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.


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.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Are they elitist philosophers?

Even though one may sense a sense of elitism within the philosophical arena there has been no arguments in the past to support that the field is full of elitists. In fact, from my observations of philosophers today they seem to be pretty much divided into the odd groups of philosophers with a rather scruffy look to them and obscure behavior OR those who are unapproachable and only talk to those they believe are worth of their company. This again is a speculation and I have not yet found any evidence to say that philosophers are elitists regardless of one's urge to want to say so. I guess it can be said of people from any field of academia really. The whole academic stage is full of mixed people from mixed backgrounds. Now I read that some people believe that Nietzsche's ubermensch is the ultimate elite, as is the entire conception of the Master v. the Slave. And Thomas Hobbes was a strident monarchist while Edmund Burke was a proponent of English monarchy. Now the factors leading to elitism are inhumanity, slavery, civil war, intolerance, poverty, class inequality, male dominator culture, arrogance, discrimination, prejudice and so on. This is not to say however that elitist philosophers or those who have such advantages are the ones who succeed in their message. In fact I would like to believe today, from all the experiences and observations that I had in the past, the those who will remain at the end of the day are the "ordinary" philosophers who will be able to explain to you in a layman style whatever you would like to know about human nature, life and moral choices for instance. It is true that philosophy is the most important subject, to me perhaps. This is because it address issues that no other subject is capable of addressing, issues that are so dear to you, as a human being, as a person in society, as a man or a woman. Philosophy talks to us and about us. I cannot imagine any other subject that would be able to convey all my being in the same way. But then again I wonder why some avoid it, misunderstand it to be something it is not, or even ignore it. Those who do that are lost in their own world and are afraid of what philosophy is really all about. And for this reason, I would like to believe that the ordinary philosopher will be the one who continues to exists because he will be always understood, appreciated and needed.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Today, 22nd Oct 2013, part of the Autumn series of talks organized by the Union for education professionals (UCU) was a live broadcast of MIT's Professor Noam Chomsky. It was such an honor to attend and listen to Professor Chomsky's comments on the place of university in today's society and the direction of education. Professor Chomsky began by highlighting the many issues that our world seem to suffer from today from general stagnation to specific problems of politics and democracy. He no doubt wrote openly about his views as a linguist and as a philosophers. But it was great to hear his views as perhaps an education reformer or someone who at least see education shifting in a certain direction. Professor Chomsky stated that the government has no right in "devaluing" education in such a way that it is no longer a place for knowledge but rather a cooperation. A business in an industrial system that requires profits regardless of its customers' needs. The "new spirit of the age" as he called it is a term used by many thinkers when talking about social and economical crisis or trends in our present day. It is clear that because people started to wonder about the value of what they are really getting from services to eduction, we are seeing more and more strikes and signs of people's objection. Funny enough Chomsky commented "the system worked fine when its citizens were passive and obedient" This is of course true of many countries today that have recently been through times of turmoil as a result of political and social reforms. Talking for example about the rise in tuition, Chomsky explained that before a student could claim bankruptcy and his debts will be written off. Now there seem to be no expiry period for such debts, thus, a student can lose on future salary and any benefits he may be getting just because they will automatically be taken away to cover his initial debts. It sounded to me indeed like a vicious circle where students have fallen victims with or without awareness. Germany for example and Finland have free education, why can't other countries follow? Isn't the right to good education a simple and basic human right?! The direction of education today is a pessimistic one clearly as the primary victims are students who are plunged into debts at the sheer scam of a "business like model of education" Chomsky joked about one making a call only to be answered by a machine then options that often do not include what you are inquiring about or needing. One the one hand, this period of waiting on the phone is efficient for businesses as they can keep you in the line while they attend to others' calls but on the other hand, this is a waste of your time and very possibly money if the call was not free. Chomsky is saying that today the most vulnerable in education are graduates who are paid less, expected to do more and become replaceable. The privatization plan is to limit consumers' choices by ruining something in such a way that a consumer find no other way but to accept the concept of privatization. This does not help human progress at all. There has been a debate about What education OUGHT to be. Of course in the Enlightenment period when there were provocative images. Education was seen as 1. A vessel for water (a leaky one of course) and 2. as a foster of exploration and designed to aid understanding. However, what the new spirit of the age expects is: Obedience, devalue of human life and of course, wealth. On an end note, Chomsky says, he see that there is still hope with dedicated effort and careful thought, activism from civilized groups of society, things will improve... In Q & A : Chomsky mentioned how MIT used to get in the 50s and 60s its funding from the Pentagon to help the poorer population. From the late 60s till today, the funding declined and more cooperative funding are emerging as a consequence of organization wanting to fund projects that will benefit them and bring them profit. These projects used to be in he field of technology and electronics, now they are mostly concerned with pharmaceutical and biological projects. It seems therefore that the options for research for students are determined by economy and interests from industry and not anything else. This is of course a shame as it is in a way an exploitation of intellectuals and researchers for the sake of businesses and cooperation financial and economical growths. And to end, Chomsky mentioned a question that he'd been asked and left the audience giggling when he attempted to come to UK was "How can your research contribute to British economy?" What a fantastic live broadcast that was, one day I will look back at this and have a big sigh. Thanks to the education Union (UCU) ulivucu.org.uk

