Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
Last week, Egypt’s chief prosecutor issued arrest warrants against eight US citizens.
Their purported crimes relate either to their reported involvement in the production of the Internet movie critical of Islam that has received so much attention over the past 10 days, or to other alleged anti-Islamic activities.
One of the US citizens indicted is a woman who converted from Islam to Christianity.
According to the Associated Press, Egypt’s general prosecution issued a statement announcing that the eight US citizens have been indicted on charges of insulting and publicly attacking Islam, spreading false information, and harming Egyptian national unity.
The statement stipulated that they could face the death penalty if convicted.
The AP write-up of the story quoted Mamdouh Ismail, a Salafi attorney who praised the prosecution’s move. He claimed it would deter others from exercising their right to free expression in regards to Islam. As he put it, the prosecutions will “set a deterrent for them and anyone else who may fall into this.” That is, they will deter others from saying anything critical about Islam.
This desire to intimidate free people into silence on Islam is clearly the goal the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood seek to achieve through their protests of the anti-Islamic movie. This was the message of Muslim Brotherhood chief Yussuf Qaradawi. Three days after the anti-American assaults began on the anniversary of the September 11 jihadist attacks on America, Qaradawi gave a sermon on Qatar television, translated by MEMRI.
Qaradawi struck a moderate tone. He called on his followers to stop rioting against the US. Rather than attack the US, Qaradawi urged his Muslim audience to insist that the US place prohibitions on the free speech rights of American citizens by outlawing criticism of Islam – just as the Europeans have done in recent years in the face of Islamic terror and intimidation.
In his words, “We say to the US: You must take a strong stance and try to confront this extremism like the Europeans do. This [anti-Islamic film] is not art. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech. This is nothing but curses and insults. Does the freedom to curse and insult constitute freedom of speech?”
Both the actions of the Egyptian prosecution and Qaradawi’s sermon prove incontrovertibly that the two policies the US has adopted since September 11, 2001, to contend with Muslim hatred for the US have failed. The neoconservative policy of supporting the democratization of Muslim societies adopted by President Barack Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush has failed. And the appeasement policy adopted by Obama has also failed.
Bush’s democratization policy claimed that the reason the Muslim world had become a hotbed for anti-Americanism and terror was that the Muslim world was not governed by democratic regimes. Once the peoples of the Muslim world were allowed to be free, and to freely elect their governments, the neoconservatives proclaimed, they would abandon their hatred of America.
As a consequence of this belief, when the anti-regime protests against the authoritarian Mubarak regime began in January 2011, the neoconservatives were outspoken supporters of the overthrow of then-president Hosni Mubarak, despite the fact that he had been the US’s key ally in the Arab world for three decades. They supported the political process that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power. They supported the process despite the fact that Qaradawi is the most influential cleric in Egypt. They supported it despite the fact that just days after Mubarak was ousted from power, Qaradawi arrived at Cairo’s Tahrir Square and before an audience of two million followers, he called for the invasion of Israel and the conquest of Jerusalem.
In the event, the Egyptian people voted for Qaradawi’s Muslim Brotherhood and for the Salafi party. The distinction between the two parties is that Qaradawi and the Muslim Brotherhood are willing to resort to both violent and nonviolent ways to dominate the world in the name of Islam. The Salafis abjure nonviolence. So while Qaradawi called for the riots to end in order to convince the Americans to criminalize criticism of Islam, his Salafi counterparts called for the murder of everyone involved in producing the anti-Islamic film.
For instance, Salafi cleric Ahmad Fouad Ashoush issued a fatwa on Islamic websites last weekend calling for American and European Muslims to murder those involved with the movie. His religious ruling was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group on Monday.
Ashoush wrote, “Those bastards who did this film are belligerent disbelievers. I issue a fatwa and call on the Muslim youth in America and Europe to do this duty, which is to kill the director, the producer and the actors and everyone who helped and promoted the film.
“So, hurry, hurry, O Muslim youth in America and Europe, and teach those filthy lowly ones a lesson that all the monkeys and pigs in America and Europe will understand. May Allah guide you and grant you success.”
These are the voices of democratic Egypt. The government, which has indicted American citizens on capital charges for exercising their most fundamental right as Americans, is a loyal representative of the sentiments of the Egyptian people who freely elected it. The Salafi preacher is a loyal representative of the segment of the Egyptian people that made the Salafi party the second largest in the Egyptian parliament. Qaradawi’s call for the abolition of freedom of speech in America – as has happened in Europe – and to ban all criticism of Islam is subscribed to by millions and millions of Muslims worldwide who consider him one of the leading Sunni clerics in the world.
Free elections in Egypt have empowered the Egyptian people to use the organs of governance to advance their hatred of America. Their hatred has been empowered, and legitimized, not diminished as the neoconservatives had hoped.
The behavior of the Egyptian government, Qaradawi and the Salafis also makes clear that Obama’s policy of appeasing the Muslim world has failed completely. Whereas Bush believed the source of Muslim hatred was their political oppression at the hands of their regimes, Obama has blamed their rage and hatred on America’s supposed misdeeds.
By changing the way America treats the Muslim world, Obama believes he can end their hatred of America. To this end, he has reached out to the most anti-American forces and regimes in the region and spurned pro-American regimes and political forces.
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