A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The "Harlem Shake" as a Protest Form in Tunisia and Egypt

There's a quote attributed to the anarchist and revolutionary Emma Goldman: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution." She apparently never exactly said that, but it's a revealing remark.

On the other hand, the latest trend in Arab revolutionary activism seems something else again. The "Harlem Shake," a dance craze that started earlier this month on YouTube, and has joined "Gangnam Style" as something for various groups in various countries to emulate with their own local interpretation, has now created controversy, and some clashes and arrests,  in both Tunisia and Egypt.  The latest move came this afternoon when demonstrators in Cairo announced they would do the Harlem Shake in front of Muslim Brotherhood headquarters, with one explaining:
Abdallah Salman, dressed in a Mickey Mouse mask and an Egyptian galabeya, said he came mainly to “have fun”. He said that after exhausting all the means, he is now resorting to a new way of protesting. “We have tried revolution, marches, strikes, and now we’re trying something new,” Salman added.
Already at least four Egyptian pharmacy students have been arrested, apparently for dancing in their underwear,  while in Tunisia, in Tunis and in Sidi Bouzid, protestors trying to film the dance have clashed with Salafis who consider it immoral.

What to make of all this? Youthful exuberance meeting Islamist puritanism and creating conflict? A new revolutionary tactic or just silliness? I have to admit it doesn't seem to rank up there with storming the Bastille in terms of effectiveness, and especially in a conservative society like Egypt's it may alienate many people.

This is the film that started the controversies in Tunisia:



And here's an Egyptian one filmed at the pyramids:

Ethiopia Elects its Jerusalem Archbishop as New Patriarch

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has elected the Ethiopian Archbishop of Jerusalem, Abune Mathias, as the church's sixth Patriarch, ironically on the same day Pope Benedict XVI stepped down as Catholic Pope.

Although Ethiopia is not generally considered a Middle Eastern country, the church has many historical links with the Middle East; until 1959, Ethiopia was a daughter church of the Coptic church of Egypt, and its heads were appointed by the Church of Alexandria. Coptic Pope Cyril VI in 1959 recognized Ethiopia as an autocephalous church that elects its own patriarch. During the years of Marxist rule in Ethiopia the church suffered considerably. Mathias spent over 30 years in exile.

Mathias had been serving as well as Archbishop of Jerusalem, where Ethiopia maintains an ancient monastery known as the Deir al-Sultan on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. A dispute with the Copts over ownership of the key has meant that the monks there who live in considerable poverty, cannot directly access the church below. The dispute remains a divisive issue between the Churches of Egypt and Ethiopia. [UPDATE: See the exchange in the Comments for more on the Ethiopian church.]

On the Continuing Role of Sufi Shrines in Tunisia

 We've reported on a  number of attacks on Sufi shrines by Islamists in various parts of North Africa, where the veneration of saints is widespread but is anathema to Salafis. Here's a useful recent piece at Tunisia Live on the continuing role of Sufi shrines in that country.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tunisia: Al-Nahda Agrees to Non-Party Control of Security Ministries

Tunisia's Al-Nahda Party has agreed to the appointment of independents without party affiliation to the critical Interior, Foreign, Justice and Defense Ministries. This will could help defuse the political crisis created by the resignation of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali; he had wanted a technocratic Cabinet, but the main demand of the opposition was to remove partisan figures from key internal security post such as Interior and Justice.

The new Cabinet will also expand the coalition from three parties to five. If implemented, the move could relax deepening tensions in the country.

Why Boycotting These (or Any) Egyptian Elections is a Blunder

Those of us Westerners who love Egypt, and believe the Muslim Brotherhood ought not be the sole determinant of the country's future, have in our favor the fact that Morsi and the Brotherhood are making such a massive botch of governance and letting the economy go to hell in a handbasket. Our problem is that the secular opposition, so far, is neither offering a credible alternative or even a loyal opposition: they just complain from the sidelines and denounce everything. If Morsi and company look like the Marx Brothers' approach to governance in Duck Soup, the liberal opposition look like as somewhat bitchy Greek chorus unwilling to soil their gloves by engaging their rivals. Latest evidence: the main Egyptian secular liberal opposition, or at least its most visible symbolic avatar in the West, the National Salvation Front, says it will boycott the Parliamentary elections.

Okay. Your choice. So, what, the Muslim Brotherhood. the Salafi Nour Party,. some other Islamists and various Communists and such will run?

I am increasingly dismayed that the Egyptian secular opposition is dreaming itself into some kind of glorious symbolic realm of utter purity in which it totally alienates even its rather large and significant support base. I believe a united, secular/moderate Islamic opposition could either win or become a serious third force. But not these guys. I think Hamdeen Sabahi and some others with a real following and demonstrated electoral performance deserve more attention than ElBaradei and other darlings of the West, but the secular liberals are really throwing it away.

You fought for a competitive vote. You've got one. You may not trust the count, but all parties are legal and the problems haven't been blatant. Stop complaining about past woes and start organizing to win. Otherwise you're going to lose.  Fair and square.

Oh. and now the National Association for Change, another liberal group, is denouncing "the outright intervention of the United States in Egypt's internal affairs." Because the US has urged the liberals not to boycott the elections. So I guess they won't like this post very much, either.


Hassan Nasrallah Health and/or Death Rumors

The last Hassan al-Nasrallah rumor I ran here  was Haifa Wehbe's denial that she'd once been married to the Hizbullah Secretary-General, or as one great headline put it, "‘I didn’t marry Hezbollah’s leader,’ Lebanese sex-icon says."

Extremely fundamentalist Shi‘ite cleric that he is, I'm sure Nasrallah would have take a "death before dishonor" approach to those rumors, given Haifa Wehbe's low-cut dresses and tendencies for certain parts of her to pop out while cameras are rolling. But the latest round of rumors suggest Nasrallah is in ill health. Hizbullah denies them all,  insisting he's OK and still in Lebanon,  but the rumors, most of which have shown up in the Israeli and/or Turkish press, say he (choose one or more) 1) was flown to Iran suffering from cancer, for treatment; 2) was flown to Iran for treatment of wounds received in an attack by Syrian rebels; 3) is dead of either of the above or something else.

