Friday, February 14, 2014

English resources for updates on AntiCoup Egypt you probably don't know about



It took me a long time to collect this list after months of research. There's no excuse for any of you out there who keep complaining about lack of info on Egypt in English.

I'm not only including outlets I fully agree with ideologically and politically but I definitely think they're reliable for news and updates. 

A good strategy to reach an understanding to the situation in Egypt is looking on analysis on multiple fronts and not restricting oneself only to outlets we fully agree with. 

This is not mainstream reporting, and it's not run by celebrity activists, famous movements in Egypt, or westerners. 

This is the efforts of English speaking Egyptians in Egypt and abroad that came through since the coup happened in July 2013. Some of the outlets have been around for 3 years since the revolution started in 2011.

 Keep this list and forward it to people.

Facebook pages:

The Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights


 
British Egyptians for Democracy
 

Operation Egypt


We are all Khaled Said


ISAC-International Students Against the Coup

 
Egyptians Abroad For Democracy

Rassd News Network English

https://www.facebook.com/RNN.World

And finally that's my page:


Twitter pages for individuals and groups I consider to be reliable sources for info on Egypt in English:










This will be updated and renowned when I come across something else or remember something I didn't include.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

#Jan25, 2014: Reflections on loss and success in quest of justice

3 years ago I was a college kid who majored in science and went out to protests with signs in English and Arabic. It's 2014 now. The third anniversary of the revolution. I turned 24 years old and I'm giving lectures on the revolution and displaced in California.
 
Just thought about collecting some of my ideas and reflections I shared recently in one post. 

2011 in Tahrir square

2014 in California
On loss and success in quest of justice:

3 years is not a long time in the history of mankind and nations. Someone in their early twenties is considerably young for death. But this is not how I look at it.

The amount of change that took place in Egypt, in the Arab and Muslim world, and in the whole world in the last 3 years is immense.
 
 My friends are martyred in their early twenties but the weight their lives had and the influence their martyrdom brought is huge.

As one of the Egyptian revolutionaries I look up to once told someone asking them about their affiliation: "You're asking me which political party I'm affiliated with? I'm with the party whose win is a win, and whose loss is also a win".

I'm a winner with the position I picked up even if it means death or traumas and material loss, my friends in prisons are winners, my friends in the graves are winners.

The only losers are the oppressors, and the ones who chose to be silent or justified the oppression. These are the real losers in the game even while they remain happy, safe, sound, free of harm, and around their loved ones.
 
Someone thankfully translated this segment into Spanish here:

Reflexiones sobre la pérdida y el éxito en la búsqueda de la justicia.
 
 
‘Tres años no es mucho tiempo en la historia de la humanidad y de las naciones. Alguien en sus veinte años es considerablemente joven para morir. Pero no es así como lo veo yo. La cantidad de cambio que tuvo lugar en Egipto, en el mundo Árabe y Musulmán , y en todo el mundo en los últimos 3 años es inmensa. Mis amigos son martirizados en sus primeros años veinte , pero tenían el peso de sus vidas y la influencia que trajo de su martirio es enorme.

Como uno de los revolucionarios egipcios que admiro dijo una vez a alguien preguntándoles sobre su afiliación : “¿Me estás preguntando a qué partido político estoy afiliado? Soy del partido cuya victoria es una victoria , y cuya pérdida es también una victoria” .
Soy una ganadora con la posición que escogí incluso si esto significa la muerte o traumas y pérdidas materiales , mis amigos en las prisiones son ganadores , mis amigos en las tumbas son ganadores.
Los únicos perdedores son los opresores , y los que optaron por permanecer en silencio o justifican la opresión. Éstos son los verdaderos perdedores en el juego, mientras permanecen felices, seguros, firmes , libres de daño, y alrededor de sus seres queridos.’
 
