بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِِ
الَّذِينَ يُبَلِّغُونَ رِسَالاَتِ اللهِ وَيَخْشَوْنَهُ وَلاَ يَخْشَوْنَ أَحَدًا إِلاَّ اللهَ وَكَفَى بِاللهِ حَسِيبًا

Khamis, Jun 28, 2012

Egypt’s president is U.S. critic, but he could be an ally

Source: The Washington Post
By Ernesto Londoño and Karin Brulliard, Published: June 26

Egypt’s electoral commission announced Sunday that Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi would be sworn in as president, becoming the Arab world’s first elected Islamist head of state. Morsi defeated Ahmed Shafiq, a former prime minister under ousted leader Hosni Mubarak

CAIRO — At first glance, Egyptian president-elect Mohamed Morsi might appear like a nightmare for Washington’s interests in the region. The low-key Islamist has spoken vitriolically about American policy in the Middle East, refers to Israelis as “tyrants” and has expressed doubts that the Sept. 11 attacks were carried out by terrorists.

And yet, U.S. officials and analysts express guarded optimism that Washington can build a strong working relationship with the veteran Muslim Brotherhood politician, whose victory was confirmed Sunday. Morsi and his aides say that they, too, are upbeat about the future of Egypt’s relationship with the United States, though not without caveats.

Much of the hope is based on pragmatism: At least in the immediate future, any ideological objections to U.S. policy are likely to take a back seat to Morsi’s need to stabilize Egypt and improve its floundering economy — both of which will require help from Washington, analysts say.

“The U.S. will have leverage with the Brotherhood because the Brotherhood needs the U.S. and Europe for Egypt’s long-term economic recovery,” said Shadi Hamid, an Egypt expert at the Brookings Doha Center who has met with Morsi and several Brotherhood leaders in recent months. “They are going to need billions of dollars in loans and investments if they want to turn around their economy.”

Morsi spokesman and adviser Gehad Haddad said the incoming president, who earned a PhD in Southern California during the 1970s, has begun to build healthy relationships with U.S. officials.

“We expect and will work towards a strong strategic relationship” with Washington, Haddad said in an interview Monday. “It will help to bridge the gap between how both populations view each other.”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland echoed that sentiment, telling reporters Monday: “We look forward to working with the government on issues that it’s going to need to confront.”

Lingering doubts

Still, questions remain about Morsi’s long-term dependability as a U.S. ally.

Key among them are the extent of his powers — which Egypt’s ruling generals recently curbed — and the degree to which he will be beholden to the Brotherhood’s secretive leaders.

“Is Mohamed Morsi the president of Egypt, or does the Muslim Brotherhood hold the presidency,” asked Tarek Masoud, an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard University who has met Morsi several times.

Mohammed Habib, a former deputy chairman of the Brotherhood who has broken ranks with the group, said Morsi will probably try to establish a relationship of equals with Washington.

“Egyptian decisions will not be left up to the American administration, as the deposed president agreed to before,” Habib said, referring to ousted leader Hosni Mubarak.

U.S. officials hope to make a strong impression on Morsi, 60, during an upcoming visit by a senior American official to Cairo, said another senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak for the record.

U.S. officials say they hope to use hundreds of millions of dollars in unspent American aid earmarked for Egypt as a tool to boost their leverage and build trust with a Morsi administration by finding areas of common interest.

Those efforts are seen as imperative to safeguarding Egypt’s decades-old peace treaty with Israel. In an interview with The Washington Post in February 2011, when Morsi was the head of the Brotherhood’s newly formed Freedom and Justice Party, he said upending the treaty was not a priority. But he described the status quo of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as unacceptable.

“You cannot talk about a country with 5 million refugees,” he said at the time, calling Israelis “tyrants” who have been protected by the United States for too long.

