According to the Athenian, ideal (Pericles), democracy is a form of government whereby power is exercised in the common interest of the many rather than the few. In our own day, this democractic ideal has waned until now all citizens who are awake can perceive that governement is of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.
Given the religious fervor that animates Muslims and their zeal for sharia law, Western democracy is a foreign object in the body of Islam, though Turkey is an exception.
Previous posts (for example) have illustrated that representative democracy in Egypt is not a foregone conclusion. The following article, with accompanying links below, corroborates this conclusion, but it can be hoped that Egyptian youth will eschew ideology in favor of pragmatism.
The real threat in Egypt: Delayed democracy
By Jackson Diehl, Published: September 25
Is Egypt imploding?
A lot of people in Washington seem to think so, though they are talking about it quietly so far. Their fears are specific: that the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic fundamentalist parties will take power when Egypt’s first democratic elections are held later this year; and that peace with Israel — the foundation of a 30-year, American-backed order in the Middle East — is “hanging by a thread,”as Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy put it.
There is reason, of course, to worry about those scenarios. But here’s what emerged in conversations I had last week with a number of Egyptian journalists, activists and officials: The most immediate and urgent threat in Egypt is not a dramatic Islamic coup or a diplomatic rupture with the Jewish state, but prolongation of the chaotic and directionless regime the country now lives under.
Egypt exists in a strange, unpredictable netherworld between military dictatorship and liberal democracy. Since Hosni Mubark’s regime was overthrown in February, free media, political parties and civil society groups have flourished; there are daily strikes and street demonstrations; Mubarak himself is on trial. But thousands have been summarily sentenced to prison by military courts. Bloggers who criticize the army have been harassed, and a regime of “emergency law” — which officially bans most public gatherings —has been revived.
The ruling military council says that parliamentary elections will be held beginning in late November. But it has yet to specify exact dates, the form representation will take, the electoral districts that will be used or what duties the new parliament will have — other than choosing an assembly to write a new constitution. Nor do Egyptians know when a presidential election will take place, whether it will be before or after the new constitution is completed or whether the military will seek to give itself special oversight powers in the new political order. Announcements are made, then abruptly revised or reversed, depending on whom the generals last consulted with.
Meanwhile, the economy is tanking as tourists and foreign investors keep their distance. The military recently demonstrated its economic acumen by abruptly imposing new visa requirements on foreign visitors, before just as hastily lifting them.
The generals once promised to turn over power by this month. But, at best, the parliamentary elections will be completed at the end of February. The presidential election, which would finally end military rule, could come in nine months, some analysts predict; others say it could be put off 18 months while delegates dicker over the new constitution.
The great problem here is that elections are the most likely means of arresting the downward spiral. Five of the leading six candidates for president are responsible secular centrists; the runaway favorite, so far, is former foreign minister and Arab League general secretary Amr Moussa. Moussa may be a recent convert to liberal democracy, and he is known for striking populist poses against Israel. But he would almost certainly run a better government than the military and give the economy a chance to recover.
True, Islamist parties may win a plurality in the parliamentary elections. Estimates of their potential vote range from 10 to 40 percent. But that still means they would hold a minority of seats; and the Islamists themselves are divided into several factions. The strongest of them recognize that they will not be able to force a fundamentalist agenda on Egypt’s secular middle class or its large Christian minority, at least in the short and medium terms.
What about Israel? Moussa was recently quoted as saying that the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty is “untouchable” and that the sacking of the Israeli embassy in Cairo this month was “unacceptable.” Every major political party in Cairo has denounced the embassy attack, and while some have called for renegotiating the treaty’s security provisions, none wants to cancel it. The mob that attacked the embassy was largely composed not of political revolutionaries but of soccer hooligans who had gathered in the center of Cairo because they were angry at being harassed by police. When they marched on the embassy, police at first did nothing to stop them.
Those who worry about an Egyptian implosion sometimes hint that the elections should be further postponed or even canceled. In fact, the opposite is needed. The United States and other Western governments ought to adopt the demand put forward in a letter last week by Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who was one of the leaders of the revolution: that the military “quickly announce specific dates for the process of transferring complete power. . .to an elected civilian authority that would control everything in the nation.” Egypt’s problem is neither its revolution nor its prospective democracy: It’s what is happening — and may yet happen — between the two.
Christians Fleeing Egypt, NGO Reports
An Egyptian NGO reports mass Christian flight following Mubarak’s downfall. Up to 250,000 could leave this year.
By Maayana Miskin
First Published: 9/27/2011, 11:53 AM
The number of Christians to have fled Egypt since March is approaching 100,000, and could reach 250,000 by the end of 2011, a Coptic NGO has reported. An estimated 93,000 have left already, the head of the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights told the daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.
Numbers were based on information gathered from churches within Egypt and from Coptic communities abroad.
The most popular destination for fleeing Christians was the United States, which took in an estimated 42,000 of the Egyptian Copts. Other destinations included Canada, Australia and western Europe.
Federation of Human Rights head Naguib Gabriel said Christians were leaving over threats from Salafi groups seeking to implement Sharia (Islamic law) as national law, and over the government’s failure to bring attackers to justice in attacks on churches.
