U.S. high fives Egypt, sticks tongue out at Iran

3 11 2007

I guess maybe you’ve heard by now about the U.S. backing Egypt’s nuclear power program. It alarmingly hypocritical, given that we’re itching for war with Iran over the same thing.

To be fair I have to point out that, right now, the Egyptian government is much more favorably disposed to the U.S. (and to Israel) than Iran. But Mubarak is not going to live forever, and the Muslim Brotherhood is gaining more support in Egypt daily. Which makes our support for the Egyptian nuclear program seem somewhat foolish – if we are labeling the clerical government in Iran dangerous, an Egyptian government lead by the Muslim Brotherhood would have to be equally as dangerous. And such a government is possible in the near future.

But that is not really the point. The point is that this is the kind of behavior that engenders resentment of the U.S. We are clearly not concerned with nuclear proliferation here – we’re concerned with making sure our buddies get what they want, and that anyone who opposes us doesn’t.

And people don’t appreciate being bullied like that.

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Al-Ahram Weekly: Why the West Attacks Us

14 09 2007

While I think it’s probably somewhat beyond the scope of a columnist to piece out what the tension between the West and Islam* consists of, I think this editorial piece in Al-Ahram gets pretty insightful toward the middle.

Note to the uninitiated: when he uses the word “Darwinist,” he’s not using it in the sense American Christian fundamentalists use it, to mean “person who believes in evolution.” As far as I know evolution is not a contentious subject in many places besides the United States. Instead, he’s using it to refer to a survival-of-the-fittest mentality.

From Al-Ahram Weekly: Why the West Attacks Us

Surely one of the foremost factors to have fanned the flames between the West and the Islamic world is the West’s Darwinian modernism, which has translated itself into a voracious consumerism requiring an imperialist edifice with an unquenchable thirst for the world’s energy resources to feed it. Most of the world’s energy resources happen to be situated in the Islamic world. It is little wonder, therefore, that the modernist imperialist order fired by its rabid consumerism set its predatory sights on this part of the planet and swooped down so rapidly on Afghanistan and Iraq. It needed to get its clutches on the world’s largest reserves of oil, in the Caspian Sea and in the Middle East, in order to protect its national security, as it defines it, and safeguard the flow of oil at reasonable prices and in sufficient quantities to nourish exponentially growing consumer demand in the US and elsewhere in the West.

The West is not hostile to Islam, per se. It is hostile to a resistant Islam, an Islam that challenges the West’s Darwinism and consumerism. A docile and obsequious Islam is something else; the West is perfectly willing to accept and work with this. Western antagonism towards Islam is not of an abstract metaphysical order; it has tangible historical roots. When this part of the world attempted to resist the onslaught of Western colonialism via the banner of Arab nationalism, the West allied itself with Islamist movements against Arab nationalism. It was only when Arab nationalism receded and Arab resistance raised an Islamic banner that the West began to lash out at Islam. Remember, Bin Laden was originally trained by the US to fight Washington’s war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Western Darwinian modernism is not only hostile towards resistant Islam, but also towards all movements that espouse humanitarian values. It, therefore, opposes left-wing Christian groups that defend the poor and environmentalist groups. But it nonetheless perceives Islam as the greatest potential threat. As such, the West does not perceive Muslims and Arabs as autonomous human societies with their own legitimate aspirations and goals, but rather as pliable matter that must be made to submit and be forced into an iron cage — the cage of ever spiralling production and consumption for the sole purpose of material comfort and worldly pleasure. For us merely to suggest other values and aspirations, such as attachment to the land, the defence of pride and dignity, the rejection of laws of competition as the ultimate arbiter, is to doom ourselves to being pegged, in Western eyes, as irrational creatures.

*In fact I don’t often find this dichotomy useful, and I don’t tend to like arguments that use it. But I think that in the United States the conflict between cultures is often boiled down to “Muslims don’t want our values,” which we tend to define as like, sex on television or something, and thus we end up painting Muslims as unsophisticated people. This editorial makes it clear that it’s a much broader conflict than that.





Daily Star: Mufti’s ‘hymen fatwa’ causes shock waves among scholars

13 09 2007

This was published in February but is apparently still the most read article on the Daily Star’s website.

According to the article, the Grand Mufti of Egypt Aly Gomaa has confirmed a fatwa that states that reconstructive hymen surgery for women who have lost their virginity before marriage is halal, or religiously permissible.

Sheikh Khaled El Gindy, member of the Higher Council of Islamic Studies, told the Daily Star that he agrees with Gomaa.

From the article:

“Islam never differentiates between men and women, so it is not rational for us to think that God has placed a sign to indicate the virginity of women without having a similar sign to indicate the virginity of men,” El Gindy said.

“Any man who is concerned about his prospective wife’s hymen should first provide a proof that he himself is virgin,” he added.

Read the article