[The willingness of Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies to embrace
American Islamophobia in their attacks on two progressive
Muslim-American women, and others, reveals the deep schism between the
autocracies of the Arab world and their expatriates.]
[https://portside.org/] 

 WHY SAUDI ARABIA IS WAGING A WAR ON ILHAN OMAR AND RASHIDA TLAIB  
[https://portside.org/2018-12-29/why-saudi-arabia-waging-war-ilhan-omar-and-rashida-tlaib]


 

 Mohammad H. Fadel 
 December 26, 2018
Middle East Eye
[https://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/rise-muslim-sisters-and-folly-gulf-arab-s-alliance-donald-trump-1046671123]


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 _ The willingness of Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies to embrace
American Islamophobia in their attacks on two progressive
Muslim-American women, and others, reveals the deep schism between the
autocracies of the Arab world and their expatriates. _ 

 Ilhan Omar (l), a former Somali refugee, and Rashida Tlaib, the
daughter of Palestinian immigrants, share the historic distinction of
being the first Muslim women elected to the US Congress., Facebook
File Photos 

 

The record number of Americans who turned out to vote in the midterm
elections last November delivered a sweeping repudiation of President
Donald Trump, the Republican Party and the racist xenophobia that is
constitutive of Trumpism. 

Political commentators spoke of a “blue wave” – blue being the
color of the Democratic Party – that swept away Republicans all over
the country, except in the most rural parts of the United States. 

Tip of the iceberg

Two Muslim-American women rode this blue wave to Congress, Rashida
Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, and Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee. The
success of Tlaib and Omar, meanwhile, were only the tip of the iceberg
of what was an unprecedented political mobilization
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-blue-muslim-wave-american-muslims-launch-political-campaigns-hope-to-deliver-sweet-justice-to-trump/2018/04/15/a8794a9c-31cc-11e8-8abc-22a366b72f2d_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e9f24317deaf] of
Muslim-Americans and Arab-Americans in the 2018 election season.  

The vast majority of these new candidates ran explicitly against
Trump, presenting themselves as perfect exemplars of what America
could be, simply by being everything that Trump hates: Persons of
colour, non-Christian, and immigrants or their descendants.

The electoral victories of Tlaib and Omar were widely celebrated in
the US as evidence that there continued to be a strong, even dominant,
current of American political life that refused to abandon America’s
promise as a pluralistic democracy in which all citizens, regardless
or race, religion or ethnicity, are equal.  

But, in the midst of all this joy, some voices of fear and resentment
could be heard. A Christian pastor, who was a Trump supporter, claimed
that Congress would now take the appearance of an Islamic republic
[https://www.newsweek.com/conservative-pastor-says-newly-elected-congress-resembles-islamic-republic-1247868].
Most shockingly, however, were the Trump-supporting voices in the Arab
world who joined in with right-wing Islamophobes to decry the
electoral success of Muslim-Americans in 2018.

Muslim Brothers and Democrats?

Even before the election results were complete, an Egyptian columnist
[http://arabi.ahram.org.eg/News/145893.aspx?fbclid=IwAR38yJOSIahtXsBFLDSV_BD4CN-RTBJS1cdpS_i5QTe7bpXC_U-t0oaM-M0] in
the pro-government daily al-Ahram was warning of an alliance between
the "Muslim Brotherhood International" and the Democratic Party to
bring down Trump.  

Pressing claims that even the far right website Breitbart
[https://www.breitbart.com/] would be ashamed to make, the columnist
stated that the Muslim Brotherhood already controlled several American
states, including:“Florida, California, Texas, Chicago [sic], and
Michigan”, and allocated $50bn to support the election campaign of
its allies in the US.

 About a month after the historical election results, another
journalist published a piece in Al Arabiya English with the priceless
headline: “Details of Calls to Attack Trump by 'US Muslim Sisters'
allied to Brotherhood
[https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2018/12/08/Details-of-calls-by-US-Muslim-Sisters-of-Muslim-Brotherhood-to-attack-Trump-.html]."
Like al-Ahram's piece, it is the work of a fabulist, promoting
international conspiracies to explain the success of anti-Trump
Arab-American and Muslim-American politicians.

