OPINION: “Why the West Stays Silent: The Disquieting Case of Khaled al-Qazzaz,” ABC Religion and Ethics, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Khaled al-Qazzaz, the former secretary of state of Egypt's only freely democratically elected government, has been disintegrating, as a human being, in solitary confinement in the ignoble 'Aqrab prison in Egypt.


For those who do not know, the 'Aqrab prison was built under the reign of Hosni Mubarak to inspire terror and break the will of dignified human beings. It was built by Mubarak and has been filled beyond capacity under the equally ignoble reign of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.


Last week, Al-Qazzaz leaked an op-ed to the New York Times, in which he asks a simple question: Where is the world? Why has he been languishing in al-'Aqrab for the past year enduring torture and humiliation, as so many others are sentenced to death, while the rest of the world is utterly silent?

You see, al-Qazzaz is a special but not unique case. He grew up in the United Arab Emirates where he enjoyed an elite education in a well-to-do household. His parents made money the old fashioned way - through hard work, professionalism and dedication. He did not have the privilege of growing up in the corrupted and infested environment of the native Egyptian elite who built their wealth from knowing how to play a system that is corrupt to the core. He completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Canada, married a Canadian woman, and has three Egyptian-Canadian children.


After the revolution, like so many expatriates who dreamt of a new Egypt, he left his successful and comfortable life in Canada, and returned to Egypt to help rebuild a new democratic society.

The reason for al-Qazzaz's confusion is that he believed - he believed in the impossible dream of a democratic Egypt not dominated by the military and its network of corrupt parasitical capitalists. Al-Qazzaz and Muhammad Morsi met with scores of world leaders who assured them of their principled support of a democratic government. Al-Qazzaz also notes that he worked closely with Western leaders to broker peace in the Middle East. He even worked closely with President Obama and Hilary Clinton to broker cease-fire agreements in Gaza, Mali and Syria.


Al-Qazzaz and his government, for the first time in Egyptian history, developed genuine relations with United Nations human rights organizations, and even invited the UN to open a headquarters for UN women in Cairo. Most importantly, for the first time, he opened venues for engaging UN international organizations in a serious initiative leading to the development of a human rights agenda. On the pages of the New York Times, al-Qazzaz directs an honest question to which he will never get a truthful answer: Why is the world - including all those men and women of high principles - utterly silent?


Not only is the world silent, but the world is complicit in the construction of the villain that they love to hate. After 9/11, the Western world was wrathful and angry, and in its anger the Western world indulged in conduct that demolished decades of moral and ethical thought. The West found itself acquiescing to acts of aggression and occupation in countries that played no part in the terrorist attacks. Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded with millions of innocent lives sacrificed for the sake of the war on terror.


The war on terror happens to be what Sisi tells us his regime is gallantly engaged in. The war on terror is also what the Syrian government says is its just cause against its victims. The Muslims massacred in Myanmar (Burma), Asam, Kashmir, Sri Lanka and the Central African Republic are all slaughtered in the course of wars against terror. We have done our share of international crimes in the war on terror. We made people disappear in Black Sites, sponsored proxy torture and often indulged in acts of torture directly and without the need for proxy. We continue to indulge in extra-judicial killings around the world, and we have destroyed the lives of so many Muslims, violating their privacies or due process rights, imprisoning some on the basis of secret evidence or as material witnesses, and so on.


The reality is that we behaved badly, and many of our esteemed intellectuals spawned fancy theories about international law in the age of asymmetrical warfare, deconstructed many of our theories of pluralism and became haunted by the echoes of colonialism coupled with xenophobia as we imagined clashing civilizations, irreconcilable values and a looming Shari'a threat.


Khaled al-Qazzaz, when good people behave indecently, and the human conscience becomes a lively pest, many good people are forced to demonize the victims. So in many ways, the birth of Islamophobia was inevitable. After all, believing that we've done bad things to frightening and threatening people, at least in the short term, allows us to live with our selves.


Mr. Qazzaz, the reason for the deafening silence, the subdued and clumsy pronouncements of condemnation, the robotic expressions of regret about the massacres that unfolded before our eyes, is that Muslims like you - Muslims who are educated, reasonable, civilized and moderate - make so many people uncomfortable. It is not the reasonableness or moderation that makes so many people uncomfortable. It is the idea of a Muslim who believes in and practices democracy because of - and not despite - his/her Islamic normative commitments that has proven so damning.


You see, to invent the antithesis of the West, we had to re-invent the West. We discovered that what matters after all is not democracy but liberal values, and Islamists can engage in the pretence of democracy but can never possess its values. Moderate Islamists do not exist, just like democratic Islamists cannot exist. So Mr. Qazzaz, you are but a myth, and how can anyone feel guilty about suppressing a myth?


Sadly, Mr. Qazzaz, the West's fragile ego is comforted and anchored by Muslims of the Wahhabi, Bin Laden and Zarqawi ilk. You are thoroughly disquieting. This is precisely why Western allies in the Arab world conspired to overthrow an elected democratic regime, and then restore aid to the military executioners of the coup.


This is also why the West refused to arm the moderate Islamic opponents of the Syrian regime, while Saudi Arabia rushed to aid and arm the ISIS. Saudi Arabia led the Gulf countries in undermining the democratic revolutions in Bahrain, Yemen and Egypt, and funded and armed the radical militants of ISIS because, in the history of Wahhabism, for different reasons, Shi'ism and democracy are both intolerable heresies.


For very different reasons, both Saudi Arabia and the West have fragile egos that are threatened by the same kind of Muslim. Both Saudi Arabia and the West need their Muslims to be ugly so they can appear less so.