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Unholy fire in Jerusalem

This year, Christians from all over the world flocked to Jerusalem for the profoundly important ceremony of the Holy Fire.

Tradition has it that every Easter Saturday, a fire miraculously ignites in the inside of the Tomb of the Holy Sepulchre, at the prayerful behest of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.

For many of the pilgrims I discovered waiting in a line that stretched for around 20 metres, from Jaffa Gate to the entrance of the Old city, the Israeli Defence Force’s charged and stern tactics, proved an obstacle to a major religious pilgrimage experience.

Long queues awaiting entry to Old City on Holy Saturday, Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem.

For the faithful Orthodox, who travel from Greece, Russia and Egypt with the pious hope of seeing the miracle, not even being allowed into the Old City for many hours on the momentous occasion of this annual event, was a difficult blow to bear.

Here’s my footage of one man who almost fainted from exhaustion and had to be lifted over the barricades of the long queue, after waiting for some five hours.

Another woman in the following video can be heard saying, “Open this door” and “We’ve been waiting here for eight hours.” The IDF soldier who responded proved unfazed by the crowd’s objections. The throng grew increasingly restless, and some feared being crushed.

Seeing such anxiety, tension and fear made for a harrowing celebration of Easter in an already tense and densely busy city.

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The Hip and the Holy in Jerusalem

This year Orthodox, Catholics and Jews converged upon Jerusalem, one of the world’s foremost pilgrimage destinations.

However it’s the severity of the contrast between religious fervour and the life of the residents of this modern yet ancient city, which make Jerusalem so fascinating.

Here are two videos which demonstrate the poignant contrast between daily life and profound devotion.

 

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Bombing at Papal Cathedral in Cairo

This is where I’ll provide rolling coverage, as far as I can glean it, about the bombing of the Papal Cathedral in Cairo. I hope to offer facts both about the extent and nature of the deaths, the response of the Egyptian Government, and its religious authorities- the Coptic Orthodox Church and Al Azhar mosque, the seat of Sunni Islamic learning.

I’ll be providing source material from Twitter, Christian Youth Channel, the English News service of the Coptic Orthodox Church and other online news sources.

Tue 13 Dec

Watching live stream of Coptic Youth Channel coverage of Egypt blast.

10pm AEDT

Mon 12 Dec

9pm AEDT

Watching live stream of funeral for victims of terrorist attack of the church St. Peter and St. Paul at the Church of Saints Mary and Athanasius. Rows of coffins seem endless. Mournful wailing of the survivors can be heard throughout liturgy. Watch below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeuTgJrZIHk

 

5pm AEDT time

  • Responsibility for the crime might have been claimed by Tanzim Al-Jihad, a group which has also claimed responsibility for the assassination of President Sadat (this is pending confirmation.)

The group — called “Hasm,” or “Decisiveness” — which attacked Egypt’s police on Friday has  distanced itself from Sunday’s attack on the church in a statement that said it does ‘not as a principle kill women, children, the elderly or worshippers.

The Brotherhood, in a separate statement, condemned the attack.

-Update from MARIAM FAM AND HAMZA HENDAWI, ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec 11

Those gathered outside church expressed their anger by chanting against the interior minister and expelling well know state media figures, who were attempting to report on the incident, from their midst. Others rushed to Demerdash Hospital to donate blood that will be used to treat victims.

-Update from Independent Egyptian media source, Mada Masr, from Dec 11 2016 reports protests in the immediate aftermath of bombing.

Pope Francis referred to the attack in his Sunday Angelus address, saying “I want to express my special closeness to my dear brother, Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and to his community, praying for the dead and injured.”

The attack came two days after a bomb elsewhere in Cairo killed six policemen, an assault claimed by a shadowy group that authorities say is linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Islamic militants have targeted Christians in the past, including a New Year’s Day bombing at a church in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria in 2011 that killed at least 21 people.

-Update from Associated Press from Dec 11 2016

12pm AEDT time

Dahlia Kholaif, of the Wall Street Journal, reports

Full report here .

A video response created by Christian Youth Channel, the English News service of the Coptic Orthodox Church, below.

St. Peter Church

Posted by cyc on Sunday, 11 December 2016

More to come…

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News report: Coptic Youth Channel

Coptic Youth Channel airs a weekly news report, and I enjoyed of presenting this latest instalment for the week of July 24.

Headlines included,

  •  Tragic incidents occurred in Upper Egypt.
  • His Holiness Pope Tawadros II offers his condolences to the French President
  • A detailed report about the failed coup in Turkey.
  • The US and Russia talk about Syria coordination, despite Pentagon concerns.
  • Syrian army takes main road into rebel-held areas of Aleppo.
  • Brazil Olympics: Ten arrested for plotting ‘terror.
    And health breakthroughs: a developing Chlamydia vaccine shows potential.

 

 

 

 

 

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Australia’s Egyptian Community

Atrocities committed by Islamist terrorists these last few weeks, especially the Bastille Day attacks in Nice that left 84 dead and today’s slaying of an elderly Catholic Priest in Normandy have sparked the ire of conservative commentators  and the genuine fear of many Australians including, but by no means limited to TV morning show host, Sonia Kruger.

However Arab-Australians have made crucial contributions to this country in countless ways. In an attempt to mitigate the tide of fear and vitriol spewed on both sides of an ‘anti-immigration’ discussion, I’m writing a little about just one of these communities, Egyptians in Australia.

(Top Left: Michael Ebeid, photo via sbs.com.au, top-right: Dr Eman Sharobeem, via: smh.com.au,  bottom: Professor Anne Aly,  via smh.com.au)

Here’s a brief selection of three of these prominent figures in Australian society.

Michael Ebeid, SBS Director

Michael Ebeid manages SBS. The network has made major inroads to build awareness of Australia’s social minorities, and under his leadership has recently established a 24-hour Arabic news channel.

