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Month: January 2014

On reading Arabic in the New York subway

Last week, I invited some friends over for dinner, and I thought I’d make them the fish with saffron that my dear friend Nadia Benabid taught me. So I took the subway to Citarella on B’way and 75th to buy some fresh red snapper. On the way back, I got out a book that I had just borrowed from the library earlier that day. The book was a thick one—actually three Arabic books bound together. They were all by a Saudi historian called al-Jaser حمد الجاسر, and dealt with the history of Najd in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula.…

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Egypt and North Korea

A few days ago when I was writing the CNN Op-Ed piece on Egypt’s referendum, I had a sentence that compared the propaganda campaign and the Sisi mania with North Korea’s sick regime. Then at the last minute, I removed it thinking this is an unnecessary and unrealistic comparison. Today with preliminary results of the vote indicating that the yes vote may be close to 98%, I realize how right I was to remove the sentence comparing Egypt to North Korea. I was being unfair to North Korea. I then received some remarks criticizing me for making the comparison between…

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Is Egypt back where it was in 2011?

Published as an op-ed for the CNN on January 14, 2014 Today millions of Egyptians are going to the ballot boxes to decide on a new constitution, the third time they have done so in as many years. They are voting with high hopes that this referendum will put an end to the bloodshed, social tensions and instability that followed the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsy in July 2013. Seen as the lynchpin in the “roadmap” that was declared soon thereafter, the referendum is to be followed by presidential and parliamentary elections. Once these elections are conducted, it is…

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