Welcome

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. Everything has been figured out, except how to live. One always dies too soon or too late. And yet, life is there, finished. The line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life. There is only one day left, always starting over. It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are, that is the fact. When you live alone you no longer know what it is to tell a story: the plausible disappears at the same time as the friends. You let events flow by too.Suddenly you see people appear who speak and then go away; you plunge into stories of which you can't make head or tail. You'd make a terrible witness. It is true that people who live in society have learned how to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. Luckily, I only have a few...

Dr Shaw is a lecturer in Further Education at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. She also offers philosophy courses at the School of Continuing Education, Lifelong learning, at the University of Liverpool. In 2015, she has completed her Doctorate in philosophy with a focus on existentialism, the equilibrium doctrine and narrative. She has worked as a teacher of English and Comparative literature and Philosophy at The American University in Cairo, Egypt where she also obtained her BA (Hons). Dr Shaw has an MA in Philosophy and Literature from the University of East Anglia where she also taught on a number of humanities subjects. Whilst working in North Wales in Further education, she gained a PGCE aimed at teaching in FE and HE sectors. Dr Shaw moved to Liverpool in 2010 where she now resides.

Interests: Existentialism, Narrative, Comparative Literature, Feminist Thought, Public Speaking, Arab Existentialism, Philosophy of Education, Art, Music, Film and Theatre, Greek Mythology, Existential counsellor and psychotherapist.

https://liverpool.academia.edu/ShereenHamedShaw

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Nouela - The Sound of Silence (Amazing cover of Simon & Garfunkel's song)





Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
'Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence
"Fools" said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed in the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence


Songwriters
PAUL SIMON

Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group


Read more: Simon And Garfunkel - The Sound Of Silence Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Jose Feliciano / And I Love Her (inst.)



Living in fear, anxious and unsure of own feelings, we delve into one another's arms
with the uncertainty of what is yet to come. We live in fear of losing a feeling that has grown from nothing.
We call it love, an infatuation, a passion for an idea that is yet to exist.
We long to be in each others' arms and yet we question our intentions. A game for two they say... but I am not the best of players.
I fall and fall into the abyss not knowing where to or when will I land.
I am no warrior in this game of love, and no queen of hearts. I am a woman with many doubts, insecurities, hopes and dreams. A woman who carries a humble heart on her sleeve, and doubtful about the existence of love. You say you love me but what is love? I close my eyes to realise that it is just a feeling for today, and tomorrow is another day where love may cease to exist.
Strangers we will become. Once upon a time, we were one. How strange is the feeling of knowing that what you long for the most is the very same thing you try hard to avoid? Building walls around our hearts, fragile walls that crumble down with a passionate kiss.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

#CaribPhil2015: SHEREEN SHAW'S OPENING POEM





 It was a pleasure speaking at the Caribbean Philosophical Association international meeting SHIFTING THE GEOGRAPHY OF REASON XII: TECHNOLOGIES OF LIBRATION, in Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Reading my own translation of Egyptian author and philosopher, Tawfiq Al Hakim's Equilibrium (1955).

#philosophy #existentialisim #Arabexistentialism #Tawfiqalhakim #arabliterature

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Loving and Being Loved





Are we being in Love or Being in Habit?



Parental love is as Alan mentions the most primitive form of love and our first encounter with the conception of love. So How can we detach ourselves from this kind of love to have what he calls a "mature" kind of love?



Do you love me or do you love how I love you? Such as huge difference, especially when the beloved say things like "I like how you make me feel" or "I love how you look at me or I feel when I am around you". True, we want a recreation of our lovely childhood experience of being loved. Can we ever fall out of this primitive form of love to put someone else ahead of us and be adults? Sounds almost impossible.



We live in a world where we look for the attributes that we lack, we admire the organised, the clever, the witty, the diplomat and the laid-back. Our "shopping list" of partner's attributes are not always as easy to follow as it may seem. We often fall in love with those who are unfaithful, selfish, cunning or even less giving than ourselves. These life partners have horrible attributes, we know that and yet they are familiar as we are already accustomed from our childhood with these attributes displayed by parents or relatives or close ones. Alan explains this point perfectly in this video...



#love #trouble

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Sophie Zelmani - Stay with my heart





If it isn't given, it isn't worth having...



They say one day someone will just walk into your life and make you realise why it never worked out with others. Well, till this day comes, I'm hopeful one day it will, I'll look after my heart. No more rescuing in my heroic act, no more giving without getting anything back, and most importantly, no more staying if someone does not want to stay with my heart :)



May we always love who we are, who we have become and who will be... This is our strength and may we love our scares, see our weaknesses and channel them to keep living the good life that we deserve.



S

Loreena McKennitt - Tango to Evora







    The Visit Album: Track list (1991)

  1. All Souls Night
  2. Bonny Portmore
  3. Between The Shadows
  4. The Lady Of Shalott
  5. The Greensleeves
  6. Tango To Evora
  7. Courtyard Lullaby
  8. The Old Ways
  9. Cymbeline

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Being Human 2015 Liverpool


Being Human 2015 with University of Liverpool

The exhibition at Abercromby Square is from the 4th November - 18th December.

This year I am participating in Being Human 2015 Exhibition with a poster (below). The poster summaries a paper I presented at the Caribbean Philosophical Association (CPA)'s annual conference which took place in St Louis, Missouri last June 2015.



Further Info:
http://beinghumanfestival.org/
More about my research see Academia: https://liverpool.academia.edu/ShereenHamedShaw

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Eve @The Well Space_Liverpool

I'd like to introduce to you.. Eve...


Meet Eve...
She is trapped inside a confined space, silent and still. She is destined to be here, destined to carry on. Life goes by, people surround her and yet she finds herself restless, unable to reach out, unable to escape. But to where or to whom will she escape. The other imprisons her with his gaze. She is belittled. She stumbles into the darkness to find her way. She waits in silence for what is yet to come. Anxious, fearful and yet hopeful. She is hopeful that one day she will be able to lift herself up, reach higher, stand up and fulfill her being as a woman, a mother, a daughter, a sister and as a human being.

This is the many poses of Eve...



She moves, she stretches, she bends and lies to the ground. She is restless and anxious. Eve is waiting. For what, she cannot tell. Few words can express what she is longing for. She can no longer say. Blamed for Adam's sin and for her own in a world that values him over her. She is no longer afraid, no longer worried or anxious. She grows, she creates her own world where he no longer exists. Why would she submit to the gaze of the other when she can try to be free... And even if she's never free, the journey is still worthwhile. These are the many poses of Eve. She is strong, she is ruthless, she moves confidently, her sight is clear and her goals are within reach. 

Life Drawing Session at The Well Space Cafe, Roscoe St. Liverpool
* The Well Space is a beautiful hidden Cafe and gallery on Roscoe st. They hold events, small functions and gigs. Such a cool space with funky decor, snacks, a bar and projector. A well lit open space that is both relaxing and truly inspiring.

