Thursday, 31 January 2013
Your eyes would not have mistaken how old El-Banna was. But they would also not mistake how lucid he was. He was writing an article for Al-Masry Al-Youm when we met him, on traditional pen and paper to be sure. He was generous with his time, answered all of our questions, and he invited me to visit him on a friendly basis. I did try that one time, but I was informed by his assistant that he was not of good health at the time. Regrettably, I never saw him again.
El-Banna was the half-brother of the Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan El-Banna. In fact, Gamal El-Banna's last name wasn't even El-Banna, but he took up the name as his pen name. He held a genuine and profound respect for Hassan El-Banna whom he called "Al-Ustath Hassan" and not Sheikh Hassan, holding on the idea that only an Azhar graduate could carry the mantle of "Sheikh," and Hassan El-Banna wasn't. He talked for ages about the tenacity of Hassan El-Banna's dedication to building the Brotherhood, and how the man was an organisational genius in his opinion. Simultaneously, he was also in deep disapproval of what the Brotherhood - which he never joined - was turning into in the last days of his half-brother's life. As for the Brotherhood today, well, he loathed it. He believed in the separation of religion and politics, and he believed in progressivism, two things he saw the current Brotherhood as the absolute opposite of.
It is unclear who will carry forward the school of thought that El-Banna represented. But until one or more such names do come forward, El-Banna's huge body of work alone is something that would take years to read.
On the way out, I took the picture above. He also told me a very interesting historic fact about the desk in the lower part of the photo. But that is, well, for another day.
Saturday, 26 January 2013
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Egyptian Journalist and TV Presenter Shahira Amin, who was widely lauded for quitting State TV during the revolution due to its bias in the coverage of the events (then returning to the institution after the revolution), has just kindly posted her take on the subject in the comment section below. Shahira is of course a well recognised name in TV journalism, and she most recently interviewed President Morsi during the constitutional declaration crisis. I am sharing her comment here:
"Dear Bassem, you know that I quit the" propaganda machine" early on in the Revolution in protest at State TV's coverage of the uprising. I returned a few months after the revolution but am only producing a weekly show "In The Hot Seat" on Nile TV. I am no longer Deputy Head of the channel as I was before. I can tell you that the bias comes from the anchors, presenters and editors themselves.Some are scared and practice self censorship to keep their jobs .I can assure you that restrictions today are far fewer than the ones during the Mubarak era. The only instruction that's been given is that if we host an opposition figure, we should host a MB figure to have a more balanced picture (which is fair enough). Since my return, I have broken the story on the virginity tests on my show, I have also been able to host Alber Saber and cover his case (he got a 3year jail sentence for blasphemy.) I have also hosted Maher el Gohary, the Muslim convert to Christianity. When I covered Maher's story for CNN in 2010, I was blacklisted by the Mubarak government and was no longer allowed to cover presidential activities. While I do not agree to having a Minister of Information (as that can only mean govt propaganda) I really believe that it is the anchors and presenters that should change .I salute Bothaina and Hala for their courage . They are role models for others to follow."Thank you Shahira for your take.
In case there are indeed no "blacklists" unlike the many reports, can we then see El-Baradei or Sabbahi on State TV? Let's see then.
Update: Shahira also added:
"I have not heard of a"blacklist" but it's possible that it does exist. However, it is El Baradei himself who refuses to appear on State TV. I interviewed him for a CNN story at a Sharm el Sheikh conference some years ago. A few months later I tried to get a soundbite from him at the Alexandria Library for a Nile TV story but he pushed the mic away, saying "I do not speak to State TV"! I was shocked and dismayed and sent him a written message to tell him so. He folded the paper and put it in his pocket. I do not blame him though . Mubarak regime loyalists in the media did all they can to tarnish his image in those days."
Monday, 21 January 2013
I just published a new article outlining what I believe to be 10 main lessons Libya can learn from Egypt's failures in writing a constitution. My conversation with Zaid Al-Ali @Zalali on Twitter about the article has made me realise I might have improperly expressed point number 4 of the article though.
My argument here is not existentially favour of a short constitution, but rather a reminder that: a constitution does not necessarily have to be long as a design rule, that there are things that should belong in the body of law and not constitutional text, and that some articles might have some literary qualities but would perhaps either better belong in a preamble or even not exist altogether due to potential unintended (?) problematic implications arising from vagueness. Also, in case of extreme difficulties on agreeing on certain articles, they could even theoretically be postponed to a post-referendum extended debate and amendments, assuming they could wait.
In other words, no country is forced to get into "who's got a bigger constitution" contest.
Having said that, I do actually believe in the idea that countries transitioning into democracy would benefit from articulating as many consensus governing principles as possible to avoid the repetition of the past or even a different and worse future. And in a country like Libya where modern democracy and state institutions are (hopefully) making their actual debut, a strong constitution is necessary.
Finally, I was also asked about the subject of "vagueness" in the Egyptian constitution. I actually do address what I believe to be its most important aspect while arguing that a clear commitment to human rights should be at the centre of the new Libyan constitution. Ultimately, some intentional textual vagueness can be a workaround to diffuse some Conservative-Liberal tensions (intentionally postponing the fight to the legislative process based on the interpretation of the article), even in traditional law making. But vagueness, as a rule, should be avoided whenever possible.Follow @Bassem_Sabry Tweet
Sunday, 20 January 2013
Note: Hani was promoted to editor in chief of Ahram Weekly in 2003, before he was forcibly removed in 2005. (Thanks A.H. for the detail)
Monday, 14 January 2013
ملاحظة عابرة: بحب جدا لما الشخص بيروح للأسانسير ويلاقي الزرار بالفعل منور، وحد من اللي واقفين كان لسه دايس عليه من ثانيتين، بس لازم برضه يقوم الشخص ده دايس تاني دوسة طويلة وقوية ومليئة بالعنفوان على الزرار just in case مع إعطاء نظرة محرَجة للشخص اللي داس الأول، نظرة معناها "صدقني انا بجد مش قصدي اني اقلل من قدرك، بس كان لازم ادوس عشان اطمئن من جوايا." والبعض الأخر كمان لازم يدوس كذا دوسة ورا بعض عشان you can never fully trust زرار الأسانسير.Follow @Bassem_Sabry Tweet
Saturday, 12 January 2013
On the serious side: Batman in Tahrir.
And on a more casual note: Batman going around Cairo, experiencing the local life and culture.
UPDATE: On an electoral note, here is Batman voting in the presidential elections run off. Or perhaps, it was someone voting for Batman. (courtesy of @Ayouti)
Friday, 4 January 2013
Well, first: thank you for actually caring enough to notice that and ask me about it.
Then, a few reasons.
The first is that I have undertaken a recent project that should end in about 2-3 months, which takes a lot of my previously spare time, which I used for articles and blogposts.
The second is that Twitter, somewhat unfortunately, makes it a bit easier to just tweet thoughts and opinions rather than blog or piece them up It is both a good and a bad thing, at the same time.
The third is that I have been writing a lot more outside of the blog, longer analytical pieces, especially on Al-Monitor as of late. You can find a list of my articles there on this link, though last time I checked they still haven't added a couple of articles. So, you could use the search bar to search for my articles just in case, if you need to.
That's about it. Still, I will try to update the blog more often. At least I'll go back to putting links to my newer pieces there. Thank you very much for caring and asking.