Nael M. Shama

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Latest by Nael M. Shama


Decoding Egypt: Between the Lines

CAIRO: Searching for meanings in the news — through digging, dissecting, forming juxtapositions and examining interrelationships — is a worthwhile exercise. What is between the lines is often more important than what is in the lines. Here is an easy task: What do the following news items, collected from the Egyptian press over the past …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: To be a fan of Gamal Mubarak

Referring to Gamal Mubarak earlier this year, a senior editor at the distinguished London Review of Books wrote that "he may be the only person who is more widely disliked in Egypt than his father." After ten years in the spotlight, the banker-turned-hotshot-politician could not bond with the majority of Egyptians. His competence as an …

Nael M. Shama

Norman Finkelstein to DNE: Israel may target Nasrallah’s deputy (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this special interview with controversial political scientist and writer Norman Finkelstein, best known for his 2000 book “The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering” (published yesterday, July 28, 2010) Finkelstein commented on how the current “aid offensive” to Gaza has become confusing and how “there needs to be …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: ‘We started big, and we remain big’!

"We started big, and we remain big" is the clunky, self-praising but deceptive slogan used by Egyptian television to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its establishment. Egyptian TV is now 50 years old, an occasion loaded with countless memories of past achievements and successes. Yet the overdose of remembrance that associated the drummed up celebration …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Mr. El-Baradei: Are you losing the momentum?

The return of Mohamed ElBaradei to Egypt and his readiness to challenge President Hosni Mubarak in the upcoming presidential elections was like throwing a pebble in the stagnant waters of Egyptian politics. It stirred political debate, mobilized many hitherto apolitical Egyptians and raised hopes for the possibility of change towards democracy and the rule of …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Thank God South Africa's hosting the World Cup

CAIRO: Press coverage of South Africa has been boosted to an all-time high thanks to the country’s hosting of the 19th FIFA World Cup. Documentaries and media reports broadcast round the clock on the world’s major TV networks do not only refer to the soccer matches that will dominate the hearts and minds of football …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: The High Dam and the underground barrier

The Egyptian regime is a master at exposing its own weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It commemorated the 50th anniversary of the construction launch of the High Dam in Aswan by erecting an underground metal barrier along Egypt s border with Gaza. By doing that, it gave commentators a golden chance to ponder the drastic changes that …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt:It doesn't really feel like 2010

For Egyptians, there’s no place for optimistic forecasts for 2010: the start of a new year and a new decade is sadly overshadowed by a sense of stagnation and immobility. Years, decades and centuries are not just there to measure time. They are loaded with multiple meanings and feelings, fueled by historical experiences in all …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: The retreat from civilization

I often wonder why any Egyptian would condone the sickening torture inflicted on suspects in police stations, especially if these suspects are charged with crimes such as child molestation or rape. I often ask myself how people can so readily overlook the fact that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty in a court of …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Do Algerians Hate Us?

CAIRO: The football-mania that preceded and followed the Egypt-Algeria match in Sudan for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers started with hostile internet and media campaigns, and developed into rioting and stone-throwing of players and fans, then morphed into a social and political battle that included harsh diplomatic statements and demands for cutting diplomatic ties. Egyptians …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Change the Constitution First

As important as the heated debate about who rules Egypt after Hosni Mubarak is, it must not overshadow some more crucial questions, such as: How will Egypt be ruled in the post-Mubarak phase? And how will its political and legal systems look like? To have a new man at the helm while the old political …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Niqab and the Boundaries of Debate

CAIRO: The worst thing about the current debate over niqab (face veil) is that it gives the impression of a “healthy and “free society that openly discusses all contending views of its most pressing problems. This is an illusion. Neither is niqab a pressing problem in today’s poverty-stricken, underdeveloped Egypt, nor is the arena of …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Egypt Needs Change

CAIRO: The defeat of Egypt’s longtime Culture Minister Farouk Hosni in the bid to head the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) commanded the attention of Egyptian intellectuals for the past few weeks. Indeed, the event deserved close scrutiny for it revealed, and confirmed, a number of important aspects of today’s Egypt. First, …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt:In search of a political Abu-Treika

The current weakness and fragmentation of opposition parties and the nonchalance of public opinion suggest that perhaps nothing can disrupt the plan to groom Gamal Mubarak to the presidency in Egypt but a charismatic figure whose exemplary character can awaken people and mobilize them in defiance of the state. Egypt, one can argue, is in …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: 2011

Egypt is in a transitional phase. Presidential elections are scheduled for 2011, but Egyptians are still uncertain about whether incumbent President Hosni Mubarak is intending to run for a sixth term or if he is willing to witness, or indeed oversee, a transition of power to another president. Hosni Mubarak is in the eyes of …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Fake Men in Black

CAIRO: “We like non-fiction because we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where fictitious election results give us a fictitious president. We are now fighting a war for fictitious reasons. Michael Moore’s 2003 Oscar winning speech has a strong echoing effect. As a director of documentary movies, Moore’s disdain for fictitious times …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: A Cultural Renaissance?