Date: 05/10/2015
Model: Eve
Drawn by myself, S.Shaw

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Joy of Phenomenology today

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object.

https://youtu.be/cVGAxMo-kiw


Force and Understanding in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit
See:
http://bat020.com/2011/05/20/force-and-understanding-in-hegels-phenomenology-of-spirit/

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Succubus


 
Two sides of the same coin?
In myth as well as in fictional tales, there are descriptions of women who are seductive, luring, with an ability to make things..."magical". They have such a power and charm that takes hold of your heart and soul. Some portrays are darker than others, a few have serpents to imply that she is just as cunning, as manipulative, whilst others are more luring and almost angelic. Which one fascinates me? And which one are you is a more important question...Our history is full of stories of  a succubus (a female demon or supernatural entity in folklore (traced back to medieval legend) that appears in dreams and takes the form of a woman in order to seduce men, usually through sexual activity. The male counterpart is the incubus. Religious traditions hold that repeated sexual activity with a succubus may result in the deterioration of health or even death.)
 
Seduction is an art that can be taught (if you don't believe me watch a film set in the 17th Century Venice, Dangerous Beauty) A woman who can seduce, has so much power beyond imagination. It isn't that men are weak and stand no chance against a woman, but it is more that when a woman seduces; her mind and body are engaged. This makes her powerful, magical and more importantly, capable of what no man can do or think of. In Victorian times, the image of the woman who seduces men had more of a negative stigma attached to it and the focus was more on highlighting the "virginity" and purity of the female. A seducer would be a sorceress, a child of the darkness, cursed and shunned by society. But secretly, every Victorian man was looking for this woman behind the innocent faces. There was nothing in these innocent faces that enticed them, intrigued them enough to want to explore, nothing was luring.
In Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urberville, we find that Tess' innocence did not really get her far. It never got her the man she really wanted and longed for. He, ironically, blamed her for being rapped by another man and thus, having lost her purity. But was purity what he was really after? Virgin, pure girl, inexperienced... or is the longing for what he cannot have? Or is it the idea of her having already experienced pleasure and having already crossed that bridge from being a girl to becoming a full woman that he couldn't tolerate and caused him to be indifferent. Why are societies, following in the foot steps of the Victorian and others, still highlighting the qualities of women that really gets them no where in life? Why are men after what they cannot have and once they have it, it is no longer of use to them? If I am magical, enchanting, passionate, fiery and powerful, will men find themselves unable to accept that with power and skill, there is passion and a kind of love that is like no other.

Enjoy listening to this song:
Miguel - How Many Drinks? (Lyrics)         

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Kizomba: Dance with Passion

Kizomba music emerged as a more modern music genre with a sensual touch mixed with African rhythm. Shall I say anymore!

Song played is Mil Pasos (Soho).

Join: Liverpool Kizomba here!
https://www.facebook.com/Kizomba.Merseyside?fref=ts

Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Sturggle of Relationships

In our modern age, a relationship has a different look than what it used to be in the olden days. There seem to be more demand for reassurances than before and certainly more pressure on both parties to continue happily together. I have to say I don't regret having been married 7 years and now single. The 7 years taught me a lot about the level of dedication that is required for a relationship to last. It also taught me that one party alone can not keep the boat floating for long and that if one jumps off the boat, the other has to be prepared to go alone regardless of all odds. I learnt a lot about myself and I probably chose very wrong from the start; a man who saw very little in me. To meet a man now who would appreciate me and love what he sees  is exciting and something I am certainly looking forward to. Fact, my son needs a father and I need a man. This makes 2 men required, seeing that it's doubtful one man will be sufficient to carry out both roles. I am regardless hopeful and certainly positive about a future that has many unknowns. They don't phase me or worry me. I can only look forward because I am uninterested in the past. It took me a while and a lot of hard work. Every day was a struggle but was worth going through. From now on, I think my understanding of a relationship has become clearer; we must want the same things and be on the same boat.

Since being single, every man I met to date added something exciting to my life; an assertion of what I need and what I am looking for. If it's not you, I apologies truly. The search for the mysterious "other" fills me with excitement and keeps me on my feet. I can only hope that I would never be in a position where my principles are tested and I have to make a tough decision. I am an ethical being who will not accept on my consciousness a wrong doing. I will not hurt another woman no matter what. I will always put myself in the other's shoes and I certainly can never be "the other" woman. When the woman my X had an affair with emailed me to say she tried to end their affair on many occasions, I replied with two things: 1. He was not yours to have and 2. Thank you for giving me a chance to kick his a** out seeing I've had enough of his failures in every aspect of our life and relation. These are my principles that I will live by in relations. They are key in modern relations; never take another's man, never cheat and certainly never lie. Marriage is just a piece of paper, I agree, but the vows mean nothing if they were not truly meant. The rules of any relation are crystal clear, love, struggle, continue together wanting the same goals and build your dreams together. I am not sad this happen to me. In fact I am relieved that I am unburdened now and set free to be who I want to be and to make the best life for the person who truly deserves it; my son. If a man comes along, he'll have to convince me that there IS really room for him in my life and that his contribution to both ourselves is vital.

Mysterious Mr right, a note from myself and from my 3 years old son to you....

From me, first: I need a man who cares about me, who is willing to fight the world together side by side no matter how hard and how difficult it gets. I need a man who raise me up and never put me down. I need a man who looks at me with love and sees the woman I am and admire. I need a man who is faithful to me as I am faithful to him and who knows that good things happen to those who work hard and have ambition. I want a man who appreciate my upbringing and my principles and who share my philosophy in life, we live once, we make our own destiny and with our freedom comes great responsibility.

And from my son: I need a father who teaches me good principles in life and be a role model for me to look up to and admire. I need a father I can see loving my mother and dedicated to us as a family. I need a father who is caring and loving and puts us before his own needs. I need a father who looks after me and her in every way a man could and makes us feel safe and happy. I need a father most of all to teach me how to be a great man because my biological father failed to see how important these things would be to me....

Yours, me and mum x

We loook forward to meeting you and having you in our lives

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Do you Love Life?

My journey from August 2014 to date... From Size 16 to 12 (and some...)


June 2014
Do you love life? This very difficult question to answer pops in my mind every time I reach for my "Love Life" daily supplements.







I have for the majority of my life been joining gyms, starting diets and to be honest slacking half way for many excuses that only I can blame only myself for.

I have been skeptical but hopeful like every dieter starting new that "this" will work. Whatever "this" was, it never gave me the instant transformation of a beach body babe that I longed to be. After 7 years of marriage and going through the divorce, this was my wake up call. I had to give up "bad habits", I had to wake up to start fresh and love not just life, but love myself!

God knows how many times I ate and ate to feel better about how many things that were simply frustrating me, irritating me or simply letting me down. That is including being encouraged to junk by my X who has no clue about health eating and eats junk and sweets. Well, some people when they are sad they eat (and that was me) whilst others go totally without food (and thus become skinny). I had to put an end to this just I put an end to everything else that was making me unhappy in my life. A new start is what I needed...
January 2015

I wanted to be able to see the person who felt trapped inside that body. I wanted to be healthy, fit and most of all happy. These three goals were always on my mind, they all depended on each other. So..... Action plan began: Day one after my divorce I went on Amazon.co.uk bought myself my first product of Love Life. That was "Inner Flush". The many times I felt bloated having ate and ate out of probably not loving myself at all are just phenomenal. I felt if I ate and carry on eating, I must at least help myself digest properly and basically "let it go" if you know what I mean...hahahaha

First week of taking Inner Flush was a success, I felt "lighter" overall, having had regular bowl movements and no urge to stuff myself with more food, or go for seconds. I felt great at this point and decided to check more products out. This lead me to Raspberry Keytone which I saw a lot of publicity for online and on "instagram" as the new next thing in losing weight. By this point, because I was emotionally a wreck, I was also attending Fit Camp exercise classes in Liverpool @ Speke. The collectivity of exercising in a warehouse with people in the same position as I am, as a group, either 6 am or 7 pm, gave me a massive adrenaline rush that I really for the first time in my life enjoyed. During this week, I lost a 11lb and 2 inches off my waist and my thighs.

