Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A00088 - Mostafa el-Abbadi, Champion of Alexandria's Resurrected Library

Mostafa El-Abbadi (Arabic: مصطفى العبادي‎‎; b. October 10, 1928, Cairo, Egypt - d. February 13, 2017, Alexandria, Egypt) was a prominent historian of Greco-Roman Egypt and an Egyptian public intellectual.  Formerly the Emeritus Professor in Classics at the Alexandria University, he is credited with proposing the revival of the ancient library of Alexandria, a project embraced by UNESCO in 1986 and completed in 2003. He was later critical of some of aspects of the project as realized by the Egyptian government, telling the New York Times that the library was at risk of becoming "a cultural center" rather than fulfilling its "promise as a world-class research center."


A recipient of the Order of the Nile, El-Abbadi was a member of Egypt's Supreme Council of Culture (SCC), Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), and l'Institut d'Egypte.  He also served as President of the Archaeological Society of Alexandria and was an advisor to UNESCO. Educated in Egypt and the United Kingdom, El-Abbadi received a bachelor's degree from Alexandria University and a special bachelor's degree and doctorate from the University of Cambridge.  He also held an honorary doctorate from the Universite du Quebec a Montreal (UQAM).

Monday, February 20, 2017

A00087 - Omar 'Abdel Rahman, "Radical" Egyptian Cleric

'Abdel Rahman, Omar
'Abdel Rahman, Omar (Omar 'Abdel Rahman) (Omar Ahmed 'Ali 'Abdel Rahman) ('Umar 'Abd al-Rahman) (b. May 3, 1938, Al Gammaliyyah, Dakahlia Governorate, Egypt - d. February 18, 2017, Granville County, North Carolina).  An Egyptian religious scholar and an Islamic fundamentalist leader.  Born to a poor rural family in the village of al-Jamaliyah in Lower Egypt, Omar Ahmed 'Ali 'Abdel Rahman was accidentally blinded at ten months of age.  He studied a Braille version of the Qur'an as a child and developed an interest in the works of the Islamic purists.  He received a traditional religious education in regional urban centers, memorizing the Qur’an.  In 1960, he entered the faculty of Fundamentals of Religion at al-Azhar University in Cairo, where he graduated first in his class in 1965.  Although he had hoped to become a teaching assistant at the university, he was appointed by the state as a mosque preacher in a poor rural village in the Fayyum, Upper Egypt.  He soon returned to al-Azhar, however, obtaining a master’s degree in 1967 and a faculty appointment in 1968.  He continued both his graduate studies and occasional preaching in the Fayyum.

'Abdel Rahman made the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1968 and there met Sa‘id Ramadan, an expatriate leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood who opposed the government of Gamal 'Abdel Nasser.  Ramadan persuaded him to transport funds back to Egypt for the families of jailed brotherhood members.  'Abdel Rahman was arrested in the process and, although he was soon released, he lost his faculty position.  He was appointed to a bureaucratic post later in 1969, but he saw this as a shameful demotion.

'Abdel Rahman continued to preach in the Fayyum.  At a public ceremony after Nasser’s death on September 28, 1970, he condemned Nasser as an infidel and prohibited prayers for him.  As a consequence, he was detained by the government for eight months.

The new regime of Anwar el-Sadat declared an amnesty for jailed Islamic fundamentalists with the aim of enlisting them as a counterweight to leftist forces.  'Abdel Rahman was re-appointed as a teaching assistant at the Azhari Institute in Fayyum, but he was still the subject of controversy among university administrators.  After completing his doctorate in 1972, he briefly held a professorship at al-Azhar before being transferred to the religious faculty in Asyut, a center of Islamic fundamentalist activity.  Both the regional and national governments supported the establishment there of the Jama‘ah (Jama'at) al-Islamiyah ("The Islamic Group"), the Muslim Brotherhood’s student organization, to which 'Abdel Rahman was strongly sympathetic.

In 1977, 'Abdel Rahman married ‘Isha’ Hasan Judah, the daughter of a brotherhood member, and left Egypt to spend four years in Saudi Arabia as a professor of Qur’anic interpretation at Saud University.  Soon after his return, he was arrested for his involvement in the fundamentalist Jihad Organization accused of assassinating President Sadat.  He was accused of leading the organization and of participating in the assassination but was acquitted on both counts and released in 1984.

While he was imprisoned in the Egyptian jails, 'Abdel Rahman was severely tortured as he awaited trial on charges of issuing a fatwa resulting in Sadat's assassination by Egyptian Islamic Jihad.  Although 'Abdel Rahman was not convicted of conspiracy in the Sadat assassination, he was expelled from Egypt following his acquittal.  

