Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie

When images that insult 1.7 billion people on Earth are labelled as “freedom of speech”, you know that something is seriously wrong with the world we’re living in. No, I’m not justifying the response to the publications. I am, however, shocked by how contradicting the world is right now because if such disrespect is allowed to be expressed so freely, we’re basically living in a place where ethics are nonexistent.

What I’ve understood during these past few days is that, apparently, one is entitled to say anything and everything that is on his mind with no regards to the harm these words might cause. It’s not about showing others respect, it’s not even about voicing these opinions in a suitable manner that would give room for discussion, but it’s just about saying what you have to say. And if I am to follow this same logic, then I find a problem with the entire concept of racism. Why is racial abuse identified by the world as a global issue? Aren’t the people allowed to criticize others in whichever way they feel like and for whatever reason? Because I’m pretty sure that insulting a black person just because he’s black is in no way worse than ridiculing an entire religion in a disgusting manner.

  • “One’s freedom ends when another person’s begins.”

What I personally find humorous is how several people are asking Muslims to keep their objections  regarding the cartoons to themselves for the time being, or otherwise one is considered as inhumane. “Now is not the time for this,” they say. But I’m sorry, why on Earth would any Muslim show respect for these journalists? Why would I choose to stay silent just because others are mourning their deaths? The journalists at Charlie Hebdo did not show me or the remaining 1.7 billion Muslims any amount of respect when they went through with these publications, so why should I act any differently? Doesn’t the freedom of speech allow us to criticize those who have insulted us at whichever time pleases us?10433117_10152420385221653_5567297492708316305_n

Again, what happened to them was wrong. Killing is never the solution, and those who actually know something about Islam would know that The Prophet Mohammed (may peace be upon him) himself, if he were alive today, would not have justified nor allowed such responses, because this is a religion of peace.

Yet those who are unaware of that or have a personal agenda against Islam continue to stereotype and link such terrorists with the religion. And for some reason it is always easier and justifiable to attack Islam whenever there is a chance to. I’ve been reading about several school shootings in the USA, where mad men go into elementary schools with assault rifles in their hands and savagely murder innocent, young children. Yet I don’t see anyone looking into these men’s backgrounds or religious beliefs, why? Isn’t that terrorism? If these men were Christians or Jews, am I then given the right to blame the religion for nurturing such maniacs? Am I allowed to question the entire fundamentals of a religion that billions believe in because of a few cases that represent nothing whatsoever of what this religion stands for?

There are a lot of people out there who think before they act and do not blame billions of Muslims for what some radicals and terrorists result in in the name of Islam, and I thank them for that. But for those who relish the opportunity to bash Islam and its followers, I’m hereby telling you that I’m sick of constantly having to defend my religion for others’ sins. I’m sick of those who are now waiting for a chance to banish Islam from this Earth. Because when you use a hashtag on Twitter such as #KillAllMuslims, you are absolutely in no way different than those who killed these journalists (and the Muslim cop, by the way.) You are then a despicable bastard. “Freedom of speech.”

If this is truly considered as freedom of speech, then the entire concept is flawed. Because if we are to live in a world where mutual respect is unnecessary or rather discouraged, then we’re no longer human.

I, as a Muslim, condemn such barbaric responses and these journalists did not deserve an ending like this. But I will not show an ounce of respect to men and women who mocked my beliefs for their own amusement and disrespected the greatest man to ever grace this Earth. I’m in no way obligated to let this go.

Je ne suis pas Charlie.

The Japanese show Egyptians how to tackle littering

The Japanese show Egyptians how to tackle littering – Egyptian Streets

A few days ago, Japan faced Ivory Coast in their first 2014 World Cup game. After leading with a single goal for nearly 65 minutes, Japan conceded two quick goals and were unable to comeback from behind, eventually losing the game with two goals to one. As the referee blew his whistle and signaled the end of the match, the fans picked up garbage bags and started cleaning up after their own mess in an act of respect towards the hosting country and their own culture.

How many of us in Egypt or elsewhere would bother to behave in a similar matter when experiencing a similar situation?