Second and third week, the weight continued to drop. I was combining my Inner Flush (2tabs before bedtime) with Raspberry Keytone & Gracinia Cambogia (4 tabs- 2 morning and 2 evening). You would think naturally I would be energetic having a 3 years old running around the house. This was never the case, I was tired and generally irritable. After taking these regularly, I had more energy to be dancing in the living room with my son, going for walks, play-centre and simply putting on more music on to dance even more. Last activities I embarked on were Hot yoga session, attending a dancing class and a belly dancing class. I was and still am buzzing. I today attend twice personal training 1 hour sessions with Orioll Portell @Sport Direct (LA fiteness) on Rose lane, Liverpool, in order to maintain the health weight, tone and build more muscles. I could simply say that things have worked out very well so that I can re-gain the life that I deserve.

With this said, and how it is not easy to suddenly find one's world upside down, I have always believed that it is not the difficulty that counts, it is more about what I will and be able to do to "cope". I am not a fighter, but a survivor. I am glad to have come across Love life who are a genuine company who cares about their customers. If this is how I will be a hot beach babe at only 30 years of age and with a happy very active 3 years old, then be it.

It isn't about the difficulty I say, it is about how much you love life...and most of all, love yourself
Love life, I not only DO love you, but also I DO love life and I DO love most of all, myself... so here is a Big Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

See:  http://www.lovelifesupplements.co.uk/

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Theo Humanism: Ibn Tufayl



Theo Humanism: Ibn Tufayl 
Taken by my dear friend, Deb Jackson

Lecture 1 By Paul Heck 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=xyasbNctYfg

Divinely revealed knowledge is not enough to get people to follow it... 


These are questions that are worth thinking of....

Q. Is an incentive (the promise of Eden) enough to motivate people to the path of god? 
Q. Can a believer follow the path of god without the threat of hell or the promise of Eden? 

And finally...I ask  
 
Q. How can a conviction/belief withstand the strain of the 21st Century and accommodate the demands of modern societies? 

I have a feeling that the latter question is one that I will (having lived in the East and the West) spend the rest of my life struggle to explore and may never resolve...

S x

Friday, 6 February 2015

The Theory of Everything

A film about love, sacrifice, selflessness and hard work and dedication. No one can deny that great things happen to those who wait. Great things happen to those who understand that having good principles in life and that caring for a loved one is more important than anything else in the world. Dedication and hard work pays off. This moving film tells the life story of Stephen Hawking from the beginning of his career and the times of turmoil and struggle with his illness. On many occasions during this film tears were rolling down my cheek. It is not a sad film but a truly beautiful tale of love. One that cannot be measured or explained. Hawkings challenged all the struggles put in his way, he saw the positive in every situation and for this, he succeeded in making something of  himself. His wife stood next to him and it was love that made them both survive and continue together for so long. It is a shame how their relationship came to an end, but what matters is how their love continues in different ways and forms. In one scene, Hawkings tells Jane, "look what we have made" pointing at the 3 beautiful children playing in the garden. This was enough to fill his heart. This moment was truly remarkable and I believe that a woman who can stand beside a man to such an extent is a remarkable woman who deserves more applaud and recognition more than Hawkings himself. For without her, he would not have remained strong, he would not have survived and his life would have been meaningless without this woman who gave him her life, her love and care and 3 beautiful children who carry his name.

The life of S Hawkings...

Monday, 29 December 2014

Xmas Love

Parents of my dear friend, DebsDecember 2014
When we get married, we enter a union of the mind, the heart and the body. The three have different ways of developing. The beauty is in how the three compliment one another. I look at this picture and realize how beautiful it is to grow old together and how love always lives on. If you think that marriage is all about happiness, you are very wrong. I am sure there has been times of struggle but these two found each others comfort and love sufficient enough for them to carry on. The strength that loves gives one to carry on is magical. The dedication, the commitment, the care and affection are all that one needs to be. The look in a man's eyes is enough to fill a woman's heart. I cannot imagine a better picture that would capture true love and happiness. She smiles because she knows he accepts her as she is with all her faults. He sees her for who she is, a beautiful woman in every way and a mother. If a man cannot see this in a woman he does not deserve her. Marriage is not about you, it is about the other. If you cannot understand this, then it is not for you. When you love, you give your all. You bring the best in the other out, you put them first, you stand by them and comfort them in whatever life throws at you both. Selfish love has no room in marriage. A lover gives his all without waiting for anything in return. This is the meaning of love and this is what marriage should be.
I wanted to share my 7 years of marriage wisdom with my readers, may this year bring you all joy and love. Your life is what you make it to be, so make it count! It is unfortunate when a marriage ends like mine has, but I will look back at those years as a stepping stone for who I have become, for what I have achieved and for the love I carry now in my heart for those who deserve it. 

**    Merry Xmas and Have a Wonderful New Year  **

"Dear God, thank you for all the lovely people in my life, for the amazing friends, for the wonderful parents and family I have, for the best sister and cousins you gave me, the amazing child who lights up my world and most of all, thank you for the struggles and obstacles that you have put in my path that helped me grow, be strong and become the person I am today..."
Love,
Shereen

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Radwa Ashour (1946-2014) Egyptian Novelist and a great mother

"The three of them don’t just form the most talented Arabic-writing literary family around: They are thoughtful social and political commentators, too."
Like branches on a tree 
we all grow in different directions...
We may not have it all together, 
but together we have it all...

When I was in University (2001 to 2006), I met Tamim al-Barghouti. He was studying for a political science degree and I was studying English literature and philosophy. I never really understood why he seemed mesmerized by the Egyptian female, especially one who would be studying these two disciplines. Could it be the passion for words and the literary charm that chanted him? Could it be the image of the strong feminine woman who was so accustomed to see in his household and grew up loving? In my own bubble, I carried on studying unaware of what went around me because my only goal back then was to succeed and to go on to an adventurous life journey abroad. I probably owe Tamim an apology for being that focused and that disciplined. Now, almost 9 years after graduation, myself, having married, gave birth to a beautiful boy and lately, divorced I understand to a certain extent the surroundings that might have shaped Tamim and made him the person he is today. I followed his success news year by year. I never really doubted that he had it in him. He was always good with words and can steal any heart with some cheeky verse or two. Spontaneous verses were probably the best. Only when I became a mother that I realized the impact of a mother on a child. I envy him for having great parents with vast knowledge to pass on to him and so much love which made him a success today. One should never underestimate the power of education and knowledge. I remember an Egyptian proverb which says if you invest in mothers and teach them well, you are guaranteed educated aware nations. I will learn from this and I can only hope that my son, Zein, looks at me in the same way that Tamim looks at his parents (specially his father Mourid al-Barghouti in the above picture). I can already see that my son, Zein, who is only 3 years old this year, likes girls with brown big eyes and curly hair (especially those who seem Mediterranean) Isn't it funny how children love those who remind them of their dear ones?! It is almost as if the eyes are the ones that love and communicate this love to the heart and it naturally grows fonder. Tamim al Barghouti is always standing on giants' shoulders. He seems maturer now than I remember, possibly the fame, the experiences in life added to his great start in life. The memory of his mother Radwa Ashour will live on in the memories he has of her, in the lessons she has taught him and in the fond moments he holds so dear and remembers whilst growing up amongst a strong intellectual environment.

