Friday, December 28, 2007


I am surprised by how genuinely saddened I was by the news of Ms Bhutto's assassination. Up until September, I had all but forgotten about her. Tariq Ali's The Clash of Fundamentalisms (an informative & interesting book with an externally interesting cover) reminded me of how I was initially intrigued by her, being the first woman prime minister in the Muslim world, then how disappointed I was because of the corruption charges against her.

In October, she decides to return to Pakistan and there she was, back on the front pages, and back into our lives. Although her return might have been orchestrated by the US administration (I don't know enough to give any meaningful political analysis on the subject), I was once again fascinated by her charisma and her courageous decision to continuing with her campaign in spite of the previous assassination attempt. It's too bad that her courage was greeted with bullets.

May God bless her and all victims of violence.

For more on Bhutto's assassination, here are reviews, by Tariq Ali, Robert Fisk, & Mona Eltahawy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pick Your Candidate

I have a confession. I was a complete idiot. I know it's hard for you to believe this, especially after reading a few of my previous posts, but I am afraid it's true. Now before I tell you what I did to deserve these harsh words, excuse me for a sec, I'll go wear my DUNCE cap, sit facing the corner, and continue typing from there. No please don't try to stop me, I've earned it. Here is a visual.

Back to my confession. About seven years ago, I was thrilled when, after five weeks of drama and suspense, Bush was declared the winner of the 2000 Selections(this is no typo). Well, actually I was more thrilled that the Gore-Lieberman duo have lost. Since Truman, each American administration has been trying to outdo the previous one in its support of Israel, so I felt that a Jewish vice president would manifest into the most hostile administration towards Arabs, and would definitely end any hopes for a just peace in the area*. My biggest regret is that I was a bigot, and at the time, I based my expectation of a person's actions, even if he was an American politician, on his religion. For this I am extremely regretful. My second biggest regret is that I was totally wrong about which duo would be more hostile to Arabs, actually to all nations in the whole world!!

Enough! I already admitted that I was stupid so please stop dissing me. Besides, I am not American, so the way I felt would not have changed the results anyways. Let's dis Arab-Americans since most of them voted for Bush. I guess they did it for the same twisted logic that I had.

As we are approaching 2008, the year of the elections in the US, Americans have a moral obligation to themselves and to the rest of the world to choose wisely. So please do not support Obama just because he has Oprah's endorsement, or Hillary just because you still think Bill is cute and you wanna see more of him in the news. You're asking what about the Republican candidates? Well excuse me, but I thought after eight years of Bush, no one will even dare vote Republican.

Even if you are not American or you are just not into politics you should still know more about the candidates. In the age of American dominance, you cannot afford to be happy-go-lucky about who will be the most powerful person on earth, since this person will, whether you like it or not, influence you and your future.

To help you find more about the candidates and who you should support, I'm including a link that will take you to a questionnaire were you choose your stance on 25 issues and how important you think each issue is . When done, press GO and the results will tell you which candidate comes closest to representing your views on those issues. Arabs should consider this good practice for the time when they will actually have elections and vote for their own leaders. (even if there are no signs of this happening any time soon!!)

Of course even after doing your homework, there are no guarantees that politicians will stick to their campaign promises, but at least you would still have made an educated choice, and you won't have to go to the dunce corner like me.

If you care to know, my results showed that I should support Mr. Dennis Kucinich. Never paid any attention to him earlier, but from now on, I will. Actually we had 0 Disagreements and 0 Other (this is explained on the results page), and a positive score of 54!!! Now, with this amazing result, I'm not sure if it is enough to morally support the guy. We are such a good match that I think I am morally obliged to marry him! (Just kidding habibi. I would never ever consider leaving you for anyone else, not even a long shot US president. Besides, he's married.)

Dennis Kucinich for President site

* I try not to use the term MiddleEast since it is geographically incorrect, and it was meant to eliminate the use of the "P" word (Palestine) when describing the conflict with Israel.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Appeal of the Underdog

"In a series of studies, researchers from the University of South Florida, tested the scope of people’s support for those who are expected to lose, seeking to understand why people are drawn to the Rocky Balboas and the Davids (versus Goliaths) of the world.