The surest way to prove you're not dying or dead would seem to be a public appearance. Of course he never provided proof he wasn't married to Haifa Wehbe, but ... no. I don't think he needed to. But a public appearance seems essential right now.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On Hagel's Confirmation

Since I try to keep out of US politics on this blog I haven't written about the huge battles over Chuck Hagel's nomination to be Secretary of Defense. I've always admired Hagel, and most of the firestorm over his alleged sentiments towards Iran and Israel were fantasy: the positions attributed to him by some were closer to my own sentiments than his.

I should note that one of the sillier parts of this was the rightwing claim that he had been endorsed by something allegedly called "Friends of Hamas," which doesn't exist. But, of course, because the Internet abhors a vacuum, just because an organization doesn't exist doesn't mean it shouldn't have a website.

And yes, the fact that I linked to something called friendsofhamas.com, even a satirical one, may come back to bite me someday, at least among those who didn't click through.

Tunisia Arrests Four in Belaid Assassination; Says Assassin Being Sought

Tunisian Interior Minister Ali Laarayedh (soon to become Prime Minister) has announced that four people have been arrested in the murder of political figure Chokri Belaid, and that the actual assassin has been identified and is being sought. The conspirators are said to be members of a radical Islamist organization, buy Laarayedh denied claims that Algerians were involved, though he did not rule out that the organization might be part of a larger group.

Further details have not yet been made public.

Ambassador Chris Van Hollen, Sr., Former MEI VP and MEJ Editor

Ambassador Van Hollen
I want to note, belatedly, the passing of Ambassador Christopher Van Hollen, Senior on January 30 at the age of 90. Ambassador Van Hollen, who spent most of his career dealing with South Asia, also served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and as Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and later as a Vice President of the Middle East Institute, and as one of my predecessors as Editor of The Middle East Journal. His son is Representative Chris Van Hollen, Jr. (D-MD),

Born in Baltimore in 1922, the elder Van Hollen served in the Navy during World War II and took a doctorate at Johns Hopkins University. He served in diplomatic posts in India, Pakistan, and Turkey, and was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State during the Bangladesh war of independence. He served as Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives 1972-1976.

After his retirement, Van Hollen served as a Vice President of the Middle Institute in 1988-92. He concurrently served as the fifth Editor of The Middle East Journal in 1991-1992. His 1990 oral history with the Association of Diplomatic Studies and History can be found online.here.


Monday, February 25, 2013

The Growing Discussion of Egypt's Military's Role

Last week I commented on the fact that Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had held meetings without President Morsi; that and other recent military comments, such as Chef of Staff Sedki Sobhi's comments that the Army will stay out of politics, "but sometimes we can help in this problem, we can play this role if the situation became more complicated," have led to speculation that the Army is sending a subtle message to the political forces on both sides to get their acts together.Now some demonstrators have reportedly appeared at the Unknown Soldier Memorial in Nasr City, demonstrating for military rule and denouncing Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Kamal, a former Mubarak supporter, writes at Al-Arabiya on the Army's changing role, though he doesn't call for direct military rule. Zvi Mazel at The Jerusalem Post rites that
"The Egyptian Army is Making a Comeback," and I'm sure many Israelis would welcome such a comeback.

But be careful what you wish for. It's not a surprise when old Mubarak hands (and I suspect many of the Nasr City demonstrators fit that description) or Israelis wistfully yearn for the days of military rule, but some liberals have even been heard to speculate about an Army move. These were the same people shouting "Down with SCAF" at this time last year. Morsi's mistakes and the Muslim Brotherthood's heavy-handedness have alienated many who voted for Morsi last time, and if the opposition could actually unite and find some sort of inspired leadership it might be able to reduce the Brotherhood's strength in the Parliamentary elections. Hint: threatening to boycott is not the way to do this. Neither is yearning for a coup. Give the young democracy a chance to rectify its own errors and replace those who have failed.

I don't think the Army wants back in power: they weren't that good at it. But their warnings to the quarreling factions should be seen as warnings, not as a potential deus ex machina for removing Morsi.

A Chinese Description of the ‘Abbasid Caliphate

 Mondays generally being Mondays, I think it's worth starting the week with something a little different, and so today I start with a Chinese Tang Dynasty description of the ‘Abbasid Caliphate. This appeals to the medievalist trapped inside me (my doctoral dissertation was on early ‘Abbasid Egypt), and also is a useful reminder that even while early Arab geographers were writing early accounts of China, the Chinese were returning the favor.

I discovered the story through the wonderful Algerian linguistics blogger (and fairly recent SOAS Ph.D.) Lameen Souag, via this post on "Ya-chü-lo" (Kufa) and other confusing transcriptions," at his Jabal al-Lughat blog. Lameen's posts at that blog are usually about Arabic, Berber, and Songhay and other Saharan languages (his research field); his only real fault is he posts too rarely, though he also has a blog on الأصول التاريخية للدارجة الجزائرية ("Historical Sources of Algerian Colloquial Arabic"; posts are in Arabic and French), and is also a contributor to the Oriental Berber blog specializing in the Berber/Tamazight dialects of Libya and the Siwi of Egypt. So I guess I shouldn't complain.

Lameen's post is mostly commenting on some of the curiosities of the Chinese transcriptions of Arabic place names, but it served as well as my introduction to the description in question. Before I move on to that description, Lameen poses a question on a Chinese term that is supposedly a title of the Caliph; I have no ideas, but if any of my readers do, please go to Lameen's blog and post them. (Quote contains Chinese and International Phonetic Alphabet characters which may not display in all browsers)
mo-shou: 摩首 mwâśǝ́w – no idea what this alleged title of the caliphs might be; probably not Arabic, so maybe Persian? Any ideas?
Back to the Chinese source.  The source is a Tang dynasty encyclopedia called Tongdian, dated to AD 801, and the text describing the ‘Abbasid Empire is based on an account by a Chinese soldier, named Tu Huan, captured at the Battle of Talas in 751 AD. That marked the point where the Muslim Caliphate, just taken over by the ‘Abbasids, was expanding eastward into Transoxiana and encountered the armies of the Tang, engaged in the westernmost expansion of the Chinese Empire. The battle was in the Talas Valley in what is today Kyrgyzstan or perhaps just over the border with Kazakhstan. The Chinese soldier spent time as a prisoner in the Caliphate at a time Kufa was still the ‘Abbasid capital. (Al-Mansur founded Baghdad in 762 AD, the year Tu Huan returned to China.)

