I'm a fan of the anthropological term "culturally-bound." I think everyone is culturally-bound, and everyone has an obligation to struggle against the bindings. Though yes I tend to focus here on privileged Americans like myself.
Well, last week Robert Siegel of National Public Radio interviewed Amr Darrag, a leader of a Muslim Brotherhood-aligned political party in Egypt, about policies favored by Islamists. And you should read his last eight questions below-- but Siegel seemed to me to be culturally-bound in his nagging apprehension about Israeli security and his concerns about the role of women in Egypt.
I am entirely in Siegel's camp about women's roles in a traditional society--I just don't think secular western browbeating is the answer. But as to Siegel's four-times-expressed concern about Israeli security, the problem is that this concern excludes any expressed concern for the popular will in Egypt.
Darrag's answer to one of Siegel's questions re the peace treaty--
according to the international law, we have to respect all treaties and agreements of previous governments.... however, the other sides of these agreements have to realize that it's not a one-sided game and the Egyptian people, through the parliament, will have to monitor that
--naturally raises the issue of Palestinian rights, which were a prime component of the Camp David Accords, vitiated over 33 years. This is one of the reasons that Jimmy Carter has been so engaged; the treaty he orchestrated has been dishonored. But Siegel doesn't seem to care about that. Nor to care about how Egyptian Arabs feel about the rightslessness of Palestinians.
Siegel's questions bolster my judgmental feeling about American establishment liberals: that they tolerated a dictatorship in Egypt that went on for 30 years, subjugating 80 million people, because they cared more about Israel's freedom than Arab freedom. And they rationalized that support with a culturally-bound contempt: these people don't believe in women's rights, so who are they to demand democracy?
Siegel's last eight questions. I've highlighted the Israel bits:
SIEGEL: I want to hear a bit about what political Islam means to you and your party. We've heard some of your Egyptian supporters say that an Islamist-led parliament should change Egyptian family law - fathers' custody right should be stronger, the age at which can marry should be a lower age. Do you foresee any changes of that sort from a majority Islamist government?
SIEGEL: But I want to pursue that a little more, Mr. Darrag. When you say Islam means democracy, in fact, this has been problematic for Islamic countries. And certainly in your part of the world, we've associated Muslim countries with monarchies, with new dictatorial dynasties that have been created. Democracy has been hard to come by.
SIEGEL: Including equal rights for women, something that wouldn't have occurred to people for 1,400 years ago?
SIEGEL: The Muslim Brotherhood has been very critical of the old regime, the Mubarak regime's relationship with Israel. If your party gains control of Egyptian defense policy, will it secure the Sinai Peninsula and the border area with Israel, so that the only armed groups operating there will be the Egyptian armed forces - no militias, no terrorists?
SIEGEL: So any of Egypt's neighbors then, including Israel, will be able to count on Egypt to police the border and prevent any armed group from crossing over into their...
SIEGEL: The US gives Egypt $1 billion a year in military aid. Does your party welcome the continuation of that aid or would you prefer to see it discontinued?
SIEGEL: And you would intend to see that the treaty is maintained?
SIEGEL: But will the Egyptian people be offered a referendum to vote on revocation of the treaty with Israel?