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Dispatches From Cairo: Happy Feast to All

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Posted on Aug 31, 2011
AP / Khalil Hamra

Celebrating Eid al-Fitr—the end of the holy month of Ramadan—an Egyptian man with balloons sits on a statue of Omar Makram in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. 

By Lauren Unger-Geoffroy

We asked Lauren Unger-Geoffroy, an Arabic-speaking American who lives in Cairo, to share her perspective of life in Egypt after the revolution. Here she writes about the end of Ramadan.

Happy feast to all.

The normal, reassuring, nightly warning gunshots that we hear in my neighborhood coming from the nearby El Tora prison since the revolution have been mixed with much louder reverberating booms today [Monday] and tonight. Perhaps the guards at the prison are firing the big guns to celebrate. Perhaps it was fireworks. [Editor’s note: Guards routinely fire shots into the air to deter misbehavior by the prisoners, and this gunfire at night reassures neighbors by indicating that the prison is still under control.]

Ramadan, the month of fasting, ended today, thus tonight began the Eid al-Fitr, the three-day Festival of Breaking the Fast. Eid al-Fitr is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations. People dress in their finest clothes, adorn their homes with lights and decorations, give treats to children, send text messages and tweets and visit with friends and family.

It has been an intense Ramadan in this August of the Arab Spring. The hot, long days voluntarily spent without food or water were a true test of self-control while the people watched the waves of change. The revolutions in Libya and Syria reached unprecedented peaks of violence. In Gaza, Israel’s arrogant disregard caused a tragic, pointless martyring of Egyptian police and officers that rekindled and inflamed the indignation and frustrated hostility of Egyptians toward Israel. Anger flared over the old regime’s self-enriching agreements and about Palestine and other antipathies, rational and irrational.

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Of course, the good people also worried and prayed for the safety of those in the earthquake and hurricane on the East Coast of the United States, as they did for all people in need and in suffering. OK, true, there was a lot of speculative twittering and Facebook chatter about divine retribution, etc., but most Egyptians condemned those voices as uncharitable.

Generosity and gratitude color these festivities, and the charity and good deeds that are always important in Islam have special significance at the end of Ramadan, when Muslims are obligated to share their blessings by feeding the poor and making contributions to the needy through the mosques, and charitable feelings are de rigueur. It’s the holiday spirit. Mashalla.

As in many Islamic holidays, the exact day is decided based on the appearance of the moon and on other particular observable conditions, so everyone talks to each other about “when,” asking and waiting. Until today, we didn’t know whether the fast would end today or Tuesday, but, el humdulalla, it was today, and we are celebrating. We are celebrating the success (we hope) of our shared monthlong self-discipline and purification of our bodies and souls. Everyone is out now, rushing to buy gifts and toys and candy and new things to wear. The stores, more so than ever, are open until the wee hours.

Along with millions of others we spent the last 10 days of Ramadan in meditative high gear, hoping to be aware and worthy on the secret bonus day of Laylat al-Qadr, which means either “Night of Destiny” or “Night of Power” or “Night of Value” or “Night of Decree” or “Night of Measures.” It is the anniversary of the night the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad.

Laylat al-Qadr is a mystical and spiritual event whose signs may or may not be seen with the eye. It most likely comes on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, and one of the odd-numbered nights. The uncertainty is intended to encourage spiritual best behavior for 10 days and nights; it is said that whoever happens to spend that unknown night in prayer will have rewards a thousandfold, forgiveness of his or her previous and future sins, and favors granted.

With the Muslim world going through the throes of transformative shift and upheaval full of tragedy and victory and outrage and insecurity and solidarity and hope and pride, major event upon major event occurred throughout Ramadan, the month of Peace and Purity. Through it all, many of us were determined to catch our lucky reward on Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Destiny, this year! (It’s a logical extension of Pascal’s Wager for you philosophy buffs, abstracting the implied Christian specificity.)

For the first time some computer programs claimed to be able to determine the exact day, so the online world was generally in consensus regarding the day. Thus many computer users accepted that Laylat al-Qadr was Aug. 27, but many Egyptians rejected the validity of that electronic method. Finally, the true day will be determined by subtle interpretation. Insha’Alla, many will be lucky. We’ll see. The link above shows scenes of Alexandria’s 1.5-million-person 27th of Ramadan prayer last year.

It must be clear by now that, among other things, the Arab world has grasped the real power of community, and the power of online networks and text and media as uniting factors for the broad strokes. Diverse perspectives blended in a common faith, one of the original goals of Islam, and one of the strongest points of Muslim solidarity—unity not generated by fear.


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cpb's avatar

By cpb, September 5, 2011 at 9:44 am Link to this comment

That you Krazo?