The network has proved an anchor for individuals set adrift from their native countries, fostering new communities through its array of multi-language radio and TV communication channels.

During Michael’s time at the organisation, SBS has launched Australia’s first National Indigenous Television (NITV) free-to-air television channel, refocused SBS 2 to attract younger audiences to the network, expanded in-language programming across analogue and digital radio, and increased its commercial revenues. Under his leadership, the organisation has embraced digital technologies and opportunities, with catch-up service SBS ON DEMAND now available on more platforms and devices than any other Australian broadcaster, and the SBS website awarded “Best Publisher of the year” by AMIA in 2014.

http://www.sbs.com.au/aboutus/board-of-directors/director/id/171/h/Michael-Ebeid

Dr Eman Sharobeem, SBS Community Engagement Manager

Violence is a blight which many Australian women suffer in silence. Egyptian born Eman Sharobeem’s leadership of the Immigrant Women’s Health Service, where she served as Chief Executive for ten years, provided a real response to the suffering of Immigrant women facing domestic violence in Sydney. She has since moved to SBS where she has been appointed community engagement manager.

Dr Sharobeem was inspired to change others’ lives for the better.

As chief executive of the Immigrant Women’s Health Service, Dr Sharobeem has been recognised many times for her outstanding contributions to women’s rights.

“My goal is always to educate the community, engage in a conversation, have a dialogue about girls’ safety and girls’ future,” she said.

“I am absolutely delighted and honoured,” Dr Sharobeem said of the nomination.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-23/womens-rights-campaigner-with-australian-of-the-year-nomination/5834580

Professor Anne Aly, Anti-terrorism expert and Labor Party Candidate

Professor Aly’s work in the grassroots rehabilitation of young people trapped in Islamisation cells sees her treat candidates not as terrorists or criminals, but as ‘kids’ in need of help. Here’s what she had to say about the issue in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.

“On paper, they’re like the poster children for being vulnerable,” she says. “For years I worried. I used to say, ‘Let Al Qaeda or Daesh come and try to take my boys and watch me stand up like a lion’, because I was shit scared.

“You don’t just worry about your kid getting into drugs or crime, there is another layer of worry to add to everything. So this is not just something I do, this is something that I need to find a solution for. This is personal for me.”

Aly has also been elected to the Labour seat of Cowan in Western Australia.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/labor-candidate-and-terrorism-expert-anne-aly-questions-citizenship-laws-slams-politics-of-fear-20160128-gmg530.html

 

 

 

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Archdiocese of Hobart

Archdiocese of Hobart

In my capacity as a multi-platform journalist for the Archdiocese of Hobart, I wrote countless stories for the Archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Standard. A brief selection of three of these stories are listed below.

‘Tasmanians for Tanzania’ a cause for ongoing celebration

Plight of Egyptian Christians still dire

Christmas hope in the Middle East

I also helped coordinate the church’s presence on social media, editing and presenting podcasts on the Archdiocesan Soundcloud account.

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I also filmed, edited and published content on the Archdiocesan YouTube channel like ‘Children’s Mission Day Mass and the importance of Catholic Mission’ and promotional videos about ‘Gracefest Tasmania.’

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Mystic Egypt

An adapted version of this story is visible on the website of the Archdiocese of Hobart.

Egyptians are a deeply religious people.

The  Coptic spirituality, the monastic tradition which helped the country retain its unique Egyptian cultural identity throughout Roman dominion, is central to the country’s history.

The photographs below, taken at various monasteries and churches throughout Upper Egypt, help illuminate the importance of Egypt to Christianity. Egypt has been called “the Second Jerusalem” because of its significance as the dwelling place of Christ and the Holy Family for three years.

Still shot of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin at Zeitoun church, Cairo, in the 50’s.
Papal residence in West Asyout.
Transcedental beauty of a Cathedral in West Asyout.
Sanctum erected in West Asyout to commemorate former home of the Holy Family.
Monastery of St Paul the first Hermit, at the Red Sea Mountains.
Its wall paintings date from 1700 AD
It is also said to have been a resting place for the prophetess Miriam during the Exodus from Egypt.

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Egypt under fire

It’s my second week I’m Egypt, and along with the sweltering heat, the country has also weathered some major social and political fires.

Driving past the suburb of  New Cairo, Misr El Gedeeda, last week, I saw the wreckage from the car bomb which killed Egypt’s public prosecutor Hisham Barakat. The explosion was so powerful that it blew out the first floor of the building above it. Yet, in clasically Egyptian fashion, a quick thinking businessman didn’t fail to leave their ‘scrap metal collection’ sticker on the wreckage, shown below. Equally unphased were police authorities, who have simply left the crime scene as it is, for all to see.

  
EgyptianStreets.com reports that President Sisi has promised “rapid justice” and amendments to the Country’s Criminal Laws, following the attacks. This  implies harsher punishment of the Muslim Brotherhood.

To Upper Egypt now, where I’m teaching children English as part of the Coptic Orphans programme. Here, I’m beguiled by the endless, sometimes overwhelming chanting of the Muazzin. His prayers emanate from two or sometimes three gaudy Minarets, decorated with electric lights. There are two mosques here in Dar Al Barsha, a small village in El Minia province, within a mere block from each other.

The Coptic a Orthodox masses here are long, loud and multi-sensory: the churches, which are named after St George or the Blessed Virgin, serve as central hubs for the village.

Rows of Fellahin in their long flowing gallabeyas, sit unmoving, almost like statues, throughout the services. In the incredible heat, women sit cross legged on the floor in the corridors of the church.  The sense of community is palpable.

All in all, it’s hot in more than one way in Egypt.

Follow my Egyptian travels on Twitter at daniel_nour.

Salam!

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Stormy Egypt

I’ve been in Cairo for barely five days now, but feel that it’s my duty to reveal some of her more intriguing peculiarities. 

