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Ed Webb

Egyptian activist walks free after nearly 2 years in jail | AP News - 0 views

  • Zaki’s arrest and trial became front page news in Italy and sparked a wave of student protests there. For many Italians, his detention was reminiscent of the death of Italian doctoral student Giulio Regeni, who was kidnapped in Cairo, tortured and killed in 2016. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has vowed to continue following Zaki’s case.
Ed Webb

After 'Missteps' And Controversies, Museum Of The Bible Works To Clean Up Its Act : NPR - 0 views

  • When the Museum of the Bible opened three years ago, its founders aimed to engage a wider audience with the Bible and its thousands of years of history. But the museum's ambitious goals have been overshadowed by a series of scandals, still unfolding, over antiquities — acquired in a five-year international shopping spree — that have turned out to be looted or fake.
  • Steve Green, the evangelical president of the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts chain and the museum board's chairman, started acquiring artifacts in 2009 for what would become a $500 million museum on prime Washington, D.C., real estate. (Museum officials have long said the institution has no sectarian or evangelical agenda.)
  • Hobby Lobby paid a $3 million fine in a Justice Department settlement for not exercising due diligence in acquisitions. The judgment directed the forfeiture of 5,500 clay tablets and other illegally imported items to the Iraqi government.
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  • fresh controversies — over previously acquired objects, including Dead Sea Scroll fragments found to be fake and items from Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt — have continued to dog the museum
  • the museum is discussing the return to Iraq of another 8,106 pieces. Hobby Lobby acquired them so haphazardly for the museum, he says, that it may never be known how they came onto the market
  • ome of these items may have even come from Iraq's national museum, which was looted after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and troops failed to protect cultural sites
  • Hobby Lobby acquired the items, most of them clay tablets, between 2009 and 2014 from sources in the U.S., the U.K. and Israel. Another 5,000 items, Egyptian papyri and textiles, acquired during the same period, also lack proper documentation
  • between 5% and 10% of the roughly 8,000 objects now being returned to Iraq are fake
  • The Museum of the Bible's latest issue is over an ancient Jewish prayer book from Afghanistan. The museum says it was "legally exported" from the U.K. and "acquired in good faith" with provenance information dating from the 1950s. Now, Kloha says, museum staff believe the book was taken out of Afghanistan after 1998 — decades after a UNESCO convention made it illegal to export antiquities without government approval. The Taliban, which controls many parts of the country today, is accused of widespread trafficking in antiquities.
  • The U.S. government's 2017 complaint against Hobby Lobby notes that Green was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2010 while carrying a $1 million Bible without a customs declaration. The following year, U.S. Customs agents seized misidentified cuneiform tablets being shipped to Hobby Lobby from the United Arab Emirates.
  • the museum's reputation among scholars has made it difficult to arrange loans of works from other institutions
  • Iraqi's ambassador to the U.S., Fareed Yasseen, tells NPR that he would personally like to see Iraqi artifacts exposed to as wide an audience as possible. "To me, the Elgin Marbles should be in Greece, not in the British Museum, because a lot of people will see them in Greece," he says. "But if you look at the massive winged bulls [from ancient Iraq] you have in the British Museum ... or the Louvre, I mean honestly, if they were in Iraq, so few people would go there to see them. To be fair, looking at the issue as a world citizen, if you will, these are part of all our heritage. Anybody who has read the Bible can relate, right?"
Ed Webb

