Blog entries from: MEI Editor's Blog

A Blog by the Editor of the Middle East Journal

1 to 10 of 355

September 17 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Wed Sep 17 2014, 18:19:00

At times the growing chaos in the Middle East must seem almost apocalyptic, and it's hardly surprising that some fundamentalist evangelical Christians are seeing signs of Armageddon, though hardly for the first time. Outside the Islamic world, many may have overlooked the growing apocalyptic discourse among radical Sunni and radical Shi'ite theorists who are also playing the apocalypse game.

Hardline Shi'ites since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 have been talking about the imminent return of Imam Mahdi, and Ayatollah Khamene'i  has sometimes endorsed the idea that the return of the Twelfth Imam was imminent. Sunnism has been less end-times oriented, at least since 1979, which corresponded to 1400 AH, and led to a self-proclaimed Sunni Mahdi seizing the Haram st Mecca.

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From MEI Editor's Blog Wed Sep 17 2014, 13:33:00

Longtime readers will recall that every year on September 17,  I note the birthday of Edward William Lane (1801-1876), the author of The Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon, a translation if the Arabian Nights, and Cairo 50 Years Ago (edited by his nephew, Stanley Lane-Poole). Manners and Customs remains an essential description of daily life in Egypt in the age of Muhammad 'Ali, and the Lexicon is unique in English. Lane, his sister Sophia Lane Poole and nephew Stanley Lane-Poole (with a hyphen unlike his mother) formed a sort of dynasty of British writers on Egypt, Arabic, and Islam.

As an old Cairo hand, I am privileged to share a birthday with Lane, so I always make note of his. Unlike him, I am not (yet) 213.

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September 16 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Tue Sep 16 2014, 21:37:00

Yesterday the United Nations announced:

The situation in UNDOF on the Syrian side and the area of separation has deteriorated severely over the last several days.Armed groups have made advances in the area of UNDOF positions, posing a direct threat to the safety and security of the UN Peacekeepers along the "Bravo" line and in Camp Faouar.All the UN personnel in these positions have thus been relocated to the "Alpha" side. UNDOF continues to use all available assets to carry out its mandated tasks in this exceptionally challenging environment.Deciphered from opaque UN-ese (which is probably why this has been little commented upon in the Western media), this means that UNDOF has completely withdrawn from the Golan disengagement force zone it has held since 1974 and into Israeli-controlled ...

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From MEI Editor's Blog Tue Sep 16 2014, 20:30:00

Thisyear I failed to note Coptic New Year (Neyrouz) on September 11, though I have done so in previous years,  so belatedly I'll refer you to this story: "Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities celebrates New Coptic Year." 

The year just begun is AM (Year of the Martyrs) 1731. The calendar is Julian and dates from the persecution of Diocletian in AD 284.

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From MEI Editor's Blog Tue Sep 16 2014, 18:49:00

Karl Sharro at "Karl ReMarks" offers us a satirical sense of perspective: "We Give the Scottish Independence Referendum the Middle East Expert Treatment." Like much satire, some of it works better than other parts: analyzing Scotland in terms of the clans, talking about Scottish independence as if it were a Middle Eastern country

The conclusion is on target:

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From MEI Editor's Blog Tue Sep 16 2014, 15:20:00

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that the Turkish Armed Forces are drawing up proposed plans for a buffer zone inside northern Syria against ISIS, in order to provide safe haven for refugees that otherwise would seek refuge in Turkey. The width and other details of the "buffer zone" are unclear.

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September 15 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Mon Sep 15 2014, 22:43:00

I came of age and of draft age) in he Vietnam era. Like many of hat generation I tend to be cautious about military operations which have vaguely defined objectives, self-imposed limitations on meeting those objectives, an open-ended timeline and little exit strategy.

And a war the adversary welcomes. It's clear that the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker were meant to bait us deeper into the conflict. They want us to fight them, and to do it on their choice of battlefield. It would be wise to reflect on why.

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From MEI Editor's Blog Mon Sep 15 2014, 16:25:00

Egypt has announced plans to expand the Suez Canal  by adding a channel. Details are still sparse, but the commemorative stamp suggests that it might resemble the Panama Canal. So much so as to have the same ships passing through it:

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From MEI Editor's Blog Mon Sep 15 2014, 16:00:00

Hunger striking activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and two other activists imprisoned in the same case under Egypt's controversial protest law have been released from prison by a Cairo criminal court while their case is appealed. The three had become something of a cause celèbre as being among the most prominent secular activists jailed after the 2013 crackdown.

They aren't free, but the court also questioned the prosecution's introduction of a private videotape as improper. It seems to be a positive sign, if a small one.

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September 12 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Fri Sep 12 2014, 19:03:00

It's Friday! After a work week, let's sit back and relax with some comparative Semitic linguistics!  Lameen Souag at Jabal al-Lughat responds to a claim that spoken Levantine (Shami) dialect is actually  closer to Aramaic than to standard Arabic. He dissectsthe claim and dismantles it in terms of comparative linguistics in a three-part posing: "Why 'Levantine' is Arabic, Not Aramaic," Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

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