Now that Midan al-Tahrir has been cleaned and refurbished , some Egyptians worry that it bears no resemblance to their original square. That simple, dirty, paved, concrete hub for revolution, has now been beautified and sanitised by new grass, and the Government’s intervention. Here I stand before “Mogamaa Tahrir”, a kind of central civil administration office.
The College of Music in Cairo’s Zamalek has an air of chic oriental beauty, and of aging neglect. The suburb has a heavy concentration of foreign diplomats living in Cairo with their families. The suburb is a relic of another age.
St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Zamalek, run by the Columbi community, is full of French nuns and Eritrean Priests. When I left my bag in the aisle to take a phone call outside, I returned to find them fretting over the bulky ominous potentially explosive package left by the swarthy bearded stranger.

Egypt has weathered storms, both literal and figurative in the past few days. Apart from the sandstorm which whipped through Cairo earlier this week, there’s been an earthquake, the murder of Cairo’s public prosecutor Hisham Barakat, and a bomb on the October 6th bridge in the heart of the city.  Dozens of soldiers have been killed in the Sinai peninsula by Islamist militants, to boot.

More to come on all of this in my next post.

Make sure to follow me on twitter @daniel_nour to keep up to speed with my Cairo adventures.

Salam!

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Couple of new stories!

Have been writing up a storm at CRADIO.ORG.AU lately!

Have been writing up a storm at CRADIO.ORG.AU lately, where I’ve also been interviewing community figures and experts on social or cultural issues, as part of my series, Conversations with Daniel Nour.  My Conversations series tackles hot topics with expert but straightforward analysis.

CRADIO is a leading resource for young Australian Catholics, offering an incredible live stream of music, talks and homilies. Podcasts are available for download via itunes or the Cradio website, and you can stream to your mobile phone or other device via the tunein app. 

Here are a couple of highlights from the last couple of months!

  • My podcast interview with Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay of the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Australia on the plight of Middle Eastern Christians. An eye opening, frank and important conversation.
  • My story about mounting excitement for the papal encyclical on Climate change and the environment.
  • My story and podcast about Capital Punishment, connected to the execution of two Australian inmates in a Balinese prison.
Iraqi Christians in prayer
Iraqi Christians in prayer

Get to reading and to listening!

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Martyrs in Coptic hearts at Good Friday liturgy

Published in the 12/4/2915 edition of the Catholic Weekly.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 5.29.35 pm

It was with joy and sorrow that Father Youssef Akladious prayed Good Friday’s liturgy at St Mark’s Coptic Catholic parish.

In his homily he spoke of forgiveness, and of hatred. Two relevant themes for Egypt’s Christians this Easter.

Of the 21 young Coptic men murdered by ISIS in Libya, he explained,

“Whenever there is great injustice, the choice to forgive is even greater and more wonderful.”

The ISIS victims, who in February were canonised by Pope Tawadrous, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Community, have deeply affected Egypt’s Christians.

“Real forgiveness can even be offered to our enemies,” Father Akladious said.

“I saw great stillness in them at the moment of their deaths, they were surely praying,

As a priest, they made me ask myself, would I do the same? Would I die for Christ?” he said.

Moheb Salama, Youth coordinator at St Marks, confirmed that persecution isn’t a new phenomenon for Copts.

“Christians in Egypt have the strongest faith in the Middle East, probably the world.  Their faith increases in proportion to their number of persecutions.”

“I thought, ‘These people know they’re about to be slaughtered, they’re seconds away.’  I looked at my own life, and my own issues, and they were all minor by comparison.”

Equal rights and political protections for Copts have not yet been achieved in Egypt, where civil liberties are generally uncertain.

“The reality in Egypt is that there are safety and stability issues for both Muslims and Christians. We have an improvement to make in regards to the fair execution of the rule of law, and this will take years to achieve…” Father Akladious said.

Last week’s Muslim protest attacks, against villagers in Upper Egypt’s Al-Minya province, confirms this lack of security and protection for Egypt’s Christians. The villagers proposed to build a church to commemorate the 21 martyrs.

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Joy and suffering for Coptic Christians

Mideast Egypt Islamic StateThe Coptic Church has certainly undergone great suffering recently, with the murder of the 21 young men from Al-Minya province, being broadcasted and discussed widely. 

However, less known to the public has been the recent construction of the first Coptic-Catholic Church in the Sinai.

The Coptic Catholic church, which has only existed in Egypt since the 1700’s, has less than 200 000 members and its parishioners mainly live in Upper Egypt, according to a report by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

“This is a great day of joy for Catholics in Egypt,” the local ordinary, Coptic Catholic Bishop Makarios Tewfik of Ismailia, said at the consecration ceremony, according to a report by Aid to the Church in Need.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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The Lebanese Catholic Community in Sydney

St Charbel’s church, a parish community of Maronite Catholics in Sydney, Australia, recently hosted a conference for a group of its young people. The event centred around themes of purpose and hope.

Shortly after the camp, a twenty year old statue of the Virgin Mary was attacked at St Charbel’s church, creating a spirit of unease in the same community.

Virgin Mary statue vandalised at St Charbel's parish
Virgin Mary statue vandalised at St Charbel’s parish. Courtesy of NewsLocal

St Charbel’s has been a hub of community life for Lebanese Catholics for many years. It was featured in the SBS television programme, “Once upon a time in Punchbowl,” and witnessed some of the tensions that, throughout the nineties, made Punchbowl a byword for Lebanese gang crime. Last year it hosted an enormous procession of Eastern and Western Christians in a rare Easter celebration.

My article in the Canterbury Bankstown Express captures the great and worthwhile contribution of the parish to community life, and of its work for local young people.

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Free at last!?

The release of Peter Greste this week has produced great jubilation.

Greste’s implication in a political struggle between Australia and Qatar, the nation from which Al Jazeera Arabic was broadcast, saw him placed in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

The anxiety and torments of Greste’s parents, Juris and Lois, captured in my interview with them in June last year, stands in stark contrast to their joy in the knowledge of their son’s release, visible below.

