Are we being naive about the possibility of Egyptian "democracy"?

A lot of people have been optimistically speculating that the Egyptian uprising will lead to a free, democratic, system that somehow espouses democratic ideas and freedoms similar to those of the west.

Those who predict the emergence of an Iranian-style Islamist revolutionary governemt are generally dismissed as pessimists.

Perhaps it is time to take off the rose-coloured glasses and look at the facts. For one thing, a country can be “democratic” in the sense of majority rule without respecting what we in the west regard as basic human rights.

Unless the vast majority of the country have experienced a sudden conversion to the ideas of the Enlightenment in the last 9 months, here are facts collected by Pew Research Centre among 1,000 Egyptians in face-to-face interviews in April and May 2010 that give a pretty good idea of Egyptian public opinion before the current protests. Do these opinions sound like they would allow what we would call a “free” country?

First, the good news:

[li]59% say democracy is preferable to any other form of government. * [/li][li]*61% are concerned or very concerned about Islamist extremism in Egypt. *This may sound encouraging if you ignore the 39% who apparently don’t have a problem with extremism. But read on, because their concept of “extremism” seems to a be a little different from the western idea.[/li][/ul]

Now the bad news:

[li]54% believe men and woman should be segregated in the workplace.[/li]
[li]82% believe adulterers should be stoned[/li]
[li]84% believe apostates from Islam should face the death penalty[/li]
[li]77% believe thieves should be flogged or have their hands cut off.[/li][/ul] *95% say it’s good that Islam plays a large role in politics. So much for separatiion of Mosque and State, a concept that has little or no traction in the Muslim world.[/LIST]

Perhaps western democracies are making the unjustified assumption that democracy and human rights go hand-in-hand and that one automatically includes the other.

Is a democratic country necessarily a free country in the western sense of the term?

For example, there is the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) which is a declaration of the member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference adopted in Cairo in 1990, which provides an overview on the Islamic perspective on human rights, and affirms Islamic Shari’ah as its sole source.

Could a non-Muslim (e.g. an Egyptian Coptic Christian) run for public office in the Egyptian “democracy”? Perhaps, but Sharia law says that the right to hold public office can only be exercised in accordance with the Sharia which forbids Muslims to submit to the rule of non-Muslims. Do we consider a genuine democracy one that limits the right to run in elections based on religion?

Could a non-Muslim preach his point of view in the “new democracy” of Egypt? Article 10 of the CDHRI states: “Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion or to atheism.”

Egypt may become a democracy in the sense of the majoritively Muslim population voting in elections. But whether it will be in any way what would normally pass for a free country is open to debate.

If I were the US, I would keep a lot of helicopters gassed up and ready to fly at the US Embassy!

I know no one who thinks a free and unfettered by religion, democracy will result. What is clear is it will be different. The army is still very powerful. can a leader get established without being under their control?
Al Jazeera is doing all day coverage. The streets are full of protesters. There is sit-in protest in Alexandrea.
One thing is clear, they want Mubarak gone.

I expect different societies, given the opportunity to form their respective governments democratically, to come up with different results.

A democratic country which saw the moral and cultural source of its law in Islam wouldn’t be my first choice, hypothetically, but then neither would one which alleged to derive its law from Christianity.

Why am I not surprised at this OP?

Yes, I rather doubt the OP ever owned a pair of rose-colored glasses.

It’s possible people are naive about what will come out of the uprising, yes. But it’s clear the country has been oppressed by Mubarak for much too long and that they’re not satisfied with his rule or with his apparent intention to hand control to his son. I’m hopeful for the country’s sake that something better and freer comes out of this, and that even if it’s much more religious and less democratic than any system I’d want to live in, that it continues to move in the right direction after that.

Yes, Valteron, you’re absolutely correct. No good could possibly come of this. What do you propose? I’m afraid I’m out of ideas on what to do about the Muslim Problem.

[quote=“Valteron, post:1, topic:570179”]

[li]54% believe men and woman should be segregated in the workplace.[/li][/quote]

At least they acknowledge women have a place in the “workplace”, in contrast to some Americans who believe the only right place for a woman in in the home, preferably mothering children.

On paper we alledgely have separation of church and state here but every political speech ends in “God Bless America” and people are still trying to make Christian prayer mandatory in public schools.