The Secret Language of Cairo's Goldsmiths - Atlas Obscura - 0 views

  • the goldsmiths of Cairo, who use trade-specific terminology for their business dealings. Many of the phrases they use, as he soon discovered, are reworked Hebrew terms, remnants of a time—from at least the 16th century through the early 20th century—when Egyptian Jews were central to the jewelry trade. The find was startling not only because of the intrigue of such “secret” trade languages, but because Jews have not worked in the Egyptian goldsmith market since the 1960s. Their language has outlived their community.
  • the pragmatic focus of writing in trade contexts—which was often unconcerned with literary flourishes and instead existed somewhere between written and spoken language—meant traders were often the first to introduce spoken variables of language into the written word. This linguistic trendsetting was particularly true of trades that cultivated a group identity—goldsmiths being a prime example.
  • In the early 1900s, the goldsmith quarter was also home to Cairo’s large Jewish population, which had resided in Egypt for millennia. The departure of the Jewish community in the 1950s and 1960s was swift and sudden, leaving many Jewish goldsmiths to abandon their businesses or hastily gift them to their non-Jewish assistants and colleagues. Few shop owners operating today will openly discuss this period. It’s not known what percentage of shops in the 1950s would have been Jewish-owned.
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  • combine Hebrew roots with Arabic grammar. For example, some merchants would warn one another about a possible thief by using the word “ganneb.” The term comes from the Hebrew verb ganab, to steal, but is in Arabic’s declarative second verb form. As Rosenbaum would write, “Another term for warning against thieves is enaymak, which is a combination of the Hebrew word עינים=/enayim (eyes) and the Arabic suffixed possessive pronoun -ak for the second person.” Translation: Watch out!
  • the Karaite Jews had a unique relationship to Arabic, which some posit might be one reason their trade phrases integrated so widely within the broader, non-Jewish goldsmith population. “There were not many Jews in Egypt who used Arabic exclusively for every aspect of their lives,” explains Katharine Halls, a scholar of Egyptian Jewry and Arabic-to-English translator who has lived on and off in Egypt for several years during her career. “Egyptian Jews often spoke French, like many wealthier Egyptian families, or Alexandria it was Italian for a while, but the Karaites were generally mono-lingual in Arabic, which made them virtually unique among Jews in Egypt.”
  • The Karaite Jewish goldsmiths likely would have freely trained their non-Jewish staff in the use of such terminology.
Ed Webb

Top Egyptian actor and trans son stir debate in rare media appearance | Middle East| Ne... - 0 views

  • The appearance of prominent Egyptian actor Hesham Selim and his transgender son on DW's Arabic program "Jaafar Talk" has made waves in a country where sexual identities are rarely discussed.
  • After the actor first spoke publicly about Nour, formerly Noura, on local television last weekend, the two went on international TV to express support for one another and talk about Nour's transition and the challenges he has faced.
  • As Egyptians stay glued to their favorite TV series during Ramadan, the rare public message of solidarity from a top actor in a largely conservative and patriarchal country generated an emotional response on social media.
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  • Many were surprised by the positive reactions of their families and older generations
  • a conservative state where official gender transitions require religious approval.
  • in the eyes of the law, he is still considered female.
  • According to an Associated Press report, only 87 transitions were officially allowed for "physical reasons" between 2014 and 2017 in Egypt, while none were approved for "gender identity disorder."
Ed Webb

Calls in Egypt for censored social media after arrests of TikTok star, belly dancer - R... - 0 views

  • Egyptian lawmakers have called for stricter surveillance of women on video sharing apps after the arrests of a popular social media influencer and a well-known belly dancer on charges of debauchery and inciting immorality.
  • Instagram and TikTok influencer Haneen Hossam, 20, is under 15 days detention for a post encouraging women to broadcast videos in exchange for money, while dancer Sama el-Masry faces 15 days detention for posting “indecent” photos and videos.
  • “Because of a lack of surveillance some people are exploiting these apps in a manner that violates public morals and Egypt’s customs and traditions,”
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  • In 2018 Egypt adopted a cyber crime law that grants the government full authority to censor the internet and exercise communication surveillance. A media regulation law also allows authorities to block individual social media accounts.
  • Several women in Egypt have previously been accused of “inciting debauchery” by challenging the country’s conservative social norms, including actress Rania Youssef after critics took against her choice of dress for the Cairo Film Festival in 2018.
  • Hossam denied any wrongdoing but Cairo University - where she is studying archaeology - said it would enforce maximum penalties against her which could include expulsion.
  • Egyptian women’s rights campaigner Ghadeer Ahmed blamed the arrests on rising social pressures on women and “corrupt laws”. “[These laws] condemn people for their behaviour that may not conform to imagined social standards for how to be a ‘good citizen’ and a respectful woman,” she wrote in a Tweet.
Ed Webb

This Minnesota Monk Saves Ancient Manuscripts for... | Christianity Today - 0 views

