08 March 2013
American 'Indian givers' and a 'woman of courage'
Here's a little story that may give an idea of the Obama administration's global priorities. A little while ago the government wanted to honor an Egyptian activist, Samira Ibrahim, with the "International Woman of Courage" award. Ibrahim's particular agenda is to end the Egyptian government's harassing practice of performing "virginity tests" on female protesters who happen to get arrested. Having been subjected to one herself, as well as getting manhandled by soldiers, Ibrahim looked like a natural heroine to progressive-minded Americans. Time magazine ranked her among the 100 most influential people on earth in its annual bout of wishful thinking. Honoring her looked like a relatively unprovocative way of promoting civility in Egypt. The administration was then shocked to learn -- it learned this from a writer for the neocon Weekly Standard -- that as an Egyptian Muslim, Ibrahim doesn't like Jews very much, and likes the state of Israel less. Just as surprisingly, she isn't even really that great a fan of the United States -- or so some "tweets" credited to her suggest. She supposedly celebrated the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. on their most recent anniversary and quoted Adolf Hitler favorably to the effect that Jews have a hand in everything bad. To be fair, and as Fox News reports, Ibrahim is claiming that someone hacked her Twitter account, presumably to make derogatory comments in her name, but really -- should it have surprised anyone in the American government to learn that a politically conscious Egyptian dislikes Israel and the U.S? Taking this for granted, the question becomes whether the alleged insult to the U.S. and its "ally" matters more than the work Ibrahim was doing for women's civil rights in Egypt. If the issue is to encourage civility in that country, Ibrahim's opinion of other countries or religions, no matter how obnoxious some may see it, should not be relevant. But I suppose the last thing the President and Secretary Kerry want to see are headlines in American media saying that their administration is honoring an anti-Semite who approved of "Nine-Eleven." So now the award is "postponed" (according to the Washington Post) or "revoked" (according to Fox). Regardless of whether someone hacked her account to smear her in American eyes, you can imagine the message this sends to someone supposedly advocating, at her own risk, greater democracy in Egypt. That the message was received can be inferred from her statement refusing to apologize to the "Zionist lobby" for anything. If the tweets are hers, do they prove her less courageous? Or did American liberals only think her courageous because they mistook her for one of them? Real courage on the part of those giving the award would have included saying, "it doesn't matter what you think of us." But when was that ever true?