On the road….

for the next couple of days so expect light posting.  I will be reading what looks like a great book-  Heavy_Metal_Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam.   Here’s a good interview with the author.  Expect my review once I’m done reading.

Also,  check out this good review of  Gilles Kepel’s new book  by the Economist’s Max Rodenback.   Finally,  Jack Shenker has a good  piece in The Guardian analyzing the Sheikh of Al-Azhar’s controversial handshake with Shimon Peres.

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).

Mr Egypt on Sayyid Imam’s Revisions

To asses the impact of Sayyid Imam’s revision  we should start with a critical question: How could Imam’s new vision or revision be a base for a new Islamic vision? Meaning, how does these revisions alter the perception of those thinking about violent Jihad? Answering those questions depends firstly on understanding two points: 1-how did this vision of Jihad that Al Qaeda and other forms of organization present makes sense for some people or the reasons behind it. 2- What does it take to change these ideas?

Let’s be clear on something, there’s no one  single reason behind the violent approach that dominates the perception of Al Qaeda.   The reason behind turning to violence is a set of factors, political, economic and social problems that accumulated over time.  The thing that made these problems difficult to be addressed especially as in that period we had totalitarian regimes, the levels of education weren’t high enough to develop a critical thinking able to address these problems and pose different alternatives to deal with it, and in the same time there is a religious discourse that calls for fixing the self and to get yourself and the society to become upright. The aggravation of these problems was a consequence to the developments that took place on the international level which weakened the role of these states and  increased their interdependence and in some moments subjection.  Thus their internal problems took regional and international dimensions and other players came to be directly involved in it. To unravel this dilemma groups like Al Qaeda considered that the problem wasn’t inherent in the society, rather it was always exported, being embedded from the other, and that “other” could be anyone, it was the state, individuals, could be MNCs, but the point is they rendered the biggest reason behind the aggravated problematic situations their societies face was always the other, and its critical to mention here that they believe that the issue of reform starts with confrontation.  The point here is; the problems became so big  and so ingrained in the social, economic and political structures that what’s needed is emancipating the society from them the relationships the begot these situations in the first place. It was always notable that they exploit the weaknesses in the other, the enemy, and magnifies the contradictions so to prove the impossibility of convergence or rapprochement with that “Other” and to push these points of contradiction and weaknesses to max limit to prove the inevitability of antagonism between the two. The problem in this context, is that this vision has a social acceptability for two reasons; the oppressive nature of the state and the absence of the religious discourse that could compete, analyze and refute these ideas.   Its well known that in the Arab world religious institutions are to a great extent part of the state’s bureaucracy and so the lack credibility among the people.

So, when we talk about changing these ideas, we cannot talk about an individual level by any means. This doesn’t mean that I’m belittling the importance of these revisions, rather to understand that its not enough to abandon the use of violence, because the reasons that gave birth to it still exist, and still functioning on many levels.   Imam was an important figure for these groups, but was he the only one? If anyone tried to survey average Egyptians for instance about these revision, I believe that the majority would think that he did it under pressure, or because he was tortured or something, this signifies that the people unintentionally knows that the reasons for the use of violence still exists, and its more likely that u change your beliefs because of the torment you face rather than being a real change.  Wasn’t that the case for IG (Islamic group) or the Jihad or takfeer and hegra (excommunication and hegra) in Egypt? They abandoned the use of violence after the government has crushed their movement not prior to that.

What did Imam present nowadays actually involves personal insults and accusations that noone can verify whether they are true or not.  Here’s a piece that addressed the issue with sorrow:

The more important point is that both Zawahiri and Imam agree on the use of violence in facing the ruler, the difference was that Imam put the juridical rules for that use, and that was point the caused the deviation, and this point a friend of mine repeats a lot; that Imam thinks that the use of violence against a strong state is wrong, which implies that theres a situation when using violence would be acceptable and obligatory too.

Should it be Cairo?