How likely do you think it is for a Muslim to be elected to high government office these days? How about a Pagan or atheist? We had people in a screaming panic because Obama’s father was Muslim, even though he himself is a Christian. There is ade facto religious test for government office in this country despite what is written on paper, and if you aren’t Christian or Jewish you aren’t going to have much of a career in politics.

Can Muslims build a mosque in Manhattan without being harassed?

From my viewpoint, the difference is not as vast as you seem to assume. No democracy is perfect, and we’ve got plenty of religion screwing with the US at present.

You might also be either unaware of or ignoring signs of tolerance in Eqypt such as Muslims forming protective lines around Copts during celebrations of mass to protect them from extremists, and Christians forming protective lines around Muslims at prayer in the current protests. In other words, both Muslims and Christians are putting themselves at risk of bodily harm in order to protect others of differing beliefs. I find this a very positive sign, one that some on my countrymen could learn from.

Are there Egyptian extremists? Sure. We have extremists, here, too - like Timothy McVeigh or the Westboro Baptist Church and people who shoot doctors who perform abortions or bomb clinics. Does that mean we can’t be trusted with democracy?

As I saw in the Guardian that there were Christians and Muslims (Egyptians all) protecting each other in the fighting against the Thugs, I’m guess that in V’s view that was just some servile Dhimmis enslaved by the praying Muslims…

Get a life.

wow–talk about rose-colored glasses!!!
You really don’t see the difference between what would happen in America if the Tea Party runs the government, and what will happen in Egypt if the Muslim Brotherhood runs the government?

(hint: look at their neighbors. Gaza, where the democratic process led to Hamas running a Taliban-style culture. Or Lebanon, where the Hizbollah party is such a nice, peaceful charitable society. )

Good job making the OP’s thesis not look uniquely whacked out!

I’ll take this rare opportunity and agree with gonzo. I don’t see anyone in the West being naive about Egyptian democracy. So, the OP starts out with a false premise.

I would certain agree that dismissing people who “predict the emergence of an Iranian-style Islamist revolutionary government” as being “pessimists” is wrong.

Egyptians are overwhelming Sunnis, not Shia. This means that the idea of the them developing a government based on the principals of Velayat e Faqih is absolutely zero.

So people who “predict the emergence of an Iranian-style Islamist revolutionary government” should be dismissed as paranoid, ignorant fools.

I’m pretty sure that “an Iranian-style Islamist revolutionary governemt” was just intended to mean “an Islamist government.” Nobody knows what the rest of that stuff means. :wink:

Nope, not really. You see, I fall into a couple of categories the Tea Party does not approve of. If they really did take over the country I would lose many of my civil rights in practice if not actual law and become a second or third class citizen in my own native country.

Of course, life under the Muslim Brotherhood would also suck for me. They don’t approve of me either.

It’s not any more naive than thinking that simply invading a country, removing its dictator, and propping up a paint-by-numbers government will lead to democracy.

By the way do you have a cite for those numbers?

OK, so a possible outcome of this uprising is that the Muslim Brotherhood ends up in charge of Egypt. I agree that this is plausible, serious, and undesirable.

What are you proposing we do to stop or mitigate such an outcome?

Come out full force in favor of Mubarak? How likely is that to work? And what would it entail, besides the Obama getting on TV and pledging support for Mubarak no matter what? I guess that would give him diplomatic cover to send in the tanks against the protesters. And this would return us back to the cozy status quo ante? No, that isn’t possible. Even if Mubarak claws his way back into power, the status quo ante is finished.

The notion that the United States can control events in Egypt, and choose the outcome that fits our interests best, is naive, delusional, and disastrous in equal parts.

OK, so the Muslim Brotherhood in a year or two is gonna rule Egypt. They’re no friends of ours, neither are they liberals of any sort. So what’s the plan to stop them?

I’m sure a persuasive case can be made, from a realpolitik perspective, that the US should continue supporting Mubarak and other Middle Eastern dictators because they’re known quantities and the status quo causes less anxiety, but I’m tired of those arguments. They’re almost always short-sighted, cynical, and in support of actions antithetical to our alleged ideals. I’ve resolved not to accept them anymore.

Not to worry, I’m sure the OP can come up with a final solution.