On the Monadnock Quaker blog, Hawthorn provides a vivid personal account of her journey to the Egyptian capital, recounting the successes and frustrations she encountered along the way -- not least the effects of her own days of fasting in solidarity with the Gazans.
The Gaza Freedom March was organized by activist groups to draw attention to what they regard as Israel's siege of Gaza, virtually closing the border crossings with Israel and blocking the rebuilding of Gaza after the destruction of the three-week military action. The fighting left more than 1,300 people dead in Gaza, including hundreds of civilians (hence the number of protesters).
Israel has said it had to act militarily to halt persistent and indiscriminate rocket fire from miitants in Gaza against civilians in towns across the border in Israel. Thirteen Israelis were killed in the fighting. Israel says it will reopen the crossings when its security concerns are met.
More unusually, the Gaza march also focused not only on protesting Israel and US policy in the region but also on what the organizers view as Egypt's complicity with the Israeli crackdown on Gaza. Hawthorn's journal entries recount the cat-and-mouse tactics of the marchers as they tried to hold protests in Cairo, while Egyptian police sought to disrupt the gatherings and prevent any march toward the Gaza border.
In the end, nearly 100 of the activists were allowed to travel into Gaza with two busloads of humanitarian aid, thanks to the intervention of Suzanne Mubarak, wife of President Hosni Mubarak. But that compromise divided the protesters, as Hawthorn recounts in detail.
She says she was inspired to join the fast because of the example of Hedy Epstein, the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor who was a key organizer of the protest and who initiated the hunger strike to press for the borders to be opened The fasting marchers declared on January 1: "We recognize that the Palestinians of Gaza continue to hunger for food, shelter, and most of all for freedom. We continue to hunger for justice for Gaza and all of Palestine. At this time we announce that we will feast when Gaza feasts. Until that time, each of us will choose the time to end her/his fast and again take food. Our pleasure in that food will always be mixed with the pain of Palestinians....”
Pasha's historical novel is about the birth of Islam, seen through the eyes of Aisha, the youngest wife of the prophet Mohammed, in the seventh century in what is now Saudi Arabia. The book is warmly reviewed by most consumer reviewers on Amazon.
Pasha, an American raised in a devout Muslim family, describes his first novel, and why he wrote it, in this video clip on Amazon. He says he wanted to bring alive for Muslims and non-Muslims the roots of what he has experienced as "a very positive, and very joyous and very compassionate tradition."
Pasha also is a Hollywood producer and screenwriter, who has worked on NBC's series, "Kings," and the showtime series "Sleeper Cell."
The forum is being held at the Theatre Room at the Regatta Riverview, 12 Museum Way, Cambridge, at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The AIC is a civil rights group that promotes understanding of Islam and better ties between Muslims and others.
Egypt's leading political dissident, Ayman Nour, has told Northeastern University journalism students that he intends to go back to jail to serve the last four months of a prison sentence.
The three student journalists, part of a Northeastern group touring the Middle East, interviewed Nour on Sunday in his apartment in Cairo. Nour told them that the Egyptian government had released him from prison as a misleading gesture of its commitment to democracy. In fact, he told them, he has been treated worse since his release.
In an account on the students' blog on their travels, they reported: "In these four months, he said, the government has denied him basic rights, including practicing law, his primary profession, as well as opening a bank account."
Nour was sentenced to four years in prison in December 2005 for what the government said was forgery of signatures he needed to register his liberal opposition party, Al-Ghad, for the elections earlier that year. Nour said in the interview that he was confident he had received more votes than President Hosni Mubarak, but the official results gave Mubarak's party the victory.
The Northeastern journalism students are traveling through the Mideast and blogging about their experiences. The three students who met Nour, Kate Augusto, Danielle Capalbo and Nick Mendez, posted their account today of their meeting with Nour.
The Egyptian government released Nour in February, four months ahead of schedule, under pressure from the United States and other countries. He had gone on well-publicized hunger strikes and other protests while in custody. It wasn't clear whether there is any provision in Egypt for a prisoner to return to jail voluntarily to complete a sentence.
Nour said he would shortly inform the Egyptian government of his decision to go back to jail for the final four months of his term. His son, however, said he preferred his father to stay at home and would try to persuade him to change his mind.
Students from Northeastern University are offering some eclectic and entertaining reflections about the Middle East in an innovative group blog about their current travels through three countries in the region.
Twenty-six students from the journalism and Middle East studies programs are on a five week odyssey through Egypt, Syria and Qatar. And they are contributing to a group blog as well as to their own personal blogs.
The 20 undergads and six graduate students are traveling from May 2 through June 5. They are writing dispatches about sandstorms, Mother's Day in Egypt and other observations as well as about weightier political issues. (Disclosure: my colleague Geoff Edgers and his daughter Lila were along for part of the trip, tagging along with Geoff's wife, NU journalism professor Carlene Hempel. Geoff blogged occasionally himself on his Globe arts blog, called Exhibitionist. Carlene is also blogging frequently on the project site).
A study issued today by the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University offers a sobering look at the prospects for revisionism among radical Jihadist movements.
The paper is by Khalil Al-Anani, who is assistant to the managing editor of al-Siyassa al-Dawliya, an influential political journal in Cairo. It looks at the impact of the declaration rejecting violence by one of the leading radicals in the Arab world, known as Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, who had been a comrade of Al Qaeda's number two, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri.
From his prison cell in late 2007, Sharif renounced violence as illegitimate, and rejected his own pro-violence manifestos of earlier years. Since he had been an influential proponent of jihad in Afghanistan and elsewhere, his new manifesto set off intensive debate among radical jihadists -- and raised hopes in the West that revisionists would undermine the Jihadist movement.
However, author Anani says there is little sign that younger radicals are paying much attention to an aging Islamic scholar's flip-flop, and that the various radical strands are more diffuse with the scattering of al Qaeda after 9/11. Anani notes that Zawahiri has worked aggressively to ridicule Sharif since his pronouncement, arguing that no one should take seriously Sharif's jail-cell recantation.
Anani says: "This new generation of jihadis reveals the extent to which the world is currently confronting a jihadism and an operational and intellectual system that is completely different from that address by the revisionism -- and this gap severely limits the likelihood of an effective revisionist movement."
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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