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Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Guide: How Not to Say Stupid Stuff about Egypt


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via Inside Islam by Colin on 2/2/11

Since the international media started following the situation in Egypt closely, a number of inaccurate, ignorant, and occasionally racist commentary from otherwise reputable new sources have been passed over without a thought. Since we write about Islam and Muslims, and Egypt is 90% Muslim, we thought it was relevant. And funny. The blogger Sarthanapalos has received a great deal of attention for this response:

"The past few days I have heard so many stupid things from friends, blogs, pundits, correspondents, politicians, experts, writers that I want to pull my hair.  So, I will not beat around the bush, I will be really blunt and give you a handy list to keep you from offending Egyptians, Arabs and the world when you discuss, blog or talk about Egypt. . . . .

  • "I am so impressed at how articulate Egyptians are." Does this sound familiar?  Imagine saying this about a Latino or African American?  You don't say it.  So don't say it about Egyptians. Gee, thank you oh great person who is of limited experience and human contact for recognizing that out of 80 million people some could be articulate, educated and speak many languages. Not cool. Don't say it. You may think it, but it makes you sound dumb. . . .
  • "This is so sad": No, sad were the thirty years of oppression, repression and torture. . . .

The Muslim Brotherhood is not on the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. It renounced violence in the 1970s and has no active militia (although a provocative martial arts demonstration in December 2006 raised some alarm that they may be regrouping a militia.)

Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan Al Muslimun in Arabic, is frequently mentioned in relation to groups such as Hamas and Al Qaeda. . . . . 

  • "The women are so brave": Egyptian women have always been brave. If you want to know about Sadat's Egypt, read Nawal El Saadawi's memoir while in jail.  Memoirs from the Women's Prison
  • "Al Jazeera has come to it's own": Al Jazeera has been on it's own, you just only noticed. . . . .
  • "If they get Democracy they will elect extremists." Imagine if the world said that about America. The Tea Party threatens world stability, as did the Bush administration. How would you like if others used that as a threat to support an autocrat who made all opposing parties illegal? In truth, US politics threaten world stability more than Egypt does. Second, the implication is that democracy is not to be trusted in the hands of "certain" nations, people and religions is offensive, racist and ignorant. You do not claim to value human rights, democracy and freedom and then you make exclusions based on race, nationality and religion. Don't say this . . . . .
  • "The people are so nice":  Yes they are, it's your ignorant self that assumed they are all terrorists and fanatics. What did you think? Glad you went to Egypt and found the Egyptians nice. After all, they do have a cosmopolitan civilization of over 5,000 years, yet you reduced them to "rag heads,"  "jihadists," "ali babas," "terrorists," the list is endless. Imagine saying this about African Americans? Asians?  Nope. Just don't say it. It's patronizing.

It's time Egyptians were heard.  It's time the pundits and "Egypt hands" (old recycled western diplomats) were retired. These people were as good at predicting the current events as our economists were in predicting the economic calamity. I am glad you all got to see things from Egypt outside your comfort zone. Maybe now, you can give Egyptians and Arabs some respect.  The people in Egypt are struggling for human rights, dignity and freedom. Like the rest of us, they want the economic means to care for their families. Break down those closed ideas that dehumanize the Arab and Egyptian people in general.  That is all I ask."

Sarthanapalos may be strong with words, but there is a growing consensus within the western media that some commentators are getting away with statements that are backed up with little more than hearsay–especially in reference to what the Muslim Brotherhood stands for. Regardless of one's political, social, or religious views, it's important that the media, all around the world, become more rigorous in their research and demonstrate a higher level of assuredness before broadcasting bold statements.


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