How to Create a Real Democracy in Egypt
Say the word "democracy" in the West, and images of a free, pluralistic, and secular society come to mind. Commenting on the turmoil in Egypt, President Obama, "The United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve"—as if the two were inseparable.
The fact is, "democracy" does not always lead to "universal rights" and or other advantages associated with this form of governance. There is nothing inherently liberal, humanitarian, or secular about democracies, as we have seen from the democratic election of Hitler in Germany; the Palestinians' election of a terrorist government, Hamas, in Gaza in 2006; the election of the ayatollahs in Iran after the Shah was toppled in 1979; the near-election of the Islamists in Algeria in 1991, or even the democratic acceptance of slavery and the disenfranchisement of women in both ancient Athens and the first years of America. "People-power"—literally, demos-kratia— was what America's founder saw as also capable of becoming mob rule, and the reason they insisted on an electoral college.
Now that the people have gotten what they want in Egypt —the overthrow of Mubarak— will "people-power" automatically lead to a more liberal, secular, and pluralistic society?
Although many Egyptians – both Christians and Muslims -- would welcome a freer society, the majority of Egyptians were protesting not to see Islamic Sharia Law implemented -- despite Al-Jazeera's and the Iranian media's propaganda -- but for food and jobs.
That said, the Muslim Brotherhood's outspoken goal is to implement strict Sharia Law wherever it can; and if it is helped to power, Egypt will become considerably more fascistic and possibly even less free than it was under a dictatorship. This does not necessarily mean that Egyptians are Islamists; just that their choices were limited deliberately. As Mubarak suppressed and jailed anyone who promoted a real democracy, to show the West that the choice was between him and Islamists, he allowed the Islamists to function – even though they were officially outlawed -- to be able to show them to visitors from the West to justify his position. He thereby brought into being the choice he talked about: whoever did not like his regime had nowhere to go except the Islamists.
As in Western democracies, people can vote based on their immediate needs, emotions, misinformation, or even just propaganda—and, happily or unhappily, get more than they bargained for. In Gaza, for example, free social services – such as dental clinics and day-care centers -- that Arafat's government should have been providing but did not -- were what Hamas used to lure people to its side and incline them towards its theological agenda. This strategy of endearing the Palestinians to it by providing for their needs, Hamas learned directly from its parent organization: Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
Western democracies have built-in safeguards such as a constitution, rule of law, and a judiciary. But what sort of society does one create if all of these – the constitution, the law and the judiciary -- are built on Islamist principles of Islamic Sharia ["The Way"] Law, agreed to by the majority? One creates a society in which women are legally subjugated and with unequal rights; adulterers are legally stoned to death; and homosexuals and apostates legally hanged. The Brotherhood's slogan states that "the Koran is our Constitution;" as we have seen, Iran has a "constitutional government"—but entirely based on Sharia Law
It would benefit Egypt as well as the region if America stopped praising democracy—a means—and started supporting freedom and universal rights—the desired end.
"Elections" are not the same thing as a "democracy;" the words are not synonymous. To avoid having a repressive government freely elected, it is first necessary, as outlined in The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky, to first introduce and firmly establish institutions of democracy – such as a free press; free speech; freedom for religion and freedom from religion; equal justice under law, including of property rights; laws based on individuals' rights; an independent judiciary; separation of mosque and state, and so forth. Elections can then be held at the end -- after these building blocks for a free civil society – and real choices for the people -- are able to function without religious or political interference. Rather than support any one mode of governance now, the U.S. could work with whoever will put in place and continue to build these institutions of a free society associated with democracy.
Such an approach would even have the added bonus of fending off the charge — emanating everywhere from academia to the Arab street — that America is hypocritical for befriending and supporting dictators even as it constantly praises democracy.
As with all forms of governance, democracy is only a means to an end; whether that end is good (freedom) or bad (tyranny) should be the ultimate measure of its worth.
Comment on this item
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Over the past week there are voices coming out of Egypt and some Arab countries -- voices that publicly support the Israeli military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
They see the atrocities and massacres committed by Islamists on a daily basis in Iraq and Syria and are beginning to ask themselves if these serve the interests of the Arabs and Muslims.
"Thank you Netanyahu and may God give us more [people] like you to destroy Hamas!" — Azza Sami of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.
Isolated and under attack, Hamas now realizes that it has lost the sympathy of many Egyptians and Arabs.
by Soeren Kern
"I believe that adulterers should be stoned to death. I believe that we should cut the hands off of thieves. I believe the Sharia should be implemented in Denmark. Maybe we should change the Christiansborg Palace [the Danish Parliament building] to Muslimsborg to have the flag of Islam flying over the parliament in Denmark. I think this would be very nice." — Anjem Choudary, while in Denmark to establish Islam4dk in June 2014.
"[Choudary's network] has now been proscribed as a terrorist organization operating under 11 different names, but neither he nor any one of his associates has so far been prosecuted for membership of an illegal group." — Times of London.
"The cure for depression is jihad." — Abdul Raqib Amin (aka Abu Bara al-Hindi), Scottish jihadist.
by Christine Williams
Israel's targets have been militants, military facilities, rocket launchers, tunnels and command centers. Israel has taken extraordinary measures to protect Palestinian civilian life.
Meanwhile, Hamas violates international law both by targeting Israel's civilians and by using its own people as human shields -- and then blaming Israel for the casualties.
The BDS movement covers up its ties with the terrorist group Hamas.
by Oliver Williams
In the politically correct attempt to avoid "stereotyping" and be safe from discomfort, have we been blocking out reality?
Hollywood has been indulging in a sort of reverse racial profiling: cinematic terrorists could be anybody other than Muslims.
Muslim terrorists? As in the movie Non-Stop, Hollywood would rather cast the family members of 9/11 victims as terrorists rather than reflect that such a thing exists.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Fatah has several hundred militiamen in the Gaza Strip, some of whom are members of the Palestinian Authority security forces, who continue to receive their salaries from Western governments.
At least two Fatah armed groups announced that they had started firing rockets at the "settlements" of Ashkelon and Sderot, cities inside the pre-1967 borders of Israel, with another Fatah group claiming responsibility for firing 35 rockets into Israel since Sunday.
So far as Abbas is concerned, "it all started when Israel fired back" in response to hundred of rockets fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip during the last few days. He seems concerned that if the world hears about the role of Fatah in the rocket attacks, the news will affect Western financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, which dominated by Fatah.