Shanfaraa
The Education Crisis in Egypt

One of the most devastating legacies of the Mubarak regime on Egypt, and one that will take years to overcome, is in education. Years of neglect have resulted in the collapse of the public educational system.  It is hardly surprising, therefore, to find that Egyptian students perform exceptionally poorly in international standardized tests.  According to this New York Times article, Egyptian 8th-graders placed in the bottom quartile of a 48 nation standardized test in mathematics.  More shocking, perhaps, is that seven other Arab countries were in the lowest quartile: Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, Palestine, Oman, Algeria, Syria and Qatar.  Qatar had the dubious honor of placing last.  Egypt’s decay was symptomatic of a general decay in the Arab public sphere, where ruling elites lost interest in development and busied themselves primarily in concocting schemes to enrich themselves.  As mentioned in an article I posted previously on shanfaraa.com, the Arab world is mired in oligarchical capitalism, which can be described in the following terms:

Oligarchic capitalism exists where power and money are highly concentrated among a few. It is the worst form of capitalism, not only because of the extreme inequality in income and wealth that such economies tolerate, but also because the elites do not promote growth as the central goal of economic policy. Instead, oligarchs fix the rules to maximize their own income and wealth. Such arrangements prevail in large parts of Latin America, the Arab Middle East, and Africa.

Until we Arabs get rid of oligarchic capitalism, we cannot expect substantial investment in the Arab peoples.  The current revolutions that are spreading throughout the Arab world are essentially an attempt to overthrow this entrenched system of oligarchy which cares only for itself.  The message they give their peoples is that of the early Islamic satirical poet Hutay’a, who lampooned a contemporary by saying:

دع المكارم لا ترحل لبغيتها واقعد إنك أنت الطاعم الكاسي

"Leave aside noble deeds and do not weary yourself in journey seeking them; 

Instead, take a seat and rest, for indeed your stomach is full and you are well-clothed.”

That is what the Arab regimes have done to their people: convinced them that they can only aspire for food in their stomach and shirts on their back, but otherwise, they should have no dreams.  These revolutions are about reclaiming the peoples’ right to dream of a future that is more than just a full-belly and a comfortable shirt.


The Political Theology of the Azhari Revolutionaries

OnIslam (Arabic) has a very interesting article on the theology of the Azhari preachers who participated in the Jan. 25th Revolution.  Some of the interesting highlights: Egyptians, whether Muslim, Christian or even Communist, were in one trench fighting the tyrant of Egypt, MHM, and as the Prophet (S) had said that the Egyptians will be in constant preparedness (ribat) until the Day of Judgment.  Here, the interpretation of the enemy was oppression, and that claims of disorder applied only to the regime, not the people, as it was the regime that was causing disorder by oppressing the people.  It was the joint efforts of all Egyptians that confronted and then defeated the disorder (fitna) whose origin was the regime’s oppression.  These Azhari revolutions were engaging in creative re-interpretation of Prophetic hadiths both to motivate people to resist the stereotype of Egyptians as passive and subservient and that standing against injustice is a moral imperative for all.

The Salafis Make an Appearance in Mansura

Received this message from a friend, who received it from a professor of Arabic at Mansura University:



السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

دعوة مفتوحة لكل من يحب الأسلام

شارك معنا فى الحشد السلفي فى المنصورة

هل تريد أن تفقد مصر هويتها الإسلامية ؟
كــن إيجابيا وشارك معنا 
الموعد : السبت بعد صلاة العصر
المكان : المنصورة بجوار الأستاد 
أمام مسجد الزراعيين 
هناك مكان خاص بالأخوات 

يحضر الموتمر حشد من العلماء وطلبة العلم من بينهم
الشيخ الدكتور احمد عبد الرحمن النقيب
استاذ الدراسات الاسلامية لكلية التربية بالمنصورة 

الشيخ ياسر برهامي
داعية إسلامي  
الشيخ محمد حسان
رئيس مجلس ادارة قناة الرحمه الفضائية 
الشيخ مصطفى العدوي
داعية اسلامي 
الشيخ عبد المنعم مطاوع
داعية اسلامي 


الشيخ مسعد أنور
داعية اسلامي

الشيخ أحمد جلال
داعية اسلامي 
د حازم شومان

داعية اسلامي 
د محمد علي يوسف
داعية اسلامي 
المستشار الدكتور ماجد شبيقه 
نائب رئيس المحكمة الادارية العليا بالقاهرة


