Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

The bloodiest period in modern Egypt

August 19, 2013

Brutal military junta describe the massacre of innocent peaceful protesters as an act of self-restraint.

The media in Egypt, are whipping up hysteria against what they call Muslim terrorist.

The same media is whipping up hysteria against foreign journalists, many of whom themselves have been attacked. Several have been detained and disappeared, including two Canadian journalists and an Al Jazeera journalist. A TV camera man working for Sky News was killed.

The slaughter of innocent protesters will have only one consequence, it will open the void for Islamic terrorists to step into.

We must hope, that the crimes against humanity being committed by the military junta, are documented and they are brought to justice, in the meantime, all Egyptians must unite to overthrow the junta, otherwise Egypt will descend into bloody civil war.

People had great hopes when they occupied Tahrir Square. Now they are betrayed. The light of freedom is being extinguished by a brutal fascism.

Canon Andrew White at St Saviour’s

August 19, 2013
book signing

book signing

It is strange, I had been thinking of meeting with Canon Andrew White, and early hours Sunday morning, I found I had a message that he was at St Saviour’s Church in Guildford.

I had not planned on being in Guildford, but a change of plans, afternoon in Guildford, lunch in Guildford, maybe a walk along the River Wey, then wander along to St Saviour’s for the evening service.

Not quite according to plan. I did not get the roast pork I was looking forward to for lunch, nor did I get my walk along the river, but I did experience a black church called The Upper Room meeting in St Nicolas, and had afternoon tea at Glutton & Glee.

I arrived at St Saviour’s more than half an hour early and was told I was first one.

I was not sure I had the correct evening, as no mention on their website, but on arrival I saw a space had been reserved for Andrew White and there was a notice on the church door.

The service started with music. During rehearsal, they were awful, but during the service far better.

We were then told of the situation in Egypt, or rather were were told half truths.

It is good that a church is recognising the plight of Christians in Egypt and the Middle East as too often they feel ignored and the churches in the West do not give a damn, but what we should also recognise is that the Christians in Egypt especially their leadership, are not a reliable witness to events on the ground and will give a partisan view.

We should not forget, that when people occupied Tahrir Square and refused to leave until Mubarak was overthrown, those who supported Mubarak to the bitter end and condemned the brave people in Tahrir Square, were the leaders of the Christian Church in Egypt. Neither should we forget that Muslims and Christian stood shoulder to shoulder in Tahrir Square.

Morsi betrayed the revolution. He tried to Islamise what is a secular country, betrayal of rights for women, installation of cronies to positions of power. In other words, no different to every corrupt government in the Middle East.

20 million Egyptians took to the streets to overthrow Morsi. A lot of rubbish in the West about the democratic overthrow of Morsi. The will of the people was executed. That is democracy. Democracy is not rule by unaccountable elites, the people reduced to election fodder and having no further say.

But, the overthrow of Morsi, has been hijacked by a military junta.

Attention was drawn to a letter from Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis. This proved to be little more than a propaganda sheet for the brutal military junta, demonisation of the Muslim Brotherhood.

St Saviour’s need to be very careful that they are not being used as unwitting tools of the military junta.

Morsi supporters, and it is not only the Muslim Brotherhood, have every right to peaceful protest. The response of the junta, to massacre in cold blood several hundred peaceful protesters.

Yes, there has been attacks on Christians, on churches, but these attacks, pre-date the overthrow of Morsi, they are nothing new.

The slaughter of innocent protesters will have only one consequence, it will open the void for Islamic terrorists to step into.

We must hope, that the crimes against humanity being committed by the military junta, are documented and they are brought to justice, in the meantime, all Egyptians must unite to overthrow the junta, otherwise Egypt will descend into bloody civil war.

Coverage of Tahrir Square by mainstream media was poor. Post-overthrow of Morsi much better.

For good coverage turn to Democracy Now, Russia Today and Al Jazeera. On twitter follow Sharif Kouddous.

The pastor leading the service, invited Andrew White to join him, and they discussed what had led Andrew White to where he is today, leading a church in Iraq.

Andrew explained his interest in the Middle East had started when he studied at an ultra-Orthodox university in Israel.

Andrew White started from when he was a curate, then a vicar, and how he had then been asked to head the peace and reconciliation unit at Coventry Cathedral.

