Hot off the Arab press 459868

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East.

A group of volunteers from a Cairo church provide free meals to Muslims during Ramadan on July 2 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A group of volunteers from a Cairo church provide free meals to Muslims during Ramadan on July 2
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Shorouq, Egypt, July 3
I turned on the television last week just to find out that, for the millionth time in a row, clashes broke out between Muslims and Christians in some remote Egyptian village. The reason: a Christian plan to build a local church. Locals did not like the fact that the building was designed to exceed a local mosque in size and height, and blocked access to the construction site. Shortly thereafter, the Town Council issued an ordinance to freeze all construction, citing incomplete building permits.
In a different case, in the al-Minya region, roughly 300 individuals stormed and took over a house of a local Christian, under the pretext that it was used as an “underground” church. These stories are absurd. I simply don’t understand why authorities don’t intervene, in whatever way possible, to ensure that all Egyptians enjoy their full freedom of religion. Is it not their right to worship whoever they want, in whatever place of worship they deem proper? Is it not the state’s responsibility to protect holy places and allow its citizens to worship freely, in security and safety? Religious extremists on both sides of the spectrum have sown hatred among us. We have become so accustomed to fighting that we forgot our common humanity.
We are all Egyptian, sons and daughters of this land. We all worship God, whether at the mosque or at church. In a day and age where a tsunami of religious extremism is taking over the region, destroying everything in its way, let us not fall into the hands of religious fanatics. Let’s protect each other and ensure our mutual rights. Despite our differences, we are all Egyptians. – Emad al-Din Hussein
Al-Mada, Iraq, July 3
A horrible bombing struck a crowded shopping area in the Karrada district in central Baghdad several days ago. Over 200 people were killed in the attack and several hundred others were wounded.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi did wisely yesterday when he chose to visit the bombing site and pay respect to the victims and their families. He did wisely because it provided him with the rare opportunity to get to know the people of Karrada, most of whom are low-class Iraqis, and understand their stance towards his government. Indeed, their position was made immediately clear as hundreds of people stoned the prime minister’s motorcade and chanted slurs against him.
Personally, I do not like this sort of “dialogue” between constituents and politicians, particularly when profanity and violence are being used. But it was still a dialogue nonetheless, and perhaps a first of its kind in Iraq. Having exhausted all other means of voicing their concerns, Karrada’s people had little choice left.
For years, they have been neglected. For all too long, their security has been disregarded and jeopardized, allowing for the horrible attack that took place last week to unfold. Our leaders have created secure zones around their homes and offices, and neglected the wider population. They have armed their vehicles and fenced their neighborhoods, while living poor Iraqis as easy targets to terrorists.
In our political system accountability is a relative term. No one expects Abadi to resign after this horrible attack. Similarly, no one expects to see the chief of police go home. These are ruling-class Iraqis that will take their chairs with them if forced to step down.
However, the symbolic “welcoming” of Prime Minister Abadi in Karrada is important nonetheless. It showed the detached political echelon that the situation has reached a boiling point. That things will not simply disappear. That real awakening is required.
I am not sure that Prime Minister Abadi will be quick to rectify this situation, but he will certainly think about it when he goes to bed tonight. In that sense, the people of Karrada, despite their terrible loss, have already been successful. – Udan Hussein
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, July 1
Winston Churchill once claimed that “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Nowhere have his words been more relevant than in the case of the referendum held last week on Britain’s exit from the European Union.
What is striking about the campaign that preceded the referendum is the fact that while the “Stay” camp succeeded in garnering the support of constituents on the Left, the Brexit camp appealed to both right and left-wing voters. In the moment of truth, this translated into a victory for Brexit in the ballots.
Eurosceptic parties succeeded in convincing both ultra- conservatives on the far right, and working class individuals on the left, that membership in the EU deprives the British people of the independence and welfare they deserve. It thus comes as no surprise that the only locations where the “Stay” camp won were cosmopolitan bubbles such as London, and university cities such as Cambridge, Oxford, and Leeds.
Elsewhere in the UK, fear and bigotry took over the public agenda, pushing constituents to vote against membership in the EU.
Only time will tell where the European Union will head next and what’s in store for Britain. But in the meantime, it is not only Brussels that ought to worry about reconfiguring its political system. With nearly 100% of Scottish citizens voting to stay in the EU, tensions between London and Edinburgh are beginning to look more and more like those between London and Brussels. The English cannot claim that Brussels is hijacking their democracy, while disregarding the democratic will of those in Scotland. Therefore, populist politics can be dangerous. They are a double-edged sword. Britain may have won its much desired “independence” but, in the process, it may have lost Scotland and Northern Ireland to the EU. – Eyad Abu Shakra
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