Egypt’s Military Cements Its Powers as Voting Ends

CAIRO — The Muslim Brotherhood early Monday projected its candidate, an Islamist, as the winner of Egypt’s first competitive presidential election, hours after the ruling military council issued an interim constitution granting itself broad power over the future government, all but eliminating the president’s authority in an apparent effort to guard against just such a victory.

The military’s new charter is the latest in a series of swift steps that the generals have taken to tighten their grasp on power just at the moment when they had promised to hand over to elected civilians the authority that they assumed on the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year. Their charter gives them control of all laws and the national budget, immunity from any oversight, and the power to veto a declaration of war.

After dissolving the Brotherhood-led Parliament elected four months ago, and locking out its lawmakers, the generals on Sunday night also seized control of the process of writing a permanent constitution. State news media reported that the generals had picked a 100-member panel to draft it.


U.S. still viewed negatively by Muslims in Many Countries

WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) — The rise of pro-democracy movements in the Middle East has failed to improve the image of the United States in the region, a poll has determined.

The Pew Global Attitudes Project said a survey conducted prior to the death of Osama bin Laden found that people in key Arab nations and other predominantly Muslim countries still have a negative view of America.

In Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan, views are even more negative than they were a year ago, the poll indicated.

Pew said with the exception of Indonesia, U.S. President Barack Obama remains unpopular in Muslim nations it polled.

People in most of those countries disapprove of the way he has handled calls for political change in the Middle East, Pew said.

The poll found widespread support for democracy in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.


Egypt Christians rally behind rival of Islamists

CAIRO—In the small southern Egyptian town of Azaziya, where almost all the residents are Christians, few doubt that nearly everyone who can is going to vote for Ahmed Shafiq, ousted leader Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister and his longtime friend, in this weekend’s presidential election.

 Shafiq’s candidacy has dismayed many Egyptians who believe the Mubarak-era veteran will preserve the old regime’s authoritarianism. But even if some Christians share those reservations, they view his opponent in the race as far worse: Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt’s Christian minority fears will turn the country into an Islamic state.

“Our goal is a civil state. We don’t see anyone else who can protect this except for him,” Montaser Qalbek, the son of Azaziya’s town leader, said of Shafiq.

In last month’s first round of the presidential election, which narrowed the field from 13 candidates to two, Shafiq received nearly all of the 4,500 votes cast in Azaziya, a town in the southern province of Assiut. Qalbek said he expects more than twice that number to turn out for the Saturday-Sunday run-off and that they will again overwhelmingly back Shafiq.


Debbie Schlussel Discovers “Boy Band Jihad”?

by Sheila Musaji
When I posted the article Islamophobes See “Jihad” Everywhere which included this summary, I thought the Islamophobes had run out of crazy “jihad” plots to warn Americans about:

An Eid Celebration for Muslim Special Needs Kids was described as a “stealth jihad”.   A children’s page in a newspaper focusing on Eid was described as a toxic propaganda plot,  A Muslim doctor had a heart attack and died at the wheel of his car which then crashed into a shopping mall and this was described as “vehicular jihad”.   A Muslim cab driver objected to what he considered pornographic ads on the roof of his cab, and that became a stealth-jihadplot to impose Sharia on America.  Any Muslim who has sued an employer for violation of their rights under the EEOC is engaged in employment jihad, or litigation jihad.  Muslim environmentalists are said to be actually engaged in “civilizational jihad”.  A cartoon series “The 99” aimed at young Muslims was described as “cultural jihad”.  The victims of the terrorist attack of 9/11 included Muslims, they were accused of dying as martyrs in an act of jihad.

