Friday, December 25, 2009

Amr Khaled : The modern preacher

A new reality TV show will launch on January 8 on Dubai TV called Al Mujaddidun. The show was created by Amr Khaled a famous Egyptian preacher and is said to be inspired by the Apprentice, the American TV show.

Amr Khaled, has gained enormous popularity in the world of Islamic preaching and was ranked in 2007 the 13th most influential people in the world in the Time magazine.  
Why is this Egyptian scholar often referred to as preaching rock-star so different from the others?
There are a lot of reasons:
  • He is young and quite fashionable unlike the typical old -shcool preachers with long beards and jellabas
  • He is very knowledgeable and is currently doing a PhD in the University of Wales
  • He has a very modern and sociological approach to religion and is very much focused on inspiring the youth
Due to his growing popularity and often controversy about his way of preaching he was removed from Egypt.
Too much religion?
At that time, some used say to that he was told to leave Cairo because he had too much of a religious impact on the society which was too influential for the government .

Also, some rumors used to say that the women from the President's family wanted to get veiled because of him.

At that time, it was a very normal social phenomenon to see women getting veiled after listening to Amr Khaled's preaching.

It seems like he had put the whole country in a higher level of religious fervency. Young and old people would always swear by his shows, his cassettes and website.

But his ban only helped him gain more popularity and he was broadcasted by many satellite channels.
The right language 

It could be true that Amr Khaled's approach very much differs from the traditional Al Azhar style of preaching.

This is the key to his success, he is the modern preacher who knows how to talk to the youth and focuses on Islamic behavior rather than actions .

In a recent article by the BBC  a girl was quoted saying "he speaks our language" referring to Khaled and why he has so much impact on the youth. 

In fact, his show is all about the community and how to make the 16 contestants who come from various Arab countries active.

"The aim of it is not to make money, but to make the youth ready to support the society," he told the BBC.

With his modern take on religion and society how can Amr Khaled not be one of the most influential people in the world?  

(Photo by Randa El Tahawy)

Monday, December 21, 2009

"Not In our name" seeks to stop war

From Northern Ireland, to Lebanon “Not in Our name” transcends all the political borders giving an account of how nine men were able to fight for a country across their continent.

  • Colm Bryce, Gary Donnelly, Kieran Gallagher, Michael Gallagher, Sean Heaton, Jimmy Kelly, Eamonn McCann,Paddy McDaid and Eamonn O'Donnell call themselves the Raytheon 9.
  • They decided to go against the law to make justice by storming in a Raytheon arms factory in Derry, Northern Ireland , during the Israeli Military campaign against Lebanon. ( 12th of August 2006)
The poignant movie premiered on the 30th of November in London by Renegade Films, succeeds in sending a wide political message to the audience about civil action. 

Featuring interviews from Tony Benn, president of Stop the War Coalition and political activist and actor Mark Steel "Not in Our name"depicts the story of how a group of men were determined to take actions and stop the war crimes in the Middle East. 

No to Raytheon in Derry
Raytheon Company , a major American defense contractor, known to be one of the largest producers of arms and guided missiles opened its office in Springtown, Derry in 1999 and has been widely opposed since. 

The film shows police footage of how the nine men stormed into the plant throwing computers and papers away from the windows of the building, hanging signs such as “Raytheon has been now Decommissioned”.

The men's message was to take a stand against the company that was believed to have a practical impact on the civilian casualties and atrocities happening at the same time in Lebanon.

Standing up for Lebanon
The Raytheon 9 say in fact, that a Raytheon Guided Bomb Unit was used in the Israeli air strike on July 30, 2006 against the South Lebanese village, Qana. 

The attack targeted a three story building causing the death of civilians who were mostly children.

 Although archives footage of the atrocities of the Lebanon war was shown those strong images were wisely emphasizing the men’s cause.

Motivated by their fight against war, the nine men visited the village of Qana. The film shows a moving and a life changing experience to the audience.

 Through the men's eyes we witness the damages of the war hear the experience by meeting with the families of the victims.

The Raytheon 9 were arrested for 36 hours and put on trial charged of unlawful assembly and aggravated burglary but were later released.

 “You have no moral obligation to obey a law that doesn’t go with your belief,” said Colm Ryce at the London Premiere screening, recalling what the judge had told them after the verdict.

