Well this week's Roundup is mostly Egypt. Stories cover urfi marriages (also discussed in the book, Muhajababes), F.G.M.(again); to crackdowns on the press, the Muslim Brotherhood, and a human rights organization. Muslims in America covers new State Department bloggers, blogging for America. Censorship covers the Egyptian stories as noted earlier, plus book removals from U.S. prisons, which was included in last week's Roundup, and my favorite new topic - spying on Americans - the new F.I.S.A. Law recently passed by our spineless congress. I am not going to go over the "Don't taser me, bro!" episode, even though I think it was a form of censorship, and another example of the police over reacting. If I have to see the video again, I'm going to start screeching!
YOUNG EGYPTIAN COUPLES IN A HURRY TIE TEMPORARY KNOT
Concern grows over use of a secret, unrecognized 'urfi' marriage that many couples feel allows them to be alone and to engage in sexual activity.In Egypt, a Rising Push Against Genital Cutting
KAFR AL MANSHI ABOU HAMAR, Egypt — The men in this poor farming community were seething. A 13-year-old girl was brought to a doctor’s office to have her clitoris removed, a surgery considered necessary here to preserve chastity and honor.Slideshow
The girl died, but that was not the source of the outrage. After her death, the government shut down the clinic, and that got everyone stirred up.
“They will not stop us,” shouted Saad Yehia, a tea shop owner along the main street. “We support circumcision!” he shouted over and over.
“Even if the state doesn’t like it, we will circumcise the girls,” shouted Fahmy Ezzeddin Shaweesh, an elder in the village.
Interview With a Young Egyptian
My parents at home don’t know that I work in F.G.M., and if they find out, they’ll kill me. ...
MUSLIMS IN AMERICA:
For State Dept., Blog Team Joins Muslim Debate
Two Arab-Americans have been hired to post on blogs and Internet forums in an effort to improve America’s image.
Some analysts question whether the blog team will survive beyond the tenure of Karen P. Hughes, the confidante of President Bush who runs public diplomacy. The department expects to add seven more team members within the next month — four more in Arabic, two in Farsi and one in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan.
The team concentrates on about a dozen mainstream Web sites such as chat rooms set up by the BBC and Al Jazeera or charismatic Muslim figures like Amr Khaled, as well as Arab news sites like Elaph.com. They choose them based on high traffic and a focus on United States policy, and they always identify themselves as being from the State Department.
EGYPT EXTENDS CRACKDOWN TO PRESS
The arrest of Ibrahim Eissa and three other opposition journalists is the latest signal of tightening government control, reflecting anxiety over presidential succession.
Egyptian and foreign human rights activists say the crackdown on the press is unprecedented in recent Egyptian history. While state harassment comes with the territory for independent journalists, never before have four editors been tried and convicted at the same time.
Mr. Said, the political scientist, argues that the current crackdown reflects the cycle of Egyptian politics since independence.
"Towards the end of regimes they engage in harassment of opposition leaders, close newspapers and so forth," he says. "It's like in September 1981 when [Anwar] Sadat arrested many politicians of many political persuasions." Shortly after that, Sadat – then president – was assassinated. "That's why many people are calling what's happening now the winds of September," says Said. "These are the last years of Mubarak's life, and whenever the government feels it has to ensure a favorable successor, it does this."
GOVERNMENT BANS MUSLIM Brotherhood's ANNUAL RAMADAN EVENT
CAIRO: The government has banned the Muslim Brotherhood's largest annual social gathering for the first time in 20 years, part of a concerted crackdown against the country's opposition, the group's leadership said Sunday.
Every year, the Brotherhood invites a diverse group of some 1,500 people to one of Cairo's five-star hotels for a gala dinner during Ramadan.
The government has also targeted organizations unrelated to the transfer of power. Earlier Tuesday, authorities closed the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid, which had been involved in the first lawsuit against a state security officer for torture.
Egyptian officials said the group had received funding without the necessary permission, but fellow human rights groups said the closure was related to the torture case, which ended with the officer's acquittal on Sept. 5. Associated Press.
AS STATE CLOSES PROMINENT HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP, ACTIVISTS FEAR FURTHER CRACKDOWN
Noha Atef, the editor of the advocacy website www.tortureinegypt.net, agrees. According to her, the shut down of such a prominent legal aid organization is meant to have a chilling effect on human rights advocacy in Egypt.
“This association is very active and has defended many torture victims, so it is only logical that the government would come after them,” she says.
“The state wants to send a message to other civil society groups — they say ‘this was one of the biggest groups and we can just dissolve it whenever we want.’” she adds “That this can happen to a big organization with a lot of its own lawyers — how do you think normal people who don’t have a team of lawyers with them will feel about standing up against torture?”
Bush Calls for Expansion of Spy Law
Critics Right and Left Protest Book Removals
The federal Bureau of Prisons is under pressure from members of Congress and religious groups to reverse its decision to purge the shelves of prison chapel libraries of all religious books and materials that are not on the bureau’s lists of approved resources.
The Republican Study Committee, a caucus of some of the most conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives, sent a letter on Wednesday to the bureau’s director, Harley G. Lappin, saying, “We must ensure that in America the federal government is not the undue arbiter of what may or may not be read by our citizens.”