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.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

تجريد ملابس فتاة- مجلس الوزراء Public humility & torture on Cairo streets

17.12.2011 Humility and torture on Egyptian streets by the Army to protestors

There are no words to describe the level of torture and humility that Egyptians witnessed over the past 6 months from the Army and the police alike. The bizzare thing is the army officials and police figures claims through the Egyptian media that there has been no violence from their side, no torture, no killings, no use of any weapons. The most crazy claim recently is that these wrong doings (although caught on video/recordings and published online everywhere on Youtube & facebook)- are by a "hidden/unknown" third party who are responsible. The Egyptian peopel hear this on local news everyday and wonder how the army and police think that they can fool the people! How naive do they think we are- is one of the comments published on a facebook page. The videos talk for themselves, the army brutaly kick, hit with sticks, and shoot with guns protestors regardless of age, religion or gender. They do not look where they are hitting and they do not leave the victim/protestor unless they believe he/she is dead!!

These events are sadly ongoing and the number of killings continue to rise as the whole world continues to watch in silence...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Egypt, Cairo, 22nd November 2011

Police & Army against protestors in Tahrir Sq. 20th Nov- ongoing.
The whole world is watching as the Egyptian government and the military gang up on the Egyptian people. Non of the world organisations, whether Amnesty international or others, have been able to stop or interfere by any means. It seems to me that this is a pay back time as both parties, the government/police and military have united their powers to take revenge after they where left humiliated by the revolution. In 25th January 2011, the military protected the people from the government and ex-president Mubarak's looters/regime, but on the 22nd November it is another story. The military is no where visible on Cairo's streets leaving people to wonder if they were really protected in the first place or was it just a stunt for the media and for the world to believe that the revolution succeeded and peace is to come.
Guess who is shooting at you ?!

Mohamed Mahmoud street is right beside the American University in Cairo where I used to study for my undergraduate. It is a very narrow road with a few shops. Yesterday, from many clips and pictures, I did not recognise the street from all the damage and tear gas fog- it was more like a cold blooded battle field. It reminded me of the scenes I used to watch on television of Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli army, something I never thought I would witness happening in my home country.

جثث المتظاهرين في الميدان عند اقتحامه يوم 20 نوفمبر (Protestors dead bodies on 20th Nov in Tahrir square
Shockingly, one video posted on Facebook- see above- was of the police dragging protesters- mainly men- by hair or clothing and after beating the hell out of the person, throwing him next to the pavement or in garbage bin on the side. Even those bodies that fell like flies whilst attempting to escape where still beaten further by the police to ensure that there is no life left in them. It made me realise for a moment how humans can be so cruel and, if put in a situation, become easily with no remorse cold blooded criminals.

Recently, I have realised, as many others who posted their views on their page, that even though Mubarak left and the people "thought" there is hope for a better future, the military and the police still exist continuing Mubarak's legacy and even creating a worse regime than the one before.
One campaign/movement called "We are all Khaled Sayed" in memory of the youth killed wrongly in Alexandria before the revolution, posted the following:
اعتقدنا بعد الثورة أن الدم المصري حرام .. وإن الداخلية هتتغير .. وإن مبارك بشخصه وفكره رحل .. بس فوجئنا إن الدم المصري لسه حلال .. وإن الداخلية لم تتغير وأضيف إليها الشرطة العسكرية .. وإن مبارك بشخصه رحل ومبارك بفكره لسه بيحكمنا
Translation: "We thought that after the revolution, Egyptian blood will not be shed in vain anymore and that the government will change. And that Mubarak in person and his thoughts/ideas left for good. But we were shocked to find that Egyptian blood is still shed with no remorse or value and that the government did not change and in addition to them, the police and the army- all alike. Mubarak the person left, but Mubarak's thoughts/ideas remains, continue to exist and is still ruling us".

The above diagram maps out the process that Egypt has to go through to rid itself of corruption. The pyramid shape diagram shows the first stage completed- which is the 25th revolution result: knocking off Mubarak as a ruler. The remaining corrupt regime (in dark orange) and ignorance, illiteracy, ill management..etc (in blue) will be the hardest two stages that Egyptians will have to overcome and change. The final stage (in orange) is changing the negativity and lack of productivity of Egyptians which has lasted years after years.

A video clip of current live events (in English): 8 days to Elections

Egypt violence intensifies in Tahrir Square; elections to go on:

Further updates:

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

In Time (2011)

"To avoid over-population, time has become the currency and the way people pay for luxuries and necessities. The rich can live forever, while the rest try to negotiate for their immortality. You stop aging at 25, but there's a catch: you're genetically-engineered to live only one more year, unless you can buy your way out of it. The rich "earn" decades at a time (remaining at age 25), becoming essentially immortal, while the rest beg, borrow or steal enough hours to make it through the day." 

