Thursday, December 20, 2018

Lobbying Congress to ban the Muslim Brotherhood - Interview

This interview was originally posted on Clarion Project website. Check it here.

In early 2019, Dalia Ziada will bring a delegation from Egypt to lobby Congress to ban the Muslim Brotherhood. Ziada is the director of the Liberal Democracy Institute of Egypt.  An Egyptian human rights activist and civil society professional, Ziada has worked for several NGOs based in Egypt and the United States, including the American Islamic Congress and the Ibn Khaldun Center for Democratic Studies.

In 2014, Ziada founded the Liberal Democracy Institute as a think tank dedicated to promoting liberal democracy and fighting Islamic extremism. Next March, Ziada will be leading a mission to the United States to educate Congress as to the danger of the Muslim Brotherhood, both internationally and in the U.S.

Clarion Project: What made you start the Liberal Democracy Institute?

Dalia Ziada: The main project that inspired me to start the LDI was the “Popular Campaign to Designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a Terrorist Organization.” I started this campaign as a personal initiative in mid-2014, and it led to a fight between myself and the Chairman of Ibn Khaldun Center (where I was working at the time) over the legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood and whether they deserve to be called a terrorist organization.

So, I resigned from the Ibn Khaldun Center and started a new think tank through which I became able to better upgrade the campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood. From 2015- 2016, LDI organized several missions to the U.S. to advocate for the importance of designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, LDI has been involved with several local activities in Egypt over the past four years to promote democratic transformation and healthy relations with regional and international allies. These activities have included monitoring the presidential elections in 2018, monitoring the parliamentary elections in 2014, and working regularly with policymakers in the Egyptian parliament and government bureaus on issues related to advancing human rights and civil freedoms.

Clarion Project: In your upcoming mission to the U.S., will you present proof about the connections between the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Brotherhood-linked group in the U.S.? 

Ziada: During our next visit to the US, planned for the Spring of 2019, my colleagues at LDI and I plan to resume our advocacy work regarding convincing respective American policymakers on Capitol Hill and at the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

We have been very active in documenting the vengeful and violent assaults committed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after the fall of their regime in 2013. We documented nearly 3,000 assaults committed by the Brotherhood against innocent civilians, state employees and facilities, and uniformed police personnel in the period between June 2013 and December 2015.

This violence is not an isolated incidence that the Muslim Brotherhood can easily disown; they are still practicing it. They also have a trained militia for this purpose. We have documented this militia’s employment by the Brotherhood on several occasions during that period of time.

Clarion Project:  How is the Muslim Brotherhood harming the U.S.?

Ziada: When I first started the campaign to designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, we did not think of doing advocacy work in the US. We thought that if the group was banned in Egypt and some of the powerful Arab countries in the Gulf region, then that would solve the problem.

However, as soon as we started researching, we were shocked by how the Brotherhood has managed to establish a safe haven for itself in the West, particularly in the UK and the U.S. They have abused the open, democratic atmosphere that the U.S. gives to civil society to establish their network. FBI investigations in the 1980s and early 2000s discovered several abuses by these Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated civil society organizations that work inside the U.S.

These organizations present themselves to American citizens and decision-makers as the sole representative of Muslims. They thus collect money from the American people through tax funds under the label of being charitable organizations. They then end up using this money to “sabotage” the U.S. and the West from within.

From these American charitable donations, [the terror organization] Hamas in Gaza was established. These monies were used by Hamas to fund terrorist attacks — not only against Israel, but also against neighbor countries like Egypt. The terrorist groups operating in Sinai today are a mix of tribal rebels and factions of Hamas terrorists.

The FBI investigations proved that the Muslim Brotherhood has formed a network of so-called charity (or non-profit) organizations in the U.S. with the purpose of “sabotaging America from within” to establish a worldwide caliphate governed by sharia law.

The U.S. has held some organizations in this network accountable for promoting jihad and hatred against the U.S., however over the years, U.S. politicians have tolerated the existence of these Brotherhood groups out of fear of being labeled  “Islamophobic.”

If “sabotaging the U.S. from within” is not a reason good enough for U.S. policymakers to designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and ban all their activities in the U.S., then at least the fact that they abuse religion and democracy to destroy the American-adopted ideals of liberal democratization and civil freedoms should be a reason to designate the group as a terrorist organization.

Clarion Project:  What will you be sharing with Congressional members about the Muslim Brotherhood’s connection to terror?

Ziada: We will offer proof that the Muslim Brotherhood is the parent organization to the terrorist group of Hamas and also provide the documented reports about the group’s violent practices in Egypt post-2013.

Clarion Project: One reasons it is difficult to convince Congress to designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization is that the Brotherhood is not a monolithic organization, meaning that each Muslim Brotherhood affiliate can manifest differently. How will you address that?

