Sunday, December 26, 2004

Merry Christmas

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Children + War = heartbreak

I wish that I could personally strangle each and every one of the worm-like vermin that have taken little children hostage in North Ossetia. Islamic terrorism? Most of the children they are threatening to murder are muslims!

Russian soldier carries infant to safety...

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Tourist Boom pours much-needed billions into Egypt

Egypt is in the midst of a tourist boom, the likes of which it hasn't seen for quite a few years.

Hotels in Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada are booked out, and charter flights are streaming in like crazy. Flights are streaming in from unheard-of places like Lisbon, London, Amsterdam, and even Belgrade.

It seems like forever that people have been afraid to come to Egypt, perhaps the stigma of the Luxor massacre is beginning to wear off. I can hardly remember the last time I heard a Dutch or British accent around the tourist areas.

Anyway, I predict that there will be no wild Egyptian pound devaluations this summer. There are plenty of dollars and Euros to go around.

Naturally, the newly appointed tourism minister can be fully expected to claim sole responsibility for Egypt's newfound popularity as a tourist destination. That's bullshit of course, the tourism business is one of the few big businesses in the country the government doesn't really influence (other than posting cheesy adverts on CNN).

By the way, the diving is much better in Hurghada than it is in Sharm, especially if you pick a good dive center.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Presidential succession, *yawn*

The most common subject of conversation one encounters these days over dinner is, of course, the supposedly imminent succession of President Mubarak by his son Gamal. The President's recent illness, and the replacement of the stupid Prime Minister and a whole bunch of stupid ministers with a new gang of stupids, has everyone assuming that major change is about to happen.
 
I've heard wild claims, ranging from Egypt spiralling into a military dictatorship, to some kind of an economic miracle occurring.
 
I find it endearingly naive when people in Egypt think that the replacement of the President could have any kind of radical influence on life in our great fallen nation. Dear countrymen, Comrade Hosni isn't the problem, YOU are!! If people would begin to stand up and struggle independantly and interdependantly for improvement in all the things which so bother them, and if people would get off their fat asses and learn how to work, our country could feasibly be transformed. However, Egyptians are plagued by laziness, incompetence, illiteracy, narcissism, complacency and apathy. All the qualities in its citizens that a police state could wish for. Although I possess a healthy hatred of our beloved leaders, often I think that the Egyptian people are fully deserving of the pigs that govern them.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Sovereignty..

While watching ebari speak on CNN's "countdown to handover", you may want to contemplate what the dictionary says about the word "sovereignty":

sov·er·eign·ty Pronunciation Key (svr-n-t, svrn-)
n. pl. sov·er·eign·ties
1. Supremacy of authority or rule as exercised by a sovereign or sovereign state.
2. Royal rank, authority, or power.
3. Complete independence and self-government.
4. A territory existing as an independent state.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Space for the rest of us (in a few years anyway)

Spaceship OneScaled Composites has announced plans to launch the world's first privately funded manned spaceflight, on June 21st. Their little spaceplane, "Spaceship One", has already flown at mach 2.5, at over 200,000 feet, and the June 21st flight will be at 100km altitude. Looks like Burt Rutan will win the X-prize after all. And I had such hopes for Armadillo Aerospace.

I am starting a space agency. I will call it "ASASA" (Arab Street Aeronautics & Space Association), and our goal will be to launch selected individuals on one-way trips to space. People currently on the VIP priority list include Ariel Sharon, GW Bush, Yasser Arafat, Hosni Mubarak, Osama Bin Laden, and Donald Rumsfeld. If you want to participate in or contribute to this important space effort please email me at arabstreetbum@hotmail.com

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Secular Islam

Raed Jarrar had some thoughts on secular Islam:

Islam for me, as a secular leftist, is more than a mere religion
Islam is my cultural heritage that I will protect and maintain until the last moment of my existence.