Despite their sadness and disappointment at losing the game, the Japanese chose to clean up the mess they’ve created and make the lives of several people a bit easier. They felt responsible and obligated to face the consequences of their actions.

On the other hand, we Egyptians often use anger and disappointment as excuses for our inefficiencies, but the thing is, our emotions should not interfere with our duties when it comes to society. We owe it to ourselves and our country to treat our land the way it deserves to be treated.

What the Japanese did, as simple as it may be, sent out a message to the world. Wouldn’t it be easier if each and every one of us spared a few minutes to ensure we’re leaving the place we’re at as clean as it was on our arrival? Why don’t we implement their actions into our own daily lives?

The Egyptian government recently issued a new law that toughens fines related to littering and the dumping of garbage, but the question is why did we reach a point where we need such laws to prevent us from harming our own environment? As far as my knowledge goes, I believe that no such laws exists for littering football stands, but that didn’t stop the Japanese from doing what they believed was right.

There’s always this one person who lowers his car window and throws out a cigarette, tissue, plastic bottle and more. What makes such actions even more depressing is that there are often younger minds accompanying such men and women. So what message are you sending to Egypt’s future generation? Is it socially acceptable to treat your country as a giant trash bin? Is that the mentality you would like others to adopt in order to justify your own actions?

What keeps on holding Egyptians back and what forced the government to issue such laws is the common belief that one will not or cannot make a difference.

So I ask you: don’t be discouraged by those around you, but rather try to guide them, because if we Egyptians strive towards a better life, Egypt will automatically turn into a much more decent place to live in regardless of the ruler.

Our President’s job description does not include cleaning up after his own people. It ultimately comes to whether you want to live in a healthier environment or not. It comes down to your attitude and mentality. Do you still have hope for a better Egypt, or have you given up already?

The Japanese fans’ behavior did not only inspire many to do the same, but also showed how civilized they are. Their discipline and social ethics are now an example to the world and there is no shame in following in their footsteps if we aim to progress as a society.

Remember the “cleanup week” following the 25th of January revolution when many spent their days picking up garbage and cleaning streets believing they can influence positive change? How about we do it once again, but perhaps for a bit longer than a week? Perhaps, you know, like, forever?

And remember, each time you ignore your social responsibilities towards your people and act in such an uncivilized manner, you are blocking the path that leads to the Egypt we dream of.

Why Egyptians who boycott the elections are not ‘traitors’

Why Egyptians who boycott the elections are not ‘traitors’ – Egyptian Streets

Many have been falsely accusing others of negativity illogically and unreasonably with zero knowledge of why some have decided to boycott the elections. I believe boycotting is the correct decision and have decided to support them, so before you start calling me سلبي (passive), read what I have to say.

I am not boycotting because I no longer care about Egypt’s future or because I am convinced that nothing will change, but rather because it contradicts my principles.

We have been presented with two candidates and I believe that none of them is capable or worthy of ruling Egypt. I have a responsibility when it comes to elections – and it doesn’t revolve around sheer participation.

The man I vote for may become Egypt’s president for the next four years, and if I have the slightest of doubts regarding his ability to manage the country and yet vote for him, I’ll be one of those to blame if the day comes and he fails. Neither of these men, in my opinion, can help Egypt take a step forward for the first time since the 25th of January revolution. I refuse to be forced into a situation where I must choose “the least harmful option.”

“Spoiling the vote would be if we approved the elections but the candidates are not up to our expectations and we don’t agree with the process.” – Ahmed Imam, official spokesman for “Strong Egypt” Party.

Egyptians have voted ‘yes’ for the new constitution a few months ago, although many criticized the increased power it gives to our military. <any chose to overlook these controversial articles for the sake of “progress” and because the new constitution was “overall good.”

But why didn’t we call for amendments? Our low expectations are keeping us where we are, preventing us from building the new and improved country we’ve been dreaming of for years.

We have stopped our pursuit for freedom in exchange for safety – and that should not be the case. Instead of compromising a right for another, we should be looking for a man who will prioritize our demands and serve to provide both rights, not give up one for another.