Sky News captures joy of Greste family after news of Peter Greste's release.
Sky News captures joy of Greste family after news of Peter Greste’s release.

In Egypt the complicated interplay of the State as both the protector of Egyptians from malicious forces, internal and external, as well as their oppressor, the cause of their humiliation and degradation in police prisons, continues.

Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste’s colleagues, are still in prison, as are a multitude of other civilian activists.

Shaimah El Sabbagh, poet and activist who was shot and killed by police two weeks ago, while paying her respects to commemorate the martyrs of the fourth anniversary of the revolution, represents the difficult relationship between the State and its people.

Watch out for my interview with Egyptian political scientist, Mariz Tadros, for a clearer breakdown of just where Egyptians, young people, Brotherhood supporters and Copts, stands with their Government, four years on from the revolution.

Update: http://www.egyptindependent.com//news/sisi-urges-arrest-slain-activist-s-killer

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Egypt, Palestine and the Vatican

Egyptian President Abdel Fateh Al-Sisi is on a diplomatic visit to Italy.

Pope Francis and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi meet at the Vatican.
Pope Francis and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi meet at the Vatican.

While Egyptians and Italians both share a love of pasta and football, it’s the topic of Palestine and a resumption of diplomatic relations with the Vatican which have proven more important to the travelling Egyptian President.

Let’s take a closer look at these two topics.

1, Sisi claimed, in conversation with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, that Egypt would be prepared to send military forces to support a future Palestinian State.

Egypt’s response to Palestine is a complicated one, caught somewhere between compassion and fear. Egypt’s geographic proximity to Palestine isn’t always paralleled by a uniformly friendly political sentiment. Read more about Egypt’s historic relationship with Palestine in this article which I wrote for YourMiddleEast.com

2, Sisi meets with Pope Francis, where he has been urged to embrace Egypt’s “diplomatic role” in the region. Pope Francis is also said to have spoken of the need for Egypt’s “peaceful political transition.”

Coptic-Catholic Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, Pope Francis' personal secretary.
Coptic-Catholic Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, Pope Francis’ personal secretary.

Sisi’s presence at the Vatican, the first diplomatic visit to take place in eight years, is itself an important symbolic moment. After Pope Benedict’s ill received comments about the culpability of Egyptian authorities in attacks on Coptic-Christians, as well Al-Azhar University’s negative response to the former Pope’s comments about violence in Islam, the relationship between Egypt and the Vatican had weakened considerably. Comments on Islam and violence would be particularly damaging, as the University is widely felt to be Sunni Islam’s highest institute of learning.

Whether the Italian-Egyptian relationship will really stand to benefit from the President’s visit remains to be seen, but the friendly tone of the political tour is a good sign for the two nations, as is the potent symbolism of the Arab leader’s visit to the seat of Roman Catholicism.

Now, more on Egyptian pasta!

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Bulldogs win helps restore community spirit

This piece also appears in the Wednesday October 1 edition of the Bankstown, Canterbury Torch.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.45.21 am

Though team spirit swelled high on the field last night, it was the sense of community which made the greatest comeback after the Canterbury Bulldogs 6 point victory over the Penrith Panthers last night.

Scenes of loud jubilation rang through the streets of Belmore, in Sydney’s South West, where supporters from the Canterbury region celebrated the team’s win.

Sam from Greenacre celebrates the victory with his son
Sam from Greenacre celebrates the victory with his son

“I’m very excited about the win, we were the underdogs and now we’ve made it to the grand final!” said Giselle Gedeon, 28, from Belmore.

However, the team’s victory was particularly pertinent in the aftermath of the Sydney terror raids which sparked such confusion and tension in the greater Canterbury region.

Bulldogs Supporters celebrate their victory in Belmore.
Bulldogs Supporters celebrate their victory in Belmore.

“It’s a great atmosphere, with what’s going on around the world, it makes you just forgot everything. It’s really positive, the crowd and the community feels safer, you see multicultural people living this happy life!” said Sam, 33, from Greenacre.

His sentiments were shared by Theresa Kairouz, 24, from Belmore, who said, “We always get a bad rap, but there’s a mad community spirit here. We sometimes get negative comments, the community here, but as you can see, nothing bad is happening!”

The Bulldogs will play their next game against the South Sydney Rabbitoh’s at ANZ Stadium on Sunday the 20th of October.

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Egypt at a crossroads

Egyptians are in two minds.

Many of them are celebratory. Even in the diaspora, they are waving their flags and singing their anthems of praise for Egypt and of hope for its future. The photos below, for example, we’re taken at a Coptic church in Sydney.

Yet, for Egyptians like myself, it seems the case that we “are always choosing between bad and worse” (says Gigi Ibrahim, speaking for the Revolutionary Socialists, on a recent episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) The political prisoners of this regime are many of the same young and women who brought us the revolution in 2011, Journalists are in cells and activists are banned from Tahrir Square.

This is a tense time, and the hopes of young Egyptians, are not pegged on one man, on any man for that matter. It’s systemic reform that we need.

In any case, we all wish and pray for our country’s future, for justice in its courts, freedom in its streets (what kind of freedom that is remains open to debate) and prosperity for its economy.

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Recent work published!

Hello readers!

It’s been a busy time for me, and so below is a list of work published in the last few months.

Enjoy!

Things are looking bad for Democracy in Egypt published at Your Middle East.

The Death of Satire published at Egyptian Streets.

Coming Back Home: Reflections of an Egyptian Abroad published at Egyptian Streets.

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Constitutional Referendum: Australian Egyptians

A shortened version of this story is also visible at The Middle East Online.

11 have died on the first day of voting for Egypt’s latest Constitutional Referendum and 249 “terrorising” individuals have been arrested, according to the Ministry of the Interior. My story on how Australian Egyptians have taken to this important season of transition.