Yawn…

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, September 5, 2011 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

Dear cpb,

you entered this discussion with this post:

@ Ozark Michael

Who are these leftists anyway?  What makes someone a
leftist?  Are you a rightist?
...
Or is this just masking Islamophobia because dog-forbid when The People, overthrow the Dicktator, The People have some influence on the nature of the subsequent regime?

Your Islamophobia slur was nicely done, cpb.

I have shown that i have previously commented and shown concern on this topic. You have not.

I have stated a fact: the Leftists arent following this story. It upsets you. You have nothing of substance to say. You went troll on me.

What has the troll cpb done? The slur, the attack and a lengthly post pounding his chest over it. Any conversation about the topic? Nope. Nicely done, troll.


see , we could have been discussing Egypt. but cpb wants to talk about his favorite topic. cpb is much more importnant than the Egyptians.

cpb is the one who has have taken this thread and turned it into a flippant tirade all about himself. Typical trolling. I will call you out on it in future, cpb.

as for anyone who reads this, didnt cpb make sure this conversation is about trolls? has he said anything else?

now he has me wasting time discussing his troll behavior, so yes the troll cpb wins again.

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cpb's avatar

By cpb, September 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm Link to this comment

Trolls, if you try and pin them down on any aspect of their trolling behavior, inevitably come out spewing more invective, or nonsense, or they just ignore the challenge and wait for their next opportunity to start things out on their own terms.

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cpb's avatar

By cpb, September 2, 2011 at 10:03 pm Link to this comment

OM - “So where were you cpb? You just like to attack conservatives? is that the best thing you could come up with?”

Ok so I read your flippant posts there, oh orator of all things pertinent.  And I haven’t attacked anyone on the basis of them being conservative.  As usual, troll, you make accusations without feeling the need to back up your statements.  I didn’t even attack you directly as it turns out, yet you accuse me of attack, when anyone who cares to read below can see that I actually posed a number of questions which you have conveniently overlooked - more typical troll behavior (do you guys take classes in this or what?).

OM - “Why are you wasting time coming after me anyway? It doesnt matter who i am. My observation that nobody cares about Egypt is perfectly correct. Look at your fellow Truthdig travellers, the vast majority of whom are Leftists, and all of whom have gotten very quiet all the sudden, except for gerard.”

I’m coming after you because you’re a troll and trolls deserve to be called out.  Who you are is an interesting question, one I won’t lose any sleep over, but what you represent is what I choose to call out.  And there you go with that ‘leftist’ epithet again, which I asked you about but you refused to address.  Very quiet all of a sudden?  I dunno there Karzo, I’m just one little IP address in a complicated world.  More classic troll behavior - shift the focus - nevermind the queries you’ve refused to address.  I like where you take it - it’s all about the TDig community, they have a problem with Egyptions, those damn hypocritical leftists!!  Picture the walmart happy smile sticking it’s tongue out at you.


OM - “cpb, you had nothing to say about the article itself. You merely called me a lot of names.”

Quote me one name that I called you Karzo.  Funny eh, how reality means nothing to trollls.  A written record is there for anyone to scroll through but the troll still lives in a universe unto themselves.


OM - “My conclusion: that Leftists(and that includes cpb) dont care about Egypt and did not care to begin with. Only one person besides me cares about this, and thats gerard.”

I’m going to leave gerard out of this but it is worth pointing out how you continue to demonstrate troll behaviour by making radical extrapolative assumptions based on limited evidence.  Nobody cares about Egypt - Karzo said so.


OM - “Instead of attacking me, cpb, why dont you stir up some friends who could post here with a little thought, a little concern about the people in Egypt, since you arent capable of doing that yourself.”

Well to repeat myself, I haven’t attacked you whatsoever prior to this post.  Reality means very little to trolls however.  And somehow I’m guilty of lack of concern for the people of Egypt?  That’s a fascinating conclusion there Karzo.  I’m not capable?  There you go with those mis-stated presumptions again.  You should really try a new tack.

For the lurking reader, I want to point this out clearly - if you’re just casually reading through and you come across this type of accusation you may have one of many reactions.  How often will what fraction of readers be interested enought to scroll around, follow the thread, and see what the poster is on about and whether or not the accusations have merit?  The answer would be interesting to know, but the assumptions that drive troll behavior are clear - it is propaganda 101. 


OM - “Meanwhile, gerard has a right to upbraid me or correct me if he wishes. Which in his own gentle way he has done. I respect that.”

Happy for you troll - otherwise, no comment.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, September 1, 2011 at 7:57 pm Link to this comment

gerard, fair enough. There isnt anyone else here to agree with you(that was my initial point) so you are left with me, and I will give you an ‘amen’. I hope this will work out.

as for cpb, please take a moment and note the many frenzied posts after Lauren Unger-Geoffroy’s first report. Compare that to the paucity of blog comments in her article last month. There were a grand total of 4 comments. Only one person cared enough to write some posts about Egypt.

