Sunday, September 9, 2012

War on Women is in Egypt, Not the GOP

by Jonathan S. Tobin

Those watching the Democratic National Convention this week were subjected to a feedback loop of angry denunciations of Republicans for what we were told was their “war on women.” But if you want to see what a real war on women looks like as opposed to a political disagreement about abortion or whether Catholic institutions should be forced to pay for services, like contraception, that offend their faith, you need to look elsewhere. As the New York Times reports, despite their reassurances given to gullible Western reporters and the Obama administration, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is going full speed ahead with its campaign to impose its Islamist social agenda on the nation. And that agenda isn’t abortion or free contraceptives but a full-blown attempt to reverse the tenuous advances women made toward equality under the Mubarak regime.

Given the Muslim Brotherhood’s increasingly tight grip on the reins of power in Cairo this is not a theoretical question but one of vital importance for the future of the most populous Arab country. The Brotherhood says its priority is reviving the country’s economy and has convinced the Obama administration to forgive $1 billion in debt that they owe the United States and Western nations. As Max wrote earlier this week, this makes sense from the point of view of encouraging stability and seeking to encourage prosperity that will make the country less vulnerable to extremists. But we shouldn’t underestimate the Brotherhood’s determination to eventually wipe out secularism. Even more to the point, it seeks to gain political strength by promoting female subservience.

As the Times reports:

Those broader efforts at shaping a conservative religious society, played out over decades by the Brotherhood, were seen as partly responsible for helping elect Mohamed Morsi president in June. At the time, Mr. Morsi, who resigned from the Brotherhood after taking office, gave assurances that he would protect the rights of women and include them in decision-making. Less than three months into his presidency, though, Mr. Morsi has not fulfilled a campaign promise to appoint a woman as a vice president. …

Many analysts and critics of the Brotherhood see that kind of philosophy, one that gives women independence so long as they maintain their traditional obligations, as effectively constraining women to established gender roles. …

Free from the restrictions of the government of Hosni Mubarak, which outlawed the Brotherhood, the movement’s social outreach programs have mushroomed since Mr. Morsi’s election. In less than a year, Family House expanded from a single office to 18 branches around Egypt and is developing a plan to encourage all couples to attend.

Though they may be moving cautiously, it should be remembered that the Brotherhood is a movement with social goals for transforming Egyptian society as well as the political system. As was the case in Iran over 30 years when the Islamic revolution stifled secularism, women’s rights will be sacrificed along with political freedom.

Though Washington has no good options in Egypt these days, the irony of the Obama administration’s embrace of an Egyptian government that is waging a real war on women while it runs for re-election accusing Republicans of the same charge should not be lost on the nation.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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