On a trip to the village of Qufada in Upper Egypt, Intern Jonathan Vink became fascinated with the art of tattooing, which has a rich heritage within the Coptic demonination population of Egypt. This article is a product of his curiousity on the subject, which is also published with Egypt Today.
The relationship between expatriates living in Egypt and Ramadan can be a love-hate relationship. Some might argue that Ramadan is the ‘most unproductive month of the year’. People work less hours and businesses can get a bit slow. On the other hand, however, very few can deny the level of contagiousness of spirituality in Ramadan. Thousands upon thousands flood the streets and mosques, praying for God’s mercy and blessings. One can hear the Qur’an at every corner of the country and solidarity and compassion between people is unmatched in any other time of the year.
The month of July is to be the month of Ramadan this year. At the time of writing this article, it was expected that the beginning of Ramadan will be the 29th of June, this is a presumption based on astrological knowledge. The real beginning will be announced in every country by the “ro’ya”, i.e. to look and see if the new moon is visible or not. The period of the moon defines the beginning of every month and so the year of the Western calendar includes 10 days more than the Islamic calendar. For this reason, Ramadan begins each year, 10 days before last years Ramadan and the feast at the end of the month, the “eid al fitr” will start on the 28th or 29th July.
This summer will mark my third Ramadan spent in Egypt since I began traveling to the country in January 2011. My first experience of an Egyptian Ramadan in the summer of 2011 remains particularly memorable, both as a cultural and personal experience.
As a student who signed up to study Arabic in the autumn of 2010, I looked forward to the third year of my degree (abroad in an Arabic-speaking country) with a lot of excitement – there were so many options to choose from. I had organised a three-month teaching placement in Muscat, Oman to begin in January. I flew out on the 14th January, 2011, – the same day Tunisian president, Zine Ben Ali was deposed. Those first three months became the Arab Spring, and as protests continued, in some cases toppling governments, I contemplated a year in an Arab world much changed from the one I had expected.
It is, unfortunately, not uncommon for people to make efforts to discredit their opponents with distortions and lies. It becomes even more questionable if people who make false claims want to remain anonymous. The author must be someone who knows several things about me. That makes an anonymous response even more cowardly. Only in February this year I was alerted that I was attacked on the website www.mobtada.com. I responded in a letter on February 8 (see below). I had expected that the author of the attack on me would respond but he preferred not to and remains anonymous. This is of course very weak.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazine initially wanted to interview a Catholic Christian family in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Minia about their preparations for Christmas in November 2013. Tensions were still running deep in Egypt after extremists had destroyed tens of churches in Egypt, including many in Minia. The Catholic Bishop of Minia, however, agreed to help find a family. A family was identified, but shortly before journalist Michael Obert and photographer Andy Spyra came to Egypt, the family decided to cancel any meeting for fear of rumors that could follow the visit of foreigners to their area. Their fear was certainly justified. Rumors, deliberately created or not, can cause a lot of harm.
In its dispatch no. 5657 MEMRI focuses on the mutual accusations between supporters of the current regime and the Muslim Brotherhood. “Each camp accuses members of the other camp of being Jewish and of implementing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The MEMRI report is full of examples from both camps with photos and cartoons.
The claims and articles are part of the de-legitimization campaign in which both camps are involved. It is sad that both camps are engaging in such outrageous campaigns, but the value of this should not be overstated.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of “Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians,” is blatantly anti-Muslim in his writings. He is doing ‘well’ in creating fear for Muslims.
Ibrahim interprets all violence of Muslims against Christians as something that is motivated through Islam as religion. The problem is in his generalizations. It is simply not true that all violence of Muslims against non-Muslims has a religious motivation but each time Ibrahim finds such violence he claims it to be motivated by Islam, while I have found through my work for Arab-West Report that violence is often related to many other factors such as the weak rule of law in Egypt.
On Friday, November 29, an article appeared in al-Fath, an independent Salafī newspaper, written by reporters Tāriq Bahgat and Walīd Mansūr.  The article reports on the discussion that took place between Bishop Bola, the representative of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the Constituent Assembly, and Al-Azhar scholars about the articles relating to Al-Azhar in the Constitution as well as the so-called “identity articles”, which pertain to the interpretation of Islamic sharī’ah in the new constitution and the role of Al-Azhar. Whereas the Nūr Party representatives sought to impose a stricter interpretation of shar’īah and include it in the draft together with a stronger role for Al-Azhar, the representatives of the Churches refused that.  The discussion escalated to the point that Bishop Bola threatened to withdraw from the Constituent Assembly.  The article expresses polemic views against Bishop Bola and against the Church’s position of the aforementioned articles.
During his first month in office, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued a number of economic decisions, which had long been avoided by his predecessors for fear of their social and political implications. He thus rejected the austerity budget submitted by the cabinet and returned it instead to the Ministry of Finance so it may add more austerity measures meant to bring the budgetary deficit down to around 250 billion Egyptian pounds.
