Among the Accomplishments of the Egyptian Military Government Is Facilitation of Suicide

20170812 facilitating suicide

In the wake of the horrific train accident in Alexandria, Egypt, this satirical tweet points out an important lesson for people in the United States who attribute chaos to the uprisings against the dictators and monarchs the United States government supports. Here’s my translation:

Before, the person who wanted to commit suicide had to throw himself under the wheels of the train. As for now, it is quite sufficient for him simply to ride it.

On May 14, 2017, Egyptian dictator Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi claimed that the recurring losses of the train system in Egypt precluded further investment:

By ignoring public health and safety and the environment and consumer protection, the U.S.-friendly governments of southwest Asia and north Africa kill far more people than ISIS or whoever the bogeyman of the month is. The ones they kill through torture, execution and the dire conditions of their prisons are simply icing on the cake.

The idea that dictators and monarchs provide stability is wrong. Ask your legislators to end US government support for these governments. Ending aid to Egypt and refusing cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are great places to start.

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Problems with Political Movements with Religious Identification

Islamists in Egypt May Technically Be in the Right Now, But Long-Term Prospects are Poor

Events in Egypt following President Mohammad Morsi’s decrees of November 22, 2012 trouble me greatly. The opposition calling for a suspension of the referendum on the Constitution is rejecting the flawed elections process which brought the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) into power in both the legislative assemblies and the presidency and thus is anti-democratic. It believes the proposed constitution is terrible, yet it is convinced that it could not defeat it in the referendum. So it has chosen the path of obstruction of the process. Terribly disturbing reactions of the government and its supporters have further escalated the situation. I hope that a compromise can be reached and that a stable, democratic, nationalist, social-justice and human-rights respecting process can be implemented. My fear is that the FJP will align with the military to enforce a neo-liberal, socially conservative regime characterized by widespread human rights abuses and disregard for the poor.

The real problem with the Muslim Brotherhood and all other religiously-identified political movements, be they among Muslims, Christians or others, is that they confuse the ethical teachings of religion which may be applicable to national development with the ritual teachings of religion that have nothing to do with national development.

Is Egypt weak because Egyptians are bad Muslims? I say, “Yes, that is certainly a factor. Good Muslims don’t lie. Good Muslims don’t participate in torture. Good Muslims work hard. Good Muslims blow the whistle when they discover that the government or a corporation is doing something to threaten the public’s welfare.” Now substitute the word Christians or atheists for Muslims in the above passage, and it is just as true.

Is Egypt suffering because of the recreational intoxicants, religiously-prohibited sex, and expressions which contradict religious teachings which draw the ire of Islamists? From a religious point of view, I say, “Yes, it is.” But what can an Islamist-dominated government do to solve this? Does repression actually make a population more pious? Iran’s experience should demonstrate that the quickest way to cause the population to hate Islam is to govern repressively in its name.

So if the government based on ideology (capitalism, socialism, Islam) fails to solve problems such as poor public education, widespread substance abuse, environmental degradation, colonialist encroachments and food shortages, the government’s typical solution is to double-down on its ideological commitment, typically accompanied by imagining historical golden ages.

Combine this with idealogues’ ambivalent relationship to diversity and pluralism, and repression of political and cultural opponents is a strong possibility.

Read Shirin Ebadi’s memoir for another perspective on this issue.

US Security Class and N African-SW Asian Revolutions

This blog entry contains sources I cited and supplemental sources in my talk at the University of South Carolina’s Amnesty International chapter meeting on the Arab Spring.

Arms transfers to North Africa – Southwest Asia

Christians in Egypt

Egyptians providing media content in English

Others providing media content in English

Photos on Flickr

Books

10 things USA activists can do to support the revolutions!

Would non-Muslims stop misusing the term jihad to attack their political enemies?

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Props to Haroon Moghul for Jihad Chai Latte, an article he wrote in response to The New York Times columnist Joe Norcera’s misuse of the term jihad in an attack on the United States Tea Party.

I had seen on Twitter the term teahadist, and there’s even a Twitter account by that name.

Whatever the merits of the criticism of the Tea Party, it’s a misuse of the Muslim religious term jihad and contributes to Islamophobia. Many Muslims suggest using the Muslim religious term hiraba for terrorist violence. Tearabist, people!

Jihad is a meritorious act in Islam. Before you set the FBI on me, understand that to me, and to most Muslims, jihad is effort expended for a good cause. When it involves military action, it is subject to the conditions similar to Christians’ Just War doctrines.*

Think about the English term crusades. A Twitter search of the term reveals its use as defined at dictionary.com.

any vigorous, aggressive movement for the defense or advancement of an idea, cause, etc.: a crusade against child abuse.

So why are liberal commentators using jihad pejoratively when there is an authentic Muslim term to describe terroristic violence pejoratively and an authentic English word that can carry both positive and negative connotations?

In May 2014, a glaring example of liberal Islamophobia was published by Tennesseans for Preservation of Personal Privacy in the Tennessee Times Free Press. Read more.

Retired Major General Perry Smith, a local columnist at The Augusta Chronicle, wrote regarding the Arab revolutionaries:

These moderate leaders are sometimes called the Arab revolutionaries counter-jihadists.

In my following of the revolutions, I’ve never seen any participant call themselves counter-jihadists, and I’ve certainly seen revolutions use Muslim religious terms like jihad to describe their efforts and shaheed (“martyr”, another term Islamophobes often distort) to describe those killed by the oppressive regimes.

Examples:

A search on the term counter-jihadist returned sites of Islamophobes, discussions of the Norwegian terrorist and non-Muslims’ descriptions of Muslims’ efforts to discourage hiraba. So I’m not sure where General Ellis came across the term.

The column is correct in that the revolutionaries’ use of mass non-violent techniques is a repudiation of hiraba. The revolutions are, in my opinion, the only effective way to end hiraba. It is certainly more effective than the measures of the United States’s Global War on Terror (GWOT).

One last point regarding General Smith’s editorial. He recommended some books at the end of the column, among them a book by Robin Wright. I’d recommend ignoring being cautious about everything Robin Wright and Thomas Friedman write.

*I personally think that changes in the nature of war have rendered nearly all forms of religiously-sanctioned war impossible to support.

P.S. Although the example I used was from the political left, the political right misuses Muslim religious terms as well.

Updated September 16, 2016: Egyptian man of letters in 1938 uses the word jihad on the tongues of his French friends.