Egyptian expatriates have joined millions of their countrymen in a constitutional referendum from January 8th until the 12th.

The referendum will determine wether the country is to proceed with a new constitution, a year after the January 2013 Muslim Brotherhood backed constitutional  referendum.

Ayman Aly Kamel,Egyptian Consul-General for the state of New South Wales, said that the turnout at Sydney consulate elections have been encouraging,

“We have around 4000 Egyptians who are expected to vote, and the turnout has been quite consistent. There is a big interest in the community and we’ve been completely overwhelmed by the numbers”

“These are very important times for Egypt. Even Egyptians who have lived overseas for quite some time are regaining their interest in the country’s political development.”

General Abdel Fateh El Sisi, Egypt's Military Commander, recently hinted that he may run for President. -Image via Hindu Times
General Abdel Fateh El Sisi, Egypt’s Military Commander, recently hinted that he may run for President.
-Image via Hindu Times

“We are optimistic. The Egyptian people with their will and there need to change, can accomplish what they’ve been dreaming about…equal rights, democracy, freedom and transparency”

The constitutional referendum will take place amid ongoing political tensions in Egypt, where deposed President Muhammad Mursi was overthrown in an uprising in June last year.

The Egyptian military has also come under fire for its tactics. The military attack on Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, where at least 600 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed, and the imprisonment of secular protestors like Ahmed Maher, have attracted criticism.

Responding to such claims, Mr Kamel explained,

“No Egyptian is being repressed or pushed out. Since the revolution we have a completely different environment in Egypt. Every Egyptian has the right to speak freely, as long as he is not engaging in violence or terrorist acts.”

“There has been an overwhelming call for the separation of Religion and Politics.”

The constitutional referendum will take place in Egypt on January 14th-15th. Deposed President Muhammad Mursi’s trial, where he is being charged for “inciting deadly violence,” is slated to begin in early February.

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Death of the joke: Goodbye Bassem Youssef

Egyptians shouldn’t demand Bassem Youssef’s return merely because he was funny (although that does help) or because he was irreverent (though that is refreshing) No, Youssef must return because what he can do is supremely important. He speaks frankly, and that is worth far more than an hour of light weekly entertainment. Sadly, it seems that many Egyptians themselves have forgotten this.

Egypt’s Bassem Youssef was much more than a mere comic, or an entertainer: as the host of a weekly fake news programme, he was an integral cog in the remaking of Egypt. Youssef exerted a tangible effect on the national consciousness, helping to set the tone of public debate by determining what was appropriate, and, more importantly ‘inappropriate’ for discussion.

That’s why private Egyptian Satellite channel CBC’s recent removal of Youssef from the air is so very worrying. Expert on Egyptian satire, Jonathon Guyer, explains that it was his first episode of “El Bernameg” that was just a little too bold,

“In the first episode, Bassem Youssef delicatedly criticized the Egyptian military and the cult surrounding the chairman of the armed forces, Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil al-Sisi,” … “Bassem Youssef was eating cupcakes with al-Sisi’s face on them and making jokes about how many he should buy to prove his patriotism.”

-Interview with Carol Hill, Public Radio International

It was too much for CBC, which received complaints from viewers, and too much for the Government, which, in all likelihood, exerted the pressure on the channel to make the move.

Popular as Youssef is, or perhaps was, this isn’t about how well liked one entertainer is.

Egyptians shouldn’t demand Bassem Youssef’s return merely because he was funny (although that does help) or because he was irreverent (though that is refreshing) No, Youssef must return because what he can do is supremely important. He speaks frankly, and that is worth far more than an hour of light weekly entertainment. Sadly, it seems that many  Egyptians themselves  have forgotten this.

Bassem Youssef must return to the air though he may be (laughably) an  ‘American sympathiser’ , or  extremely offensive, or even incorrect in his critique of Egypt’s love of the military. What matters is that he, and by extension, all Egyptians, must have the right to be wrong.

Furthermore, no government should be so touchy as to demand political correctness all the time. We saw the same heightened sensitivity to mockery, in former President Muhammad Mursi’s Government. However, it seems that the truth that no man is exempt from a joke, is rendered irrelevant when the leader is well liked. This is a more than slightly alarming double standard on the part of well-meaning Egyptians, and by Military Commander Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Youssef is taking more than a bunch of silly jokes with him, press freedom is going out the window with his expulsion from the airwaves.

So, he must come back, as quickly as possible.

Ultimately, this isn’t about Bassem Youssef at all, it’s about all Egyptians, and with Bassem Youssef off the air, it’s Egypt that will suffer.

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Pharaohs in Australia: Sydney Egyptian Festival

Sydney’s Egyptian Festival, was held today (Nov 11th) at Darling Harbour.

The event has been cancelled in past years, as I discovered from my conversation with local Egyptian Politician, Morris Mansour, but was happily back on today!

It was fun for young and old, and the Camel rides were a particular (and smelly) delight.

Camels at Darling Harbour
Camels at Darling Harbour
Nefer-shazza?
Nefer-shazza?

The situation is volatile and transient in Egypt right now, especially with former President Muhammad Morsi’s ongoing military trial.

Morsi is charged with incitement to commit murder and violent acts during protests at the Ittihadiya presidential palace on 4 December 2012 during clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents. The clashes resulted in the murder of eight people, including at least four Muslim Brotherhood members, as well as journalist El-Hosseini Abul-Deif. Hundreds were also injured in the clashes, and there were reports of protesters being tortured.

-Al Ahram, Morsi Trial summary

Today’s community event was a much needed demonstration of Muslim and Christian Egyptians united by their national pride.

For more photographs see SBS RADIO EGYPTIAN FESTIVAL PHOTO GALLERY.

 

Story also published at Middle East Online .

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Egyptian gunmen open fire on Coptic Christian Wedding- BBC

I’m “re-blogging” this story courtesy of the BBC. The events mentioned happened on the 21st of October, two days ago.

