Monday, February 27, 2006

Democracy: Does It and Will It Work In the Middle East?

In the United States and Europe, democracy entails certain social norms and civil liberties. The tenets of democracy are free speech, electoral voting and the abiding of constitutional law.

Does the Middle East have a chance of mimicking such a system? Is it in their interest to implement such a system?

When the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003, President Bush claimed that he was spreading democracy. By overthrowing Saddam Hussein and riding the world (and the region) of his tyrannical and corruptive regime, he hoped to exploit oil and pacify the region.

Today, Iraq is battling with its most intensified case of sectarian violence in years. The cleavage between Sunnis and Shiias is constantly growing and so is the hopelessness for the establishment of any sort of democratic regime.

Pseudo-democratic style elections in Egypt empowered the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization feared by many, especially the Coptic Christian minority in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to implement Sharia Law. So far, the law has been has been oppressively implemented as seen in Saudi Arabia.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, Sharia Law represents the antithesis of libertarianism and is clearly incompatible with democracy. For example, women cannot drive or leave their residence without the escort of a male figure – it is inequality at its zenith. Ironically, it was a US backed democratic norm (multiparty elections) which brought about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (the anti-Christ of democracy) – why and how did it backfire?

The problem is quite simple. Feelings of government resentment have been rampant throughout Middle Eastern countries. Egyptians are unhappy with their economic situation. The Lebanese are in a precarious political situation. The Iraqis are struggling with the beginnings of a civil war. The Syrians are under political pressure from the Lebanese and Americans and the Palestinians have been in a civil war since 1948.

In addition to the aforementioned abysmal situation, illiteracy and poverty is not departing the region anytime soon. It is difficult to imagine how an uneducated, poor and hopeless Egyptian would be able to ‘strategically’ vote. The word strategic here refers to a candid vote; a vote backed by reasons; a vote that would make a change. The poor, uneducated Egyptian would not vote strategically – he would vote for Islam.

‘Islam is the solution’ was the Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan. They managed to sway the illiterate, poor and hopeless proletariat of Egyptian society to vote for them. Thus, a democratic norm backed by the US managed to allow a completely non-democratic protagonist to rise to power – the Brotherhood.

The Middle East does not need democracy at this point. Arab countries have not yet deciphered how to integrate Islam in to the 21st century. For the time being, it has been regime survival which has led to economic development in the region. The Gulf countries are prime examples: the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain are healthy economies with most of them producing oil for exporting. Monarchic regimes have kept the countries intact both politically and economically.

In essence, Arab countries could easily look to the Newly Industrialized Countries of Far East Asia and see that US-backed democracy was not their key to success.

If it is in their interest, Arab countries need to lay the foundations suitable for democracy. The respective governments should invest in the literacy of their populations first before anything else. Until then, people will vote in oblivion, to the lesser of two evils and to simply, someone different – all in the hope for the better change; an idea which at this point, is an utter illusion.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Iraq, Iran, the US and The Rise of Sectarianism

Anger, fear and hopelessness proliferated among Iraqi civilians today as the Samarra’s al-Askari shrine – the holiest sites in Shia Islam – was attacked and heavily destroyed.

The attack was certainly designed to fuel further cleavages between the Sunnis and Shia in Iraq. The fury of the aftermath was apparent as more than 100 people were killed in revenge attacks. The situation was further exacerbated when President Jalal Talabani called for an emergency summit which the Sunni politicians decided to boycott in retaliation against the reprisal attacks.

Where is Iraq heading to? Sectarianism and sectarian violence has been recently on the rise all over the Middle East. My recent posting ‘History Repeats Itself’ discusses the ongoing antagonism between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt. Nigeria also witnessed scores of attacks against Christian churches after Muslims exhibited their rage in retaliation against Jylland-Posten’s blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Only days later, it was Iraq’s turn.