The original Chinese text is here. My knowledge of Chinese is virtually nil, confined to a few phrases  learned when adopting my daughter in Hunan, and no reading capability, but Lameen links to an English translation. I'm unclear about the copyright status of the translation, so I'll urge you to read it there, with this excerpt as bait:
During the Yung-hui reign period (650-56) of the Great T'ang, the Arabs (Ta-shih) sent an embassy to the court to present tribute. It is said that their country is west of Persia (Po-ssu). Some [also] say that in the beginning there was a Persian who supposedly had the help of a spirit in obtaining edged weapons [with which] he killed people, subsequently calling for all the Persians who came and, according to their rank as mo-shou, were transformed into kings. After this the masses gradually gave their allegiance, and subsequently Persia was extinguished and Byzantium (Fulin) was crushed, as were also Indian cities; [the Arabs] were everywhere invincible. Their soldiers numbered 420,000 and by this time their state was 34 years old. When the original king had died, his office passed to the first mo-shou, and now the king was the third mo-shou; the royal surname is Tu-shih.
The men of this country have noses that are large and long, and they are slender and dark with abundant facial hair like the Indians; the women are graceful. [The Arabs] also have literature that is different from that of Persia. They raise camels, horses, donkeys, mules, and sheep. The soil is all sandy and stony, unfit for cultivation and without the five grains. All they have to eat is the flesh of camels and elephants. After having crushed Persia and Byzantium, for the first time they had rice and flour. They solemnly worship a celestial spirit.
For Ta-shih,  which is the Chinese word given here for Arabs; itis derived from Tajik, though that word usually meant "Persian" in Central Asia, it originally derived from the name for the Arabic tribe of Tayy. (Early Syriac chroniclers usually called the Arab invaders Tayaye. For more, see here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Purim Greetings

Purim in Jerusalem (Wikipedia)
Greetings to my Jewish readers on the occasion of Purim, which begins tomorrow at sunset. Chag Purim Sameach.

Copts, Others Criticize Egypt's Election Schedule

 Update: belatedly recognizing the gaffe, the Presidency is moving the first round up in order to avoid the Coptic feasts.

Yesterday's announcement of a four-stage (plus four runoffs!) Egyptian electoral schedule has raised eyebrows; it is far more unwieldy than even the last Parliamentary elections; voting would begin April 27-28 with the last round of runoffs not ending until June 26-27. One widespread criticism is that such long, stretched-out schedules, combined with a complex electoral system may deter participation; th8s criticism is often made by those who suspect the authorities may want to keep turnout down.

One predictable complaint is coming from Copts, who noted (as I did in my post yesterday), thaat the first weekend of voting coincides with Eastern Palm Sunday (April 28), with the runoff on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday (May 4 and 5). The first round of the elections include the governorates of Cairo, Beheira, Minya, Port Said, and North Sinai; of these, Cairo, Minya, and Beheira have appreciable Christian populations, so naturally,there is concern that the timing is intended to discourage Copts from voting.

At the very least, the timing seems another instance of the Morsi Administration's tin ear when it come to minority issues; if it isn't deliberate, it suggests a failure to note the religious holidays.

Ahram Online spells out the whole schedule:
The first round of voting will be on 27 and 28 April and will take place in Cairo, Beheira, El-Minya, Port Said and North Sinai. If runoffs are necessary, they will take place on 4 and 5 May. 
The second round will be on 15 and 16 May in Giza, Alexandria, Sohag, Beni Suef, Aswan, Suez, Red Sea and New Valley. If runoffs are necessary there, they will take place on 22 and 23 May. 
The third round will be on 2 and 3 June in Daqahliyah, Qaluibiya, Menufiya, Qena, Damietta, Luxor, Matrouh and South Sinai. If runoffs are necessary there, they will take place on 22 and 23 May.
The final round will be on 19 and 20 June in Sharqiya, Gharbiya, Assiut, Kafr El-Sheikh, Fayoum and Ismailia. If runoffs are necessary there, they will take place 26 and 27 June.

Nahda Picks Hardliner for Prime Minister

Ali Laarayedh
Tunisia's al-Nahda Party has chosen a hardliner, Interior Minister Ali Laarayedh, as its candidate for Prime Minister in the wake of the resignation of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, the Party's Secretary-General.Al-Nahda holds a plurality of seats in the Constituent Assembly.

Laarayedh, who spent some 14 years in prison in the Ben Ali years, has been criticized for his Interior Ministry allegedly doing too little to stop Salafi violence against secularists. The nomination is being criticized by liberals and seems likelier to exacerbate the current political crisis than to resolve it.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Egyptian Elections to Begin April 27-28, Run into June

Egypt will hold its Parliamentary elections beginning April 27-28 and they will be held in four stages. They had been expected sometime in April, though the four rounds will men the results will stretch into early June. The new Parliament will convene July 6.

The decree by President Morsi came after the Shura Council, the Upper House currently legislating in the absence of a lower House, agreed to amendments to the electoral law that had been demanded by the Supreme Constitutional Court.

April 28, the weekend of the first round,  will be Coptic Palm Sunday. (Eastern Easter this year is over a month later than Western Easter.)



Ya Sheikh, Those Were the Days ...