The new Justin Timberlake film has proved to be a success regardless of the 6.7 rating on IMDb website and 38% on www.rottentomatoes.com. The film presents a poor man who strives day to day for "time" to live life only to find himself given more than a decade to live- in time- by a rich guy who no longer wishes to live. Will Salas is a man who found himself in a zone where time really matters. He witnessed the death of his mum who ran out of time in front of his eyes unable to run fast enough to reach him to share a few minutes that would save her life. Salas realised at this point the monopoly of life where the survival of the fittest is the norm. As soon as he was given by a rich man who no longer wished to live- after having lived decades- a lot of time to live over a decade, he left the zone to pass to Greenish, the rich people's zone.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Help the Children of Egypt Foundation

* Education in Egypt * 

(Although this CNN clip is from 2008, its content is still relevant and valid today specially after 25th January, 2011 Egyptian revolution.)

On the 17th of October 2011, Salma Khaled Shalaby and Hend Abd El Hakim, two Egyptian girls living in Liverpool, UK decided to form a group on the social network site, Facebook to start a project called "Help the Children of Egypt Foundation".

The purpose of this group is to gather all forces in UK and in Egypt to establish a charity foundation to send a group of students from all over England to rural areas in Egypt to offer their help and support in any way possible. The project is still in its early stages but the idea seem to have so far attracted 253 members so far. The help and support needed can be from medicine students who would be placed in local hospitals, pharmacies and primary and/or secondary teachers to teach in local schools various subjects. 

"Illiteracy is one of the worst scourges of Egyptian society," said Hussam Fathi, a social sciences professor at Ain Shams University. "It hinders development, limits the nation's ability to compete with other countries and is the main cause of unemployment."  

There will be a trial run of 6 people sent to Egypt by June 2012. This of course depends entirely on fundraising, planning and establishing strong connections with partners in Egypt and the UK. It is hoped that members will be able to help fundraise as much money as possible to cover the costs of 6 weeks accomedation, food, travel and visas, medical/educational supplies and any other extra expenses.

To reward those who would take part in such a project for their dedication and exerting effort in helping the children of Egypt, the charity hopes to be able to provide the opportunity of visiting various tourist areas of Egypt to give participants a taste of the culture.

To read more about illiteracyin Egypt, go to:
  • http://english.youm7.com/News.asp?NewsID=345393
  • http://thedailynewsegypt.com/education/education-key-to-development-say-literacy-initiative-founders.html
  • http://www.economist.com/node/16564142
  • http://al-shorfa.com/cocoon/meii/xhtml/en_GB/features/meii/features/main/2011/08/05/feature-01

Monday, 17 October 2011

Secularization of a country or a Secular individual

In an article published by Medantahreer.com with the above title by Hala Dergham on the 13th Oct, 2011, one could see that the term "Secularization " has been misunderstood by those who object to new ideas, modernity and anything that is far from tradition. Those are mostly men of religion, radical institutions and others who strive on the ignorance and illiteracy of individuals who blindly follow. Dergham quotes at the start of her article that a Sheikh responded to a question about the term "secularization " and its meaning by saying that it means "your mum takes off her head scarf" which is a phrase that reveals one's misunderstanding and ignorance of the term. To the wider non-educated audience who would hear that in a country where religion is strong and considered to be the main tool of manipulating the public, such a phrase encourages others to take a ready-made stand against globalization as something which destroys tradition, culture and everything that one believes in.

Those who use religion to manipulate others ignore the fact that in the Quran God's first command to mankind was to "Read" which confirms the necessity and importance of an educated individual who is not brain washed or steered away by others from obvious realities and truths. Islamic institutions, Sheikhs and radical organisations benefit the most from keeping the public away from realising the power of education and taking control of one's destiny. In fact, like the Egyptian government, the more the public are ignorant, unaware and divided, the more power the government, and those who benefit from the situation, gain by the minute. 

Dergham touches in her article on a very sensitive subject which many Egyptians would rather not admit to or talk about, that which is laziness and dependence. It is evident that over the years, the public has relied totally on the media which was at first under the government control and now is in the hands of those who are capable of funding it and hence, privatising it. Also, the fact that the new generation would rather get information from others than look for it themselves is a worrying issue because those who provide ready-made answers may be giving the wrong solution or far from the truth. On many occasions, I have witnessed whilst in Cairo a situation where an individual would rather have the solution ready made or a piece of information quickly instead of looking further for it, researching and investigating. Some people could blame that on the technology that we have today beyond the 21st century, but the older generations who exhausted themselves to reach where they are today and who worked hard in the past know very well that this dependency is a killer to our nation today and to the coming generations in the future. Dergham stressed on this issues and explained that in Wikipedia, the term "secularization" refers to a looser term from what people believe it to be which includes the increasing unification of transnational circulation of ideas, languages and multi-cultures. The closest way to explain this, according to Dergham, is to say that one should separate religion from politics and that governments should not force anyone to adopt any religion, views or beliefs, in other words- the liberalisation of oneself is a must. An interesting point that Dergham brings to light is the fact that we, Egyptian, today are occupied by our judgement day that we ignore and forget about every day matters in our current lives. Dergham believes that this is how the West view Egyptians and that it is part of the Egyptian religion and culture to be thinking of God and judgement throughout one's life.