أحشد جميع من يحب الأسلام لتكثير سواد المسلمين للحضور لهذا الحشد 
رافعين هذه الريات لنري العلمانيين أن مصر ستظل أسلامية 
وسنبذل من أجل هذا الأرواح

اللوحات المقترح عملها  فى المؤتمر لكي يرفعها الأخوة والأخوات فى الموتمر 


{إن الْحُكْمُ إلاَّ للّه أَمَرَ أَلاَّ تَعْبُدُواْ إلاَّ إيّاهُ} [يوسف:40]
{ وَاللّهُ يَحْكُمُ لاَ مُعَقّبَ لحُكْمه} [الرعد:41]
{أَفَحُكْمَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ يَبْغُونَ وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللَّهِ حُكْمًا لِقَوْمٍ يُوقِنُونَ} [المائدة:50]
{أَلَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ خَلَقَ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ} [الملك:14]
{وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَآ أَنزَلَ اللهُ فَأُوْلئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ} [المائدة:44]
{وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَآ أَنزَلَ اللهُ فَأُوْلئِكَ هُمُ الفاسقون} [المائدة:47]
{وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَآ أَنزَلَ اللهُ فَأُوْلئِكَ همُ الظـَالمون} [المائدة:45]
{وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتُمْ لا تَعْلَمُونَ} [البقرة:216]
{فَلا وَرَبِّكَ لا يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّى يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لا يَجِدُوا فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَرَجًا مِمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَيُسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا}[النساء:65]
{وَأَنِ احْكُمْ بَيْنَهُمْ بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ وَلا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ وَاحْذَرْهُمْ أَنْ يَفْتِنُوكَ عَنْ بَعْضِ مَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ} [المائدة:49]
{وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَن يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ وَمَن يَعْصِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا مُّبِينًا} [الأحزاب:36]
{فَإِنْ تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ إِنْ كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلًا} [النساء:59]
{وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ فَعَلُواْ مَا يُوعَظُونَ بِهِ لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَّهُمْ وَأَشَدَّ تَثْبِيتًا} [النساء:66]
{سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ} [البقرة:285]
{أَلا لَهُ الْخَلْقُ وَالأَمْرُ} [الأعراف:54]
{فَلْيَحْذَرْ الَّذِينَ يُخَالِفُونَ عَنْ أَمْرِهِ أَنْ تُصِيبَهُمْ فِتْنَةٌ أَوْ يُصِيبَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ} [النور:63]
{وَإِنْ تُطِيعُوهُ تَهْتَدُوا} [النور:54]
{لَا تُقَدِّمُوا بَيْنَ يَدَيِ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّه} [الحجرات:1]
(تَرَكْتُ فِيكُمْ مَا لَنْ تَضِلُّوا بَعْدَهُ إِنِ اعْتَصَمْتُمْ بِهِ كِتَابَ اللَّهِ) [رواه مسلم]
«الرجوع للكتاب والسنة في جميع جوانب الحياة» 
«استقيموا على شرع الله يرحمكم الله» 
«الحكم بما انزل الله»
«الشعب المسلم يحكمه الإسلام لا شرائع الطواغيت»
«رضينا بالله ربا ً وبالإسلام دينا ً وبحمد صلى الله عليه وسلم نبيا ً»
«ما المانع من أن يحكم الإسلام جميع الرعايا ففي الغرب تتحكم الدساتير في المسلمين»
«الأمن والأمان في تطبيق شرع الله»
«لا للنظم الوطنية والقوانين الطاغوتية الكفرية»
«الإسلام دين ودولة»
«فصل الدين عن السياسة اقصر طريق للكفر»
«تهون الحياة وكل يهون ولكن إسلامنا لا يهون» 
«الشيوعي يحتكم للشيوعية فكيف لا يحتكم المسلم لدينه»
«الوطنية والمواطنة لا تمنع تطبيق الشريعة»
«المُشرِّع هو الله».
«إن احتكم إلينا أهل الكتاب حكمنا فيهم بشرع الله».
الحلال ما أحل الله والحرام ما حرم الله والدين ما شرع»
«حكم الحاكم وقضاء القاضي وفتوى المفتى لا تجعل الحلال حراما»

أخوانى الأفاضل لاعذر لنا فى عدم نشر هذا المؤتمر وحضوره 
فالعلمانيين مجتمعين على طمس هوية مصر وحذف المادة التانية من الدستور التى تنص 
أن مصر دولة أسلامية دينها الرسمي هو الأسلام 
فلا أقل من أن يكون أجتماع كل محب للأسلام فى هذا الحشد دليل 
أنشر الرسالة فى كل مكان وفى كل موقع
ولا تتكاسل عن نشر الحق بينما ينشط العلمانيين فى نشر الفساد بين الناس 
والله المستعان

Muslims of the Revolution should silence these people, quickly.

