By Barry Rubin
What’s so terrible about the ideological/agenda-based domination of the mass media and academia is that people don’t ask critical questions that undermine their political positions. Here’s one:
The Egyptian government says it will put on criminal trial 16 people who distributed funds to Egyptian moderates from pro-democracy forces. One of them is the son of U.S. Labor Secretary Ray LaHood. The prosecutions are going forward despite Obama Administration threats to cut off all aid to Egypt, which mostly goes to the Egyptian military which happens to run the country at present.
So here’s the question: If Egypt’s government is ready for a confrontation risking its U.S. aid over this tiny and insignificant issue then why should we believe that the fear of losing U.S. aid will keep it from imposing Islamization on its people, sponsoring anti-Israel terrorism, becoming entangled in a war with Israel, and doing all sorts of much more important stuff?
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Haven’t seen that anywhere else, right? But doesn’t this incident undercut all of the soothing words about how Egypt (or Libya or other countries taken over by Islamists) will be constrained by such things?
And here’s a bonus question: Does anyone in those Islamist circles take Obama seriously as someone to fear?
Well, consider this.
Normal president: The Egyptian government is holding Americans as hostages. Therefore, I will withhold any proposal for more aid to Egypt until they are released!
Obama: The Egyptian government is holding Americans as hostages. Therefore, I will now introduce a proposal to give $800 million in aid to the new Arab governments, mostly to Egypt.
Get it? This administration either has no idea of how proper diplomacy and statecraft works or doesn’t care. Either way, it is a disaster.
Now if you are a real moderate in the Arabic-speaking world, Turkey, or Iran, you know that your future looks very dim. You don’t draw your interpretations from the Western media. You don’t tremble at being thought an Islamophobe because you probably are a Muslim yourself. So what do you do?
Another email arrives in my box. Things are getting too tough for a secular-oriented person like me, the writr says. Can you help find me a job in a place that still has academic freedom?
I already have a collection of such messages and stories. There’s the engineer who found a teaching job in China; the journalist who is now in sub-Saharan Africa after being threatened with death; and the newly arrived Turkish Jews I’ve met in England, Canada, and the United States who have no illusions about the nature of the Ankara regime.
Suddenly, there are communities of thousands of Egyptian Christians in Europe, the United States, and Canada who weren’t there a little while ago. There is the well-known blogger who is now in the New World and the democracy activist who has jumped out of the fire and into Washington DC.
And then there are the people who are talking about getting out. “You’re crazy,” says a relative of a more optimistic friend of mine to her complacent kinsman. “These people are building a dictatorship. I’m getting out of here with the children while there’s still time.”
Sensing what’s happening and going to happen, those who can get out are getting out. They include dedicated liberals who dreamed of democracy and talented professionals who see no future in their homelands. Sure, lots of people would have loved to migrate before but now they are either packing up or dusting off the suitcases. And their goal isn’t just to get a better life materially but to have a life at all. They are, or will soon be, genuine political refugees with a well-founded fear of persecution.
I wonder how much higher are the number of visa applications from Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey to North America, Europe, and Australia. Watch for their specialty stores, the churches of regional denominations, the ethnic restaurants opening in a neighborhood near you.
And they will find that the local extremists have preceded them there.
I especially recall two conversations, one in Melbourne, Australia, and the other in Toronto, Canada. In the first, the man told me how he had left Lebanon to get away from radical Islamists only to be once again living among them at the other end of the earth. “Australians are naive,” he said, “they have no idea what’s being said in Arabic here.” A leading Australian politician told me of how Hizballah supporters held regular public meetings in his district.
In Toronto, I was coming out of the provincial parliament building when a man from Pakistan struck up a conversation, thinking I was an influential legislator. He told me of how his community in Toronto is full of radical Islamists and of how scared he is. The man recounted that Islamists had taken over part of an official government building, against Canadian law, and turned into a mosque where radical ideology was preached. A friend of mine checked it out and h his information was completely correct. Canadian officials were indifferent to this violation.
If you have the chance do try to help these refugees who are fleeing Islamist tyranny by going to lands where saying there is such a thing as Islamist tyranny might be against the law. Because when these moderates, these women seeking to live modern lives, these Christians and Jews arrive in the lands of freedom they will find no demonstrations in support of them by the locals; no university teach-ins, no concerned media, no awareness of their plight, little eagerness to hear their stories among the local people.
While hope and change celebrations for the Middle East are being held in the West, people are reading the writing on the wall in those lands. A year or two from now you will be hearing a lot about it but not now, when it might not be too late to prevent the exodus.
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, has just been 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