Islam is the small ornaments in my architecture, the small details of the doors of Al-Mustansiryya school in Baghdad, the arches of the Abbasi palace, the domes of Al-Kathum shrine and the wooden windows of my grandfathers’ courtyard house.

Islam is the small kids playing in the narrow streets of the crowded neighborhoods in Baghdad and Cairo, it is the charming smell of the mosques of Najaf and Karbala, the spicy taste of the Iraqi Dolma, the colorful pigeons flying at the time of dawn in Al-Hamedyyah market in Damascus, the warm palm trees surrounding Shatt Al-Arab in Basra.

Islam is the genius poetry of Quran every morning, the strong voice of Um-Kalthum every evening, the soft sound of Athan every sunrise.

Islam is the shy smile of my woman.

Friday, May 28, 2004

The war rages on..

I've gotten some criticism from readers who say I neglected the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq, while giving attention to the case of Nicholas Berg. Sometimes it takes a while to be able to put a thought into coherent words, sometimes it's impossible. The goings on at Abu Ghraib is a strong example. I simply am speechless regarding this story.

While I am naturally furious at those who created the environment in which this could happen, I am also slightly sympathetic to what is obviously a public relations disaster for US foreign policy. The stain of the sins committed at Abu Ghraib and other American prisons will remain forever, and any remote chance Americans had of doing any good in the middle east is gone.

Even Nick Berg's murderers failed to overshadow the prisoner abuse scandal.

Meanwhile battles rage between US troops and the Mahdi army boogeymen, and holy mosques have been damaged in the crossfire. And Sadr's fighters have been declared heretics by the Ayatollah Sistani. I wonder if shiite muslims in Iraq will join with Sistani in blaming Muqtada al Sadr for this, or follow logic and blame the Americans (who were the ones shooting at the mosque after all).

What is really annoying me is the war of lies that happens each time some incident occurs. With all the wild accusations flying in either direction it is impossible for me to believe anything I read. Who's to know, REALLY, if it was a wedding party that was attacked by American forces, or a rebel camp? And how am I to surmise whether US forces had a hand in Nick Berg's death or not?

You can't fool everyone all the time, but you can certainly bewilder them. I am currently in a state of growing bewilderment regarding the war in Iraq. Oh, and I can't wait to see Michael Moore's movie, "Farenheit 911"

Raed has been making some great posts lately. I like his fighting and analytical style. Raed's posts come across to me as heartfelt and balanced.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Allahu Akhbar...

I just watched the video of Nick Berg's death. It was brutal and shocking, and reminded me of the equally horrible footage of Daniel Pearl's murder.

The animals who carried out this killing were cowardly, hiding behind their ski masks, clutching automatic weapons while their boss read out some standard extremist drivel.

Needless to say, every one of those people will have their skins burned off a thousand times in hell, not only for the murder comitted, but also for the cynical and twisted way it was carried out. The murderers' twisted perception of Islam is fully exposed by their method, and as a Muslim I am filled with rage that people could pervert our religion in such a way.

Nick Berg, just like Daniel Pearl, was slaughtered in precisely the same manner as a sheep during the Eid-el-Adha (feast of the sacrifice). Laid on his side, Mr. Berg's throat was cut while his killers repeated over and over again Allahu-Akhbar, Allahu-Akhbar, Allahu-Akhbar. These madmen think that they are slaughtering a human being in a somehow "Islamic" or "Halal" way, that by doing it like this they are fullfilling God's wishes.

Ritual slaughter of livestock as practiced by many Muslims is a celebration of God's mercy in staying Abraham's hand, although Abraham was ready to slaughter his own son at God's will. Every time a Muslim ritually slaughters a sheep, it is God's mercy that is celebrated. In order for a slaughter to be acceptable, it must be done in a certain way; the animal is laid on its side, and as the throat is cut, the words Allahu Akhbar (God is Greater) are uttered. As is obvious in the video (even if you don't understand Arabic), this is how Mr. Berg is murdered.