Revolution’s Top 10 Unsung Heros

I copied this from a friend.  I’m not this funny.

And lest we forget to thank:

 



Aside from the heroics of every single person who - in any way - helped bring about this historic day, we have to remember the “others” who inadvertently helped: 

10) The genius behind the “Kill za Internet Mr Bresident, that should end it” gem!  Instead of social networking, hundreds of thousands decided to communicate by actually going to Tahrir Square!! 

9) The nutcase who envisioned “The Charge of the Camel Brigade”!!  Your retardation has been a jewel to us dear Sir. 

8) The dolt who brilliantly released Wael Ghoneim, at a crucial point in the Revolution’s life- just after speech #2!  Kudos to you Sir. 

7) The mastermind behind ACTUALLY ALLOWING Wael Ghoneim to appear LIVE on TV (to say how he wasn’t tortured!) to “win support for Mubarak”, & instead galvanize the nation !! 

6) The mind behind the regime’s harassment & beating up of the WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS NEWS ANCHORS!!  We instantly gained some amazing champions for our cause! 

5) The brilliance of using plainclothes policemen to act as Pro-Mubarak “supporters” and beat up and kill pro democracy protesters… AND THEN LEAVING THER POLICE ID’s on them !!!  Epic stuff!! 

4) Both the EX-President (God I LOVE SAYING THAT!!) and the Vice-President’s speech writers!!  Aside from Mubarak’s #2 speech, the rest were political suicide!  Written by chipmunks at best!!  Thanks a lot guys!! 

3) The dude behind releasing criminals and maniacs to create “Chaos” in Egypt… Thereby instantly blowing up Mubarak’s later mandate of “Either me or Chaos!”… Huh ? And what do you call this current MESS?!! 

2) Habeeeeb! Our ex interior minister.  There was absolutely NO WAY this regime could have fallen, without the abject hatred that he had cultivated in the hearts of 85 million Egyptians.  The officer who shot dead (in cold blood), the un-armed Alexandria hero also deserves an honourable mention.  Especially that it was “You-tubed” and seen by 1.6 million after one day!! 

1) Finally, the absolute best help we ever got in this revolution came from the man himself. Our ex-president made it difficult to root for him (even by members of his own party towards the end). By being patronizing, haughty, and seemingly “bonkers”; he personified “Dictator” like no one else before him.  Of his many “quotes” (and it’s hard to pick a favourite, the man has given us SO MANY “gems” over 3 decades).   My pick is when he was first told that some “Kids were planning a protest march on January 25th, to ask for more democracy Ya Fandem”… His DOCUMENTED response… “
خليهم يتسلوا ”!! (Let them have fun) 
Thank you for being 83 Mr President, (and about 60 years older than your average citizen) !!  We couldn’t have done it without you  :)) 
Adios.

The Capital Markets, Mubarak’s Downfall and the Egyptian Transition

After two weeks of a back and forth between the regime and the demonstrators, the January 25th Revolution has finally established its complete victory over the Mubarak regime.  And although Mubarak surprised the world when he failed to announce his resignation today, it only delayed the inevitable for one day.  

That the Jan. 25th Revolution was able to defeat Mubarak despite what appeared to be a strong hand certainly came as shock to the many commentators who assumed that the longer the revolution took, the stronger Mubarak would become. There are many reasons Mubarak lost this confrontation, but one is the dependence of the Egyptian economy on private international capital. Its precarious fiscal position substantially limited the ability of the Egyptian state to suppress these demonstrations violently without also destroying the economy. The Egyptian government needed (and still needs) to attract $10 billion of FDI for fiscal year 2010-2011, and at least $20 billion over the next three years.  Needless to say, it would be unlikely if not impossible for Egypt to achieve this goal in the face of continued civil strife. Indeed Bloomberg reported several days ago that negotiations between an Egyptian state-owned firm and a consortium of foreign banks for a five-year, $2 billion credit facility collapsed as a result of the political uncertainty.  Egypt’s stock market also depends on foreign participation, with foreigners holding a 22.5% interest (by value) in publicly-traded Egyptian equity securities as of year-end 2010.  Unless Egypt can continue to attract substantial levels of foreign direct investment, it will be impossible for it to achieve its fiscal targets, which assume, among other things, economic growth in the range of 7.7% annually. Indeed, as one emerging market analyst has noted, “Everything that has happened in the current political crisis is going to make it more difficult to reach the target[.] …  Tax revenues will likely decline, subsidies are increasing, public sector wages are going up and interest costs are rising.”