As Egypt becomes more Islamist, some of the online Egypt nostalgia sites seem to be remembering fewer monarchs and more cheesecake. With belly-dancing, booze, and bikinis in the gun-sights of the powers that be, who can blame them? Ras al-Bar, a beach near Damietta on the Mediterranean, 1959:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

SCAF Meeting Without Morsi: No Subtle Messages Here

 "Egypt's SCAF holding meetings in president's absence: Military Sources."  The article appears in Ahram Online, and Al-Ahram is the flagship of the state-owned media.
Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been meeting without its nominal head, President Mohamed Morsi, to discuss domestic developments amid concerns over Egypt's ongoing political crisis, military sources told Ahram Online Wednesday.
In the president's absence, sources say, such gatherings do not technically qualify as official SCAF meetings. "They are more like consulting sessions in which the military leadership compares notes and discusses issues of concern," said one source.
According to these sources, who spoke on strict condition of anonymity, recent tensions between the presidency and the military were prompted by this recent round of meetings, in which some SCAF members voiced concern over national development and the viability of the central government.
Oh, that's all right then. No subtle message being sent when this appears in the state's flagship paper? Of course not:
A SCAF meeting with the president two weeks ago ended inconclusively when the latter demanded the army's help in containing mass demonstrations in Egypt's three canal cities (Port Said, Suez and Ismailia).
Sources stress that the SCAF's position on the issue remains the same: that the army is not prepared to intervene in current political developments unless the situation spirals dangerously out of control.
The trouble in Port Said is continuing, potentially threatening Canal revenues.
This position has been publicly stated repeatedly by both El-Sisi and Army Chief-of-Staff Sedki Sobhi.
"The army is not intervening in [political] developments and, in fact, dreads the idea of reassuming any political responsibility," said another military source. "But at the same time, it's our responsibility to be prepared for all possible scenarios."
No hidden messages there. They even dread the idea.

Nahda Sticks By Jebali, Who is Sticking By His Demands (Which Nahda Opposes)

In the wake of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali's resignation, his party, al-Nahda, says "they would continue to support him as prime minister if he agrees to hold the position." Bear in mind that "continue to support him" may mean something different in this case than it would in other political systems, because it was his own party's rejection of his plan for a technocratic government that led to his resignation. What al-Nahda may be trying to say here is that they had no Plan B.

Jebali seems to be engaged in a showdown with the party; his conditions for continuing include some sort of technocratic Cabinet and setting the specific date for early general elections, due this year anyway. Jebali also has called for resolving the deadlock over the new constitution. Talks between Nahda leader Rached Ghannouchi and President Moncef Marzouki produced no solution, and at the moment there seems to be a shortage of alternative candidates.



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

70 Years Ago: US Disaster at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia

Previous posts about the 70th anniversary of the North African campaign have seemed fairly straightforward; the American landings in Morocco and Algeria (Operation Torch) faced limited resistance from Vichy French forces, which soon came around to the point that Roosevelt and Churchill could meet in Casablanca.

But however easy Morocco and Algeria had been, Tunisia was to prove a different matter entirely, where the opponent would be not Vichy but th4e Wehrmacht. After the Torch landings the Germans had sent General von Arnim's Vth Panzer Army to Tunisia; as the British Eighth Army under Montgomery advanced westward after the victory at El Alamein and took Tripoli, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel fell back to a fortified line known as the Mareth Line in southern Tunisia. Tunisia had become a fortified bastion of the Afrika Corps.
US Infantry in Kasserine Pass
The US Army, though already tested in the Pacific, had not yet met the Germans in battle in this war. The British had doubts about the Americans' readiness to fight. The first test came at Kasserine Pass in the Tunisian Atlas. It would be a disaster.

Early clashes at Faid and Sidi Bouzid showed the German Panzers were far better armed than the light American tanks; poorly led and poorly trained infantry and vulnerability of the tanks led to a US withdrawal to the line of the Western Dorsale.

On February 19, 70 years ago today, Rommel struck the Americans in an attempt to break through Kasserine Pass and penetrate into Algeria. British, American, and Free French troops were all engaged along the front, with the US holding the pass.

After several days of running battle with allied forces falling back several times, Rommel ultimately found himself blocked and fell back. But the Allies had been poorly led and failed to coordinate well; the US troops probed ill-equipped and under-trained, and though the Germans failed to break through into Algeria, the lsses tell the story: 10,000 Allied casualties, 6,500 of them American (German and Italian casualties were around 2,000); the loss of 183 Allied tanks to only 34 German tanks, etc.

Though British Lt. Gen. Kenneth Anderson had overall command of the Allied forces, US II Corps commander Maj. Gen. Lloyd Fredendall received most of the blame. He was sent home to take over a training command in the US (though poor training was already an issue) and did not hold any further combat command.

Those who have seen the 1970 film Patton may recall that in one of the opening scenes, Omar Bradley visits the battlefield at Kasserine. After Fredendall's relief, he was replaced by George S. Patton, who had been in Morocco, socializing with the Sultan and wishing for  a fight. Before March was over, Patton would beat a German force at El Guettar. Montgomery and 8th Army pushed through the Mareth lines, and a reorganized and revitalized Allied command structure reversed the disasters at Kasserine. Tunis fell in May.


Jebali Resigns

After failing to persuade the major political players (including his own al-Nahda Party) to support his proposal for a technocratic Cabinet, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has resigned. He says he has no intention of seeking another position. He had promised to resign if he failed.

Now what? The Prime Minister's resignation now forces the issue of creating a new coalition, something that has also eluded the parties.

WP Writes About UAE Aid to Joplin, Missouri (My Home Town)

This blog is not about me and isn't a personal hobbyhorse, but back in 2011 I thought it relevant to note (since it would clearly affect my blogging) that my home town of Joplin, Missouri had been devastated by an F5 tornado. Last year, somebody burned down the Joplin mosque, the only one in Southwest Missouri, and I considered that worthy of this blog; as I did the encouraging degree to which the local churches and synagogue rallied round to help rebuild.

Joplin actually made the front page of the Washington Post yesterday, probably for the first time since the tornado, in a major feature about how the United Arab Emirates has been helping rebuild the town,  providing millions for a new neonatal intensive care unit for the new Mercy Hospital now under construction (Mercy's predecessor, Saint John's Regional Medical Center, Joplin's largest hospital, was destroyed by the tornado), as well as providing 2,200 Apple laptops to the students of Joplin High School (also destroyed and now meeting in temporary quarters, partly at the Mall). The article's online version also has a photo gallery/slideshow.

This is good news for Joplin and, of course, good PR for the UAE; I doubt if very many Joplin folks have ever been in the UAE (hey, this one has!), and Joplin usually only makes it into the Washingyon Post for bad news (like being destroyed by a tornado), and rarely onto the front page. So good for Joplin and very good for the Emirates. If they keep doing this kind of thing I won't complain if Dubai builds another indoor ski slope. Bravo.

Really Helpful Highway Signs ...