Image plus caption source: https://arablit.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/in-praise-of-the-poet-with-the-weird-accent/

From a dear friend of mine and family member of Ashour:  ((البقاء لله

ليست صدفة أن تموت رضوى عاشور بعد يومين من الإعلان الرسمي لوفاة الثورة، وبعد أن أنجزت النصف الأول من سيرتها الذاتية لتبقى السيرة غير مكتملة مثل الثورة التي أرخت لها، والتي عاشت لها. رضوى التي منعتها ظروف الجراحة من أن تحضر فصول الثورة الأولى، رضوى التي كانت كلماتها الأولى حين أفاقت من البنج: "هم ضربوا الولاد في التحرير؟"
بحسب وصيتها، سيتم العزاء في عمر مكرم اليوم (الأربعاء) بإذن الله، حتى وإن أغلقوا ميدان التحرير

Monday, 24 November 2014

Dark Passenger by Daniela Andrade_Original Song


  
Lyrics to Dark Passenger

You were a call that I couldn't put down
you stayed in my mind late into the night my dark passenger
It's a war in my mind as you sharpen the blades
I try to be good but it's not as good as being insane
Could you tell me if I have a chance to be free?
'cause it burns every hour of every day being me
I've got pockets of ease
I've got slides of decay
Got a mind full of people that I once loved and betrayed
I go looking for fear down the alleys and homes
It's a war in my mind but I can't shake off the joy in my bones
Could you tell me if I have a chance to be free?
'cause I know I can love, I know that I'm doing more harm to me
It's the flashbacks the blood
It's an essential need
I've gotta get back to the boy that was taken from me...

[Thanks to Efrain for these lyrics. These are Dark Passenger Lyrics on http://www.lyricsmania.com/]

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

About love: It is never too late to start over

Just when the caterpillar thought it was the end, it turned into a butterfly....



From this image we learn that regardless how love can leaves you like an empty drained shell, one should know that it is never too late to start over....

It isn't the end, it is the beginning of something much more exciting. It was a transition I had to go through in order to be who I am, in order to be strong for the next chapter and be able to go further. I accept that and I acknowledge it. I gained a lot and learned a lot. Whoever wronged me will no longer hurt me and will no longer be part of the bigger plan. That is fine and I accept it was necessary and I accept that there is something planned for every one. I will learn from this and move forward. I will not break and will not dwell on this too longer. I will mend the broken heart, carry it on my shoulder and cope with whatever life throws at me because the pain I feel today will be my strength tomorrow.
Now I just need to continue to recall to myself that I am not the only woman who has gone through similar experience in life and that I am not the only woman who will survive this. Women are the exception and men are simply the norm. Fact *(Let's just say that I haven't met anyone YET who never fail to disappoint, but 'alas never again. I am no longer a "settler") .

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A New Chapter

Autumn 2014 Photo by Deb Jackson
A New Chapter


There are some words I hear and they always stay with me. These words for instance:

"You can either feel sorry for yourself of treat it as a challenge, an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing... You choose."

I recall every word in my head. I reply, to myself "Yes, it IS my choice". I have always wanted to live rightly and thus, I choose to do so. Never mind what happened and regardless of any pain. The pain I feel now will be indeed my strength tomorrow. I will learn from the past, I will learn from "this" experience I am going through and I will continue to work hard for the future that I so deserve.

I do believe there is reason in everything that happen to us. We are yes left in this world, helpless. But it is not about achieving anything. It is about the "struggle". The struggle leads to progress. This is the fact about life that people seem to overlook. In recognizing my life struggle, I grow. I refuse to be blinded by obstacles in my path that hide from me the sources of strength within me. My eyes are open and even though I may seem distracted at times, my life is clear to me. I am here for a reason. It is not to achieve a goal, and it is not to reach a target. It is to "be", to "live" to "experience" and to "struggle" in order to grow.

I refuse to be chained down by tradition, although I respect it. I refuse my mind to be clouded by trivialities of life and people's chatter. The essence of life is to become who you want to be, unchained, unburdened by anything and by anyone. The concept of love to me now has changed. With the change in my life situation, the concept carries now different meanings. But this cannot burden me. This can only drive me forward to realize my mistakes, my shortages and weaknesses. 
I am not a victim, I am not a fighter. I am a survivor.

The only place my dreams can become impossible is in my own thinking. Photo by Deb Jackson
My thoughts are my weapon. Resilience and perseverance are the most important tools in life. This is what I learned over the years. It is in my recognition of the means to cope with my problems and the ways I can manage my weaknesses to bring about my strengths. A man who does not see this and admire it in a woman, is not a man worth sharing the struggle with. Life is not easy. The journey is full of obstacles and it is naive to believe it is otherwise. The fault that I carry on my shoulder today, the pain that I feel in my heart, will be dissolve with past memories and wrong choices. The consequences of my past actions which I endure today will empower me to carry on and will lead me to a new chapter of my life. The exciting journey ahead will not be tarnished by those who do not deserve to be part of it. I believe a stronger force have finally saw it is time to give me a helping hand. It unclouded my eyes and will gradually show me how to relieve my pains. My strength is not a weakness. My strength is not "the problem". My strength is who I am. I embrace this and my weaknesses are also my strength...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Almost 10 Days in Cairo

Almost 10 days in Cairo and already feel my blood pressure is rising, my skin tired and dull and my head full of nonsense. The anxiety that is second nature to the everyday Egyptian has finally taken its toll on me. 7 years living abroad has certainly changed me and wiped away the tolerance that I used to have to be able to endure every day struggles. The state of the Egyptian person in 2014 is sadly a pessimistic dull one. He/She is stressed by the sum of direct or indirect forces that are all against his/her will on a daily basis.

Day one began with the lack of water to wash my face. The land of the Nile has suddenly fell short of providing water for its citizens. It has also fallen short, as I latter on discovered, of proving many more "things" which a normal person would count as "basic human needs", by this I mean, not just water, but also electricity, comfortable shelter and food that does not carry the possibility of killing you. I was walking in the street today and suddenly a branch of a tree fell on my mother who was walking a few steps behind me (both on the pavement- which is either full of rubbish, broken tiles or advertising boards or signs from various shops) I could not help myself not to say "even the force of nature is objecting to my existence here" I joked.

By day 7 all I was thinking about is to "survive". I need to provide as a mother for my child and suddenly my very existence as a human being has been hit hard by this life that I witness and for so long once called "home". This is no longer home, I thought to myself. It is hell on earth. If my dad is already considering to put bars on the house windows to stop thieves coming and at every opportunity reminds me to be cautious with people, then what kind of life is this? I do not think anyone deserves to live in a prison or feel threatened to such an extent. Neither should one doubt the other for the sake of sheer doubt and being cautious. My anxiety increasing day by day and all I can think of is to keep my son from suffering. My mum jokes "this experience will make him a man". I cannot help but think that this will backfire at any moment and I will end up cutting the trip short and shipping ourselves back home urgently. Why make a 2 years old suffer when there is a life already out there where he does not need to suffer? In whose book is it written that we should suffer and endure such inhumane conditions, neglect and poor services ?

