disingenuous if I didn't start with the following: Egyptian niceties.

Niceties are so over-used in Egyptian circles so that they appear inane and superfluous and one tends to dismiss their value. Yet, without them altogether, our sensibilities feel greatly impoverished.
Leaving them behind could never erase them from spirit. On the contrary, not hearing them all around me made me wish more and more fervently to introduce them into British culture if not language. I had got used to foreigners in Egypt taking to the terminology so easily and willingly that I found the British nationals' distanced reactions whilst appearing somewhat bemused, quite unsettling.
Words such as 'Mabrouk' (blessings with its various nuances) and 'Haneyan' (wholesomeness for food and  beverage) and indeed 'InshaAllah' (with the Will of Allah) among so many more, have no one-word equivalent in the English language and phrases used to explain them lose out considerably, sometimes they even risk distorting the inherent meaning since similar phrases, already in use, have very different connotations so that, for example, the hopefulness and assurance carried in the term 'InshaAllah' could contradictorily, when interpreted, convey a pessimistic streak and imply being on a downer. 
My need to converse with Egyptian friends of a similar background living in Egypt became ever more pertinent to my spirit and with the 2011 revolution I began to feel an ever-increasing need to highlight that connection. Egypt was awake.

With this I come to my feelings for Islam (which although born into I felt become truly tangible only through phases linked to trials of a very deep and pertinent nature). Well, these feelings come to the fore considerably on becoming distanced from a land where the essence of Islam is a natural and everyday part of everyone’s outlook and vernacular. 
A religion with all its grace; words such as‘Hamd', ‘Reda’ and ‘Taqwa’, are mere examples of so many more quite impossible to translate fully with just one word in any other language. However, attempts to do so are many and are all part of the exercise in reaching out and therefore worth pursuing for anyone interested to do so.

Here, I would like to focus upon ‘Tawak’kul’, a reassuring and affirmative stance, an invaluable viewpoint in that it combines responsibility with submission, acceptance and surrender, in perfect ratios. With ‘Tawak’kul, a pursuit through faith, so contrary to its rampant soul-destroying counterpart ‘tawa~kul’ (a mere diphthong away) that shrugs off all responsibility and accountability, leaving only an aftertaste of despair, I could not but feel the former’s priceless value in my heart upon coming face to face with exhibits of overly controlled aspirations. For indeed many a Westerner even those who may well have 'Tawak’kul' in their hearts, having no word to describe it seems to obscure a vital attribute of spiritual ethos where human exploits and planning are concerned. 
As for its closely related yet ever so distanced counterpart referred to above, we could perhaps attribute to it much of the inertia or worse still slapdash attitudes, enveloping altogether too many aspects in Egypt.

Perhaps it was due to such realisations that I felt a wholesome perspective could be obtained; one into which zealotry and self-righteousness could not possibly fit and thus, with no struggle whatsoever, I most thankfully never felt confused. 
Having a need to dismiss the intolerance of religious zealotry is essential and understandable, however far too often that act of dismissal doesn’t know where to draw the line and sadly, I found, many would tend to 'throw out the baby with the bath water'. When that occurs it regrettably leads to another kind of intolerance, equally distasteful and equally damaging.

Every day in the UK I sense and cherish my Egyptian roots that have intensely shaped my outlook on life, that keep on enriching it over and over again, so that it is always so natural for me to alert others to it whenever I feel it relevant. Having been to a British school in Egypt, integration into the UK was pretty straight forward and quite effortless, however, over time insights come to the fore and take on different hues. For myself, finding harmony in approach, in address and in direction, together with balance within, counts for almost everything.

With inference from the insightful Facebook status that propelled me to jot these thoughts down, with regard to my personal feelings about needing to prove myself over and over again upon being perceived as something of a foreigner I could add a yes to it being quite a struggle at times. However, presenting yourself  just as you are, without labels being attached left right and centre to the paraphernalia of existence, can feel so liberating, like pressing the refresh button when too much clutter clouds up a space. Having said that from a very personal viewpoint, it may well be that for people with a heightened professional background it may indeed feel less so and could well present challenges that require immense determination and endurance.

