I have a long assigned reading for my journalism class tomorrow that I ought to be reading right now on how to tell good stories, but I think I’m done reading for tonight. Instead, I have a story I want to tell. It’s a story that’s been bumping around inside my head for a while now, but I just read something that made me decide that it needs to be told tonight.
I just read this article from The Daily News Egypt about Michelle Bachmann’s appearance on the Egyptian TV channel, ONTV, as a part of a visit to Egypt. According to the article, Bachmann used this stage to applaud the military for their overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood, “a terrorist organization.”
“We’ve seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed around the world,” Bachmann said. “We stand against this great evil. We are not for them. We remember who caused 9/11 in America. We remember who it was who killed 3,000 brave Americans.”
Now, for those of you who’ve read this blog before, you know I’m not the hugest fan of the Muslim Brotherhood’s politics. I was certainly not a fan of Morsi or the choices he made during his presidency. I whole-heartedly supported the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets on June 30 to call for his ouster, I rejoiced with them when the army helped them reach that aim, and I continue to watch eagerly as they nurture their fledgling democracy.
But one thing I do not support in any way is the labeling of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists.
I have been outraged by the military propaganda calling the Brotherhood a threat to national security as a justification for their brutality and gross violations of human rights. I have been outraged by the Egyptian media that have spread this propaganda and added to the division and distrust between civilians, rather than doing their job of seeking out truth so that the public can be fully informed.
And now I am outraged by the words of this representative from my own home state. Bachmann has no idea of the effect of her words, the way in which they will deepen the divide within an already polarized population. And she clearly hasn’t met Salma’s mom.
Salma’s mom is just a little bit taller than me, with a round face and a sweet smile. She kissed me once on each cheek and welcomed me into her family’s modest 11th story apartment in Nasr City. She was wearing a simple, traditional galabaya with a blue head scarf. She asked me about my family and my studies and she cooked me fish. I don’t normally like fish, but I loved hers.
I didn’t get to spend much time with Salma’s mom. Most of the afternoon, she was in the kitchen making food for me, and while I ate, she was waiting on me and her family, moving back and forth between the kitchen and the living room, carrying plates of rice and pitchers of water and cups of tea. She made excellent tea.
And she is in the Muslim Brotherhood.
For reasons her liberal blogger-activist daughter will never understand, Salma’s mom cast her vote for Morsi in 2012 and stood by him throughout his presidency. Salma thinks her parents felt they had to vote for him because they identified with his strong Muslim faith and values—much the way many conservative Christians feel they must vote Republican.
But regardless of why, Salma’s mom believed in the Muslim Brotherhood, and she believed in Morsi. She used her hard-earned right to vote to elect him, and her heart broke the day the military forced him from power. Salma described the wailing that filled the apartment that fateful day as her mom watched it all unfold helplessly on the TV. So when the sit-in began in Rabaa, a short microbus ride from her apartment, Salma’s mom decided to go. She was there the day that the military arrived with machine guns and tanks to disperse the “terrorists.”
By God’s grace, Salma’s mom made it back safely to her apartment, her husband and her four children. But other moms weren’t so fortunate. They weren’t terrorists. Salma’s mom isn’t a terrorist. She cooked me fish.
If we go by the Oxford dictionary’s definition of “terrorist,” as “a person uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims,” then there are certainly terrorists within the Muslim Brotherhood. We can start with the people who mindlessly attacked over two dozen churches a couple weeks ago. By the same token, there are certainly terrorists within the military and the police who fired live ammunition into crowds of civilian protestors, killing hundreds in one fell swoop. And all the civilian vigilantes who joined in to assist them could probably fit under that label.
But you don’t hear anyone calling the *cough*American-funded*cough* Egyptian military a “terrorist group.” The Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t deserve that title either. And they certainly don’t deserve to be blamed for 9-11, Rep. Bachmann.
Because I know someone in the Brotherhood, and she isn’t a terrorist. She’s a mom. Salma’s mom.