America has been pursuing a policy ever since 9/11 to honor what it perceives as moderate Muslims.
This policy, at present failed, would make sense if such moderate Muslims were pro-Western freedoms, pro-peace with Israel, anti-Sharia, or would stand up to Islamic jihad. Regrettably, Muslims and former Muslims who do stand up to Islamism have been ignored; those embraced by the West are almost always anti-American and anti-Jew, and even make excuses for jihad and terrorism.
The most recent instance is Samira Ibrahim, an Egyptian national, nominated -- and then withdrawn -- by the U.S. State Department for its prestigious "International Women of Courage Award." In its pursuit to appease Muslims, regardless of ideology, the US ignored Ibrahim's extreme hatred of the U.S. and Israel, and her celebration of 9/11 and terrorism. Yes, Ibrahim was courageous for filing a lawsuit against the Egyptian military for undergoing a virginity test, but that so called courage should be viewed in the right context.
After the revolution, Egypt was extremely embarrassed by an international uproar over the virginity test of about 21 young women who were demonstrating in Tahrir Square. That came in the wake of the brutal sexual assault there of the CBS reporter Lara Logan. Egyptian government officials, many of whom are consumed with appearing democratic and civilized before the West, initially denied the story but then admitted it. That embarrassment was what encouraged some female victims to file a lawsuit, which the government allowed them to win in order to save face and prove to the West it had achieved a democracy after the revolution. Ms. Ibrahim was somewhat courageous for winning a lawsuit against the Egyptian military; however, that lawsuit should never have risen to the level of becoming an icon to be honored by the U.S .State Department. Officials in the State Department, thinking no one was looking into her background, perhaps including them, ignored who Ms. Ibrahim really was.
Ms. Ibrahim's views are no breakthroughs of courage against the real problems of the Muslim world: her head covering remains a symbol of her defense of Sharia. She has never demonstrated against the forced virginity checks that occur daily in Egypt at almost all weddings to make sure the bride is a virgin. As a child in Egypt, I attended weddings where the bride's virginity blood was on display on a white handkerchief while guns were shot to celebrate the blessed event proving the family's pride in their daughter's virginity. Neither did Ibrahim lead a movement in Egypt against female genital mutilation or the Egyptian marriage contract, which asks the bride to sign a paper before the marriage stating she is a virgin.
There is also no feminist movement in Egypt lead by Ibrahim, against the barbaric honor killings of girls found not to be virgins; that is perhaps because all are either dead or have undergone reconstructive virginity surgery, a popular procedure for girls who must save their necks.
While many Muslims today are starting to speak against the brutality of Sharia laws which cause "virginity tests" in the first place, Ibrahim never speaks ill of Sharia, or condemns its laws against women and non-Muslims. Ibrahim is, however, a very vocal anti-American, who celebrated the anniversary of 9/11 as well as violence and terror against Israelis. What courage is it if the majority of Egyptians shares her feelings? What courage did our State Department think it was celebrating?
After failing to receive the Award, Ibrahim blamed the Zionist lobby in America; her "logic" is popular in Egypt, where people blame all ills on Jews. It is a sad fact that Ibrahim's views actually do represent the majority of the so-called moderate Muslims everywhere. Such moderate Muslims, who are demonstrating today against the Mursi government, are no less anti-American than the radicals. As a matter of fact many of them wish to resume hostilities against Israel and believe that Mursi caved to the American pressure; they are now accusing him of being a puppet of the U.S. just like his predecessor. The sad truth is that most so-called "moderate" Muslims could be as anti-American and anti-Semitic as Al Qaeda. That is why the US should be vastly more cautious and realistic in taking sides at all in the Middle East.
Before we rush into giving awards of courage, the U.S. should develop its own courage and give its awards to those Egyptian women who fled the oppression of Sharia and are living in the West under a death warrant because they have openly spoken against terrorism, jihad, Al-Qaeda, and discrimination against Jews and Christians under Islam.
It is also hypocritical for the U.S. to honor those who are demonstrating against the Mursi government; the U.S. was instrumental in bringing the Muslim Brotherhood to power. In doing that, the U.S. is simply participating in a game with the Egyptian government to make it look good.
If the U.S. government is truly serious about honoring those who want reform in the Muslim world, why is it not honoring those people who are sticking their necks out in stating their love for America and peace with Israel? Why is it not honoring someone like Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- or Dr. Zuhdi Jasser or Tawfiq Hamid, who still call themselves Muslims and are trying to reform Islam?
I do not think the US State Department will nominate any of these truly courageous in the near future: that would require courage.
Nonie Darwish Author "The Devil We Don't Know" and President of Former Muslims United.