The reality of the situation, from the few gatherings I attended so far and my observation, is that the middle class no longer exists and what is now dominant is the lower classes who dictate the future of the country and the new social norms. This is of course going to be a disaster in my view as someone who values education and rational thinking than believing in nonsense and brain washing the masses for personal gain. The generation of new youths today whom I observed seems to be more stressed than I feel in these past few days. I feel sorry for this generation who became men and women in a society that expects too much of them and pressures them in every way. A man is pressured to provide and make no mistakes as far as the family is concerned, whilst the woman is brainwashed to be almost enslaved by these family norms into a role that leaves no room for her to shine in any way or even for her to feel her own existence. She is entirely responsible for the children and for driving the family forward although the man, who presumably is the driver (as far as people are concerned) takes a back seat and only criticise and make remarks. It is daunting for me to think that one day I was about to make the same mistake of falling into this role. Or even to think that anyone, even if my mother, could have influenced me enough to see myself in such a role or living with such a person. Life to me has always been built on an equal partnership in every way.

Anyway, this is my first rant of the trip and possibly more will follow soon...

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Katy Perry - Dark Horse (Official) ft. Juicy J





  



If you are a fan of Katy Perry, you would have seen this video by now or tried downloading the song only to be shocked by the video. Not sure exactly if as an Egyptian woman living in the West, I should consider this to be a comical video or a misrepresentation of the Pharaohs. The researcher who helped in putting together this video is certainly one who researched "alien" Pharaoh . The avatar looking Pharaohs are a clear indication of the researchers' ignorance and perhaps the producers' attempt to put "everything" in one video, from flying people, to a cute puppy to an Avatar, to some weird looking Pharaohs in the most ridiculous florescent costume.



I could have taken this video seriously and Katy Perry would have done a great job if only she had given this video more thought. "Make me your Aphrodite" well erm...someone should have told her that Aphrodite is not Egyptian- did she mean Cleopatra ? (Don't even start me on that too) The macroons though might have been from Pharaoh times hahaha no kidding. The impressive decor and props could have really been great, especially her amazing costumes, if it was not for the silly misrepresentations.



Miss Perry, please reconsider this video, take it from an Egyptian! (impressive pole dancing splits though sadly there are no record of pole dancing nor flying people at that time in history- erm or is there? LOOOL)


Thursday, 8 May 2014

Arfon Rhys: A Teacher who will be very much missed

Arfon Rhys was my teacher...

He taught me in class and outside of class. Teaching and learning to him was a second nature. He taught me that life is full of good and not so good opportunities. What counts is the person and how he/she deals with what life offers. In class, Arfon was always eager to hear what I have to say. He'd listen attentively and after I finished he would smile. There was never a moment in his class where I found myself thinking of something other than what he was saying and what we were doing. This is how a teacher should be and this is what I inspire to be like...absorbing, admired and most of all, loved by all my students and all the staff.

It saddened me to receive a letter over Easter break from his partner informing me that he is no longer with us and that a meeting will be held at Canolfan Bro Llanwnda on Saturday May 3rd at 2:30. I made the journey from Liverpool to North Wales that day with a heavy heart not knowing what I will say or do. I did not know that Arfon was a Quaker (known as a religious society of Friends) who worship in silence and in search of the Divine. We never spoke about religion. It was to us I guess more of a label than the essence of faith. We shared a philosophical interest in literature, cultures and art. We would have great discussions and I was eager to share Arfon with the world that I wished I could take him with me to live in Liverpool. But of course, a patriotic he is, the love of Wales would not allow him to move to England. This is a recent article I found in  the daily post of Arfon: 


I did not know about this till someone mentioned it in the meeting I attended whilst sharing some experiences about knowing Arfon.

I thought to myself if I did not stand up and say something, I will not be able to let go. The memory is too dear for me to talk about but I had to do it. Here is what I had to say:

"I always considered Arfon to be like a master and I am disciple. I often joked to him and said that I will follow him like Plato followed Socrates in Ancient Greek times. This is how they used to learn. I would have been privileged and happy to do so. He would humbly smile. Last time I met with Arfon in Caernarfon he told me that we often think that when we grow old we will become wiser. It is not true. The body grows old, but the heart stays young. To me, his words were always full of wisdom and in me, these words will always live on."


God bless your soul and may you rest in peace, my dear friend.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

A Rising star Anna McLuckie- Cover song "Get Lucky" Studio Version

              



A Rising star Anna McLuckie- Cover song "Get Lucky" Studio Version



A great song by a fantastic rising artist :) worth going to see if you have a chance!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

كاشمجي / Disalata - Scoop Empire: Happy Egypt


True optimism from the new generation of Egyptians today. Lovely video, production and effort!
Great job everyone

Here is my attempt to translate it (from Arabic to English)  
Name of the Song:      KASHMAGI :)

There are lots of miserable people all around us
I listened to them without any thinking
I decided within myself that there is a need for change....
Life is already burdened so I'll just ignore them and fly

Chorus: Why be Kashmagy*?
I don't care! I will live and no matter what I will challenge the whole world

Chorus: Why be Kashmagy*?
Darker days, forget about them. The lighter shades will soon come

Chorus: They want me to be Kashmagy*?
Why be a customer or a lemon juice          (This is just for rhythmming purposes and  not meaningful, but hey! lol) and lose from my life a second?
Ignore what has passed and all the nonsense
There is a thousand more opportunities
I want people to see me to wonder why am I smiling

I see everything in a hundred ways
God bless the Egyptian people
No matter how burdened, was never bothered by the burdens and always smiling

Chorus: Why be Kashmagy*?
I don't care! I will live and no matter what I will challenge the whole world

Chorus: Why be Kashmagy*?
Darker days, forget about them. The lighter shades will soon come
Chorus: They want me to be Kashmagy*?
Why be a customer or a lemon juice          (This is just for rhythmming purposes and  not meaningful, but hey! lol) and lose from my life a second?

Ignore what has passed and all the nonsense
There is a thousand more opportunities
Kashmagy*-- Kashmagy*---Kashmagy*--- Kashmagy*

Stretch widely your face and let your smile show
You will not lose anything
Happiness has its place within you

Twice Chorus:
Stretch widely your face and let your smile show
You will not lose anything
Happiness has its place within you

Chorus: Why be Kashmagy*?
I don't care! I will live and no matter what I will challenge the whole world

Chorus: Why be Kashmagy*?
Darker days, forget about them. The lighter shades will soon come

Chorus: They want me to be Kashmagy*?
Why will I be a customer or a lemon juice          (This is just for rhythmming purposes and  not meaningful, but hey! lol) and lose from my life a second?
Ignore what has passed and all the nonsense
There is a thousand more opportunities
Why be Kashmagy?
I don't care! I will live and no matter what I will challenge the whole world

Chorus: Why be Kashmagy*?
Darker days, forget about them. The lighter shades will soon come
Chorus: They want me to be Kashmagy*?

Twice Chorus:
Stretch widely your face and let your smile show
You will not lose anything
Happiness has its place within you
Kashmagy*-- Kashmagy*---Kashmagy*--- Kashmagy*---Kashmagy*-- Kashmagy*---Kashmagy*--- Kashmagy*

My assumption is Kashmagy* is the new "Pessimistic" hahahahaha :) something obviously Egyptians do not believe in.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Would I want to LIVE again?