Who is to blame in the Iraqi case? Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the influential Sunni cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi (an Egyptian living in Qatar) pointed the finger to the United States and Israel stating that Iraq’s woes resulted from the work of ‘defeated Zionists and occupiers.’

For them it was simple. Recently, Ahmadinejad audaciously composed a diatribe against the United States and Israel which echoed around the globe – ‘Israel should be wiped off the map.’ The statement was bold and was a wake-up call to the Arab world as well as their Western counterparts. For some, it was a statement of courage and deserved applaud. For others, it was a statement of irresponsibility and deserved retaliation.

In essence, it was easy for Ahmadinejad to blame the United States and Israel. Both Ahmadinejad and Qaradawi saw the incident at the Samarra al-Askari shrine as a perfect excuse to incite further antagonism against the West. Their argument is simple – the United States unlawfully invaded Iraq, created a complete mess and contributed to the increasing sectarian and ‘civil war’ like violence.

Is the United States and Israel really to blame? This is quite a sensitive question to answer. On the one hand, the United States invaded Iraq on false pretenses (Saddam was certainly tyrannical but did not pose an imminent threat) since weapons of mass destruction were not located. Therefore, one could argue that it is in fact the United States to blame for the sectarian mishaps. It is an easy and immediate conclusion to make however it is unwise at this point – the damage has already been done.

On the other hand, a wiser conclusion would be to realize that extremists (like Ahmadinejad) use such occurrences to instigate further tensions and more importantly to use them as an excuse for Islamic Jihad.

Unfortunately Islamic Jihad in an utterly misconstrued manner. Figureheads such as Ahmadinejad and the even more extreme Osama Bin Laden have been able to represent what Islam has to offer in the 21st century – extremism, violence and incompatibility with modernity – the wrong visage.

If it is in the interest of Arab governments to weave a Pan-Arabic fabric then the recent rise of sectarian violence has certainly eroded any chance of such a phenomenon. Moderate Muslims need to rise and voice their opinions and concerns.

Mr. Naser Khader, a member of parliament in the Danish government proves that there is hope for moderate and liberal Islam – for changing its current face to the better.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Sense of Reality: Arabs and US Ports

‘It would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through,’ Bush told Congress today.

Bush was referring to a deal which would allow Dubai Ports World (DPW), a United Arab Emirates based company to have control over six ports in the United States: New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and Miami.

The debate and the President’s vow to veto any law which would be an obstacle to its success has raised both eyebrows and gained applaud.

Who would applaud and who would raise their eyebrows?

Lawmakers fear that it would make the United States more vulnerable to terrorism since only 3% of incoming cargo containers get checked. Senior Republicans have certainly raised their eyebrows and raised immense concerns.

Regular, average citizens of the United States would also raise their eyebrows. Unfortunately the word ‘Arab’ and ‘Middle East’ have gained an incredible momentum of negative connotations ever since 9/11 and thus it is hard to understand why a foreign-owned ‘Arab’ company would be given the opportunity to control US homeland ports.

The uneducated, unexposed and uninterested chunk of US citizens will associate the Middle East and the word ‘Arab’ to terrorism. It is an unfortunate reality since the media has played an incredible role in defining peoples’ minds, opinions and perceptions. Moreover, Osama Bin Laden’s horrendous acts of 9/11 have certainly not done the Muslim/Arab world any justice – unfortunately he represents one of the distorted faces of Islam today.

Has President Bush lost his mind? No he certainly has not. Based on intelligence from the counterterrorism unit, the deal should not jeopardize US homeland security. This is purely a shift in ownership from the current British company which controls the ports (P&O) to DPW. Bush understands that denying the deal would send the wrong message across the world and especially domestically. This is a rare moment when Bush is able to read between the lines.

However, there are ulterior motives. It seems that Bush becomes interested in Middle Eastern affairs only when it concerns money and profits. Attempting to overthrow the ‘tyrannical’ regime of Saddam Hussein as an excuse to invade Iraq was only a euphemism – Saddam was violent, however he did not pose an imminent threat to the United States or its allies at the time. Until now, weapons of mass destruction have not been located as initially promised.