On Mahmoud El Kordi, the first friend I lost in 2014:
 
It's Jan 26th 2014, I didn't want to go to sleep after the event I hosted in Oakland, CA last night although I was completely exhausted. I had a strong feeling I will go to sleep and wake up on a disaster, it's one of these days again. And so I woke up and an old class mate is martyred in a tragic manner. A colleague of mine who's not too older than me, someone that I remember so well because of his influence on my politicization and activism although I was 16-17 when we met. They killed him today. His killers called his wife's cell phone and told her: We have killed your husband you #$%^&.
 
Mahmoud the biology/chemistry major in my old college (Faculty of Science Ain Shams University in Cairo) used to be all energetic and positive in ways I couldn't grasp at this dark time of my life.

He used to give inspirational lectures to the freshmen in this educational institution that tried its best to make us feel low about ourselves. He was involved in all sorts of charity work before the revolution and was targeted with the Muslim Brotherhood students because they're the most active on campus these years (early 2006 when I first went to college).

I didn't know that this inspiring old classmate became a science teacher and a revolutionary, he also got married to a friend in our university. Mahmoud lived a beautiful inspiring selfless life and left us a winner in the test we are still taking. 
 
 
 
 
It's easier for a lot of people to throw at you the "You're a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer" or "You're a conservative/traditionalist Muslim and you're biased" than to think that things are much more complicated and that you could have possibly reached your current positions after years of research, life experiences, and immense losses.
My classmate who was shot in his eye and killed last Friday was a Muslim Brotherhood member since I knew him in college in 2006 and he was active in the revolution from the beginning.

In the meantime, the progressives in the west and back home think I should curse the Muslim Brotherhood 24/7 in order for me to pass their "radical" or "true revolutionary" test while my friends are getting gunned down, otherwise I'm a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer and propagandist. Yeah.

On the definition of "Anniversaries for wars/uprisings/political events in the Middle East":

These are occasions in which colonizers (White Europeans/Americans..etc) and assimilationists (Arab seculars/ Secular Arab-Americans etc) get a combo chance to over talk, analyze, and theorize on events in the Middle East that they haven't witnessed or paid any price for from their blood, time, and freedom.

And in the meantime, back in the Middle East, low income African/Asian people of color continue to get slaughtered, arrested, and beaten up in the streets in the background of the anniversaries "history show".

I didn't want to comment on the commercialized American made movie on Egypt called The Square to give it more free publicity but since I was asked by a million person now about it I thought I should write something to be left alone.

This movie is made by an American/Americanized crew for an American audience or a western audience in general for the sake of entertainment, a single-sided version of the story polished and tuned down to suit and comfort the American/westerner receiver. Obviously this is not a material for an audience that's looking for "education". Or an audience that wants to hear the sophisticated story.
It's made for an audience that would rather not waste their time looking for the real deal, dig into literature, read accounts, talk to people, but will go watch an hour long commercialized movie to feel good about themselves and then go around and act like they know the real deal and talk Egypt.

For someone who's been in the political documentary film production industry for three years now and someone who's involved in the Egyptian cause and lost friends for it I don't want to get started with what's wrong with this movie and the like. The narrative on Egypt just like the political scene was taken over by a group of elites who're self-claimed speakers on what's going on in Egypt because they can.

Documentary film production and media production in the west whether done by westerners or by assimilated people of color, or people from post-colonial nations is a new tool of imperialism and history distortion. This article here has some of the criticism I agree with to a certain degree.

My fellow revolutionary who's lucky and fortunate enough to speak a foreign language and have access to the internet: We are in 2014 so there's no excuse for you to let the colonizer and the assimilationist continue to tell your story like back in the day. This has got to stop. Tell your story the way it is, smash this false narrative, decolonize the history, and deconstruct the truth they're forcing!
 
On Cyber Warriors:
 
Cyber/keyboard revolutionaries, sofa party activists, and under-my-blanket-with-my-smartphone Mujahedeen should not give themselves too much credit if they're not being chased by bullets, if they're not getting in trouble for speaking up, and if their life is not at risk.

If you're in the comfort of your bed, like myself these days, have some humility and respect when you're talking, theorizing, and analyzing the ways real people who're involved in a real struggle are responding and reacting.

A reminder to myself and to you all. Because you might be doing so much harm without knowing to the people who're losing everything for standing up for their rights.

