Thursday’s papers: Drawing trouble, and Brotherhood reincarnate Shafiq project

Whether in magazines or on walls, drawings were in the news on Thursday. The state’s removal of the now iconic graffiti murals from downtown’s Mohamed Mahmoud Street, and the recent publication of new anti-Islam cartoons in a French magazine, are both stirring strong reactions in the local press.

The notable exception however was the Muslim Brotherhood's mouthpiece — the Freedom and Justice newspaper instead chose to avoid these issues, opting instead for headlines proclaiming the government’s accomplishments and its new projects.

One of the projects sounded familiar. The story presented a detailed plan for turning Tahrir Square into a Hyde Park — which was, in fact, an idea that was originally proposed by former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq who competed with Mohamed Morsy during the presidential runoffs. Shafiq had been ridiculed when he first proposed the idea during a televised interview during the early days of the revolution.

Freedom and Justice describes an elaborate plan that the government has already embarked upon to create a touristic site, a self-expression center and a memorial in Tahrir Square, and to move the ministries there as well. According to the paper, a ministerial committee has been formed to study all the suggestions.

The recent whitewashing of activist graffiti from Mohamed Mahmoud Street by police forces brought out strong reactions amongst activists and online commentators. They consider the graffiti to be an important artistic documentation of the milestones of the revolution, and a commemoration of its martyrs.

According to independent Al-Shorouk newspaper, graffiti artists began gathering on the street immediately after the drawings were removed early Wednesday and began creating new ones.

According to Al-Shorouk, Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby announced in a press conference on Wednesday that the Arab League was working to develop a binding international agreement to criminalize the defamation of religion along with the European Union, the African Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

A cartoon that was published in a French satirical magazine also made it into Thursday’s headlines. Following a wave of protests that swept the region after clips from an anti-Islam film produced in the US went viral, there are fears that the new cartoons, also ridiculing the Prophet Mohamed, could spark a second wave of protests.

The cartoons — one of which depicts the Prophet naked — has elicited mostly negative reactions in France, said Al-Shorouk. According to the paper, the French foreign affairs ministry has announced that French embassies, consulates and schools would be closed in 20 countries as a precautionary measure amid calls for protests on Friday in Muslim-majority countries.

Al-Shorouk reports that the French secretary of state called the cartoons “provocative” and criticized the decision to publish them. The paper also quotes French Islamic figures expressing their shock at the cartoons, while calling on Muslims to exercise self-restraint and not give in to the provocation.

State-run Al-Gomhurriya quotes Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb as saying that the assaults on Islam and its figures have been recurring, and that the West has chosen to antagonize Islam, and embark on a path of conflict rather than understanding.

Al-Gomhurriya reports reactions in many Arab countries including Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt, mostly condemning the new cartoons and calling for the people to keep their reactions peaceful.

The state-run Al-Ahram ignored both the cartoons and the graffiti story, instead dedicating its front page to state propaganda reminiscent of the paper’s role of serving the state under former President Hosni Mubarak.

In the paper’s main story, run under the headline, “Minister of Interior leads campaigns to return discipline,” the paper follows minister Ahmed Gamal Eddin making a series of surprise field visits with fairy-tale-like happy endings where everything is perfectly in order. The story fails to report on the only story involving the Ministry of Interior that made it in the headlines of other daily papers today, namely, the removal of the graffiti.

And just in case the reader needs more proof that the Interior Ministry is doing a flawless job, the story also quotes civilians commending its performance.

“Gamal Eddin met a number of citizens in the unit during his visit, and had a conversation with them regarding the security performance in the last period. They commended the efforts of the policemen in providing security and stability in the Egyptian street, and especially commended the unit head for his complete cooperation with them and good treatment,” the story quotes one individual as stating.

Egypt’s papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Watan: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Youm7: Daily, privately owned

Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned

Freedom and Justice: Daily, published by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Nasserist Party

Al-Nour: Official paper of the Salafi Nour Party

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