Allahu-Akhbar. The fact of these words being used in such a way is sickening. Allahu-Akhbar means literally "God is Greater", and is a sweeping declaration of God's magnificence, to which nothing can compare. Whenever a Muslim sees something wondrous, the most appropriate reaction is to say Allahu-Akhbar, which can be translated roughly as saying "this wonder is nothing compared to the magnificence of God". In war, soldiers use these words to find inner strength and conquer fear. After all, God is Greater than this battle, or that war. God is Greater than my enemy, and Greater than any cause I would choose to fight for. God is, quite simply, Greater.

Allahu-Akhbar is one of the most beautiful and powerful phrases that exist for the expression of Islamic faith. I am sure that Satan is filled with glee that his murderous demons have publicly used these words in such a way, while committing such a filthy act.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Blogs to read..

Among the many comments posted in the recent flurry of visitors, I found these fascinating links:

Bill's Blog has got some fascinating analysis of military activity in Iraq (he calls it "random thoughts", but I find little randomness in his posts). Very concise, and Bill seems very knowledgable in military matters. Some good stuff, and I hope he keeps it up.

Kathryn Cramer's blog is a veritable goldmine of information about the so-called "security contractors" (mercenaries employed by American companies) who now number in the tens of thousands in Iraq. This is a must read!

Friday, April 23, 2004

Strange blogs...

I came across this blog which claims to be Egyptian, and after reading through it with some suprise I decided to write my (probably unwanted) opinion of his work. Please keep in mind that according to Zeyad (see below), I am a "typical example of the brainwashed Arab masses", so you are free to completely disregard my opinion if you so please. As we say in Egypt, "TOZ".

Anyway, Mr. GM of Big Pharoah Actually has me thinking that he is nothing less than a wannabe propagandist fake.

Firstly he is extremely supportive of the American occupation of Iraq. He has made numerous statements implying that American "success" in Iraq is the key to political reformation of Arab countries. He expresses sorrow at news of occupation force military deaths. He even joins the Neocon party line of demonizing Al-Jazeera, actually blaming it for promoting violence.

I will be forthcoming and concede that it is possible for an Egyptian to have such opinions about the American war against Iraq. However if Mr. GM has even a drop of Egyptian blood I would expect him to express at least equal sorrow at news of Iraqi civilians killed by American soldiers. Yet he does not even mention this topic. This total lack of sympathy for the main victims of this war, while making boohoo noises for dead American troops really makes me sneer at my screen when GM declares "now Iraq is everything to me".

Although the net is full of wild-eyed optimists who are drunk with the pipe-dream of the USA giving the world a "free, democratic Iraq", I find that all indications point to a total disaster with no hope of improving as long as the occupation continues. GM wants to talk about a "new power station that employs hundreds of Iraqis", yet at the same time Raed, Salam and Riverbend tell us that the electrical network is only becoming less reliable. As for the violence, it's only getting worse, and sometimes it seems to me that the actions of American forces are deliberately calculated provocations, designed to increase the chaos for some ulterior motive.

With enemies like these, who needs friends?

Thanks to Zeyad, for linking to this blog and directing more traffic to it in 3 days than there was in the last 6 months. His assessment of me is as follows:

"If you want an example of the intelligent yet brain washed masses in the Arab world, this blog is the one for you"

:)

Saturday, March 27, 2004

How big brother watches the Internet

You are being watchedI recently had a conversation with a system administrator of a major Egyptian ISP, and an official of a certain government body responsible for "policing" the Egyptian information superhighway. The government employee was boasting about the level of control available to him and his colleagues, saying that it was impossible for anyone to do anything illegal on the Internet in Egypt without being caught. He cited specific cases, of credit card fraudsters being arrested in front of their computers, and family homes being raided by police in the middle of the night because dad likes to browse porn in the evenings.