Monday, October 07, 2013

My legacy: Between Islam, Justice, and Revolution





In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful.  

For the historical record and at times when truth and lies are mixed I want to make my legacy clear for those of you who can listen and see. In several occasions throughout the last couple years I saw people disputing over the positions of my friends after they died or went to jail and thus I wanted to make some points clear. 

Now, people will have no excuse to question me or find justifications to blame me when I die or go to jail for my positions. Also, it is a reminder for me and all my brothers and sisters who're striving to be on the side of the truth. 

My political stance on Egypt since January 25th 2011:

This is an update I made before any of the massacres took place right when Morsi was ousted by Al Sisi in early July 2013 to make it clear for people who are confused about my positions and those who haven't followed my writings since I started posting about Egypt with my real name in 2011. 

Things are not back and white, people are not only pro or anti, and the reality is much more complicated than the bits and bites of information you get from here and there, and the news that are filtered 20 times before you read it.

1- "I'm initially against the practices of Mubarak's regime that is: (Mubarak himself and his businessmen gang, the National Democratic Party also known as "Feloul", The Military industrial complex, The Police, and the security apparatus that brings them all together against the interest of the people). I still like to believe that this is the regime that we revolted against and will continue to.

Later on, I became also an opponent to the Muslim Brotherhood for allying with Mubarak's regime and I have lots of conflicting issues with the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization in terms of both their ideology and management in post 2011 Egypt. 

I didn't participate in all the electoral political events that took place since 2011 including the parliamentary elections and the presidential elections. So, I didn't vote for Morsi or anyone else because my fight wasn't in electoral politics rather in creating media, political awareness, and international solidarity.

I'm with the original goals of the revolution and at the same time I hold strong Islamic/religious principals and I have so many issues with the current opposition scene in Egypt." 

July 1st right after the June 30th protest explaining why I opposed the June30 and Tamarod initiatives. 

2- "a) Egypt is the second largest recipient of foreign aid from the US after Israel, 2 billion US $ 1.3 billion of it is a military aid to the Egyptian military to guarantee a good tie with Israel, control the Suez Canal and the Rafah border with Gaza.

b) The Egyptian military industrial complex controls over than an estimation of 40% of the economy in Egypt over which they pay no taxes or share with the rest of the population that's sinking in deep poverty.

c) The Supreme council of the Armed forces SCAF was and continues to be involved in war crimes against Egyptian protesters and civilians from the general population. (Killing, torture, military trials, rape, and more) even before Mubarak stepped down."

I spent the last two years and a half of my life repeating what I just wrote above in every possible occasion, in every talk I have given in the United States, for every interview I conducted with a media outlet, and to every person I met who didn't know just to see the whole world including my countrymen celebrating the military industrial complex solidification of power in my own country this week. If you want to accuse me of being a Morsi supporter (When I didn't even vote for him), or if you want to call me pessimistic, please go ahead. I'm not interested in debating ignorant crowds. I'm only making a statement for the historical record and a witness I shall bear when I stand in front of God."

In July the 4th, 2013 after Al Sisi ousted Morsi and took over power in Egypt. 

On Islam and Revolution:


My religious outlook in life that I'm trying to attain though I keep failing is described here: "And strive in His cause as you ought to strive.(With sincerity and under discipline). He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty. [It is] the religion of your father, Abraham. Allah named you "Muslims" before [in former scriptures] and in this [revelation] that the Messenger may be a witness over you and you may be witnesses over the people. So establish prayer and give charity and hold fast to Allah. He is your protector; and excellent is the protector, and excellent is the helper." (Quran 22:78).

And my political strategy is best described here: "And I do not intend to differ from you in that which I have forbidden you. My intent is to seek reform to the best of my power; and my success (in my task) can only come from Allah. Upon him I have put my trust, and to Him I shall return." (Quran 11:88).