Image courtesy of BBC -http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24605130
Image courtesy of BBC
-http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24605130

Three people, including a girl aged eight, died when gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on a wedding party outside a Coptic Christian church in Cairo.

At least nine others were wounded in the attack in Giza, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Egypt’s Coptic Christian community has been targeted by some Islamists who accuse the Church of backing the army’s overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in July.

The unidentified attackers fired indiscriminately as people left the church.

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church

  • 6-11 million members in Egypt
  • About 1 million members outside the country
  • Copts believe their Church dates back to about 50 AD
  • Led by the Pope of Alexandria, Tawadros II
  • Services take place partly in ancient Coptic language (based on language used at the time of the Pharaohs)

BBC Religion: Coptic Orthodox Church

A man and a girl were killed outside the church and a woman died on her way to hospital.

“We heard a very loud sound as if something was collapsing,” one eyewitness said.

“I found a woman seated in a chair with lots of bullet wounds, covered in blood. Many other people had fallen around her, including a child,” he added.

Coptic priest Thomas Daoud Ibrahim said he was inside the church when the gunfire erupted.

“What happened is an insult to Egypt, and it’s not only directed against Coptic Christians. We are destroying our own country,” he said.

Another priest, Beshay Lotfi, told Egyptian media that the church had been left without a police guard since the end of June.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of Christianity’s oldest, founded in Alexandria around 50 AD.

Christians make up about 10% of Egypt’s population of 80 million, and have generally coexisted peacefully with majority Sunni Muslims for centuries.

Interviews with survivors via Coptic Youth Channel, 

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Applications continue!

Visiting Arab-Australian Newspapers in Sydney this week for to discuss my being published!

A list of all ethnic newspapers for the State of New South Wales here. Visit Arab-Australia newspaper, Al-Anwar for an example of what I’m talking about.

Also, a package I put together some time ago to promote a Coptic-Egyptian community protest:

Aaaaand, my latest show reel below! Hoping to report as a correspondent, with a special knowledge of Arab community issues, for the lucky news company who won’t risk losing me to anyone else 😉

Shameless self-promotion, over.

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Arab Australia: Shish on the barbie?

In the 70’s and 80’s a wave of migration took Arabs from their homeland in the Middle East and produced a diverse and wide-ranging settlement of Arabs in the diaspora.

While North America, Canada and Europe have perhaps received the larger share of Arab community and culture, Australia: yes, sun blessed, ‘shrimp on the barbie’, surf loving Australia, boasts a community of Arabs too.

Australian-Lebanese actor Firas Dirani
Australian-Lebanese actor Firas Dirani

How’s that for modernity?

My childhood memories still involve crowds of swarthy Egyptian relatives carrying their red bessemer pots, laden with kafta and vine leaves stuffed with rice, to the beach. Tanned Aussies plunged athletically into the surf and lunched on their humbler fare of store bought fish and chips. I was embarrassed, even mortified by our ‘differentness’ as a child, but now, I suppose I pity anyone who hasn’t enjoyed delicious warak einab by the bay.

Stereotypes aside, the Egyptian community represent only one part of the Arab community in Australia, which has been enriched by the Lebanese, Syrians and other Arabs as well.

Here’s a useful graph of Egyptian immigration statistics by the Australian Government’s community relations commission,

 Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 2.42.39 PM

Most Egyptian-Australians have settled in New South Wales, which is shown in purple above, though there is also a substantial community in the state of Victory.

And another interesting fact from the same publication relates to the Religious persuasions of Australian-Egyptians, who are predominately Christian. At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst Egypt-born were Oriental Orthodox (13 213), Catholic (7985) and Eastern Orthodox (5392).

-Community Relations Commission

Australia is also home to many Arab Muslims, some of whom feature in this video by Katrina Yu of Australia’s Multicultural Broadcasting Service, SBS

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yXaXliK9e4A]

Arabs have brought much to Australia. They boast a wide array of newspapers and publications, like The Middle East Herald, and the Middle East Times. Media personalties like SBS Radio’s Majda Aboud, join Australian-Arab politicians like Marie Bashir and actors like Firass Dirani.

So the next time someone offers you a shish on the barbie, or perhaps some hummus with your beer, you’ll know to say Shukran, and to enjoy the increasingly eclectic and surprising Australia, in all its glory.

Two sources for further reading:

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Journalism Teaching

I’ve been busy with applications, my enormous success in journalism is impending and inevitable. Note my humility: that’s important too 😉

But let’s start with two delightful discoveries I’ve made on the Egypt front.

First of all, this fantastic little video about soaring meat prices that have made it more difficult for Egyptians to celebrate Eid Al Adha with meat purchases-  courtesy of the team at Al Jazeera.

al_jazeera_2_logo

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/10/egyptians-sacrifice-meat-as-prices-soar-201310153820636948.html

Secondly, the relationship between SBS and other news agencies like Al Jazeera has been a point of interest for me. The relationship between the two started in 2011,

(Then) SBS Director of News and Current Affairs, Paul Cutler, said that Al Jazeera will complement SBS’s already comprehensive world news offering.

SBS is the home of news in many languages from around the world, and it’s great to have one of the fastest growing voices in international news and current affairs join our English­ language line­up. Al Jazeera is watched by millions of people, in all corners of the world, and we think SBS viewers will appreciate their fresh perspective on global events.

-http://www.sbs.com.au/aboutus/news-media-releases/view/id/636/h/Al-Jazeera-joins-SBS-world-news-line-up

Finally, after having (excruciatingly!) missed the cut-off for Macleay college’s Melbourne campus’s journalism teaching roles. The University is now offering a Bachelor of Journalism degree. I’m happy to say that I applied for a second Journalism teaching role, fresh of the bat of my year teaching three HSC English students how to perfect their essays.

Incidentally, I need to acquire this Certificate to even qualify for the role: Certificate IV in Training and Assessment TAE40110.