THE LAST TIME WE RUSHED TO ELECT A CANDIDATE

The last time Egyptians decided to rush into electing a president, we ended up with Mohamed Morsi, and the rest is history. We’ve wasted a year of our lives under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood because we “needed” a president back then. We are repeating the same mistake once again. Some voted for Morsi just because he wasn’t felool, and this trade-off resulted in us witnessing unrest over the following year.

This isn’t a governmental position that provides us with the time and luxury to experiment in and try out someone who may turn out to be a decent leader. No, it isn’t worth the risk especially when the lives of others depend on it. Nor is it worth the risk of electing an unfit candidate and granting him these powers, knowing that there is a great chance he may fail and only make things worse.

No one has so far managed to convince me of the difference between boycotting and invalidating votes, because both have the same effect. If we really wanted to make use of invalid votes and send a message through them, we should have created a rule where the winner must surpass both the candidates and invalid votes in terms of percentages, forcing us to repeat the presidential elections once more until a suitable candidate is found and agreed upon. But that rule does not exist.

My decision to boycott does not convey by any means signs of negativity simply because I know what I have to do when either of them wins. I know what is expected of me as an Egyptian. So even though I have my differences with both candidates as when it comes to the man’s ethics or his capability of rescuing a country like ours, I do know one thing: if either of them, after winning, manages to prove me wrong and presents me ideas, projects, and opportunities that will help lead us all towards the right path, I will support him.

I will not criticize either of them for the sake of criticizing like many did with Morsi. For as long as they are trying to help, I will not stand in the way. And that is what it should come down to in the end. For if we truly care about our country and aim to be on top of the world once again, the winner of these presidential elections should not alter our thoughts or plans. Everything we do should be to improve other’s lives and help those struggling get back on their feet, not to discredit either candidate.

Our goal is not to help a candidate succeed. Our goal is to help Egypt rise.

WHAT REALLY MATTERS IN THE END

It no longer matters if you choose to boycott, vote for El-Sisi, vote for Hamdeen, or invalidate your vote, because it is your attitude following the results that matters. Most of us agree that Morsi had to go and that he was only worsening our situation, and I strongly agree with this, but how many of us actually tried to help during his reign? How many of us were open to working hard back then?

That is why Sabahi and Al-Sisi have been stressing how important it is for all of us to collaborate. A president without support will surely fail no matter who he is, and that is why we need to modify our mentality before a new era starts. We need to put aside our political differences and build together, because our imaginary super-president that can remodel Egypt on his own does not exist.

We can already predict the winner and it has been clear for a while now, and I don’t like it. But true negativity comes from blocking progress, even if I have been provided with a chance to help, not from boycotting elections that feature two unfit candidates.

True negativity comes from ignoring the call of duty when you are most needed. The new president will demand hard work and commitment so we can move forward. So, despite the fact that I may not support the winner politically, I am required to put my opinion of him aside and act professionally.

Before you blame and criticize others for their decisions, talk to them and give them a chance to explain their choices. Ask them why they’re refusing to choose one candidate over the other, and stop throwing the word سلبي(passive) around.

You have the right to believe that participation is necessary, but others also have the right to choose to boycott. Isn’t that why we asked for democracy? Don’t accuse those who started it all and are the reason why you are finally able to participate in elections in the first place of negativity. Don’t accuse them of disloyalty or of being traitors, for without them there would have been no elections to start with.

Both candidates realize that failure will result in their departure, but I hope that none of us will turn out to be the one that tries to ruin their chances and attempts to help, if they exist, just because of personal political views.

Break Free

There is a reason why each and every one of us possesses a different look, physique, or personality; we were not meant to be the same. I’m writing this because I believe many are finding it necessary to conform in order to succeed socially, and one’s ability to behave in simply a way that would make him/her happy, has been limited. We’re continuously setting standards for each other, and it is starting to include all aspects of our lives for you are no longer allowed to be yourself.