It was about Oil.

In this case, Bush felt he could hit two birds with one stone. First, he would appear wise enough not to deny the deal because it is with a foreign company – more importantly an ‘Arab’ company. Second, it is inevitable that future synergies will surface from the transaction – this would be a conduit for American business in the United Arab Emirates to thrive and continue growing in a nascent, yet booming economy.

If ulterior motives exist, they will remain clandestine at the moment and might potentially surface later on. Regardless of this issue, Bush’s approval of the deal is an indication that he understands the delicacy of Arab-American relations at this point. If he genuinely desires to gain allies in the war on terror, then good business relationships will certainly help.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

History Repeats Itself

Sectarian tensions have recently been on the rise in Egypt. This has been a case for concern for Coptic Christians in the country which constitute only 10% of the population.

The sectarian divide in Egypt is very clear. Citizens are unequivocally labeled as ‘Muslim’ or ‘Christian.’ There is constant mockery between both sects and the latter has been under constant scrutiny. The future of the Coptic Christians’ social status in Egypt was brought under further scrutiny once the Muslim Brotherhood gained power in last September’s parliamentary elections.

The Coptic Christians have a good reason to worry. The Muslim Brotherhood advocates the use of the Islamic Sharia law which cannot be possibly used to govern other minorities. Both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enforce Sharia law, however their populations are almost entirely Muslim and therefore the issue of the governance of minorities is not a concern. The opposite is true in Egypt.

Coptic Christians are certainly a minority in Egypt, constituting (as aforementioned) 10% of the population or the equivalent of 7.5 million people. Their minority is in terms of numbers, but they own a substantial wealth of the country – for example, the Sawiris family who own Orascom Telecom (MobiNil), Orascom Construction Industries and Orascom Development are ranked on Forbes’ 100 richest people in the world with an approximate net worth of $6 billion.

What will happen if the Muslim Brotherhood assumes full authority in the next presidential and parliamentary election?

Coptic Christians already face a variety of restrictions which affects their quotidian life. They require a formal authorization from the government to build churches whereas Muslims do not. In a recent clash between Muslims and Christians in a small village south of Cairo, eight people were injured because Muslims became agitated when they assumed that the Christian community wanted to turn a community centre in to a church.

Where does the problem lie? Is this simply a case of bigotry? The oppression of minorities has constantly repeated itself in the world’s history – the Jews were persecuted, the Kurds murdered and the Ethnic Albanians massacred. Is this déjà vu? Does the future of Coptic Christians look grim?

Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt are vital for general Arab affairs. After the horrendous global row (which still continues today) over Jyllands-Posten’s publication of the cartoons which depicted blasphemous pictures of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), Muslims need to redeem themselves.

They can certainly start domestically by pro-actively attempting to improve inter-faith relations within Egypt’s borders.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Rise of Pan-Islamism

The Bush Administration believes that the spread of democracy in the Middle East will curtail violence as well as modernize the region. In fact recent multi-party elections in Egypt and Palestine has had made observers believe otherwise.

Through the recent parliamentary elections in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has been able to gain 20% of the seats (88 in total) despite numerous violations of the electoral process and several arrests of members. Similarly, Hamas considered by the United States and many European nations as a terrorist organization beat Yasser Arafat’s Fatah party and rose to power.

What does this mean for the security of the region? Did the United States’ genuine desire to spread democracy and peace in the region completely backfire? These are two critical questions.

Hamas’ rise to power is problematic. Historically, the organization has operated under a schizophrenic framework – while organizations and countries around the world can commend them on their philanthropy work in Palestine (i.e. setting up schools in Gaza), those same organizations and countries can condemn them for promoting acts of terror in order to gain concessions. However, since Hamas’ nascent rise to power last month, Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the organization’s political bureau has emphasized Hamas’ goal of achieving peace in the hope of having the United States remove the organization’s label as harboring terrorism.

