Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Freedom, Freedom, Everywhere!

I don't know what to say. Some weird shit is going down.

Hind el-Hinnawy shocked conservative Muslim Egypt when she publicly declared herself a single mom and launched a paternity suit. The man in the case, Ahmed el-Fishawy, hosted a television talk show offering advice to devout Muslim youth. They had met on the set of a comedy called "When Daddy Returned."

Hinnawy's stand became a national talking point in a country where, in theory, premarital sex is banned. Even the grand mufti intervened. But equally surprising, from some points of view, was the support the 27-year-old received for her challenge to what she deemed the hypocrisy of a male-dominated society.

The response to the scandal is said to be indicative of how Egypt is changing. Fishawy's pious chat show has been canceled. And last week, in a precedent-setting ruling, a judge ordered him to undergo a DNA test. An expectant nation awaits the result.

Taboo breaking in Egypt appears to be catching on at the very top. On Feb. 26, Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president since 1981, amazed his compatriots by proposing a multiparty presidential election for the first time in Egyptian history. Until now Mubarak and his predecessors have been endorsed, not elected, in single-candidate referendums. "I took the reins of this initiative in order to start a new era of reform," Mubarak said. "The president will be elected through direct, secret balloting, opening the opportunity for political parties to run." He was convinced, he said, "of the need to consolidate efforts for more freedom and democracy."
Let's not get ahead of ourselves, they still have a long way to go. No one actually expects Mubarak to lose. Human rights groups say that nothing has changed until the political prisoners are released and the whole torture thing stops. And who knows - this woman could be executed anyway. But as I said in my previous women's rights post, words and symbolism matter. The fact that they're talking about elections and allowing a paternity suit implies something is brewing. Of course, we said the same about Iran a few years ago with their youth demanding Coca-Cola and blue jeans, and now we're talking about bombing them to hell. Anything can happen, but this is a big deal.

Again, I hope Bush ends up being proven right. But it's a frightening thought, isn't it? When I was in Copenhagen, I stumbled upon a giant bust of FDR in the center of town, celebrating the US liberation of Denmark in World War II. What if Bush really gets the legacy he wants? Instead of being the man who allowed 9/11 to happen because of his incompetence; who eliminated civil rights of Americans, and human rights of the rest of the world with his policy of torturing innocents; who started wars based on lies - what if they have his head in city squares throughout the middle east? Settle down, Gonzales - I mean molded out of copper, not on a stake. I hope the freedom spreads, but I also hope history records Bush as the incompetent war criminal too.

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