Secularization has been compared to Christianity since the 18th century. Dergham quotes a British writer stating in the mid 18th century that one cannot understand globalization as that which is against Christianity. It is independent from it, secularization does not force anyone onto anything. Hence, by the 21st century and beyond, it is clear that secularization is not a religion that one calls others to abide by or follow, neither is secularization linked to any ready established religions like Islam or Christianity. According to Dergham, secularization as a way of ruling, government and political thinking which rejects attaching to it any religion as a basis for a political life- even if it should not contradict any religion in any country. Secularization refers mainly to everyday life and businesses of individuals and societies on a daily basis which contributes ultimately to the development of nations. 
regardless of the controversy around Turkey and Iran and the allegations against Turkey today, Dergham uses Turkey as an example of a country that has established itself on secularization as a way of ruling and forming a government that protects both minorities and the Muslim majority alike. 

The question now, Dergham says, is how can the Arab world develop today- whether following Turkey's footsteps or others, the important thing is progress...

According to a Palestinian writer Hesham Sharabi, in his book The Intellectual Arabs and the West, that we, Egyptians today, are capable of taking from the West what suits our religion and culture  from democracy, freedom, justice and equality. From Turkey's president perspective, secularization takes into consideration development, heritage and culture side by side religion without contradicting it. In "The reason why Arabs and Muslims are behind", Sheikh Mohamed el Ghazali distinguishes between two kinds of generosity and greatness which were reasons behind the Islamic country's progress in the olden days.El Ghazali said: there is a man who knows what is right and abides by it, and a man who in addition to that includes training others on rightness and control, he is a guide who guides. Whilst there is a righteous man who performs his duties, and a man who adds on this, spreading the message of rightness in society and between the public till it blossoms, he is a good reformer. The later is greater than the previous. In other words, what Dergham is quoting on behalf of El Ghazali shows that it is not enough to be a righteous man alone, but more importantly, one should share such a blessing with others and urge others to follow the same paths.

In conclusion, education seems to be again the main reason for Arab and Muslims' delay in seeing reason and progress. Every one of those who take their roles in society seriously and duties like doctors, engineers, farmers, managers...etc are contributing to a nation's development, hence should be appreciated and encouraged. According to Sheikh Mohamed Abdou, after his travels in Europe, that he found "Muslims but no Islam, and in the East he found Islam with no Muslims", that is due to the fact that in Europe, people adopted the notion of hard work, honesty and dedication which is an idea rooted originally in Islam, whilst Muslims in the East are still up to this day and age far from it.

Original article in Arabic published on: 

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Power of the Media

"Miss Representation", Official Trailer:
The media today shapes us and the coming generations which- if you really think about it- is very dangerous since it presents false values, beliefs and ideas that make us insecure, vulnerable and lack confidence. This video clip is a very powerful one because it shows the dangers of the media which injects messages, directly or indirectly, into the public. The video should be seen from a wider perspective in terms of how the media manipulates us all over the world, not just in the USA. It is worth starting to observe the media's dangers now rather than later for the sake of our children and the well being of the coming generations. This is indeed worrying and I am sure that this video clip will shock and open many people's eyes to what the media is capable of today.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I couldn't help the temptation of watching probably for the third time, in my view, one of the best films ever made, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". The film was out in 2008 and won three well deserved Academy Awards for best direction, visual effects and makeup. They should have won a fourth award for its excellent sound track all through the film and of course a fifth for best acting cast. Brad Pitt couldn't have played a better role to show his amazing talent, wit and style.

The plot is not simple at all, in fact it intrigues the audience to an extent that I always feel glued to the chair from start to finish. The background soundtrack plays a big role in every scene enhancing the emotions conveyed by the actors and allowing the audience to feel some, if not all, the feelings and worries that the actors go throw. I cannot praise this film more and would highly reccomend it to anyone who seeks to see a worthwhile film that would certainly leave its mark in film history.

The upsetting part of the film is in fact how true and real it could be since it is based on a person's life story in 1920s who narrates skillfully the events one after the other starting by his famous line "I was born under unusual circumstances". The story is of a man who is born in his eighties- seen as an ugly baby- and grows younger with time. To the audience, the first part of the film where he is born and left by his father on the footsteps of an elderly home, could be viewed as slow and yet neccessary to the plot. I have to say I struggled to keep my mum and auntie seated tentively untill the more exciting parts started to unravel themselves, ie. seeing him grow into a much better looking young man untill he became a child then a baby again...etc.

The film clearly shows man's struggle with time, something that the Pharoahs understood and feared more than other civilizations, hence built passages to ascend and thought of mumification techniques. It is indeed upsetting after watching this film to realise how time always wins and that we will always be defeated. In one excellent scene, an old woman tells Benjamin "it must be painful seeing all those you love dying before you" he replies, "I never thought of it that way" he frowns and she can clearly see his face drop into sadness, she quickly adds "It's not that bad, in fact, death is neccessary so you can realise how much those who die mean to you" I doubt that this line have cheered him up because it certainly did not cheer me up the slightest. On contrary, it made me sink in my thoughts even more and started thinking of all those years passing by and what the furture holds. Was I angry when my granddad died or did I "realise" simple how much he meant to me. I was fuming with rage unable to hide it like a volcano ready to burst. I grew colder and my questions did not get adequate answers which of course made me even more sceptical and cynical about everything. Anyway, I've just thought to myself how lucky is Benjamin for growing younger but then I realised even more that in both case growing younger or older, one still see loved ones dying and it is impossible to stop the process from happening. Some people say foolishly that they'll live till they are 100 years old, but I say I'd rather die before those I love the most. I used to think that if my grandpa died, the world will end. Well, he died in 2005 and life still went on...Sad but true... I guess the next time death shows up on our door I will be prepared...maybe yes...maybe not. It is certainly something that hunts my thoughts and I cannot get rid of.

