Aoun’s Historic Visit to Damascus

Lebanese Christian leader Michele Aoun has just completed a historic trip to Damascus.  Aoun had already been  aligned with Hezbollah and Syria for at least … two years (?)  so the signifigance is that he actually visited Syria itself.    I don’t want to steal Blackstar’s thunder  so  here’s some  broad points I noticed in the media today: 

Not surprisingly, Daily Star Beirut heavily criticizes Aoun as does pro-Saudi  Asharq_Al-Awsat.   On the other hand, generally pro-Syria (or at least anti-USFP)  Al-Quds Al-Arabi  is thrilled and calls it a huge  diplomatic_victory for Syria  who supposedly  now has with it “half the Lebanese Christians, especially the Maronites (Aoun, Frangieh and the independents), half the Sunnis and Druz , and all the Shia.” 

But if  Al-Quds editor Abdel Bari Atwan is happy, others question his analysis.  In the comments section,  one person called it “completely untrue” that half the Sunnis are now with Syria.  Another left this comment in English:

 would like to inform Mr. Abdul Bary Atwan that after Aoun’s trip to Demascus, he lost alot of his supporters who know what Syria realy wants from this visit, It wants to show lebanon that it will continue to interfere in its internal affair, and God knows what it is preparing for the lebanese. So Mr. Atwan after this visit Syria is losing most of its chrisian supporters, as much as it is losing the syrian christians who refused the syrian order to celebrate Oun’s visit

Overdose in Egypt

According to this story,  Shaben Abdel Raheem, the “voice of the Arab street,”  is on life-support after an OD on Hashih:

CAIRO: Shaabi singer Shaaban Abdel Rehim has been admitted to the intensive care unit of Al-Haram hospital and is currently hooked up to a life support system.

Abdel Rehim was brought in after midnight on Sunday.  Local press reported that he had overdosed on hashish, according to hospital sources.  He was diagnosed as having difficulties breathing.  A toxicology report indicated that he had consumed large quantities of the drug, and that his condition demanded hospitalization.

Abdel Rehim is one of Egypt’s most iconic singers, and by far its most popular folk singer. Lyrically divisive, he was interview by CNN for his song, “I hate Israel and I love Amr Moussa”. He is, however, often mocked and ridiculed by his peers.  His popularity stems from the fact that he tackles numerous social and political issues with a populist slant.

If true, then this would be a big story as Rehim was taking part in  Amr_Khalid’s_anti-drug_campaign.   But beyond the hypocrisy aspect this is a very serious issue in Egyptian society.  Last month, two Egyptian doctors were arrested in Saudi Arabia for dealing drugs and sentenced to severe penalties:

According to Egyptian newspapers, one of the doctors, Raouf Amin el-Arabi, was accused of driving a Saudi princess “to addiction.” He initially was sentenced to seven years in prison and 700 lashes, but when he appealed two months ago, the judge not only upheld the conviction, but more than doubled the penalty — to 15 years in prison and 1,500 lashes.

The statement from the Saudi health department did not mention the princess but said el-Arabi gave drug injections to a woman over a period of five years. It identified the woman as the wife of the doctor’s sponsor. Expatriates need Saudi sponsors — government agencies, influential businessmen or members of the royal family — to work in the kingdom.

The other doctor, Shawki Ibrahim, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and an unspecified number of lashes, according to Sunday’s statement. The statement said the pharmaceuticals the men allegedly sold have adverse effects on the nervous and respiratory systems and the heart.

As the IHT story notes, some consider this punishment cruel and have called for President Mubarak to intervene to have them freed.  Others, however,  fully support this punishment,  considering that selling drugs is “min Al-Kaba’ir” or a grave sin.    Some even consider it too lenient-  Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyaa  issued a statement calling for their execution.   I suspect most Egyptians would accept that the punishment for the Egyptians arrested in Saudi is basically legit.  In Rehim’s case, he  merely OD-ed, he wasn’t dealing, so its not as serious as the two doctors in Saudi, but still its quite an embarrassment (assuming its a true story).