Formed out of the ashes of the bombed Coventry Cathedral, the focus had been Europe. Andrew refocused on the Middle East. He had acted as envoy for the then Archbishop of Canterbury, engaging in dialogue with Israelis and Palestinians and encouraging them to talk to each other.

Diagnosed with MS, he was asked to step down from what he was doing. His response was to take over the running of St George’s in Baghdad. His assistant was Justin Welby, now Archbishop of Canterbury.

The church costs over $175,000 a month to run. They have no money, no reserves. They rely entirely on donations, on people inviting Andrew to talk at their church, on buying his books.

The money given on Sunday, and during the week, will all go to FRRME (of which Andrew White is the Founding President).

The church has a school, a medical clinic, feeding programmes, all paid for through donations. All the programmes the church runs are free to all.

Beside the work at the church, Andrew acts as Embassy Chaplain, works on peace and reconciliation between the various factions, advises on security.

FRRME was formed to support the work in Iraq and the Middle East.

Following the reading of the lesson, Andrew White was asked to give the sermon.

Andrew started by blessing the congregation in Ameraic, the language used by Jesus, and the language still used in the Iraqi Church.

His theme was Matthew 24:6-8

You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

For people of Guildford, words in the Bible, for people of Iraq, daily occurrence.

There are rumours of war, there is war, there is bombing, there is killing.

Of the church over 1,250 have been killed.

When people have lost everything they have everything.

The church in Iraq is filled with joy.

To love your friends is easy. We have to learn to love those who are our enemies.

Andrew was once kidnapped. When he looked around, he saw severed fingers and toes.

He has to deal with his friends, who bomb and kill.

When dealing with one of he founders of Hamas, he invited him to dinner. He convinced him to work with a rabbi. When accused of being a Zionist, the founder of Hamas said no, he was walking the path of peace and reconciliation, a very difficult path to walk.

Often asked: How do you deal with Muslims? Easy we love them, we welcome them. The church is over 6,000 people, of which over 600 are Muslim.

When you love can also be very painful, when you see the people you love killed.

Andrew has three adopted Iraqi children. One, Lina, now also his personal assistant, has recently become engaged.

The service lasted almost two hours, but it seemed much shorter. I have known half hour service seem longer.

Too many people spend their lives griping about their lives and never getting off their backsides. Andrew is the exact opposite, faces danger every day, sees more tragedy in a day than most people would see in their lifetime, and yet, he is full of hope, full of joy, and always willing to take risks.

He said when people shake hands and say take care, no, they should shakes hands and and say take risks.

It is unfortunate the service was not filmed. As much my fault as I did not think to ask. It has at least been recorded, or at least the sermon recorded, and possibly the exchange at the beginning. This will be available on the church website.

Andrew then signed books:

I gave Andrew a copy of Manuscript Found in Accra. He said he enjoyed Aleph. He asked me did Paulo Coelho know the new Pope? I said I did not think so, but at a press conference in Athens, Paulo Coelho had been asked two questions, his thoughts on the Catholic Church and of the new Pope. He said there was much wrong with the Catholic Church and that he had high hopes of the new Pope implementing much needed reform.

I also gave Andrew a letter I have had in possession for many months, which a lady had entrusted me to give to him.

A chat with Andrew.

I came away with several signed copies of his latest book, Father, Forgive, one for me, the others I will have pleasure in giving away.

Next year, Andrew is to be awarded the William Wilberforce Prize.

Rebooting the Egyptian Revolution

July 8, 2013

Morsi betrayed the revolution, betrayed the people of Tahrir Square.

He changed the Constitution, gave himself sweeping executive powers, handed out jobs to his cronies, marginalised women, creeping Islamisation.

Bread, freedom, social justice. These were the minimum demands.

With the toppling of Morsi by People Power (with the help of a military coup) the Muslim Brotherhood are finished.

Applying coverage by the BBC. Not of what was happening on the street, the implied criticism, this is an affront to democracy. Implied the Western model of corrupt, unaccountable elites, alternating Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee is somehow superior.

What is democracy? 20 million people on the street calling for Morsi to go.

Democracy is not being asked once every few years (if your are lucky) to tick a box on a ballot paper, when at best what you want is a box that says: None of the Above.

Democracy is not a choice between Tories in the pocket of Big Business, LibDems who will do anything to stay in power, and Tory-Lite (otherwise known as Labour).

The closest we have to democracy is the Athenian model, direct participation by the people, open government, transparency.