Using both sports and political examples, the researchers asked study participants to react to various scenarios presenting different competitors with an advantage or disadvantage. For instance, in one study using the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, the participants were given the same essay about the history of the area, but with different maps to reference – one showing Palestine as smaller than Israel (and thus, the underdog) and the other showing Israel as smaller. No matter what scenario the participants were presented with, they consistently favored the underdog to win.

Why do people support underdogs and find them so appealing" The researchers propose that those who are viewed as disadvantaged arouse people’s sense of fairness and justice – important principles to most people. The researchers also found that people tend to believe that underdogs put forth more effort than top-dogs, but that favorable evaluation disappeared when the underdog status no longer applies, such as when people are expected to lose but have a lot of available resources." Article copied from

Click here to read the complete study.

Do you agree with the findings of this study? Do you really think that the "Appeal of the Underdog" exists? If so, and sticking with the two examples of politics & sports, then please explain:

  • Why don't most people support the Palestinian cause? Modern day Israel is definitely the Goliaths and not the David. It is the only country in the area that owns nuclear weapons. It continuous to occupy & confiscate Palestinian land, confiscate and demolish Palestinian houses, build illegal settlements, build an illegal wall, deny the Palestinian refugees their right of return. It is the only country that is never punished by the Security Council for its crimes because of the US Veto. I can go on and on forever. Can all this be countered by a simple map trick? I am not convinced. Are people choosing between the victims of the Holocaust and the victims of the Zionists? I don’t. I support the victims of the two crimes. Then what more outrageous actions must Israel take for the public opinions to swing into the direction of the Palestinians? Or are the Arabs expected to get any weaker for this to happen? Where is this so-called people’s sense of fairness and justice?
  • Why don't most Egyptians support Zamalek? Not only has this generation of players succeed in becoming the undisputed underdog of all their matches vs Ahly, they even managed to be the underdog in every match they play. So I ask you, why aren't there more Zamalkaweya around? Why do I have to suffer alone? Not fair!

So "Appeal of the Underdog" my foot!! There is no such thing. I must be the exception that proves the rule.

Or, maybe the study results are accurate and there are actually many more supporters of Palestine and Zamalek, but most of those supporters are in hiding, being too intimidated by the Zionist and Ahlawy aggression. Where are you cowards? I demand that you come out of hiding at once, or else!

Fine, just tell me where you are so I can join you in your hiding.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Bamako is the capital of Mali. It is also the title of a 2007 movie I never heard of until my son mentioned it to me this morning. Fine, I also did not know that the capital of Mali was Bamako until he told me, but you should not hold this against me. I bet you did not know that either. Yeah right!

Back to the movie. Since I did not watch it yet, a detailed review by moi might not be a good idea. So I will temporary rely on the reviews in Rotten Tomatoes (a web site devoted to reviews, information, and news of movies, that my younger son told me about).

RT gives Bamako an impressive 84%, meaning it is certified as a Fresh Movie. Here are some reviews by movie critics to give you an idea about the story and the quality of the movie:
  • Bamako puts nothing less than economic injustice on trial, arguing the guilt of the World Bank, the IMF, and the entire apparatus of First World economic domination for the crime of African oppression.
  • For all its outrage, Bamako is not a work of righteousness. [Director] Sissako is a poet, and the filmmaking in this new picture is stuff of a deserving laureate. Sissako is thinking about the small but mounting consequences of big ideas.
  • Credit [director] Sissako for entertainingly blending serious international issues with the daily comings and goings of village life.
Sounds like an entertaining movie that also touches on issues that should be of interest to Egyptians, especially with the subsidy rumors that have been floating around lately. Did I wet your appetite? Did you decide to watch it? It is available on DVD. Enjoy. Leave me a comment to tell me what you think (of the movie).