During this protracted trial (1981-1984), three factors led to 'Abdel Rahman’s emergence as the leading figure in his Islamist movement.  The first was his book Mithaq al-‘amil al-Islami (“Charter of Islamic Action”), an explanation of his view of correct Islamic life.  It marked his departure from the more moderate wing of the brotherhood and affiliation with the radical forces informed by the concept of jihad and the necessity to overthrow the secular state in order to restore the principles of the Qur’an.  Second, he married again, this time to Fatin Shu‘ayb, a kinswoman of several important activists, affirming his solidarity with the Jama‘ah al-Islamiyah in Upper Egypt and lending weight to his religious status as mufti al-jihad.  Third, most of the major leaders of the jihad organization were executed or imprisoned for life, leaving a power vacuum that 'Abdel Rahman readily filled.

During the decade that followed, 'Abdel Rahman came to be portrayed by his political opponents and the media as the high priest of radical fundamentalism both in and outside Egypt.  After leaving Egypt, he made his way to Afghanistan in the mid-1980s where he contacted his former professor, 'Abdullah Azzam, co-founder of Maktab al-Khadamat (MAK) along with Osama bin Laden.  'Abdel Rahman built a strong rapport with bin Laden during the Afghan war against the Soviets, and following Azzam's murder in 1989, 'Abdel Rahman assumed control of the international jihadists arm of MAK/Al Qaeda.  

In July 1990, 'Abdel Rahman emigrated to New York City in the United States to gain control of MAK's financial and organizational infrastructure in the United States.  He was issued a tourist visa to visit the United States despite his name being listed on a United States State Department terrorist watch list.  Rahman entered the United States via Saudi Arabia, Peshawar, and Sudan.

'Abdel Rahman traveled widely in the United States and Canada.  Despite the United States support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan, 'Abdel Rahman was deeply anti-American and spoke out against America, safe in the knowledge that he was speaking Arabic and was unmonitored by any law enforcement agency.  He issued a fatwa in the United States that declared lawful the robbing of banks and killing of Jews in America.  His sermons condemned Americans and called on Muslims to assail the West.

In March 1992, 'Abdel Rahman was stripped of his green card and was subsequently summoned to a federal hearing on charges that he lied on his visa application.  An INS administrative judge ordered that 'Abdel Rahman be deported from the United States, but 'Abdel Rahman successfully fought the deportation ruling.

Preaching at three mosques in the New York City area, 'Abdel-Rahman was soon surrounded by a core group of devoted followers that included persons who became responsible for the World Trade Center bombings in 1993.  The 1993 bombing utilized a powerful car bomb and was detonated at New York's World Trade Center.  Six people were killed and more than a thousand were wounded.  'Abdel Rahman had intended to cause the bombed tower to fall onto its twin, causing both towers to collapse and killing tens of thousands.

After the first World Trade Center bombing in February 1993, the FBI began to investigate 'Abdel Rahman and his followers more closely.  With the assistance of an Egyptian informant wearing a listening device, the FBI managed to record Rahman issuing a fatwa encouraging acts of violence against United States civilian targets, particularly in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area.  


The most startling plan, the government charged, was to set off five bombs in ten minutes, blowing up the United Nations, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge and a federal building housing the FBI.  Government prosecutors showed videotapes of defendants mixing bomb ingredients in a garage before their arrest in 1993.  'Abdel Rahman was arrested on June 24, 1993, along with nine of his followers.  On October 1, 1995, he was convicted of seditious conspiracy, and in 1996 was sentenced to life in prison. 
Abdel-Rahman began serving his life sentence at the FMC Rochester in Minnesota. After the September 11 attacks,  he was transferred to the FMC Butner in North Carolina. He died there on February 18, 2017 at the age of 78 due to complications from diabetes and coronary arterial disease.

One of Rahman's followers, El Sayyid Nosair, was also linked to the 1990 assassination of Israeli nationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the militant Jewish Defense League.  Nosair was subsequently acquitted of murder but was convicted on gun possession charges. Nosair later stood trial as a co-conspirator of Rahman.  Both men received life sentences for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
 
After 1993, 'Abdel Rahman became, in fact, the acknowledged spiritual guide of the Jama‘ah al-Islamiyah, and he assumed great importance to radical Islamists in much of the Muslim world.  His imprisonment became a rallying point for Islamic militants around the world, including Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  In 1997, members of his group Jama'ah al-Islamiyah conducted two attacks against European visitors to Egypt, including the massacre of 58 tourists at Deir el-Bahri in Luxor.  In addition to killing women and children, the attackers mutilated a number of bodies and distributed leaflets throughout the scene demanding the release of 'Abdel Rahman.

