Tuesday, February 1, 2011

patriotic Islamophobia

It is incredible listening to the patriotic paranoia echoing through the US media. Mixed in with joy at the (possible) coming of democracy to Egypt are unmistakeable tremors of fear that an 'Islamic' or 'Islamist' or 'al-Qaeda' government will come to power there. A caller to an NPR news show today demanded to know why 'President Obama insisted, insisted, that the Muslim Brotherhood attend his Cairo speech??'

The word 'Muslim' has really become a catch-all boogeyman in US politics. As usual, paranoia -- whether real or simply a cover for bigotry -- is a product of ignorance. Are we to deny the rights of people in other countries the right to form religiously-oriented parties? And so what if they do? Muslim does not equal 'terrorist.'

I actually caught some pundit on CNN talk about the possibility of a 'pro-Al-Qaeda government' in Egypt. Are you insane? I thought. The number of people in all of Egpypt who might be considered 'pro-al-Qaeda' probably numbers in the hundreds. Out of 80 million people. This comment is akin to worrying that a 'pro-KKK government' might form in the US.

There ought to be a literacy test for appearing on TV news shows! As in, basic cultural/historical/political literacy.

By the way, the Muslim Brotherhood is an utterly cautious, even timid organization. They have foresworn violence since the 60s. If they want to contest elections -- let them! And anyway, what right do we the US have to tell Egypt how to run their democracy?

This last point reminds me of the assertion I read recently that "Carter had lost Iran, and Obama is losing Egypt." Has the writer considered the crazy paternalism in this statement? As if our presidents were somehow kings ruling over some piddly little province somewhere.

Aside from the dumb arrogance, let me point out a very elementary historical fact: what 'lost' Iran to us in 79 was not Carter, but the CIA in 1953 overthrowing Iran's budding democracy because back then they were terrified of nationalists (much like moderate religious parties morph in their paranoia into al-Qaeda, nationalists then morphed into Stalin), and what is 'losing' Egypt to us now is our 3 decade-long support for a dictator! Nothing big happens overnight.

There ought to be a commitment to democratic principles test as well for talking heads! And in America of all places . . . Should we rename it 'The Land of the Free (for us only -- the rest of the world be damned!)'?

Egypt, I salute your courage.

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