  • Stewart is a monk—a Benedictine brother at St. John’s College, in Minnesota, part of the order that built libraries in the Middle Ages, preserving and reproducing Bibles by hand, along with psalters, books of martyrs, and Greek and Arabic philosophy. So Stewart knew his responsibility in Timbuktu. He had to save the ancient manuscripts. When the shooting stopped, Stewart spent the next two days training Malians to run a mobile digitization studio to preserve the more than 300,000 Islamic manuscripts that al-Qaeda might have destroyed.
  • He has rescued documents in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, as well as Egypt, Ethiopia, and India—saving biblical texts and some of the most significant documents for the church in the Middle East, as well as Muslim texts
  • He trains local leaders to preserve their heritage, and in exchange they allow him to make the documents available online.
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  • The St. John’s library now hosts the largest digital collection of old manuscripts in the world, including 250,000 full books and 75 million individual handwritten pages.
  • Stewart thinks the Timbuktu manuscripts are his greatest prize. By preserving Islamic manuscripts, he believes he is being faithful to his Benedictine calling. Speaking to the NEA, Stewart comparing his work in Mali with Peter the Venerable, the 12th-century abbot who oversaw the translation of the Quran into Latin. “As medieval Christian scholars of Arabic manuscripts came to understand, their enemy was not Islam, however deep their theological differences,” he said. “The common enemy was—and remains—the fanaticism and ignorance that make understanding impossible.”
Ed Webb

Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments boosts its imams' media skills - 0 views

  • Will a one-week training enable Egypt’s imams to sound more reassuring, more emphatic and appear more camera-friendly on television? The Ministry of Religious Endowments certainly hopes so.
  • Courses include teaching the imams how to speak in talk shows, telephone interviews and TV debates. It also teaches them body language for interviews on TV as well as writing sound bites for various types of televised interviews. 
  • the course aims to develop the media skills of the imams so that they can “dominate the religious discourse,” counter extremist views expressed by the Salafists and efficiently debunk false interpretations on religion in TV programs.
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  • In 2017, the parliamentary Committee on Religious Affairs approved a draft law that banned issuing fatwas through the media unless prior authorization had been obtained from Al-Azhar, the country’s top religious institution. The draft still has to go through the General Assembly to become law.
  • The Ministry of Religious Endowments — known locally as Awqaf — objected that the right of authorizations should rest with Al-Azhar, saying that this bypasses the ministry, which should be the appropriate authority to grant permissions. The ministry argued that as all of its imams are graduates of Al-Azhar, they were fully equipped to give this permission.
  • Parliament has shelved the draft law until an agreement is reached between Al-Azhar and Awqaf, which has so far failed to materialize. 
  • According to Hosni Hassan, media professor at Helwan University, the main purpose of the trainings is to ensure that the Friday sermons — delivered by imams of Awqaf — are efficient tools to spread the Egyptian state’s version of Islam and to persuade the public.
  • The state — represented by the Ministry of Religious Endowments — is paying close attention to Friday sermons and religious lessons in mosques so they can become tools of improving social and religious behavior
  • “The rate of extremist fatwas has declined since 2013 after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, after the group was designated as a terrorist organization and its sheikhs were arrested,”
  • The ministry announced in 2014 that only preachers licensed by the ministry were allowed to deliver the Friday sermons or teach religious classes in mosques.The ministry organizes a number of exams every year for those wishing to obtain such licenses. In 2015, a new law stipulated that unlicensed preachers who deliver the Friday sermons or teach religious courses in mosques shall be sentenced to imprisonment from three months to a year or pay a fine of 20,000-50,000 pounds ($1,238-3,097).
  • The Ministry of Religious Endowments also issued in 2016 a decision that the imams in the mosques deliver a unified Friday sermon.
Ed Webb

How Mohamed Salah inspired me to become a Muslim | Mohamed Salah | The Guardian - 0 views

  • At this point I didn’t know any Muslims. My degree in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Leeds changed everything.
  • “Mohamed Salah, a gift from Allah. Is the performance of Mohamed Salah igniting a conversation that combats Islamapobia within the media and political spheres?”
  • University gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of students from Saudi Arabia. I thought they were evil people who carried swords but they’re the nicest people I’ve met. The conceptions I had about Arab countries completely dissolved.
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  • At university I interviewed Egyptian students and when they found out my research was about “Mohamed Salah, a gift from Allah” – which is also another Liverpool song – they would talk to me for hours about how great he is and what he’s done for their country. One million Egyptians spoiled their ballots and voted for him to be president last year.
  • When Salah scores I think he’s scoring for the faith. When he won the Champions League I said to my friend that was a victory for Islam. After each of his goals Salah practises the sujood (prostration) and exposes a very Islamic symbol to the world. How many people watch the Premier League every week? Millions globally.
  • Salah showed me that you can be normal and a Muslim, if that’s the right phrase. You can be yourself. He’s a great player and is respected by the football community and his politics, his religion, don’t matter – and to me that’s what football can do.
  • What would I say to the Ben of old? I’d give him a smack, to be honest, and I’d say: ‘How dare you think like that about a people that are so diverse. You need to start talking to people. You need to start asking the questions.’ We live in a multicultural, multifaith, multinational society.
Ed Webb