In short, the weak fiscal position of the Egyptian regime substantially limited the ability of the Egyptian state to use massive force to crush the demonstrators. The leaders of the Egyptian military must know that crushing the demonstrators will do nothing to attract the foreign capital Egypt so desperately needs, and in fact, might increase the risk of capital flight.  The triumph of the protestors, moreover, should be welcomed by foreign investors, at least if it results in the consolidation of democracy. The Egyptian workforce is one of the most unproductive in the world. This lack of productivity in  turn is largely a result of the endemic corruption that discourages investment in human labor.  (Egypt was ranked 98th in the most recent Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index with a rating of 3.1, as of 2010.)  A democratic regime that is committed to fighting this corruption will result in a substantial increase in the productivity of Egyptian labor, which in turn will lead to greater revenues for both the Egyptian state and foreign investors in the medium to long-term.  The Supreme Military Council should keep this in mind as it considers its options with respect to both the interim government and the new constitution that will mark the latest evolution of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

More Reports of Civil Society Transformations in Egypt

I posted earlier today about strikes involving bankers and policemen as evidence that the Jan. 25th Revolution has caused a substantial transformation of Egyptians’ consciousness.  I have subsequently received more anecdotal reports from family in Egypt that ordinary Egyptians are refusing to cooperate or take instruction from Mubarak-era NDP hacks who were appointed to direct various government or quasi-government agencies.  Universities are a good example of how the Mubarak-regime worked to subvert the independence of Egyptian institutions.  Mubarak would use his power to appoint University presidents to appoint someone who would inevitably be loyal to him.  These crony presidents would then appoint cronies as deans of the various faculties.  

One reason Mubarak was keen on controlling university leadership, of course, was to insure that universities could not be mobilized as centers of resistance to his regime.  During the recent Revolution, however, things changed.  The Faculty of Law of Cairo University went into open revolt, openly declaring its allegiance to the Revolution.  Last Thursday, I had heard that deans at many faculties were attempting to coerce the teaching faculty into protesting in support of Mubarak, but it was too late: by then, many had already joined the protests in Tahrir Square.  Today, I heard that the Faculty of Medicine at al-Kasr al-‘Aini is in open revolt against its university officials with ties to the NDP: an official complaint has been filed alleging abuse of office with respect to the conduct of leading Kasr al-‘Aini administrators during the Revolution, including, that the Kasr al-‘Aini Hospital (located not more than fifteen minutes from Tahrir Square) was closed to the wounded from the Revolution, and that buses belonging to the Cairo University Faculty of Medicine were used to transport the Mubarak thugs Tahrir Square.  The refusal of the Kasr al-‘Aini Hospital to treat the wounded helps explain why the demonstrators were forced to establish a field hospital in the Square itself. I have also heard from other sources that faculty throughout Egypt are demanding the right to elect their own deans directly rather than have the dean appointed.  Even the Rector of al-Azhar, which has traditionally been politically quiescent, is demanding greater democratic freedom and accountability, calling for the Shaykh al-Azhar to be elected by the Azhar itself rather than be appointed by the President as has been the case since the time of Jamal ‘Abd al-Nasir.  

In short, I think there is good anecdotal evidence consistent with the conclusion that a real democratic transformation is taking place throughout Egyptian society, and it has now gone well beyond the vanguard of activists who organized the demonstrations and even the core of the protesters who brought the regime down.

Is Corruption Just Too Entrenched for Revolution to Succeed?