Supposedly, Obama wants to give_a_speech  in an Islamic capital during his first 100 days:

See? It’s got to be Cairo. Egypt is perfect. It’s certainly Muslim enough, populous enough and relevant enough. It’s an American ally, but there are enough tensions in the relationship that the choice will feel bold. The country has plenty of democracy problems, so Mr. Obama can speak directly to the need for a better democratic model there. It has got the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that has been embraced by a wide spectrum of the Islamic world, including the disenfranchised and the disaffected.

1) I agree that if the idea is to repair US-Muslim relations than the speech has to be in a city that is seen as having some Islamic relevance but also matters politically.  Cairo is one of the few that fits that requirement. 

2) On the other hand, its unclear whether, politically, Egyptians, from both the regime and the opposition would actually want the US President to visit.  US-Egypt relations is very sensitive and I suspect, though few would say it explicitly, most parties would rather avoid having the US President visit.  There is a reason the US President hasn’t visited Cairo since….. when?  Did Clinton ever actually visit Cairo?  Was Jimmy Carter the last?  And no visiting the isolated conference center at Sharm Al-Shaikh doesn’t count as visiting Egypt.

Response to Sayyid Imam post at Jihadica

Will at Jihadica disagreed with some of the stuff I wrote in previous posts.  My view is that Sayyid Imam’s new book will have no impact on Jihadist groups throughout the region so CT people should not spent much time focusing on them.    Will seems more optimistic and says lets wait and see. 

 1)   Jihad is a serious business…..

Rob at Media Shack has posted a summary of a discussion on al-`Arabiyya’s “Death Industry.”  Of interest to him (and me) is Montasir Zayat’s assessment of Sayyid Imam’s latest book (Zayat only read the first one and a half chapters).  Here’s Rob’s take:

In Zayat’s view, what’s being printed now in Al-Masri Al-Youm is a disgrace and jeopardizes the reputation of the entire Revisions process.   No Jihadists or even Muslims anywhere will treat them seriously.

Rob agrees with this sentiment.   But that’s not exactly what Zayat says.  Zayat does say the book is a disgrace, but he’s also pessimistic that anything can move Jihadis, no matter how refined.  Here he is in the same interview responding to the host’s question of which man, Imam or Zawahiri, has more popularity:

Dr. Sayyid Imam has an abundance of Sharia knowledge and he certainly had these beliefs before he was imprisoned.  He used to say the same things before he was imprisoned and I believe him.  However, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri has charisma and popularity, and he is readily accepted among the youth also.  Many of the youths’ hearts and heads are attached to him.  It is difficult for the words of Sayyid Imam to affect them.

Exactly.  There is nothing Sayyid Imam can say to sway hardcore fans of Zawahiri.  It doesn’t matter how mean or nice he is.

Jihad is a serious, serious business which explains why Sayyid Imam will have no influence.     Jihadists see themselves as answering the most sacred duty of the religion, so for someone to be influential in this enviroment  their behavior or message has to be seen by other Jihadists as being consistent with the religous prestige of Jihad.  Think holiest possible level of holiness: Yom Kippur or  Good Friday holy.  However,  Sayyid Imam’s new book is primarily  an insult-filled personal cat-fight with Zawahiri which will turn off Jihadists.  Furthermore,  the religious methodology is weak and is not going to convince anyone who would take the time to read it.   So its telling when Montasar Al-Zayat says he didn’t even bother to read past the second segment (of 13).   The fundamentally non-serious nature of the book contradicts everything Jihadists values stand for (according to themselves) so they probably aren’t going to read it. 

Secondly, it is incorrect to say that  Zayat, a former Jihadist himself,  is   “pessimistic that anything can move Jihadis, no matter how refined.”   This is not true. He has dedicated his entire life to guiding Egyptian Jihadist groups through the Revisions process over the last ten years and noone in the Arab world is a bigger advocate of the idea that militants can change their approach if given the chance or proper environment.   As he says below:

منتصر الزيات: أنا أريد أن أقول قضية المراجعات هي قضية عمري هي قضية شبابي، هي قضية تقريباً عشرين سنة وأنا كنت أعمل في هذه المساحة من أجل صنع مناخ يسمح بالتقييم وبأن تتصدر الدعوة الإسلامية السلمية وتعود إلى منابرها، من أجل اعتماد استراتيجية جديدة تتلاءم مع طبيعة المرحلة، طالني في هذا ما طالني وقد أديت دوري وأنا مرتاح الضمير، هذه دفعت فيها أنا دفعت فيها شبابي، دفعت فيها سمعتي، دفعت فيها من كرامتي، دفعت فيها اتهامات لاحقتني، وكنت أؤدي عن طيب خاطر لكن..