This almost makes sense until you think about it ... Apparently Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Ashdod (hardly all close to each other) are not included among "all destinations?". . . (Nor are Tel Aviv and Haifa, at least, minor destinations). . . (Hat Tip to Ami Kaufman of +972 Magazine.)

Admittedly,some highway signs in DC are pretty obscure when you consider how many tourists come here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Three-Day Weekend; George Washington Writes the Sultan of Morocco

This will be a three-day weekend in the US, for the President's Day holiday. As usual I'll check in if needed, but routine blogging will return Tuesday. The holiday represents a merger of Lincoln's birthday (Feb. 12), for which I've already posted a relevant historical post, and George Washington's birthday. So here's a relevant Washington link: Background here; text here.


    Letter from George Washington to  Muhammed Ibn Abdullah - Sultan of Morocco                                                               
    City of New York December 1, 1789

    Great and Magnanimous Friend,
           Since the date of the letter which the late Congress, by their President, addressed to your Imperial Majesty, The United States of America have thought proper to change  their government and institute a new one, agreeable to the Constitution, of which I have the honor, herewith, to enclose a copy. The time necessarily employed in the arduous  task, and the disarrangements occasioned by so great though peaceable a revolution, will apologize, and account for your Majesty’s not having received those regularly advised marks of attention from the United States which the friendship and magnanimity of your conduct toward them afforded reason to expect.
           The United States, having unanimously appointed me to supreme executive authority in this Nation. Your Majesty’s letter of August 17, 1788, which by reason of the     dissolution of the late-government, remained unanswered, has been delivered to me. I have also received the letters which Your Imperial Majesty has been so kind as to  write, in favor of the United States, to the Bashaws of Tunis and Tripoli, and I present to you the sincere acknowledgements and thanks of the United States for this important  mark of your friendship for them.
           We greatly regret the hostile disposition of those regencies toward this nation, who have never injured them, is not to be removed, on terms of our power to comply with. 
           Within our territories there are no mines, wither of gold or silver, and this young nation just recovering from the waste and dissolution of a long war, have not, as yet, had time to acquire riches by agriculture and commerce. But our soil is bountiful, and our people industrious, and we have reason to flatter ourselves that we shall gradually become useful to our friends.
           The encouragement which Your Majesty has been pleased, generously, to give to our commerce with your dominions, the punctuality with which you have caused the Treaty with us to be observed, and the just and generous measures taken in the case of Captain Proctor, make a deep impression on the United States and confirm their respect for and attachment to Your Imperial Majesty.
           It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity of assuring Your Majesty that, while I remain at the head of this nation, I shall not cease to promote every measure that may conduce to the friendship and harmony which so happily subsist between your Empire and them, and shall esteem myself happy in every occasion of convincing Your Majesty of the high sense (which in common with the whole nation) I entertain the magnanimity, wisdom and benevolence of Your Majesty.
           May the Almighty bless Your Imperial Majesty, our Great and Magnanimous friend, with His constant guidance and protection.  
                                                                                              - George Washington

Muhammad Naguib and His Dog, in the Former President's Last Days

Naguib as President
We've talked before about Egypt's first President, Muhammad Naguib; after Gamal Abdel Nasser supplanted him in 1954 he became a nonperson, under house arrest for years; though he was allowed to re-emerge under Anwar Sadat, though he remained in obscurity while Sadat was President. After Mubarak came to power in 1981, he emerged more publicly, publishing a memoir in 1984, the year he died. Today he is honored as the least authoritarian of Egypt's first four Presidents, and a Metro subway station was named for him, though a local one,while Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak got major hub stations. (Mubarak station is now called Martyrs' station.) Above is a photo I hadn't seen of Naguib in old age, with his dog.

I knew there was something I liked about Naguib. He's a dog guy.


Late Postings Today

A lot of interviews today: postings will be sparse and possibly not till evening.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day* (*Wish Not Valid in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia or Where Prohibited by Law)

Happy Valentine's Day to all my readers, and I hope all of you are able to spend it with a loved one. (If you have no significant other, I hope you meet one today.) This offer does not apply, at least officially, to readers in those Middle Eastern or other countries which have already banned Valentine's day. At last count this includes Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia. In Saudi Arabia the religious police in the past have even banned the color red at this time of year. They insist it's a Christian holiday (hey, Saint Valentine) and red is its symbol.

I hope those of you young lovers (and us older ones too) who can, will celebrate and enjoy yourselves publicly with your loved one where public demonstrations of affection are still legal.

If you're somewhere where it's not, I guess you will just have to find some way to celebrate in private, behind closed doors.

Use your imagination. I'm sure you'll manage to think of something.

Egypt's New Grand Mufti: "Brotherhoodization" Deferred?

For the first time Egypt has chosen its new chief Mufti by election by a board of senior clerics. Contrary to many fears, a senior Muslim Brothrthood figure endorsed by the MB was not chosen. Two useful readings: the indispensable Nathan Brown in "Egypt's New Mufti," emphasizing that this is just the beginning if a long struggle over religious leadership, and Issandr El Amrani, writing at the New York Times' Latitude blog, on "Goodbye Pope, Hello Mufti."

Between them, I think they cover the ground,


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Senior IRGC Commander Killed (in Syria?)

Iran has announced that a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander, Haj Hassan Shateri, has been killed "by Zionist agents" "outside Iran." While one of the reports says he was in charge of "reconstruction efforts in Lebanon," the fact that the commander of the IRGC Quds force, the force responsible for overseas operations, offered condolences to the family suggests a more operational responsibility, and there are reports saying he was killed in Syria. If so, the "Zionist agents" claim is likely diversionary. While Israeli agents have no live for IRGC commanders, there have been allegations of IRGC forces providing support for the Asad regime in the Syrian conflict. That seems at first glance to be the likeliest explanation here.

Photos from the Egyptian Expedition to Maximilian's Mexico

Last fall I posted about a little-known Egyptian military adventure in the New World, "A Sudanese-Egyptian Battalion in Maximilian's Mexico," when Egypt was persuaded to provide a battalion of mostly Sudanese troops to support France's ill-fated efforts to make a Hapsburg the Emperor of Mexico. The illustrations I managed to dredge up were mostly old woodcuts and such. Now, however, a nostalgia site on Facebook has come up with a gallery of photos. The caption reads "Egyptian-Sudanese Battalion [katiba] in Mexico, 1863." I can't verify anything beyond that.