Official Website & Trailer:   http://www.benjaminbutton.com/

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Ya Masry leh? Why you Egyptian?


This song is one of the most influencial songs I have every heard in Cairo, Egypt. Not because it is by an Egyptian well known singer- perhaps among a certain social class or age group- but because the lyrics described clearly the status of the Egyptian person today. The description is so accurate that it makes me feel more and more the misery and resilience of the Egyptian people who survived a tyrant ruler for 30 years, total poverty, ignorance, unemployment, corruption in every single thing from services to health care, lack of appreciation, humility, favouritism and bribery. All this and still we stand today a nation with no ruler, no clear future but many more corrupt persons eager to get their hand on this power and rise to become another Pharoah.

This song shows how we never learn from our mistakes. How we forget to elect and cannot but blame ourselves for whoever won the corrupt elections. It is a song that shows how our hot blood and temper brings us down and fails us every time. How we are unable to make something of ourselves because we tie our own hands with religion and say in the other life we will be rewarded. How also we let others steal from us right under our noses and stand watching.
If Egypt will ever change, it is not going to happen alone, and it certainly not going to happen by the 90 million people who cannot read or write or make a simple logical statement. Time can only heal the damages of 30 years and give people some glimpse of hope that tomorrow will be better. But there must be the will to change and not stubborn minds blinded by religion and false remarks and opinions. One thing that annoys me the most in Egypt is that the difference between fact and opinion is never there- both are alike... and worst, everything is like a game of charades, from politics to religion to simple street conversations. 

Anyway, I have decided to translate this song to share it with everyone on my blog, so please feel free to comment or like...etc.The song is written in Arabic for Ali El Hagaar to sing it. This I have to say is a literal translation which I hope will not affect too much the general gist or meaning so please keep an open mind and look beyond the words.

  ******************** Ya Masry Leh? *******************

Why Egyptian...your world is upside down and misery is all around?
And the spider made his web and spread onto the field
You Egyptian stand up,  get rid of the bats and get rid of your laziness
Life is indeed hard but the solution is so simple, you just need some planning
You opened the door for exporting...and you spent more than your income
The Other took advantage, left you blinded by religion and conned you big time

Why Egyptian...your world is upside down and misery is all around?
And the spider made his web and spread onto the field
You love to exaggerate and exagerate. In a happy occasion, you go mad...
in a funeral, you cannot stop a scream...and in a revolt, you explode!
...and in elections, you forget to vote!!!

Why Egyptian...your world is upside down and misery is all around?
And the spider made his web and spread onto the field
Why do you bribe and go lenient? You sell your rights easy, you deserve the fire, you deserve it.
Concealed, and the ignorant thinks you easy, upsent minded, stupid and naive

Why Egyptian...your world is upside down and misery is all around?
And the spider made his web and spread onto the field
You Egyptian who is squeezed peniless and stealing in your era harvests you
Stand up to life, catch up with time, nothing will bring back your Egypt
unless you work hard and be proactive...

Why Egyptian...your world is upside down and misery is all around?
And the spider made his web and spread onto the field
You Egyptian stand up,  get rid of the bats and get rid of your laziness
Life is indeed hard but the solution is so simple, you just need some planning

Why Egyptian...your world is upside down and misery is all around?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Egypt or UK

Now I've been in Cairo since July and I noticed some changes since my last visit in August 2010.

You would know that you're in Cairo if...

1. You can't cross the street alone no matter how much you try...
Traffic will not stop for you and there is no pedestrian lights like in UK to press and wait to cross- that was one of my favourites when I moved to UK. I kept taking pictures of the button and how the cars stop for you. Ahhh...good days, now in Cairo, I need to have eyes at the back of my head and still won't be able to cross alone. I lost it as my sister laughs at me and says,"give me your hand and cross when I shout now" It still takes a lot of effort and stress me out.

2. You can see the Nile in front of you, but you can't drink from it or from the tap at home either!
I find it insane that I noticed the amount of boxes we go through every week of bottled water when I can see the Nile from my window! Why do I need to spend all this money for bottled water when we have the longest river.

3. You can't stay in the sun for a few hours...
Whoever thought that global warming is a joke, should come to Egypt. According to many here, there hasn't been a proper winter season for some time now. And I can't say I have had any summer in the UK either... there is a pattern here and a strong relation that I am not very optimistic about. I thought as an Egyptian, I would be able to handle the heat, but my goodness I was melting like cheese on toast! and a sudden heat rash confirmed my suspicion- UK ruined my body temp and I can no longer adjust. Very dissapointed at myself indeed, especially at a 38'c temp.

