Bumpy road ahead for Egypt's first female Coptic governor

Bumpy road ahead for Egypt's first female Coptic governor

Menna A. Farouk September 4, 2018

Women's rights activists and Christian figures rejoiced as Egypt appointed its first Coptic Christian woman as governor of the Nile Delta city of Damietta.

The appointment of Manal Awad, the first Christian woman to hold the position of governor in Egypt, reflects an unprecedented state willingness to empower Christians and appoint them in leading government posts.

Former member of Egyptian parliament Gamal Assad said the Egyptian leadership’s attitude toward Christians has dramatically changed under the reign of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Assad added that there will have to be community support to any initiatives or decisions that are made in the interests of Christians in Egypt. “The new Christian governor in Damietta is going to be under threat because there are still followers of the Muslim Brotherhood group out there, and they are of course opposing the appointment of any Christian in a leading post,” he told Al-Monitor.

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Saudi Arabia- how much has changed?

Women in Saudi Arabia don’t get it easy. A great deal is made of the fact that they can now drive but how much has really changed?

My short trips to Riyadh haven’t been easy. Strange men knocking at the hotel room door at 10pm; trying to get food at a hotel and walking down the street to buy a kebab with rows of men staring at me.

So how have things changed? Can they change that quickly?

This feature article by Louise Callaghan, Middle East correspondent at The Times, sets about answering this question.

Go to: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/women-in-saudi-arabia-can-work-party-and-now-drive-but-is-their-newfound-freedom-all-it-seems-p97qt7xvp

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Israeli president stands up against Arab discrimination

The dislike of the Arabs by the Israeli/Jewish State, and the Jews by many Arabs runs deep. This hostility is neither a one-off, nor short lived. As a non-Jewish, non Arab person the tension in Israel and the West Bank is palpable, even after a short visit.

 This article written by Yossi Beilin for Israel Pulse, produced by Al Monitor Group, explains some of the underlying issues.

Yossi Beilin July 11, 2018

Article Summary

In a letter to the prime minister and the Knesset, President Reuven Rivlin pleaded with Benjamin Netanyahu to remove a clause in the proposed Nationality Law that would make it legal to deny Arabs the right to live in Jewish villages.

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What will happen with the Iran nuclear deal?

Today marks the historic meeting between US President Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong-UN. It is a shame that nothing like this meeting has taken place between the US President and the Iranian President, Houssan Rouhani.What will happen now that the US is not going along with the nuclear deal. Here's a view from experts at Brookings as to what might happen.

Around the Halls: Brookings experts discuss the implications of President Trump’s Iran nuclear deal announcement

Suzanne Maloney, Natan Sachs, Bruce Riedel, Daniel L. Byman, Hady Amr, Mara Karlin, Samantha Gross, Frank A. Rose, Richard Nephew, Steven Pifer, Célia Belin, Dror Michman, Tamara Cofman Wittes, Tanvi Madan, and Kadira Pethiyagoda Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Order from Chaos

Editor's Note:

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Middle Eastern artists give traditional art a modern twist

I’ve been to a number of superb art exhibitions in Dubai, including Art Dubai, an annual exhibition where the best of art across the Middle East is shown.Some of the best shows are when the great auction houses- Southebys and Christies, bring exhbitions to town. Therefore, I was intrigued to read this article below which talks about Middle Easterm artists giving traditional art a modern twist.

 Middle Eastern artists give traditional art a modern twist

India Stoughton June 4, 2018 (From Al Monitor).

Article Summary

Bahraini weaving, Palestinian embroidery and Iraqi miniatures are among the traditional art forms being reinvented and adapted by the Middle Eastern artists competing for the fifth edition of the Jameel Prize.

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Political amnesia in Washington

The Palestinian-Israeli crisis is becoming increasingly worse. Any hope of a peace accord is looking highly unlikely. Listening to the news you would think that the Palestinians are entirely to blame.

Khaled Elgindy from the Brookings Institute explains.

 Political amnesia in Washington: From the Nakba to the occupation

Within less than a generation, both the political significance of the Nakba and the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were all but forgotten in Washington, writes Khaled Elgindy. This piece originally appeared in Foreign Policy.

This week’s protests at the Gaza border were the largest—and deadliest — since Palestinians began what organizers have dubbed the “Great March of Return” some six weeks ago. The protests culminated on May 15, the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (“catastrophe”), during which most of Palestine’s Arab population was expelled from the British-mandated territory in the course of Israel’s creation. Approximately 70 percent of Gaza’s 2 million Palestinians are registered refugees from lands in what is now Israel.

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Iran: religious titles lie at heart of political games

Increasingly, Iran is hitting the news. Will Trump scrap the nuclear deal? Is Iran worse then Saudi Arabia? They are both theocracies after all. I've heard arguments that the clerics don't have much say in Saudi Arabia. They do! This article in Al Monitor looks at the religious clerics there. It is by Rohollah Faghihi , an Iranian journalist.