Beheading al-Ma‘ari

Abu al-‘Alaa' al-Ma‘ari (AD 973-1058) is recognized as a great poet and philosopher of the classical age in Islam. He came from Ma‘arat al-Nu‘man in northwestern Syria. He was also known as a freethinker who criticized religious dogmatism and was critical of most religions, including Islam, a position he was able to maintain a thousand years ago and still live into his 80s.

At least some residents of Ma‘arat al-Nu‘man are apparently less tolerant today. The town, in Idlib province,  is now held by Syrian rebels, presumably including some Islamists who were unhappy with the town's most famous son. Someone has beheaded the statue of al-Ma‘ari.Some are accusing Jabhat al-Nusra.

I don't really have any comment here, other than the man's work will survive and someday the town may again choose to commemorate him. Denying the past (or worse, punishing the long-dead?) is simply vandalism.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

For Lincoln's Birthday: Flap Over Confederates Seized in Tangier, 1862

Today is Abraham Lincoln's 204th birthday, as Americans used to know before Lincoln's birthday (February 12) and Washington's (February 22) were merged into a generic "President's Day." The US Civil War generally didn't involve the Middle East (though as I've noted in  "Stone Pasha and the Khedive Ismail's Yanks and Rebs," officers from both sides were actively recruited into the Egyptian Army after the war, and one became the Egyptian Chief of Staff under Khedives Ismail and Tawfiq.) But I thought today we'd focus on one diplomatic incident that did engage some of Lincoln's attention: the arrest by the US Consul in Tangier of two Confederates visiting that Moroccan city in February 1862, 151 years ago this month. It isnt well known but in addition to the Union, the Confederacy, and the Sultanate of Morocco, it also managed to draw in the British and French consuls and home governments.

As I noted a while back, on December 20, 1777, the Sultan of Morocco issued a decree allowing ships flying the new American flag to trade freely at Moroccan ports, which is sometimes seen as the first foreign state to recognize American independence. (The Dutch East Indies had already saluted the flag, but formal recognition by the Home Dutch Government was later.) It wasn't until 1779 that the Americans (who were busy fighting Redcoats) actually noticed, after Ben Franklin in Paris called their attention to it and the Sultan (Franklin called him "the Emperor") had been asking. Finally in 1786 a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was signed, the Treaty of Marrakesh. Morocco never asked the US for tribute and avoided the conflicts its neighbors faced in the Barbary Wars. An American Consulate was established in Tangier, and in 1821 the Sultan gave the US the building which has since been the consulate (until 1956, the US' main diplomatic post in Tangier). It's said to be the oldest US diplomatic property still in use.

Against this background (and then as now the Moroccans were proud of their priority as American allies), in early 1862 the Consulate in Tangier became entangled in a messy diplomatic dispute over the seizure of two Confederate agents. Tangier was, at the time, under the typical sort of foreign concession under which European consuls (including the US as honorary Europeans) had legal jurisdiction over their nationals. And Morocco recognized the United States of America, and unlike many European states had not declared neutrality in the American war, so Confederate States citizens had no standing.

Also important background: the United States had just resolved a major crisis with Great Britain known as the Trent Affair, in which an American naval captain, acting on his own, intercepted a British ship at sea and removed two Confederate agents, Mason and Slidell, who were en route to London and Paris respectively. The British reacted with threats of war, including a buildup of troops in Canada, and Lincoln, saying he could fight only one war at a time, had to release the Confederate agents. That was resolved in January; in February a US consul in Morocco created a new, if lesser, diplomatic problem along the same lines.
CSS Sumter Running the Blockade, 1861
The Confederate States Ship CSS Sumter was the first of the Confederate Commerce Raiders. She ran the blockade in New Orleans in 1861 (picture), raided US merchantmen off Cuba and Martinique and in the Atlantic, capturing a significant number, and then put into Cadiz. Damaged and unable to refuel in Spain, she made for the neutral British port of Gibraltar.

Pursuing US vessels stood outside the territorial limit, in effect blockading her in Gibraltar; she was in need of repairs and still denied coal.

Raphael Semmes, CSA Navy
Thomas Tate Tunstall
Now the captain of the Sumter was Commander Raphael Semmes, who within the next two years would become the most famous of Confederate naval heroes as the Captain of the CSS Alabama. Besieged in Gibraltar, Semmes hit upon the idea of sending two agents across the Strait to Tangier, to buy a Moroccan ship carrying coal and sail it to Gibraltar to refuel Sumter. The two men were his own ship's paymaster, Lt. Henry Myers, a Georgian, and an Alabamian living in Cadiz, Thomas Tate Tunstall (usually called Tom Tate Tunstall), who had been US Consul in Cadiz until President Lincoln removed him for his Confederate sympathies. The two men took a French vessel to Tangier. Somehow (Tunstall later blamed two American missionaries on the same ship who had overheard conversations), their mission became known to the Union.

LT Henry Myers, CSN
 (Also, Semmes at the time claimed they were sightseeing in Tangier en route to Cadiz from Gibraltar. Tunstall acknowledged the real mission after the war.)

In any event, someone reported the two Confederates' presence in Tangier. The US Consul at the time, James DeLong, deciding that the Sumter had essentially been engaged in piracy, that Tunstall was a former US diplomat and Myers a defector from the US Navy, decided to have them arrested. Using his consular privilege he got the Moroccan authorities to arrest them and deliver them to the consulate, where they were quite literally clapped in irons.

US Consul James DeLong
The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies,one of the main sources I've drawn from in this account, includes an extensive correspondence by an outraged Semmes. He appealed to the British in Gibraltar, who had little to gain from the fight and not only declared neutrality but in delivering Semmes' complaint to Morocco gave the Moroccans what Semmes saw as carte blanche.
 
He then tried the French, since the two captives had debarked from a French ship and, in his view, should have had French consular protection. He wrote to Confederate agents Mason in London and Slidell in Paris, but to little avail. The naval supply ship USS Ino sailed to Tangier to take custody of the captives. There were extensive protests by the European trading community in Tangier, and reportedly the Ino's commander had to draw his sword to the crowd to bring them aboard, still in irons.