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Lana Del Rey- Lucky Ones [LYRICS ON SCREEN]


Big sigh at this song... It is true that we always crave to be loved, not just if one is single, but even when one is with a partner or married. Sometimes the heart still craves an emotion that cannot be explained and cannot be found easily. Maybe not straight away at least.

I have been lately wondering how it is so easy for a man to get out and in of love so easily and how a man can love once, twice and for a third time without giving it a second thought. Or Ok, with giving it "some" if at all, thought. What is interesting is the difficulty such a process is when a woman experience exactly the same scenario, would she be able to get in and out of love, switch lovers smoothly and effectively without emotional harm or distress? No, is the clear answer. We seem to get hooked on one person as the centre of attention of our whole universe. It is certainly difficult to imagine touching another man when for a long time- perhaps even for 30 years- one have been with the same person. The truth of the matter is that men can easily switch just like that and start a new life with another woman So why can't we?! Why is our mind rejecting this idea of a stranger who can quickly and soon become a new life partner? I was telling myself it could be that we, women, get too attached, too comfortable perhaps and we fear the new ,the unknown, the different? But then I thought surely this isn't the case with "all" women. Strong women are not going to shrink at the thought of the new other's naked body? A strong woman will welcome the challenge of experiencing yet again everything in love and in love new and for the first time. Just like falling in love over and over and over and over again.... Oh well what the heck! If men can do it, why can't we? HUh!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Borders of the mind

Dear Public This is a note addressed to you specifically to tell you about an idea that has always been there and yet unnoticed, that is the idea of the borders of the mind. We live by rules, norms and traditions that were passed down to us from past generations. It is likely that we never question them till we die. Those who stop and question these borders may or may not survive the attacks of the others. It is unfortunate that we have so much power on each other to alter if not cease someone else's ideas. The borders I am referring to are those that hinder our progress. They are borders that are man-made. Who is it to say that one one group of people or better or worthy than another? Who is it to say that we are the "chosen ones"? And if so, chosen by who? God? Well, God "supposedly" created us equal...or has he?! Why do we say this faith is the "right" or "wrong" faith? Isn't it about time to cross the border of the mind towards a universal way of thinking? The borders of the mind force us to stay where we are wanting to believe so much that the state that we are on is true, correct, righteous and real. This feeling is chattered with the realization that one needs to leave the past behind and look forward to the future with its new challenges and opportunities. Through human history we can see that we were once all the same, all together and nothing else mattered. So what has changed I wonder?! Image: Muslim brotherhood demonstration in Cairo's streets, August 2013

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Thinkwrite with Dr Peter Moore

As a PhD students you always are on the look out for opportunities to inspire you and reassure you that you are on the right track. I have luckily met with Dr Peter Moore for "My thesis" workshop as part of University of Liverpool's graduate school summer programme. Dr Moore gave us all a booklet which I believe is a good starting point towards rethinking your work as a whole. I have posted the two pages I found most useful on my wall to be a constant reminder of where I am at and where I am going. These valuable pages are a chart of my thesis plan chapter by chapter and a mind map which gives me a whole comprehensive view to see the work in its totality. No session of course is perfect as I found myself wondering about other things too. But Dr Moore's humor and cynicism towards academia, writing and marketing was always bringing me back to the classroom. I could not stop myself from wondering about the idea of Thinkwrite as a business that provides a variety of courses. Could this possibly be the way forward if one diverges from the route to an academic position? Could one's own experiences be the basis for a business idea? Why not. If you are a PhD student like me who would like some valuable resources and help writing up, check Dr. Moore's website: http://www.thinkwrite.biz/about_us/

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Happy Ramadan Everyone!

