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Egypt

ARABICA: Mandela And Poet Mourned, Reindeer Meat, Adoption Death

Your weekly shot of what the Arab world is saying, hearing and sharing.

In Tunis
In Tunis
Laura Thompson

Mandela's meaning in the Arab world
Mourned by leaders and ordinary people around the world, South African leader Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95, held particular meaning in certain quarters of the Arab world. "Free, Forever" headlined Egypt's Al Akhbar daily:

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Mandela was remembered for resisting the forces of oppression in his own country, and specifically speaking out on behalf of the Palestinian struggle for independence after his release from prison. "The Palestinian people will never forget his historic statement that the South African revolution will not have achieved its goals as long as the Palestinians are not free," Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority said.

The outpouring carried across Arabic social media as well:

ليس العالم �قط من أصبح يتيما بعد #مانديلا،بل أيضا التاريخ.كان مانديلا آخر آبائه..رَحل وترك لنا م�همة تربية أبنائه"الزعماء" الق�صّر والعاقين.

— Ù…Ù�حمّد الرَّÙ�Ù"راÙ�ÙŠ (@RAFRAFI_MED) December 5, 2013

"Mandela’s passing orphaned not only our world, but also history - of which he was the last of its forbears. He moved on and left us the task of rearing his adolescent and recalcitrant children, today’s "leaders.""

Egypt mourns its "revolutionary poet"
Revered Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm died on Dec. 3 at the age of 84, a reminder of both changing linguistic and social landscape in the country.

Negm gained widespread recognition for his colloquial poetry, written in Egyptian Arabic. Up until then, most of Arabic-language poetry had been written in formal Arabic — which is rarely spoken in everyday life.

Born into a agricultural family, Negm had 17 brothers and sisters. Following his father's death, he was temporarily placed in an orphanage, returning to his village later on to work as a shepherd. Imprisoned briefly in his youth, he wrote his first poems from jail. Social issues and the suffering of the poor and oppressed were themes that would continue to occupy him for the rest of his life.

Translations of some of his Arabic poetry can be found here, including his "Who Are They, And Who Are We?" poem.

Negm's words were put to music by the famous blind Egyptian composer and singer, Sheikh Imam, whom he met in the 1960s in one of Cairo's poorest neighborhoods. This video, produced after the revolution, shows images of the poem's "we" — suffering Egyptians, unemployed, laboring, revolting — as well as the "they" — the country's corrupt ruling class. Several images of deposed President Hosni Mubarak are shown.

Egyptian cleric suddenly resigns
Sheikh al-Qaradawi, famous for his Al Jazeera religious TV show as well as his contentious fatwas (religious rulings), has resigned from Egypt's highest religious organization, Al-Azhar, accusing it of supporting the military-backed government responsible for ousting former President Mohamed Morsi.

The response was swift and severe, reflecting the absolute intolerance for any type of criticism in this hyper-nationalist moment of transition in Egypt, following the June 30 military takeover. A Sheikh of Al-Azhar retorted described Al-Qaradawi as a "terrorist who is estranged from Al-Azhar and from Egypt."

Twitter users speculated about the reasons why Al-Qaradawi's chose to resign now, months after the military coup. A Saudi Twitter user suggested that the resignation potentially pointed to a new role for Al-Qaradawi in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, to whom he has long been linked and whose leaders are increasingly winding up in jail.

#القرضاوي_يستقيل إستقالة يوس� قرضاوي من هيئة كبار العلماء بالأزهر يشير لأمر خ�ي يخطط له الحزب الإخواني. pic.twitter.com/6J22sSI4Sn

— عبدالعزيز الموسى (@A_aziz_almosa) December 2, 2013

Al-Qaradawi has recently been in the spotlight for his support of the Syrian resistance. A YouTube video of one of his declarations describing resistance as an "obligation" has been repurposed to encourage the fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


Al-Qaradawi was stripped of his Egyptian citizenship and has been denied entry into several western nations, including the United States, due to his often controversial writings and fatwas. One of his more controversial fatwas called the killing of Israeli civilians acceptable, describing them as occupiers along with their government; another called for the execution of novelist Salman Rushdie.

Some supporters argue that Al-Qaradawi's views are overly simplified by critics who portray him as an unrelenting extremist.They point out, for example, that after 9/11, Al-Qaradawi urged Muslims to donate blood urgently to help victims, declaring "the attack against innocent human beings a grave sin." He cited the verse 5:32 from the Koran, which reads in part: "Whoever kills a human being — unless for murder or for corruption done in the land — it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one — it is as if he had saved mankind entirely." Al-Qaradawi also famously denounced sectarianism between Sunnis and Shia in the wake of the Iraq war, a problem that still plagues the country today, and argued for moderation in permitting Muslims to consume minute amounts of alcohol (such as that present in energy drinks).

His sometimes ultra-conservative positions on women's rights — such as his insistence that "light" wife-beating could be permissible, and his support for female circumcision — seem to clash with the fact that his daughter Ilham is a world-famous nuclear scientist.

Adoption death in Qatar
The death of an adopted Ghanian child in Qatar has sparked discussion about cultural and religious differences over adoption. Eight-year-old Gloria, adopted by an American couple working in Qatar on preparations for the 2022 World Cup, mysteriously died in January of this year. Qatari prosecutors claimed the couple, Matthew and Grace Huang, had starved the child, while the parents maintained that Gloria had erratic eating habits, including binging and self-starvation. An Arabic language outlet reported that the charges were based on the testimony of one of the Huangs' other adopted children.

