Thursday, March 29, 2012

The High Cost of Freedom in Egypt and the Middle East

I am writing this post in response to the alarming news that my friend Dr. Maikel Nabil Sanad shared with me.  He is the founder of a unique Egyptian democratic movement that focuses not only on traditional concerns like freedom of speech, expression, and the press – but also upon broader strategic issues such as embracing pacifism, supporting Israel and the Jews, and ending militarism and conscription. 

Maikel was imprisoned for ten months from March 2011 to January 2012, spending much of that time on hunger strike to protest his illegal imprisonment and to draw public attention to the military tribunals which are systematically persecuting thousands of Egyptian citizens.  In addition, he told me that at least two of his followers in Egypt were murdered last year while campaigning for his release from prison.  One of them, Mohammad Gamal, was assassinated in downtown Cairo after participating in a demonstration to free Maikel from prison.  Another one of his followers was killed by a car during a protest for his release in his hometown of Assiyut. 

The Egyptian military needs to be held accountable by Israel and the West for these murders.  Maikel and his followers are risking their lives for the sake of freedom and for expressing their solidarity with Israel and the Jews under incredibly dangerous conditions.  The West is abandoning the ideal of freedom, human dignity, and democracy by leaving Maikel and his supporters to the tender clutches of their persecutors.  In addition, I believe Israel and the Jews have a moral responsibility to publicly support Maikel and his followers because they are taking such enormous risks to their safety, freedom, and lives every day as they speak up forcefully and bravely in defense of Israel and the Jews. 

Maikel is supporting feminism in a country where 80% of rural Egyptian women are beaten by their husbands.  Maikel is campaigning for pacifism in a place where the military holds nearly absolute political power.  Maikel is standing up to anti-Semitism and speaking up for Israel and the Jews in a country where the official ideology of the military and society is one of genocidal hatred and ideological war against the Jews.  He is an atheist in a country dominated by radical Islam.  In standing up for his beliefs, he is challenging the mindset of both official ideology and majority public opinion on every major issue in Egyptian politics.  He is a brave man who is standing up for what is right under incredibly harsh circumstances.  He needs the support of Israel and the West as he confronts the enormously powerful  alliance of radical Islam and the military against the forces of democracy, modernity, and moderation. 

Unfortunately, the West is also refusing to support the cause of freedom in Syria and Iran as well.  Thus, the appeasement of the Egyptian military is simply part of a broader pattern of supporting tyranny and abandoning the forces of democracy and dignity in the Middle East. The decision of the US government to grant the Egyptian military aid unconditionally is an immoral, strategically wrong decision that is profoundly harmful to the cause of freedom in Egypt.   The West is effectively doing nothing to stop Assad from systematically murdering the Syrian people because they found the courage to rise up for freedom.  And President Obama also sided with the Iranian regime against the Iranian people when the Iranian nation rose up to claim its dignity and freedom in 2009.  The tyrants in Cairo, Damascus, and Tehran can take comfort from knowing the West stands with them against the forces of freedom.  And sadly the freedom fighters in the Middle East cannot even count on the moral solidarity of the Western and Israeli peoples either.  

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