I like to think that I'm a revolutionary because I'm a Muslim and because Islam itself as a lifestyle and a doctrine is revolutionary. Both standing up for justice and revolution are an act of worship and the revolutionary model Islam has is yet to be introduced to nowadays non-Muslims and even some Muslims.
 I have always wanted to write about this, and talk about Islam and revolution from my personal experience but I get so overwhelmed every time I try to. For now, this is something I can relate to that I wanted to share with people. This is a passage I translated from a statement written by a group of young revolutionary men in Egypt who're revolting because they're religious Muslims.

"We think of the true revolutionary as one that must be in peace with their religion, and we think that a Muslim who is truly religious will necessarily become revolutionary. Islam's outlook and theory on change is at its foundations revolutionary by default. Islam does not accept conciliation with the oppressors, it refuses to work under any umbrella of corruption, and it does not put personal and individual interests ahead of the Islamic approach and its principals.
Those Muslims who operate under the umbrellas of corruption, accept half-way solutions, abandon their Islamic founding principles, adopt other ever-changing principles, raise false slogans that are not in accordance with their beliefs, and then claim to do all of this for Islam are harming nothing but Islam itself. The ends do not justify the means in Islam, both the ends and the means must be pure and in accordance to faith." 

Ahrar Movement in July 2013.

On Justice:

1- "O you who have believed be upholders of Justice, and bearers of witness to Truth for the sake of Allah, even though it may be against yourselves or against your parents and kinsmen, or the rich or the poor, for God is more concerned with their well-being than you are. Do not, then, follow your own desires lest you keep away from Justice. If you twist or turn away from (The Truth), know that God is well aware of all that you do". (Quran: 4:136).

"O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in Justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do". (Quran: 5:8).

This is my measure for what Justice mean and the reason why I believe standing up for justice should not be selective, based on our own desires and preferences, or on what we can relate to. Standing up for justice and speaking the truth should only be for the sake of establishing justice on earth among mankind as we are commanded to do.

So for example, If you want to condemn violence and persecution only when it's against people "you can relate to", and if you're in the west or you're a liberal Middle Easterner yourself (whatever that means) and you feel like you're having such a hard time speaking up for people who're just too conservative for your own progressive preferences, that's your problem. Don't expect everyone to follow your twisted model of "Standing up for justice" and don't think for a minute that there's any moral flexibility or relativity in justifying the killing or persecution of a group you have personal biases against. 

On Truth:

1- Prophet Muhammad peace and mercy be upon him said: "A time will also come upon people when they will employ deceit in everything. At that time the liars will be declared as the Truthful and the Truthful will be condemned as liars. The evil one’s will be regarded as upright while the upright will be regarded as evil people; The "Ruwaibadha" will represent (lead) the people. It was asked as to who the "Ruwaibadha" were? He said they were the incompetent, unscrupulous and insignificant people. They will attend to the important matters pertaining to the public and make decisions.”

2- "Men are known by holding to truth, and truth is not distinguished through men." Ali bin Abi Talib may Allah be pleased with him.

So, even if millions agreed on something wrong it doesn't change the fact it's wrong, and just because a human being you like and respect picked up the wrong position it doesn't change the fact the position itself is wrong. 

Your measure shouldn't be the men you have known for being truthful rather, truth should be your only measure. Follow the truth, stick to it, hold it strongly even if it means your death, even if you're alone there.
At times, it won't matter who's saying the truth and who's standing on your side now with it, because these things are ever changing. 

Establishing Justice and holding to truth are both obligated commandments. The believers do not compromise the basic commandments of God in order to attain some limited measure of material success. They are principled individuals, sticking by their beliefs and practices regardless of how odd they may seem or how lonely and isolated the society may make them. Allah said, “Say, not equal are the evil and the good, although the abundance of evil might impress you. So fear Allah, O you of understanding, that you may be successful” (Quran 5:100).

And if you are trying your best to be on the side of the Truth and Justice:

"So, be patient. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth. And let them not disquiet you who have no certainty in faith." (Quran 30:60).

Alshimaa Mahmoud Helmy
Sunday, Dhul Qidaa the 30th,1434
October the 6th, 2013
Berkeley, CA
U.S.A

Monday, July 29, 2013

On the"Third Current" revolutionaries in Egypt

An article I wrote for The Unheard Egypt on The Third Current revolutionaries (Not to be confused with the Third Square).

