When discussing the exodus of peoples from communist regimes such as Cuba’s, it is common practice to describe their escape as a flight from oppression, or a search for freedom. These labels are evocative and correct, but in order to deepen our understanding of the root causes for this migration it is also helpful to think of it as a flight from equality. Fleeing equality is a provocative description that also contributes intellectually to our current political discussion of inequality.
Collectivist ideologies are based on the idea that an individual’s life does not belong to the individual, but to the society to which he belongs. The individual is not recognized as having any rights, and must forgo his/her values for the group’s “greater good.” Communist thinking identifies the collective as the central unit of moral concern. In the collectivist view of morality, man has no rights except those which society permits him to enjoy.
In contrast, classical liberalism holds that each individual is morally an end in himself and has a moral right to act according to his own judgment free from government’s coercion. In this way, individualism has driven innovation, the agricultural and industrial revolutions, and the most inspiring explosion in wealth creation and poverty reduction the world has ever witnessed.
Notwithstanding its unparalleled track record reducing poverty, individualism- which is essentially our quest for personal freedom- has been castigated by collectivist thinkers as a selfish philosophy to be replaced by state imposed egalitarianism. And yet, it is precisely that forced equality that those fleeing communist societies seek to escape. Freedom is individual not collective.
Cubans fleeing that tragic island have already experienced the devastating moral and economic consequences of collectivist policies that seek to craft an egalitarian society- a failed experiment that sought to create a “new man” that would be communal in outlook and sacrificial for the common good. That experiment resulted in an economically bankrupt dystopian society featuring enormously repressive social control systems and a government with unlimited power over its citizens.
To be clear, the equality that millions flee from is the equality of economic outcomes imposed by the ruling class. They reject the egalitarianism which, in some ways, underpins calls for income redistribution in the United States. Income redistribution proponents fail to acknowledge that when we confiscate a person’s wealth we directly violate his/her freedom.
It is not callous to explain that, by definition, at any given time in a free society 20% of the population will be in the lowest quintile of income (the poor), and 20% will be in the highest quintile of income (the wealthy). But in an expanding free market economy income will increase for both quintiles. Yes, the rich get richer, but so do the poor.
Just as importantly, in a free market system the populations of both quintiles are constantly changing. Studies of income distribution in free-market societies reveal a remarkable degree of income mobility with individuals moving up and down in the income distribution scales as their circumstances change. That is, the quintiles will always be filled by someone but not always by the same people. Free market societies offer the opportunity to escape the equality imposed by collectivism.
Thus one of the attractions of free societies is that they are characterized by what sociologists label as “circulation of elites,” where no one is kept from entering the ranks of the economic elite. Economic elites in market societies are always open to new members, where elites in other societies tend to be static resting on military power, group membership, or family connection.
Examples abound in market societies of individuals who left behind countries where markets are severely restricted or hampered by special favors for the politically connected, and in one generation have succeeded in joining the upper quintile. Miami showcases the Cuban example.
As we embark on efforts in the United States to redistribute wealth by government edict, it is worth understanding why people flee the equality we are trying to bring about. Social scientist Jose Benegas defines slavery as the 100 percent expropriation of an individual’s labor. This definition reminds us that appropriating coercively any portion of a person’s income is partial slavery.
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This article was originally published in English in the PanAm Post and in Spanish in El Nuevo Herald.
José Azel, Ph.D.
José Azel left Cuba in 1961 as a 13 year-old political exile in what has been dubbed Operation Pedro Pan - the largest unaccompanied child refugee movement in the history of the Western Hemisphere.
He is currently dedicated to the in-depth analyses of Cuba's economic, social and political state, with a keen interest in post-Castro-Cuba strategies as a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) at the University of Miami and has published extensively on Cuba related topics.
In 2012 and 2015, Dr. Azel testified in the U.S. Congress on U.S.-Cuba Policy, and U.S. National Security. He is a frequent speaker and commentator on these and related topics on local, national and international media. He holds undergraduate and masters degrees in business administration and a Ph.D. in International Affairs from the University of Miami.
Dr. Azel is author ofMañana in Cuba: The Legacy of Castroism and Transitional Challenges for Cuba, published in March 2010 and of Pedazos y Vacios, a collection of poems he wrote as a young exile in the 1960's.
José along with his wife Lily are avid skiers and adventure travelers. In recent years they have climbed Grand Teton in Wyoming, trekked Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Machu Pichu in Peru. They have also hiked in Tibet and in the Himalayas to Mt. Everest Base Camp.
They cycled St. James Way (El Camino de Santiago de Compostela) and cycled alongside the Danube from Germany to Hungary. They have scuba dived in the Bay Islands off the Honduran coast.
Their adventurers are normally dedicated to raise funds for causes that are dear to them.
