The Rabat Summit: The Admin Responds

Obviously peeved at poor press reviews, the admin is responding that some good did come out of the Moroccan-held “Fourm of the Future,” according to the post this morning.

The key passage:

“The Arab-Israeli issue is a very important issue in that region, just to state the obvious,” one official acknowledged at a briefing for about two dozen journalists. But he said reporters, who were not permitted inside the conference rooms during the Rabat session, missed the bigger picture.

“There is a sense of urgency that you felt in the room as you heard countries talking about the importance of reform,” he said. “What has changed is that we have created a mechanism now for countries to participate fully with their neighbors in the room to talk about issues of reform.”

Created a mechanism? What does that mean? A meeting is now a mechanism to facilitating reform?

A sense of urgency? Are we now meeting and interpretating the atmosphere as a sign of conferences’ success/failure?

This is “project 3000” – refoming the Arab world by year 3000.

Excuse me for being critical and cynical…. I did not understand the fuller picture. I need to start reading between the subtle feelings and lines of such events before lashing out.

I am glad the world is ordered again and progress/reform is coming. I’ll just sit and wait for it to come…..

The Empire Attacking Academic Freedom

Today’s Guadian Reports that the Tariq Ramadan saga in the States is ending. Ramadan, swiss citizen and grand-son of Egyptian MB founder Hassan al-Banna, is one of Europe’s most important Islamist thinkers. He won joint- appointments at Notre Dame last spring to teach Islamic studies and religion, conflict, and peace-building. A week before arriving Stateside in August, Homeland Security revoked his visa because of a security threat which was neither disclosed nor clarified.
Despite attempts, including petitions signed by the most prominent of US academics working on the ME, the government chose to say and do nothing.

Yesterday it more or less ended with Ramadan resigning his appointments at Notre Dame.

There is a direct and aggressive assault on thought on behalf of the American Empire. The last MESA presidential address by Laurie Brand at the San Franscisco meeting in November cogently argued such a line. When it is published on the web, it will be posted.

Academics, intellectals, and thinkers have for centuries struggled with various types of governments about their ideas. Now the world’s latest Empire has joined the rather poor company of governments that oppose intellectuals.

After 9/11 there was a moment to deepen understanding, spread lines of inquiry, and increase integration. The Bush administration missed the chance by opting for the conservative more long-term detrimental route. Shame on them.

Some of my Egyptian friends happily rushed to say that “America is not allowing Tariq Ramadan to teach there” so as to flaunt the US mistake last fall. Unfortunately, a fact not revealed in the Egyptian press is that Ramadan has not been allowed into Egypt since 1995.
The sad part is that I bet a high majority of Americans do not even know this is going on. Oh….the empire does not have to disclose what is not happening.

It is ok though – these is an ebb in government-intellectual relations. Academic disciplines will continue. Thankfully, hard-working, serious thinkers that push the envelop would not have it any other way….from where ever they find the space and tolerance to practice their trade.

Keep thinking…it pisses them off.

More on AHDR

This is from the NYT today:

Basically, The UN’s version of events coyly supports Friedman’s editorial while the State department is denying the pressure.

From the text of the story:
“A senior State Department official, asking not to be identified, said some officials at the department had made “a couple of inquiries” about when the report would be issued by the development program and whether it would contain a repetition of criticism of administration policies that has been a feature of at least one previous report in the same series.

The official said the inquiries did not amount to criticism, however.”

Another unnamed State department official stated, “”The idea of suppressing a report like this is the last thing on the minds of the administration.”

Issandr is going to talk to Nader Fergani next week so hopefully we will get more on this to see who is lying.
I can report this – In an interview I conducted with Fergani on 8 March 04 in Cairo, we discussed the then hot topic of the GMEI.

He said, ” While the US is leaning on the AHDR for help in developing the plan, they are trying to kill it. Each paragraph begins by citing something from the AHDR, but the US was cutting $12 million from its contribution to the UNDP’s core budget (he said this was approved by congress).” Hence the bureau which publishes the AHDR.

He attributed the financial pressure as US objections to criticism of Israel and American policy; He said Arab states did not have much to say about the AHDR, much less criticism of it.

Fallujah on the silver screen

The Guardian reports:

Hollywood has joined the war. Universal Pictures announced yesterday that it is to make The Battle for Falluja. To prove it is serious, it has enlisted Indiana Jones himself, actor Harrison Ford, to help defeat the insurgency.

The article goes on to say that the movie will tell the story of the Battle of Fallujah from the point of view of US Marines and US politicians.