(Against the military rule, the remnants of the old regime, and the Muslim Brotherhood policies).

A design by ahrar movement against the military, the remnant of the old regime and the MB
Among the many unheard voices in Egypt are the voices of those who are committed to the revolution since day one but for many reasons were silenced and sidelined from the conversation taking place in the wide political spectrum, and were also overlooked by the media. This happened mainly due to the ongoing polarization and forced dichotomies in the Egyptian political sphere. The “Third Current” Egyptian revolutionaries have always been there, it is not a new phenomenon in Egypt but this mobilization came back to the surface again from several grassroots initiatives due to the dramatic recent developments in Egypt especially with the military’s moves.

But, who are the “Third Current” revolutionaries? Is there a need for having such a thing? The third current could be represented through any reasonable Egyptian thinking outside of the box, standing against the continuity of a 60+ years old military rule, against the collaboration with the figures of Mubarak regime, and critical of the Muslim Brotherhood but are not necessarily excited about bringing the Islamist vs. Secular dichotomy as an argument. This is also everyone who participated in the mobilizations since 2011 but are not affiliated with the different sides of the current highly polarized political conversation (Military vs MB, Secular vs. Islamist, Military and Mubarak’s remnants vs. MB).

There was a need for such grassroots straightforward initiatives to make a distinction especially with the shocking positions of many well known “revolutionaries” and “revolutionary movements” that either started allying with the old regime Egypt revolted against openly, or are taking populist opportunistic positions while sending mixed signals about their actual positions because they want to maintain a specific image internationally and locally.

In addition to that, with the claims that it’s mostly Pro-Morsi Pro-Muslim Brotherhood that are opposing the military rule now in a reactionary manner, another distinction needed to be made between the Pro-Morsi anti-military bulk and those who are critical of the Muslim Brotherhood while opposing to the military at the same time.

Recently and especially after the statements made by the minister of defense Al Sisi, it has came to our attention that the number of such initiatives have increased dramatically all over the country and in different communities, both urban and non-urban and not only restricted to Cairo or the big cities. We have been following the emergence of different mobilizations in this direction closely and in this piece we will highlight the most recent updates from “Ahrar Movement”, a grassroots movement that’s been actively mobilizing in different occasions and is taking the lead in many direct action events in addition to working on building a framework that’s revolutionary and inspired from Islam at the same time.

Translated passages from Ahrar Movement recent statements:

On the Third Current:
From a protest organized by ahrar movement recently and the sign says no to the rule of  the military, the remnant of the old regime and the MB
1- “The media (whether on TV, press, or online) is trying its best to direct people into thinking of this situation as a dual equation, so you’re either with the Muslim Brotherhood and you call for bringing Morsi and the constitution back, or you’re with those who’re clapping for the military and Al Sisi lovers!

Unfortunately, many young people accepted this, and by Allah, if we accepted this duality we will lose whatever remained from the revolution if anything remained! Find your way, young people!”

2-”Many revolutionaries know very well that the revolution is relapsing and that the military is killing whatever remained from freedom in our country but they are afraid of mobilizing against the military fearing that Morsi would be back. They must know that surrendering to the “2 options” solution is not a revolutionary act. The revolutionaries must open their third road. Tomorrow, everyone will pay the price of the silence towards the military violations of today. Glory to those who are abiding to their principals.”

3- “The framework we think we will be operating through in order to achieve the goals of the revolution as a third current could be summarized as follows:

A- The first angle is working on “The awareness of the Egyptian people”, this will take place through different tactics and campaigns, in order to make it clear that:

-The revolution hasn't destroyed the country.

-Islam hasn't ruled in Egypt to be blamed, the failure of some of the Islamists doesn't translate to a failure of Islam as a whole and as a governing model, and opposing these people is not equal to opposing Islam itself.

B- The second angle is: Protests and decentralized mobilizing all over the country no matter how small it is.