The Qatari police were reportedly suspicious of the Huangs' reasons for wanting a child who did not bear their "hereditary traits" and were "not good-looking." They allegedly speculated that Gloria could have been the victim of a trafficking scheme linked to organ harvesting. The payments they had made to an adoption agency apparently also aroused officials' suspicion. The California Innocence project has taken on the Huangs' case, calling it "wrongful incarceration."

The couple's two other adopted children have returned to the U.S. to live with their extended family during their parents' trial, who could face the death penalty if convicted.

Adoption as it is known in the West is not widely practiced in the Gulf, particularly in light of Islam's treatment of an adopted child as primarily linked to his or her biological family. An adopted child cannot officially inherit alongside his/her adoptive family's biological children and frequently does not take his/her adoptive family's last name.

Tips for Iraqi café owners: how to stop a suicide bomber
In the midst of the worst wave of violence since 2008, Baghdad's security command center is moving in to help owners of one of suicide bombers' most frequent targets: coffee shops.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry suggested to café owners that they hire security guards and allow only one entrance to their establishments, which makes incoming clients easier to monitor. They also urged the use of cameras.

In the month of November, nearly 1,000 people were killed in Iraqi attacks, almost all of them civilians.

After Al Jazeera English, "Hello" Al Arabiya With Subtitles
English and Arabic branches of the same news organization often report independently with different angels and even using different sources, leaving Arabic reporting impenetrable to the anglophone viewer. Al Arabiya has announced it is attempting to bridge that gap, allowing English-speaking viewers access to their Arabic news site through subtitles.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya was founded in 2003 in response to the rapid rise of Qatar-owned Al Jazeera, and it has been described by some as a vehicle of Saudi Arabia's foreign policy. According to Andrew Hammon, Al Arabiya was intended to present a more moderate vision of the Arab world, dismissing "Al Jazeera's hip rejectionism when it came to the massive Western political influence in the region."

Perhaps to counter Al Jazeera English's increasing presence in the U.S. and European market, Al Arabiya has announced plans to offer English speakers access to its popular news broadcast.

The new subtitled broadcast is available here.

Norwegian halal reindeer meat
Following falling sales in Norway, a slaughterhouse in the north of the country has decided to offer halal reindeer meat for sale domestically and abroad.

The Islamic Council of Norway visited the abattoir and reportedly gave their seal of approval. As many have pointed out, "tis the season! Reindeer is a very popular meat for Christmas dinner in Scandinavia.

Tunisian president's "black book"
The information services of Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki have published a "black book" of all the journalists, artists, businessmen and businesswomen who allegedly collaborated with the former dictator, Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Debates have persisted over what to do with those who had participated in Ben Ali's party — which in 2008, three years before the revolution that would oust the government, claimed over 2 millions members in a country with a population of about 10.5 million. The national assembly's efforts to ban members of Ben Ali's Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party have thus far received lots of press, but have been unsuccessful. Despite Marzouki's party's efforts alongside the ruling Islamist party and other allies, members of the RCD still remain present on the political scene, including Ben Ali's relative by marriage Kamel Morjane.

Current President Marzouki hasn't had the most successful of presidencies, either, and his latest move — the "black book" publication — has earned him the ire of well-known public figures and avid Twitter users alike.

Progressive Islamic thinker Olfa Youssef lashed out at Marzouki on her Facebook account after she was named as a collaborator in the Ben Ali propaganda machine, for helping to "polish Ben Ali's image." After many other disappointments, she writes, "we discover today that you are a liar, that you accuse without evidence and fabricate charges." She continues, "I dare you to come up with even one piece of evidence to support these accusations … I am not a liar, and I do not fear you nor your rabid dogs."

Another Twitter user tweeted a cartoon portraying the Tunisian press as spineless, ready to relentlessly criticize those in power but unable to respond to any criticism of them.



The cartoon portrays Tunisian journalists harassing Marzouki and calling him names, including
! ("you puppet!") and ya muaqat ("you're only temporary!").

However, when Marzouki lashes back with his "black book," the journalists all run away, yelling, "We've been found out!"

Similarly, a Twitter user declared, "So this is a "puppet"? May we have more puppets then!"

�طق ترشيح الزبيدي و النابلي خرجلهم كتاب اسود و واق� سد منيع ضد الانقلاب و ضد الانبطاح.. طرطور ماو ؟ اللهم طرطره اكثر #Marzouki#Tunisie

— tounssi7orr (@tounssi7orr) November 29, 2013

The strangeness of the entire spectacle in the midst of Tunisia's political statement prompted one young Twitter user to declare: "Marzouki is like the white pencil in the box of colored pencils. You always find it there but you don't know what to do which it or what it's useful for. #Marzouki"

المرزوقي ي�كّرني �ي القلم الأبيض �ي باكو أقلام التلوين ... تلقاه ديما موجود امّا ما تعر�ش آش يعملو بيه والا لشنوّة يصلح ! #Marzouki

— Emir Ben Ayed (@Emir_BA) November 29, 2013

Another Tunisian journalist added a dose of humor:

Finally someone managed to beat the #Bieber hash-tag; this is by far #Marzouki "s greatest accomplishment #Tunisia#Tunisie

— Asma Smad (@AsmaSmad) December 2, 2013

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This focus on biological sex differences turned out to be woefully inadequate, as a group of Harvard-affiliated researchers pointed out earlier this year. By analyzing more than a year of sex-disaggregated COVID-19 data, they showed that the gender gap was more fully explained by social factors like mask-wearing and distancing behaviors (less common among men) and testing rates (higher among pregnant women and health workers, who were largely female).

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