When I voiced my disbelief in a few of his stories, particularly in his claim of the hakooma's ability to identify Internet users connecting via "free number" dial-up and ISDN connections, my ISP sysop friend sided with the official and said that every ISP in Egypt uses access servers with callerID. Furthermore, they are required by law to keep a complete log of every connection, to be presented on request to the authorities. I still wasn't convinced, until he sat me in front of a PC, telnetted into his access server, and got a list of currently active connections, including the phone numbers. I had chills. I decided that I would ask around and try to find out as much as I could about this scary new computer-savvy government.

In a nutshell, from what I've gathered, the hakooma has set up several specialised offices, staffed by dozens of geeks of varying ages equipped with the latest gadgetry, split up into work groups. Each office and each group has their own specialty. The offices are always buzzing with activity, usually there's something going on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are all plugged into the national backbone gateways, and equipped with the specialised hardware and software necessary to continuously filter through every passing network packet. These guys are graduates of American and European universities, they know languages, and they know their way around an Internet connection. What motivates them? I suspect a combination of money, power madness and coercion.

The Mukhabarat's Internet center is probably the most clandestine, serving the presidency by monitoring every scrap of Internet traffic and scouring the web for anything resembling criticism of President Mubarak and his family. This office also is involved in monitoring suspected terrorism-related traffic, keeping a watchful eye on Muslim brotherhood communications and such. The archiving done by this group is huge in scale, literally every reference to Egypt in general and particularly the president and matters relating to the government are saved and filed.

The Interior ministry probably has the biggest and most widespread Internet operation (they have offices distributed around the country), and it is literally attempting to enforce the laws of the land on the Internet. Egyptian homosexuals looking for a bit of online cruising have long learned to be wary of Egyptian vice officers posing as fellow gays, luring unsuspecting men to come to meeting places, then arresting them on debauchery charges. Not only homosexuals, but women have suffered from this kind of entrapment, when they show up at a pre-designated meeting place for a one-on-one with a mysterious online admirer, only to be arrested and accused of being prostitutes. The vice officers also keep a close eye on online porn users, occasionally arresting them, or shutting down Internet cafes that are found to have customers accessing forbidden sites. Other than the questionable activities of the vice police, the interior ministry keeps track of more important issues such as credit card fraud, identity theft, and other crimes.

Details are sketchy about the other Internet monitoring centers set up by the government, but the presidential staff definately have one, and probably the information and defence ministries.

In short, while our government's various instruments of control remain just as primitive and disorganised as they always were, the powers that be take the online activity of us citizens very seriously and have quietly launched a rather sophisticated effort to monitor and control us. I doubt, however, that they will be able to maintain their current efficiency for very long, especially since their ability to retain the services of the talented computer geeks they depend on is questionable.

In any case, watch your backs, and stay anonymous!

Monday, March 22, 2004

Sheikh Ahmed Yasin assassinated

missiles obliterated Yasin and 3 othersSheikh Ahmed Yasin, the founder and leader of Hamas, was assassinated today by IAF helicopter pilots. The thing that really gets to me is that the Hamas leader was on the brink of death anyway. His killing will only serve to stir up more hatred and violence, and will in no way "weaken" the Palestinian resistance as is claimed by the Zionists.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Rumors of my death...

... have been greatly exaggerated. Hmm, I guess a five-week hiatus is more than enough, so now, how about some new beginnings for 2004?

The Blogspeak comments system is dead. Very sad, I must say, but it was nice to find that my account with all its comments was rescued by Haloscan! How fortunate.

I am alive, healthy, and haven't forgotten my loyal readers. Yes, all three of you can count on me to bring you the latest updates from the Arab street. How could I possibly let the teeming masses of my mono-digit readership lose faith?

A lot of stuff has happened and I've got plenty to get off of my chest, so stay tuned for some genuine grumbling, moaning, complaining and general hissing about quite a few domestic and international issues that have managed to annoy me this past month plus.