Monday, February 23, 2009

Letters from Egypt: Khan el-Khalili Bombing

Photo taken from AFP

Immediately text messages started coming in: Cairo explosion near Khan outside Hussein Mosque; The explosion was by the mosque, at least 4 ppl died; Hear about the bomb? Got any info?; and the list goes on. I don’t think I’m alone in what I did after receiving these messages. I quickly turned on the BBC and flipped back and forth to CNN, got on the computer as I was met with im’s from friends here and quickly searched news sites. Then a friend called with confirmation from the embassy about the bombing. I immediately sent out texts to all of my friends relaying messages.

Varying reports surfaced, and while it is the next day, I’m still finding inaccuracies among different news agencies/sources. The bombing took place yesterday afternoon in the Khan el-Khalili, a large bazaar and popular tourist destination. The last attack in the area took place in 2005, killing two French citizens and an American. Reports conclude that one French woman was killed in yesterday’s attack, in addition to about 20 others being injured (numbers aren’t conclusive).

It is said that two bombs, targeted at tourists in the nearby café, were dropped from a nearby hotel. The second bomb failed to detonate, although Egyptian authorities said they successfully defused it. One eye witness praying at Hussein Mosque said he saw three men from the third story, and authorities have reportedly detained three men suspected in the attack.

All of those injured are not per the bomb, but the stampede that ensued afterward. However, this does lead to concerns that more violence may occur as tensions over Egypt’s stance regarding the Gaza conflict continues. The Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition group in Egypt, has denounced attacks although many still speculate their genuineness. The Brotherhood has long been the model for Islamic political movements and has close ties with the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas.

I first learned about the Brotherhood shortly after my arrival to Cairo. I was told that the Brotherhood was seemingly a peaceful organization that wished to dispel the long and what some may refer to as ineffective ruling of President Mubarak. I was told this story of the Brotherhood meeting as Egyptian soldiers immediately stormed the premises and detained members. Egyptian emergency laws prohibit gatherings of more than five people and permit prosecutions on such vague grounds. I was later told by an Egyptian that this was in the best interests for most, especially westerners, as the Brotherhood would impose harsh conservative Islamic code and eventually drive foreigners out of the country. One Egyptian simply told me, "I don't like them, they have bad thoughts." Another Coptic Christian added, "They want to destroy all of us. They want us to pay in for our safety, but still destroy us like in the 6th Century."

The Brotherhood currently occupies a small percentage of seats in the Egyptian Parliament, unable to make any decisions, but making their presence known.

While that story is simply heresy and opinion based, what I will say is that the Brotherhood does believe in enforcing Sharia as the law of the land. Sharia is Islamic law and while I am not well-versed on the subject matter, I do know that it scares many westerners with the implications that basic rights – especially for women – are denied. However, you may click on the Wikipedia link and through that do your own research (as we know anyone may post on Wiki and perhaps it isn’t the best reference tool).

I also want to note that for those of you reading this, please be mindful that there are extremist in every religion and it isn’t fair or just to associate these actions with all Muslims.

6 comments:

  1. It's a sad story told over and over again here in Egypt LeAnne. The brotherhood are still using the name of Islam and bending it to their needs and they go as far as their imagination will take them. Although it is not confirmed that they are responsible for the bombing, but anyway who ever did it still will use the name of the Islamic religion to hide behind, while the holy Quran forbids such acts, and considers killing another soul as one of the "Great Sins"
    I really am sorry that this kind of thing still happens here, it really is a bad feeling

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a very irresponsible post. What brought the Brotherhood into this matter? This is not the modus operandi of the MB. God knows there are plenty of violent groups/people in Egypt who would wish to carry something like this out, but the MB do not work this way. They work within the government/law, not outside it, to make peaceful change. Regardless of one's feelings about them, it is a shame--not to mention a sin in Islam (I realize you are not Muslim)---to make accusations and hold suspicion without proof. We foreigners have enough problems here without fanning the flames by slandering innocent people/groups. If you were a reporter, this would be a fine example of yellow journalism. I am surprised that after your time in Egypt you have not yet realized the news here is totally unreliable. The official spokespersons will say anything to calm fears. Just because there were arrests in no way means the real perpetrators were caught. There's always a wide sweep when something like this happens. Anyone can be arrested, questioned and then let go. It's just the way things work here. Dont let your suspicions cast all foreigners in the same light as you have cast Egyptians. We are already viewed as an ignorant, self-serving lot. Keep in mind these attacks could have little or nothing to do with "religious" people--or even Muslims. Please dont make it worse.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear Anonymous:

    I normally wouldn’t respond to a comment like this, but I have to ask – did you read the blog? Obviously you missed key parts. So please allow me to elaborate:

    You said: “They [Muslim Brotherhood] work within the government/law, not outside it, to make peaceful change.” I suppose this is one of the parts that you overlooked in my blog: “The Brotherhood currently occupies a small percentage of seats in the Egyptian Parliament…” Therefore, I do believe I properly and accurately covered their position “within” government.

    You also state, “I am surprised that after your time in Egypt you have not yet realized the news here is totally unreliable.” Did you miss the part when I said, “Varying reports surfaced, and while it is the next day, I’m still finding inaccuracies among different news agencies/sources”? You continued to say, “Just because there were arrests in no way means the real perpetrators were caught.” I wrote, “One eye witness praying at Hussein Mosque said he saw three men from the third story, and authorities have reportedly detained three men suspected in the attack.” The word “reportedly” means supposedly, allegedly, basically it hasn’t been confirmed. So, I ask you – where is the yellow journalism that you have described?

    Here’s a discrepancy in your comment – first you say, “We foreigners…” Then later you continue in regards to being Egyptian, “We are already viewed as an ignorant…” Therefore, which is it – foreign or Egyptian?
    And the biggest flaw in your argument was this: “Keep in mind these attacks could have little or nothing to do with "religious" people--or even Muslims. Please dont make it worse.”

    Since deductive reasoning would lead me to believe that you never once read the blog in its entirety, allow me to direct your attention to the very bottom where I have a disclaimer issued: “I also want to note that for those of you reading this, please be mindful that there are extremist in every religion and it isn’t fair or just to associate these actions with all Muslims.”

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi LeAnn,
    It's kind of funny that you say that you normally wouldn’t respond to a comment like this, because this is the type of comment that does need a reply.
    You know, when you get a good comment, I think that it is O.K to skip replying to it, but when you get a comment that is attacking the way you think, then that does need a reply.
    Remember my first comment here on your blog? I also got a little aggressive in my comment back then, and you did reply, it's all about explaining yourself and expressing your thoughts.:D
    Have a nice weekend LeAnn

    Cheers, Amr

    ReplyDelete
  5. LeAnne, first I want to say I posted as anonymous because my blog is private and I didnt want to link back to it and be inundated with requests to read it. My name is Iman and I am an expat from USA living in Cairo. (I know you didnt address my being anonymous but just wanted to put that out there.)

    Next, your reply actually proved my point. A post full of "disclaimers" is yellow journalism. You are not dealing in facts--you are throwing theories out there which wreak of a FoxNews kind of journalism. You have filled it with "maybe" and "perhaps" and "possibly", yet the overall tone is presenting a scenario which people here would love to believe--and often do. The post is just baseless accusation and innuendo but comes across sounding authoritative. I did read the post in it's entirety and I am discussing it in its entirety.

    A post of this nature, based on current news in a country where you are a guest and therefore perceived--rightly or not--as representing expats in general adds fuel to the flames of hatred towards us by some in Egypt. Moreover it is condemning a group for an act of which you have no proof whatsoever.

    I am not a member of the MB but I do support its ideaology as outlined by Imam Hassan Al Banna. Perhaps it is the love I have for the wonderful soul of that man that caused me to speak out in defense of the MB.

    I realize you are not a journalist and this blog is not a news blog. But I just feel the MB was unfairly targeted, when in fact the attack does not fit their MO at all. They are not, as a group, extremists.

    Thanks for your time and comment.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Iman,

    If you feel that I portrayed the MB in an untruthful way, why don’t you offer the ideology that you support? I think this would make your point more substantiated and therefore, give others insight.

    ReplyDelete