Some voiced skepticism regarding the report, saying it was unlikely that Christians could have migrated so quickly, due to the bureaucracy involved in immigration. However, they told Al-Masry Al-Youm that they agree anti-Christian persecution is a serious issue.
Harassment of Copts in Egypt has included attacks on churches, the kidnap of teenage Christian girls and their forced conversion to Islam, and themassacre of Christian families in the north of the country. Minority Christian groups are under threat elsewhere in the Muslim world as well.
Egyptian Muslims Burn Coptic Church in Aswan Province
Egyptian Muslims have returned to “business as usual,” with another attack on a Coptic Christian church, this one in Aswan.
The Sheikh of Al-Azhar in an Exceptionally Tolerant Article: Christianity, Judaism Share Basic Tenets of Islam; Relationship between Muslims and Non-Muslims Must Be Based on ‘Mutual Recognition’
Al-Azhar, based in Cairo, is the most important center of learning and the supreme religious authority in the Sunni Muslim world. In an article published June 23, 2011 in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, its head, Al-Azhar Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayeb, expressed remarkably tolerant views towards non-Muslims, especially Christians and Jews. He wrote: “A Muslim cannot imagine all of mankind sharing a single creed or turning to a single religion even if this religion is Islam. As long as this remains the case, the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims [must be] one of mutual recognition. The Islamic world has absorbed all the religions of the known world. In its western regions it encountered the Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Christianity, and in its eastern region it encountered Hinduism and Buddhism.”
Retired Egyptian General Abd Al-Hamid Umran Calls for an Egyptian Nuclear Program: We Should Follow the Iranian Model and Deceive the International Community
Egyptian Filmmaker Magdi Ahmad: The Salafis Want to Gain Power through a Revolution or by Democratic Means and Then Abolish Democracy
Egyptian Cleric Wagdi Ghoneim: Democracy Is Founded on Principles of Heresy; Don’t Tell Me Christians in Egypt Should Have Equal Rights
Egyptian Presidential Candidate Ayman Nour: The New President Will Not Agree to Be Treated as a Servant, Slave, or Employee of the US
Egyptian Cleric Mazen Al-Sirsawi: “If Allah Had Not Created the Shiites as Human Beings, They Would Have Been Donkeys”
Endgame for Egypt
September 13, 2011 – 3:21 pm – by David P. Goldman
Robert Musil’s Der Mann Ohne Eigenschaften (“The Man Without Qualities”), one of the great novels of the past century, is a portrait of the Austrian elite early in 1914. The readers know that their silly world will come to a terrible end a few months later with the outbreak of war, but the protagonists do not. Musil published a first volume and spent the rest of his life trying to write a second, without success, for it is the sort of story that has no end except for the abyss.
Arab politics today has a Musil-like quality of unreality, for the conclusion will be the collapse of the Egyptian state. The misnamed “Arab Spring,” really a convulsion of a dying society, began with food shortages. Egypt imports half its caloric consumption, 45% of its people are illiterate, its university graduates are unemployable, its $10 billion a year tourism industry is shuttered for the duration, and its foreign exchange reserves are gradually disappearing. In August, the central bank’s reported reserves fell below what the bank calls the “danger level” of six months’ import coverage, or $25 billion, from $36 billion in February, although I suspect that even this number is bloated by $5 to $10 billion of Algerian and Saudi loans and trade credits. Despite reports in the press that food price inflation in Egypt has slowed, Arab-language Egyptian media report that the prices of some staples, like rice and sugar, have risen by 50% or more since March. The military government is distributing bread and propane (the main cooking fuel).
Egypt turned down a proposed loan from the International Monetary Fund earlier this year because the military government could not accept the conditionality attached to IMF money. The Gulf States and the West may keep Egypt on life support, which would leave a large proportion of Egyptians in a limbo of extreme destitution. The fiscal collapse of Southern Europe (and severe problems elsewhere) makes this an inopportune time to come to the West with a begging bowl. As for the Gulf States: they are not even meeting their commitments to the Palestine Authority, and can’t be expected to carry a $15 to $20 billion annual financing requirement for Egypt.
It does not compute. Western economists can concoct all the economic recovery plans in the world, but a country that can’t teach half its people to read, and can’t produce employable university graduates, and can’t feed itself, is going to go down the drain. Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak kept Egypt under control by keeping most of its people poor, ignorant, and on the farm, and by warehousing its youth in state-run diploma mills. After sixty years of such abuse, Egypt simply can’t get there from here.
The result, I predict, will be a humanitarian catastrophe that makes Somalia look like a picnic. It’s not surprising that the Egyptian mob might attack the Israeli embassy. The Egyptian street has nothing to do but rise up against perceived oppressors, because nothing good awaits them; and the desperation that will follow the collapse of the Arab “Spring” threatens every Middle Eastern regime, such that the rulers have to try to get out in front of the rage. But what will they actually do? The Egyptian military is hanging onto power by its fingernails. If it attacks Israel, it will lose, and generals will be hanged from lamp posts. The Syrian military is too busy killing protesters to attack Israel, or to assist Hezbollah in a confrontation with Israel.
What we are likely to witness during the next two years will be repellent, even horrifying — but not necessarily dangerous.