For more info go to:
Bamako the Movie Official Web Site
Rotten Tomatoes Review of Bamako

  1. The movie is in French and Bambara with English subtitles
  2. If you do not enjoy the movie, please contact RT.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Egyptian Presto

My friends call me Nahoul el Mastoul for a good reason. No I am not on drugs (although some of my posts might give you that impression), I just have a very bad memory. One of the few images I retained from my childhood is that of our kitchen looking like an abstract painting by Congo the Monkey. Yes, the Presto pressure cooker blew up.

I learned a valuable lesson from this incident. No, not to never use a Presto Cooker. Well that is a good thing to remember too, but since the pressure cooker has all but disappeared from our kitchens, that's not a very valuable piece of advise, is it? Where was I? I just told you that a have a lousy memory, so please no more interruptions.

Yeah, the valuable lesson is to never allow a situation to escalate (the pressure to mount) to a point were the only outcome would be a BLOW UP. Remember to always let off the steam before it's too late.

p.s. This post is dedicated to the Egyptian Government.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Kalam by Nelson Mandela

I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies, and that is what I normally tell other people who say those who are struggling for liberation in their country are terrorists. I tell them that I was also a terrorist yesterday, but, today, I am admired by the very people who said I was one : Nelson Mandela - Larry King Live, May 16, 2000

Monday, December 17, 2007

Silent no More

Borrowing the title of an excellent book by Paul Findley, these two disturbing news items from Saudi & Egypt:
Rape victim sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in jail
Tax Collectors Threaten Hunger Strike

have now changed to:
Saudi king 'pardons rape victim'
Egypt tax workers end protest

because the victims chose to be "Silent No More".

Mabrouk & Solidarity.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Takhareef - Part 1

Hello fellow humans. Thank you for coming from near and far to attend my fantasy. Before we start, and as you must have noticed, more people showed up than expected. Many of you are standing in the aisles, and I am reminded that this violates the safety regulations of the building.

So regretfully, many of you will have to leave.
(loud protest) Quiet please, quiet.
(louder protest) OK, please just calm down and listen.
(louder and angrier protest) SHUT UP!! Thank you.
So, what was I saying? oh ya, I will now ask you some questions and your own beliefs will determine whether you will stay or be escorted out of the hall to be sent to suitable destinations.
(new wave of protest) LISTEN, it's my fantasy, so I can say and do whatever I want.
(Peace and quiet at least) That's better, let's begin.

I ask those of you who believe in the law of the jungle, that is the right of the strong to crush and devour the weak and young, I ask you to leave the room. (some animals name calling) Back at you!! You will be escorted to different Zoos around the World. I understand that you will be placed in cages with Lions or Tigers, so that the strongest would enjoy a hearty meal. If you watched The Gladiator, you will know what to expect. So enjoy the fight.

Next, I would like those who believe that "the whiter, the wiser", yes the damn racists, I would like them to leave the hall immediately. You will be escorted to Antarctica. Your life will be forever controlled by a giant SnowMan. You will never find a whiter, thus wiser leader, don't you think? Shut up and move you ..... (Oh my, he did not look that big when he was sitting down) Guards HELP!! Thank you.

I now ask another group of bigots, the male chauvinists, to leave to the Isle of Man. No, not the one with all the banks, but one that actually has no women. No female species what so ever. That should teach you. (singing) "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got, till it's gone" (protest by the remaining crowd) I'd like to remind you that this is my fan... Ok I'm sorry, come back, I promise not to sing for the rest of this meeting. (losers) Next ....what? There are women in this group? (Didn't see that one coming) Then hold them outside until I think of a suitable destination for them.

Now, those who control and misguide, promote hate & violence, wage wars, confiscate land, water, & homes, deny the freedom of thought & speech, torture & kill,... in short those who commit all sorts of crimes, in the name of religion, please do leave immediately through this red hot chili, I mean red hot door. What a stupid question, to HELL of course. What, you don't want to share Hell with followers of other religions? Sorry guys you have no choice, and as I said earlier, in this fantasy, what I say goes. But you know what, I am sure that when you get to know each other, you'll find that you have a lot in common. I bet you will even become best friends in no time. Please shut that door behind them quickly, the heat is unbearable. Thank you.

