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Friday, February 7, 2014

Politics and Religion, Cairo - February 2014

It was Friday again today, so there was another bombing downtown.  Most of the reports followed somebody else's lead and reported the location as "Giza, Cairo's Twin City."

Abc News:  "a bridge in Cairo's twin city of Giza Friday morning,..."

Associated Press via C(anadian)TV:  "a bridge in Cairo's twin city of Giza Friday morning..."

The English Guardian "goes long" with: "in Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo...:"

UPI shies away from the outskirts, with: "detonated on a bridge in central Cairo..."

Technically, it is Cairo on the east side of the Nile and Giza on the west but the metro area is referred to as Cairo most of the time.  These two bombs were apparently small devices resulting from efforts described as "two men driving a motorcycle threw the two bombs and fled."  That, according to a report by DANA EL HADIDI of the Cairo Post.  A good description of the site would be "on the overpass at Giza Square about two miles southwest of downtown Cairo and close to Cairo University." 

The earlier mentioned CTV report contained the most information about the political connection:
The Muslim Brotherhood-led coalition that supports ousted president Mohammed Morsi, who was removed from power in July's coup, issued a call earlier this week to "continue the revolution." Pro-Morsi protesters have staged near-daily demonstrations since his ouster with the largest rallies usually on Friday or key anniversaries, though their numbers have dwindled in the recent months amid a security crackdown.
You would have to go a long, long way from where we live to encounter a pro-Morsi rally!  Here's a hint.  Don't suggest to most Egyptians that the Brotherhood has something good to offer.  Which brings us to this Al Jazeera report that President Obama is, in fact, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Which is probably reinforced by this meeting at the White House between Obama and an English leader of the Brotherhood.  I'm not sure that the White House has quite caught the drift in public opinion here.

OK.  So now you know that an Al Jazeera blog reported that an Egyptian newspaper reported that Obama was a Muslim Brother.  What is new with Al Jazeera?  Glad you asked!  According to NBC, last November:
Egypt said 20 Al-Jazeera journalists, including both Egyptians and foreigners, will face trial on terrorism-related charges.
How did the United States like that news?  Not very well.  And so how did Egypt feel about the resulting U.S. criticism of Egypt?
Egypt's foreign ministry on Thursday dismissed US criticism of the charges placed against Al-Jazeera journalists for belonging to a terrorist group, arguing that Egypt's judiciary is fair and independent.  

Well.  That should give you a feel for the politics here.  Now I also promised you some religion, since it is Friday.  Here goes.  This BBC story reports on the new effort by the government here to control the themes of the preachers in Egyptian mosques.
The Ministry of Religious Endowments is the official Egyptian body which will decide what imams or preachers should tell the millions who attend the weekly prayers, known in Arabic as salat al-jummah. Attendance is obligatory within Islam for Muslims without a valid excuse such as sickness.

Now an American reading that is doubtless aghast at the thought of a government bureaucrat setting the sermon theme for his or her pastor at church on Sunday.  So I checked with a couple of friends.  Yes, last Friday was the first one following this practice and it was reported to be about 90% effective.  Is this a good idea?  Oh yes, said one of the friends.  He mentioned that some of the Imams were going far astray on their own and teaching such things as not saying "Salaam-Alaikum" to foreigners or non-believers.  In contradiction of The Holy Koran, he added.

Keep in mind that the government and religion are closely intertwined here.  Al-Azhar University, the seat of religious authority is a a state institution. 

Well, that's enough politics and religion for one setting.  I'll get back to pictures and everyday life again in the next post.  But remember that if your biggest political problem is just that Republicans and Democrats don't play well together, you should count your blessings.

Here is a good article on one major source of White House policy information, The Working Group on Egypt.  It is worth reading in its entirety to understand the events of the past year.  One excerpt:
The Working Group on Egypt assumes that the Egyptian government is harsh and repressive. But does it realize that most Egyptians have often accused the interim government and its predecessors of being too soft and indecisive when standing up to those trying to drag their country to chaos and anarchy? 

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