So if Al-Zayat didn’t even bother to read past part 2 of13 then this tells us something.   

2) Target Audience?

There is nothing Sayyid Imam can say to sway hardcore fans of Zawahiri.  It doesn’t matter how mean or nice he is.  Thus, as I argued yesterday, we shouldn’t be assessing the impact of Imam’s book on Jihadis but rather on neutral pious, educated Arabs, particularly high school and college-age youth, whom Imam considers his primary audience.

I disagree.  Imam’s target audience is people who are already involved in militant activity.   This is the people he is trying to convince.   His arguements entails explaining why using hardcore terrorism to change the system is not worth it and offering some kind of rationale for someone who is involved in that kind of activity to get out of it.  Percentage wise, not more than .00000001 of all Muslims are involved in that kind of activity so the “Neutral pious, educated Arabs” aren’t paying the slightest attention to Imam and have no idea who he is.  

3) Is Sayyid Imam’s new book actually  being covered:

But how do we measure this impact?  Rob says that it is by looking at the discussion of Sayyid Imam’s new book in the mainstream press.  By this measure, he says, it’s a failure because “there has been almost no coverage in the Arabic media.”  I don’t concede the latter assertion–the book was printed in full in Islam Online, al-Masry al-Youm, and al-Sharq al-Awsat and commented on in at least thirteen print news venues.  It is also all over the forums and the Arabic blogosphere.  Still, I agree that it is getting less coverage than Imam’s last book.  Rob says that’s because the tone of the book is bitter and personal.  A simpler explanation is that the subject–Imam turning on Zawahiri–is old news.

There is no evidence to suggest any significant interest in the  Arab world towards Sayyid Imam’s new book.   In 2007 when Sayyid Imam’s original Revisions were published there was  coverage in the Arabic media- though almost solely in Egypt and many big name Egyptian commentators did write op-eds.  Readers can see by looking at Khalil Anani’s blog – go to the lower_left_side.   This time around there was NOTHING.  It was totally ignored.  What is the message we can take?  That Arabs don’t think this is important.   

And these 13 comments were all in the context of people saying how it was a disgrace or embarrassing.  Neither IslamOnline nor Al-Masri Al-Youm, which both “ran” the Revisions, even bothered to have one of their writers wrote a piece analyzing it.   The sense amongst Arab commentators on this issue is that SayyidImam is not an important  or influential character in radical Islamist movements. 

4) So then how to measure quantitatively?   Will suggests looking at: 

  • Mainstream Muslim discussion forums
  • News discussion forums (al-Jazeera, etc)
  • Personal blogs

If we accept that this is a way of measuring the significance of Sayyid Imam’s new book, where are the specific examples?   There are none that I am aware of.  Where is this issue being discussed in any place of note?

Two Must Read Posts on Egypt

1) Yesterday, I posted on the Sheikh of Al-Azhar’s Shake with Shimon Peres and the controversy it is arousing.  Read a good post by an Egyptian providing a better explanation of why this is something people in the region are angry about.

2)  Inanities has one of the best  posts I’ve ever read on Egypt.  Its ostensibly about the Cairo Film Festival but is really a critique of Egyptian society and its about as accurate as one can get.

Comments on Sayyid Imam posts

Will at Jihadica has a post on Sayyid Imam’s new book in which he takes issue with some of the things I have written in recent posts ( scroll down).  Read the post here and then check in tomorrow for my response.

More on the Lebanese Army…..