(Photo By Randa El Tahawy)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Let's leave history in the past

(Claire Noble, Photo by Randa El Tahawy)

She refers to where she was born as the North and where she lives as the South like it was all one country.

What Claire Noble 23, means is that she was born in Northern Ireland part of the United Kingdom but now lives in the Republic of Ireland a separate state, and this did make a difference in how she was brought up.

“When we moved it was like a different country,” she says with her soft voice, “ I used to stand out because I was from the North.”

After her dad bought a nice farm while driving by in Galway, Ireland, Claire at that time 13 and her family moved from her hometown Fermanagh.

“I was excited but didn’t want to leave because I didn’t know anything about the country.”

She recalls how difficult it was for her to settle in a new country always feeling like she is standing out because of her origins.

“ People had so many stereotypes and used to ask me those stupid questions about the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and the religious origins of my surname, Noble.”

Getting used to the label

Despite hearing those stereotypes and living with them everyday, Claire doesn’t blame anyone, “ a lot of the people I knew never got out and didn’t really know what they were implying.”

She adds that it is normal to find people trying to put an identity label on other people.

“ Settling was hard but I also saw it as an adventure, there are always advantages from moving.”

As every teenager would normally do, Claire wanted to fit in and remembers how she was easily led and made unfortunate friendships.

“ I lost my strong Northern accent in two years and when I used to go back to the North my family would make fun of my new accent,” she says.

A move that shaped her personality

If there is one thing Claire learned from having to juggle between two cultures it would be questioning what is wrong and what is right.

She also discovered her passion for reporting on current affairs and realized that she wanted to be a journalist.

“When you go away you realize so many things about yourself,” she says.

With time, Claire is still learning about her herself and being a Master student in Journalism in London is surely helping her get a clearer picture.

“ I am proud to call myself Irish living in the South but holding on to Northern Ireland.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Egyptian Football Fans attacked in Sudan

Egyptian fans going to support the national team playing for the World Cup qualification game against Algeria were attacked in Sudan after the Algerian team won 1-0. 

Buses going to the Airport were surrounded by Algerian fans throwing stones, breaking glasses.

Egyptian Talk Show AL Kahira Al Youm (Cairo Today), reported that many Egyptians are in great danger and were seriously injured where some of them managed to hide in several places.

Phone calls were aired on the show, with many Egyptians panicking and seeking the help of security forces. Presenters including Amr Adib were losing their tempers angrily shouting on air the information.

Security forces are still trying to control the situation sending rescue to the fans in order for them to reach the airport.Other sources say that planes already started to take off.

Sources who phoned the show from London said Algerians have been attacking Egyptians in London with one attack reported near Edgware road in London.

Facebook Users Updates

Facebook's statuses updates and video postings about these attacks were constantly being updated. People are angry, outraged and disgusted:

Many are worried about their relatives or their friends trying to get back from Sudan. Some posts included emergency numbers for people stuck in Sudan.

Others were letting know people that planes are ready to take off from the stadium or have arrived from Khartoum in Cairo.

Other news sources?
Other than the Egyptian press, I still haven't seen any other news report from any other news agencies. Why is that? Not in the Agenda? Where are the correspondents?

It is not important enough that people are being attacked over a football game?

And the Egyptian team lost what would have happened if we had won!!

I cannot believe I am not able to get a proper news source updating me on the situation. Thank you Facebook.

National Outrage
As every Egyptian I am outraged, I was rather sad and disappointed when Egypt lost the game but now I do not even have words to describe how I feel.

It is not football anymore, it is becoming politics but ugly politics.

The point was to go to the World Cup in 2010 to be proud of our Egyptian team but not to turn these games into a war leading us to despise, insult and attack a nation.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Egypt: Taking our country for granted?

After nearly two months living in London, I am realizing, how we do take Egypt for granted and should work on improving it.

 Instead of leaving Egypt and living the life abroad I think we should all think about ways to improve it and make it better.

As much as I am enjoying the many advantages of living in Europe, I realize more and more that people like me should always come back to their homeland and bring back something with them.

I also got so inspired by a friend of mine from the program Diala, a Palestinian from Ramallah who has  much passion for her country and is very much fighting for her land and for her cause.