In 2005, members of Rahman's legal team were convicted of facilitating communication between the imprisoned 'Abdel Rahman and members of Jama'ah al-Islamiyah in Egypt.  As for 'Abdel Rahman, he was incarcerated at the Butner Medical Center which is part of the Butner Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina, United States.  

‘Umar ‘Abd al-Rahman see 'Abdel Rahman, Omar
Omar Ahmed 'Ali 'Abdel Rahman see 'Abdel Rahman, Omar
Omar 'Abdel Rahman see 'Abdel Rahman, Omar

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A00086 - Saloua Raouda Choucair, Lebanese Abstract Painter and Sculptor

Saloua Raouda Choucair (Arabicسلوى روضة شقير‎‎) (b. June 24, 1916, Beirut, Lebanon – d. January 26, 2017, Beirut, Lebanon) was a Lebanese painter and sculptor.  She is said to have been the first abstract artist in Lebanon although she sold nothing there until 1962.
Born in 1916 in Beirut, Choucair started painting in the studios of Lebanese painters Moustafa Farroukh (1935) and Omar Onsi (1942).  Her exhibition in 1947 at the Arab Cultural Gallery in Beirut is considered to have been the Arab world's first abstract painting  exhibition. In 1948 she left Lebanon and went to Paris, where she studied at the Ecole nationale superieure des Beaux Arts and attended Fernand Leger's studio. In 1950, she was one of the first Arab artists to participate in the Salon des Realites Nouvelles in Paris and had in 1951 a solo exhibition at Colette Allendy's gallery, which was better received in Paris than in Beirut.
In 1959, Choucair began to concentrate on sculpture, which became her main preoccupation in 1962. In 1963, she was awarded the National Council of Tourism Prize for the execution of a stone sculpture for a public site in Beirut. In 1974, the Lebanese Artists Association sponsored an honorary retrospective exhibition of her work at the National Council of Tourism in Beirut. In 1985, Choucair won an appreciation prize from the General Union of Arab Painters. In 1988, she was awarded a medal by the Lebanese government. A retrospective exhibition organized by Saleh Barakat was presented at the Beirut Exhibition Center in 2011.
Choucair's work has been considered as one of the best examples of the spirit of abstraction characteristic of Arabic visual art, completely disconnected from the observation of nature and inspired by Arabic geometric art.
Choucair received an honorary doctorate from the American University of Beirut in May of 2014.
She turned 100 in June 2016. She died on January 26, 2017.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A00085 - Ali Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani, President of Iran (1989-1997)

Rafsanjani, Ali Akbar Hashimi
Rafsanjani, Ali Akbar Hashimi (Ali Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani) (Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani) (b. August 25, 1934, Nough, Iran - d. January 8, 2017, Tehran, Iran). President of Iran from August 3, 1989 to August 2, 1997.

Rafsanjani was the son of a prosperous farmer in the town of Rafsanjān, in the Kermān region of Iran. He moved to the Shīʿite holy city of Qom in 1948 to pursue his religious studies, and in 1958 he became a disciple of Ruhollah Khomeini. Rafsanjani became a hojatoleslām (from the Arabic ḥujjat al-Islām: “proof of Islam”), the second highest Shīʿite Muslim rank (after that of ayatollah). Like Khomeini, he opposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s modernization program, and when Khomeini was exiled from Iran in 1962, Rafsanjani became his chief fund-raiser inside the country. He spent the years 1975–78 in jail in Iran on charges of links with left-wing terrorists.

With the shah’s overthrow and Khomeini’s return to Iran in 1979, Rafsanjani became one of Khomeini’s chief lieutenants. He helped found the Islamic Republican Party, served on the Revolutionary Council, and was acting interior minister during the early years of the revolution. He was also elected to the Majles (Islamic Consultative Assembly) in 1980, and he became that body’s speaker the same year. As the dominant voice in the Majles for the next nine years, Rafsanjani gradually emerged as the second most powerful figure in Iran’s government. He was intimately involved in Iran’s prosecution of the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88), and he helped persuade Khomeini to agree to the cease-fire of August 1988 that effectively ended the war.

After Khomeini’s death in June 1989, Rafsanjani was instrumental in securing the position of President Ali Khamenei—who was hastily elevated from the less lofty position of hojatoleslām to the rank of ayatollah—as Khomeini’s successor as supreme leader. Rafsanjani himself was elected Iran’s president by an overwhelming margin shortly thereafter. He quickly garnered increased powers for a previously weak executive office, and he showed considerable political skill in promoting his pragmatic policies in the face of resistance from Islamic hard-liners.

