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If Tourists Can Wear Bikinis But Local Women Must Wear Chadors Does That Prove the Muslim Brotherhood is Moderate?

By Barry Rubin

The answer to that headline is, “No. But seeming to answer ‘yes’ proves the West is hypocritical about supporting human rights.”
Oh, wait, what if a democratically elected government decides to enforce such a system in a law legally passed by a democratically elected government? I guess that’s just democracy in action.

The Western media is obsessed with whether the new, Islamist-dominated Egyptian government will let tourists wear bikinis. When some Islamist leader says that there will be no dress code for tourists–due to the desire to keep getting tourist dollars–journalists pronounce the Muslim Brotherhood to be pragmatic, as in this Los Angeles Times article.

While Brotherhood leaders seem to disagree on this issue, I can see the outlines of a “deal” that will prove to Westerners that the Brotherhood is going to be “moderate” in power, nothing to worry about, and therefore an organization that should be spoken of sympathetically. Ready to hear the “deal?” Here it is:

A few hundred visiting Western women will be able to wear bikinis on isolated beaches in expensive resorts where almost no Egyptian will see them.

Tens of millions of Egyptian women will be forced to wear all-enveloping black robes and veils.

Sound fair enough?

Then the Islamist-ruled countries will have a motto to parallel Karl Marx’s Communist slogan of 1848. The new one goes:

Burkas of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your lack of chains!

So cheering the return of Egyptian women into near-slavery is just fine as long as the rulers show how modern and pragmatic they are by letting visiting Western women dress as they please. That’s a really good example of how contemporary Western “liberals” practice their claims of sympathy for Third World peoples.

Where is the Western feminist movement at the moment that tens of millions of sisters desperately need its support, and for many things other than just being able to choose their own wardrobe?

Of course, many Egyptian women already do dress that way either voluntarily or due to family and social pressure. Those who don’t will either be made to do so by regulations or, more likely, through the fear of being beaten up by Islamists, either Brotherhood, Salafist, or both. An Islamist regime–through propaganda, education, etc.–will also harden family’s demands that women dress that way even without a law being passed. If a woman persists, and few will, she might just be killed and the state courts will either not persecute or not punish the perpetrators.

Note: The title of this article is a play on Jonathan Swift’s sarcastic 1729 essay on how the British could “humanely” solve the problem of hunger in Ireland, by having the Irish eat their own children.

By the way, MEMRI has done something that any Western media outlet (highly financed, highly staffed) or think tank could have done during the last year but didn’t. It just went to the official Muslim Brotherhood website and translated some of the many antisemitic, anti-American, and extremely radical articles there. Note that this is an official site and nothing goes on it unless it meets the group’s ideological and policy requirements. To coin a phrase, a translation is worth 10,000 words of blather about “moderate Islamists.”

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com 

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