Ramadan is one of the best months to spend in a Muslim country. The charm of the Eastern warmth, the fumes and mixed smells of cooking near Iftar time, people's chilled out attitude towards life, the traditional songs and the variety of TV programmes, but best of all, the colorful lanterns lightening the streets at night. This is something I terribly miss here in UK. Every year Ramadan comes and I only know about it from friends and family. I feel nothing here, no celebrations, no traditions and certainly no gathering around the table for Iftar. The family feel during Ramadan is absent in UK. Even Christmas day in the West does not come any close to such a holy month in terms of preparation or grandeur.

Ramadan this year has started on 8th July and is predicted to last till August 7th, 2013. After it comes the Eid, which is another celebration I miss a lot, mostly because of the lack of family members I have here in UK. You'd think when you marry and leave your parents house that life has begun for you and is filled with so much adventures. Realistically, life is exactly the same but with one difference which is that your're seriously on your own. Many times I think to myself "it sucks to be an adult" I wish I knew that ages ago I could have taken advantage of being a youngster and lived these days fully rather than trying to grow up so fast and worrying about what the future holds.
The problems of Ramadan in UK is that Iftar is at 10 pm which is extremely unhealthy if like me you are a full time mum looking after a crazy active toddler, trying to write up a thesis, juggling a few chores and running a household single handed. Now what would someone religious say to me about not fasting? Well, the first attempt to convince me that I should would be that in me suffering there is redemption for my sins and that my reward after the temporal life will be very worthwhile. The problem with this reasoning is that it already assumes that I have committed sins in the temporal life that I so wish to redeem and that my sense of guilt or shame from God will drive me to give in to such reasoning and agree to put my body and mind under this suffering for a month. The second attempt to convince me is that I would be tempted to fast for the sake of the reward in the non temporal world- i.e. appealing to my greed. The two attempts from my view are inadequate in terms of making me fast since the hours and the suffering will have terrible consequences on myself, body and mind, and on my child who will not be able to cope at 18 months only without me fully functioning to take care of his daily needs. What I find annoying though is when someone sleeps during the day till past 4 or 5pm only to have a few hours left to go till Iftar and stays up to watch TV after Iftar at 10 pm till 3am! Surely God would see this as a waste of one's life and productive valuable time. People who do so, should not preach to people like me whose day starts at 6 am daily with the cry of a child to attend to.

The moral of the story, therefore, there are things in Islam that are desirable but not doing them will not make you a sinner. Islam should be seen as a religion that does not take away your right to live life fully, it is not a religion that dictates to you to do this and that blindly. Islam tells us to think, to see, to feel, to learn, to know and to act. Yes, it is desirable of me to be fasting during the month of Ramadan, but not fasting for very important reasons such as health, time and the welfare of a child who is entirely dependent on me, does not make me a sinner.
With this quote: "Life is like a game of cards, the hand you are dealt with is determinism the way you play it is free will", I leave you...Have a wonderful month of Ramadan.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Once again an Egyptian Revolution

My sister, Heidi

Egyptian people rise to show the world that they are strong- even if not entirely united. But  this was all about to change. I have to say I was skeptical at first and I was disheartened about Muslim brotherhood ruling of Egypt. I can finally take a breath and say I was very wrong and there is still a future for Egypt. 

My mum and sister were among many of those wanted their voice to be heard and know that Morsi's ruling was no good. After only one year in power, the Muslim brotherhood drained Egypt's resources and put themselves and their relatives in office to "cash in" while they still can as much as possible.

My mother, Hala
On the night of 3 July, after a warning 48 hours earlier to intervene on behalf of the people, the Egyptian Armed Forces came out with a statement announcing the end of Mohammed Morsi's presidency. In the same statement, the military announced that the constitution was temporarily suspended, that a presidential election would be held soon, the chief justice of the constitutional court, Adly Mansour, is now head of the government and that a transitional technocratic government would be formed until the election.

In an Nutshell, consequences of 3rd July 2013 revolution are:
- President Morsi deposed by Military (as request from the Military by Egyptian people)
- Constitution suspended (It needed some attention to be honest)
- New Elections to be determined by the interim government- Arrests of Muslim brotherhood members (Like Nasser's era)
- Closure of perceived pro-Muslim media outlets (Wooohooo-  I hope it's including the belly dancing channel that began when they came to power!)