Take a look at her post it is amazing.

She do knows the value of having a country, a culture, a history and a land and she is truly working serving her cause, as a Palestinian but also as a Journalist.

A Better Life Abroad?
A recent article by the BBC was talking about how many Egyptians dream to leave Egypt and go work in another country for a better life.

They are not to be blamed, the economy is not helping, people are under-appreciated  in their field, society and culture make it very hard for anyone to fulfill their dreams and the government is to be blamed for that.

As an Egyptian you are not being treated as a citizen who has his full rights, you are not the priority, money is.

  • Your lost bags will always be found in less than 24hours if you are not Egyptian.
  • You can swim in El Gezira club and visit on a Friday if you're a foreigner but if you are Egyptian you can't.

Money, Power and Connections
 Egyptian are not even equally treated in regards to each other and do live in the same standards.

  • Average citizens do not pay for their driver license and do not have people who clean for them and drive them around town.

  • If an average citizen commits a crime his dad will not get him out of trouble because he knows someone in the army.

  • An average citizen cannot afford the American University in Cairo and spending 100 pounds for food when this 100 pounds is almost his monthly allowance.

Fascinating Potential

I will never forget one of the interviews I conducted with a French woman, Veronique Sedrot who owns a boutique hotel in old Cairo Le Riad. 

She made me feel so fascinated but at the same time so ashamed. She spoke about Egypt as if it was her country, talking about the wonders, the culture, the social scheme everything she said about Egypt was true and amazing.

Take a look at the hotel and the website and you will understand how she sees Egypt and the pictures actually do not lie.  So why, her and not us Egyptians?

Monday, November 9, 2009

London Lighting Up!

It seems that last week's theme was "Lights On" for London. 

  With the famous start of the Christmas Lights on the 3rd of November and on the 5th of November Bonfire Night-Guy Fawkes Night celebrating the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

Last Tuesday, the streets of London all started the countdown to spreading the Christmas season!

On the 3rd of November at around 18:00 Oxford Street, Regent Street and Leicester Square were all illuminated by the spirit of Christmas with the theme of the year the movie premiere of A Christmas Carol, showing in 3D.

A private event for the movie premiere was at Leicester Square, with a red carpet and the whole square turned into a movie set, with chorals, guests etc... it was an interesting event even though the host was quite annoying.

You got to hear Andrea Bocelli sing the theme song of the movie and see Colin Firth and Jim Carey in persons!! (On a screen actually but they were right behind the barrier where I was standing).

Other than that you could just enjoy the lovely Christmas lights all around Oxford Street and Regent Street, making the city taste a little different.

Although I do not celebrate Christmas, I got really happy and excited from those lights capturing each of them on camera.

It really changes the mood of the streets, instead of having a busy city, with people rushing all over especially since this new Oxford X crossing, that I cannot understand.

It just brings joy to people, preparing for the holiday season, family reunions, trips to various destinations, lots of gifts and shopping, great food...

Yes, it's a time to be merry and it is very much needed after hectic months like the past ones for everyone especially me.

As for Bonfire Night, the actual night is on November 5th, yet many events were taking place on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th.

Fireworks display and funfairs were all over town mainly in parks.

The Victoria Park fireworks display was an amazing one, the theme of the year was "Great Balls of Fire", the event started with a funfair from 14h00 but the actual display was at 19h45, accompanied with rock songs that all had to do with Fire!

It was a truly great experience to see those stunning fireworks while listening to songs about fire like, Fever, Light My Fire and many more.

It reminded me of the 14th of July fireworks celebrations in France when I was little.

I don't really know what is so fascinating about fireworks, but you can never get tired of it, always amazed and hearing the crowd going "aaah" when there is a big firework firing up in the sky.

Although we had been standing up for hours in the cold, as soon as it all started, the sky as well as our faces just lit up!

Those two events were great experiences where people got amusingly charmed by lights and fireworks.

It is an interesting aspect of the London lifestyle where you enjoy the beauty of the city by doing simple yet amusing activities with massive gathering of people.

Next week will certainly have lots of  events around town coming up and if you're looking for a fireworks display there is the Lord Mayor's show on Saturday the 14th, an all day parade with fireworks at night, welcoming into office the new Lord Mayor of London.