The Islamophobes have uncovered countless examples of “shocking” Muslim jihad plots.  They have uncovered:  bumper sticker jihad,  Thanksgiving turkey jihad, an incredible paisley scarf jihadmarriage to important men jihadspit jihadfashion jihadspelling bee jihadrape jihaddefacing dollar bills jihad,   population jihadcreeping Sharia jihad,   mosque building jihad,terror baby jihad“creeping Sharia” jihad,  pedophilia jihad,  bus driver prayer jihadforehead bruise jihadpostage stamp jihadsoup jihad,  banning alcohol jihadfake hate crimes jihad,piggy bank jihad,  tv reality series jihadhandshake jihadprom jihadinterfaith jihadArabic language jihad,  public school jihadreligious accommodation jihadCrescent moon jihad,Christmas tree tax jihadoath of office jihadimmigration jihadcommunity fundraiser jihad.  Christina Abraham (a Muslim) has a name that is not recognizably Muslim enough and so we have stealth name jihad.

I was wrong, it seems that Debbie Schlussel has discovered yet another nefarious Muslim “jihad” plot.  Schlussel is the Islamophobe who outhates even Glenn Beck and Pamela Geller, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to believe that someone can be so hateful so consistently.  Schlussel just posted a story Boy Band Jihad: Mega Pop Star Pimping Islam on Your Daughters.


Euro 2012: I want to be an England fan and a Muslim. Why’s that so hard?

As England play their first games of Euro 2012, I’d like to be an England fan. But even though I’m English, it’s hard.

For a start, as a British Muslim, I am unsettled by the sight of England supporters dressed as Christian knights and jovially waving Crusader shields at the European championships in Poland and Ukraine. Footage of last night’s cagey opener with France was interspersed with close-ups of young men dressed in the armour of Knights Templar hordes. There’s an irony in the fact that images of Polish supporters chanting antisemitic slogans and giving Nazi salutes have been met with such deserved outrage, but to brandish a sword and recall the brutal and bloody invasion of Muslim lands is portrayed as harmless banter.

There is an obvious difference of course. I don’t for a second believe that those dressed as Christian knights do so to offend Muslims – I hope not, anyway – whereas there is obvious menace in the sickening behaviour by neo-Nazis. But this doesn’t make it any less disturbing an image for the Muslims in this country and around the world.

The Crusades are romanticised in the west as heroic battles to win back the holy lands in the name of Christianity. But for Muslims they are remembered as two centuries of brutal and unprovoked attacks on Arab lands. To celebrate this in fancy dress recalls a bloody and divisive chapter in Muslim-Christian relations. That may not be the intention of those donning the fake chainmail and helmets but there’s no denying it’s a uniform of war that certainly doesn’t instil a feeling of inclusiveness in me.


Egyptian Christians: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The first round of the Egyptian presidential election resulted in a runoff between Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy, who won 25 percent of the votes (about 5.8 million), and Ahmed Shafiq — a former prime minister and symbol of the Hosni Mubarak regime — who won 24 percent (about 5.5 million votes). The question now is how Egyptian Coptic Christians will vote in the upcoming runoff between these two candidates.

There are almost 8.5 million Copts in Egypt who represent about 10 percent of the population and constitute the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Observers often cite how Copts are concerned that the Brotherhood might turn Egypt into an Islamic state. Nevertheless, the alternative, Shafiq, is generally not welcomed by many Egyptians who consider him part of the previous regime. With this in mind, there is still a question of whether the Brotherhood will be willing to take political or legal steps that may alleviate Copts’ concerns about the movement’s conservatism and encourage Christians to vote for the Brotherhood’s candidate.

Answering this question requires an examination of the way Copts have historically been treated in Egypt, a country that has a majority Muslim population. It is also necessary to explain the general principles that regulate the status of religious minorities in Islam. While these are complex issues that fall beyond the context of this article, a brief reading of Islamic history reveals that religious minorities can coexist peacefully in an Islamic country.


Democratic Muslims? Why not?

The advent of democracy in the Arab Middle East has prompted heated debates over the role of Islam in government, and over the rights of women and non-Muslim minorities, especially in Egypt, the largest Arab nation that also has the largest Christian community in the region.