4. You can't break the habit of getting caught in sitting in Cafe(s).
Everywhere I go, I end up in a cafe and ordering drinks or food. People I assume either put on weight or get around this by smoking shisha- which would still harm your health. I couldn't even avoid others' smoking around me and the bad thing is you can't say anything about it. Why? cuz you're in a Cafe!

5. You pay LE 35 for a cinema ticket and another LE 10 for 3D glasses, that's LE 45!
Still cheap compared to the UK cinema ticket of £6 and sometimes more...but my goodness, I recall the cinema tickets in Cairo where once 10 LE!! regardless of 3D or 2D. Why the increase if the service is the same?

6. You stand ages in a que that isn't really moving
Funny enough, this time I had to renew my passport. I stood infront of the office to get in for ages and the que wasn't moving the slightest. The que in fact was not a line as such, but a massive big group gathering that included both men and women together. I was suppose to be able to get in faster if there was a women only que, but that didn't happen. I heard some yelling, some cursing, some arguing and some huffing and puffing....in addition to the fusion of smells that made my stomache turn. Without getting into too much details, I did it and was out of there after "some" hours.

7. You arrive on time for an appointment and you still wait ages to get in.
This happens though even in the UK so I guess its a 50/50 chance and is just the nature of all services and systems. My dentist in Cairo took about an hour or more to see me and my appointment in the hospital in the Uk took nearly the same amount if not more. The only difference is that in Cairo there is a telly in the waiting room with something on! So I manage to distract  myself. But in UK, either old magazines or others staring at you which isn't nice. Oh and I should add that in Cairo, I pay for doctors, but in UK its free so I guess there isn't really room to complain in UK as suchm, but in Cairo at least I could not pay and leave.

So now that the revolution is over in Egypt and the telly has a lot of updates on the xpresident and his trial, people are calm and enjoying Ramadan- the month of fasting- peacefully. But no one knows what will happen on 15th August when he is on trial again with his 2 children.

As for UK, shocking news today of riots, buring and looting. I am amazed and horrified. I thought the police is stronger and able to act faster. I guess the world is coming to an end and everyone is go mental these days...

Monday, 4 July 2011

Revolution Aftermath: Why the Egyptians are still waiting.

Host: Bassem Youssef- Show, Episode 7 - (باسم يوسف شو الحلقة ٧ (مش هتشمت فينا يا ريس
One of the most interesting clips I have just seen on Facebook is this clip. Bassem Youssef, according to my younger sister who resides in Cairo, is a respectful surgeon with a sense of humour. (Made me think of Harry Hill here in UK)

Mr Youssef analysis of the aftermath of the revolution reveals how the Egyptian society is split between various voices, opinions and political groups. The confusion is so much that you cannot stop two people in the street to ask them the same question and have a totally different answer. This clip actually made me laugh- but I wasn't sure why I was laughing as it is something that I take no pride of- but in fact a disaster...My mum always said to me whilst working as a teacher for a while- if you want to confuse people, give them choices. Since then, I'd never give students too many options otherwise there will be no work done. That is exactly what is happening and is still ongoing. Apparently elections are taking place in September 2011, I predict that the results will be shocking and the people of Egypt will not be able to avoid creating another Pharaoh who thinks he owns the people and is God on earth. We give those who rule us so much power to the extent of putting our own lives in their hands and then we complain. I have always thought that a Parliament of all the best men in Egypt will at least ensure that all voices are heard and that no one gets away with doing what he/she likes due to limitless power. But Egyptians wouldn't allow a parliament- let along sharing opinions (only God knows why we are like that).

Mr Youssef makes fun of all the groups and sides that are trying to confuse people more than actually help. Using religion to sway people is for sure one old trick that is evident throughout our history. One would have thought that we would have learnt from the past mistakes, but no we still fall in it blindly.

I can only wish that some sense comes out of the crazy situation we are in. Al my friends living in Egypt who I have spoken to- who are in the age range of 21 till 30 years old see no hope in Cairo anymore and are totally fed up of being messed about. In fact if all the immigration rules relaxed this minute, Egyptian youth will be the first out. Those who say what a shame and the excellent youth who are in prominent positions now abroad should come back to the country are all people who lived in Cairo at a time where people actually cared and loved each other. These days changed and are not coming back. Today, everyone cares only for himself and would do anything to have money and an important position. Those who ask the youth to go back to Egypt should actually take a closer look home and make a list of all the things they hate and the things they love, I guarantee that the outcome will show that there is nothing to stay for (apart from family and loved ones). If I could move all my family to UK today, I would and probably will not go back again to Cairo. This is the harsh truth that everyone is sentimental about and trying to tell him/herself otherwise. 

Bassem Youssef's final message in his clip is for Egyptians to remember the power they had during the revolution and take more action to guarantee that things are going to be better for all in Egypt. He hence suggested that people put this image as their profile picture on their facebook profile to show their support of his campaign.

