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Je Suis Ahmed….

Charlie Hebdo

The Funny issue of Charia Hebdo (pronounced like Sharia law, or Islamic law) “guest edited” by the prophet himself. The cover promised “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter!”

It seems every time a Muslim or a group of Muslims behave badly, the rest of us Muslim Americans get asked to respond to the situation, to try to explain their motives and to react to their horrible acts as if we were experts on terrorism or have special insight on Muslim rage.


Don LemonWe are interrogated and experience something akin to EIT, “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” and “Forced Condemnation Reaction” of violence and extremism. Don Lemon of CNN, asked human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar, founder of The Muslim Guy, “Do you support ISIS?” Do we need to say the obvious to show our patriotism?


I’m tired of being asked to condemn other Muslims, explain others’ actions and even to spell my name.

I don’t have any answers or reactions that are different from anyone else’s–Muslim or non Muslim. As John Stewart put it on his show “…not to make sense of this because there is no sense to be made of this.” Rather the goal was, as always, “to keep going.”

Front pages

The media condemnation came swiftly. The knee jerk reaction of the media to the #CharlieHebdo tragedy was to put Islam on trial and to condemn 1.6 billion people. This became the headline of all 6’o’clock news shows. The #killAllMuslims social media trending reached more than100,000. How did this all start, and how did we reach this madness?

It was around 11:30, PARIS — Stéphane Charbonnier was in his editorial meeting with his staff, like every Wednesday morning, at the French satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo. The rest we know from sources like the New York Times, who went for the kill describing the “orientalist clash of civilization” event in a minute-by-minute update of the horrible attack.  I quote, “Unbeknown to them, a scene of terror was unfolding at their doorstep — one that would grip the world’s attention and set off new fears across Europe about a rising clash of civilizations, between radical Islamists and the West”.

The Guardian was more modest in its outburst, with a front page headline “An Assault on Democracy.” Then we have the Muslim apologists:  “Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect,” vented #SalmanRushdie. And more,

“… the relentlessly murderous soul of radical Islam has attacked the very foundation of Western civilization.

Carton Sords…” noted NY Daily News featuring another cartoon of its own, depicting a vicious looking bearded man–apparently a radical Islamist–standing with his pointed sword toward a hand holding a pen with a caption, “STILL MIGHTIER”

Thousands of Muslims are killed every year by our own military expansionism  and lust for power, freedom of speech are shot down everyday by Arab Muslim dictators that we support, Insulting Islam in Saudi Arabia id flogging, but those of us who are writers will not consider our pencils broken by such killings. But that incontestability, that unmournability, just as much as the massacre in Paris, is the clear and present danger to our collective liberté.”

Bill Maher’s vitriolic rants about Islam have become the talk of the town, and the atheist comedian has become the darling of the nuts on the Christian right. Within hours of the Paris attack, he ridiculously claimed that “… millions of Muslims support the Charlie Hebdo Attack.”

The talking heads all over the 6 o’clock news described the attackers with words that are usually reserved for Muslims and non-white villains, words like, barbaric, uncivilized, Islamic extremists, and jihadi.

Je Suis CharlieThousands of people in France and around Europe gathered to march in vigils of solidarity holding the sign “Je Suis Charlie” or I’m Charlie.

This hyper-reaction of the Western media reflects self-righteousness and universal absolutism, much the same extremism as the dogmatism and paranoia that Muslims extremists fall in. One camp gets its venom from religion fundamentalism while the other gets it from secular fundamentalism, where nationalism has become the new religion. As photographer Teju Cole noted in the New Yorker,  “Voltaire, a hero to many who extol free speech, got it wrong. His sparkling and courageous anti-clericalism can be a joy to read, but he was also a committed anti-Semite, whose criticisms of Judaism were accompanied by calumnies about the innate character of Jews”.

In fact, for anyone interested, condemnation of the attack by Muslims came from all over the world, a fact ignored by CNN and Fox News. Muslims don’t condone such an act or the killing of innocent civilians, and may deny or react in disbelief that a Muslim could be capable of such actions. Some may suspect conspiracy, such as one frustrated Egyptian TV host who vented, “…, it is the act of the French state to crack down on Muslims in France and a prerequisite to get involved in North Africa.”

Those who like to believe that #‎charliehebdo attack is a direct reaction to the insult of Islam or the prophet through satirical cartoons don’ get the whole picture.  According to Saudis, if attackers were truly Muslims they would have just flogged

This isn’t just about cartoons of the prophet any more than rape is about what the victim is wearing.

When a crime is committed by a Muslim, it is seen by the West as sociologically and culturally-based and the entire culture is condemned. However, a crime by a Westerner is seen as deviancy by an individual, as a psychological problem, like in the Columbine, or Newtown massacres, or Atlanta bombing. Sky News reported that a 38-year-old German male nurse, identified only as Niels H., admitted to killing at least 30 patients between 2003 and 2005, because he was bored. This kind of aberrant behavior is usually presented as just an act of a disturbed individual who lived outside of mainstream culture, not an assault on Western civilization or on the rights of people to be sick!

Letting a few criminals define a billion and half Muslims is absurd and dogmatic.

The suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attack were born and raised in French secular culture and apparently led a life of drugs, sex, and violence. To claim that a visit to Yemen led to radicalization is naïve and self-serving. The question is not what happened to him in Yemen, but what happened to him in France.

Brotheres2The Charlie Hebdo tragedy can’t be explained by religion or culture; it is only explained in the sick minds of the killers alone, not the Charlie Hebdo cartoon. Many Muslims saw the cartoons from the satirical magazine but were not provoked and managed to stay calm.  Don’t Snipe-Unsubscribe.