Ziada:The biggest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world that he does not exist!” That is a quote from the movie Usual Suspects and exactly the trick that the Muslim Brotherhood is playing on the world today. They have tried to convince the Western world, especially the U.S. where they have been operating safely for decades, they are not responsible for the terrorism practiced by their affiliates in the Middle East.

Hamas, Ansar Beith Elmakdes and Algaysh Alhorr in Syria, etc. are all terrorist groups operating in the Middle East and label themselves as factions of the Muslim Brotherhood. They adopt the principles of jihad of the Muslim Brotherhood and they act according to the teachings and instructions of the early Brotherhood founders to turn the world into a huge Muslim Caliphate where every human being is ruled by Islamic sharia law.

Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, founders of Al-Qaeda, as well as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the founder of ISIS, used to be members of the Muslim Brotherhood in their early teen and youth years before founding their own terrorist organizations.

The Muslim Brotherhood as well as Erdogan of Turkey and the Brotherhood-affiliated groups in the U.S. and the UK have been telling lies to the West to provide the militia (including Hamas members who have infiltrated Egypt through tunnels between Gaza and Sinai borders) with political cover. The terrorist group Hamas was founded by the donation money from Brotherhood-affiliated organizations in the West collected under the false title of charity.

Also, who funded and caused the tragedy of “the Gaza Freedom Flotilla?” Erdogan and his Muslim Brotherhood party in Turkey (in cooperation with Brotherhood-affiliated NGOs operating in the West as well as leaders from Hamas in Gaza. After this highly orchestrated work, they are trying to tell the world that they are not monolithic?! Of course, they are. Of course, this claim is nothing but a devil’s trick.

The U.S. must not tolerate this false lie, but rather hold the Brotherhood’s leadership accountable for the violent misconduct practiced by the group’s factions. Let me give you an example: If it ever decides to be more diplomatic, ISIS’ leadership could simply disown the “lone-wolves” who practiced terrorism in Europe under the inspiration of ISIS’ jihadist extremist rhetoric.

Would you consider the ISIS leadership innocent and just punish the lone-wolf terrorist? That is ridiculous. If the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in the West are not able to control their widely-spread terrorist factions worldwide, then they should be held accountable and punished by the US for failing to do so.

Clarion Project: What is the difference between the Brotherhood’s activities in Egypt versus their activities in the West, especially in the U.S.?

Ziada: There is not much difference in the basic principles the group uses to justify their offenses in the U.S. or Egypt. In general, they revolve their big lie around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When a member of Hamas, for example, kills an innocent civilian in Israel, Muslim Brotherhood leaders and groups in the U.S. will label it as an act of “resistance against occupation.”

When Brotherhood militias were practicing terrible violent assaults inside Egypt in late 2013 (aided by members of Hamas), Brotherhood-affiliated or Brotherhood-paid groups in the U.S. were claiming that the Egyptian government was practicing a massacre against the Brotherhood. That was a big lie!

I was personally present at all those events, and I saw with my own eyes how the Brotherhood and Hamas members were armed and shooting at the police forces and killing innocent civilians from local media and other groups who went to cover the events.

You can read my court testimony regarding these Brotherhood militias by clicking here.

Clarion Project: How do the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Arab countries help fund their activities in the West?

Ziada: That is a very good question. People usually investigate into how Brotherhood militias in the Middle East benefit from the group’s leaders living and working in the West. But, the truth is that Brotherhood leaders living in the West benefit from the group’s militias operating in the Middle East, too.

For example, after the fall of the Brotherhood regime in Egypt and their subsequent vengeful violent assaults, the Qatari regime (a huge supporter of the group) started to pour millions of dollars into the budgets of certain Brotherhood-affiliated groups and sympathizing think tanks in the U.S., the UK, and Europe to alter the truth.

When President Trump took office and the Brotherhood started to feel threatened, those Qatari funds increased even more. Therefore, it is sometimes in the best interest of these organizations to keep promoting the lies about the true nature of the Brotherhood to keep receiving Qatari funds.

Clarion Project: What can people in the West and in Arab countries do to reduce the support and funding of the Muslim Brotherhood? 

Ziada: The first and most important step to curb the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood to the world’s security is to defuse the diplomatic and political power of the group’s leaders who are operating openly and freely in Western countries.

The U.S., the UK, the European Union and all the powerful countries in the West must designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and ban all forms of public activities their group or its members. That won’t hurt Western democracy in any way.

Open democracy does not mean opening your door to all and everyone who can simply abuse your democratic system to “sabotage” your country and destroy your ideals. Rather, democracy requires a level of protection against democracy abusers.