Well I am flying back to Cairo on Thursday 6 am and will be there by 2 pm and my excitement is not because of the country, the heat and unavoidable pollution, but it is to see the family and be with them- regardless of the place. Egypt has changed from when I was 7 years old and I cannot say that I do like this change. I am proud of the revolution but I was hoping it would have happened ages before. I still remember being in high school and wishing for a revolution back then when I saw the poor getting poorer and the rich richer and more thieves emerging as business men, praised and honoured! 

Someone once asked me in UK why all Lebanese singers go to Egypt and other singers from Arab countries who never made it in their own country come to Egypt and make it big time, I grinned and said- it is because we cannot even agree that the singer is crap! We are a nation of habit so make us listen to the crap song over and over, and it will be our no 1 favourite and make it to top charts. 
The funny thing is we always wonder why others' want to take advantage of us and find us easy targets...our denial is limitless and we love the drama rather than taking more action. The revolution was only one day, but what about every day since?!

Read more on this links: 

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Perceiving Other's Minds_Friday 1st July Conference

A conference organised by Manchester University at Arthur Lewis building by Dr.Joel Smith.

The question asked and discussed in this conference is how do we have knowledge of Other's minds and mental features. The simple answer is through perception. Perception secures us some- if not all- knowledge as we use seeing and hearing to come to know they have minds and what is on their minds accordingly. Some say that perception could only give us information about other bodies and bodily  behaviour, i.e. frown, grin, smile or a look of terror. This could be used to show that, through these observations, we could come to know of other's mental features and what goes on in the mind.

Papers given in the conference suggest that there is a "more recent proposal which states that the transformation of this bodily information might come by way of a mental simulation or empathic connection. However an alternative is that information about other's minds and mental lives can itself form part of our basic evidence; that we might perceieve other's minds or some of their mental features."

One of the papers that interested me the most is by Will McNeil, University of York, who presented the following on his handout which sums up what he had basically on the power-point presentation.

Perceptual Hypothesis: [PH] It is sometimes possible to see other's mental features
Perceptual Hypothesis*: [PH*] it is sometimes possible to see- non inferentially or directly- other's mental features.

Question is....Do we say "I saw his anger or I saw his anger in his face?"
and How is embodiemnet suppose to help ?

Embodiment hypothesis:
[EH] Some mental features are (just) partly constituted by outward bodily features
[EP] Embodiment Perceptualist: PH* is plausible, but only when the mental feature is embodied.

Strategy: understand the first disjunct of the dilemma in such a way that does not entail behaviourism.

Opaque Seeing
[R1] by identifying some particular kinf of facial expression, you come to identify O's disgust
[R2] you identify O's facial expression as being one of disgust; you identify O's disgust 'in' their facial expression.

Transparent seeing: 3 things to transparent seeing DOESN'T automatically deliver:
1) Seeing O by seeing part of O
2) Seeing any particular feature of O
3) Seeing any particular feature of O by seeing some particular part of O

Image Source: http://prof.irfanessa.com/1994/08/30/dspace-at-mit-analysis-interpretation-and-synthesis-of-facial-expressions/
[C1] The EP needs some explaination of why seeing mental features is like seeing icebergs, rather than seeing woods.
[C2] The relationship between a feature and its parts seems more like that between the wood and a component tree than an iceberg and its tip.
[C3] We should not model the seeing of features on the seeing of objects.

Other Minds: How Humans Bridge the Divide between Self and Others

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The One OR The Many

Unlike Polygamy, where a man marries more than one wife, there is the opposite, Polyandry, where a woman has two or more husbands at the same time.

Now coming from an Egyptian woman or even any Middle Eastern woman, it would sound outrageous. People would raise eye brows and roll eyes. But seriously now, some women talk between themselves about the possibility of this idea since Egypt is going through change at the moment (a state of liberation) then why not turn everything on its head and look change in the eye.

Although I hear this idea secretly exchanged and joked about, I cannot say it could ever happen. Egypt is (unfortunately for females) a dominantly patriarchal society- although it would be helpful to have the exact gender figures/ statistics to show that women are more than men. Last time I heard people joking that there are more women than men yet it never changes the structure of the country and how it is run the slightest. Someone even went further to claim that every man will be encouraged to have more than one wife by law to solve the population and instability… What an excuse...

Now let me clarify where this polygamy idea came from in the first place in Middle Eastern countries and how it is backed up by Islamic religion. In the olden days when men in tribes used to leave their wives and children behind and go fight other tribes for land, money...etc many women found themselves widows as a result of the death of their husband in battle. A suggestion by Prophet Mohamed (May peace be upon him) was to encourage men who have the means to live (money, shelter...etc) to take another wife so that she would have support for herself and any kids she had before becoming a widow. This sounds all noble to me and many people who realise or are familiar with the origin of polygamy realise that good deed and will behind this act. The irony is how the idea developed over the years like a game of charades or telephone whisperers.  Instead of realising the nobility behind the act, men today take this as an invitation or almost permission by God to go ahead and take as many as four wives. One point that men leave out of the prophet's tale is that he strictly told men who would marry the widows only to do so if they, firstly, can afford to, and secondly, treat all wives equally and fairly. These conditions- specifically the second condition- are almost non-existent today as many men assume that having plenty of money and being able to provide for the four women is enough regardless of being able or not to treat all equally and fairly as the prophet said (which is also noted in the Quran but usually left out when referred to orally or misunderstood).