On Islam and Revolution:


“We think of the true revolutionary as one that must be in peace with their religion, and we think that a Muslim who is truly religious will necessarily become revolutionary. Islam’s outlook and theory on change is at its foundations revolutionary by default. Islam does not accept conciliation with the oppressors, it refuses to work under any umbrella of corruption, and it does not put personal and individual interests ahead of the Islamic approach and its principals.

Those Muslims who operate under the umbrellas of corruption, accept half-way solutions, abandon their foundational principles, adopt other ever-changing principles, raise false slogans that are not in accordance with their beliefs, and then claim to do all of this for Islam are harming nothing but Islam itself. The ends do not justify the means in Islam, both the ends and the means must be pure and in accordance to faith.

On the other hand, those who consider Islam to be an opponent to the revolution, and think they can achieve real change through a revolution whose cultural framework comes from their enemies are deluded.

The purpose of revolutions is bringing down a regime and replacing it by another, and the destination of every regime lies in its cultural framework. Whenever you call for the downfall of a regime while you hold firmly to its cultural framework you are also deluding yourself.”

Hatem Aly and Jihad Abaza contributed to the translation of Ahrar statements. 


The article is also published on:


Thursday, May 09, 2013

Post-revolution class: To be a 2011 graduate

 Tahrir square after midnight in front of our camp site two nights before Mubarak's resignation on Feb 2011
I was studying for a Genomics research paper on a camera flashlight
There are hundreds of issues that are troubling me on a daily basis that I could talk about extensively here but I guess more than any of these issue I'm always wondering about what I like to call: The "post-revolution class". 

The post-revolution class consists of all fellow students who graduated in the post-revolution 2011 and the classes to come whether here in Egypt or the Arab world in countries that experienced and/or going through political unrest due to transition.

Many of those who followed what was happening in the region don't probably know enough about how it is really like to be a student during an unrest, or how does it feel to be graduating while it's happening and then come out to face an unstable socio-political situation and an unknown future.

I'm not only talking about the students who voluntarily choose to be involved as a student activist, or the student movements, or even the crackdown of the authorities on it. That's a whole bunch of separate and complicated issues. It could actually be just anyone who happened to be graduating during these events.

My personal experience however was a mix of both some how and this is what I'm going to talk about. 

Because of #Jan25 I was stigmatized in my school and avoided by classmates due to my political involvement, I couldn't attend my graduation ceremony as a massacre took place in my hood in July 2011, I turned down a scholarship application in a very reputed British Genomics research institute after being in the short list to the finalist stage, I never had my diploma in my hand until April 2013, and I haven't done anything related to my major after investing in it for 4 years.

All of this happened mainly due to the effects of the uprising and the political turmoil in Egypt on my life and of course my active participation in the beginning. Even if things were already bad here in Egypt, my last semester and my graduation experience were especially bad. It didn't seem or feel like anything I would have expected to go through before #Jan25 happened. 

Alienation in a campus the revolution didn't reach


In early March 2011 the "revolutionary" euphoria was gone for most of the Egyptian people , the "revolutionary" spark was fading slowly everywhere, the international media celebrations were over, and it was time for me to go back to the reality in parts of Egypt where the revolution didn't reach.

Only after a few weeks of Mubarak's historical resignation and a set of overwhelming experiences including detention and being filmed by tens of international media outlets, I had to go back to being an undergraduate low income Biotechnology student in a private university administrated by Mubarak's era businessmen. I had to go back and start attending classes with pro-Mubarak and/or anti-revolutionary classmates and staff who didn't like what I participated in or what I was up to.

I came back to my school with that "Utopian Tahrir Spirit" I had in mind in the early days of Jan-Feb 2011 presuming that the whole country has been through the same transformation process me and my "revolutionary" friends have been through. This was latter proven wrong in my school and everywhere else in the country.

It was clear that my classmates, my staff, and supervisors attitudes were not the same. I was the only person in my class who saw the protests for real and not on TV.

It was clear that not so many people from this apolitical private school and elsewhere experienced the events outside of their apartments which eventually created a stigma about those who stood out.