Now, the latest is:
Barack’s Plan B for the Brotherhood | FrontPage Magazine:

Obama and Morsi come together to try to show Hamas and Israel the way to peace.(Patrick Chappatte's cartoon: Chappatte is an editorial cartoonist for the International Herald Tribune- http://www.nytimes.com)

Mr Obama, here is a reply from an American citizen, Lina A Benhalim who has lived all her life in Egypt and is now witnessing all the events first hand. Ms Benhali claimed that she can clearly see the truth which is concealed by some of the Western media. today.

Ms Benhalim 's reply to Mr Obama should be more than sufficient:

Dear Barack Obama,

You can stick that "plan B" where it really belongs. Egypt is not and will not be another Syria, or even another Iraq. Your historical ways of planting terrorism in the Middle East to "create" the need to jump in and save the day as you did previously won't work this time. This is Egypt Mr Obama, bigger than you, your government, and your 10 year old nation. This is the civilization of thousands of years, and this is the land that initiated all the sciences and maths that you now use against us. Unfortunately this is one where you can't stand the chance, Egypt is bigger than you. 


An ashamed American citizen

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Fantastic Song from Egypt: Ana Satreen | أنا سطرين | Asfalt band Ft. Ameer Yossef

@AxeerStudio | Ana Satreen | أنا سطرين | Asfalt Ft. Ameer Yossef

Our identity defined by what we do and what we say. I am many things, my existence has multiple dimensions. You'd think I am a single piece in a puzzle, but I am not. I am all around you. In this life, I continue to leave my mark...after all, I refuse to leave unnoticed.

Enjoy :) x

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

World Philosophies: University of Hull's 2nd Annual Philosophy Graduate Conference

On 20th and 21st June 2013 I have had the pleasure of attending and presenting a paper at University of Hull's 2nd Annual Philosophy Graduate Conference titled "World Philosophies", held at Wilberforce Building. The conference which was organised by Postgraduate student, Joshua Gray, was with no doubt a success. The aim of the conference was to allow analytic philosophy to engage with other philosophies from around the world. Papers presented varied both in style and tradition which highlighted the need for dialogue between analytic and continental philosophy.

The issues which the conference highlighted were firstly, that post-graduate students today should have an understanding of where their own research stand within the wider philosophical canon. Keynote speaker, Dr Katherine Morris (Oxford) questioned "who is to say which philosopher is within such canon." It was evident that everyone present can sense that there was indeed a "gulf between Western and non-Western philosophies", but the reasons for it were yet to be discovered and, hopefully, overcome in the coming years. On the brighter side, some of the attendees presentations had underlying links and shared some common traits. It was a step into welcoming other philosophies, keeping an open mind and showing appreciation to speakers' efforts.

From  my perspective, the conference also highlighted a void- if not flaws- within the British academic system- or more specifically within the study of philosophy. Naturally, not all attendees of the conference share the same educational or intellectual background. And if the conference is open to the general public, then students should be aware that their work must be accessible to in a way which would make sense to all and would touch upon important issues in regards to one's humanity. After all, this is what makes philosophy appealing in the first place; that is the fact that it talks about us, our feelings, our existence and how we cope with our surroundings. We are approaching an era where people have started losing the will to read complicated texts or be patient enough to untangle its contents. In the past, philosophers have managed to get away with, for instance, lousy writing style, jargon, complicated or borrowed words. But today... we write for "the people" not "at" the people. I, thus, predict that the ordinary language philosopher will be, within the next couple of years, the public's popular choice.

Another aspect that the conference highlighted is the language in which postgraduates students use today to engage with one another or with the public. There is no doubt that one always feels he/she is under scrutiny from the "other". All I could think of at the time, when someone complained that he was terrified that a specific person would be the first to "pick" or "question" aspects of the content of the presentation, if not the validity or importance of the work, is to say "relax & who cares". Of course I have reached this attitude after experiencing the same feelings on numerous occasions and telling myself instead "prepare to wow them" rather than "prepare to be attacked" and worrying that my presentation is an opportunity for others to find fault in. It is our inner projection that drives us forward, our passion and belief in what we do is the key to our success. Perhaps the one thing that we, postgraduates, are not taught is how to look after our well being and to believe in ourselves. It is not a battle of words or who is right or wrong here, or even who is more deserving of our appreciation than another. The reason why the Greeks sat around a table all together during a symposium, all equal, was to show exactly that; solidarity, equality and appreciation or finding worth in one another. So why is it becoming so difficult today?