Egypt's millennials turn to Sufism - 0 views

  • “There has definitely been a Sufi revival in Egypt, and it is especially pronounced in bourgeois, urban milieus, particularly circles of young, highly educated people; but I think it goes across class and political lines,”
  • the mainstream Islamic revival prior to 2011 marginalized Sufis, although he did find that small numbers of “intellectual, politically left” individuals were becoming interested in Sufism. Another significant segment of the larger population was drawn to what Islamic Studies scholar Mark Sedgwick calls “eclectic Sufism,” a broader interpretation influenced by the kind of “New Age” ideas seen in the novels of Turkish writer Elif Shafak or in concerts where Sufi chanting, performed by the likes of Ahmed Al Tuni, is modernized through loudspeakers and modern-day musical instruments.
  • “a growing understanding that you could be both against ex-President Hosni Mubarak and against the Muslim Brotherhood” became prominent, making way for an “experimental openness.” Many who had previously flirted with Salafi ideology became more open to Sufism, and “even on the street level, these divides became more difficult to cross.”
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  • there has been “a conscious regime support for Sufism" and "there is a lot more Sufi-leaning content now integrated into the educational curriculum at Al-Azhar. … The Egyptian government and the Sufi orders have a shared enemy” in the Muslim Brotherhood
  • "Sufism isn’t something new; it has always been a cornerstone of Islam. Our religion is not the didactic interpretation of haughtiness and politicized discourse. … Tasawwuf teaches modesty, brings us closer to God and pertains to the true spiritual and ethical essence of Islam. … The religion that the media perpetuates is a parallel religion, claiming it is Islam, but it’s not truly it.”
  • During a typical Thursday evening of chanting and "dhikr," or “remembrance,” at Radwan’s, fellow “fuqara’” (which literally means “poor,” taken to mean seekers in search of richer spiritual fulfillment) are mostly acquaintances of her's and her family’s. Many are young professionals in their 20s and 30s, younger students and teenagers accompanied by their parents or siblings — this younger group seems keener on the practice than its chaperones — as well as a handful of her mother’s older peers
  • millennials may have become more spiritual — in the sense of seeking Tasawwuf — as a reaction to the spread of Wahhabi and Salafi influences during the past few decades
  • Historically, Sufism was undeniable until Wahhabi teachings became more widespread and condemned [Sufi practices such as] visiting the burial places of Sayyidna al-Hussein and so forth as the practice of apostates
Ed Webb

Fears grow of rift between Saudi king and crown prince | World news | The Guardian - 0 views

  • in late February when the king, 83, visited Egypt and was warned by his advisers he was at risk of a potential move against him, according to a detailed account from a source. His entourage was so alarmed at the possible threat to his authority that a new security team, comprised of more than 30 hand-picked loyalists from the interior ministry, was flown to Egypt to replace the existing team.
  • The friction in the father-son relationship was underlined, the source said, when the prince was not among those sent to welcome the king home.
  • The crown prince, who was designated “deputy king” during the Egypt trip, as is customary, signed off two major personnel changes while the king was away. They included the appointment of a female ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, and that of his full brother, Khalid bin Salman, to the ministry of defence. The latter appointment has further centralised power in one branch of the ruling family.
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  • Royal appointments are almost always announced in the name of the king, but the 23 February decrees were signed by the “deputy king”. One expert said the title of deputy king had not been used in this way for decades.
  • the king and his team learned about the reshuffle via television
  • Supporters of the king have been pushing him to get more involved in decision-making, to prevent the crown prince from taking more power.
  • Prince Mohammed angered people last month when he walked on top of the Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, provoking complaints to the king by some religious scholars that the move had been inappropriate
  • The prince and king have also been at odds on significant foreign policy matters, the source said, including the handling of prisoners of war in Yemen, and the Saudi response to protests in Sudan and Algeria.
  • While the king is not a reformer, he is said to have supported freer coverage of the protests in Algeria in the Saudi press.
Ed Webb