To add insult to injury, the Ino sailed first to Algeciras, within full view of Semmes aboard the crippled Sumter in Gibraltar across the bay. It then took them to Cadiz, where another US vessel took them to Boston.

Semmes' efforts, however, did have some eventual effect. The French government eventually complained; pressure from other consulates reportedly led to some questions in Morocco, and there were murmurings in the British Parliament.  Perhaps as a result, Lincoln (while not disavowing the arrests as in the Trent Affair), ordered that the captives be considered not as Americans arrested for treason but as prisoners of war. Lt. Myers was accordingly exchanged for a Union POW in Confederate hands, and Tunstall, the civilian, allowed to return to the South.

Tunstall, however, immediately began a career as a blockade runner, was captured, and this time his captors insisted he could only be paroled if he agreed to stay abroad for the duration. He did.

Interestingly, though, Tunstall after the war again served as a US Consul: President Cleveland sent him to El Salvador, where the Spanish he had learned in Cadiz was of use.

Lincoln didn't apologize, but in March, 1862, a few weeks after all this, he did relieve James DeLong as US Consul in Tangier, the man who started it all. I suspect he wished he hadn't been quite so proactive.

Note on sources: I'm drawing this from multiple sources, including Semmes' memoirs, biographies of him and obituaries of Tunstall, the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, etc. I can't cite them all here.

Women Fighting Back: An Illustration

This photo was posted to Facebook by a "Revolutionary youth of Kafr al-Dawwar" site (Kafr al-Dawwar is an Egyptian city near Alexandria) and is pretty clearly Egyptian but that's all I really know as to the source: caption says he told her to go home because her head was "naked' and her face was revealed, and she responded by hitting him in the face with a shoe. Good for her anyway whoever and wherever she may be.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Egypt Two Years After Mubarak

Two years ago today, Husni Mubarak stepped down. The immediate thrill of revolutionary victory was soon tempered by a heavy-handed and often incompetent military council, and since the elections by a heavy-handed and often incompetent elected government and a growing disconnect between secularists and Islamists, each in their way denying the other's claim to legitimacy. I love Egypt but also reject the idea that nothing has changed, or that Morsi is just a warmed-over Mubarak. (And if he is, he's one you elected.)

So, repeating my post of two years ago today, remembering that for 5000 years the Nile has united the country, and remembering the poet's words (below), the national anthem:

From Wikipedia, the lyrics in English, Arabic, and transliterated Arabic (compared to the sung version on the video, the second and third verses are flipped and the last verse differs in a couple of lines):

My country, my country, my country.
You have my love and my heart.
My country, my country, my country,
You have my love and my heart.

Egypt! O mother of all lands,
My hope and my ambition,
And on all people
Your Nile has countless graces

My homeland, my homeland, my homeland,
My love and my heart are for thee.
My homeland, my homeland, my homeland,
My love and my heart are for thee.

Egypt! Most precious jewel,
A pearl on the brow of eternity!
O my homeland, be for ever free,
Safe from every foe!

My country, my country, my country,
My love and my heart are for thee.
My country, my country, my country,
My love and my heart are for thee.

Egypt, land of bounties
You are filled with the ancient glory
My purpose is to repel the enemy
And on God I rely

My homeland, my homeland, my homeland,
My love and my heart are for thee.
My homeland, my homeland, my homeland,
My love and my heart are for thee.

Egypt! Noble are thy children,
Loyal, and guardians of the reins.
Be we at war or peace
We will sacrifice ourselves for you, my country.

My homeland, my homeland, my homeland,
My love and my heart are for thee.


بلادي بلادي بلادي
لكِ حبي و فؤادي
بلادي بلادي بلادي
لك حبي و فؤادي

مصر يا أم البلاد
انت غايتي والمراد
وعلى كل العباد
كم لنيلك من اياد

بلادي بلادي بلادي
لكِ حبي و فؤادي
بلادي بلادي بلادي
لكِ حبي و فؤادي

مصر انت أغلى درة
فوق جبين الدهر غرة
يا بلادي عيشي حرة
واسلمي رغم الأعادي

بلادي بلادي بلادي
لكِ حبي و فؤادي
بلادي بلادي بلادي
لك حبي و فؤادي

مصر يا أرض النعيم
سدت بالمجد القديم
مقصدى دفع الغريم
وعلى الله اعتمادى

بلادي بلادي بلادي
لكِ حبي و فؤادي
بلادي بلادي بلادي
لك حبي و فؤادي

مصر اولادك كرام
أوفياء يرعوا الزمام
نحن حرب وسلام
وفداكي يا بلادي

بلادي بلادي بلادي
لك حبي و فؤادي

Bilādī, bilādī, bilādī
Lakī ḥubbī wa fū’ādī
Bilādī, bilādī, bilādī
Lakī ḥubbī wa fū’ādī

Miṣr yā umm al-bilād
Anti ghāyatī wal-murād
Wa ‘alá kull al-‘ibad
Kam liNīlik min āyād

Bilādī, bilādī, bilādī
Lakī ḥubbī wa fū’ādī
Bilādī, bilādī, bilādī
Lakī ḥubbī wa fū’ādī

Misr Anti Aghla Durra
Fawqa Gabeen Ad-dahr Ghurra
Ya Biladi 'Aishi Hurra
Wa Aslami Raghm-al-adi.

Bilādī, bilādī, bilādī
Lakī ḥubbī wa fū’ādī
Bilādī, bilādī, bilādī
Lakī ḥubbī wa fū’ādī

Misru ya Ardi-nna`eem
Sudti bil majdil-qadeem
Maqsidee daf`ul-ghareem
Wa `ala-llahi-`timaadi.

Bilādī, bilādī, bilādī
Lakī ḥubbī wa fū’ādī
Bilādī, bilādī, bilādī
Lakī ḥubbī wa fū’ādī

Misr Awladik Kiram
Aufiya Yar'u-zimam
Nahnu harbu'n wa' salam
Wa fidakee ya bilādī.