Voice of the Copts, a nonprofit organization, fights the spread of Islamic supremacy and Sharia throughout the Western world through education, advocacy and action. By drawing attention to the suffering of Coptic Christians in Egypt, it endeavors to educate the Western world as to the chilling effect of Sharia (Islamic law). Founded in 2007 by Dr. Ashraf Ramelah, Voice of the Copts focuses on three key issues: freedom of religion, cultural identity and women’s rights.
Dr. Ashraf Ramelah is the founder and president of Voice of the Copts, a human rights nonprofit organization 501 (c) (3). The organization has offices in Italy and the United States.
Dr. Ramelah is dedicated to the Coptic cause and believes that this life’s mission is to speak up for the oppressed Copts who cannot speak up for themselves, hence the name, Voice of the Copts.
When he is not meeting with political figures and policy makers, Dr. Ramelah spends his time travelling throughout the country giving talks about the Coptic issue and explaining to the West the oppression against the Copts in Egypt. Dr. Ramelah was invited to address the European Parliament (2010) and to be the keynote speaker in the Italian Parliament (2011) on the issue of Coptic persecution in Egypt. He has done various interviews with Italian newspapers and appears frequently in the Italian and Arab Media. Dr. Ramelah is a featured author at American Thinker.com, Family Security Matters.com, and Canada Free Press.com.
Dr. Ramelah is well known to the Egyptian government due to his advocacy for the Egyptian Copts as well as for Voice of the Copts’ lawsuit against them on behalf of Muslim convert to Christianity Mr. Hegazy and his family in 2009-2010. Ashraf Ramelah also appears as an entry in the Coptic History Encyclopedia (http://www.coptichistory.org/new_page_5260.htm).
Dr. Ramelah, himself a Copt, was born in Cairo, Egypt. At the age of 17, he travelled to Italy to study architecture. He graduated with a doctorate in architecture from La Sapienza – Universita’ Degli Studi di Roma, Italy. His special study is restoration of old monuments and history of architecture.
His career as an architect took him to work and live in Italy, Saudi Arabia, Gabon and the USA. His personal interests are Egyptology and Coptic history in the period after the Arab invasion of Egypt in 651 AD.
Voice of the Copts is dedicated to bringing fair, correct and balanced information to the entire world regarding Copts and Christians in countries with an Arab-Muslim majority.
Dr. Ramelah is managing editor of a website in both English and Italian with the same name.
Egyptian judoka Salafi-style: No withdraw, no win, no handshake
The ancient Greek Olympiad, the origin of today’s Olympic Games, was held in honor of Zeus. The games were used as a political tool between rival city-states. It was all about victory and the assertion of dominance. The inception of the Olympiad dates back to nearly nine hundred years before the moon god, Allah, whispered his special message into humanity through the angel Gabriel. So, it is not odd that upon completion of the August 12 judo match of the Rio Olympics between Egyptian competitor, Islam el-Shehaby, and Isaeli champion, Or Sasson, that the devout Salafi publicly observed his god by refusing, according to Quranic commandment, to shake the extended winning hand of Sasson, the Jew.
When the match was over, Shehaby ignored Sasson, following the Quranic verse 2:65 (And will ye knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath: We said to them: “Be ye apes, despised and rejected”). This was not the case of a sore loser. The devout Muslim was paying homage to Allah. Deference to Allah is why Egyptian Copts are barred (unofficially) from Egypt’s Olympic training camps at an age when children are singled out for athletic talent. Christian family ancestry (the name of one’s great-great-grandfather) or simply the mandatory Egyptian ID card indicating Christianity will shut any candidate out.
Shehaby was internationally ranked very high at 25 in his weight class. As Egypt’s state champion, Salafi Shehaby’s chances were very good for victory; predictions were made that Islam would dominate. The Egyptian Olympic Authority knew it risked the dreaded possibility that Shehaby could face an Israeli champion. Sure enough the 32nd round of the judo matches determined this to be when the draw brought Sasson, ranked at 5, to face Shehaby. Cries of protest from the devout of Egypt (and other Islamic countries) for Shehaby to withdraw were deafening.
To settle the matter, Khalid Abdul Aziz (Egyptian Minister of Youth and Sports), relegated religious considerations to the rules and regulations of the world games. Shehaby’s potential triumph over an Israeli Jew would not be relinquished when the possibility of his dominance would bring great honor to Islam. Aziz went on CNN Arabic to quote the Olympic Charter, “Egypt is committed to the Olympic Charter, which does not recognize withdrawal of a participant, and it is not acceptable for any Egyptian athlete to withdraw from any competition. This would expose the player and country to sanctions. Egyptian athletes must accept competition with everyone, regardless of any other considerations.”