(Photo By Randa El Tahawy-Victoria Park)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Let the Battle Begin: 14th November 2009, Egypt V.S Algeria

Described by Egyptians as the game of the year and even the game of the decade the upcoming World Cup qualifier match against Algeria on November 14th is the talk of the month in Cairo.

Egypt has had a long history of clashes in football with North African countries but especially with Algeria. With the race for the World Cup qualifier this month, Algerians are now becoming the enemies.

History Repeating Itself?

The upcoming game will be a trip back in history when, twenty years ago, in 1989, Egypt won the qualifying game against Algeria 1-0 with a goal from Hossam Hassan who became a football national hero since.

Egypt needs to beat Algeria by a three-goal margin to advance to the World Cup for the first time since 1990. A win by a two-goal margin will set up a playoff game on the 18th of November in a country chosen by the FIFA as neutral soil.

Sports and Politics

There seems to be a war taking places between both sides with many open forums about the game turning into heated conversations with much hatred and insults. The Egyptian media is angered by the provocative comments from Algerians and retaliates with its own provocation. One Egyptian presenter even called on supporters to camp outside the Algerian players’ hotel when they come to Cairo to prevent them from sleeping. This is exactly what happened to the Egyptian team when they were in Algeria.

The debate has also gone into politics with an Algerian writer refusing to have the Egyptian visa stamp saying, “Egypt is a disgrace to Arabs and sold Arabs and Palestinian to Israel”, criticizing the Egyptian government’s foreign policies.

Battle for the Cup

Discussions have been taking place for weeks over the newspapers, television programs and the Internet with heated clashes against Algerians supporters and passionate support messages for the national team.

Videos and groups are flowing all over the Social Networking Website Facebook, with titles such as “Egypt Beats Algeria Our World Cup Dream” and “ I was not there for the 6th of October war but I will be there for the 14th of November war”.

Views and expectations are mixed for the outcome of the game. Algeria has more chances to win, as it will not be easy for Egypt to score three goals. However, Egypt has won the last two editions of the CAF African Cup of Nations and is supposed to be much stronger especially with its thousands of supporters at the stadium.

“I have been waiting for this day for twenty years and we are the African champions, we deserve to go to the 2010 World Cup. We are waiting for the Algerians in the stadium of hell,” says Hany Youssef a fervent supporter of the national team ( who helped me come up with all this info)

Egyptian player Ahmed Hassan was quoted in a news article saying: "Cairo Stadium might accommodate only 80,000 spectators, but I would like to tell the Algerian players that the 80 million Egyptians will be present. The venue will turn into a stadium of horror.”

Violent clashes are known to occur between supporters during significant matches like this one. Some Internet groups have warned women not to attend the game at the stadium because of the possible violent encounters that will take place in the “stadium of horror”.

(Photo By Randa El Tahawy)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

London Fashion Freestyle

As a very curious person and a Journalism student, I tend to look at a lot of things around me. You have to keep the observant eye, always searching for something. Also, as a woman, there is one thing I particularly enjoy looking at everyday : the million different styles and outfits that people put on. It is amazing how everyone is just so unique in their way of dressing, their hairstyle, their bags, shoes everything.. rarely will you find  two people wearing the same things. I just thought about how everybody is just different and expresses this difference without any shame and without even being aware. 