Hamas has quickly learned that diplomacy is a method of effective negotiation. Moreover, it took them a very short time to realize that their international acknowledgment will only come through a change of their image.

Unfortunately, diplomacy and promises of peace are only euphemisms since actions speak louder than words. Given the violence provoked by their Islamic militant arm, it is difficult for Western governments to believe that their political agenda has changed.

The United States and other Western nations are skeptical of Hamas’ intentions at this point. On the other hand, the ramifications of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are less obvious.

From a domestic standpoint, it is still uncertain what the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood will bring to Egyptian society since they have not defined a clear agenda. The party advocates the use of the Islamic Sharia law which (as in the case of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) has been viewed as strict and oppressive. Nevertheless, issues such as the role of women in society or whether Israel should be granted sovereignty (regardless of Sadat’s peace efforts in the 1970s) are at this point esoteric. This is quite worrying for Egyptians and neighboring Arab countries.

More interestingly is the United States’ gains of having the Muslim Brotherhood rise to power. The US views the Brotherhood as a ‘moderate’ practitioner of Islam vis-à-vis an organization such as al-Qaeda. Officially, the Brotherhood has clearly renounced violence as a means to achieve concessions. Given current US-Egyptian relationships, the United States may wish to use the Brotherhood as a buffer against al-Qaeda – as a way of reducing the organization’s activities in the region and within Egypt.

This is certainly speculative and given the issue of using euphemistic language in diplomacy, politics are never fully transparent.

Regardless, the situation is tense and uncertain. The Muslim Brotherhood recently provided funds for Hamas after it had been denied international aid from organizations and other nations. Hamas only had to turn to their neighbors Egypt for support. To their luck, it received support from a 200,000 member strong organization which have proven their influence, power and perseverance in Egypt despite oppression from previous Egyptian presidents (such as Gamal Abdel Nasser).

Pan-Islamism is on the rise. The Shiia are gaining power in Iraq and theocratic regimes already exist in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Is Pan-Islamism proliferating in the region? Has the spread of democracy empowered the Islamists?

Middle Eastern Youth Today

I am glad that my friend Lebanon.Profile.(LP) who inspired me to start my blog sees that young Lebanese men and women can relate to my recent post ‘A Moment of Epiphany.’ I hope that individuals like LP start to dominate Arab youth today, especially in their mentality, outlook and perspectives.

LP and I have similar aspirations in providing our valuable expertise in the hope of bettering our nations. I echo all of LP’s comments and thoughts.

So far, I have found it rare to find young Middle Eastern men and women educated abroad who seek to return to their respective countries and offer their help. It is a sad reality but I am hopeful that the generations to come will produce wary Middle Eastern Western-educated individuals who are able and fully willing to make a change.

Recent events worldwide have sparked interest in the minds’ of young Arab individuals and sentiments of sympathy, apathy and disgrace have risen. LP and I have felt the urgency and the need to offer our assets, networks and connections.

We sympathized. We sympathized with the need for change, for the need for improvement and for the need to establish a gateway between the West and the East. Lebanon certainly needs more individuals such as LP and Egypt needs young educated individuals to realize that the country is at a turning point and that the proceeding elections can be crux of what the future of the country holds.

As LP said, I realized that my community is worthy of attention, promotion and love and thus writing this blog and laying my thoughts is the minimum I could do. I strongly feel that my education at the University of Chicago and my work experience will be an invaluable asset to my country and I certainly feel my social obligation.

Maybe it is not Gamal Abdel Nasser who is inspiring me to go back to Egypt per se, but his nationalism has certainly played a vital role. Whatever the reason might be, LP and I hope that it brings the best out of young Arabs – thoughts of optimism, perseverance and hope.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Fine Line Between Freedom of Speech and Infringement of Sovereignty

The ongoing row over the cartoons published by Jyllands-Posten has degraded and tarnished the image of Muslim countries around the world. Westerners are now more convinced that Islam is incompatible with modernity, incites violence and is wholly uncompromising.