People are now judged based on their political and religious beliefs, hobbies, habits, fashion style, taste in music, etc. as if exists an example that we should follow. So, now what? Should we all continue to surrender to social constricts and pressure and turn into what society demands us to be? Is it no longer ‘acceptable’ for one to act normally? If not, maybe it would easier for us to just blend into one giant blob.

To be clear, I’m not saying that all people have chosen to fake or hide their true selves, but some have chosen to adopt certain lifestyles where they’ve lost their identity as a result in the process. The people that managed to get their names written down in history books were not remembered for being the same as the rest; they stood out, and they thought outside of the box. There is no shame in being different, in being unique, but there is shame in pretending to be someone you are not.

“Why should we care so much for what the majority think? The most reasonable people, to whom one should pay more attention, will believe that things were done as they were done.” – Socrates

This mentality is one of the main reasons why I believe democracy may never succeed in Egypt. We, Egyptians, have great difficulties when it comes to accepting someone who shares a different opinion than ours. And, what many fail to understand is that there is a huge difference between judging someone and between disagreeing with someone. In the past, I acted in the same way. I used to undermine people for presuming what they did or believed in was not worthwhile, but I plan to do so no more.

Life is much, much easier when you just choose not to care about what people might think, when you just think of something and decide to do it without worrying about how will your surroundings react, when you act freely. I’d rather choose to self-evaluate myself, and choose to stick with what makes me most comfortable. Many Egyptians have disregarded self-evaluation as it is easier to judge and comment on other’s flaws than trying to improve on a personal level, and that is why we are still a developing country. Even though we are a part of an extremely diverse community, we have learned nothing. No one is perfect, and no one can ever be.

Egyptians have chosen to develop a habit of criticizing other countries for their religious and traditional habits whenever a comparison arises, believing that we are superior when it comes to that matter and therefore “better people”, yet we always fail to look at the bigger picture. We overlook the commitment some display towards their work or families and the responsibilities they take to maintain and build their own countries; we choose to ignore all the positive aspects of their society that we can implement in ours to improve because we are busy judging them blindly for what we view as wrong.

Whether as a society or as individuals, some are neither able to accept people the way they are nor keep their utterly useless thoughts to themselves, instead choosing to condemn and denounce whatever they consider as unfit or unsound while completely neglecting the positives.

In conclusion, we are all free. And, as long as I am not harming anyone, you do not get to judge or criticize me. You may choose to go with the flow, and I may choose to be different. You’ve got only one life, and only you get to decide how to live it.

 

The Prince of Laughter

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Call him a clown, call him a traitor, call him whatever would make you sleep at night. I don’t care if some are thinking that Bassem Youssef is losing his touch or running out of jokes, because Al-Bernameg was never only about laughter; it served a much greater cause.

There is a reason why most Egyptians enjoyed watching Bassem Youssef when he first started working with CBC, when Morsi had already taken charge. Al-Bernameg offered 2-3 hours of boundless entertainment, with the ability to finally criticize and judge those who were in control of our country, destroying the fear and threats that once prevented our freedom of speech. And Bassem Youssef spoke on behalf of us, with none minding it as long as it served and supported our political views.

I watch the show not for the jokes, but rather for the satisfaction I gain from seeing the guy expose and reveal the corrupt and hypocrites. How can anyone tolerate the likes of Tawfik Okasha and Tamer Amin yet somehow demand the end of Al-Bernameg? Yes, the show is by no means suitable for all ages, and makes laughing at some jokes embarrassing at times with unneeded and inappropriate humor, but let us overlook this trait for now. Can you deny the fact that it opens one’s eyes to what is going on around us? Can you deny the show’s influence on the 30th of June revolution, as it helped us realize the true nature and mindset that El-Ikhwan possessed?

Now, as we gradually return to a pre-revolution Egypt, where fear and intimidation kept the people’s voice and power at bay, many are starting to object what Bassem Youssef is offering. He’s breaking the rules. He is acting as a wake up call as some continue to involuntarily fall back and let the regime take over once again. He is not just a comedian.