It makes me think about Egypt a lot,  and about how every girl looks like the other one. Who doesn't have a Longchamp Bag? Ray Ban aviators? ( or the latest fashion item, just go to AUC or the ultimate place-to be Tamarai to find out) I personally love my Longchamp bag, it is so practical and looks so nice, as for my aviators, I think they're amazing, they look good on everyone, and they make me feel hippie. But sometimes it gets just so annoying and so strange to see how everyone is looking the same. Same style, same clothes, same hair do, even same way of dancing! I don't think it has anything to do with being a fashionista, I can't think of a specific reason for this because I sometimes do follow these trends.  
Although all my friends in Cairo call me Rambo when I wear it, I love wearing my hippy-rambo headband but I only wear it on two occasions, on the beach and when I'm out at night(sometimes I end up by removing it because of the weird stares I get). In London, I wore it more than once and I did not get any comment. I wear my super hat ( I know someone who particularly hates it) and no one says anything and I just love it! 
When I look at people around me, especially at university I see them wearing items that I would never have thought could be combined together! But still, it looks nice you know why? Because it is their own way of putting it together expressing their uniqueness. 
I know that girls all wearing the same clothes and looking all alike is a widespread phenomenon called "fashion" but there is a difference here, in London, you can wear the "in" item any way you like it or you can just not wear it, nobody will look at you and judge or criticize. 
I guess this also has a lot to do with the culture. If you think about it, freedom of expression is not only about politics but about everything and in Egypt I don't think there is freedom of expression at all. I don't want to generalize but being part of the mainstream is so easy and I sometimes fall into it , I admit. We are being dictated everything in our life. We are brought up in a way that standards always have to apply. But says who? Who made these standards? I am not playing the role of the Arab woman who comes to be liberated in Europe, but I just ask myself why do we all follow this mainstream? What is wrong with being yourself and accepting others the way they are? 
It is part of our judging culture in Egypt , I can't stop thinking about how people stare when someone just enters into a place and no it's not the- normal stare- because- someone- just- walked- in, it's the who-is-she-what is she wearing-is it a Prada bag- isn't she loulou's cousin -stare. Trust me, I know this look, I once caught myself doing it and I got it from other people so many times. 
 About fashion in Egypt, we must not forget that there isn't a real wide range of places to shop at, this is why you will find every girl wearing the same Zara, Mango name any brand, name any item. Still, I am pretty sure that in London many girls must shop at those stores but we can't see it, and it is because they have their own sense of fashion. 

When we look at something like Portobello Market (the picture), it is amazing to see how many items are so unique, you have so many markets, so many stores that cater to everyone, every size, every shape everything! Why don't we have things like this in Egypt? Although we have this new trend of small vintage boutiques, they are so expensive, plus, it is the new trend to be vintage and buy from boutiques. Still, I am sure there are alternatives and ways of being unique in fashion but still, I see this step being very hesitant in Egypt. 

Isn't it enough that we have to deal with the issues we have in our complex society,  like the poverty, the twisted politics, the corruption, the backwards mentalities and so on. I think it is time to start opening our minds a bit, at least by wearing what ever suits us and what ever we like and by accepting other's style. That's a good start for freedom I think.  

(Photo By Randa El Tahawy)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Representing the people? Egyptian Apathy

On a visit last Wednesday to the Parliament, or I should say Westminster Palace, I noticed many things and asked myself a lot of questions.
I never saw my Parliament, I never went to Maguliss El Shaab,( i.e The Egyptian People's Assembly or lower house) nor to Maguliss El Shoura ( The Consultative Council or upper House.) Is it even open to the public? I should look into that.

I am aware of its role and I have seen some sessions on TV but they were about angry MPs being thrown out of the room, throwing shoes or protesting, nothing very informative.

One of the things I felt as an overall impression after this experience at the Parliament is how U.K citizens and to my experience British citizen, are very much in touch with their politics and their representatives at the parliament.

I guess in my case, it is a lack of information because I still need to do some effort to get infiltrated into the Egyptian society because of my background but als0, I am sure my case is the same for a lot of people. We don't really know anything about our parliament, most of us do not really know who is our local MP. Well actually, if I talk about the group I fit in and the generation I come from, some of us do not even know how to read and write Arabic which is very sad but true. Still I do not think that language is such a barrier so I wonder: Where does this apathy come from?

We have been so alienated by our government never seeing an end to the oppression the misinformation, the corruption and all the other majors problems that Egypt has, to the extent that we do not even care or we are not even aware of our local politics. I am fascinated by how citizens in England are so aware of their politics, so active in their communities.

I was amazed yesterday when we saw David Cameron ( leader of the Conservative Party) come out of the house of Commons so casually whereas in Egypt, you only get to see Fathi Sourour or any other parliament member in VIP events if you are an average citizen( putting journalists, activists aside). Then, the guide explained to us that you can even meet your local MP out of the session and talk about your issues and sometimes let him ask questions for you at the session. I noticed some firefighters all gathered outside of the session probably from a union asking for issues being all united and active.

In the recent past years the youth in Egypt has started to move. I will never forget the 6th of April strike, a movement that was created by the youth and that spread through networking and Facebook. The power of internet in Egypt is great, blogging, groups etc.. we are starting to get pro active in the community and this is a good start. But still, there is this lack of action and a kind of apathy regarding politics and organizations.