This resulted in changes on both the expenses and revenues sides. On the one hand, fuel prices were raised for the first time since 2007 as per the government’s plan to reduce energy subsidies by 41 billion pounds in the current financial year. On the other hand, Al-Sisi also issued a law amending articles and provisions of the tax code, and applying a 10 percent tax on stock market proceeds as well as a temporary 5 percent tax for the next three years on incomes that exceed one million Egyptian pounds a year. This takes place amidst news that work is underway on new fiscal legislation targeting property and value added taxes.
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Judging by the fast pace of these decisions, it seems that financial restructuring in Egypt has become a matter of urgency which can no longer be postponed.The issue at stake now is how to adopt actions and decisions – not widely popular, naturally- at the lowest political and security cost. This can only be achieved by investing early on in Al-Sisi’s popularity and by calling on all Egyptians, via a nationalist discourse, to share the cost of austerity measures meant to cut public spending and increase taxes.
The Egyptian government's current economic plan is founded on two scenarios. The first scenario seeks to reduce the deficit by cutting expenses and increasing revenues, in order to treat the long legacy of imbalances inherited from the Mubarak regime, which had relied, since the end of the 1990s, on an unprecedented expansion of domestic debt to finance its growing deficit. The economic team—at the Ministry of Finance primarily—believes that pursuing Mubarak’s policy is no longer possible, especially at a time when the public deficit and debt have reached alarming levels as a result of the economic slowdown and the declining growth rates which followed the January 2011 revolution.
The second scenario intends, on the other hand, to channel the capital inflows expected from Gulf countries, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia in particular (which were previously used to finance the budget deficit through billions spent mainly on fuel subsidies) towards investments capable of re-launching the economy, as well as generating higher growth and employment rates. This is in line with the government’s policy aiming to reduce public deficit and redirecting bank credits towards the private sector. This move is needed after the Egyptian government, in its attempts to finance the budget deficit, became the banking sector’s largest borrower in the past few years. The government's economic team believes that combining austerity measures and investing Gulf funds will achieve two rather conflicting goals, namely restoring growth through reforming the structural imbalances of state finances and regaining the confidence of both local and foreign investors.
The economic team argues that in order to fix the structural imbalances of the Egyptian budget, there is a need to increase revenues and reduce spending. There is also a need to embark on a restructuring process, which should extend over the next five years. This article focuses on the revenue side. It reviews decisions already adopted as well as future plans expected to impose profit taxes on capital and property holders and expand the tax base. It is worth noting that the total contribution of privately-owned companies in state revenues, through taxes on industrial, commercial and capital gains, did not exceed 7 percent between 2008 and 2012. Needless to say, this very small percentage does not reflect the true share of these companies in the gross domestic product (GDP). Rather, it reflects broad tax evasion amongst small and medium enterprises and wide tax exemptions and government incentives amongst large companies. This situation will not be sustainable if the government has serious plans to increase revenues. The same applies to property taxes, which did not exceed an average of 2.9 percent of the total revenue of the state during the same period. This leaves no room for doubt that major investments in real estate over the past two decades have escaped all taxation. Such investments were the result of wealth accumulation amongst the top the middle class in Egypt, which has profited from a steady growth in income since the beginning of the twenty first century.
In fact, the share of state revenues in the GDP have registered a decline since the early nineties, when the state lost the institutional, political and administrative capacity to target the sources of wealth it no longer under controlled or owned amidst a speeding economic liberalization. This led to excessive reliance on non-tax revenues from the Suez Canal as well as from oil and gas sales, for instance, and on indirect taxes. At the same time, the government was unable to increase revenues from direct taxes on income and wealth. All this eventually led to a severe chronic fiscal crisis that reached its peak in the past three years.
It has also shaped the pattern of the relationship between the state and capital and property holding groups based on a mutual agreement to overlook what the other party was doing. The state, thus, overlooks the wealth accumulated by these capital and property owners and, in its turn, this class turns a blind eye to the deterioration of public services due to lack of funds, and accepts to rely instead on private health care and education. However, this situation is no longer viable. This is largely driven by the deep financial crisis facing the state, the urgent need to increase tax revenues with the decline of foreign aid, and the high political cost of reliance on indirect taxes that do not distinguish between taxpayers on the basis of their income. The real question now relates to the long-term political and social impact of such short-term fiscal measures. In other terms, how will the capital and property holders deal with the Egyptian’s state growing desire to impose more taxes on their wealth? And will they demand more political representation in exchange for the money they pay?
Met with President Abdel Fattah Sisi, this morning at the presidential headquarters in Heliopolis, Pope Twadaros Second, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark Episcopate, where it was during the meeting, they reviewed regard the Egyptian public and a number of concerns Christianity; noted the President to the role of the National Christians since the beginning of the Egyptian revolution, those National, which has long characterized the Copts of Egypt, pointing out that the concerns of Christians will be of interest to the Egyptian state, and stressing the faith of the state and its commitment to be the freedom of belief and worship are guaranteed to all citizens.
