“conservative,” I mean that they would like to view a society as containing only one faith, they would like that faith to dominate all public discourse, and they would prefer that the Coptic minority either go away, emigrate, or convert. This is a very dangerous game. It has resulted in the death of a number of intellectuals in Egypt and elsewhere who dared to speak out against these ideas. A periodical in Egypt, called El Acadeti [phonetic], which means “my belief,” has published a total of 62 personal attacks on Saad Eddin Ibrahim and the work of his center over the last two years. This, of course, creates a climate and a discourse that is very damaging to tolerance in society.
Secondly, his advocacy of human rights and human rights standards: I am proud that he was a founder of the Arab human rights organization that has been mentioned earlier in this session, of the Egyptian organization for human rights, and he has been a real supporter of a whole young generation of human rights lawyers and activists in Egypt and in the Arab world.
Unfortunately, the enemies of human rights have been able to equate this movement in the minds of most Egyptians with liberal Western values, and not just with liberal Western values but that debate is usually further narrowed to American interests and values. Of course, then, as passions become very heated about the Arab-Israeli conflict, American values become equated with unequivocal support for Israel in this conflict. So without any examination of what human rights defenders are saying or thinking, they are simply assumed to be agents of the United States and, therefore, of Israel, and they are sidelined in public discourse.
I have to say, unfortunately, that this is a trap that many intellectuals in Egypt have fallen into. Because of their leftist leanings, because of their opposition to the peace process, because of their fear of the incursion of Western ideas of liberalization, they have branded and identified anyone associated with human rights with this kind of simplistic pro-American opposition.
Just to give you an example of how that plays itself out right now in Egypt, a weekly periodical that is known to have close ties to our security forces and, in fact, to some of our media leaders, has published, now for two weeks in a row, articles and editorials that talked about my attendance at a national day at the Israeli embassy in Cairo in which I was given a standing ovation for my support of Israeli causes and human rights and the cause of Saad Eddin Ibrahim.
Now, the fact that I was out of the country, in the United States, on the day that this reception occurred, and could not have attended it, did not bother the publishers of this article, nor is there anyone anywhere who is criticizing this kind of irresponsible press coverage, in order to further isolate those like my husband who take the views that they do.
Thirdly, and a spin-off of general advocacy of human rights issues, has been my husband’s emerging support for the issues of the Coptic minority and women in Egypt, and I will not talk about women—I think that has been handled very adequately in the previous session, except to perhaps add on the issue of whether Iranian women can vote or not, that, in fact, it was women,