Turner: Is Egypt Giving the United States Its Marching Orders?

In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency taken on, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, waves to the crowd gathered in a stadium upon his arrival for a speech on the 6th of October national holiday marking the 1973 war with Israel in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo: AP) 

“The obscenities that I have referred to from a recently released as part of an organized campaign against Islamic sanctities are unacceptable and require a promise of firm stance. We have a responsibility in this international gathering to study how we can protect the world from instability and hatred. Egypt respects freedom of expression – freedom of expression that is not used to incite hatred against anyone – not a freedom of expression that target a specific religion or a specific culture. A freedom of expression that tackle extremism and violence – not a freedom of expression that deepens ignorance and disregards others.”  UN Speech by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, 09/27/12

The Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi, has given the United States – and the UN – its marching orders regarding the Islamic Prophet, Mohammed.  Insults against Mohammed, and against the Islamic faith, will not be tolerated.

Certainly, the Obama Administration will not object.  They have already enthusiastically participated in the “Istanbul Process”, which seeks to implement UN Resolution 16/18, the latest iteration of proposed international laws that seek to restrict speech that “denigrates” Islam.  Further, President Obama himself has decreed, in his own UN speech, that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”  Apparently, President Obama has never thought too highly of free speech, so, there may not be any daylight between the U.S. and Egyptian governments when it comes to such troublesome speech.

Of course, President Morsi had other demands as well.

Mr. Morsi said, in another New York appearance, that he wants Omar Abdul Rahman, the Egyptian Muslim cleric in a U.S. jail for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to serve out the rest of his life sentence at home in Egypt.  Rahman, who is referred to as the “Blind Sheikh,” issued fatwas and helped plan acts of Islamist terrorism.  In 1993, his followers detonated a truck bomb in a parking garage below the North Tower, with the intention of knocking it into the South Tower, thereby bringing both towers down and killing thousands of Americans.  The bomb failed to deliver these results, but it did kill six people and injured more than a thousand.  Presumably, the Egyptian President’s call for the Blind Sheikh to be transferred to an Egyptian jail supersedes his earlier demand for Rahman to simply be released.  But transfer or release, it seems that the U.S. State Department is seriously considering it.

Also, as expressed in a New York Times interview, President Morsi said it was up to Washington to revitalize its alliance with Egypt.  He clearly doesn’t believe that Egypt owes the U.S. anything, regardless of the fact that, between 1948 and 2011, the United States has already provided Egypt with $71.6 billion in foreign aid, including $1.3 billion a year in military aid from 1987 to the present.  Presumably, the $1.3 billion plus is now just a base requirement, which should be bolstered, either directly by the U.S. or indirectly through international organizations.  And sure enough, the Obama Administration has proposed a plan to provide $450 million in emergency domestic assistance, although Congress is currently blocking this.  The Administration also supports a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to Egypt; the U.S. provides about $64 billion a year to the IMF, by the way.

In that same interview Morsi also criticized the U.S. for not living up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule.   He said that Americans “have a special responsibility” for the Palestinians because the United States had signed the 1978 Camp David accord, and that “(a)s long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled.”  The fact that U.S. support for the governing anti-Semitic, anti-American, corrupt, terror supporting, anti-democratic forces in “Palestine” is not actually in our best interest, can safely be ignored.  During the past term the Obama Administration has consistently and one-sidedly pushed Israel to give up more and more concessions to the Palestinians for the sake of peace.  No doubt, after the election, President Obama will have even more “flexibility” to meet Morsi’s demands.

President Morsi also called for Egypt to be immune from any unnecessary moral evaluations by the U.S.  “If you want to judge the performance of the Egyptian people by the standards of German or Chinese or American culture, then there is no room for judgment,” he said.  So, for example, President Morsi probably believes that a fully democratic state with American style civil rights for citizens and especially religious minorities is not appropriate for Egypt.  The same applies – or, perhaps more accurately, doesn’t apply – for granting equal rights to Egyptian women.  Democratic competition and the alternation of power between different political parties – if one of those parties is not Muslim Brotherhood affiliated – may also be a big no-no.  And, as mentioned before, free speech rights for the Egyptians are not ok, no matter how much the U.S. values them.  For that matter, based on Morsi’s UN speech, free speech isn’t okay for the U.S., in the U.S., when it concerns the religion of Islam.  Fortunately for Mr. Morsi, the Obama Administration has made clear it has a strong disinclination to judge other nations and cultures.

For example, President Morsi dismissed tepid criticism from the White House that he did not move fast enough to protect the U.S. Embassy in Cairo from Islamist rioters on September 11, 2012.  These rioters eventually climbed over the Embassy wall, burned the American flag, and replaced it with the black flag of radical Islam.  Egyptian guards did little to stop them, and President Morsi “remained conspicuously silent as protesters breached the walls of the American Embassy in Cairo — a stark contrast to the help, contrition and condemnation coming from the new government of Libya.” Contrary to the Obama Administration’s continued claims, these Islamist protesters were not objecting some bad California movie, but were actually protesting the continued detention of the Blind Sheikh.

These were Mr. Morsi’s demands.  And what will the U.S. get if we give President Morsi what he wants?

Once again, President Morsi told us exactly that in the Times interview.  In return for our compliance to the above requirements, Mr. Morsi suggested that Egypt would not be hostile to the West, although he also cautioned that it would not be as compliant to the U.S. as it was under Mr. Mubarak, either.  When specifically asked if Egypt would remain an ally of the U.S., President Morsi carefully responded, “(t)hat depends on your definition of ally.”

Once again, based on a statement by President Obama describing the U.S.’s current relationship with Egypt, this type of relationship may well be satisfactory to the Obama Administration.

This column was originally written for EMET.