“You know what, you know what I noticed? Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying. If tomorrow I tell the press that like a gang banger, will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all, part of the plan. But when I say that one, little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds! “

When a government provides the people with false hope through a fake, fictional cure to severe, lethal health problems, and the people are so desperate and blinded that they believe it, you realize how easy it is for a few officials to brainwash the innocent. And what happens when you take that hope away? What happens when you destroy one’s dreams and hopes of survival? It is not about the jokes anymore, it is about the topics and incidents Al-Bernameg brings to our attention in order to take off the blindfolds and keep our feet on the ground.

Ever wondered why so many people are so desperate to silence Bassem Youssef once and for all? He encourages and drives the viewers to question what they’re seeing, to stop taking things for granted. How is that a bad thing? (Disregarding the government’s point of view on the subject)

I’m sure Bassem Youssef could go on and ramble about politics once a week in a more professional manor, but it is his choice to present his views and ideas through black comedy. You are free to agree and disagree, but if you really do believe and support democracy, you have no right to demand his silence. And if you are not a fan of freedom of speech, there are many others who do not deserve the chance and privilege to speak to the people through the media, and shutting them up is way more important and significant than targeting Bassem Youssef.

The problem is that he’s not acting in accordance with the plan.

You Are In Control

It’s sad how lives have turned into a never ending routine, with most of us aiming to only survive and live a decent life. It’s not why we were born. Parents do not look at their children upon birth and say: “Someday you’ll finish college, find a wife/husband, and die peacefully in your bed.” Why settle for such a life? Why not aim higher? I, for example, find my salvation in writing, with hope of influencing or reaching out to whoever reads whatever I have written, with hope of affecting this person’s life positively.

One does not have to become another Nelson Mandela or Steve Jobs in order to influence the world. It comes down to your attitude, to your mentality. Set an example and strive towards a better life and don’t settle for mediocrity.

In my opinion, I believe Egyptian teachers are the ones that suffer most here for their role is highly underestimated and is why those who afford to leave look for other opportunities elsewhere. But nevertheless, they gave up too easily for this is not an excuse for not taking the job seriously. Why not take responsibility and make use of the influence you have on these young minds? Why not think you may be teaching the kid who will find a way to rebuild Egypt and restore its glory?

If each and every one of us took whatever he/she is doing seriously, Egypt could finally become a better place. Don’t do it for the paycheck, do it for a better life. The people you affect are your legacy.

I’m not talking now about political change like I did in my previous article, because the answer is not only in our next president, whether El-Sisi (hopefully not) or whoever else. The problem will always remain within the people, and that is why we must be preparing and willing for change. Every time you throw your trash in a bin in front of a bunch of people, you set an example. Every time you stop for a red light, you set an example. You get into others’ heads, you make them wonder, and you encourage them to do the right thing. That is how I’ve started to think recently. I may not be a genius or the greatest politician, but if I could make something better, no matter how slightly, I would feel I have accomplished something.

Now I’m approaching you with the hope of ending that fear of change. I write because it makes me feel I can affect others, and now it is your turn. I witness actions that anger me each and every day and that make me sometimes wonder why I’m still seeking change, but then I remember that if I turn to the dark side as well I’ll be only moving backwards; I’ll only be helping destroy whatever hope is left. Don’t be discouraged by those around you, but rather try to guide them because if we Egyptians strive towards a better life, Egypt will automatically turn into a much more decent place to live in regardless of the ruler, and only then may we finally find someone who has the passion and integrity required in order to lead Egypt.

A group has already taken the initiative, and that group managed to end Mubarak’s rule. Their goal was to make Egypt a better place. They sought change for the sake of the future generations, and they will be remembered forever.

Aim to be a part of history. Aim to be remembered. Aim to be part of the generation that will help Egypt rise again.

Change bites.

If seeing millions of Egyptians cry for another Pharaone surprises you, you were too optimistic. There is a reason why Egypt has practically achieved nothing during the last three years. There is a reason why the people seem to have forgotten the purpose and goal behind the 25th of January’s revolution. There is a reason why the people are once again asking for the military to regain control. Egyptians are not fans of change.

