She cooked me fish: my encounter with the Muslim Brotherhood

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.


Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “She cooked me fish: my encounter with the Muslim Brotherhood

  1. Lindsay Hall Sumrow

    I loved reading this, Emily. You really have a gift in your writing, it’s so apparent. You have a wonderfully unique perspective and people need to hear it. I was just speaking with one of my Egyptian students yesterday about what is going on and his time in Egypt during the summer. It was heart wrenching to hear him talk so lovingly about his country and then speak of the horrible things going on. It is definitely hard for him to be here in Saudi when he wants to be there and stand up for what he believes. Personally, I’m happy he’s here instead of there.

    I love reading your posts. Keep them coming.

  2. Jackl

    wait, so let me get this straight. You met a single brotherhood member, (maybe a few), and based on that you’re judging an entire organization? You refuse to label the organization as terrorist, even though known world terrorist belong to it (check the stadium event just days before morsi’s ouster). You refuse to label them as a terrorist organization, even though more than once they clearly and publicly threatened both the people, as well as the government (check Beltagi stting that violence will stop in Sinai the second Morsi is back, also check this video ) You refuse to label them a terrorist organization even though they’ve been burning churches all around Egypt?

    So Yes there are those in the organization or are peaceful, my grandfather is one of them, but the organization as a whole has a large number of criminals as well as terrorist. To knowingly associate and support terrorism is both illegal, as well as just morally wrong.

    Mind you the Egyptian army isn’t an angel, but let’s face it, If in the US, there’s a gathering of people, WITH WEAPONS, and the army orders the dispersal of the group over the course of many days and they still refuse and SOME of them become a threat to the majority, then the government has no other option than to forcefully disperse them. Its not like the army just went around shooting everyone in the protest because i can guarantee you the death toll would’ve been in tens of thousands. (waco siege: resulted in deaths, Occupy wall street: resulted in injuries)

    If you so much as look like you’re attempting to draw a weapon at a police officer, then he is legally allowed to shoot you in the US. (Zimmerman case, not even a cop, but the threat of possibly having a gun was enough for the guy to get shot). So if you’re condemning dispersing the protest with force, then it was only because resistance was met.

    Tell you what, get a group of people, get a bunch of weapons, arrange a sit in in times square, and demand Obama to be ousted. Let me know how long you’ll last.

    So, Salma’s mom wasn’t a terrorist, but she was harboring and supporting terrorists. So in my opinion if you wanna avoid calling the MB terrorists because a group of people are actually peaceful but are supporting a large part of them, especially the leaders who are known terrorists then i think this is a bit foolish and naive.

  3. Mommy

    Labels as blanket statements are never helpful. Thank you for this thought provoking insight.

  4. Pingback: “Terrorist” MB Responsible For 9/11, Asserts US Congresswoman Bachmann | CONNECTED in CAIRO

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