There is much talk within Cairo s cultural circles of an existing, or imminent, cultural renaissance in Egypt. The increase in the number of new bookstores and new publishers over the past few years gave the impression that Egypt is about to revive its long dead cultural life. A number of factors, however, suggest just …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Don't count on Obama's good intentions

In their first White House meeting, former US President Jimmy Carter told former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat: “I can see the possibility that 10 years from now our ties to you in the economic, military and political spheres will be just as strong as the ties we now have with Israel. Carter’s prophecy has not …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Is the Escalation of the 'Mideast Cold War' in Egypt's Interest?

CAIRO: The Egyptian regime’s political and verbal confrontation with Hezbollah demonstrates that Egypt has opted for deepening the rift with Iran and its allies. Egypt’s hostile posture towards Hezbollah predates the recent arrest of purported Hezbollah operatives in Egypt. Its clearest manifestation came when it blamed the Lebanese militia for the Israeli war on Lebanon …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: On New Ideas and Change

My last article quoted a statement made by the English writer Arthur Clarke that goes as follows: “new ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done. 2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing. 3) I knew it was a good idea all along. By arguing that initial reactions to …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: It's a Shame Culture, Stamp Sexual Harassers

CAIRO: Sociologists consider Egyptian society a “shame culture, in which the status of people as perceived by others counts for almost everything. In contrast to a “guilt society, where people feel guilty about their wrongdoings even if they are undetected by the society, in the “shame culture, the opinion of the group is very relevant. …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Sex at First Sight

CAIRO: The unprecedented court verdict that handed 10 rapists the death penalty for kidnapping and gang raping a woman in the governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh revived once again the debate over sexual harassment in Egypt, the reasons behind it and the best means to combat it. A plethora of explanations are provided to account for …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Enemies of Reason

Tolerance among the contending ideologies that dominate Egypt s political and cultural milieu is scarce. The major ideologies that battle for Egypt s mind and soul are marred by their tendency not only to claim that their version of truth is overriding, but also to rule out altogether the validity of “different interpretations than their …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Against the National Interest

CAIRO: Although the concept of the “national interest (or “public interest ) is frequently used by scholars and practitioners, little agreement has been reached on its exact definition and the specific methods used to delineate it. Some scholars argued that intangible goals, such as “prestige and “glory, constitute an integral part of the national interest. …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Beyond Al-Nada Murder

CAIRO: The recent murder of two college girls at Al-Nada Compound, Sheikh Zayed City could be seen as an ordinary killing that only merits sorrow and sympathy, but, from a social perspective, it highlighted so vividly three basic aspects of the Egyptian society and its present mindset. First, it was a reminder of the distressing …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt : On Charisma

The concept of charisma – derived from the Greek word for grace – has held a vital place in the vocabulary of social sciences since the German sociologist Max Weber introduced it in his masterpiece The Theory of Social and Economic Organization as one of the three types of political authority. At times of stress, …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Painful Juxtapositions

CAIRO: To many Egyptians, juxtaposing the drawbacks of their nation with the advances of other nations is very tempting. I join the trend using three recent examples. The first incident took place in the Islamic Republic of Iran whose parliament impeached Ali Kordan, the country’s interior minister and the strong ally of Iranian President Mahmoud …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: Abolishing the Rentier Mentality

If anything in Egypt is worth learning from the global financial crisis, it is that the current structure of the Egyptian economy and the mindset sustaining it needs fundamental change. Economists divide states according to the sources of income upon which they rely. There are “exoteric states (states predominately based on revenue accruing directly from …

Nael M. Shama

Decoding Egypt: The Headache of Gaza

Gaza has turned in the past few years into a major preoccupation of the Egyptian leadership and a potential threat to Egypt’s national security. Apparently, the push and pull of a myriad of domestic and international pressures are inhibiting Cairo from dealing successfully with this strategic file. Though peacemaking has remained vital to Egypt’s regional …

Nael M. Shama