Now Polyandry has been a concept that interested many women as a result of this unfairness. My explanation also- which makes me actually grin- is perhaps because women who think of polyandry or it crosses their mind keeps meeting, liking or even loving guys that they would like to marry all at once rather than dedicate themselves or –from some of the women’s perspective- enslave themselves to only one. When I used to tell that to my friend, she used to laugh and say “You think like a man!” which I found puzzling...why are men given the liberty to think freely while even women’s thoughts are under scrutiny and ridicule?

From research, I found out that polyandry is originally a Greek word for poly & many. Who else
could think of a genius concept and be ok about it than the Greeks- I bow to them for that. I wished to find something about the Pharohs to support that, but all I can recall from tales I was told in my childhood is a tale of Osiris and Isis who were brother and sister and got married, which isn't really the same in this case.

Something I came across recently is this: A Saudi journalist Nadine Bedair has caused a storm in the Wahabbist kingdom.

Bedair penned an article for the Egyptian daily newspaper 'Al Masry Al Youm' titled, “My Four Husbands and I.” You hardly have to read beyond the headline to forecast the storm ahead — but, of course, you’d be missing out on her delightfully daring indictment of polygamy if you didn’t.
Badir writes: “Allow me to choose four, five or even nine men, just as my wildest imagination shall choose,” Bedair continues.... “I’ll pick them with different shapes and sizes, one of them will be dark and the other will be blonde.”

Now this would be against what many people call the “common defence of polygamy within Islam” which states as I mentioned in the beginning that it rescues widows and divorcees from their unfortunate plight by allowing men to welcome multiple women into their homes. Bedair, however, doesn’t buy it: “I have long questioned why it is men have a monopoly on this right. No one has been able to explain to me convincingly why it is I’m deprived of the right to polyandry.”

No wonder this is polemic in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the middle east in general, so much polemic, that they are accusing her of blasphemy!  Or more like- off with her head... Yuks!


In Arab history, I came across this term “Nikah Ijtimah” which means “combined marriage” where a woman has intercourse with a group of men and if she gets pregnant, she sends them invites to come see the child, an offer which they cannot turn down. She then chooses from the group those who she would like to father her child and act as a mentor and guide. This of course was outlawed by Islam and today it is required of any man and woman to be married prior to sexual intercourse. Also, Islam requires that the identity of the father must be known. In other words, the whole process of sex and marriage is structured by social norms and are becoming stricter than in the olden days.
All I can think of now is regardless of the disadvantage of polyandry and attacks against it, there is a suggestion here that the off springs will be of excellent genes since polyandry ensures “variety”, in other words, one male could be tall, another could be handsome, the third has excellent trait, and the fourth compliments these traits with further traits. The off springs in this scenario will benefit so much more than being from a single father who may lack on many traits and possess weaker ones, hence limit the child’s potentiality.


- http://polyandry-society-international.org/
- http://nickshell1983.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/americas-guilty-pleasureobsession-with-polygamy-what-the-bachelor-big-love-and-sister-wives-teach-us-about-the-ultimate-case-of-seeing-other-people/
- http://www.norcalblogs.com/post_scripts/2010/10/send-in-the-sanity-clowns.html
- http://tessera2009.blogspot.com/2010/01/whos-daddy-why-polyandry-is-bad-idea.html

Multiple Husbands

Monday, 27 June 2011

Hegel Haus_Stuttgart/Germany

Yesterday I came back from a six day trip to Stuttgart, Germany, where I visited Hegel's house. Hegel is one of my favourite philosophers- besides all existentialists. 

Hegel's most famous text is the Phenomenology of Spirit published in 1979 which probably put Hegel on the scene and gained him a lot of publicity at a time where other prompt philosophers where very well known. 
With Hegel, June 2011

I have been interested in Hegel since I wrote a paper in my BA years on his text and realised how relevant the master and slave (lord and bondsman) tension/relationship is throughout history and is evident in every day situations. 

I just could not stop thinking about what he said which made so much sense. As part of my current PHD therefore, I got a travel grant- a small sum of money to cover expenses- to help me attend Hegel's international conference in Stuttgart that was running for three days starting 22nd June, 2011 in Rathaus Buidling in Rathaus square/market place.

The conference was split into panels in different rooms each with a specific topic ie. freedom and neccessity, panel II, the Free market and so on and so forth. Many speakers attended mostly German speakers yet there where a few attendees and speakers who were from Amercia as well. Some are of course more well known on the academic scene more than others. One of the annoying things though is a speaker who said that he was asked to give a talk at a short notice, hence he had nothing to say on Hegel so in return will give a paper on Kant. This ended up to be more than dissapointing as not only were the listeners let down- since the theme of the conference was primarily on Hegel- but also the paper on Kant was so hard to follow with no clear explaination of what it was trying to achieve and it went on for over two hours.
Anyway, the conference gave both students and speakers alike a chance to minggle and exchange comments and remarks in general which was a nice thing to see and be part of. Hegel's house was a must see as it gives an idea of his previous life, his interests and feel of the period he wrote and lived in. I would reccomend anyone to visit it.