A question that has been the highlight of some debates is whether one would or would not live again. The possibilities are 1. we die and go to either heaven or hell (hence we live again) OR 2. we die and nothing happens! Opps...All hopes gone

Well, no one really asks the "subject", the person, what he/she really wants. Do "I" Shereen want to live again? Frankly, no. One shot in life is more than enough to mess it up or succeed. Well really, whatever we do in life is "temporal", nothing lasts since life IS changing and the show must go on. When one messes up or succeeds, there is always a time when things will either get better or get worse for those who succeed. It is like a wheel of fortune, circular, one day is yours, one day is against you. Nothing is for certain and nothing lasts for long.

The principle then of living a life that has no end, no finite point, is scary to me. I would rather believe that when death comes, life will stop and nothing will carry on than know that there is still another "after life" or another form of existence where I have a duty towards or a role to play. Or do I?!

My belief is this: I live a life that will eventually at some point in time come to an end. If I do find that there is life after death, or wait in vain in my grave for a judgement day for an opportunity to reunite with those loved ones (at least that is what I was told as a child), maybe then and only then- if I go to heaven or hell, I will have no way  of communicating this back to anyone. We are all passengers on the same train or boat of mystery. The destination is unknown for us all, even to those who claim they know, they fail. So please please please, let us just live and stop worrying about the "other" life. Is it that we are so unsatisfied with what we got that we seek another? Is it that we wish for a "better" world? An "after life" where all our wishes are fulfilled or where we are at "peace". We come out of one complex question with many more complex questions that we will be unable to answer or shed light on. Maybe then too, in the after life, in some form, we wouldn't be satisfied.... It seems that the worry for many people I guess is the fear that there IS nothing.

I say, "even if there is nothing, at least you gave THIS life your best shot! Stop worrying and instead, LIVE!"

Thursday, 27 February 2014

No matter what, you have to applaud Egypt's talents


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=nI5bBGh45Xk

ENVISION SERIES presents  SHARMOOFERS/Khamsa Santy (*translations: "5 Centimetres")
Video directed by Mohamed Shaker

One of the funniest songs by a new Egyptian creative group which is a humorous way of putting forward all the things that face a young Egyptian on a daily basis in today's society. The song begins by the guy in his bed waking up to find that there has been no water for possible two hours. He gets himself ready to leave the house only to be met by a pool of water because the building security man  was cleaning the entrance. (Note: the word "Bawab": is a traditional old fashioned man, usually from rural areas of Egypt who is guarding the building and has with him his wife and a number of kids). The guy's trousers is wet from the cleaning process that is exaggerated. He walks to his car only to find that the couple has been sitting on it, smitten in love, has engraved "I love you Samar so much" on his bonnet with a nail! The chorus music continues as we are shown the busy streets of Cairo and how old and new cars are side by side with lorries and carriers dragged by a donkey. A perfect scene which also highlights the chaotic driving techniques that lead to cars being scratched or even hit badly. In a quick tale we are told that the carrier with the donkey fell over the cliff and people were shouting and a lot of disruption hindering him from continuing on his route to work. And in the midst of all this chaotic moments, the unbearable heat is affecting him and when he opens the car window he's met by a lot of dust. In a funny moment, the three guys shows their trousers full of mud and wet to the extent that they decided to cut them into shorts to escape the heat and looking untidy. The finale scene shows everyone in a small area of the streets of Cairo dancing regardless of the problems that arise during their day and still looking pretty much cheerful.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

A Pinch of Motivation

Let me first start by saying that I have always been a driven person and never really thought that anything is impossible to achieve.

Perhaps because I was lucky enough to have achieved everything
that I ever wanted. And perhaps also because there has been a powerful force that is greater than me not only watching over me but also making sure than I do not go astray. I came across an article about motivation and aspirations aimed at Phd students and it made me actually realise that people spend ages researching and worrying about something that is so achievable. The only place where dreams become impossible is in one's own thinking... And hence, I promised myself that I will always "believe" that I "achieved" something already (regardless of how the route may seem too long and may be full of thorns)

For every person who is doing a Phd, this is only a small tiny milestone that you should not exaggerate to be something bigger than you and me. Just like everything else really in life. If we think we cannot climb a wall, we'll never try to or even go near it.

A religious proverb say "if god closes all doors he leaves a window open", well I think if I cannot find a door, or a window, I'll make one :) as simple as that.

We can either all feel sorry for ourselves or treat "anything in life" as a challenge. An opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep us from growing. The choice is ours. 

After all, if you want light to come into your life, you need to stand where it is shining.

My list of "I will not" for 2014 are:

I will not allow negative people in my life
I will not be someone else's bucket to dumb their troubles on me
I will not look backwards
I will not feel sorry for myself
I will not be the victim
I will not keep anything in
I will not bombard myself with unnecessary things
I will not care about those who don't
I will not make time for those who don't give me any

My list for "I will" accordingly are:

I will be a happier person
I will surround myself with happy people
I will look always forward
I will share my feelings openly
I will try speak positively
I will try see the positive
I will only do the most important things, things that can wait, will have to wait.
I will care about those who care
I will forgive those who deserve
I will give time to those who go the extra mile for me

I think these seem fair enough for 30th January 2014 resolutions :) and motivational tips! Don't you agree ?!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Egyptian Marriages: Clashes and Issues

This post is dedicated for all my unmarried friends, those divorced and those who are about to marry. 

Views expressed are strictly my own and are based on my knowledge of both cultures, Eastern and Western,over the past years. 

My overview will mainly address Egyptian culture and marriage because I would like to leave my discussion of the West for another future post. Let us first start with...

I. The Problem with Egyptian Marriages.

Egyptians have long been known to favour marriage of a young woman early enough. Perhaps on the basis that if she has a taste of success and have an established career she may not feel the need for a man. Now, this goes back to the idea that the man is the breadwinner, the man of the house and the supporting pillar for any family. I won't argue with that because yes, I admit, men has their traits and privileges- both physically and psychologically- which if put to good use, can make them excellent individuals in that respect. However, this cannot be of course true of every man on earth. So am I with the idea that a woman should marry at a young age? My straight answer is no. Although for the family, this puts their minds at ease and, if they like the suitor, they will be happy with the whole marriage and everything will go swiftly. But if the suitor is not favourable by the family, simply because he is the young girl's choice- which of course means that he may not tick every box required of him by her family- then all hell breaks loose. The problem, therefore, with Egyptian marriages is simple. The suitor is marrying "the family". Something thankfully I did not experience much first hand because my husband is foreign. But to be frank, the number of friends who complained to me about problems in their marriage process are all based on the fact that the suitor is unable to please "all" family members. Now let us consider a story here from the Egyptian folklore that I believe either my mum read to me in my youth or gave me the book to read myself. 

The story goes: Goha went to the market to buy a donkey with his son. When they got the donkey, Goha put his son on the donkey's back and began walking back home. Upon passing the first village, the people of the village began to shout and say "look at the young boy, how disrespectful letting his old father walk while he is comfortable on the back of the donkey!" So Goha listening to them, took his son down and climbed on the donkey. Upon passing the next village, and while the young boy pulling the donkey and Goha on its back, the villagers began to shout again, "How cruel of this man to be on the back of this poor donkey?" Goha got off the donkey and decided that him and his son will carry the donkey together. On passing the final village, Goha noticed the villagers laughing out loud and saying "look at the mad man and his son carrying a donkey!"



So the moral of the story is loud and clear: No one can please "All" people no matter what. 