Any suggestions on that front, Sydney siders?

That’s all for now!

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SBS Cadetship submitted, and now WE PRAY

Australia’s Multicultural Broadcasting Service, SBS, is offering two full time cadetships, and I have thrown my name in!

The process is pretty competitive, but I’ve put my best foot forward.

The Show reel I submitted along with my resume and personal statement, is visible here.

AND NOW, WE WAIT!

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SBS Cadetship Update

Meeting with a journalist friend tomorrow to discuss my upcoming SBS news room application.

Image

The SBS logo: the beloved precursor to so many late night movies and news presented by the deeply loved Lee Lin Chin and Mary Kostakidis. 

Times, just like Ms Chin’s many outfits, have changed.

Programmes like Insight and Dateline have become noteworthy, while SBS 2 has rolled out content for younger viewers, including  “The Feed”  

Must ready myself for the interview- assuming that my various other submissions make the cut, which will include:

  • A personal statement

This feels as though it’d be a pretty significant part of the process. Have you heard of the CAR method? The circumstances surrounding one’s workplace assignment, the actions taken, the results had.

  • A resume
  • A show reel along with a combination of YouTube or audio links online

If I’m short-listed they’d also like two reference statements.

Now, this sounds all very well and good as a series of bullet points, but HOW, oh HOW, shall I hit all the marks, make a good impression, show my suitability for the organisation’s “aims and objectives?”

The values that have made this channel the trusted provider of multicultural content, with a perceptive and open consciousness of International news, is what I’m being examined on.

“SBS Television: bold, brave, independent”

So, time to go learn a little more about SBS!

Here’s a vid of me breaking down the direction of the network

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Pharoah vs The Egyptians

There have been many commentaries on the uprisings which ousted Hosni Mubarak from the Presidency in January 2011. Wael Ghonim’s “Revolution 2.0,” which outlines Social Media’s contribution to the protests, a thousand pieces on the blogosphere (here’s one more!), films like Yousry Nasralla’s “After the Battle”, and now, something from our very own corner of the woods, here in Sydney Australia.

Egyptian born Australian comic Akmal Saleh’s “Pharoah vs The Egyptians” offers interviews and commentary on the Jan 2011 Revolution.

Here’s the trailer

And, my interview with Saleh late last year. There’s a little in it about the film, so I thought to post it.

Goodnight!

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CYC news: Australian Election

My latest CYC news segment has gone to air.

Top headlines:

• His Holiness, Pope Tawadros (Coptic Patriarch of Egypt) receives a delegation from the US congress.
• The US and Russia are no closer in reaching a resolution over the crisis in Syria.
• Australians elect a new Coalition Prime Minister, Tony Abbot.
• And police in Canada’s Ontario make one of the largest drug bust in Canadian history.
• A remote controlled helicopter kills a teenager in NYC park.

Australian election package at 5:25- 9:43 mins.

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SBS Cadetship!

Australia’s “Special Broadcasting Service,” whose newsroom I have nurtured a sincere love for in my earnest little heart, is offering two full time, PAID, cadetships. The competition is extremely tough, and I’ve been interested in this for some time. So, I have a month to get a show reel, and two good references, and a professional looking CV together.

Visit there rather funky news site here, and my growing collection of news packages, anchorman stints and pieces to camera here.

I’ve got this, right?

Saint Maximilian Kolbe is the patron Saint of Journalists, I ask for his prayers, and your kindest thoughts.

Here’s a little piece to camera I gave IN THE STUDIO during an unpaid SBS internship earlier this year- let’s hope its a primer of even more to come!

Inline image 1
Me with SBS presenters Ricardo Goncalves and Janice Petersen.
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Sydney Coptic Community Prayer event

Well, I’m trying to post more consistently about my pursuit of a career in the media (taking a leaf of fellow journalism graduate, Daniel Pizarro’s book)

As such, I hope you enjoy this package produced for CYC news, an Egyptian community channel, where I’ve been volunteering.

Please comment! I hope it adds to the enormous picture that develops of Egyptian opinions on the interim Government, the Muslim Brotherhood and this season of transition.

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CYC news and me

Hi subscribers! I’ve lately been presenting and producing news for CYC, Christian Youth Channel, in my pursuit of a bright career in Broadcast journalism.

So, I’ve posted a recording of my anchorman role at the news desk.

 

Professionalism and integrity
Professionalism and integrity

It features my news package at 7:20- 11:30, about last Saturday’s Egyptian community protest in Sydney: interviews with Australian politicians, MP David Clarke, MP Scott Morrison and the Rev. Fred Nile.

Stay tuned for more career updates. Enjoy and thanks for your support everyone!

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Egypt in 2 minutes: What you need to know

My brief run down of confusion, disagreement and misrepresentation, or “Egypt in 2 minutes: everything you need to know”

While sectarian conflict continues to plague Arab states with Christian minorities, views of the US administration’s policy toward Egypt remain mixed.

One the one hand, youth protestors and secular-liberals have criticised the charges laid against Mohammad El Baradei and the perceived hard-handedness of the military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Image
Mohammad El Baradei

While supporters of the military, the Christian community and conservative Muslims have accused the Muslim Brotherhood of extremism, violence and fuelling civil unrest. Conservatives have also accused the US of exerting unwarranted pressure on Egypt’s internal affairs.

In solidarity with these moderates (although such terms can be contested by opponents) rallies have taken place as far as Sydney, Australia.

As the protests and the violence continue, rallies like these are sure to continue, in the pursuit of an end to Egypt’s chaos.

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Go to Egypt!