In Iran, the robing ceremony of Ahmad Khomeini, the great-grandson of Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has stirred some debate about the Shiite clergy. The traditional ceremony where he was given his turban comes against the backdrop of a process in which clerical titles in the country have increasingly come to be driven by political rather than scholarly considerations, with virtually all factions, parties and groups using ranks in the Shiite theological hierarchy for their own political purposes. But has it always been like this in Iran?

Before engaging in the debate on the politicization of clerical titles, it is perhaps best to explain their origins. In broad terms, Shiite clerics fall under five categories: Seqat al-Islam, Hujjat al-Islam, Hujjat-al-Islam wal-Muslemin, Ayatollah and Ayatollah al-Uzma.

Before the reign of the Pahlavi dynasty (1925-1979), titles like Ayatollah or Seqat-al-Islam were used chiefly as honorifics, albeit rarely and only with reference to a limited number of prominent Islamic scholars. For instance, Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni (864-941) was a well-known Shiite scholar and hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) collector. His important hadith collection Kitab al-Kafi, which is respected by both Sunnis and Shiites, earned him the honorific Seqat al-Islam, which means “Trusted by Islam.” Indeed, to this day, Islamic scholars commonly refer to Kulayni when mentioning the term Seqat al-Islam. There is also the example of Iranian-born Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali, one of the most prominent philosophers, jurists and mystics of Sunni Islam. He was often referred to as Hujjat al-Islam, which means “Proof of Islam.”

From the Qajar era (1794-1925) until the early Pahlavi period, many great scholars and high-ranking clerics in Iran were still referred to with simple titles, including the honorific “Sheikh,” which is used to refer to clerics who are not descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.

In 1921, Sheikh Abdolkarim Haeri Yazdi, a high-ranking teacher in the holy Iraqi city of Karbala who had established a successful seminary in the central Iranian city of Arak, established the Qom Seminary. Known as the “Founder Ayatollah,” he organized seminary affairs, including standardizing courses and ranks. Clerical titles have since gradually been employed to designate scholarly achievements. Of note, the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was one of Haeri Yazdi’s students.

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What Houthi revenge could mean for Saudi elites

The war in Yemen is really a war between the Saudi, and the UAE and Yemenis loyal to the current president (or some would say Iran). This article from Brookings Institute discusses what the outcome of a long drawn out war might be.


The killing of a prominent Houthi leader in Yemen by a Saudi airstrike this month has prompted threats of retaliation by the Houthis and other pro-Iranian militants in the region, including threats specifically against Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (known as MBS). Could that raise new questions about Saudi leadership succession?

By Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Center for Middle East Policy

Director - The Intelligence Project

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Is peace between the Israelis and Palestinians possible?

The animosity between Israelis and Palestinians is ongoing, but it is not until you’ve been do you understand how much tension there is. That’s what I think. And I’m neither Israeli nor Palestinian.

I was travelling into Palestine over the Allenby Crossing, from Jordan, with a group of Palestinians. We waited at the border crossing for about eight hours, while the Israeli guards played ball games, and played around generally.

These people were horrible to everyone, including me, until they saw I had a New Zealand passport and then they were so nice. What a change in attitude. I was told by a British lawyer that he had had a similar experience at Tel Aviv airport. Since he was English he was allowed into the country but a colleague from the same law firm- a Palestian-British man- was detained in jail overnight. Evidently, he’s had that experience many times when visiting family.

I had many experiences on that trip, one of them being witness to everyone standing up when Mahmoud Abbas took the stage. That was at a conference in Bethelem.

With this in mind, I read the article below with interest. It makes sense when I recall a Palestinian, who had been involved in peace talks, who said there would never be a negotiated peace with Israel, since the “status quo” will always be better for the Israelis.

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Why Saudi has decided to permit women drivers

There is a lot of excitement and talk about the lifting of the ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia. Undeniably, it is a move in the right direction but there are a lot of changes that are needed, such as the guardianship rules. These rules mean that a woman must ask the permission of a father, a brother, or even a son, to travel, or even to work.

Also, the right for women to drive must be extended to a younger age group. Even under the new ruling, which comes into effect in June 2018 (plenty of opportunity to put more conditions in place), women under 30 are not allowed to drive, according to my friend in the port city of Jeddah.

My experience with drivers in Riyadh has not been good. It is possible for a woman to take a cab from the airport, which is driven by a man of course, and travel alone with the driver. I did it.

I also took a cab to an ATM in Riyadh, because I had to, even though it was within walking distance from the hotel.  A woman alone with an unknown male at night!

And Uber has lost its licence to operate in London, with one of the reasons cited as lack of security. In the UAE, and Iran for that matter, there are at least women taxi drivers.

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Is Islam "exceptional"?

Imam Mohamed Magid pause as he prays at the mosque of All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, Virginia, U.S. May 19, 2016. To match Special Report USA-EXTREMISTS/TEEN REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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