The issues are fraught with misunderstandings, primarily because of the antagonism between the West and Islam. Cultural stereotypes distort the debate with improper or deliberately misleading language.

Islam, the faith, is not government.

Some governments may call themselves Islamic — as in Saudi Arabia and Iran. But many Muslims routinely question the Islamic credentials of those two governments. This tells us the obvious: There is no one, monolithic Islam. There’s great diversity of thought and interpretation among Muslims, as in people of any faith.

In Muslim democracies — or, more precisely, Muslim-majority nations that are democratic or becoming so — a government may be led by a political party that calls itself Islamic. Or it does not but others do, because it is “rooted” in Islam or “political Islam.” Or its leaders and/or rank-and-file are pious Muslims.


Why Islam is an Integral Part of Germany

In recent days, two prominent German Christians offered up their thoughts to the country’s Muslims on their search for identity. Markus Söder, the finance minister of the state of Bavaria, surprised an audience of Turkish immigrants by saying that Islam is an “integral part of Bavaria.”

Then, German President Joachim Gauck told the influential weekly Die Zeit that he shares the intentions of his predecessor, former President Christian Wulff. Gauck slightly re-formulated Wulff’s most famous sentence by saying: “The Muslims who live here belong to Germany.”

That now makes five such prominent voices weighing in on the ongoing debate. Wulff, from whom Gauck has now distanced himself, was first. He said: “By now, Islam also belongs to Germany.”

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich contradicted him, saying: “That Islam is part of Germany is a fact that cannot be proven by history.” He said that Germany’s identity has been “shaped by Christianity and the Enlightenment.” Then, senior parliamentary conservative Volker Kauder maintained that “Islam is not a part of our tradition and identity.”

So which is it? Who or what belongs to Germany? Islam? The Enlightenment? Muslims? Christianity?


Jewish, Christian, Muslim musicians use music as bridge

Put an Israeli Jew, an Australian Christian and a Turkish Muslim together in a recording studio (or more accurately alone next to their own computers with file-sharing capabilities), and it may sound something like Three Waves Under the Bridge, the group effort of Ittai Shaked, Andy Bussuttil and Umit Ceyhan.

The bridge of a musical composition often connects disparate sections or ideas resulting in a cohesive whole. But the international trio’s Bridge Project takes that concept one step further by integrating musicians from diverse backgrounds resulting in a musical blend spiced by Middle Eastern instrumentation, Turkish rhythms, some Balkan beats and even a touch of klezmer.

According to violinist Shaked, the project’s lynchpin, what started out as an informal exercise with his fellow musicians does more than cross a chasm, it eliminates it entirely.

“We just wanted to show that you can bridge gaps, and thatmusic is stronger than anything else,” the life-long musician said last week from his Tel Aviv office at Waves, a successful Grammy Award-winning startup that develops audio mixing software for the digital age for sound engineers and producers. Shaked’s role at the company as a quality assurance coordinator played a pivotal role in the genesis of The Bridge Project.


Egypt’s Islamist candidate woos women, Christians

CAIRO — The presidential candidate for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood wooed Christians, women and supporters of the ruling military Tuesday in a bid to expand his base of support and he also played up the stigma attached to his challenger, a senior figure in the old regime whose headquarters was burned down by angry protesters overnight.

The Islamist candidate Mohammed Morsi made the new campaign promises in a news conference, vowing to ensure the full rights of the Christian minority and women if he is elected. He also tried to reassure the pro-democracy youth groups who drove the last year’s popular uprising by promising to protect the right to stage peaceful protests and sit-ins.

Overnight, protesters stormed and burned the campaign headquarters of Morsi’s challenger Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister. In Tahrir square, birthplace of the anti-Mubarak uprising, protesters chanted slogans against both Morsi and Shafiq. Similar protests took place in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria and elsewhere in northern Egypt.