In several occasions I was made fun of, warned by staff, and eventually avoided completely on campus. Many of my "friends" stopped talking to me either because I changed a lot and wasn't fun cool anymore or because of their positions on #Jan25 or out of fear. 
Fearful looks and hurtful jokes about "Shimaa Tahrir" who's grieving on the dead were some of the things I had to deal with regularly.
All of that made my campus a very hostile environment to be in and a painful experience.  

Between the revolution work and the school work:


#Jan25 was exactly in the winter break during my senior year and that placed me in a tough situation balancing my academic aspirations and scientific passion, and the important historical moment my country and the whole world was going through. 

In Tahrir during the 18 days sit in I had my Genomics scientific papers with me to write a review article for the UK scholarship on developing Genomics research globally, something I still don't understand why I decided to do. I also continued to go to the small protests in March with my lab coat and books and this is when people I know got detained or disappeared for the first time. 
I witnessed tragic transforming events in April, I co-organized for a day in action against SCAF in May that we called the second revolution, and I got injured in a protest in June the month I had my finals.

All of this was happening while I was supposed to study and work on 5 heavy courses (Genetic Engineering, Comparative Biology, Commercial Biotechnology, Proteomic Analysis, Bioremediation and Biodegradation).
I was also supposed to finish my Medical Biotechnology graduation project that required collecting blood samples from hospitals, do lab work, and scientific writing. 

Presenting my Medical Biotechnology graduation project June 2011 

My performance in this last semester was the worst performance I had in my whole educational life. That was mainly due to the traumas, stress, and the continuity of the protests. I thought I was definitely going to fall this semester in school and I reached the point where I was thinking about dropping out, a crazy thought I would have never considered after being on the top of my class for years and majoring is such a complex rare specialty I was passionate about. 

It was such a pain, and I was torn apart between school and "revolution", it was clear something needed to be sacrificed. 
I turned down the scholarship application and eventually I had to pressure myself to pass my final semester with the lowest GPA in my undergraduate years. 

Sometimes all these experiences about school, the bitterness of the uncertainty about the future, and the sense of vanity and randomness in all what happened in my life don't allow me to enjoy the other things I have done and I'm doing away from Biotechnology.

Sometimes I feel bad when I think that If #Jan25 didn't happen maybe I would have been a researcher in Genomics, Cancer Biology or Molecular Genetics by now.

In other times these thoughts seem ridiculous and I feel very grateful that I got a golden chance to explore different areas in life and that I continue to learn more about things like world politics, media, journalism, religion, spirituality and more things mainly because of #Jan25. I feel thankful when I realize I wouldn't have had the same amount of time or dedication to learn about these things if I was a full time Biological Sciences professional. 

I think the question whether the choices I made in the last 6 years were right or wrong is no longer valid.
Apparently, God had a totally different plan than what I was envisioning and regardless of where I'm going to be in the next stage of my life I should stop beating myself up and just be thankful for it. 

At this point I'm not sure about where I'm headed to and I'm tired of thinking about it. I keep trying to find the way to be of use and in the meantime, I'm still searching tirelessly for a solid definition for myself to meaning, value, and worth. I'm still praying that I shall be guided to a place and a condition where I could serve the good cause I was created to serve be it in science, media, politics, languages or who knows what.

To all the fellow students in the 2011 class who might have been through worse than what I have been through: Keep in mind you're not alone in this, you're in my thoughts and prayers continuously.
I'm praying that things will turn out to be a little bit better to all of us and that we will somehow use the knowledge we were blessed with one day to serve our own countries, our peoples and the rest of the world.

Friday, March 29, 2013

On looking for Love in all the wrong places in the Middle East


I'm finishing a book I started reading last February titled: "The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization" by Richard W. Bulliet. 

It is a very good read for anyone who's trying to understand the modern history and possibly the future of the US/Muslim world relations from an honest western/American/non-Muslim perspective.
The author challenged several classical western principals that are commonly used while dealing with the Middle East whether in the academic arena of Middle Eastern studies or in policy making.

He's refuting concepts such as "Clash of civilization", "What went wrong" and "Why do they hate us" and I was really glad to see this coming from someone in the west.