Russia Promotes Politically Pacifist Islam - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • Moscow’s focus on promoting politically pacifist Islam, which has coincided with an aggressive push by certain Arab countries to combat Islamism
  • Russian emissary for this effort is Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic
  • An early example of the Russian-Arab religious alliance was an international conference of Islamic scholars held in the Chechen capital, Grozny, by Kadyrov in September 2016
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  • co-organized by religious leaders with close ties to the governments in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates—two countries widely perceived to be particularly hostile to political Islam
  • In October 2017, during a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz reportedly discussed Islamic proselytization in Russia. Saudi and Russian officials told Theodore Karasik, a Russia expert in Washington, that the king agreed to pull the plug on mosque funding and proselytization. (Last February, Riyadh made a similar move when it gave up control of Belgium’s largest mosque, notorious as a breeding ground for extremism.)
  • Russia’s Islamic outreach became more visible, at least in the Middle East, in 2016, precisely when anti-Muslim sentiments in Western countries appeared on the rise, and Russian trolls and bots were spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric on American political forums
  • while theological schisms remain vast between the views of Kadyrov and his Saudi hosts, the Russian-Saudi relationship is strong
  • Russia may also be attempting to counter the widespread perception that Moscow is hostile to Islam (because of the lingering legacy of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) or to Sunni Islam in particular (because the country is associated with Iran and its proxies)
  • Moscow’s desire to distinguish itself from the United States
  • Over the summer, Kadyrov was welcomed like royalty in Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities let him inside Prophet Mohammed’s room, which is closed to all but special guests
  • “Ramzan Kadyrov has made it one of his top priorities in recent years to build friendships throughout the Middle East, in particular the Gulf. Kadyrov portrays Chechnya as essentially an independent Islamic state,” says Neil Hauer, a Georgia-based political analyst on Syria, Russia, and the Caucasus. “Kadyrov also offers Arab and Gulf leaders … his experience in crushing a domestic Islamist insurgency.”
  • Several countries in the Middle East and North Africa are working together more closely than ever to suppress extremism and steer local populations to a new understanding of street protests as a tool of jihadists and an obstacle to social peace
  • The U.S. and other Western countries may not accept the principle that Islamists and Salafis are as dangerous as militant jihadis. Russia, by promoting a particular brand of Islamic moderation in unison with Arab powers, could cement its position in the region more deeply than through economic and military means alone
Ed Webb

How Copt football players face discrimination in Egypt's national game - Al Arabiya Eng... - 0 views

  • “There are approximately ten million Christians out of Egypt’s ninety million citizens, yet Egypt’s Olympic mission to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics, which comprised 122 players, did not include a single Copt. Egypt’s 2012 London delegation also did not include any Copts. Additionally, not a single Egyptian Christian player, coach or trainer can be found on any club in the country’s premier league,” stated the complaint, adding that over the past four decades only a few Coptic athletes were included in official sports competitions.
  • For Coptic MP Emad Gad, the academy offers a solution to the problems Christians suffer not only in sports but in general. “Copts are being treated with suspicion all the time by average citizens while the state considers them a security file that needs to be handled with caution,” he said. “That is why they decided to stay away from anything state-affiliated including mainstream football clubs.”
  • The name of Christian footballer Hani Ramzi is always mentioned to refute allegations of discrimination. “For years, nobody was aware I was Christian and it never mattered,” said Ramzi. “I do not deny that some players are sectarian, but this is extremely rare and we do not want to generalize. I spent 20 years in football in Egypt and never had a problem.” Ramzi argued that many Christian families are reluctant to send their children for tests in the clubs for fear they would be rejected for their religion, especially if this is obvious from their names.
Ed Webb

Police Arrest Student and Venue Owner Organizing an Egypt Gay Concert - 0 views

  • Egyptian police recently arrested a student in the Giza district of Kerdasa for “debauchery” after allegedly organizing a concert for gay people. The Egypt gay concert never happened. Now the student and one other man face legal charges.
  • Egypt’s recent and massive anti-LGBT crackdown began by targeting a musical event when  police arrested several young people who waved a rainbow flag at a Cairo concert in September 2017. The concert was that of Mashrou’ Leila, a Lebanese band whose name means “A Night Project” in Arabic. Mashrou’ Leila’s lead singer, Hamed Sinno, is openly gay.
  • Since homosexuality is not criminalized in Egypt, people are often arrested and charged with vague crimes like “debauchery,” “immorality” and “blasphemy.”
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