There are some new  developments to yesterday’s post  (scroll down) that are worth taking note of concerning the arming of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).   Gen. Petraeus was on a surprise visit to Beirut yesterday and met with President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and the new army commander Gen. Jean Qahwaji.    It turns out that the US will not be sending arms to Lebanon before the spring parliamentary elections take place there, and heavy weapons will not be sent at all because of US concerns about “Israel’s military edge”.

It is worth wondering why the US wants to shelf its shipment of arms until the spring elections.  Was there a pre-condition set for the shipment based on who would win the elections? In that case, why even promise weapons? And if there is no waiting game to see which party wins a majority, then why even wait until then? If another Nahr Al-Bard situation occurs from now until then, the US will have to send out an emergency supply anyway. 

The Sheikh and the Shake

A major story in the Arabic media is the prominent handshake between the Sheikh of Al-Azhar and Israel’s Shimon Peres at the recent Inter-faith conference in New York.  Read an English language story here.  The Sheikh has been harshly criticized in the Arab media for handing Israel a major PR victory.  Why?    Israel wants to normalize relations with the Arabs.  The Arabs say this doesn’t come for free- you want normalization you have to make serious peace.  So when the Sheikh of Al-Azhar allows himself to be photographed embracing Shimon Peres, while Gaza remains in a state of siege, the Arab media and “Street” is furious.    The lead op-ed in today’s  Al-Quds Al-Arabi savages Sheikh Tantawi. 

Here’s my quick summary:  “The Sheikh of Al-Azhar is supposed to be the supreme Islamic reference/ guide in the Arab and Islamic world, but since the Camp David Treaty in 1979 he has become a mouthpiece of the Egyptian President, who appoints someone who will say whatever suits official Egyptian policy.  Sheikh Tanatawi is the best example of what might be called “the preacher of the Government” and says whatever it wants- be it normalization with Israel, meeting Israelis in his office, or staying silent in the face of certain government policies that contradict Islamic values such as selling gas to Israel or participating in the siege of 1.5 million people in Gaza.

This compares favorably to the Coptic Pope Shenuda who resists any state pressure to normalize relations with Israel and refuses to allow Egyptian Christians to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem.  The Sheikh of Al-Azhar attended the UN- Interfaith conference eagerly, despite knowing that the Saudi Ulema boycotted it, not wanting to give the Israelis a chance to shake their hands.   What’s even worse than this, Sheikh Tantawi first denied the handshake, then he claimed he didn’t know it was Shimon Peres, whose hand he was shaking.   But this is absurd and there is no one remotely political aware in Egypt or the Arab world who doesn’t know Shimon Peres, a man who has held every major position in Israel and visited Egypt ten times. “

This story has  received coverage in virtually every Arabic media outlet.  Yesterday, I was watching an intense debate on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV between Fatah and Hamas activists.  A female Hamas supporter stood up and pulled out a picture of the “Handshake” calling it an insult to the Palestinians.

Arming The Lebanese Army

The status and condition of the Lebanese Armed Forces seem to be a hot topic not only in Lebanon, but also in Paris and Washington these days.  Here’s something that doesn’t happen too frequently: an article in an otherwise generally decent Lebanese_newspaper , supplanted in terms of context, accuracy (if only on use of quotation marks), and informative detail, by a US governmental (Department of Defense to be precise)  press_release .

The news item relates to the provision of weaponry by the US to the Lebanese army.   While both the article and the press release discuss nothing groundbreaking or novel, they are interesting to read in that they provide specific numbers on different kinds of equipment shipped and to be shipped by the US, and also background on training programs offered.  For example, we learn that:

  • Lebanese officers are attending several US military colleges, and the International Military Education and Training fund for Lebanon has grown from $1.4 million in fiscal 2008 to $2.1 million this year;
  • Since 2006, the US has funneled more than $400 million in foreign military sales money to Lebanon;
  • The US has sent 285 Humvees to Lebanon, and another 312 will arrive by March;
  • The US has also sent 200 trucks and 41 M-198 155 mm artillery pieces;
  • The Lebanese army will get night-vision equipment and some tactical unmanned aerial vehicles;
  • 12 million rounds of ammo, spare helicopter parts, shoulder-fired rockets will be supplied; and
  • The US is committed to getting Lebanon more modern tanks, and the U.S. military is working on delivering M-60A3 tanks.

