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Egyptian Memories

Reader comment on item: Denial: A River in Egypt

Submitted by GH (United States), Oct 9, 2002 at 14:21

Dear Mr. Pipes:
I've read several of your books and articles and I must say that you have some valuable advice on what both the West and the Islamic world must do if we're ever to get along.

I particularly enjoy your articles on Egypt, as I spent the better part of two years there and I know only too well how frustrating it is to try to reason with people who see themselves as the only ones who are "guided".

And you're right, everything bad that goes on over there--and practically everything that happens there IS bad--is invariably attributed to a Jewish conspiracy.

Fareed Esack, a South African Muslim scholar of Indian origin who is one of the few Muslims brave enough to speak his mind about this paranoid mode of thinking, writes in his book "On Being a Muslim" about a hijab-scandal some years ago. Apparently some Muslim women in Egypt bought hijabs which had crosses printed on them. These crosses, it was alleged, became bigger once the hijabs were washed.

It's easy to see how the presence of Christian crosses on a hijab--the very symbol of women's Islam in Egypt--angered Muslims, and within a short while the Egyptian press was spewing out stories about how the cloth for the hijabs came from Israel and that the Israelis had intentionally printed the crosses in them in order to stir up discord between Christians and Muslims.

Indeed the few Egyptians with whom I spoke who even acknowledge that Christians and Muslims don't get along believe that the Jews are to blame for the sectarian clashes in Egypt. The Jews, they told me, want to see Egyptians disunited. (Oh sure, as if Christians and Muslims in Egypt, when left to themselves, are "brothers"!)

Other Egyptians blame the Jews for turning Egypt into a materialistic society.

And Orientalism? That, too, is a Jewish conspiracy aimed at weakening the Muslims' faith. (Never mind the fact that the "evil" Jewish orientalists were the very ones who dreamt up the fairy-tale image of Muslim rule in Spain being a golden age when Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived in harmony--something that Muslim "historians" love to tell potential "reverts" to Islam.)

Though I support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, I find these conspiracy theories nothing short of infantile. Personally, I doubt that most Jews care about Islam one way or another; and I sincerely doubt that a country as small as Israel could have the disastrous abd far-reaching impact on the entire Islamic world which so many Egyptians--and other Muslims--believe it does.

Muslims need to look at where they have gone wrong through careful self-criticism. Having read the history of the Islamic world from the perspectives of both Muslim and non-Muslim authors, I would say that most of the problems which Muslims face today are Muslim-generated. I would think that this sort of critical introspection on the part of Muslims will make Muslims look far more broad-minded and rational than they appear to most Westerners today. As long as Muslims rant and rave about Jewsih conspiracies, no one will take them seriously when they talk about real problems, such as the Palestinian issue, or the war with Iraq, etc.

Yet Muslims who do advocate self-criticism are often ostracized, called "kafirs", jailed, or even killed. Look at what happened to Saad Eldin Ibrahim! Well, at least he's still alive. A less fortunate Egyptian was Farag Foda, who dared to question the legitimacy of a sharia-based state, and who advocated equal rights for Coptic Christians. Small wonder the Islamists killed him.

How ironic it is that Islamists get upset when people call them murderers, and then, in response to such charges, they spill blood!

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