Next, all those who worship money, please leave through the windows (you will understand why in a second). Windows will lead you to a virtual location were you will be forced to look at computer screens showing a second by second account of the growth of Mr Gates' fortune. The bad news is, none of you will ever make that much money. The good news is, the computers are all running windows, so sooner rather than later, they will all crash. When this happens, they will be replaced by Macs and then you will be forced to watch Mr Jobs' fortune growing. That's when the Microsoft CEO & executives will join you for their share of torture.

Now all those who are simply evil, wicked, mean, corrupt, cruel, not to forget the tyrants, despots, perverts, molesters,..........and so on, please leave the room. Also those who were supposed to leave with one of the earlier groups but did not because they are liars or cowards, you are required to leave with this group. There is no point in denying. You are easily spotted by those capital Ls and Cs stuck on your forehead. Guards please take away all those who touched their faces. Where? You can pick any destination you want, but you will have to live together till the end of time.

Oh, I still see a few people standing in the back. This could mean that there are more good people in this hall than expected, or that I have missed a group that deserves to be expelled. We'll see

Let's continue.
(loud stomach growls) I hear you friends, I'm getting hungry too.
Let's adjourn for lunch, and I'll see you back here in a future fantasy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Meet my Hero

Name: Manal Hassan.
Occupation: Civil Engineer at the Southern Giza Municipality.
Monthly Salary: 275 Egyptian Pounds.
Home: Two-room apartment she shares with her mother.
Dream: To buy a second-hand car.

Action: Ms Hassan refused to grant a demolition permit to a pharmacist who wanted to throwout the occupants, and demolish an old but structurally solid apartment building that he owns. When he offered her a bribe of over 2 Million LE to obtain the permit, she reported him to the authorities. Ms Hassan's honesty granted her first place prize in the Egyptians Against Corruption organization competition.

Thank you Ms Hassan for solidifying my belief in a brighter tomorrow.

Visit the Egyptians Against Corruption site to find more about the organization's celebration of the International Day Against Corruption (December 9th).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Juristic Reviews

I've been following the Egyptian media's wide coverage of the recently released "Juristic Review" by leaders of the Jihad movement. Experts on Islamic militant groups, are divided between supporters and skeptics.

My own take on the subject is that since similar reviews by Al Jamaa Al Islamiya ten years ago, did help curb the wave of violence that swept through Egypt since the late seventies, I do welcome this new review and hope that it will spread to and influence Islamic militant groups in Arab and Islamic countries.

Yet, and assuming that the reviews are genuine, the fact that the Islamic jurisprudence could be interpreted by some so-called devoted Muslims to promote and justify violence, and then years later, this same group declares that it now has a better understanding of its religion and renounces its violent ideologies is disturbing and should not pass without examination.

Is the Islamic faith so complicated and hard to understand that these devoted followers, who are also college graduates, endorsed violence and spilled the blood of hundreds of innocent victims thinking that they were following the teachings of Islam? Did they have to spend over twenty years in hidings or in prison for them to finally get it? Definitely not. The essence of Islam and its basic teachings are extremely simple to grasp and are in perfect sync with common sense and the pure innate character of mankind.

Then why did this group and others like it have such difficulties? I believe that the main problem is that those Islamic groups adopted twisted interpretations of Islam without any questioning merely because those interpretations are part of the diverse and huge volumes of Islamic literature written over a thousand years ago. Moreover, those interpretations agreed with and justified the group's Machiavellian road to power.

With all due respect to the efforts of Islamic scholars of the past and present, every Muslim has the required duty of weighing and closely questioning any interpretation or Fatwa before accepting & adopting it. My personal guide in this evaluation process is simple. I cannot and will not accept any interpretation unless it agrees with, and does not contradict, the traits and characteristics of the Creator and source of all religions. Those traits and characteristics are collectively described by the Beautiful Names of God, and are repeated in the Quran.