Rafsanjani favored reducing Iran’s international isolation and renewing its ties with Europe as part of a strategy to use foreign investment and free enterprise to revive the country’s war-torn economy. Domestically, he implemented family-planning practices, in effect reversing previous policies encouraging population growth. Although human rights abuses and the suppression of dissent continued, there was a degree of cultural openness under Rafsanjani, and a certain level of criticism was tolerated. Nevertheless, demonstrations and protests against the government in the early 1990s were harshly repressed.

Rafsanjani was re-elected in 1993, though his victory was not as overwhelming as in 1989; voter turnout was significantly lower, and he won only two-thirds of the votes in 1993 as compared with more than nine-tenths four years earlier. Barred by the constitution from serving a third consecutive term in office, Rafsanjani nevertheless remained active in political life, serving several terms as head of the Committee to Determine the Expediency of the Islamic Order, a body created to mediate disputes between the Majles and the Council of Guardians (itself empowered to vet legislation and oversee elections).

In the elections to the Majles in 2000, Rafsanjani initially fared poorly—he finished 30th in Tehrān, capturing that city’s final seat. However, the Council of Guardians contended that the election had been marred by fraud, and they ordered a recount; after numerous votes had been discounted and the candidates shuffled, Rafsanjani’s position improved to 20th. This new outcome was criticized by many to be the result of manipulation, and Rafsanjani resigned his seat.

Following Mohammad Khatami’s two-term presidency (1997–2005), Rafsanjani again sought the presidency in 2005. Although largely considered the favorite, Rafsanjani failed to secure a majority by a significant margin and was defeated by the mayor of Tehrān, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was backed by the country’s conservative establishment.

In 2007 Rafsanjani was elected to lead the Assembly of Experts (Majles-e Khobregān), a body empowered to select Iran’s supreme leader. Rafsanjani assumed his position at the head of this assembly while continuing to lead the Committee to Determine the Expediency of the Islamic Order.

In the presidential election of 2009 Rafsanjani was a vocal critic of the incumbent, President Ahmadinejad, and made clear his support of Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister (1981–89) and the leading reformist candidate. When Ahmadinejad was declared the victor by a large margin in spite of Mousavi’s apparent popularity and a record turnout that many thought would favor the reformist contingent, questions of voting irregularities were raised by the opposition. Amid the cycle of protests that followed the election, several of Rafsanjani’s relatives, including his daughter, were briefly detained. Rafsanjani himself was conspicuously absent from the public sphere and noticeably silent in the days that followed the election—a silence some observers suggested belied his activity behind the scenes, although the details of his whereabouts and the precise nature his efforts remained subject to speculation.


In 2011 Rafsanjani did not run for another term as leader of the Assembly of Experts after Ahmadinejad supporters waged a campaign to unseat him, alleging that he was too close to the opposition. He was succeeded by Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani—a traditional conservative supported by the pro-Ahmadinejad camp—who won election in March.

In May 2013 Rafsanjani registered to be a candidate in Iran’s upcoming presidential election, attracting the support of prominent reformers, including Mohammad Khatami. His candidacy ended abruptly later that month when he was disqualified from running by the Council of the Guardians. Rafsanjani protested his disqualification in the media but did not appeal.

Ali Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani see Rafsanjani, Ali Akbar Hashimi
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani see Rafsanjani, Ali Akbar Hashimi


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A00084 - Ali Mazrui, Author of The Africans

Mazrui, Ali 
Ali al-Amin Mazrui (b. February 24, 1933, Mombasa, Kenya — d. October 12, 2014, Vestal {Binghamton}, New York, United States) was a Kenyan American political scientist who was widely regarded as one of East Africa’s foremost political scholars.

Mazrui, the son of a prominent Islamic judge, received a scholarship to study in England at Manchester University (B.A., 1960). He continued his education at Columbia University (M.A., 1961), New York City, and Nuffield College, Oxford (D.Phil., 1966). He returned to Africa to teach at Uganda’s Makerere University (1963–73), but his opposition to Ugandan President Idi Amin and his often controversial views on African development obliged him to leave the region. From 1974 to 1991 Mazrui taught political science at the University of Michigan.  He then moved to the State University of New York at Binghamton (now Binghamton University, SUNY), where he founded (in 1991) and directed the Institute of Global Cultural Studies.