Because I always think of a solution and NOT the problem, my solution is for Egyptian families to "Stop" consider that you are giving your own precious daughter to a good man who will support her, love her and look after her in bad times, good times, in health and in sickness. This is not a cliche of marriages but the truth. Marriage is extremely misunderstood in Egypt. It is not about how much money you give the family, it is not about how well, socially, we will be amongst others or how much money we can make. There are many more things in life that make all the difference in marriage. 

Problem II. Female mentality and expectations. 

I should perhaps add here, Egyptian female mentality. The suitor is not going to be the prince in shinning armour. He will not solve all your problems, he will not make you happy no matter how miserable you are and certainly do not expect gold and diamonds or the standard of living that your family worked all their life for. Females should understand, if the suitor is in his 20s then the chances are the family are supporting him 80% still in life. He has not been working since he was 2 years old in order for you to marry him and spend his money. I find this expectation to be one of the major problems that arise after marriage. The comments I get show a miserable female who is unable to see how she is also in this partnership of marriage, but instead, assumes that she has the upper hand of the bargain where she expected servitude and magically, her wishes to come true. 

Having said that, this does not mean that there are no Egyptian woman who understand the meaning of partnership and striving with your husband equally for a better life. I am very aware that I should not generalise since problem II affect only a portion of the population of females (or at least I wish the majority see sense) When a girl leaves her family house, she is not to think that she has lost anything at all really. Just like little birds leave their parents nest, she too leaves to embark on a new chapter of her life. It doesn't matter about the clothes, the jewellery, the items in the house or the furniture. I find it insanely trivial that these things come up in discussions between couples and even cause disagreements!!! Where is the consideration for the "other" regardless of status, society and trivialities. 

So if you are about to marry know that you are entering a life contract knowing that when you are sick, someone will be there awake the nights to look after you, when you cry someone will be there to wipe your tears and try to make you feel better, even if for moments. When you are facing the whole world, you have a hand that is ready to hold yours and you hear "you are not alone" This is what matters... 

Even though many Egyptians know all of what I have just identified as problems, they fail to put the differences aside, the ego aside, the family aside, in order to maintain good relationships.

One must know that one marries "the person" not the family, not the society, not the world, nothing else but the mere "individual" who you will be growing old together, so if this is too difficult to imagine and to also truly accept, then marriage is not for you...


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Rome, The city of the ancient, the modern and the Italiano

Finally the chance came that I embark on a journey to the land of the ancient (other than Egypt of course) Rome was waiting for me with its sunny spells, its historical places, its pasta and its pizza. For four days I walked and walked till my feet were sore. From East to West, North to South, I think I might have just seen it all. The beauty was in the colorful buildings that although showed signs of wear and poverty, appeared cheerful and charming. On the streets of Cairo the same buildings would be looked at as dirty, poor and most possibly inhabitable because of the build conditions, but it Rome they were simply a piece of the old city that once stood there and hence, charming. The pasta del mare was delicious, but not everywhere was freshly made. Yes, to my disappointment, frozen pasta still existed on the menu and frozen pizza was a higher possibility. The economy is clearly suffering and hence the quality. The people's mannerisms are no different from people of Egypt. The hostel owner, a grumpy yet helpful old man, huffed and puffed every time there was a problem with the windows that would not close properly or the doors that wouldn't open with the key that he provided us with. The building where the hostel was showed signs of wear too and yet the structure was solid and seemed strong enough for many more years to come. I thought to myself, how come on every corner there is a statue of a fountain or an old wall. It was as if the old would not let go for the new to take place... The old reclaimed the place at every corner and was there as a reminder of a civilization- if not many- that once lived strong and fought for the land. After walking between the narrow buildings and rejecting the attempts of sellers who want to sell flowers or others, we reached the fountain. Le tevere I think it was. The masses around it were taking pictures and some standing with their back to it to throw a coin and make a wish. I sat there watching for a while surprised at how I had no urge to do the same. Yes I took a picture, one or two, but I did not want to throw a coin in or make a wish. Could it be because I am content? could it be that my doubt in the fountain's ability to grant anyone any wishes be greater than the 1 euro I would have thrown? Or is it simply that I don't really know what to ask for since there is plenty of wishes that I would like to come true.... Well Rome in 4 days was more than enough to get the feel of that which is European and yet very Mediterranean...

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Muftah » Is Egypt Moving Toward Secularism?