Tourism in the Middle East has taken a dive turn since the Arab Spring (or was it an Arab Winter? OH YES. OH YES THEY’VE SAID IT BEFORE AND THEY’LL SAY IT AGAIN UNTIL THE END OF TIME)

Tourism in the Middle East has taken a dive turn since the Arab Spring (or was it an Arab Winter? OH YES. OH YES THEY’VE SAID IT BEFORE AND THEY’LL SAY IT AGAIN UNTIL THE END OF TIME)

The point is, with Western caution on the rise, and Egypt’s economy in dire need of cashed up Westerners, this post provides rather engaging footage of REAL EGYPTIANS in their favourite spot “Midan al-Tahrir.”

Ok, well, the footage was taken on a camera phone, and Egyptians do not spend al their time in the square. But you’ll have to hop on a nile cruise, or visit the pyramids, or eat some koshari for yourself, if you want to see the rest of a country that you’ve probably only observed in sound bites.

In the meantime, here’s this, it was filmed on Friday around midday.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUMGH42-6kE&feature=youtu.be]

Egypt thank’s you for your ticket purchase. You’re very cheap ticket purchase.

Go to Egypt!

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Egypt in stagnation

Cairo had sunk into a hopeless morass of gridlocked traffic and teeming humanity—12 million people squeezed into a narrow band of land bordering the Nile River, most living cheek by jowl in ramshackle tenements in the city’s ever-expanding slums.”

Peter Mansfield, in his Nasser’s Egypt, calls Egyptians a ‘humorous and docile people.’

Egyptians do not get involved unless something is really, conspicuously wrong, and even then there’s a reluctance, a sluggishness to it. They’ve historically, carried on in silence, even in pain.

My tour guide around Giza and the Cairo museum during my last trip, who I fear has gotten little to no work over the past two years. The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit by Egypt's political chaos.
My tour guide around Giza and the Cairo museum during my last trip, who I fear has gotten little to no work over the past two years. The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit by Egypt’s political chaos.

And that’s because peace matters to Egyptians. They’ve been invaded, successively, by the Ottomans, the French and the British, and they’ve taken it all on the chin. Interestingly, they have remained ‘Egyptian’ (not Turkish, French or British)

The Tahrir Square protests of January 2011, then, mark an important contrast, as all Egyptian protests have. It draws attention to major problems in the homeland. Tahrir provides substance to the claim that something really was drastically wrong in Egypt: but it’s a claim that Hilary Clinton and others preferred to deny when it was politically expedient. Remember when one of Bush’s staffers said “I wouldn’t call him a dictator,” of Mubarak?

This Nile Cruise ship is as empty as Egypt's hard-hit tourism industry today.
My Nile Cruise boat, as empty as Egypt’s hard-hit tourism

David B. Ottaway, former Bureau Chief of the Washington Post office in Cairo, describes this, this  sub-par crappiness, the mess and negligence and corruption, so clearly, that I’m sharing it here. What’s more, he foresaw the stagnation of Mubarak’s regime, a government ‘without a rudder,’ right at its start, in 1985.

“In a four-part  Washington Post series written as I was departing in early 1985, I noted the new Egyptian leader was still pretty much  a total enigma to his own people, offering no  vision and commanding what seemed a rudderless ship of state. The socialist economy inherited from the era of President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1952 to 1970) was a mess. The currency, the pound, was operating on eight different exchange rates; its state-run factories were unproductive, uncompetitive and deep in debt; and the government was heading for bankruptcy partly because subsidies for food, electricity and gasoline were consuming one-third ($7 billion) of its budget. Cairo had sunk into a hopeless morass of gridlocked traffic and teeming humanity—12 million people squeezed into a narrow band of land bordering the Nile River, most living cheek by jowl in ramshackle tenements in the city’s ever-expanding slums.”

Read his paper in its entirety here….

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The Constitution

Egyptian president Muhammad Mursi’s new constitution, and the place that Tahrir Square protests have taken in Egypt today. My thoughts.

Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi, this November, granted himself new sweeping administrative and political powers, as a “temporary measure” to ‘safeguard the interests’ of the Tahrir Square protests of  January 2011. He today congratulated Egyptians for their ‘endorsement’ of the new constitution which he hurriedly pushed through parliament.

This is much too conspicuously similar to the conduct of another President who granted himself sweeping powers to “safeguard the interests” of protesters who he seemed to notice when it seemed politically suitable. Khomeini, it is sometimes claimed, hijacked the popular and sincere groundswell of anti-regime protest, Iran’s Green revolution against Reza Pahlavi Shah in the 70’s, enabling himself to speak on its behalf.

The fight for equality and economic opportunity, represented here by Khaled Said, symbol of youth protest who was beaten to death by Egyptian police.

The Muslim Brotherhood, and its supporters claim that their success in the Egyptian revolution proves democracy in practice: namely, that they fairly won the Egyptian vote with a majority of around 60%. However, these have failed to note the inconsistent political ethos, the corrupt and coercive tactics and the entrenched socio-economic powers of the Brotherhood, prior to and throughout the election process. Provide a man bread, and he will give you your vote, threaten him, and the same may take place. This isn’t unexpected, it is the way to power.

You cannot come to the front after the war, or claim active citizenship and a concern for the people, only when the situation is convenient to you. This has been the Brotherhood’s way, and the way of many of the Egyptian media channels who celebrate the ‘heroic young people’ of the protests in cheesy soap operas, though they once called them silly young eccentrics.

Mursi supporters

Mark Pearson puts this succinctly in his “connected in Cairo”, where he describes Tahrir Square as a media symbol…“The power to claim this symbol will be contested between state and private actors across multiple media”

Tahrir has become a symbol, and with a constitution that seems to marginalise the interests of women, and minority groups including Coptic Christians, Mursi’s moves seem to make the political process today increasingly apathetic toward its key players, young people who fought, not for a mere ‘tolerance’ of their presence, but for real social equality.

The role of the military and the power of Tahrir are two factors that may need to be watched closely.

Read up, if you’re interested, here,

Cheesy Egyptian soap operas

The reaction to this constitution on the street and in Mursi’s hometown

Egyptian population statistics

The end.