The Prime Minister of Turkey should be worried.

Tahrir Square: A Second Revolution

July 1, 2013
A protester, opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, holds a sign during a protest demanding Mursi to resign at Tahrir Square in Cairo

A protester, opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, holds a sign during a protest demanding Mursi to resign at Tahrir Square in Cairo

President Morsi has betrayed the Egyptian Revolution. A reported 15 million people has taken to the streets calling for Morsi to go. If the figures are true, the world’s biggest demonstration.

The Egyptian Army has given 48 hours notice of a coup, then a few hours later, said no, they are not plotting a coup, though a retired general speaking on BBC Radio 4 World Tonight, has said Morsi will be removed, but would not give details.

Muslim Brotherhood building in Cairo has been looted and set fire to. Muslim Brotherhood has been firing live ammunition at protesters.

A newspaper in Lebanon has reported that the No 2 in the Muslim Brotherhood, the thug behind Morsi, has had his bodyguards arrested for possession of illegal firearms and firing on activists.

  • Egyptians to Morsi: ‘We Don’t Want You’
  • Countdown to Military Coup
  • Egypt forces arrest Brotherhood leader’s guards-sources
  • Army delivers ultimatum to end Egypt crisis
  • Dubai

    July 1, 2013

    Forty years ago desert, now a gleaming modern city.

    But at what cost?

    The costs is measured in billions, if not trillions, of euros. The cost is so high, it even exceeds what oil rich Dubai can afford, and they have had to be bailed out by neighbouring oil rich states.

    What happens when the oil runs out?

    The project relies on oil wealth and cheap energy.

    It is not sustainable.

    Dubai: Structure And How It Works

    June 30, 2013

    A look at the construction of Dubai, 40 years ago was desert.

    The Dubai Fountain

    June 28, 2013

    Set on the 30-acre Burj Khalifa Lake, the fountain shoots water jets as high as 500 ft (150 metres), equivalent to that of a 50-storey building. The fountain is 900 ft (275 metres) long and has five circles of varying sizes and two central arcs. It has been designed by California-based WET, the creators of the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.

    The Dubai Fountain performs daily, with the performance repertoire including Sama Dubai; Baba Yetu, an award-winning song in Swahili; the Arab world’s top-selling dance number Shik Shak Shok; and the signature piece of world-renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, Con te partiro (Time to Say Goodbye).

    Over 6,600 WET Superlights – the most advanced incandescent large fountain lights available today – and 25 colour projectors create a visual spectrum of over 1,000 abstract attractions. The beam of light shining upward from the fountain can be seen from over 20 miles away, and will be visible from space making it the brightest spot in the Middle East, and quite possibly in the entire world.

    If you have the bandwidth, watch in HD.

    Also worth seeing, Magic Dancing Waters in Protaras in Cyprus, lights, water, music and lasers.

    Top Story The New Musical Express (Sunday 29 June 2013).

    Riot police storm Gezi Park and Taksim Square

    June 15, 2013
    protester defies water cannon in Istanbul

    protester defies water cannon in Istanbul

    Riot police this evening have stormed Gezi Park and Taksim Square in Istanbul using bulldozers, water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets.

    Peaceful protesters have been brutally attacked by the police on orders of the Turkish Prime Minister.

    The Turkish Prime Minister is unfit to hold office and should be toppled.

    The mass street protests with a call for the resignation of the Turkish Prime Minister began when police brutally attacked peaceful protesters trying to save Gezi Park from destruction for a shopping mall. Tow weeks later, and the police again use violence to clear the park.

    Woman in red becomes face of Turkish protests

    June 5, 2013
    The woman in red turns as the policeman showers her in pepper spray at close range

    The woman in red turns as the policeman showers her in pepper spray at close range

    This is what democracy looks like in Turkey

    This is what democracy looks like in Turkey

    Standing up for her rights: The brave woman is forced to retreat coughing and spluttering as the gas-wielding riot policeman goes on to spray the crowds of demonstrators behind her, leaving them in agony

    Standing up for her rights: The brave woman is forced to retreat coughing and spluttering as the gas-wielding riot policeman goes on to spray the crowds of demonstrators behind her, leaving them in agony

    Police firing tear gas on unarmed protesters

    Police firing tear gas on unarmed protesters

    Every citizen defending their urban rights, every worker defending their human rights, and every student defending university rights has witnessed the police violence I experience. — Ceyda Sungar, woman in red

    The more you spray the bigger we get — graffiti on walls in istanbul

    What began as a peaceful protest in a park in Istanbul to stop the destruction of the park for a shopping mall, rapidly escalated when the repressive police used extreme force to attack protesters.