I reject any interpretation promoting violence, since Allah is The Peace.
I reject any interpretation promoting despotism, since Allah is The Just.
I reject any interpretation promoting cruelty, since Allah is The Merciful.
I reject any interpretation promoting hate, since Allah is The Most Compassionate.

You get my drift.
Assallam Alaikom (Peace be upon you).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Kalam by Margaret Atwood

"Wanting to meet a writer because you like her work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pate"
Margaret Atwood, Canadian novelist and poet

Monday, December 10, 2007

Weight Loss, Diets, and Common Sense

As I took my seat in the auditorium to listen to an anti-obesity lecture that my husband invited me to attend (I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that there are no hidden messages behind his invitation), I prayed that the next half-hour or so will not be a complete waste of time. I do not believe in diets, never been on one, and will never be.

The lecture, which was presented by a psychiatrist and not a specialized physician or a dietitian, was refreshingly different since the lecturer did not even mention the D word. He advised that a successful and sustainable weight loss is possible via cognitive and behavioral change.

  1. List the advantages of losing weight
  2. Acknowledge that there is no quick fix
  3. Learn to love your body
  4. Do not cheat
  1. Only eat when hungry
  2. Eat slowly
  3. Stop eating when satisfied
  4. Exercise
I am convinced that this approach is doable and effective since it agrees with common sense. I hope that you too will find it useful. I also hope that you will give me the benefit of the doubt and trust that like my husband, the word "FATSO" never crossed my mind.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Kalam by Nahoul

"Happiness can only be achieved by those who possess one of two character traits, Selfishness or Stupidity. The chosen few, blessed with both traits, are extremely happy and enjoy a long political career."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I want to live my next life backwards

What if you live your next life backwards?
You start out dead and get that out of the way.
Then you wake up in an old peoples home feeling better every day.
You get kicked out for being too healthy.
You go collect your pension, then, when you start work, you get a gold watch on your first day.
You work 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement.
(if you want to read the complete version of this chain-letter, click here )

I usually delete junk mail as soon as I receive it. For some reason, I glanced through this one before hitting the delete button. I'm glad I did as it made me ponder how we usually make the most crucial decisions in our lives during our teens. Those grave decisions determine our career, job, income, environment, friends, spouse(s), kids,.....thus every aspect of our future.

Were we qualified and well prepared at this tender age, characterized by inexperience, naiveness, and unrealistic expectations to do so? Were we properly guided at home or at school to be able to choose wisely? Even if we were blessed with caring and omniscient parents or teachers who were ready to give us their own experience to benefit from, would we have listened to their advice?
My answer to all of the above is: "I don't think so".

Accordingly, if you are above 40, and looking back on your life you see that you made at least one successful decision (career, marriage, ...), then do consider yourself lucky and blessed.

I am happy with most of my decisions, but if given a chance to live a next life, forward or backwards, I will definitely choose a different .................. career.

p.s. My husband checks this blog regularly, so revealing a different choice would not only impact my next life, but this one too!!!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Moorish Dreams

Staying on the same depressing subject of the previous post (Drowning Dreams), Laila Lalami, a Moroccan writer living in the US, has chosen illegal immigration as the subject of her first novel Hope and other dangerous pursuits.

The novel starts with a prologue detailing a desperate attempt by Moroccan men, women, and children, crowded in an inflatable boat, to cross the strait of Gibraltar and reach Spain in pursuit of happier lives. Most of those poor souls are lost at sea before setting foot on the hostile Spanish shore.

Laila then introduces us to the lives of four of those dreamers before and after the crossing attempt. The stories of Faten, Aziz, Mourad & Halima are realistic and the images Laila paints will stay with you long after you finish reading her book.

I have no doubt that similar stories are being told by the families of the 200 Egyptians lost at sea as they attempted to pursue similar dreams.

p.s. Laila Lalami (also known as Moorish Girl) has a blog at the following link:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Drowned Dreams, Living Corpses

"The dreams of over 200 Egyptians who wanted to escape difficult economic conditions at home by finding passage to Europe were destroyed when the vessels carrying them sank early last week. Two ships sank separately near the southern Italian provinces of Siracusa and Calabria, resulting in the death of 22." Al Ahram Weekly, issue no 870.

