by Ayman Ahmed (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 3, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1434)
Western NGOs or those financed by the west have taken over from Western missionaries during the colonial era. We examine the forces behind them.
When a government in a Third World country tries to bring non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in line with the law, Western governments and their media outlets go ballistic. This is what has happened in Egypt where President Mohamed Mursi’s government, trying to make NGOs conform to the law, has had to face Western wrath. Such reaction clearly indicates there is a hidden agenda being pursued in Egypt as indeed elsewhere in the Muslim world. After all, what is wrong if a government tries to make organizations conform to the law? Would the US, or any other Western government for that matter, allow illegal organizations receiving funding from abroad to continue such activity? In the US, even legally registered charities have been shut down and their executives imprisoned on mere suspicion that they were involved in illegal activity.
There are more than 35,000 Egyptian and 83 foreign NGOs, including 23 American ones, operating in Egypt. All of them do so legally because they are officially registered. When the Egyptian government decided to go after 10 unregistered foreign-funded NGOs, primarily by the US, there was strong reaction in Washington against the move. Why? Is the Egyptian government that is elected by the people not free to ensure that its laws are obeyed? After all, Egyptian law requires all NGOs to register before starting operations. This is also the case in every Western country including the US. The activities of unregistered NGOs in Egypt are illegal; it is the responsibility of the government to ensure compliance with the law. The argument that these NGOs operated illegally during the Mubarak era is no reason that they can continue to do so now as well. Hosni Mubarak was a US-Zionist puppet; the new government in Egypt refuses to play that role.
America’s negative reaction was reflected in an editorial in the Washington Post, which mirrors official thinking: “Cairo is… on the verge of adopting laws that would cripple the country’s fragile new democratic order and drastically reduce the West’s ability to influence Egypt’s course,” (April 1, 2013). While linking the operations of illegal NGOs with promoting Egypt’s “fragile democracy,” the Post gave the game away when it candidly admitted that Egypt’s new laws “would drastically reduce the West’s ability to influence Egypt’s course,” (emphasis added). The Egyptian people did not overthrow the old Pharaoh and usher in a new order so that the West could continue to influence events in Egypt. It takes gall for Western newspapers to openly admit that Western-funded NGOs are meant to “influence Egypt’s course” and they should be allowed to do so. In fact, such admission should spur the Egyptian government to speed up passage of legislation and keep a close watch on all NGOs that receive funding from abroad. This is the fundamental responsibility of the government to its people; influence peddling from abroad through whatever means should never be tolerated.
Some officials in Washington, especially members of Congress, have threatened to withhold funding to Egypt as well as block loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) unless Cairo relents and allows the illegal NGOs to continue to operate freely. This is blackmail. The Egyptian government should not surrender to such tactics even if it means foregoing the loans. Many NGOs and political parties have received funding and training from the US. Funding has come from such foundations as the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House. These are hardly organizations with sterling credentials. Their manipulation of political parties and political activities in other countries is well documented. It is not surprising that political parties that lost the elections have been trying to subvert the political process in Egypt. It is evident that these political parties are instigated by American foundations to disrupt the political process so as to cause the failure of Mursi’s government. The aim is to create so much chaos that the military would be forced to step in.
It was the military regime that took the reins of power when Mubarak was overthrown in February 2011, and that brought criminal cases against illegal NGOs and their employees. It also included a number of US citizens including Sam LaHood, son of the former US Transportation Secretary. Under pressure from the US, the Americans were let go. No such luck for Muslims that have been arrested and sentenced to long prison terms on mere suspicion in the US. Others languishing in the US gulag, Guantanamo Bay, have not even had the luxury of any formal charges. They have languished in that hell-hole for more than a decade without charge, trial or the possibility of release anytime soon.
The Americans arrested for operating illegally in Egypt were set free; the criminal charges against them are being heard in an Egyptian court that will render its verdict in June. The US government and its corporate media are complaining not only about this but also about the Egyptian Shura Council’s decision to subject NGOs that receive foreign funding to government supervision. Similarly NGOs will have to obtain official approval for their initiatives and must obtain government permission before receiving foreign funding. And foreign NGOs that receive government funding will not be allowed to operate in Egypt.
These are prudent steps that any government must take to protect its citizens and society. Other countries with no hidden agenda should welcome this. After all, Egypt cannot allow its society to be manipulated by foreign interests. Nor can the new government allow business as usual, as was the case under the Mubarak dictatorship. But that is precisely what the US wants and expects Egypt to comply with.
No clearer proof of the NGOs as fifth columnists can be provided nor of America’s malevolent intent. Past US funding of NGOs in Egypt was governed by conditions negotiated in the 1978 bilateral agreement and in a mutually agreed-upon exchange of letters. The letters clearly stipulated that US funding should be provided only to registered NGOs after consultation with the Egyptian government. In the past, the US did not need to undermine successive Egyptian governments whether led by Anwar Sadat (until 1981) or by his successor Mubarak until February 2011. These regimes acted as US-Zionist puppets and complied with whatever was dictated to them from Washington or Tel Aviv.
After Mubarak’s overthrow in February 2011, Washington unilaterally decided that unregistered NGOs would be funded. The new Egyptian government, albeit a military one, had not abrogated the 1978 agreement, yet Washington felt it could ignore it. American money started to pour into Egypt. In the 10-month period from February to December 2011, nearly $150 million was given to Egyptian and American NGOs. This amount is more than what was provided to NGOs in the previous six years. Why the sudden rush to generosity? It is clear that the US wanted to influence developments in post-Mubarak Egypt and direct the political process to advance US interests. All this talk about the US supporting democracy is so much hot air.