So shocked were Americans over the fact that elements of the Arab
press were despondent over the success of Arab-American and
Muslim-American politicians, that Newsweek published a piece
[http://time.com/5486886/saudi-white-nationalist-attack-muslim-americans/?fbclid=IwAR0RsLXsUtqWeqp0ymhGJw_uWVmoot_mX4b-6tUZBWaowRgjl8LLf6t2BY0] by
the unsuccessful Egyptian-American progressive Democratic candidate
for governor of Michigan, Abdul El-Sayed
[https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/energy-real-muslim-americans-fired-over-midterm-elections-2126010890].
In his piece, el-Sayed attempted to explain to the American public
why parts of the Arab press would be echoing the most crude
Islamophobic lies of the American right.  

The open embrace of American Islamophobia by anti-democratic Arab
political elites reveals their deep affinities with the authoritarian
right’s suspicion of anything that smacks of "globalism". Of
course, the reactionary nature of these Arab elites is light-years
beyond their Islamophobic compatriots in the West, who, after all, do
endorse democracy for the privileged members of their societies.  

The day of reckoning

But the anti-democratic Arab elites surpass their western allies in
the vice of consistency: Just as they despise universal values,
whether in the form of Islam or liberalism, they are also consistent
in their rejection of any kind of democracy for their own people.

Instead, they dismiss claims for democratization as itself evidence of
the wicked alliance between the twin globalisms that must be resisted
at all costs – liberal democracy, symbolized by the Democratic Party
and its most recent leader, President Barack Obama, and political
Islam, symbolized by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Accordingly, every democratic movement, every democratic aspiration,
every democratic demand, no matter how trivial or unthreatening, must
be fought as a manifestation of these evil globalisms. It is no
surprise, therefore, that the autocratic elites of the Arab world are
the natural allies of Trump and see in Trumpism the savior for their
wobbly regimes.

That states like the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia are hitching their fates to Trump displays a shocking ignorance
of the realities of American politics, and the depth of Trump’s
toxicity. Unless they move quickly to shed their relationship with
Trump, they will very soon be permanently branded with that same
toxicity. 

And the reckoning is coming soon, very soon, with reports that Robert
Mueller, the special prosecutor, has begun turning his attention
[https://www.thedailybeast.com/get-ready-for-muellers-phase-two-the-middle-east-connection] to
Trump’s relationships with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. It is
very likely, particularly after their vicious attacks on
Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans, that neither Saudi Arabia nor the
UAE will find any domestic groups within the US to rally to their
support when the inevitable post-Trump reckoning arrives.  

A depressing state of affairs

The shocking willingness to attack Muslim-Americans and
Arab-Americans, however, reveals a deeper and more depressing state of
affairs between the Arab world and its expatriates. Instead of viewing
the millions of Arab and Muslim Americans as a natural bridge, a
reservoir of highly skilled human capital that could be used to
improve the Arab world, the Arab autocracies view them, and their
democratic politics, as an existential threat to their order.  

The only existential threat facing the Arab world, however, is its
stubborn refusal to democratize. Only democracies are capable of
managing the complexity of modern life with a sufficient degree of
competence, stability and decent respect for human rights. Democracies
view their people as their most important resource, and therefore
prioritize their well-being. 

That does not make them perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but
it does make them less likely to engage in catastrophic decisions
whose consequences cannot be undone for generations. Autocratic
regimes, by contrast, view the people as a potential, if not an
actual, rival, and therefore are reluctant to make sufficient
investments in their well-being, especially if that is likely to lead
to increased political demands.  

But by under-investing in the human capital of their own societies,
autocracies inevitably weaken these societies to the point that they
risk sudden collapse. That is the true lesson of the revolutions of
2011, not the fallacious existence of a globalist conspiracy between
the Muslim Brotherhood and liberal democratic activists. 

For their own good, if not for the good of the region, it is time for
the Arab autocracies to cease their slander of their fellow Arabs and
Muslims in the West – who have more than their fair share of
challenges – and look to us, and their own citizens, as equal
partners in building a brighter future for the region and the world.

_[Mohammad H. Fadel is Professor at the University of Toronto,
Faculty of Law. Professor Fadel has published numerous articles on
Islamic legal history, theology and Islam and liberalism. __The views
expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily
reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye._]

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