President SiSi stressed the importance of keeping abreast with the state’s efforts, the efforts of a community to fix what has been spoil the relationship between the elements of the nation because of the interpretations of false and visions distorted.
Also met with the President, in the presence of His Holiness Pope Twadaros second, heads and representatives of Christian denominations in Egypt, where he participated in the meeting, each of the patriarch Abraham Sedrak, head of the Catholic Coptic community, and the Rev. Dr. / Safwat Bayadi, President of the evangelical community, and Bishop Kriakour Kusa, head of the sect Armenian Catholics, Patriarch / Theadorjs II, head of the Greek Orthodox community, and Bishop / George Baker, head of the Roman Catholic, and Bishop / Joseph Hannoush, head of the sect Syrian Catholic, and Bishop / George Shihan, head of the sect Maronite Catholics, Bishop / Philip star, Chairman range Chaldean Catholics, Bishop / Adel Zaki, head of the range of the Latin Catholics, and Pastor / Kelion Fenosa, head of the sect Adventists “Seventh-day Adventists,” and the father / Gabriel, vice president of a wide Armenian Orthodox, and Pastor / Sami Fawzi, representative of the Episcopal Church, and engineer / Fouad Michel Saheb, Vice-President of the range Syriac Orthodox.
Said Ambassador Ihab Badawi, official spokesman of the Presidency of the Republic, that the president has emphasized during the meeting on the values of unity and brotherhood among all Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, stressing that what is going through The reality Regional is irrefutable proof of the importance that fortify ourselves as Egyptians building material and moral and humane in very strong, protects our society from any attempts to divide and differentiate between his sons, who all lived as one unit for thousands of years.
He was also keen heads and representatives of Christian denominations, non-Egyptian to offer thanks to the President on Egypt’s hosting them and their churches; stressed President that this is the spirit of Islam tolerant real, which calls for peaceful coexistence and acceptance of others, and also to the understanding and cooperation, stressing that Egypt welcomes them always and appreciate the importance of difference and diversity as a year of life, and added sovereignty that Egypt was and will remain an oasis of security, stability and love for all religions.
Badawi added that the president has repeatedly stressed the importance of correct religious discourse, especially in light of the seriousness of the use of religion as a weapon to attract elements that can be attracted to extremist groups, something which is incompatible with the sanctity of religions and tolerance.
The noted presence to the role of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif in the spread of the values of moderation moderate to counter attempts to distort the image of Islam by extremists and terrorists. At the domestic affairs of Egypt, the President stated that the preparation and preparation is underway for the completion of the parliamentary elections, pointing to the importance of the next parliament, under the powers expanded, which would have enjoyed new Council of Representatives, according to the Egyptian Constitution, which was approved in January 2014, also called on everyone to participate, stressing the importance of auditing and a good selection of people’s deputies, who will carry the honor and the Secretariat of the representation of the Egyptian people, as well as the daunting task in the naughty work of the parliament of control and legislation.
At the end of the meeting , received the President a book about Armenians in Egypt range from vice president of the Armenian Orthodox, who noted the history of the Armenians, and they have suffered from human suffering, pointing out that the hospitality and reception Egypt contributed to a range of Armenians in correcting the image of Islam in the Armenian mentality.
Mr. President also stressed the keenness of the Egyptian state to ensure freedom of worship for Christians brothers, noting that it is one of the constants of faith of Islam, which exhorted the religious tolerance and constructive cooperation for the benefit of building land.
The Arabic republic of Egypt Draft Constitution 2013.
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Pope Theodoros II is scheduled to meet with UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed, and to lead mass in Abu Dhabi.
ABU DHABI – The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Theodoros II, has hailed the UAE’s stand under the wise leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in backing the Egyptian people after the June 30 revolution.
Pope Theodoros II, who arrived at the Royal Jet Abu Dhabi airport on Friday and was received by Dr Sultan Al Jabir, Minister of State, stressed that his visit to the UAE projects the fondness between the people of the two countries.
Theodoros II, who travelled on a special presidential plane, will be in the UAE for five days.
It is his first visit to the Gulf state since he became head of the church in November 2012.
He said that Sheikh Khalifa is walking the same road and with the same values as the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Ehab Imam Hamouda, the Egyptian Ambassador in the UAE, said that the visit carries many messages, on top of which is giving thanks to the leadership of the UAE and its people on the historical position of the UAE in supporting Egypt as it moves towards prosperity, security and stability.
On Friday, Pope Theodoros II visited Sheikh Zayed mosque and tomb in Abu Dhabi. He is scheduled to meet with UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed, and to lead mass on Saturday in the same city.
According to official sources, Christians make up around 10 percent of the population of the UAE.
The Gulf state has been a key backer of Egypt’s transitional authorities