It is such a wide topic that needs experts and analysts it is all interrelated to so many issues and problems in Egypt. To put it simply, I do not have the feeling that I am being represented in the parliament, I do not have the feeling that I am a citizen in my country. Not only we have a lot of social restrictions, we also have political ones and on top of all of this, our voices are not even heard by the government because we are too passive to participate.

(Photo By Randa El Tahawy, part of the Parliament)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Reuters Dream

I don't know if at some point in every journalists life Reuters means the top of the top, the thrill of a journalist's job. Journalism at its best wow "Reuters". Even though I had a preview of a Reuters bureau before, I still get so fascinated by it. On Monday, with my MA class we went to visit the headquarters of Reuters next to Canary Wharf Station. Just by getting out of the tube and seeing the tall business buildings you feel important. There it was, the huge Reuters building with the headlines, the stock market. We were all so excited we took pictures outside of the building we even took pictures of our badges (My name was spelled wrong as usual but it's fine it's Reuters!).

However, I guess some people with me may have had this impression after leaving the building : Wait, where are the reporters screaming with the latest scoop, the big TV screens with the latest event, this media rush we saw in the movies? Well this is not Reuters. When I went for a small internship at the Cairo Bureau, Jonathan Wright at the time the Bureau chief and the reporters there made me understand that this was just an image of Reuters that people often get especially eager little journalists like myself. What really happens is what we saw today: a big newsroom full of computers, people talking but mostly computers and phones.
It is kind of disappointing when you have these images to see the calm newsroom, all the people talking and discussing, all in a very serious atmosphere. But when you come to think about it. Those editors that we saw, they are responsible for all those instant headlines, those top stories that we see everyday from Reuters. Managing the world desk, managing the financial, equity and monetary policies stories etc... is a big job. Not only you need to be an experienced, quick editor but also an amazing writer and have so many communication and management skills. Great journalist, great editor, great everything! If you see the amount of stories that go on the wire every day it is simply amazing. It is like a big news factory.
Reuters might not be the experience of running in the streets with the latest scoop, hiding behind a car while a town is exploding but it is creating news in a major factory experience.
When you see how a news agency functions in such harmony, so quickly and so efficiently it just makes you confused as a journalist, thinking that the world is so big. Still, it is nice to know that there is always something going on. Something significant.
I don't like Financial news and the other types of it, I am trying to like it but it is so hard for me. Unfortunately what we usually don't know is that the major news from Reuters are financial and the rest is all media and general news.
Here are some facts Anne Senior told us when we were at the visit ( it might not be completely accurate but it is just and idea) and I just think it is amazing. Reuters works with around 20 languages in almost 22 different countries and they select around 800 pictures per day to publish!
So, after all Reuters still sounds "wow" to me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Twitter Trend

I joined the world of Twitter today.

I was quite opposed to joining it as I thought who would ever want to follow my daily updates on Twitter? Ever since I started my MA I noticed how Twitter has made many achievements in getting the news quick with journalists' tweets or with the average citizen's post on the scene of a major event. I already knew it, but I became more aware of Twitter's power when I started my Journalism courses. Also, when John Gripton the News Editor of The Online version of Sky News came to Westminster and spoke to us, he mentioned Twitter almost a thousand times; focusing on how important it was for him as a source but also as a medium for spreading the news fast.

When I tried to describe Twitter, I didn't exactly know how to describe it, I just said "it is like a social networking website, where you publish your updates like on Facebook when you publish your status". Does the sentence even make sense? I honestly still don't know how it works, I tried to upload a picture but could not find a professional one so I kept it for later, then I just made my first post which was Randa: trying to figure out how this thing works" or something like that. But I have one follower already! Well I also subscribed to follow her so I guess it is not a major achievement. But I am also following Reuters, BBC, Sky News etc… Since my main purpose of joining Twitter is to enter the new world of online journalism, blogging, tweeting etc..