Last cartoon


Last Charlie Hebdo Cartoon…. head of the ISlamic State ISIS is giving New Year Wishes

Notes from america

Published in Other Media

Daily News/ Egypt (affiliated with the Guardian)



Ahmed Tharwat …. a host and producer of the Arab-American TV show BelAhdan with Ahmed, a Writer, Public Speaker, blogs at www.ahmediatv.com

Can be reached at

Email: ahmediatv@gmail.com






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“Freedom is Halal”, a Grafiti in Saudi Arabia …

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The Salafy Bunch… meet my family



This particular family reception was surreal:  the mood was celebratory but cautious; everyone was there, all my brothers with their very long beards; the nieces in their hijab, which they take off once they get home. (Wearing hijab is complicated.  It has its religious and social rules. If I’m the only visitor in the room, they can leave them off, and they do. It just depends on who comes in the room if the hijab will be on or off: if he is a brother, his sisters can leave their hijab off, but other nieces have to put them on. If someone comes to the door, the person who opens the door announces to everyone who is coming so the right person is ready with her hijab. Sometimes it happens so fast, people are coming and going, then it gets confusing, who should have hijab on or who can have it off, and if you can’t find your own hijab, then quickly grab one from a non-hijab compliant girl; then everyone starts giggling.) 

As a group, my brothers who live in Egypt are on the conservative side.  I will introduce them to you here in order from youngest to oldest.  Abdel Nasser, the youngest, was a military man until he became more interested in growing his beard than his career. He was let go with an early retirement.  Now he is, naturally, the most disciplined about his religion.  As a military man, he understands the maneuvering of the military in running the country. “Tantawi is the most cunning, confusing, military man I know; I served under him,” he vented.  “He could get the whole country lost in a flinch.” Then he added, “He is the dirtiest man I have ever seen.” Next, Refaat, the second-to-youngest, is the most dedicated one. As a youth, he was the funniest most lovable kid in our village.  Now he is an executive of a big construction company.  In the aftermath of Sadat’s assassination, in the first year of Mubarak’s presidency, he had the bad fortune of being arrested, tortured and jailed for 13 months, then let go without any trial or an apology. After his release, and for 30 years, he has had to go to the National Security office on the first Tuesday of each month to make sure he is still broken and tamed.  I asked him about the revolution and the changes that had occurred for him personally.  He replied, “For the first time in 30 years, I’m not afraid. I can walk, go anywhere without fearing being humiliated or arrested by the security police,” he softly said without any bitterness.  Abdel Raffaa, who everyone calls Sheik Obed, he is the conscience of the family. He is loved by everyone, and he is the closest to me in age, just a year older. When he was about six years old, he fell off the roof of our house and landed on his head, I rushed to see him and I saw a big cut in his forehead. I thought I could almost see his brain oozing out.  Something happened to him that day; he never was able to tell a lie after that. You can always count on him to tell it like it is, which sometimes gets him into trouble. His religion is very deep but balanced.  He doesn’t quote from the Hadith or Quran as much as the other brothers.  “The youth of this country are the noblest people of Egypt,” he explained, “they are men and did what our generation couldn’t do,” he explained.

Then there is Hosam, the one who terrorized the village growing up, and who now has the longest beard of the Salafy bunch. His views go straight down the party line. “We need religion to guide our lives and our country,” he always says.

Emad is known as the Omdah (the mayor).  His Islam is a quiet one, a moderate Salafy. “God helps Egypt to make the right choice”, he explains.  He has always been the comfort seeker in the family, and his religious view is no different.

Finally, my only sister, who also, I might add, is the most successful member of the family career-wise; she was the VP of a big investment bank before she retired a few years ago. Her husband was a military man, who was captured in the 1967 war and held as a prisoner of war for a year or so. She is also very religious, going to a religious academy for Qur’an studies. She insisted I help her prep for her exams, which requires memorizing long passages of the Qur’an. I stayed in her house during my visit, so we talked a lot. She has a great sense of humor when she is alone. She treated me like her own son: the breakfast was always on time and laid out on the table; my clothes were always clean, and my bed was always made.  She is on the side of military and stability, and makes no apology about it. “If it wasn’t for the military, there wouldn’t be any revolution” she told me. “The youth of the revolution are a bunch of boys, and know nothing about running a country like Egypt,” she explained. Her son, Essam, an open “felool”, those who benefited during the Mubarak era, don’t accept this change easily.  He is married with two kids, works for a multinational corporation out of Dubai, drives a top model BMW, and lives his life to the fullest. “People need just to go to work, and stop blaming the military for everything,” he said under his voice with a smile.

My brothers’ children are still religious, but also supporters of the youth revolution. It doesn’t take much before the family conversation get contested and edgy. I have never seen my family talking politics with such fervor! The political conversation breaks the tradition family bounds, the old alliance has shifted, the brothers are ganging up on their only sister, but she doesn’t budge. “We need to get some sleep before we head to Tahrir Square,” said my nephew Mohamed. Now it is three in the morning. The call for prayers would start soon, said my niece Mariam with a smile. In Cairo, mosques are everywhere; all you need is a megaphone and a sidewalk, and you’ve got yourself a local mosque. Mosques were the only place in Egypt that the regime of the ex-dictator, Mubarak, could not penetrate or control. Before I left Egypt more than 30 years ago, I only heard the “Azan” call for prayer maybe once a week, for Friday prayers. Now it seems they call for prayer every few hours. My brothers got up to go to the fajr (dawn) prayer. They are the Salafy Bunch, as I call them. Each wears a robe, and a very long beard, keeping up with the beard generation, which dominated Egypt lately. In fact, beards were the only thing allowed to grow during the Mubarak regime.


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