On another note I soon realised that whereas I would perhaps be perceived as discreet and even slightly detached by nature in Egypt, I found that I actually came across as unusually friendly here in the UK just for making an effort and genuinely asking how people were. At the start that felt perplexing to say the least. Gathering up the courage to ask why people in the South East tended to look down on those who did not limit their conversation to the weather and how come it was that I was accepted for so-doing, I remember receiving this reply: 'It's ok for you to do so because you're foreign.'
Albeit that was by someone who was more of a short-term acquaintance than long-standing friend. Dynamics change in our world and true friendships established since are blessings.

Due to a background filled both cognitively and subliminally with diverse cultural influences, I have always regarded myself as a fish swimming in air if not water and always seen it as an asset rather than a hindrance, so to bring this  bit of writing to an end: Perhaps, for all of us, the need we feel to reach out~ gifts us with more than just an enhanced grounded outlook… It allows us to breathe. 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Arab Spring Medley Awards

November the 29th 2014
"Judge Rashidi, who led a panel of three judges, did not elaborate from the bench on their reasoning, insisting that any commentators read at least a 240-page summary of their 1,340-page explanation of the case.
He dismissed the most serious charges: that Mr. Mubarak was responsible for the killing of hundreds of nonviolent demonstrators during the protests that ended his rule. He acquitted him of the corruption charges, which involved allegations that as president he had sold natural gas to Israel at below-market prices, as well as other allegations Mr. Mubarak and his sons were given vacation homes on the Red Sea as kickbacks in a land deal."
Verdicts were uttered not unlike the taking part of an award ceremony. 
ميدياوي - MediaWay

 A poster shared on Facebook ~ in memory of some of those who lost their lives in the January 2011 revolution.

November the 28th 2014
"Although the protest was under the banner of protecting Egypt's religious identity, the chant from those demonstrating had a different message,( Down with Military Rule)'يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر'

photo by Khaled Salah

First civilian casualty shot and killed shown unarmed ~ image of him dead, a blur of gore. Protest has been called illegal. The MB and those organising the protest had called on their supporters not to confront the police or army. Instead, encouraging them to gather in the smaller streets and roads of Egypt. Despite this it wasn't long before the first fatality occurred. includes video "Army soldiers take their positions with their armoured personnel vehicle during clashes with supporters of Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi in the Cairo suburb of Matariya November 28, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany"

"The Salafi Front termed its call for protests on Friday the "Uprising of Islamist Youth", alienating secular critics of Sisi and also limiting turnout.
The Salafi Front said demonstrations would continue into the evening and issued a statement urging protesters to remain peaceful."

Sahar Aziz,  author on Egyptian politics and a professor of law at the Texas A and M University; says the Egyptian government must listen to the concerns of the protesters.
"I think these protests signify that without a political solution, Egypt will continue to be plagued by violence, unfortunately. What happened on July 3rd 2013, when the first democratically elected president Morsi was deposed, was a political crisis, and unfortunately, the government since then, whoever was in charge, they have misguidedly used violent state  repression and oppression of protests as a way to 'hope' that this problem will go away. 
It's clear the way the country is operating is the same as the way in which Abdel Nasser and Sadat and Mubarak operated which tends to happen when you have a military run government - the only language the government knows is the language of the gun, of force- and that in 2014 is no longer a feasible option for the Middle East and the Arab world. 
The youth have rejected these forms of police brutality and state oppression and they now want a democratic system where their voices are heard and are part of the decision making process as opposed to being used as objects or infantilized; that they should just sit, be quiet and listen to what the elders tell them. 

Q: "You mentioned Egypt's youth, some people say this is the beginning of the 'Muslim Youth Intefada', what does it look like to you?"

Sahar Aziz: "Well, 90% of Egypt is Muslim, so when you say Muslim youth of Egypt you are not talking about some extremist group, this is essentially all the youth, 90% of the youth in Egypt. The reason why January 25th occurred, which was a revolutionary moment that could have produced a revolutionary outcome... the reason why these uprisings occurred was because the youths' futures had been robbed, had been stolen by corrupt business elite and corrupt military elite... and every time they tried to tell their government that they had no jobs and that they were starving, couldn't get married, couldn't live a life of dignity, they were put in prisons, they were tortured and they were subject to police brutality...  and the same conditions exist now. The people who have the most to lose from the current police state which is expanding, are the youth... and when you have nothing and also the most to lose at the same time, you are forced into violence.
I think the Sisi regime needs to take very seriously this robbed future  that the youth have experienced and it needs to figure out a way to give them something to live for so that violence is not the only means they have to survive."