Haddad, his spokesman, said Monday that “we will not be the party that breaks this treaty.” But he added that Egyptians would see “very swift” and significant changes in the country’s policy toward Israel. Haddad said these will include more vocal support for Palestinian statehood and a meaningful lifting of the blockade on goods passing through the Rafah crossing, which serves as the main gateway between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory ruled by the militant group Hamas.

Morsi has at times dabbled in conspiracy theories: When discussing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he was incredulous that a plane could “hit the tower like a knife in butter” and suggested that “something must have happened from inside,” according to a conversation that Hamid, the analyst, recounted in a recent article published in Foreign Policy magazine.

One issue that U.S. officials are likely to want to tackle quickly in their talks with Morsi is the future of American aid for civil society and other pro-democracy organizations. That type of assistance came to a virtual standstill this year as the Egyptian government criminally charged several Americans and Egyptians employed by pro-democracy groups and shut down their offices. U.S. officials are nervously watching whether Faiza Abou el-Naga, the minister who coordinates international aid and was the architect of the crackdown, remains in the new government.

Haddad said Morsi has not made decisions about his cabinet, but the spokesman suggested that Naga’s days in government could be numbered.

“Faiza has been a symbol of the Mubarak regime in every way we hate,” Haddad said.

On the values front

The extent to which Morsi might seek to tilt the country’s social mores to fit the Brotherhood’s conservative principles also looms large for U.S. policymakers. In the interview last year, Morsi said steering Egypt in a more overtly religious direction was far from a priority, suggesting that his party was inclined to take a live-and-let-live approach.

Asked about his views on the United States, Morsi said he had great admiration for Americans, their work ethic and their institutions. But he had harsh words for U.S. policy in the region. American officials, he said, “are buying the hatred of people in this area with taxpayers’ money.”

President Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo, during which he sought to boost the U.S. image in the Arab world, included “very nice words,” Morsi said. “But none of them have been applied.”

Earning a doctorate in engineering at the University of Southern California during the late 1970s gave Morsi an intimate and extended look at the United States. Two of his sons were born during that time.

Farghalli A. Mohamed, an Egyptian-born engineering professor who taught Morsi, described him as a quiet, humble and hardworking student who was moderately religious.

“I see a lot of students who are outspoken, participate in student organizations, students who I can see signs that they’re going to play leadership roles,” Mohamed said Monday in a phone interview. “I didn’t see any of those signs with him.”

Morsi didn’t have a beard at the time and, unlike other Muslim students at the school, was not known to be a vocal critic of American values. That’s why, Mohamed said, he was shocked when he learned of Morsi becoming a senior leader in the Brotherhood.

“As an Egyptian, I hope that he succeeds in his mission,” Mohamed said. “His mission is very difficult. He has to unite the people. The vote was very close. The country is divided. I hope he forgets about his affiliation and thinks about the greater good.”

Staff writer Joby Warrick in Washington contributed to this report.

Source: The Washington Post

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Sabtu, April 28, 2012

Respect's Salma Yaqoob: 'Labour has gone a bit mad since Bradford West'

Source: The Guardian
John Harris, 24 April 2012

An assured and calm operator, Yaqoob is being talked of as her party's potential second MP

Salma Yaqoob: 'I see myself as part of the Labour movement.' Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

In the acres of coverage of what George Galloway showily called "the Bradford spring", one thing was overlooked. He secured his byelection win in the name of a party: Respect, whose tangled history goes back to 2004. He remains its most recognisable public face, but its leader is Salma Yaqoob, whose personal style represents a sharp contrast with the way Galloway does things. Whereas he tends to pursue his aims in the manner of someone single-handedly performing the last act of Macbeth, she is altogether more measured and open: a reassuringly human operator, with a string of celebrated media appearances – not least on BBC1's Question Time – to her name, as well as a few creditable political successes.

In 2006, she became a Birmingham city councillor, having won 49% of the vote in an inner-city council ward; at the last election, she stood in the constituency of Birmingham Hall Green, where there was an 11% swing from Labour to Respect. Now, there are rumours that she may soon stand against Labour in a future inner-city byelection – in which case, like Galloway, she'll stand a good chance of winning.