These numbers are based on quotes from DoD senior official Chris Straub, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Near East and South Asian affairs.  While up to this point everything seems nice and rosy, there are, as expected, very important caveats with regard to the quantity and the nature of equipment supplied to the Lebanese army. Indeed, Straub adds: “We don’t have a conversation on these matters without considering the concerns of Israel and Israel’s qualitative military edge. That’s a U.S. commitment that we take very seriously.” (my emphasis)   The DoD press release then adds that “for example, the Lebanese army M-60 tanks are no match for Israel’s Mekava 4 main battle tanks.” What is the reason for this mismatch you ask? Straub explains: “We’re not trying to build up some juggernaut that could be threatening to anyone in the region, but to make the Lebanese armed forces capable in their own country.” 

Here is what is fundamentally wrong with this policy:  if the US thinks that propping up the Lebanese army just enough for it to provide a viable counterweight to Hezbollah will cause the latter to disintegrate or disappear, it will be sending weapons for a very, very long time with nothing changing in the situation on the ground. The reason for this is that Hezbollah is not competing with the Lebanese army ; Hezbollah is competing with Israel.  So long as the Lebanese army’s weaponry is weaker than that of Israel (which the US is on record as saying will be the case), Hezbollah will still be able to argue that the army is not strong enough to defend the country against Israeli aggression, and that its effort are needed.  And, indeed, it will be a very potent and correct argument to make.  The US policy in Lebanon basically seems to center on ways of fighting Hezbollah by proxy, that is, through the Lebanese army. But if Israel’s F-16’s were not able to annihilate Hezbollah in 2006, will the Lebanese army’s 597 Humvees be able to in 2009?

“The Death Industry” on the Revisions

Al-Arabiya (The Saudi counterweight to Al-Jazeera) has a special program called “The Death Industry” which is part of the Saudi counter-propaganda campaign against Al-Qaeda.  The show’s basic purpose is to slander Al-Qaeda style Jihadists.  This week’s episode (see the transcript  here)covered a variety of topics related to Ayman Zawahiri such as 1) why is he releasing so many tapes 2) why did he call Barrack Obama a “house slave” and lastly 3) the implications of Sayyid Imam’s latest Revisions. 

For those who aren’t familiar with Sayyid Imam, he is a former leader of the Egyptian Jihad Group and is currently  publishing a series of anti-Al Qaeda Revisions in a leading Egyptian newspaper.   Read  Jihadica’s translations of the book here.   For a long analysis of the book’s potential implications  on Jihadist groups check out this recent piece from The NATIONAL.

 The show hosted two well known commentators, Egypt’s Montasar Al- Zayat and Jordan’s Mohamed Abu Rumman.   Some background on Zayat: A former militant in the Islamic Group, he spent the 80s in jail,  wrote a book about his former relationship with Zawahiri,  and served as a mediator between the (Egyptian) state and Militant groups in the late 1990s as they made their transition away from violence.  Today he is the lawyer for the Islamic Group and he is a major advocate of the Revisions process.   This is his “life mission” as he says here (below) he has spent 20 years of his life trying to work towards providing the atmosphere where militants could reevaluate their approach and move towards the peaceful Islamic call:

أنا أريد أن أقول قضية المراجعات هي قضية عمري هي قضية شبابي، هي قضية تقريباً عشرين سنة وأنا كنت أعمل في هذه المساحة من أجل صنع مناخ يسمح بالتقييم وبأن تتصدر الدعوة الإسلامية السلمية وتعود إلى منابرها، من أجل اعتماد استراتيجية جديدة تتلاءم مع طبيعة المرحلة، طالني في هذا ما طالني وقد أديت دوري وأنا مرتاح الضمير، هذه دفعت فيها أنا دفعت فيها شبابي، دفعت فيها سمعتي، دفعت فيها من كرامتي، دفعت فيها اتهامات لاحقتني، وكنت أؤدي عن طيب خاطر لكن..

