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State Department withdraws honor for Egyptian activist over anti-American, anti-Semitic tweets

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm •  Published: March 7, 2013
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Some Egyptians sprang to her defense, noting her extreme bravery in challenging the once untouchable military. Many others, however, argued that her offensive comments reflect poorly on the young Egyptians who were at the vanguard of what began as a revolt demanding justice and equality.

“The Samira Ibrahim story isn’t that complicated: her actions against (the military council) were super brave and she’s a bigot with objectionable views,” tweeted Michael Hanna, an Egypt expert at the Century Foundation research institute in New York.

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Others questioned how the State Department could’ve made such an embarrassing gaffe, when regular followers of Ibrahim’s Twitter account say her occasional flashes of militancy had long raised eyebrows among her Egyptian followers.

Nancy Messieh, associate director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said in a phone interview that she remembered seeing Ibrahim’s tweet about the Sept. 11 attacks and was “taken aback,” especially because she’d admired Ibrahim for her courageous stance against the generals. She said other Egyptians on Twitter had openly criticized Ibrahim at the time.

When Messieh later heard about the State Department award, she said, the most surprising part to her was that Ibrahim had accepted it, given the activist’s strident views on U.S. policies.

“Maybe the Americans would prefer to associate these views with the more Islamist side — the Salafis — but anyone who’s familiar with the young revolutionary socialist activists knows that they have these views, too,” Messieh said. “If the U.S. isn’t familiar with that, it’s definitely naivete.”

Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, said the Women of Courage honorees are nominated by local embassies and reviewed in Washington. She didn’t have an answer for how Ibrahim’s apparent militant streak was missed in the vetting process.

“She has tens of thousands of tweets. So these represent a small portion of those, so obviously, we’re doing forensics internally on how we didn’t catch it the first time,” Nuland said.

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©2013 McClatchy Washington Bureau

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