I remember watching the people once barge into Carrefour during the revolution hoping to go home with as many supplies as possible. The thing is these people didn’t look poor to me, but rather just simple providers for their families. The reason they chose to take advantage of the then state of chaos (the state revolutionaries chose over surrendering to the regime) was because they believed nothing was going to change. Just a bunch of overly excited young Egyptians who thought they could end the tyrant’s rule; an epiphany. These people thought they better secure a short period of their miserable future before things go back to normal, and I can’t really blame them now.

I remember when everyone were out cleaning the streets with hope of a brighter future, trying to fix whatever was in their control. But it didn’t last long.. Apparently, a more civilized way of living was too much for the people to handle. Some may argue I’m being too shallow, but overlooking the little things continues to be our biggest mistake. Throwing trash in the garbage cans isn’t that difficult to do, is it? Asking the people to drive more cautiously and to follow the very basic laws isn’t that difficult to do, is it? No, but the institution has taken its toll on the people. Apart from those who participated in the 25th of January (and I’d like to mention that unfortunately I was not one of them, and was even against it at first), we Egyptians suffer from metathesiophobia; we fear change, and it could go back to something as simple as waiting for the light to turn green because it shows how unwilling the people are to make a difference as long as their own lives remain unaffected, untouched.

When Morsi first took charge, millions were already unwilling to grant him the benefit of the doubt. Why? It wasn’t because El-Ikhwan were already destroying Egypt, but because we did not know what was coming. Those who supported Morsi hoped he would ‘mix’ Islam with all aspects of life, because Islam represented safety and order. On the other hand, those who opposed him right from the start knew that if this was truly the case, it would change everything.

Now, back to the present. What does El-Sisi represent? El-Sisi represents similar times to Mubarak’s. El-Sisi represents stability (maybe for another 30 years). El-Sisi represents safety (“the man with the iron fist”). How do you say no to that after all we’ve witnessed? How do you say no to that after Egypt have suffered from a mini civil war? He’s the hero that ended El-Ikhwan’s rule. He is the one that can let things go back to the way they were, and he’s the one that can once again restore Egypt’s safe streets and political stability. Is opposing a presidential candidate like that man, the people’s hero, even possible? Yes.

For me, seeing El-Sisi as Egypt’s new president would destroy many hopes and dreams. It is illogical, and it baffles my mind. How did Egyptians manage to celebrate on the 25th of January the fall of an Egyptian dictator by promoting the election of possibly another one? One who used the people’s naivety, fear, and desperation to spill Egyptian blood. Some may have deserved to die, and my hatred towards El-Ikhwan knows no limits, but choosing to make them ALL suffer was by no means an ideal, reasonable solution, and “an eye for an eye makes the world blind.” (Gandhi)

Again, for those who may argue I’m being too pessimistic, I say power corrupts and there isn’t a better example than the list of Egyptian rulers. We have always been cornered into choosing between freedom and safety, as Mubarak would say: يا أنا يالفوضي.

Egyptians have already forgotten those who have fallen victims of selfishness and fear over the past three years because they chose safety over freedom a long time ago. The ones willing, hoping for true change are slowly disappearing, leaving behind the brainwashed, illiterate, institutionalized Egyptians to take over. And you wonder if Egypt will ever rise to power again?

I don’t know if there is anyone out there who can turn Egypt into a better place, and do so fairly. All I know is that you don’t start building a pyramid from the top. Whether we like it or not, the people once voted for Mubarak and Morsi. Our problems were never limited to the one ruling from Egypt’s throne, they go much deeper.

End this fear of change and let the people know that they don’t live to serve dictators, or else admit that democracy, if it ever existed, has failed. If the people are happy with allowing a dictator to take control over their lives in return for safe streets, then so be it. Nevertheless, don’t expect me to be a part of it. Don’t expect me to stay in the shadows. I was not born to stay silent nor to suffer from others’ mistakes. And, ironically, I’m not changing back to the way I used to be.