Moreover, the controversial publishing of the cartoons has further proved that there is a very fine ‘undefined’ line between freedom of speech and infringement of sovereignty. The problem is that social democratic norms in the United States and Europe are not fully understood by non-Westerners – Muslims in this case.

Scandinavia is considered one of the most liberally democratic regions in the world. Unfortunately, Muslim immigrants living within Scandinavian and other Western borders employ a double standard to their existence. On the one hand, they enjoy the civil liberties and freedoms provided to them yet fail to understand that the same factors led to the creation of the cartoons – a reality they need to comprehend.

The cartoons were certainly blasphemous – portraying the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and visualizing him is against the tenets of Islam. It is difficult to speak on behalf of the cartoonists, but given the common misinterpretation of Islam in Western societies, it is safe to assume that they did not fully understand the repercussions of their actions.

The cartoonists were using their power of free speech to express their personal opinions. This privilege is fully acknowledged and encouraged by their government - which is liberal, secular and free. Thus, they are not subject to any persecution under the legal system in Denmark. Unfortunately, the cartoons managed to insult immigrants and Danish citizens living within the exact same borders.

The situation is precarious and sensitive and paints a very clear picture of how difficult it is to set standards for freedom of expression which account for infringement of sovereignty.

It is acceptable to portray images of Jesus Christ yet it is unacceptable to portray images of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Are Westerners and non-Muslims obliged to respect and fully understand the specificities of the second most popular faith in the world?

Ironically, the Muslim retaliatory techniques of systematic arson, rioting and violence against the publishing of the cartoons have led to their own demise. Recent churches were burned in Nigeria and several Christians died yet since the bonanza began, more Muslims have been killed.

Moreover, the Muslim countries’ request of Arla (Danish producer of Lurpak butter) to cut business links with Israel as a quid pro quo of allowing them to re-enter Middle Eastern markets is further proof that the cartoons are purely used as a political tool. Given the general antagonistic sentiment against Europeans and Americans in the Middle East (due to the war on Iraq and US and European foreign policy), the cartoons are a great excuse to attain concessions (such as Israeli boycotts).

How should the line be drawn? When does someone know whether they are insulting a billion people?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Moment of Epiphany

Cairo’s Youth – what is really going on? Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll? Sort of…I’ve had and continue to have the privilege to witness the progression of young Egyptians in to the new age. What do I see? Do I like what I see? These are questions which occupied my mind over the two weeks I spent in Egypt.

I had an important Christmas party to attend to the day I arrived and as Egyptians take their social outings quite seriously, I was expected (after two days of sleep deprivation) to make an entrance. After spending a mere 90 minutes with my family at home, I got myself in to a cab and headed to Giza.

‘It’s absolutely great to be back!’ I told the cab driver with utter zeal. As he offered me a cigarette (which I refused), he responded without hesitation, ‘there is no place like Egypt, your home, our home.’ ‘I completely agree!’ I replied, being away from the country for a year. I was astonished to hear such a positive response given the political and socio-economic ebbs and flows which the country had gone through over the past year.

‘You know? I am thinking of moving back within a year,’ I told him eagerly, ‘WHAT?!’ he interrupted me. I was taken aback, as soon as I uttered those words he went on a 5 minute rant about how corrupt, backward and oppressive Mubarak’s government is. ‘Why the hell would you want to move from the United States of America back to Egypt?!’ he asked curiously. A little baffled with his schizophrenic opinions, I told him that I felt obliged to serve my country as an American-educated Egyptian.

The cab driver was stunned to hear what I had to say. I suppose he was quite intrigued by the fact that given my educational background (and residency in the US), I was not entirely captivated by America – the sine qua non of capitalism.