Anyway, I think those kinds of things are very important for us aspiring journalists: Trying to get into the journalism world especially the modern one. Even though I would not compare my blog posts or Tweets to those of an experienced Journalist, I have to keep this in mind " Citizen Journalism" you never know, I might be posting ideas or noticing something that really means something for the world of news?( plus I’m not only an average citizen I am still in the process of becoming a journalist) I guess my ideas and thoughts are still worthy maybe not breaking news worthy but at least news worthy if you take them from the angle of "exploring the learning journey of an aspiring journalist". (The purpose of my blog actually)

So Tweeting, Blogging, Facebook updates and all of this, it is quite important to have in order to know what's going on in the world or in a specific community. This is exactly what John Gripton, was saying. They were looking into all of these social networking websites to understand what happens, what are the latest issues that people are facing because after all, our audience is the people.

Here is an example, I am not in Egypt anymore but when I get into Facebook all I can see is groups about the upcoming match between Egypt and Algeria ( I also have a source that keeps me updated especially on those topics) but it was everywhere, pictures, groups, videos, because this game is so important for Egypt, we could be going to the World Cup! I also saw many things about The Aqsa Mosque, so mainly all the issues that matter to the people are spread on Facebook through groups discussions, pictures, videos and updates.

So yes, these websites are important, from now on I will not think I am wasting time by getting on Facebook and reading every single update of every single person on my Friends list, “no it's not Stalking, it's the new Journalism”.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Artificial Virginity Sold to Egypt

This is a story that we were asked to write up in a news exercise. I particularly chose this story as it raises many debates and issues about Egypt and the double standards that live in our society.

Thursday 8th of October:

"Virginity Faking Device Stirs Controversy in Egypt

A Chinese-made device enabling women to fake their virginity could be banned if Conservative Egyptian politicians succeed in their campaign.

Sheikh Sayed Askar, a member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood who is on the parliamentary committee on religious affairs, told the Daily News Egypt that the government must take responsibility for fighting the product to uphold Egyptian and Arab values.

The Artificial Virginity Hymen kit distributed by the Chinese company Gigimo and advertised for export to the Middle East costs around $30 (£19). The product simulates virginity by leaking a blood-like substance when inserted and broken.

Reports say the device is intended to help newly-married women fool their husbands into believing they are virgins, an essential marriage requirement for women in much of the Middle East.

The kit is also seen as a cheap and easier alternative to hymen repair surgery which is secretly carried out by some clinics in the Middle East.

The anger over the device raises many questions about Egyptian society that condemns pre-martial sex despite it happening commonly.

Lina Samaan, an accountant quoted by the Los Angeles Times, said this debate raises many questions about the double standards that often apply to women in Egypt.

"Sex is a right for every woman but unfortunately we started turning to products like these because men - even non-religious ones who have sex before marriage - wouldn't marry a girl if she's not virgin."


Clearly, there is a problem. The issue here at hand is not whether the product should be banned but rather questioning its existence. Did people lose their mind and became so shallow on lack principles that women need a product like this? What does it say about our culture? We are so wrapped with double standards that a Chinese company is selling us this product to make our lives easier. I wonder how they knew this product would appeal to so many women because if it was not that appealing then no controversy would have surrounded the virginity kit. I am just so surprised by the lack of principles this product creates. I have many opinions about this or I should say many points.

First of all, as romantic as this could sound but Virginity is not something that can be faked, people did you forget the whole meaning of it? This post should also be called "the controversial piece of fabric" (i.e my previous post a month ago). What happened to our mind us women, you men, that a simple piece of skin makes you lose your principles. How can a woman vows to marry a man basing her fist intimate symbolic moment on a lie that she is a virgin. I cannot imagine myself spending the rest of my life with a person and hiding one of the most important aspect of my life (yes it is important we should not be afraid to accept that sexuality is important).

Women who resort to this have issues but sadly it is not their fault, the society is at fault men are at fault. Because women cannot be accepted as sexual being outside and inside of their marriage. Still just because men and I confidently say most Egyptians men think that a girl who is not a virgin is not worth marrying does not justify lying and drowning yourself in those dark ages ideas because by faking the virginity those women are promoting those stupid thoughts. We women say that our submissive situation is like this because men are in power, because a man can do whatever he wants but a woman can't, the society sets the rules etc... but do you think that by doing this you are protecting yourself?

By letting products like this invade our minds and brain wash our thoughts we are just letting the society win, the society that dictates how we should behave, think, and live, this society that causes for so many of us women to fall into depression and live miserable life.