 Zayat, like most ex-Egyptian militants involved in the Revisions process is disgusted by the contents of Sayyid Imam’s new book.  Asked “what are the essential points?”

ريما صالحة: أعود معكم مشاهدينا لنتابع طبعاً ما تبقى من هذا النقاش في حلقة الليلة من صناعة الموت، أستاذ منتصر الزيات ما النقاط المستخلصة أنت تراها من رد الدكتور فضل على الظواهري

منتصر الزيات: صدقوني أنا لم أقرأ ما كتبه الدكتور فضل، أنا ربما طالعته الحلقة الأولى ولم أتم الحلقة الثانية ومن وقتها لم أقرأ ما يكتبه الأخ العزيز الدكتور سيد إمام..

He replies, in disgust :  “I didnt even get past the beginning of the second segment”  (there are so far 12).   Not only that but Zayat wants nothing to do with this latest round- He is thouroughly disgusted and refused to even comment on them: 

 أن تتحول المراجعات إلى اتهامات متبادلة وإلى اتهامات بالعمالة وإلى هذا الذي نراه ونقرأه ونسمعه أنا لست طرفاً في هذه المراجعات، ولا أعرف عنها شيئاً ولا أحب أن أكون فيها ولا أحب أن أتحدث عنها لأنها ببساطة شديدة تجهض فكرة المراجعات.

I’m not a translator but Zayat says above something like:  “I am not a part of these Revisions, I have no idea where this came from.  I don’t want any part of them and don’t even want to comment on them because to put it simply they are tainting/undermining the whole idea of the Revisions.” 

In the eyes of former militants such as Zayat, the value of the Revisions process is that instead of having potential militants turn to the previous works that have been used to justify violence, there will now also be available, serious well-thought out Islamic reevaluations by ex-militants of the former violent approach that people can turn to.  In Zayat’s view, what’s being printed now in Al-Masri Al-Youm is a disgrace and jeopardizes the reputation of the entire Revisions process.   No Jihadists or even Muslims anywhere will treat them seriously.  I should add that Abu Rumman essentially agreed with Zayat’s analysis, though not having a personal connection to the process, he wasn’t nearly as dramatic.

UPDATE: I should also add an important point:  Two weeks after Sayyid Imam’s latest book started, there has been almost no coverage in the Arabic media.  Last year, when his first Revisions came out, all of the big name Egyptian commentators sounded off.  This time around, literally nothing, which probably tells us something about how serious these Revisions should be taken.

“No Interests Section for You”

There was  talk  that a US Interests office might open in Tehran at the end of the Bush Administration, perhaps paving the way for a larger rapprochement between the US and Iran.  Will  (who has serious Iran credentials) at Friday in Cairo  reports– not likely to happen

Seems like, as hard as they try, the Bush administration can’t get out of the punitive, diplomacy=appeasement framework it views Iran through.   It would have been a real help to have a foot in the water before Obama takes office, but it looks like that wasn’t in the cards…..

Check out the post.

The Unintended Consequences….

of Sayyid Imam’s New Revisions:   Egypt’s Al-Dostor  (page 5)  newspaper reports that Egyptian Security forces have broken up a cell named after Anwar Sadat’s assasin, Khalid Islambouli,  in the city of Damiut.  Of the details provided, the books the group followed:  Mohamed Faraj’s 1981 Jihad: The Missing Obligation, another by Ayman Zawahiri, and both of Sayyid Imam (Dr Fadl’s) pre-revisions books. 

More importantly, the article interviews Montasar Al-Zayat, a lawyer and a  former militant who now  serves as a sort of self-appointed middle man between the Government and former militant groups.  He made what I think is an important point:    Zayat said that because of Sayyid Imam’s new book,  the Revisions process has lost some of its value.  Whereas before, the discussions were serious and were based on legitimate Islamic scholarship, Sayyid Imam’s Revisions have turned into an exchange of personal insults between Zawahiri and Imam.   Not seeing anything of value in the latest Revisions, “this will push the  youth to revert to the  Internet and the traditional Jihadist sources which justified the use of violence.”