For more information on Hegel's house see:

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Frustration of 2011

Sitting on the sofa wondering about my life...the past, the present, my future. I wonder sometimes if the road I chose was the right one. I wonder if I should have listened to others' advice. I guess only the future would tell...

Doing a PHD is probably the most frustrating stage in anyone's life. For me, it represents being in limbo, a state of waiting patiently, bearing and trying to keep smiling at whatever is thrown at me. Funny enough, the university boosts about helping and supporting students, but when the help is needed really, no one is there. One is left puzzled, alone, wondering about the situation with no answers. The most bizzare reality is that staff at the end of the day work at the university and finish their shifts 9-5pm for instance, go home and totally forget about work once they step in their homes. The problem in my situation however, the studies become one's life. I am totally absorbed and caught in a spider's web unable to set myself free. But then again, I wonder how much did I want this...I waited two years to make enough money to decide finally that the time has come to start my studies again once and for all. Why do I now feel like quitting? I am never a quitter but it gets difficult when the feedback shows hurdle after hurdle...It gets difficult when I knock on a professor's door and the look on their face terrifies me. A look that questions my very being to exist- as Sartre would say. It is bizzare indeed how I feel that I am the only one in the world who actually relates to everything that Sartre wrote about interms of negative almost cold human relations.

But again I wonder if it is a problem on a larger scale...Is the issue really being in a University that is in Europe opposed to one in the Middle East?

After going through the traditional schooling system in Egypt from the age of 2 till the age of 17 I finished school with good enough grades to get me to university. The danger there was not getting the grades for a university and ending up in a technical university that was considered to be less prestigious in Egyptian society. Luckily, because my mum worked for many years in the American University in Cairo, Egypt, as a memeber of staff she was entitled to a university place for her children- which was me, the eldest, and later on my sister. The requirement for admissions is to get about 70% in the tradiational thanaweya amma (equivelant to GCSE) to be offered a place. I am fortunate enough to have fullfilled the requirements and accepted an offer to attend the American University in Cairo, Egypt by 2001. Upon admissions, students are not encouraged to specialise right away like in UK or Europe, but rather fulfill some core requirements first that can  be taken in the first two year or spread out along one's specialised courses. It is worth then to add that the normal university degree lasts in Egypt about 4-5 years, and not 3 years of specialised study like I found out in UK.

For the first year and semester, I have been meeting an academic advisor whose role is to advice me on the courses and guide my decisisons. These meetings where probably one of the best services by the university that I would encourage in any educational insitution. Some students, unlike myself, had no clue what they wanted to study. And later on, my own sister after finishing school and following my footsteps found this service excellent as well as she knew what she did NOT want to do, but had no idea what she would like to do interms of career or courses. Thanks to the university's liberal education system, I managed to discover my love for various subjects that I did not think of before, such as film, interior design, and philosophy (which I declared in my later years as a second major)

Anyway, I started a BA in English and Comparative Literature and enjoyed every module I took. The professors were so welcoming, easy going and engaged in social activities to break the ice. It was nice to get to know the professors and realise how fun they are and really admire how knowledgable they are. This encouraged us to read, learn and happily do the assignments. In fact, I loved exams so much because it gave me a chance to show my own creation and answer to every questions. It was a chance to make the professor smile when he read my paper and be happy how much I learned from him/her. Unfortunately this has not been the same experience I had since coming to the UK and going to East Anglia university in Norwich for my MA and later on, the University of Liverpool for my current ongoing Phd.

My mum always says keep your chin up, smile, you can do it, but I seem to have the same feeling and butterflies in my belly everytime I have a meeting with my supervisor or any staff at the later universities. There is something cold, unwelcoming, unfriendly and certainly unapproacable about people in those later universities. I just can't put my fingure on it YET!

Lately I have been looking at the job market just incase I actually end up leaving my Phd before finishing it for whatever reason the future may hold. What I found out was not exactly what I expected yet it doesn't look as bad as I imagined. Thankfully I obtained my Post graduate certificate in Education whilst working the past two years as part of staff development in the college I worked for in Wales, so that is one requirement by many jobs in the educational sector- one box ticked. Experience wise, teaching BTEC National Diploma, having 60 students in total and building the courses from scratch, actively marking and internally verifying work has been a bonus so that I guess will be another box ticked. The issue now is where are the jobs?!

One website I came across after looking in Liverpool agencies adevertised jobs in vain, is Middle east jobs which advertise jobs that seem to me to be mainly in Sauidi Arabia. I guess this is where the money is. I filled an application there but still wondered whilst doing so if I really would like to go there... It is always a big gamble making big moves like moving to a totally different country- one I guess that I do not calculate much (evident in my presence in the UK still since 2006...)

Well, enough with this now, I guess I just need to chill now, take a deep breath and take whatever comes...whether that be Dr Shereen in the future, or not, I guess I could still say I was NOT just sitting on the sofa doing nothing at all...