Virginity is an important issue in our societies and I agree it is important as it is important to any woman in the world. But judging a woman by a piece of skin is just becoming so sad. It is such a big debate because we should not forget to mention that it deals with religion and the Arab world lives under the principles of Islam. But I will not go into that as my points of view about religion only concern me and God. If someone really has faith and truly believes in God and wants to follow religion then let him follow it right. Whatever it means for this person to follow it right, as long as there are no Chinese products to hide the true nature and needs of this person.

Blog Updated

 The blog will be updated everyday or at least 3 times a week. It will be featuring some news and more journalism related posts as I have to do it for my Masters program. 

This being said, I would like to say that the picture that appear on the blog unless I did not state that I took them are not mine, and I just learned today that technically I stole them. So sorry...

Enjoy the new features of my blog, it really needed a fresh start. 

Monday, August 17, 2009

The so controversial piece of fabric

I came across an article today in the BBC about France and the debate about banning the Burqa (where everything is covered including the eyes). I have mixed feelings about this issue, because it involves many problems for me as a Woman and as a Muslim. I completely understand why having Burqas would be a danger in society, how many stories did we hear about people, mostly men covering up with Niqab and pretending to be women and doing all sorts of stupid crimes like kidnapping children and many more So yes, if it is banned in public places as a measure of security I completely understand why we should ban it or at least ask those women in public places to uncover their faces so that there could at least be any kind of social interaction.
I remember back when I was at AUC, there was this big controversy and court case about girls wearing niqabs on campus and I remember the girl in question was with me in Psychology class. I remember our professor would let her sit at the back of the class but tell her to remove the face veil because she wanted to be able to interact with her.

Anyway, my problem is not with the banning, it is rather with how the French put it, as my sister says, they are so arrogant to think that this is what will help women free themselves and have an identity. The article says, "Mr. Sarkozy said it was unacceptable to have women who were "prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity". I don't like the fact that they are putting all veiled, niqab or burqa women in one big bag: Oppression. I am not pro veiling but I am pro freedom of choice, those liberators think that by banning it they will help the poor little oppressed girls. No, that is wrong, this way you are confusing them more and imposing your ideas? What if this girl is convinced that this is the right thing? It's all about what she wants. I understand that most of the time it is not the girl's choice this is why I'm in a dilemma because I don't know how we should handle this sensitive issue. I think that a piece of fabric is not a factor of how religious you are, religion is about you and God. Many girls especially in Egypt weir veils and niqabs and do not display a single religious or moral value in fact, they do the opposite (sometimes veils are covers for prostitutes). On the other hand, there are so many intelligent, free spirited well educated and completely happy about their choice- veiled girls. My perfect example is one of my cousins she was so annoyed that people would think that she has no social life no normal girl's stuff habits because she was veiled. I will always remember a note she wrote, she was saying things like I'm a girl too, I too cannot go out of my house without make up, I look at hot guys etc... All of this just to prove my point, the piece of fabric is not an indicator, not a restriction it is all relative. So who are we to say that by banning the burqa we are liberating women? I was trying to find an alternative solution instead of banning it but I honestly can't what about the oppressed girls? What about the security?

It is such a shame that a piece of fabric is causing so much controversy closing people's mind and making them do silly things. What killed me the most is my discovery. A campaign called "Veil Your Lollipop" supporting the idea that this piece of fabric is a way to protect women from sexual harassment WHAT? Yes, see the picture, we have the depiction of a woman as a lollipop (the disgusting Egyptian kind of lollipop not even Chupa Chups) one is wrapped with only one fly trying to touch it and the unwrapped one is full of flies stuck on it. So technically unveiled women are filthy like shit keda (it attracts flies) and because they are not veiled they are more prone to sexual harassment! Can you believe this? The problem with this outrageous campaign is that it is in a way justifying sexual harassment. Why would a guy even harass me whether I am veiled or not! He should not even be looking! So to protect ourselves from the frustrated Egyptian animals we have to get veiled, like that is going to make a difference! These days men would harass a cat if they could grab it like a woman.
But anyway, what's going on with people's minds? Veil, Niqab piece of fabric no piece of fabric, this is supposed to be a matter of choice and non merci we don't need liberators.