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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "Can God Save Egypt?": No, Only Tom Can

As noted in prior blog entries, Thomas Friedman made numerous factual mistakes in a prior New York Times op-ed entitled "Iron Empires, Iron Fists, Iron Domes" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/12/open-letter-to-andrew-rosenthal-why-has.html), but thus far Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal and public editor Margaret Sullivan have not responded to my requests for corrections.

Friedman? Corrections? How could He possibly be mistaken? And, God forbid, if this would-be Middle East expert made ludicrous claims concerning his purported area of expertise, how might acknowledgement of these errors affect the celestial standing in which He holds himself?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Can God Save Egypt?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/opinion/friedman-can-god-save-egypt.html), Tom Terrific tackles the thorny issues of post-Mubarek Egypt. Having long sung paens to "the Arab Spring" and "The Arab Awakening" (over a year ago, Friedman, Kristof and Cohen went to pains to avoid bumping into each other in Cairo's Tahrir Square), Friedman now offers Egyptians the following advice to cope with renewed street fighting:

"God is not going to save Egypt. It will be saved only if the opposition here respects that the Muslim Brotherhood won the election fairly — and resists its excesses not with boycotts (or dreams of a coup) but with better ideas that win the public to the opposition’s side. And it will be saved only if Morsi respects that elections are not winner-take-all, especially in a society that is still defining its new identity, and stops grabbing authority and starts earning it. Otherwise, it will be all fall down."

Tom would have us believe that Egypt's current unrest revolves around freedom:

"I can assure you that the fight here is not between more religious and less religious Egyptians. What has brought hundreds of thousands of Egyptians back into the streets, many of them first-time protesters, is the fear that autocracy is returning to Egypt under the guise of Islam. The real fight here is about freedom, not religion."

The "real fight" is about freedom? Oh, really. According to the Pew Reseach Center (http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/):

"At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt . . . say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion."

According to the same Pew Research Center report, 95% of Egyptian Muslims believe it is "good" that Islam plays a large role in politics. Egypt's unrest is all about freedom, or is it more about who ultimately consumes what is left of this decaying carcass?

I've got news for Friedman: In a country plagued with illiteracy, high rates of unemployment, a dizzying birthrate (see: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=195591), an economy owned in large part by the generals and colonels, abuse of woman (e.g., 90 percent of Egyptian women have undergone female genital mutilation), brutal discrimination against Christian Copts, and billions of dollars of debt that will never be repaid, it's not going to get better.

More to the point, neither Allah nor Tom can fix this mess.

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