This actually gave the 34-year old Salafi judoka a choice. Reminded of his duty to the Charter and his country, he could stay on track. Otherwise, withdraw from the contest and abide by the religious dictates of his conscience (embodied in the disapproval of fellow believers). Shehaby, no doubt, had in mind fellow athlete, Ramadan Darwish, who overpowered his Israeli competition in the 2012 Dusseldorf quarterfinals of the German judo games delivering Egypt the Bronze medal. Darwish brought a double honor to Allah when he disregarded the after-match handshake in submission to the laws of his religious doctrine.
However, what Shehaby didn’t know choosing to go forward was that two days hence he would honor Allah in front of the world only by half his former teammate – losing the combat and likewise refusing the sportsman’s handshake. The final push for his decision to engage came from the president of the Egyptian Olympic Committee, Hisham Kattab, who confirmed that no one can force Shehaby to withdraw and shatter his hopes of an Olympic competition just because he happens to face an Israeli player. He went on to wish Shehaby a win and the achievement of an Olympic medal.
On the day of the match, reporters described Shehaby looking haggard, stepping onto the mat with his eyes darting and knees quivering. Bigotry is not easy. Just the thought of proximity is unnerving and, in this case, weakened resolve. Like Nasser’s ‘67 five-day defeat, in five minutes it was over for Shehaby. The Egyptian president returned from the world stage to apologize to the Egyptian people as Shehaby needs to do now. Egyptian government authorities and their Olympic committee publicly condemned Shehaby’s behavior calling the player back home. Meanwhile, Shehaby’s success resides in his contribution to the expansion of Islamic ideology.
Christian Coptic participation in Egypt’s Olympics is tokenism, if and when we see it. In their formative years, Egypt’s Christian children know they haven’t a shot at striving for the pinnacle of athletics and, for that matter, government, academics, politics or the military. Only just recently are there a handful of elected Christians to the Egyptian parliament. However, this will not yet lead to the reversal of institutionalized second-class status for minority religions.
Shehaby’s scraggly Mohammed-style beard, worn by devout Salafi Muslims, contradicted the ideal of former Egyptian participants in past Olympics, placing worship over country. Reaction to Shehaby upon return can be summed up in the malicious mockery found in the comments of media host and secularist, Dr. Khaled Montaser, who blogged on social media, “It’s clear that our judoka player is a cocktail of crap. He also refused to shake hands with the president of the Olympic Committee [a woman] during the investigation because it is haram [a sin]!!” An investigation by the Olympic Commission was made into Shehaby’s refusal to bow to his opponent according to regulation when the match ended. Montaser then evoked Osama Bin Laden’s hideout to say, “Even if this were the Tora Bora team one would never act like that!! El-Shehaby thought that he was in the Khaybar Gazwa.” He added, “Who sent such an Uncle Salafi to shame and disgrace us?”
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Who Are The Copts
Copts are by far the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Ninety-five percent of Copts in Egypt are Orthodox and the remaining population is divided between Catholic and Protestant denominations. Copts living in Egypt represent between 15-20% of the total population of Egypt today.
In the time of Jesus, the whole world, including Egyptians, were pagan (Jews excluded). Egypt was occupied by Romans when in 60 A.D. Apostle Mark reached Alexandria preaching the Gospel. Over the next two hundred years, Egypt became a Christian country. The Church of Alexandria was one of the first five original churches of Christianity planted by the Apostles of Jesus Christ.
After the invasion of Egypt by Arab-Muslims in 641 A.D. native Egyptian Copts were forced to Islamicize by adopting the Arabic tongue along with Arab-Muslim culture and customs. It is wrong and unfair to apply Arab ethnicity to Copts. It is appropriate to recognize Copts for who they are – non-Arab descendents of the ancient civilization of Egypt and followers of Christ.
The Greek word "Egyptos" came from the ancient Egyptian word, "Hikaptah" (Ha-Ka-Ptah). After their conquest of Egypt, Arabs referred to the population of Egypt with the term "Gypt" from the Greek word "Egyptos." Over time "Gypt" anglicized into the word "Copt." Copt means Egyptian.
The history of Egypt begins with King Mina or Menas who united the northern and southern kingdoms of Egypt circa 3050 B.C. The ancient Egyptian civilization under the rule of the Pharaohs lasted for approximately 3000 years. Many Copts accepted the teachings of Christianity possibly because the ancient Egyptian religions believed in life after death. This is evidenced by their elaborate efforts to preserve the bodies of the dead by embalming or mummification.
Like other early Christians throughout the Roman Empire, the Copts suffered from persecution due to the new religion. Many Copts shed their blood in testimony for Jesus Christ. Saint Mina or Menas is one of the major Coptic saints. He was martyred 309 A.D.