    As the protests have shown, there is no democracy in Turkey.

    The Prime Minister calls the protesters ‘terrorists’ and social media as ‘the worst menace to society’.

    The police are now arresting protesters for using twitter. It is important therefore, people around the world re-tweet and repost these images in order that the brave people of Turkey who have taken to the streets to oppose a hard-line Islamic regime know they do not stand alone.

    Turkey is not a democracy. If this was Kurdistan or occupied northern Cyprus, the police would be firing live rounds.

    Tony Blair attacks Islam to absolve his wars from any responsibility for the Woolwich killing

    June 4, 2013

    Humility is supposed to be a Christian virtue, but it is one that has always evaded Tony Blair. Even so it was something of a shock to see his latest venture into print in the Mail on Sunday this week over the question of the Woolwich murder and Islam.

    This article, judging by the comments beneath it, was too much for even the Mail’s conservative readers to stomach. Blair’s arrogant and pompous self-justification allows no element of regret for the wars into which he plunged millions of people, or for the instability in much of the Middle East and south Asia that his policies have helped create.

    Blair’s thesis is that ‘there is a problem within Islam — from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it.’

    He continues, ‘I’m afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.’

    The world of the Middle East according to Blair is divided into two sorts of Muslims:

    ‘On the one side, there are Islamists who have this exclusivist and reactionary world view. They are a significant minority, loud and well organised. On the other are the modern-minded, those who hated the old oppression by corrupt dictators and who hate the new oppression by religious fanatics.’

    To unpack this: Blair is saying that there are fanatical and extremist Muslims, who are driven to commit acts like the murder of Lee Rigby through ideological hatred of ‘western values’, and who are given support and succour from much larger groups of Muslims who really should know better and who should embrace pluralistic and liberal values as exemplified by…Tony Blair.

    Except that isn’t how it looks to millions of people. The people of the Middle East and Afghanistan might be forgiven for asking which pluralistic and liberal values brought them the torture at Abu Ghraib, the use of depleted uranium in Iraq, the bombing of women and children in Afghanistan. They might wonder why when they ‘hated the old oppression by corrupt dictators’ they received no backing from the open minded Tony Blair or his fellow warmongers.

    They might even wonder whether the spreading of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem is not an example of Jewish extremism, the whole Project for the New American century an example of Christian fundamentalism, or the massacres of Muslims Rohinga in Burma an example of Buddhist extremism?

    Above all, we are all entitled to wonder just what deficiency in Blair’s mental image of the world allows him to consider that he has anything to contribute on this question? He has launched two major wars that are generally acknowledged to have been failures in their own terms and to have increased the likelihood of terrorism around the world. He lied in order to go to war in Iraq and will be the subject of criticism when the long delayed Chilcot report comes out.

    The war was illegal under international law and in any fair society he would now be facing trial at The Hague, not posing as envoy for peace in the Middle East.

    Rather than acknowledge any of this Blair’s brass neck leads him to advocate further wars, now against Syria and Iran, and to pose any opposition to him and his policies in terms of a ‘clash of civilisations’.

    He talks about ideology driving terrorist attacks, but ignores his own dangerous ideology: the promotion of neo liberal free markets, the support for wars which protect those markets, and the defence of growing levels of inequality and misery caused by these policies.

    The wars that he has done so much to promote have fuelled attacks on Muslims and a wave of Islamophobia, recently exacerbated by the events in Woolwich. Blair’s response? To attack Islam as a means of absolving his wars from any connection or responsibility. How much worse can he get?

    – Lindsey German

    Published by Stop the War Coalition.

    We should never forget Stop the War Coalition is a Trotskyist front organisation, and in recent years has been hijacked by and become an apologist for Muslim fundamentalists. Nevertheless, that does not mean to say Tony Blair did not write a load of stomach churning garbage.

    Contrary to what Lindsey German writes, there is a problem with Islamic extremists, Islamic fundamentalism does pose a threat, you only have to ask Nigerians what it is doing to their country, but a threat that is exacerbated by polices of US and UK and their support for Israel.


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