“The dogs of Ibn Saud”

In what I assume is a response to Monday’s broadcast on Saudi television about the five star treatment inside Saudi penitentiaries, I found this statement on a Saudi Islamist message board today. It is purportedly from prisoners in Alisha Prison in Saudi Arabia, and was posted to Al Qalaa Web site by a group or an individual, called “The Beast of the Peninsula” (Wihish Al Gezira). Here is a partial and very rough translation of their complaints about the conditions inside a Saudi prison, which they say is filled with “oppression, torture, and terror”:

– Sleep deprivation for periods of up 10 to 20 days.
– Prolonged detentions without any investigation, or knowing why they were arrested, or what the charges are against them.
– Forcing prisoners to confess to crimes that they have no connection to, and that there is no evidence of, or any witnesses to. Confessions are extracted under the threat or practice of psychological and physical torture, sleep deprivation, denying visitation rights, or any communications with the outside for months and sometimes over a year.
– Interrogating the wives of wanted men without her male custodian being present, and using bad manners and behavior with them.
– Being beaten, and insulted with dirty words, being bound and blindfolded for upwards of two weeks and not even being allowed to go to the bathroom or pray.
– Putting prisoners in a black box 1.85 m x .90 m, bound and blindfolded, forbidden to say a word. Sleep deprivation to the point of insanity where people actually have had to be transported to the hospital as a result. Some people have spent nearly a year in these cages in order to force confessions.
– Cameras on the prisoners 24 hours a day.
– Bad lighting which hurts the eyesight and causes depression.
– Prisoners in bad health are deprived medical attention.
– No change of clothes or bed linens for long periods of time.
– The prisoner does not get any of his requests no matter how minor unless he carries out prolonged hunger strikes and sit-ins, and then come only empty promises.
– If the prisoner asks to have his case reviewed, or requests to contact his family, he is insulted and intimidated.
– Inmates are terrified with random transfers to other prisons and solitary confinement.

Prisoner Demands:
– Taking action on our cases that have stagnated for a long time without any judicial rulings.
– Allowing us to contact our families to inform them that we are in prison so they can stop worrying, and to allow visits.
– Improve the living and health conditions of the prisoners, and better treatment of the prisoners.
– The investigation of those who have not had their cases examined, and no longer ignoring them in a cell without any access to legal procedures.

A follow-up comment on the same message board reads: “The prisoners of Tel Aviv are better off and there is more concern for them than the dogs of Ibn Saud.”

A few Gamal quotes from Al Misry Al Yom

Today’s Al Misry Al Yom reports that at a press conference yesterday following a meeting of the policies secretariat Gamal Mubarak denied that he spoke on behalf of Egypt during his travels abroad, and insisted he only spoke on behalf of the National Democratic Party.

A quick thought: It seems worth noting the existance of the debate around the acceptable parameters of Gamal Mubarak’s portfolio. It seems that it is not acceptable for him to speak on behalf of Egypt, although, as head of the Policies Secretariat, he can speak on behalf of the NDP. In practice, is there really a difference between the NDP and the government? Mr. Stacher has an interesting theory about the importance of the foreign policy portfolio to Gamal and gang. Perhaps he’ll share it with us.

When asked about Monday’s demonstration against the President, Gamal is quoted as saying: “Every faction of society has the right to express their opinion, whether in Parliament, or in the street, in accordance with the law, and this is a matter we want to stress to the Egyptian people, whether their opinion agrees with the government and the party, or not.”

Smooth talking and saying the right things.

Gamal also added that there would be a dialog with the opposition before the political reform law is submitted to Parliament and that the party has no intention of opposing any constructive ammendments.

So there’s definitely going to be a political reform law? As for the dialog with the opposition bit, it seems pretty hackneyed by this point.

On Israeli-Egyptian relations he had this to say: “We have a vision about our relationships in the Arab world and the neighboring countries, like Israel and Turkey, which indicates that Egypt is committed to a peace agreement, and it has an active role in the region, that it uses to advance its interests and Arab issues.”

This jail is so cosy!

Brian Whitaker has a funny story about how Saudi Arabia had broadcast a documentary about its most famous jail to convince Islamist rebels to turn themselves in:

“I swear to God, they [the jailers] are nicer than our parents,” said Othman al-Amri, once No 21 on the kingdom’s list of most-wanted terror suspects.

The programme, broadcast on Saudi television late on Monday, included brief footage from inside the jail, showing clean facilities and beds lined next to one another.

It signalled a new effort by the authorities to encourage militants to give themselves up and to allay suspicions that they would be ill treated if they did so. But persuading them to opt for al-Haer may prove difficult.

In September at least 67 prisoners died and 20 others were injured, along with three guards, when fire swept through part of the jail.

I think they might not be so easily convinced.

WashPost Editorial

Yesterday the Post published an editorial entitled “Straight Talk”.

It seems to getting some play over here. People keep mentioning it to me.

Frankly, it seems a bit hostile and unrepresentative of the current situation. Also dispite criticizing the US Admin for not financially backing reform, the blame was laid on the regimes.

Also, I am unsure if the whole civil society orgs speaking “in the presence of the regimes while the most powerful nation in the world” watched is all that important or translatable into future reform.

Interested to see what you all think