2. Now I have been told that you are quite the activist. Which causes are you advocating for and why?
I have multiple jobs. I am a professional as well as an activist. I always say that “I have too many hands but one heart; I don’t have to divide my heart.” I work with culture diversity issues, culture effectiveness, issues with immigrants and refugees, and assisting and getting human rights to people with disabilities. Because I am an Arab I am interested in Middle Eastern issues but that’s not my only focus. I am a chair on the Arab-American Forum which is a non-profit in NH that educates people on justice. However we are very adamant on the fact that it is not just justice within the Middle East, but also within this country.
3. How long have you been doing this?
I have been pretty much doing this work all my life, but I have been institutionally active since 1986 or 1987. I grew up in Egypt in the 1960s so there was a great deal of national pride then in the same way there is now.
4. What is your stance on the current situation in the Middle East?
I supported the Egyptian people and the revolution. I am happy Mubarak is gone. I was extremely proud that it was also a peaceful revolution and that the only people who were violent were Mubarak’s thugs. The people who lead the revolution were well educated youth without a political agenda who just love Egypt. They were not unemployed, angry, hungry masses like in other times. In 1952 there was a massive revolution in Egypt where the army did the revolution and the people just followed. But this is “the era of the masses”. But for historic reasons the revolution in Egypt is very different from the other ones going on in the Middle East right now. Yemen for example is mostly tribes and they are armed and therefore not as peaceful. Libya is also formed from tribes and due to the fact that they do not have a real army in the professional sense we think of as an army, the situation is going to be different. The regime in Libya is also very different. Muammar al-Gaddafi is unstable and needs to be put in a mental health asylum. He’s just criminal at this point.
5. Were you affected personally by the uprisings? If so please elaborate.
Same answer generally as above… Please do not call them uprisings because it was a revolution in the scientific sense because it changed all things in Egypt.
6. Now I’m not sure if you knew this, but it is illegal for women in Saudi Arabia to participate in physical education. How do you feel about this?
The Saudi Arabian government is far from reality. Depriving women of the ability to drive, to participate in physical education, ect. is not part of the religion; it is part of the oppressive rulings of the royal family. Women should have equal rights in my mind. Sometimes religion and culture are very different and that should be recognized. But all in all, these practices do not come from the Islam faith, but from the views of the rulers.
7. It was stated by Nawal El Moutawakel that a woman’s right to participate in sports is somewhat like a woman’s right to participate in society. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Please elaborate.
I agree with this. It is these extreme positions who have it wrong. Women should have equal rights to lead their lives the way they would.
8. Now is there anything else that you would like to tell me?
We need to differentiate between most Muslims and the very few extremists of the Islamic faith. It’s unfair to assume that the actions of a few people reflect on the rest of the population. If that were the case Jesus Christ would be responsible for the crusades.
During the protests it was peaceful in Egypt. It was only Mubarak’s thugs leading the violence. In times of political pride you see good signs of equality and little conflict. There has been conflict between the Muslims and the Christians for many years now but during the revolution you did not see it.
There is no description for an Islamic government. In the teachings there is no standard; God didn’t put these standards in the holy books. Saudi Arabia and Iran are in deep conflict with one another but it’s more about politics than religion.
There is no book called “Islamic Law”. There are only teachings in the holy books; Islamic teachings. Many prominent leaders would like people to believe that such a text exists and sadly many do.
Islam is unique in the sense that there is no barrier between you and God. There is no Pope or “middle man” if you will. This no structure approach leaves a wide open space for rulers to come into power and tell the public that they have all the answers even when most of the time they don’t. But still, they think they know best.