Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thanks for the MEMRIs

MEMRI is the premier resource for translated TV/video content from the Middle East. The savvy American news-consumer may read English-language articles about Middle East politics or hear Arab/Islamic leaders make speeches in English on TV, but it is essential to understand what they are saying to their own people in their own languages in their own countries. MEMRI released four new videos on their YouTube channel today. All give us a fascinating glance into a facet of Arab/Islamic society.

Three of them are from Egypt, and give us insight into the deep divisions there between the restive Muslim Brotherhood-supporting population and the secular Arab nationalist government of Hosni Mubarak:

1. United States of Islam

In the first a cleric expresses his belief in a basic tenet of Islam; that all Muslim lands should be governed as one united Caliphate. He describes it as a "United States of Islam" in which Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco for example would be subdivisions of the all-encompassing Caliphate. Look at the glee in his eyes and on the faces of his compatriots as he discusses this issue. The concept of a global Ummah is not abstract theology but a constant inspiration in these people's lives:

2. Starbucks Jewish Conspiracy

The same Egyptian cleric explains to us that Starbucks Coffee is part of the global Jewish conspiracy and must be boycotted. I give him credit for taking the time to learn the story of the Jewish holiday of Purim. But I must say his conflating of the heroine of that story, Queen Esther, with the chick on the Starbucks cups is a bit of a stretch:

3. Egyptian Government Officials are frightened of Iran, and blame Hamas (Iran's puppet) for the current predicament with Israel.

This is very important because it highlights the deep ethnic and religious divides that are tearing the Middle East apart. The men speaking are secular Egyptian government officials; notice their formal Western suits. They see a threat in the Shi'ite/Persian arc stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The southern frontier of that arc is at the Rafah border-crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, and the revolution is literally bursting at the seams to stoke Islamist forces in the Sinai with a goal of spreading the Islamic Revolution across Egypt and toppling the relatively secular regime in Cairo.

I have to give these men credit because they chastise Iran for denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel to be wiped off the map. They are not a democratic government but at least they have a basic level of civility that is lacking in the Islamist camp.

The last speaker denounces Shi'ite/Persian Iran, Alawite-ruled Syria and the Iranian puppets Hezballah and Hamas as "sectarians" and a threat to Egypt.

4. A Journalist I Can Respect

The final video depicts a "Liberal Lebanese journalist." I'd prefer to call him a "freedom-loving journalist with balls of steel." He stands up to speech-censoring Gulf monarchies, demanding accountability from the kings of the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia by name. He's asking pertinent questions in a part of the world where this sort of "activism" can get you in trouble with the government. He puts shame to our leftist American reporters and actors who feigned their "patriotic dissent" during the Bush years, knowing full well they would receive no punishment, and would in fact improve their stature in the entertainment industry.


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