Just to underline the fact that Yaqoob lives in a slightly more ordinary world than a lot of politicians, when I meet her in a central London cafe, she is en route to her home in Birmingham after a family break in Swanage, with her two teenage sons in tow. The conversation ranges across her upbringing, her ambivalent relationship with the Labour party, the state of the Middle East, and her current focus on Respect's prospects in Bradford, where their candidates are standing for 12 council seats and aiming to be post-election "power brokers" whose support will be needed to keep Labour – who are currently a minority administration – in office. She's also campaigning for a "yes" vote in referendums to decide whether Birmingham and Bradford should have directly elected mayors, with an eye on some very tantalising political possibilities.

Yaqoob, 40, is a qualified psychotherapist, who took her first steps into politics in the aftermath of 9/11. Part of what she felt most strongly then reflects a theme she returns to repeatedly: that social advances she had taken for granted when she was growing up – not least, the decline of in-your-face racism – suddenly felt they were being rolled back. Not long after the attacks, she was spat at in the street – and, she says, "what was shocking was that nobody stopped. Nobody said: 'Are you OK?'"

"The Labour party was the party that was going to war," she goes on, "and that was also really depressing. Because whatever I'd absorbed growing up, it was that the Labour party stood for what was right. So for Labour to do this, and for us to be at the brunt of the racism that flowed from it, and the whole war on terror rhetoric, was really disappointing. I felt very isolated. There was no protection: that's what it felt like."

An initial involvement with the Stop the War coalition led her to co-found the clunkily named RESPECT coalition (it stands for Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community and Trade Unionism), a somewhat unlikely alliance of disaffected Labour supporters, the Trotyskist Socialist Workers Party and members of such Islamic organisations as the Muslim Council of Britain. When Galloway won Bethnal Green and Bow in the general election of 2005, Respect got its first MP – but in 2007, a depressingly familiar leftwing script was followed to the letter, and the SWP split away. "We were a coalition – not a front for them," she tells me. "But unfortunately, their leadership at the time didn't understand that. I learned that the hard way."

By contrast, what are her politics? "I would characterise them as what people think the Labour party should stand for: social justice, and foreign policy about peace, not war. Pretty basic, but it covers a lot of things." Her political lodestars, she says, "are people like Arundhati Roy. I love Tony Benn. I really admire Caroline Lucas."

In the context of modern politics, those reference points might denote radical views – but in one important way, Yaqoob is a little more conservative (with a small "c" ) than hundreds of other people who have opted for politics beyond the usual three parties. As unlikely as it may sound, like Galloway, she sees the Respect party as a means of somehow scaring Labour into moving left – at which point, the need for a separate leftwing force might well disappear.

"I consider myself part of the Labour movement; I consider myself a genuine friend of Labour," she says. In a lot of her explanation of this, there's the implied prospect of her joining Labour at some future date if it somehow returns to the righteous leftwing path, and rethinks two big areas of policy. "Stop being austerity lite," she advises them. "And on foreign policy, get the troops home, and stop this rhetoric about more wars in Middle East. It's not difficult."

If someone votes Respect, what exactly will they be getting? We talk about the party's somewhat uneasy history of combining secular socialism with politics at least partly based on Islam, before getting to the question of whether its most high-profile face actually takes the business of democratic representation that seriously. The numbers are clear enough: while he was representing Bethnal Green and Bow, Galloway's miserably low attendance at parliamentary votes placed him 634th out of 645 MPs.

"It depends what they want their MP to be doing. If they see their MP championing them, that's what important – whether it's in their local area, or in the media, or just getting things done. And in terms of whether he was there [ie in the House of Commons], from what I understand, George Galloway was there, but there were certain votes he chose not to take part in."

It still doesn't look great.

"No, I understand that. But it's down to what people want to do. There are loads of MPs who are like a herd of sheep. Their bums might be on those green benches, but what have they done for their constituents?"

