Egyptian Columnist Criticizes Lack of Tolerance in the Arab World
Abd Al-Mun’im criticizes the proclivity among Arabs to persecute Christians and other minorities.
October 30, 2007 Egypt (MEMRI)-“A country may lack freedom for a number of reasons, which may be related to rulers [or] tyrants, as well as to the economic and social institutions [in that country]. In our days, these reasons are discussed aloud and repeatedly referred to by satellite channel presenters and journalists. But there is one reason that is never mentioned: Those who want freedom [for themselves] lose the power of speech when it comes to [safeguarding] the freedom of others – in particular with regard to political and social rights, especially freedom of religion.
“In all Arab states, we have all failed the test of freedom of religion and ethnic affiliation… even if [the group in question] shared our same religion or school of thought. When Saddam Hussein slaughtered and interred the Kurds, the Arab nation remained silent, or murmured in astonishment. This silence implied empathy with this [i.e. Saddam Hussein’s] Fascist regime’s fight against imperialism, and fear of Kurdish autonomy – the latter construed as a possible cause of Iraq ‘s disintegration, while we wish for its unity. What is especially surprising is that the Arabs’ silence on the Kurdish issue is one of the factors that ultimately led to the American invasion of Iraq and the Kurds’ de facto independence, even if [de jures] the Kurdish region [will be] part of the not-yet-established Iraq Federation.
“In Egypt in particular, we have failed more than one test [of freedom of religion], i.e., as concerns the Baha’i and Christians converting to Islam. Denying freedom of religion [to these two groups] was explained just like it was in all [other] cases [of human rights] violation – [by claiming that these religions are connected with] colonialism and that their validity vis-à-vis other religions is therefore [suspect]. And what happened in Egypt happened in other Arab countries as well.”
“Personal Freedom Starts When the Weakest of the Weak [Are Granted] Freedom!”
“It is for this very reason that freedom of religion has, throughout history, been one of the most significant cornerstones of freedom in general. Inasmuch as freedom, in the final reckoning, amounts to the ability to choose, it is the strong, the rich, and the majority – since the latter have the means and resources – that always enjoy a wider choice of different possibilities. [Such freedom, however] comes to naught for an individual or for a group that is weak, marginal, or a minority whose religion no one understands.
“The connection between faith and freedom becomes obvious when it comes to defending the weak, or those who have been marginalized for holding views different [from those of the mainstream]. Defending such people is the first [step] towards defending the personal and political freedom of members of a [certain] political group.
“As long as the strong are always tyrants, murderers, and torturers of the weak, there is no reason to be surprised at the results of actions by the majority, or simply by those with the guns and cannon.
“Personal freedom begins when the weakest among the weak [are granted] freedom!”