This letter was copied to other members of the Editorial Board and to members of the Board of Contributors of The Canadian Charger. It has not previously been published.
To: Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, 1 December 2013
I'm writing to you, with regret, to declare my resignation from the Editorial Board of The Canadian Charger.
This is a matter of sorrow to me. It has been a pleasure and an honour to have been involved with you in this news-commentary-and analysis website since its early planning stages; and I continue to believe that the project of bringing together voices from the Muslim community and the Canadian left is an important one.
However, the editorial published on November 27, “Canadians: List Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group,” makes it impossible for me to continue my association with The Charger.
I do not claim any expertise on recent events in Egypt. However, I have read enough to be aware of some of the ways in which a sequence of stupid political misjudgments, errors, and illegalities committed by President Morsi and his entourage fractured their previous support, persuaded many Egyptians that the Muslim Brotherhood was determined to impose a theocracy, and made his government vulnerable to military intervention. It is understandable that the initial response of many secular and Coptic Egyptians to the military overthrow of the Morsi government was a feeling of relief. But over the past five months, the violently anti-democratic intentions of the military junta and its obvious continuities with the Mubarak dictatorship have been repeatedly made evident. To deny that the coup was a coup, as The Charger's November 27 editorial appears to do, is fatuous.
On principle, I oppose political parties whose actions and policies are guided, openly or otherwise, by sectarianism. (Such parties include the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, the U.S. Republican Party, most of the parties in the Israeli Knesset, and the governing party of this country: witness its insistent Christian Zionism and Islamophobia.)
But that does not mean one should automatically believe everything that is said or written to the discredit of such parties.
In the case of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, there is substantial evidence that a propaganda campaign conducted by the Egyptian military junta and its supporters in the international media has sought to blame the Muslim Brotherhood for the appalling acts of violence that have occurred since the beginning of July. (For a sample of critical analyses of this campaign, see two articles by Esam Al-Amin, “The Grand Scam: Spinning Egypt's Military Coup,” CounterPunch [19-21 July 2013], and “Putting Egypt's Coup on Trial,” CounterPunch [8-10 November 2013]; and a further article exposing the fabrication of supposed Muslim Brotherhood atrocities: Mohamed Malik and Mohamad Omar, “How Amnesty International was Played by the Egyptian Junta,” CounterPunch [25 November 2013].) To this should be added the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood's official English-language website, Ikwanweb.com, has repeatedly denounced acts of violence, whether directed against the military and the police, against ministers in the coup regime, or against members of Egypt's Coptic minority and their churches.
One might well want to weigh critical analyses of the kind I have cited, as well as the statements posted at Ikwanweb.com, against news reports of an opposing tendency. But distressingly, I do not find any hint of an attempt to weigh competing claims and sift out probable truths in The Charger's editorial.
The above matters might be understood as questions of editorial imbalance that could be corrected by a follow-up editorial. But the November 27 editorial offers clear support to the Egyptian military as a force aligned with the interests of the Egyptian people, and it demands that the Harper government label the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group and reject any Egyptian refugee claimants stained by association with this party. I reject these positions, and refuse any association with them.
Since when does The Canadian Charger concede to the Harper government—which since it came to power in 2006 has without fail supported Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which boasts of having “punched above its weight” in the NATO bombing of Libya two years ago, and which has pressed for aggression against Syria and Iran—the moral authority to make such a determination?
In its demand for the criminalization of the party overthrown by Egypt's military coup, and in its reference to the Palestinian political party Hamas, the editorial is lending The Charger's support to the policies of the Egyptian junta and of the Harper government—and to the use by both of them of the discredited rhetoric of the “war on terror.”
I oppose political parties guided by sectarian principles. I also oppose, more adamantly, military dictatorships, not least because their guiding principle is state terrorism.
One of the things that needs urgently to be said about the Egyptian coup is that its consequences have included not merely a harshly augmented infliction of state terror on Egyptians, but also—through the closure of the Rafah crossing and the tunnel systems—a radical intensification of the state terrorism inflicted by Israel and its allies on the population of Gaza, in punishment for having freely elected a Hamas government in 2006. (Bombing a captive and defenceless civilian population is state terrorism: so also is depriving them of drinking water, food, medicine, sewage facilities, employment, and contact with the outside world.)
The November 27 editorial supports the Egyptian military coup, and it supports Mr. Hassan Sherif's call for the Canadian government to “be consistent” and list the Muslim Brotherhood along with Hamas “as a terrorist group.” Whatever the editorialist's intentions, the text carries an implicit endorsement of these consequences as well. I find this intolerable.
Yours sincerely and respectfully,
Professor Emeritus, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph
cc: Members of the Editorial Board and Board of Contributors