That was me. I suggest you read them.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/dispatches_from_cairo_ramadan_revolution_and_rumors_20110809/

Here is one quote from my post where as i wondered what happened to all the Truthdiggers like you: “Whats happening in Egypt? Isnt that important? Will they manage to form a better government for themselves? And what would that be? And how do we as outsiders judge that success or failure? Do we have the right to make any judgement at all?”

Besides my three posts, there isnt a single post about Egypt there. NOT ONE.

So where were you cpb? You just like to attack conservatives? is that the best thing you could come up with?

Why are you wasting time coming after me anyway? It doesnt matter who i am. My observation that nobody cares about Egypt is perfectly correct. Look at your fellow Truthdig travellers, the vast majority of whom are Leftists, and all of whom have gotten very quiet all the sudden, except for gerard.

cpb, you had nothing to say about the article itself. You merely called me a lot of names.

My conclusion: that Leftists(and that includes cpb) dont care about Egypt and did not care to begin with. Only one person besides me cares about this, and thats gerard.

Instead of attacking me, cpb, why dont you stir up some friends who could post here with a little thought, a little concern about the people in Egypt, since you arent capable of doing that yourself.

Meanwhile, gerard has a right to upbraid me or correct me if he wishes. Which in his own gentle way he has done. I respect that.

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By gerard, September 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

My preference is to call us to meditate on some of the powerful statements of Unger-Geoffroy herself:

“,,,Happy Feast to all!”
“... the prison is still under control”
“...a true test of self-control while the people watched the waves of change”
“...there was a lot of Facebook chattering about divine retribution etc., but most Egyptians condemned these voices as uncharitable”
“...rushing to buy gifts and toys and candy and new things to wear”
“...the Arab world has grasped the real power of community, and the power of online networks and text and media as uniting factors for the broad strokes”
“...unity not generated by fear”
and reference to religioius texts that “give precise, pragmatic and excellent directions, plus answers to the problems and uncertainty in life.”
and ... “Muslim culture is not about every man for himself; it is not even about survival.”

Any one of these sentences is worth several hours of serious meditation, in my opinion. Nothing more need be said.

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cpb's avatar

By cpb, September 1, 2011 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment

@ Ozark Michael

Who are these leftists anyway?  What makes someone a
leftist?  Are you a rightist?  The situation in Egypt
was only celebrated by left leaning persons?  Everyone
to the right of center thought what about it?  Overthrow
of a dictator is bad if you’re right leaning?  Overthrow
of a bad dictator supported for years by the worlds
imperial power may be bad for those devoted to the cause
of said power ‘come hell or high water’, but is it
necessarily bad from a ‘right’ point of view.

Or is this just masking Islamophobia because dog-forbid
when The People, overthrow the Dicktator, The People
have some influence on the nature of the subsequent
regime?

Report this
OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, September 1, 2011 at 11:42 am Link to this comment

gerard, I do not think the silence is one of awe and respect. The initial wild approval from Leftists at the Egyptian revolution was merely an ‘in your face’ moment against the establishment, corporations, US interests, perhaps even US stability. The actual situation in Egypt apparently means nothing to them. well, gerard, i take that back. it means something to you. kudos. i mean it.

Its just us. We disagree about so much but we can still gain insight from each other. i want you to please comment on what i am saying.

As i tried to point out when the revolt began, the aftermath of a revolution is not so easy or so certain of success as the revolt itself. It gets complicated. For example in Egypt there is a competing narrative to Lauren Unger-Geoffroy’s. Eventually one or the other is going to have its way. Its complicated already.

Let me explain it a different way. If Egypt was a ‘Christian’ nation instead of a ‘Muslim’ one, and if the article reported so glowingly on the religious contribution to the state’s happiness, equanimity, nationalism, culture, possibly a war, and most of all its future…

...I say confidently that there would be a revolt by the readers. There would be protests about Christian theocracy, doom, disaster, Hitler, terror, crusades, inquisitions, on and on it would go.

So the silence here at Truthdig has nothing to do with awe. Nor does it have to do with Lauren Unger-Geoffroy’s writing, which is just as good as it was at first. Overall she is hopeful and trusting as always.

Let me say it another way: This revolt in Egypt actually has a religious and conservative tinge to it that is making the Truthdiggers uncomfortable.

The Left’s wild enthusiasm over Egypt was not for the actual normal typical people there. Not for the piety and faith which so many Egyptians share. And what she is saying now, so heartfelt about the people, and the culture they have, steeped with religion, is not what Atheists want to hear. Shouldnt a revolution be progress towards get rid of those things and the influence they have upon the state and its people?

They want to see capitalism and religion set back. They dont know what to make of Egypt now. It reminds them of a fundamentalist Christian community only its Islam instead. They arent comfortable with that. I think that explains the silence far better than a golden reverence.

What say you?

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By gerard, September 1, 2011 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

What can anyone say?  Perhaps this is one of the times when silence is really golden.

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