That step can only be taken by Western democratic nations like the U.S. The Arab countries have already done their part. They have designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, banned its charity-masked activities all over the region and diplomatically boycotted Qatar for funding the Brotherhood.

The Arab crackdown on the Brotherhood should encourage the U.S. to take quicker steps towards banning the group. Otherwise, the Brotherhood’s next target of their violent operations will be the West.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

أهم درس تعلمته في 2018... عن تجربة شخصية

الوقوع في حب شخص سادي

"عسى أن تحبوا شيئاً وهو شر لكم" - أكبر درس تعلمته أثناء عام 2018، أكتبه لكم هنا باختصار لعله يكون عبرة ومعين على اتخاذ القرارات السليمة في حياتكم:

أحياناً تقع في حب أشخاص تحيل حياتك إلى جحيم، والغريب أنك تتمسك بهم كما تتمسك بالحياة نفسها، رغم علمك الكامل بكل بشاعتهم وأنانيتهم وساديتهم واستغلالهم لك، وفي لحظة معينة بعد أن يتأكدوا من أنهم زرعوا سمهم في أعماق روحك وتركوك جثة هامدة.. سيهربون، وستظن وقتها أن حياتك قد تدمرت بلا رجعة، لكن الحقيقة أن هذه اللحظة بالتحديد - لحظة هروبهم بمنتهى الخسة - هي لحظة نجاتك وبداية جديدة لكل الأشياء الجميلة التي كان وجودهم في حياتك حائلاً ضد تحقيقها، فالملائكة لا تأتي في مكان يسكنه الشياطين، والأشياء والأشخاص الجميلة لن تعرف طريقها إلى حياتك إذا سمحت لشيطان أن يسكن في قلبك.

شخصياً، ربنا ابتلاني بهذا النوع من الحب السام، وتمسكت به طيلة ثلاث سنوات، كان كالذنب الذي لم أطلب من الله أبداً أن يغفره، لكن كما هو متوقع، بنهاية 2017، هرب ذاك المستغل السادي بعد أن سمم حياتي بكاملها، لم يحدث أبداً أن شيئاً أو شخصاً قد تسبب لي في هذا الكم الهائل من الألم النفسي والجسدي إلا هو... كان وجوده في حياتي عذاب بكل ما تحمل كلمة عذاب من معنى، ولا أعرف كيف تحملته ثلاث سنوات كاملة! 

حين هرب بعد أن فتك بروحي تماماً، ظننت وقتها أني انتهيت، لكن لم يستغرق الوقت سوى أسابيع قليلة ووجدتني أعود لحياتي التي أحبها بمنتهى السهولة، لم أتوقع أبداً أن حياتي في عام 2018 ستكون بهذا التألق، حققت فيها إنجازات شخصية ومهنية وأكاديمية لم أكن اتخيل أنني قادرة على إنجازها في هذا الوقت القصير، وتعرفت على أشخاص جدد داخل وخارج مصر ملأوا حياتي بالبهجة والسلام النفسي. لم أكن أعرف أبداً أن أول الطريق نحو السعادة كان يوم اختار الشيطان أن يخرج من جنتي. 

عز من قال "عسى أن تحبوا شيئاً وهو شر لكم"

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Boycotting Social Media is Dangerous; here's why!

Boycotting social media is dangerous

“You have to boycott social media to have a better life.”  
“Social media is turning you into an addict.”  
“Social media platforms are stealing your personal information.”  
“Social media is hurting your privacy and putting your life at risk.” 
“Social media is playing with world politics.”

You, probably, have heard or read one of the above statements, recently. Almost every blogger, writer, and researcher I follow are advocating against the so-called “damaging effects” of social media on our mental health and on the well-being of our human communities. Even, some point at certain social media platforms (e.g. Facebook) for being responsible for political corruption or manipulating elections. For me, those claims represent insanity in its purist form!

Over the past five months, I have gone through several of the “social media detox” experiments suggested all over the internet. They promise you mental freedom and more precious time to be added to your already-shortened life.  It took me five months of following the “boycott social media” trend to discover that those campaigns are nothing but disturbing SCAM. To save you the five months I wasted on the experiment, I ask you to take a nice step back and look again into the intentions behind such campaigns. Well! They are simply trying to up their viewers meter to be more popular on social media. What?! Yes, that is the bitter truth. 

Ironically, most of the bloggers, YouTubers, writers, and researchers advocating boycotting social media platforms are social media rats. They spend hours on social media every day. They have active applications for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram installed on their computers, iPads, and mobile phones. They are connected online for their entire waking hours. Their audience and followers knew about them through social media. In fact, if it was not for their intensive, and sometimes intrusive, presence on social media, no one would have noticed they ever existed. Yet, the most shocking truth: they are using the social media platforms to convince you to boycott the social media platforms! Isn’t it too crazy to bite?! 