I had a lengthy conversation with a friend of mine (an Egyptian economist) today about why he believes that the Egyptian Revolution, while giving him hope, is unlikely to succeed.  The answer, in short, is that the rot of corruption is too deeply rooted in the Egyptian economy, and it is simply unrealistic to expect it to change.  The most favorable outcome in his opinion was that a new, less corrupt autocracy, take power. As an economist, his analysis rests on rational choice, and on those terms, it is hard to understand why the same people who one month ago were willing to extort money from the population to supplement their ridiculously low wages will now press for reforms that would meaningfully restrict their ability to extort these rents, or why the elite will give up their addiction to seeking rents through obtaining favorable deals from the government. My answer is that there has been a revolution in political consciousness, and large sectors of the population do not want to go back to the pre-revolutionary way of living.  Rather, they want a lawful salary that is fair and allows them to live honestly.  This demonstration of bankers and policemen in the face of calls by the Supreme Military Council is evidence of this determination and should be encouraged.  In the absence of such demands, the risk of a return to the status quo ante —with its murderous cynicism — is all too real.

The Challenges Facing the New Egypt

The challenges facing a new Egypt are legion, and too many to be detailed in one post.  Here, I highlight some comparative economic statistics to place the performance of the Egyptian economy in a wider global context, focusing on output per worker and investment as a percentage of national output.  I obtained these figures from the CIA World Factbook.  I derived the output per worker figure by dividing gross domestic produce (purchase power parity GDP calculation rather than the exchange rate GDP).  The results are surprisingly encouraging from one perspective but also reveal some of the profound challenges facing the Egyptian economy.  First, the good news: Egyptian output per worker is not terrible.  Egypt’s comes in at $19,157 per worker; India’s is less than half of this at $8,459 and China’s is also less than Egypt’s at $11,225.  Brazil’s output per worker, which is $21,177, exceeds that of Egypt only by approximately 10%.  The Egyptian labor force is substantially more productive than Morocco’s, whose output per worker is only $13,224, and Jordan’s exceeds Egypt’s by only a few hundred dollars.  Turkey’s labor force, however, is twice as productive as Egypt’s, coming in at $38,785.  

Investment as a percentage of GDP is comparable to Brazil and Turkey at approximately 18%.  By contrast, investment as a percentage of India’s and China’s GDP is a shockingly high 32% and 48%, respectively.  

What seems clear is that the kind of poverty facing the 40% of Egyptians living on $2/day or less is a function more of the poor distribution of resources internally to the country rather than Egypt being poor in absolute terms.  I also suspect that there are vast gaps in the productivity of different sectors of the Egyptian economy that are responsible for the distributive problems within Egypt that have resulted in mass poverty that is incommensurate with the overall productivity of the Egyptian economy.  

The new Egyptian government will need to address these problems by instituting redistributive policies and investing in improving the productivity of the Egyptian labor force.  Both will require substantial economic growth to succeed in the medium and long terms.  In the short term, there needs to be a dramatic expansion of the tax base.  Some ideas that come to mind: a property tax on all second homes, e.g., al-Sahil al-Shamali and all homes with a market value in excess of, e.g., 1,000,000 Egyptian pounds; a tax on the value of shares of companies provided the taxpayer meets certain thresholds, e.g., owns, directly or indirectly, 1% or more of any company, or has share ownership in the aggregate in excess of 1,000,000 Egyptian pounds.  Clearly, the new government must also institute a capital gains tax.  Although the stock market has appreciated more than 700% in the last ten years, there is no capital gains tax in connection with profits realized from the sale of securities.  Egypt has a surprisingly high corporate tax-rate of 40% which probably reduces Egypt’s competitiveness as a place to do business.  It would seem to make more sense to lower the corporate tax rate but subject individuals to taxation on dividends received and capital gains realized going forward.

I also have some ideas on how the government might sell new-government debt securities that are designed to be used specifically for investment in Egypt’s human capital base.  I will try to outline those thoughts in an upcoming post.

Expressing Gratitude: “li-an shakartum la-azidannakum”

On this great day of national rebirth, we should show our gratitude as well as our joy to perfect the blessings of this day. As Muslims, one of the best ways to do this is to make a gift (sadaqa) for those who are suffering.  I can suggest a couple of organizations who do good work in providing relief to the suffering: Mercy-USA For Aid and Development (United States) and Islamic Relief Canada.

Mubarak Leaving Imminently

No doubt, this will result in mass euphoria, but the hard work of regime change will not be complete because Mubarak takes off to some other country or steps down.  Pressure must be maintained to assure a genuinely independent transitional government that is free of the influence of security forces and the corrupt Mubarak business cliques.  A process for accountability must be established that is fair and transparent.  Egypt cannot simply wash its hands of the past thirty years and forget simply because he has resigned.

Mubarak is insane.  Now he will be lucky to leave.  I hope the Army arrests him and puts him on trial, as I suggested earlier.