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I’m not in a position to comment on football (that’s soccer for you emerekans) tactics and strategies, and I wouldn’t like to rehash the (by now beaten to death) history and politics of Algeria-Egypt football matches. But what bothered me when I went over a summary of the last semi final African cup game between the two countries is not only the excessive use of violence by some Algerian players, but the Algerian media attitude towards this violence.

Violence is no new-comer to football, one may accept that occasionally a player short circuits his brain at the heat of the moment. Famous hot shots like Beckam, Zidane, Drogba, Rooney and Ronaldo all had their moments of anger that ended in red cards. In the last Algeria-Egypt game one player (Halliche) could be said to have been red carded wrongly, but the other two were well deserved by Chaouchi and Belhadj. Not only were they well deserved, CAF thinks the referee was rather too lenient on Chaouchi after he head butted him and have started procedures for disciplining him for not being harsh enough.

Surveying the post match Algerian media though, there is something to be said about a weird tendency to view such anger and  violence in a favourable light. As in one is being tough defending their “right” and standing up for one’s “honour”. After the day of the match, one popular newspaper carried the main title to the tune of “It’s OK, you’ve shown you were men “, the other carried the title “The champions are returning home”. There is no hint of criticism for the violent conduct whatsoever, and all reports concentrated on the referee’s mistakes. On the contrary, they were rather showing some disguised praise for “standing up” as in this is the proper way to act!. Only a week after a game did any newspaper bother to report that Assad, the former national team player, opined that the team had serious trouble maintaining its discipline.

More troublesome to me is the fact that this view is shared with quite a number of Algerians. In a couple of discussions with fellow Algerian citizens I just couldn’t put across the idea that referee mistakes are no excuse for going ballistic. In both cases I won the argument by stating the Ivorian attitude when their goal was mistakenly outlawed in the last 10 minutes of the extended 120 minutes game. Had it been a mistakenly outlawed Algerian goal in the same situation, I would’ve expected blood to flow.

In the Algeria-Egypt match, Halliche may have been wrongly red carded. Chaouchi though should be punished by the Algerian FAF for headbutting the referee, and I’m more leaning towards also punishing Belhadj. This is not just a matter of nationalism or football pride. The team is being watched by millions of Algerians. It’s an opportunity to send the signal that violence is by no means acceptable at all. Granted we’re proud of having given France the boot by the strength of the arm (and a big helping of diplomacy and political acumen in the actions of the Algerian Government in exile and people like Chanderli in New York), but we’ve got to confess that violence has been our nightmare ever since. We’re barely able to sit down and communicate thoughts and share opinions in a civilised way – most major reforms happened after much blood spilling.

We could do well by following the advice of what Algerians consider the finest human being:

The strong man is not the one who wrestles well but the strong man is the one who controls himself when he is in a fit of rage

as is reported from the prophet Muhammad.

In an earlier post about the Swiss Minaret ban, I mentioned the problems that actions like this ban pose to advocates of Democracy in the Arab world.  I believed that oppressive regimes will turn to criticising the ideal of democracy that is often lectured to them by Europe et al.

Aboul Gheit

Aboul Gheit

Well, that didn’t take long. As reported by the AFP and commented about at The Arabist , the Egyptian foreign affairs minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, weighed in…  literally asking Europe not to give any more lessons on democracy, and declaring that the human rights record of the Egyptian government is good. More direct words could not have been spoken by him. The quote, given below, is just too rich!

Egypt’s top diplomat said on Thursday that a Swiss vote to ban the construction of minarets was a “grave mistake” and Europe could no longer lecture his country on human rights.

“The Swiss people will some day come to realise what a grave mistake they have made,” Ahmed Abul Gheit told Egyptian television in comments carried by the official MENA news agency.

The human rights situation in Egypt is good… Europe cannot talk to Egypt about its human rights record at a time when Switzerland is supporting a ban on minaret building,” Abul Gheit said.

“People who live in glass houses should not throw stones,” the minister said in the interview which focused on Egyptian-European relations.

On Sunday, more than 57 percent of Swiss voters approved a right-wing motion to ban minarets on mosques, a decision that was met with an international backlash and charges of intolerance.

Abul Gheit expressed “regret that there is an increasing fear of Muslims in (European) societies as a result of the acts of some groups,” in allusion to attacks committed in the name of Islam.

Undoubtedly the guy believes he struck a very big note and achieved a huge political point for the Egyptian government.  Undoubtedly the voice of democracy and reform has been dealt a blow in this row and has been pushed a step back in its quest to counter the government plans. The president’s son is being groomed to replace him, amid more clampdown on the people of Egypt and more closing down of the political scene to make it almost impossible for any opponent to run. The government has reacted negatively to Ahmed AlBaradei’s initiative and has been trying with great effort to sabotage a possible candidacy by Amr Mousa and others.

So, again, thanks to the Swiss People’s Party, and thanks to any more xenophobic measures like this that may come in te next months/years!

‘s top diplomat said on Thursday that a Swiss vote to ban the construction of minarets was a “grave mistake” and Europe could no longer lecture his country on human rights.”The Swiss people will some day come to realise what a grave mistake they have made,” Ahmed Abul Gheit told Egyptian television in comments carried by the official MENA news agency.

“The human rights situation in Egypt is good… Europe cannot talk to Egypt about its human rights record at a time when Switzerland is supporting a ban on minaret building,” Abul Gheit said.

“People who live in glass houses should not throw stones,” the minister said in the interview which focused on Egyptian-European relations.

On Sunday, more than 57 percent of Swiss voters approved a right-wing motion to ban minarets on mosques, a decision that was met with an international backlash and charges of intolerance.

Abul Gheit expressed “regret that there is an increasing fear of Muslims in (European) societies as a result of the acts of some groups,” in allusion to attacks committed in the name of Islam.

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Commentary and views of an Algerian about the Middle East and Algeria, Democracy and Human Rights, Islam and Reform, as well as whatever pair of topics the author wishes to write about.

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