Speaking from experience, I believe that using social media is necessary and that boycotting social media is dangerous. In today's world, social media platforms are the primary source of news and the easiest form of communication. If you decide to avoid using social media to acquire news and communicate with other human beings, you are no different from a man who decides to travel across borders riding a camel rather than taking a plane. You are not doing yourself or your community any good by refusing to adapt to the new tools of mass media and communications. 

In addition, by cutting social media out of your life, you are missing on the great opportunity of being the creator of your own news. On social media, there are no editors who would select for the news creator what to produce and for the news consumer what to devour. You have the absolute power over every piece of information that you choose to give to the world or select to absorb from others. This, eventually, gives you absolute power over your psyche that has always been penetrated by traditional media and political leaders, who control what you are allowed to see as a citizen. It, also, gives you a firm control over your own time. You choose when and what to watch or read whenever you desire, not according to the TV network schedule.   

Then, what is the problem? Why many people have a love/hate relationship with social media? I think that is because social media showed them their ugly face. If someone is already wasting his time on small talks and trivia on social media, then, most probably, they are not any different in real life. In other words, if someone is already a loser in real life, with no purpose, goal, or work to do; they will be as much as a loser on social media, too. They may, even, use social media to create the illusion that they are doing something valuable. But, in fact, they are simply trying to make use of their already wasted time. On the other hand, if you are a successful person with a clear goal in life and a solid schedule for your time, when you get on social media you will use it only to serve your goals and make you more successful. You are making the best use at that particular moment of your already valuable time. 

Nevertheless, the proper use of social media platforms can literally provide the freedom and the power that we all seek. I have seen women in very conservative communities being socially empowered and getting over their oppressive patriarchal societies by starting small businesses on Facebook. Personally, I was one of many young human rights activists, who brought down dictators during the Arab Spring, by knowing how to use this amazing swift communication tool in mobilizing supporters.   

The bottom line is: the problem is not in social media platforms, no matter how attractive or addictive they are designed to be. The problem is in our behavior on social media. If you have a friend who spends his whole day hanging out at shopping malls and coffee-shops, then you would suggest that there is something wrong with his behavior not with the beautiful design or addictive coffee brewing at this particular coffee shops. That is exactly the case with social media platforms. 

You do not need to boycott social media to be happy or free. On the contrary, you need to immerse yourself in the unique and revolutionary experience of communicating through a virtual platform. To be happy and free, you need to change your perception about how much you value your time and manage your life. Ironically, social media can help you make this change!   

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Countries Showing off Military Power in Egypt - My experience with EDEX

EDEX Egypt Defense Expo

Superiority is not for the country which owns or manufactures the heaviest military equipment, anymore. Rather, the strongest country in today’s world is the one with the highest intelligence expertise and cyber war capabilities. That is the most important note that I have taken after visiting Egypt’s first Defense and Security Exhibition (EDEX), earlier this week.

EDEX, as an exhibition is not a novel event to the world, it has been there for twenty years. However, it is a whole new event for Egyptians. This is the first time the Egyptian government organizes EDEX inside the capital city of Cairo, with over 370 state and corporate exhibitors from all over the globe. This is also the first time for Egyptian civilian journalists, researchers and scholars to get such a close access to that massive amount of information and updates on the defense industry in Egypt and abroad. 

Defense industry and security issues, including military-related information, have always been a big taboo and a minefield to explore by journalists and researchers in Egypt. But, fortunately, this is not the case anymore. 

When I received the invitation to EDEX, I expected to see pamphlets, photos, videos, and perhaps some cartoon samples of the real equipment. But, to my biggest surprise, the exhibiting companies and military institutions were present with the real uniforms, equipment, and ammunition. 

The floor of the exhibition was similar to a world war scene, a quieter one though, where every country is showing off its military muscles. Unlike actual world war, the show of military power was not meant to offend other nations, but to explore ways of cooperation and integration. I believe this says a lot about how civilized our world has become. 

I have, also, noticed that the majority of the defense systems in the world has not yet adapted, equipment-wise and personnel-wise, to managing wars against non-state actors. Terrorist groups are the actual enemy of the world, today. Terrorists’ real power lies in the fact that they are more random than all the highly organized and hierarchical traditional military systems operating worldwide. The high technology and most advanced heavy military equipment that I have seen at EDEX are not definitely the right gear to fight this new enemy. I believe that world military institutions need to change their perception about procurement in adaptation to this new non-traditional war.

A final thought that crossed my mind while walking down the aisles of EDEX was how proud I am of my country and my military. God bless Egypt!