All in all, I had a great time meeting a lot of people who I am hopefully going to keep in touch with....As for my research, it's only the beginning of a life time passion so bring it on!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

It just means you ARE human...

Muse's "Uprising" Lyrics

“You say you're 'depressed' - all i see is resilience. You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn't mean you're defective - it just means you're human.”- From Film Cloud Atlas

One of the quotes that keep popping in my head recently is this one (above). Taking a step back now, although some people would not believe this about me, but I have often felt down more than the times I have felt "happy". But then again what is the meaning of "happiness"? Now we went from one question to another which is not really what I intended to write about now... 

Back to the quote (above) it is normal to feel down, it is normal to feel "messed up" because this is what makes you, me and everyone else human. I say to myself often now, don't beat yourself too much about it, you can only do too much for someone. They have to want to succeed, they have to want to change, it must come from within. well, this makes me feel better for a bit but they I start feeling anxious all over again. It is like your hands have been tied down so tightly while you're attempting to run up a hill!!! Yes that's exactly how I feel. At 29 years old, I think to myself (more lately than before) my god, I feel like I'll have a heart attack at any moment now. I try to stop and distract myself quickly, sometimes it works, sometimes it's worse...

Anyway, so when the quote says "It doesn't mean you're defective, it just means you're human" it really is saying "stop worrying, stop beating yourself about it, you can't fix the world", you are only a piece in a massive puzzle.

The sad thing is that I feel at limbo at this  moment in life, not knowing where I am going or what I am waiting for. All I know is that something will happen or "need" to happen. This moment, this time, this second, the silence is increasing my anxiety and the bareness of life is unbearable. Let's hope a big bang comes in my way to shake things up soon enough!

With this thought, I leave you with a great song "Uprising" from my favorite band Muse... Enjoy!

Quick note about the song: Can't help but think in the chorus of the song that it should be "WE" rather than "They" in "They will not force us" etc... It  seems to me to be us forcing ourselves, degrading ourselves and controlling ourselves... So how can we be victorious muse ? Huh? It is ALL Our own Doing!!! sniff sniff...

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Why is Egypt so backward

This issue of why Egypt has been recently drifting into the abyss has been one that is always on my mind. I cannot help but compare between the East and the West, Egypt and UK. The inability of Egyptians to overcome the vanity of status and alterity has caused the nation to go backwards. Let me explain...

Now it seems to me that Egyptians put family and social status at the highest rank possible. But when you
really see human interactions on a closer level you'd see the truth behind these interactions. Their purpose is not to enjoy one another's company or act morally withing a social norm, but rather to please one's ego by showing off material possessions and comparing between siblings, family members and gossiping about who has what and who did what. Sadly, this has been one of the fundamental things that have put me totally off interacting with fellow Egyptians. I have been in UK for 7 years now and can frankly say that I have never shared this characteristics or found it appealing in one way or the other.

Now to be my home....Liverpool City 
Am I becoming British then? Apart from a document with my photo saying British passport, I think that my temperaments has certainly been affected by living in the Western world and specifically UK.

To say it simply, when I walked in the house and asked my husband to put the kettle on and had the strongest urge for a cup of tea with milk and a piece of cake, something inside me was alerted that such a behavior- that I used to mock- is rapidly becoming a norm.

On a more serious level, I have become intolerant to the drama and moaning of how life is unfair and the attempts of fellow Egyptians to burden me with their troubles, big or small.

The more I look into human relations with analytic eyes, the more I realise the faults and traps I am bound to fall into and I make a swift escape. For this reason, I have fallen out with some, ignored others and avoided most starting by deleting the what I believe to be the curse of modernity and the highlight of social media today, Facebook. Frankly, I spent hours and hours of valuable time that I could have completed a lot of work in, chatting and checking others. For what purpose, I one day asked myself and found that my answers all point towards deleting such an invention. To me, it was the ties that tied me down to my roots and reminded me of the little annoying things that I hated whilst growing up in Egypt, the drama, the misery, the invasion of one's privacy, the underlying hate and the absence of morals masked by an organised form of religion.

An ultimate thing I felt after a month of deleting my Facebook page is that solitude is a bliss that cannot be sacrificed at any cost. Of course in addition to realizing how less of an Egyptian I have become!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

I think I'll have a heart attack soon...