Bilādī, bilādī, bilādī
Lakī ḥubbī wa fū’ādī

Political Situation in Tunisia Remains Muddled

The confused political situation in Tunisia seems increasingly muddled. Prime Minister Djebali still favors a technocratic Cabinet; his own Nahda Party nhas rejected that. President Moncef Marzouki's Congress for the Republic (CPR) said late last week it would quite the government; today it says it will stay for one ore week giving it time for a Cabinet reshuffle (it wants two ministers dropped). The CPR also opposes the idea of a technocratic Cabinet, because it could lead to the return of figures from the former regime.

It's possible, as some reports suggest, that there is a real chance of a negotiated reshuffle being agreed to, but the growing polarization between Islamists and secularists raises the specter of an Egyptian-style standoff. Neither country can sustain an extended political deadlock given the deepening economic problems in each.



Claudius Labib: A Would-Be Coptic Ben-Yehuda

Claudius Labib
During my pre-vacation blogging last summer I did a three-part report on the question of why Coptic died out except as a liturgical language, while Aramaic survived in isolated pockets as a spoken (if threatened) language today: you can find that series here: Parts 1 , 2, and 3.

In Part 3 I remarked towards the end, referring to Coptic:
While there have been attempts to revive it as a spoken language, like most other such attempts at revival for national or religious reasons (Welsh among non-native speakers, Irish outside the Gaeltacht), has had only limited success. People already speak Arabic, the language needed for daily life. The great exception in the history of language revival, Hebrew in Israel, remains exceptional because there was no other common language to turn to.
Today I want to talk about the man behind the main effort to revive Coptic, Claudius Labib. I've previously posted about Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who almost single-handedly forged modern Hebrew (few towns in Israel lack a Ben-Yehuda street) an restored an ancient language. As I noted in the quote above, he had the advantage that the Jewish diaspora returning to Palestine had no single language in common.

Labib dreamed of reviving Coptic, but faced a huge problem; every Egyptian Copt already spoke Arabic, so he faced the problem that those seeking to revive dead (Manx, Cornish) or shrinking (Irish, many Native American languages) face: competing with the dominant tongue essential to daily life. Most Copts knew no Coptic, save for some liturgical responses or hymns; Jewish males had to learn at least enough Hebrew for prayers and their bar mitzvah reading. It's still something of a miracle that Ben-Yehuda succeeded; it's little surprise that Labib failed.

But as I started to write about Labib I was struck by the parallels with Ben-Yehuda: they were nearly exact contemporaries, for one: Ben-Yehuda 1858-1922, Labib 1868-1918. Both were lexicographers, providing important dictionaries of the languages they sought to revive. Both sought to persuade or compel their own families to speak only the chosen language, though in Ben-Yehuda's case this caused serious problems.

There's not a lot in English on Labib: this post of a short biography and bibliography is most of it, and the source of the photo above. More links in Arabic can be found here. You can find at the first link many of his publication, including online versions of the five extant parts of his never completed Coptic-Arabic lexicon, grammars of Coptic (he favored his own variant now sometimes called the "Claudian" dialect), works on Coptic words surviving in Arabic, etc. He wrote mostly in Arabic or (naturally) Coptic, but some of his works are in French. I refer you particularly to the first link for the fullest information on the man.

Ironically his son, Pahor Labib, has a Wikipedia English entry while Claudius does not. Pahor was a prominent Egyptologist and Coptologist who ran Cairo's Coptic Museum from 1951 to 1965.

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Little Nostalgia for the Weekend: Farouq as a Boy

The future King Farouq as a boy, with his sisters:

Craziest Denial of the Week: Haifa Wehbe Did Not Marry Hassan Nasrallah

Or maybe of the year: "I didn't marry Hezbollah's leader, Lebanese sex-icon says."
Did Not Marry Hassan Nasrallah
"Lebanese super star Haifa Wehbe denied on Thursday reports spread earlier saying that she was married to Hezbollah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah during her adolescent years.
"Haifa criticized media outlets that carried the alleged rumor, saying: “Next time they will make me marry Obama,” as quoted by the official website of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.
Did Not Marry Haifa Wehbe
"Several local news media outlets quoted Haifa telling the Voice of Russia radio station that she was married to Nasrallah when she was an adolescent."
I really can't make any snarky comments that could surpass the headline itself. So I won't.


As Women Fight Back in Tahrir, TV Sheikh Explains they are "Crusaders" with "Fuzzy Hair" Who "Want to Be Raped."

Now, there have been some "crazy sheikh/crazy fatwa" stories where I've debunked or at least questioned the story, but every so often a real Salafi says something so incredibly offensive and ourageous that to call him a Neanderthal would be a slur on homo neanderthalensis. This is one of those times.

Salafi preacher Ahmad Mahmud Abdullah, known as "Sheikh Abu Islam," has his own "Umma" TV station in Egypt. On Wednesday he explained what's really going on with the resistance to sexual assault in Tahrir (see my recent post on the subject):
They tell you women are a red line. They tell you that naked women -- who are going to Tahrir Square because they want to be raped -- are a red line! And they ask Mursi and the Brotherhood to leave power! ... And by the way, 90 percent of them are crusaders and the remaining 10 percent are widows who have no one to control them. You see women talking like monsters ... You see a woman with this fuzzy hair! A devil! Devils called women. Learn from Muslim women, learn and be Muslims. (text from Al-Arabiya English)
Well,thank you for clearing that up. As a husband and the father of a daughter, my first reaction is that this man is a shame and scandal to a great religion. (That is not entirely true. My first reaction is that he is an asshole, but I'm not sure I can say "asshole" here, or the obvious adjective that goes with it.*[See note below.] My second (or really third) reaction is to wonder if Egyptian law allows one to charge a man who has just given religious sanction to rape, on television.

Al-Arabiya has a video with an English translation which is at the link above; this YouTube is of the Al-Arabiya video though apparently posted by an Islam-bashing site (I can't find an embed function at the original), but I post it because this has nothing to do with Islam.

Fuzzy hair? Huh? And they're going naked to Tahrir Square? Why is the mainstream media hiding the pictures of the fuzzy-haired naked women Crusaders? And he calls the women "monsters"? I pity his wife (wives?) and daughters. This man has a TV station and all I have is a blog?

*I can, however, with a suitable language warning (as I've done from time to time), quote a third party, in this case a tweet from Egyptian-American commentator Mona ElTahawy, who gives him his due:
 Yeah. That's about right.