What of Galloway's questionable record on supporting Arab dictatorships? His salute to Saddam Hussein's "courage, strength and indefatigability" barely needs mentioning. On a recent Newsnight, he was challenged about an email he sent to a media advisor to President Assad of Syria, which made reference to the country being the "last castle of Arab dignity" and offered Assad – whom Galloway once called "a breath of fresh air" – his "respect and admiration" (to put the message in context, Galloway was asking the Syrian government for their help in getting a humanitarian convoy to the Gaza strip).

"I don't think people are naive," says Yaqoob. "They know that our own establishment politicians are happy to meet those people and sell them arms. And George Galloway maintains that the whole 'salute' quote was about the Iraqi people."

What about the Assad email?

"Again, who the goodies and baddies are changes."

Not for people with her politics, it shouldn't. A dictatorial regime is a dictatorial regime, isn't it?

"Again, you don't always get a choice in certain things … some people feel that he was standing against imperialism, and for that reason they may have had some support for him. But it doesn't mean you don't criticise when you need to criticise. It's not as straightforward as a Hollywood film: complete good guys and complete bad guys." This, in fairness, is eventually followed by something much less equivocal: "Assad is a brutal dictator, and it is time for him to go. I'm not saying: 'Prop up Assad.' But definitely, do not intervene militarily. That's not the answer."

Owing to ill health that she'd rather remained a private matter, Yaqoob stepped down as a Birmingham councillor last year, but there are now whispers about her possible arrival in the House of Commons. The basic plotline has already been sketched out: the ex-shadow minister Liam Byrne could be picked to run as Labour's candidate for mayor of Birmingham, and resign his seat of Birmingham Hodge Hill – causing another byelection, and leaving the way open for Yaqoob to become Respect's second MP. This prospect, it seems, is what lies behind recent Labour suggestions that sitting MPs might be barred from running for mayoralties, in case electoral carnage ensues.

"I think Labour has gone a bit mad since Bradford West," she says, laughing. "The people spreading those rumours are Labour people. I can't commit to anything next week, never mind November. My only issue is health, which is frustrating. But the fact they're saying: 'It'll be Hodge Hill next,' and trying to stop Byrne standing says a lot."

About what? "Well, people are rejecting the neoliberal consensus. They don't necessarily have the language, because it hasn't been articulated. But when people like Caroline Lucas and George Galloway articulate it, and people get a chance to hear that message, they vote for it. Because that's where people are at."

We meet a week or so before the National Front do well in the first round of the French presidential elections, but what Yaqoob says next attests to the fact that even if our troubled times might raise the profile of her kind of leftwing dissent, much uglier forces can also prosper. "It can go either way," she says. "When you get these kinds of economic pressures, things can swing to the right. And that's why it's so important that we put forward these politics, and don't allow all this scapegoating of people. What we need are alternatives."

Source: The Guardian

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Selasa, April 17, 2012

London university to ban alcohol because students say it’s ‘immoral’

Source: London Evening Standard
12 April 2012

'Cultural mix': London Metropolitan University, north London Holloway Road campus

A London university could ban the sale of alcohol from parts of its campus because some students consider it to be “immoral”.

Malcolm Gillies, vice chancellor of London Metropolitan University, said he was considering the move because a “high percentage” of his students see alcohol as “negative”.

About 20 per cent of students at London Met are Muslim, and of those the majority are women.

Speaking at the Association of University Administrators’ annual conference, Professor Gillies said he was “not a great fan of alcohol on campus” and added that the issue was one of “cultural sensitivity”.

He said of alcohol: “It’s a negative experience — in fact an immoral experience — for a high percentage of our students.” Speaking to the Standard he said he was considering replacing one of the bars on campus with a coffee shop.

Professor Gillies, who does drink, said: “Our university has one of the richest cultural mixes in Britain. Many of our students come from families that are not heavy drinkers.”

Source: London Evening Standard

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