I found some useful arguments that reminded me of my personal struggle to explain myself and where I'm coming from as a Middle Easterner to the rest of the world. I will share some quotes from the book's Amazon page and then discuss my own reflections from the chapter I especially liked: "Looking for Love in all the wrong places in the Middle East".

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1- On "what went wrong":

"The idea that people in the Middle East once embraced the goal of becoming like Europe and hoped that by adopting European ideas and institutions they would someday experience all of the liberal values we recognize in the Europe of today is nonsense. It assumes a historical outcome for Europe itself that no one even in Europe could have predicted."

2- On "why do they hate us":

"Those who advanced the Japanese occupation as a model for postwar Iraq seem to have baseball, Hello Kitty, and Elvis impersonators in the back of their minds rather than headscarves and turbaned mullahs. 
Like latter day missionaries, we want the Muslims to love us, not just for what we can offer in the way of a technological society but for who we are -for our values. But we refuse to countenance the thought of loving them for their values."

3- On "Middle East studies":

"The founders of Middle East studies ignored recommendations that they focus on contemporary Islam and focused instead on Middle Easterners trying to act like westerners. There weren't a lot of these, just as there hadn't been a lot of converts, but the conviction was strong that those few would be pioneers in bringing western modernity to the region. The people we supported as agents of modernity became tyrants."

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While observing the Middle Eastern peoples and cultures, "Looking for love in all the wrong places" is another orientalist pattern that appears in the attitudes of the American observers to this complicated region.

What does it mean?

It means that instead of trying to learn about the region and love/hate it the way it is, these observers look for Middle Easterners they can love, and a Middle East they can relate to while overlooking everything else, intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. 

The author argued that the Middle East they're willing to love is ready for an American version of modernization, and ready to absorb American values with little resistance.

The Middle Easterners they're willing to love are English speaking professionals who've received a reasonable amount of western education. The exotic folkloric traditional folks are also lovable but they're not intellectually competent enough to work with them.
This pattern was describing the majority of contemporary American policy makers, diplomats, and researchers on the Middle East.
I found that this phenomena appears also in the attitudes of people who're interested in the Middle East or watching it outside of academia and policy circles.
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Case 1:

"I'm a liberal educated non-religious woman from the Middle East ready to absorb western/American values.
I'm not bearded or dressed up all in black, does that make me more lovable than fellow Middle Easterners who fit into your preconceived ideas and stereotypes?" 




Case 2:

"I'm not too assimilated with the western culture but I'm educated according to your perception, I do speak English and I can totally fit in. I'm also not dressed up all in black or have a beard but is my headscarf an issue? Does it make me more palatable than a Niqabi? Or less acceptable than a seemingly liberal Middle Easterner? 

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I encounter this all the time while dealing with people who're interested in "us". And for those of us who're standing on the fence between the two worlds because they happened to have some "access" it is a very problematic issue. 

For those of you who're interested in us, you probably have one perception of the Middle East in your mind based on your personal experience. For me it is the Middle East I live in and read about in my own literature and version of history, the Middle East I read about in your western orientalist literature and media, and most importantly it is the Middle Easterner I'm being. 

Which one do you have in mind when you're talking to me? 

Am I supposed to censor myself about myself in order to be sensitive with your ignorance or the fact you're not doing your part in learning about us just like we're learning about you?

It's always a hard job to figure out which version people have in their mind while talking to me. It is so difficult because we are the case study, the educators and the refuters of the misconceptions all at the same time. 

In order to make it easy on both of us you need realize that you are not going to learn if you are just looking for "Middle East and Middle Easterners I can love".

Instead, I suggest you put your personal feelings and judgments aside and then begin to learn/relearn/unlearn about other people/societies/cultures the way they are. 

Of course you will find that there are many not so nice things -from your perspective- about this part of the world and about these people. However, it is not necessarily the same stuff you see on media or hear in that Near East /Middle East / Islamic studies class you attend.



As Bulliet clearly discussed it you must consider the fact the same exact thing applies to your nationality, cultural background, and heritage when people from elsewhere look at it.