Of all the coverage of this disaster, I was mostly shocked by a TV interview with the father of one of the victims who was awaiting the return of his son's lifeless body.

When asked about what his reaction would be if another son of his would ever think of pursuing this deadly journey, the grieving father, and without any hesitation, replied that he would support and encourage him

When he was naively reminded of the dangers of this adventure, he insisted that trying and dieing in the attempt, is better than the slow death that is eating up the unemployed and desperate youth of his family and his village.

We cannot ignore this problem. Immediate action is a must and not an option. Desperation breeds tragedy and disaster, and untreated they will eventually touch us all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Alifa vs Nawal

Who will the years proof to be more influential in bettering the sorrow state of women in the Egyptian society? Alifa Rifaat or Nawal Saadawi?

These two writers promote revolt against the unjust treatment of girls and women in the Egyptian household and society, yet their styles cannot be more different.

While Alifa, as I explained in the previous post, follows a conservative approach, Nawal seams to prefer a more confrontational and shocking one. Ms. Rifaat, the single mother of three, seams to be applying her motherly experiences and tenderness to treat the society, while Dr. Saadawi, the physician, prefers a high-risk invasive surgical treatment.

Moreover, it is widely agreed that Ms Rifaat's lack of knowledge of any foreign languages eliminates any Western influence in the shaping of her ideas, and removes any possibility of her having the Western reader in mind when tackling the misfortunes of the Egyptian women.

As for Dr. Saadawi, she openly brags about being widely read and more appreciated in the West, which could imply that she does, even unconsciously, have this Western reader in mind when writing her novels or her non-fiction work.

Is one of the two approaches more effective? Is one of the two more proper? Do we need to support one approach and condemn the other, or are they both needed to achieve the change? What do you think?

Here are some related links:

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Alifa Rifaat

Her first name (which means tame) and the title of her book (Distant View of a Minaret) did not prepare me for the rebellious Egyptian women I so much enjoyed meeting on the pages of Alifa Rifaat's book.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that an Egyptian woman who was not allowed to go to college, forced into an arranged marriage, and denied a literary career until the death of her husband, would not shy away from discussing issues as bold as women's emotional and sexual needs in a marriage.

While some themes in Ms Rifaat's writings are mirrored in the works of other Egyptian and Arab female writers, her uniqueness stems from the fact that her rebellion, no matter how fierce, stays within the boundaries of her Islamic faith. She does not blame Islam for the sad and unjust position so many Muslim women find themselves in, but instead blames the men for not following the true teachings of Islam, which demands that they treat women with respect and kindness. Her women use their instinct to understand and accept the indisputable teachings of Islam set by a Just and Merciful divinity, while the men focus on and prefer some twisted man-made interpretations that ensure their dominance and control of women.

While the writer gives her characters the full right to rebel against the reactionary husbands, she does not allow them to even consider adultery. How could they when the hours of their days are marked by nothing other than the calls for prayers? The azzan is the common sound track that is heard throughout the book. The azzan might even be the source of strength of these women. They long for it, anticipate it, and after hearing it, they are not only capable of facing men, they are also capable of looking death in the eye and deciding that it does not have to indicate the end, but that it could also be a beginning of a better life.

As I came to the end of each of the fifteen short stories, my only regret was that the story was not a few pages longer so I could spend more time with those courageous women.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Why did you choose the "Born Again Egyptian" title?
The first thing that comes to mind (after the very tempting "none of your business" reply) is that I did lose my Egyptian soul for a number of years. Thanks to the writings of several Egyptian and Arab intellectuals, and to my dear daughter noona, I found it, and I vow never to let go again.

2. What other FAQ did you receive?
That's it. To be honest with you, I did not even receive the previous question. I just made it up.

3. Then why did you start a list in the first place?
Your guess is as good as mine.