Lately there has been too much going on that I realized suddenly how much I always put people before me.
It is certainly not doing me any good and I feel like I will at any moment collapse. So I decided that from now on, I will say to myself "it is NOT my business" "it is NOT my problem" If people are capable of causing the problem surely they are capable of undoing it too, right?! My good, how people can be a pain sometimes. I always hear Sartre saying in my head "Hell is Other people" he is so right. This month I turn 29 and it is something that is making me wonder about the future too much. Yes at 29 it is making me worry- wait till I hit 30 aye! It upset me the most when the advert with Antonio Bandarez comes on and I think to myself how much he aged and how age is a real B**** There is no stopping for age, it is a powerful thing that hits us all, humans, the most. I don't think animals worry or notice even, it is just a natural cycle for them. Oh well, pardon my pessimism but if there was any sense in this world, our purpose would be a bit clearer and our path would be easier. I sat the other day in a doctor's waiting room full of sick babies and all I can think of is where is God's mercy and why is he allowing this? Is it wrong of me to ask? Maybe. But as my eyes watered thinking that thought I could not find the right answer or at least one that satisfies me, not even close. In fact, when my own son sleeps on me as I am on the rocking chair and he flinches, frowns or wakes suddenly crying, I wonder what could have possibly disturbed his easy peaceful life? I can only wish when this happens that I am present in his dreams to push bad thoughts away or whatever made him that scared or upset. But I guess there is only little that a parents can do.

Apologies for the scattered ideas here, it is that time of the day where I cant help myself but think. I wish I could "unplug" myself....again, if only it was that easy.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Tawfiq Al Hakim My Life's Work

It is shocking how people still do not know today a pioneer in literature and philosophy like Tawfiq Al Hakim. I have spent many years gathering his works and materials to support my thesis and research. My work will aim to present his philosophical writings in a new light, one that is current and suitable for reviving the philosophical narrative genre in Egypt and abroad. The research is original and will be no doubt controversial in that it will examine his doctrine and his own personal beliefs in relation to his religion, Islam. Without giving too much details of my progress and discoveries, this work will be a stepping stone which consolidates ideas from both, the East and the West. I feel it is needed at the current time and vital to clear the misunderstandings and misconceptions that are linked to him as an author. The challenge is certainly one that I am struggling with, but with every step of progress, I am more determined than ever! I am hoping to complete the work by 2014/15 at the latest.

الفيلم التسجيلي راهب الفكر توفيق الحكيم

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Islamic University, Al Azhar, president SACKED over food poisoning scandal

Yet another scandal in Egypt to emerge as students of Al Azhar university get food poising from eating rotten chicken that has passed unnoticed. Why am I not surprised?

Just to make it worse, the incident emerged at a time when the whole country is disgusted and furious at the Muslim brotherhood ruling that has gone too far. There are news of groups roaming in the country hitting and torturing people for no reason and unjustified arrests! The president Morsi continues to make the situation worse by his void speeches that only show stupidity, ignorance and more trouble to come for the country. People living in Egypt- my friends and family on a personal level- expressed their concern for the country and for the future that is not looking promising at all. Everyone so far is looking for an opportunity elsewhere to escape the chaos and stupidity of those who now call themselves rulers. Almost 600 students were poisoned and taken to hospital.

More information on the scandal can be found here:

To watch video interview of students on the street press link below:


Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cloud Atlas Sextet - Piano XXXL

  25th Feb, 2013 Film

Finally managed to go see the new film Cloud Atlas after checking the trailer out many times for months. It was not far from what I expected, in fact, I was happy that it met every single expectation I had in mind. Futuristic, yes, creative, yes, imaginative, defiantly, musical and romantic, for sure and the icing on the cake, it was philosophical.

The questions posed by the actors caused the lamp above my head to light up and my imagination to go wild.

Some of the beautiful quotes in Cloud Atlas that I cannot get out of my head by David Mitchell are:

“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?” 

“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” 

“You say you're 'depressed' - all i see is resilience. You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn't mean you're defective - it just means you're human.”

"suicide takes considerable courage...."

“What is any ocean but a multitude of drops?” “& only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!"

How can we not think when we hear these words. I don't think anyone could ignore the urge for inquiring within oneself about the gush of emotions that one feels when these words are uttered. I know for sure that I found it impossible and it was, to me, like an invitation to allow myself to take this opportunity to think without being disrupted by others' presence or sounds. What a bliss it is to be in a cinema theatre...there is always pleasure in darkness. What really complimented the film experience though was this perfect musical piece that I felt the need to share. Enjoy