Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Democracy Is Messy- Kristof on Egypt

My take is similar on Egypt - Mike Ghouse

Op-Ed Columnist
Democracy Is Messy
Published: March 30, 2011

Nearly two months after street protests inspired a democratic revolution, the transitional military-backed government has proposed — you guessed it — a law banning protests. That’s partly because everybody is protesting, even the police. The cops want more money, perhaps because their diminished authority means that they can now extract less in bribes.

With the police out of commission, the army uses thugs to intimidate its critics. And, when it really gets irritated, it arrests and tortures democracy activists. As I wrote in my previous column, it has even tried to humiliate female activists by subjecting them to forced “virginity exams.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, once banned, has been brought into the power structure. Instead of denouncing the system, it is becoming part of it — and some of its activists are rampaging around Cairo University.

Yet for Americans, what is unfolding is perhaps a reassuring mess. Westerners have mostly worried that Egypt might plunge into Iran-style Islamic fundamentalism — and, to me, that seems a reflection of our own hobgoblins more than Egypt’s. Indeed, it seems increasingly likely that Egypt won’t change as much as many had expected. Moreover, the biggest losers of the revolution are likely to be violent Islamic extremist groups that lose steam when the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood joins the system.

“There is a determined effort to stop the revolution in its tracks,” notes Prof. Khaled Fahmy of the American University in Cairo. That’s disappointing for democracy activists like him, but reassuring to those who fear upheaval.

Based on my third trip to Cairo since the protests began, here’s my guess as to how events unfold:

• Post-revolution Egypt will look a lot like pre-revolution Egypt, but modestly less repressive and with a more powerful civil society. The army will continue to run the show, as it has since 1952 through onetime officers like Hosni Mubarak, and will ensure continuity.

• People will continue to be tortured, but will complain about it more. Peace with Israel will continue, but Egyptian officials will speak up more forcefully about suffering in Gaza.

• The best bet for the next president is Amr Moussa. He’s a former foreign minister who has led the Arab League: a veteran politician and pragmatist who would constitute a breath of fresh air but not a gust of it.

• Islamists will play a greater role in society and government, as they do in Turkey. But this will also mean that they are trying to build things rather than blow them up.

Islamic groups are certainly more active than before. Mohammed Alaiwa, a professor of literary criticism at Cairo University, told me that he was in a dean’s office recently when a Muslim Brotherhood student burst in, pulled out a pistol and threatened to shoot the dean unless he resigned then and there (the student eventually backed down). Professor Alaiwa said that he now fears the Muslim Brotherhood students.

Meanwhile, the up-and-comer Islamists are Salafis, who think the Muslim Brotherhood is far too moderate. A group of Salafis recently attacked a Coptic Christian, apparently accusing him of illicit sexual activity and cutting off his ear.

Order is breaking down somewhat. When Egyptians celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, gangs of men harassed them. When Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner who is running for president, tried to vote in a recent referendum, a mob attacked him.

When foreign reporters show up to cover news that might portray Egypt in a bad light, angry mobs sometimes chase them away. Fortunately, terrified reporters have so far proved to be swifter runners than Egyptian xenophobes.

Yet we have to be realistic: roads to democracy are always bumpy — and, frankly, I feel pretty good about Egypt. Despite some excesses, the Muslim Brotherhood has been tamed by being brought into the system. It says it won’t field a candidate for president and will contest only a bit more than one-third of parliamentary seats. Its Web site suggests that its aim is “a civil state” rather than “a religious state,” and it emphasizes the importance of respect for the Christian minority.

The big loser from the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise is probably its enemy, Al Qaeda, which wasn’t a part of the democracy protests and always argued that the only path to change was violence.

All in all, Egypt today reminds me of other countries in transitions to democracy — Spain after Franco, South Korea in 1987, Romania or Ukraine in the 1990s, and, most of all, of Indonesia after the ouster of its dictator in 1998. Indonesia was dodgy for a while — I once encountered Javanese mobs beheading people — but it settled down, the extremist threat diminished, and Indonesia is now a stable (if unfinished) democracy.

So, yes, Egypt is messy. A young democracy almost always is. Let’s get used to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Email to:

Voice of Moderate Muslims

Voice of Moderate Muslims
Voice of Moderate Muslims

Moderate Islam Speaker

Moderate Islam Speaker
Moderate Islam Speaker

quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.