Often in this case I think of an incident that happened shortly after the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban regime after September 11, 2001. Pro-Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners rioted, and an incredibly brave CIA man went in to try to deal with the situation. He said to one of the Arab al-Qaeda volunteers: “Why did you come here [to Afghanistan]?” It was the typical Enlightenment question, an attempt to gain knowledge, the belief that dialogue leads to better understanding.
The al-Qaeda terrorist replied: “I came here to kill you.” He knew what he wanted, and would not be reasoned with or dissuaded by an explanation that his real enemy was a deficit of women’s inequality. The mob proceded to murder the American brutally.
Now, the United States is still trying to negotiate with the Taliban. To find its moderate wing. The Taliban and al-Qaeda still want to murder Americans, and they do.
Think of the perfect symbolism of what happened on February 18, 2011, in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which shows where the locals think the West can physically insert its deficits. President Husni Mubarak had just been overthrown in the “Arab Spring.” There was a huge rally to greet al-Qaradawi with an estimated one million people, ten times what the “moderates” (many of whom were Muslim Brothers in disguise) had been able to muster.
Wael Ghonim — an executive of Google on leave who had been a leader of the revolt, a young man of about 30 and married to an American convert to Islam — tried to get on the platform. He was thrown off.
Since then, Ghonim has been a political zero. Of course, Ghonim, the 30-something hero in the West, got to be in Time’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
He was presented with the JFK Profile in Courage Award (whose name was based on a book that had Kennedy’s name on it, but was written by my Ph.D. adviser Professor Jules Davids) by Caroline Kennedy on behalf of “the people of Egypt.” He was listed as the second most powerful Arab in the world by Arabian Business magazine for leading Egyptian youth.
Perhaps it would have been more appropriate if the award had been given by a hijab-wearing Caroline Kennedy to the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, who really represented “the people of Egypt.”
What happened to the 80-something al-Qaradawi? He didn’t get any Western awards. He just got Egypt.
Perhaps you remember the old joke about two guys fishing. One says: “I know everything about fishing because I’ve read all the books about it.” To which his companion replies: “But have the fish read the books?”