Human rights (or wrongs) in Mideast

AP President Barack Obama addresses the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2012. In his … Continued

AP

President Barack Obama addresses the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2012.

In his 2012 address to the United Nations, President Obama said:

I look forward to an American administration that is willing and able to engage in the Middle East and elsewhere with honesty and integrity. Continued violations of the basic rights of the Palestinian people by Israel, accompanied by blind support from Washington, hardly helps “America” to project an image of the honest broker. Before talking the talk of the higher moral ground, “America” has got to walk the walk of supporting justice and standing against aggression. It’s only then that such words could have a profound positive impact, and hopefully deprive the forces of evil and intolerance from having the Middle East as a breeding ground for their disciples of their extremist ideology. Indeed, we’ve got to seize this moment!


View Photo Gallery: Moments when faith and politics intersect during the 2012 campaign.

I then thought that the argument he brought up, however it was seemingly enveloped in simple logic, is yet somewhat dangerous. It poses a condition – an effective stumbling block – ahead of any human rights progress. The Palestinian problem is indeed real and painful, but to ask America to (first) stop siding with Israel, for the Arab world to stop its aggression against minorities, women or children, (then) it will appear to be a fair broker, is in itself treacherous. I think the Palestinian dispute is convoluted and painstaking, but I don’t agree that all other serious transgressions should wait until it sees a resolution.

There should be no disagreement on the non-conditionality of human rights. No state of affairs should ever be imposed before the respect for human rights. The realization of minority rights, and rights of women and non-Muslims in the Middle East, should never be held hostage until other violations of human rights in the region may come to an end.

Good for President Obama that he is an eloquent speaker and that he is aware of current pressing issues in the Middle East. But would his human rights pitch have any positive effect on the people of that region, if it is not followed by a demonstration that these principles are not applied only when convenient, one might contend.

I would argue that I don’t think “the people of that region” give a hoot about human rights, or whether the Americans apply those principles to the Palestinians or not. I want to remind everyone that the Obama administration had been much more politically unbending in regards to Israel, than other previous administrations, and that the current Israeli government had also been much more lenient than usual in dealing with Hamas’ rockets, and almost daily border skirmishes by the Palestinians or the Egyptians. This on the other hand had no observable impact on treatment of minorities in Bahrain, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia.

Americans withdrew from Iraq, and look at what’s still happening to Christians and Shias there. Didn’t they say that this was their reaction to American occupation? Consider the treatment of women in Egypt and other Arab countries even after toppling of dictatorships, have you heard about female circumcision campaigns, and mass veiling of children and adult women in Gaza, Libya, Tunisia and in Egypt? Did you hear about the head of the women committee at the Egyptian Parliament calling for mass circumcision of women and children, annihilating women’s right to obtain divorce (kholl’e), etc.? Can we still postulate that all this is happening because America supports Israel?

Egypt has signed the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) with an explicitly spelled out condition that none of its articles would contradict with Islamic law (sharia). I would not be surprised if other so-called Muslim nations in the region would not have done the same. In that case, we may conclude that those nations are not keen on following global human rights laws, not because America is supporting Israel, rather because they implement their own human rights principles.

In short, we now have two human rights decrees; a global one (UDHR) for all nations to abide to, and an Islamic one, which allows for veiling of women, for under-age marriages, for polygamy, for discriminative sexual inheritance laws, for demolition of churches and forbiddance of building new ones, and for discriminatory actions based on sex, race, religious belief, and of course sexual orientation. This is not my say, it’s Islamic law, according to fundamentalists’ interpretation.

Dr. Sherif Meleka, a physician and an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, is also a writer in his native Egypt. He is the author of four novels, two collections of short stories, and four books of poetry in Arabic.

  • John Paul Bender

    I wrote a letter to President Obama in response to this very speech.
    Please read it on my blog-

    http://www.writingsofaboydiscerninggodscall.blogspot.com

  • Ragy Mikhail

    Violation of human rights in the Arab World is widespread to an extent that necessitates an urgent and comprehensive confrontation.Extremist ideology was found there for centuries before the foundation of Israel. To advocate for human rights honestly, one should put aside any conditionality or compromise.
    Ragy Mikhail
    Pediatrician. Cairo,Egypt

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

Read More Articles

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_37148347
What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.