Muftah » Is Egypt Moving Toward Secularism? Is Egypt Moving Toward Secularism? Ahmed Ezz Eldin* Since the Arab Spring hit Egypt, the intensity and pace of political changes has been unprecedented in the country’s modern history. Different political groups have competed and rotated seats between the government and opposition in a very polarized and alarmingly violent atmosphere. Underlying this political rivalry, an equally controversial debate about the identity of the post-Mubarak Egyptian state has continued since the downfall of the old regime. Religion has played a critical role in these discussions. On the spectrum between an Islamic caliphate and a secular civil state, various political groups have used religion to inform arguments supporting their desired form of government. Religiously centered identity issues were front and center during the writing of the Egyptian constitution in 2012. During the drafting process, Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, were inflexible on issues of Islamic identity. Liberal and secularist representatives responded by withdrawing from the 100 person committee responsible for writing the constitution. The move did not deter Islamists parties from attempting to manipulate Egyptian identity to fit a more Islamic mold. Without their secular/liberal counterparts, Islamist representatives finished drafting the constitution, which was then put to a popular referendum in December 2012. Islamist parties presented the vote on the constitution as a choice for or against “Islam.” The constitution was ultimately approved by a vote of around 63%. With the ouster of Egypt’s Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood itself, and ongoing war on Islamist groups in Sinai, the liberal and secular opposition have come to power. These groups are current in charge of amending the controversial 2012 constitution. The question now is how far can Egypt’s new ruling elite take the country toward the secular end of the spectrum? The Exclusion of the Islamists The downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood was a direct result of cooperation between revolutionary movements and the deep state, the shadowy power structure that controls the Egyptian government from behind the scenes. Both groups saw the rise of political Islam and exclusionist policies of the Brotherhood as a threat to the state and its future. After coming to power on July 3, 2013, this coalition divided over the best approach to dealing with Islamist movements. One group promoted the idea of a national dialogue and was more open to the inclusion of all Islamist groups in the new government. Members of this group were concerned about the social repercussions of excluding Islamists and feared that marginalization would split the country and lead to violence. Mohamed El Baradei, Nobel Peace prize winner and vice president for foreign affairs in the interim government that replaced Morsi, was the main supporter of this approach, which was also attractive to some of the country’s revolutionary groups. The other group of coalition members viewed Islamism as a threat to national security, citing suspicious relations between Islamist parties and militant groups in the Sinai. In addition to security concerns, this group, which brought together members of the deep state and youth movements, was frustrated by the Brotherhood’s exclusionist policies. In reaction, it excluded Islamist groups from the political arena – and from the social spheres where possible. Elements of the deep state, including the army and the police forces, gave this group physical might while the youth movements provided it with revolutionary legitimacy. With rising violence in the Sinai, the inflexible demands of Brotherhood protestors, who have continued to push for Morsi’s return, and failed calls for national dialogue, this second group has dominated the Egyptian scene. Since Morsi’s ouster, members of this group have engaged in a systematic attack against the Muslim Brotherhood– its leaders have been by arrested, its protests and sit-ins have been violently dispersed, the organization’s media outlets have been shut down, its symbols and slogans have been banned, and its supporters have been portrayed as terrorists by different private and public media channels. Although different Islamist groups have different agendas, they have been presented as a homogenous entity with no clear distinctions. Despite these attacks on Islamists and the downfall of the Brotherhood, there are a few groups that still represent the interests of political Islam. The El Nour party, Egypt’s main Salafist party, managed to survive the Islamist purge by joining the opposition against the Brotherhood, condemning violence, and being less critical of the military intervention. El Nour has become the main representative of political Islam in the interim government, as well as in the 50 person committee that is currently charged with amending the constitution. The party is one of the last legal defenders of the role of Islamist groups in Egyptian politics and one of the main arbiters of the country’s future Islamic identity. There is, however, an imbalance of power between the secular “exclusionists” and Islamist representatives in Egypt’s current political arena. This is best reflected in the on-going debate on amending the constitution. The future of all Islamist groups is endangered by proposed article (54), which bans religious parties. The article has been welcomed by most members of the 50 committee, as well as by religious institutions, like El Azhar. Article (6) of the suspended 2012 constitution states that “no political party shall be formed that discriminates on the basis of gender, origin, or religion.” The new article, however, places an outright ban on religious parties, even if discrimination is absent. As a potential target of this prohibition, the El Nour party is opposed to the new article. It is, however, alone in its opposition, making it highly doubtful it will be able to thwart the majority’s will. The Question of Identity To understand the future of Egypt’s Islamic identity, we have to ask two important questions. First, can an Islamic Identity be imposed by Islamist groups in power? Second, can a secular identity and civil state be created by secular political groups, when they rule the country? As to the first question, the answer is no. An Islamic identity cannot be created by Islamist groups alone. The short-period of Islamist rule in Egypt supports this claim. Islamist dominance of the 100 person constitutional committee in 2012 gave these groups the opportunity to shape Egyptian identity according to an Islamic frame. After securing a majority in parliamentary and Shura council elections in late 2011/early 2012, the Islamists proposed several laws based on Sharia, including introducing Islamic financial tools to fund public projects. Despite the success of some of these Islamization efforts, the majority of proposals faced strong opposition. Interestingly, this opposition was not limited to civil secular groups and other opposition parties. In fact, it included Islamic religious institutions, most notably El Azhar. When the Brotherhood government tried to pass legislation allowing for the issuance of Islamic financial certificates “sukuk”, the proposal was rejected by El Azhar scholars. This response raised question marks about the Brotherhood’s religious credibility. This and other tensions between the Brotherhood and El Azhar point to a rivalry between “institutionalized” and “politicized” Islam. While Islamist groups have used religion to justify their policies and actions, El Azhar has considered itself the guardian of “moderate” Islam, leading an apolitical opposition and undermining the Brotherhood’s religious credibility. Further manifesting this rivalry, after the revolution began, Islamist groups took over several big mosques and excluded El Azhar preachers. Following the Brotherhood’s downfall, El Azhar issued a series of regulations to retake the mosques, exclude preachers from Islamist groups, and supervise Friday prayers. El Azhar’s triumph over Islamist organizations has extended to its support for abolishing article (219) in the 2012 constitution and introducing article (54) into the new constitution. Article (219) of the suspended constitution stated that “The principles of Islamic Sharia includes general evidence, foundational rules, rules of jurisprudence, and credible sources accepted in Sunni doctrines and by the larger community”. For these reasons, it is clear that Islamist organizations in power face many obstacles in imposing a particular “Islamic” identity on Egypt. As for the second question, the answer follows the same logic. Apart from the balance of power between political players, there are other forces that would prevent secular parties from single-handedly establishing a civil state. Powerful religious institutions, like El Azhar and the Coptic Church, would oppose any serious step toward pure secularization that would marginalize their role. The two institutions are founded on strong historical roots and popular respect that has endowed them with authority and given them the final word on matters related to religion. For example, some civil and secular groups have suggested amending article (3) of the constitution, which states, “The canon principles of the Egyptian Christians and Jews are the main source of legislation for their personal status laws, religious affairs, and the selection of their religious leaders.” These groups have suggested replacing “Christians and Jews” with “non-Muslims” which would open the door for more religious pluralism. But, both El Azhar and the Coptic Church oppose the proposal. In addition, despite the political downfall of the Islamists, their supporters still have significant voting power that may hinder passage of any legislation to establish a secular state. The only way a purely secular state may be established in Egypt from the top down is if the military decides to support this proposal, as happened in Turkey. The situation in Egypt does not, however, support such a development. In many instances, the military has tried to bind itself to El Azhar in order to gain religious legitimacy and deny any claims of being pro-secularist. Even if secularists in Egypt had the upper hand politically, their power on the issue of identity would be significantly limited by the influence of religious institutions. Equilibrium on the Issue of Identity The political atmosphere in Egypt is so dynamic that a top down approach to identity issues is simply unsustainable. Neither Islamic nor secular identities can be permanently imposed by those in power. Rather, religious institutions, like El Azhar, control the point of equilibrium that determines how religion influences and shapes Egyptian identity. While this point is characterized by compromise, it ultimately leaves both hardened Islamists and secularists unsatisfied. Debates on articles (2) and (219) in the suspended constitution, which are the most relevant to the issue of Islamic identity, demonstrate this reality. Article (2) states that “Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic its official language. Principles of Islamic Sharia are the principle source of legislation.” The article existed in the constitution, before the revolution, but was criticized during the writing of the 2012 draft. Liberal and secular groups opposed the article because it allowed for religious discrimination and undermined the notion of a civil state. On the other hand, Islamist groups saw the article as an insufficient declaration of Islamic identity and an ambiguous reference to Islamic Sharia that hindered its implementation. In the 2012 constitutional committee, Islamists attempted to correct the deficiencies of article (2) by introducing article (219). Islamists regarded article (219) as complementary to article (2) since it provided a clear definition of Islamic identity as well as the role of religion in the state. Opponents criticized the provision, arguing that it gave Islamic scholars the authority to decide on legislation and international agreements. It was also challenged for limiting the concept of Sharia and closing the door to drawing from diverse opinions that might exceed the scope of the Sunni tradition. The current constitutional committee has proposed deleting article (219). The El Nour party announced it will fight to prevent what it sees as a move toward a secular state. Some secular groups have suggested deleting both articles (2) and (219) to open the door for a civil secular state without religious discrimination. A more balanced approach has been taken by El Azhar, which supports keeping article (2) but deleting article (219). This compromise position satisfies neither the hardline Islamist nor secularist groups. Conclusion Although the downfall of political Islam suggests the era of secular Egypt is ascendant, a closer look at the balance of power indicates a more complex story. It is true that those in power can influence the role religion has in Egyptian political life. It is also true that Egypt’s current rulers are inclined toward excluding religion from the political arena. At the same time, religious institutions, like El Azhar, are taking on a more important role in balancing Islam with the country’s current political realities. The question of identity will most likely be answered not from the top down, but rather through a give and take between power politics, religious institutions, and local players. Simply put, Egypt is not moving toward secularism, but rather toward “less religion” in politics. *Ahmed Ezz Eldin is a former researcher at El Walid Bin Talal American Studies Center, and the American University in Cairo. He is a youth activist who represented Egypt in several international events, and is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma International Honors Society. Currently, Ahmed works as a researcher at the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association Competitiveness (TUSIAD) forum in Istanbul.