‘No!’ I responded to him, ‘I don’t believe that America is the greatest nation in the world, it has positives and negatives just like anywhere else, just like here!’

I knew that his initial comments were too good to be true. I was used to the ranting of the average Egyptian but at the same their peculiar essence of pride. For a moment the cab driver felt that I was giving a sense of reality, “the grass is not always greener on the other side,” I told him nonchalantly, “we, Egyptians and Arabs have a long, long way to go but there is hope…”

I began to see a subtle nod of approval and thought to myself, Egypt needs another Gamal Abdel Nasser – the symbolic epitome of nationalism, someone to drive hope and optimism in the hearts and minds of the people; someone for them to believe in; someone to revolutionize their daily lives.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Coming Home..

‘Coming home…’

Flying from Chicago back home to Cairo is always exhausting. However a few hours in Heathrow airport always manages to rejuvenate me.

London’s airport is ideal for frivolous spenders and is home to overly-ostentatious boutique stores and my all-time favorite Caviar House. Perfect! I made excellent use of my 6 hour transit and boarded the flight just in time.

My flight from London was smooth and for once, just a little interesting to say the least. I got seated in aisle as requested next to a middle-aged man from Ismaliya and a young Asian woman. The man from Ismaliya had the window seat so I was naturally more inclined to speak with my next door neighbor.

As I started to flick through British Airways’ in-flight magazine, I couldn’t help but overhear the Asian woman explaining to the man next to her that he needed to switch off his cell phone as the plane was about to depart. I felt obliged to interfere as the man’s English was mediocre and the woman was growing impatient.

The man was taken aback as I interrupted the conversation. After I told him that she was informing him to switch off his phone, he immediately asked me, are you Egyptian? With a gentle chuckle, I told him that yes I was – born, raised and bred. He was surprised since in his opinion, I looked ‘foreign.’ This didn’t come as a surprise to me. The majority of people I meet would never think that I am Arab. I briefly explained that I obtained my fair features from my father’s Palestinian/Jordanian side of the family. After our brief exchange, I decided to take a nap.

An hour later, I was woken up by the Asian woman next to me. She wanted to inform me that dinner was being served. I started to speak with her. She was a Biology PhD student at Oxford.

‘So…what brings you to Cairo?’ I asked her curiously. I was surprised to see many foreigners on the flight in light of the recent Taba and Sharm El Sheikh bombings over the last years. ‘Well, my parents just moved there and I am going to visit them!’ she responded enthusiastically. ‘Ideal target,’ I murmured to myself, I always felt a need to promote Egypt and what it offers.

My sense of nationalism had grown exponentially over the last 4 years. I was not attracted to the WASPian mid-Western culture that the city of Chicago offered at heart. Drinking copious amounts of beer and watching the Super-bowl did not appeal to me. Instead, my years at the University of Chicago made me realize that I was an adamant Egyptian/Palestinian who was urgently concerned with Egypt’s future and the viability of a Palestinian-Israeli road-map to peace.

It had been a little over a year since I had been home. As the plane started to descend, I felt very emotional. I had only two weeks before I had to return to the US.

Despite my prolonged and continual absence from Egypt, I still consider myself a social butterfly in Cairo’s ‘glamorous’ night-life scene. Thus, I was excited to re-discover, to follow the trend-setters and find out what is making the city tick during the last weeks of 2005.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

About Me

I should start this blog by saying something about myself.

Here goes…

Palestinians move. We move with the wind, we move the wars, and we move the flow of the ages - all in the name of circumstance and preservation. My father moved from Palestine to Jordan, Jordan to Egypt, where he met my mother in medical school, and recently chose to return to Jerusalem, to be closer to his birth place. Since that date, my parents have kept me in motion, in regular turns across the Atlantic, taught me to appreciate my culture and heritage while simultaneously encouraging me to discover my niche in the world. Born and raised in Egypt the majority of my life, I lived amongst poverty and destitution, with unfortunate young men and women striving to travel, to immigrate or live abroad. America to them is opportunity, salvation and the promise of a new beginning. I consider myself lucky to have had the fortuity to pursue my dreams of coming to America, of obtaining a matchless liberal arts education and above all, retaining yet refining my notions of origin and identity.

