Portuguese / Spanish / English

Middle East Near You

First respect Muslims in America, then you can talk about Copts' rights

Officials in Washington act as if Egypt is under a US mandate ruled by an American High Commissioner who receives his orders direct from Capitol Hill. Such is my conclusion at the way that US officials issue provocative directives about internal Egyptian affairs.

The US administration is still unable to recognise and accept that Egypt has undergone a great popular revolution one of the prime objectives of which was to get rid of a dictator who ruled according to America's will for 40 years and took part in all US wars in the region directly or indirectly.


When US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta visited Egypt and met President Mohamed Morsi he demonstrated the worst of US interference in Egyptian affairs when he asked for a broad coalition government to be formed. According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who gave a long speech about religious freedom in Egypt, the Egyptian people as well as the international community are waiting for Dr Morsi to form a coalition government which includes women and Christians.

All that remains is for Clinton and Panetta to produce a list of the people they would like to be appointed as minsters in the new government in Cairo, which is due to be announced tomorrow.

Dr Mostafa al-Fiqqi, the Egyptian writer and former information officer in the office of the ousted Hosni Mubarak, once said that any new Egyptian president must have been accepted by the US and not opposed by Israel. It seems that this way of choosing a president, which we thought had fallen into disuse on the fall of Mubarak, is still in place. There are some people who genuinely think that it may still be valid during this revolutionary age.

In the light of the plans targeting the disintegration of the Arab region under brilliant but deceitful slogans, we would not be shocked if one day we wake up to a proposal for Egypt to be split in two, losing its national and social integrity on the pretext of the loss of religious freedom for minorities.
The US has become the main, indeed the sole, self-appointed contractor protecting religious and democratic freedoms and respect for human rights in the Arab region. It is ready for military intervention if need be.

Only two years ago, the main question in the corridors of US political and security institutions was, why do Arabs and Muslims hate America? Giant PR companies were hired, satellite channels were launched and delegations of experts were sent to change the ugly perception of the US in the minds of Arabs and Muslims.

Today, following the killing of one million Iraqis and creation of four million Iraqi orphans, the question has to be asked: why do the Arabs love the Americans while they still support Israel and its settlers, sign unprecedented defence treaties with it, promise to defend it and its security with all means at their disposal, and call for Jerusalem to be recognised as its capital?

The overwhelming majority of the Arabic satellite channels glorify the US, praise its generosity with us Arabs and Muslims, and compliment its great principles which support freedom and fight oppression against Arabs. Some of the Arab opposition leaders even regard Washington as the only peaceful saviour for their situation.

There is no doubt that we will not bargain away the protection of religious freedom, not only in Egypt, but also across the Arab region; freedom of sects and freedom of faiths. We support the right of Egypt's Coptic Christians to equal citizenship and to practice their rituals without any kind of harassment, and we support their right to build churches just as Muslims build mosques. The Copts are part of Egypt's social history and partners in the culture and the country. If they have been subject to harassment in the past or are being harassed now, this must stop because respect and tolerance are prime values in Islam.

What is galling, though, is that the US and its Secretary of State impose themselves on the Egyptians and see only themselves as their protectors. They have short memories, for it was successive US administrations which supported corrupt Arab dictators who oppressed both Muslims and Copts, and it is still supporting some of them. It seems that Ms Clinton also forgets that her country has challenged the religious freedom of American Muslims in her own backyard on the pretext of security concerns.

Unlike the American Muslim who flies in to New York, Chicago, Miami or Boston, the Egyptian Copt is not harassed at Cairo Airport when he returns to his country. Muslims visiting the United States from the Middle East or Europe, even when they have a visa issued by the US Embassy in their home country, will face lengthy interrogation at the port of entry to the USA. Some are even turned back, despite the pre-arranged visa. First respect Muslims in the US, Ms Clinton, then you can talk about Copts' rights in Egypt.

We do not know how President Morsi is going to respond to the clear American interference in Egyptian affairs, especially with regards to the Clinton and Panetta diktats about the makeup of the new government. Any response has to be firm in the spirit of the revolution which returned dignity and sovereignty to the people of Egypt. The age of dependency has ended and Egypt is no longer under a US mandate.

The author is editor- in-chief of Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper. This article is a translation of the Arabic version which appeared in Al Quds Al Arabi on 1 August 2012

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

Categories
ArticleMiddle East
Show Comments
Show Comments