Mazrui also held faculty positions at other universities worldwide, was a consultant to international organizations, and wrote more than 30 books on African politics and society as well as post-colonial patterns of development and underdevelopment. Among his best-known works were Towards a Pax Africana (1967), The African Condition: A Political Diagnosis (1980), Black Reparations in the Era of Globalization (2002), and The African Predicament and the American Experience: A Tale of Two Edens (2003). He also wrote and presented the nine-hour BBC-PBS TV co-production The Africans (1986) and was featured in the documentary Motherland (2009). Mazrui’s honors included the Association of Muslim Social Scientists UK (AMSS UK) Lifetime Academic Achievement Award (2000).

A00083 - 'Abd Allah II ibn 'Ali 'Abd ash-Shakur, Emir of Harar

'Abd Allah II ibn 'Ali 'Abd ash-Shakur, also known as Amir Hajji 'Abdu'llahi II ibn 'Ali 'Abdu's Shakur, (18??-1930) was the last Emir of Harar from 1884 (or 1885, various sources carry various dates) to January 26, 1887, when the state was terminated, following the defeat of the Harari troops at the Battle of Chelenqo (January 6).
Emir 'Abd Allah was the son of Muhammad ibn 'Ali 'Abd ash-Shakur by Kadija, the daughter of Emir 'Abd al-Karim ibn Muhammad.  To secure his hold on the emirate of Harar, his father had married 'Abd Allah to the daughter of Ahmad III ibn Abu Bakr, his predecessor. When the Egyptians evacuated Harar, 'Abd Allah became the logical choice to rule Harar, and was given a few hundred soldiers trained by one of the British officers, 300 to 400 rifles, some cannon, and munitions, a force barely sufficient to garrison Harar and Jaldessa, let alone police the trade routes and ensure the security of the state.
Emir 'Abd Allah grew paranoid of the growing Ethiopian threat to his domain, and accused the resident Europeans of co-operating with Negus Menelik II.  His situation deteriorated by July 1885.  The population grew uncontrollable, European traders became virtual prisoners in their homes and shops, and the adjacent Galla raided the town.  In response, Emir 'Abd Allah introduced a new currency which impoverished the local population.  The neighboring Oromo and Somali deserted Harar's markets and the town's economy collapsed.
Emir 'Abd Allah responded to the first Ethiopian military probe with a night attack on their camp at Hirna which included fireworks. The unmotivated troops panicked at the pyrotechnics and fled toward the Asabot and Awash Rivers. When the Negus Menelik personally led a second attack a few months later, the Emir misjudged the quality of these troops and attempted to repeat his earlier success of a second night attack. Had he allowed the enemy to attack the walled city, where his few Krupp cannon might have been effective, the Shoans might have suffered a defeat with serious political consequences. But that is not what 'Abd Allah did.  As a result, the battle at Chelenqo destroyed 'Abd Allah's army in fifteen minutes.
With his wives and children, the Emir fled into the empty country east of Harar, leaving his uncle Ali Abu Barka to submit to Menelik and ask clemency for Harar.
The former Emir 'Abd Allah later returned to the town to live as a Sufi or religious scholar.  'Abd Allah died in Harar in 1930.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A00082 - Hamad ibn Khalifah al-Thani, Emir Qatar

Ḥamad ibn Khalīfa al-Thānī took power from his father, Sheikh Khalifa ibn Hamad al-Thani, who had become Qatar’s leader just months after the country won independence from Great Britain in 1972. In 2013, Ḥamad abdicated in favor of his son Sheikh Tamim.

Ḥamad was born into a family that at the time had ruled the country for a century. He was educated in Qatar and in England at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and became a lieutenant colonel in Qatar’s military after graduating in 1971. He was promoted in 1975 to major general and commander in chief of the armed forces, and in 1977 he became minister of defense as well as heir apparent to the throne. Following the Persian Gulf War (1990–91), Ḥamad was, for most purposes, leading the country, and in 1995 he staged a coup and ousted his father while the latter was traveling outside Qatar. Ḥamad himself survived a number of subsequent coup attempts and succeeded in returning to the government a portion of the estimated $3 billion–$7 billion in gas and oil profits his father had held in personal bank accounts.

By 2000, Ḥamad had instituted a number of policies that transformed the country. He moved to allow Qataris to participate more actively in the government and to promote greater equality for women. After becoming ruler he announced plans to establish an elected parliament, appointed a committee to draft a permanent constitution, largely abolished censorship of the press, and in 1999 held the country’s first open general elections for a municipal council. For the first time, women not only were allowed to vote but, even more revolutionary, were also allowed to run for office. 

In June 2013, Ḥamad announced his abdication in favour of his 33-year-old son Tamim, the crown prince, citing the need to make way for a new generation of Qatari leaders. The transfer of power was seen as unusual for the Gulf Arab region, where rulers typically occupied their positions for life.