The world today is starkly different. Since my departure to the United States, it has proven impossible to find my own unique niche in fact such an endeavor has been rendered unnecessary. Instead, I have become a 'global citizen,' and my role precipitously manifested on September 11th 2001.

My education at the University of Chicago has provided me with a unique window to the world and has naturalized my global citizenship. I graduated with an honors degree in Political Science and Economics and have been living in Chicago for over four years now. I started working fulltime last summer doing economic consulting for a prominent US corporate. My background and work experience has centered on the financial services sector doing work in Egypt, the UK and the US – these experiences ranged from investor relations and research to investment banking and consulting.

So why am I writing a blog? More importantly, why should you read my blog?

The latter first…After realizing my extreme zeal for politics, I felt I needed to fully satiate my interest. I want to bring my candid thoughts to the open and I would like to document those endless dinner table discussions in an approachable manner for the reader. Thus, the style of this blog will take a pseudo-academic approach with postings written in a ‘political-journal’ fashion maintaining satire, mockery, support, optimism and enthusiasm and whatever else needed to send messages, thoughts and opinions across.

So, what’s in it for you, the reader? I will provide a one-of a kind perspective on global affairs affecting the Middle East focusing on Egypt and Palestine given my roots. The theme of the blog will be that of ‘observation’ (hence the title page).

My politics are simple. I give thanks to my grandfather, a prominent member of parliament in Egypt for transcending down his strong nationalistic sentiment to me. Thus, nationalism runs in my blood.

My other grandfather, kicked out from his home in 1948 moved to Amman, Jordan where he established a tea manufacturing company. He is uncompromising with regards to the state of Israel and based on his personal experiences, that is certainly a rational perspective.

My father, a liberal and who is currently working in Jerusalem is more compromising. He would tell me stories of his Israeli friends and his discussions of co-existence with them. At this point, it is very well the only viable solution - an approach I advocate since it is by far, more pragmatic.

I am a huge supporter of the Palestinian cause and as a global citizen I took the responsibility of advocating peace, co-existence and understanding between opinions in conflict when I was at Chicago. I participated in dialogues regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and fervently sought to understand what issues engulfed the contemporary generation of Palestinians, Muslims, Israelis and Jews on campus. It was an effective method of bringing the realities of the outside world to the context of a classroom. Since I’ve temporarily left the world of academia and the classroom (I will go back for a higher degree for sure), writing this blog would act as a conduit for maintaining these dialogues.

So far, I’ve enjoyed the civil liberties and freedom the US has offered me. However, I am not a supporter of the current Bush administration and their foreign politics. US domestic politics have not been a drastic concern to me and I won’t waste space on this blog to discuss the ethics behind same-sex marriages or whether I think Bernanke should maintain an interest rate hike. I am against the war in Iraq and the general meddling of US affairs in the Middle East – a topic I will focus on heavily.

On the other hand, I am disgraced at inter-Arab relations. Yes, I am not supporting the US’ foreign policy towards the region however this does not imply that Arab leaders are doing a great job of running their countries or maintaining transparent and civil relations with one another.

Juxtaposing both my repulsion at current US foreign policy as well as my disgrace at the Arabs’ image and their perception globally, I am laying a middle ground for a semi-objective forum for discussion – i.e. for issues/topics that are worthy of debate. Nonetheless, my opinions will be addressed explicitly and my emotions felt.

I hope this blog becomes a conduit for discussion, exchange of opinions and a learning ground for all readers. Enjoy!, The World's Blog Aggregator Blog Directory & Search engine