Saturday, June 04, 2005

Egypt and the fear from the hasty change.

Yesterday, an article posted on Winds of Change and written by their correspondent Tarek Heggy caught my attention.
The author expresses his concerns over the risks associated with what he called a hasty transformation from the current situation towards democracy and he particularly emphasized on the disastrous results that would inevitably happen when the Islamic Brotherhood reaches power in Egypt. Here's Heggy's full article for you to read.

Now, although I completely agree with what he said about the Islamic brotherhood's ambitions, ideology and plans, I have some reservations about the idea in general and I'd like to summarize my observations in the following few lines:

I noticed that Mr. Heggy in his article had jumped over the most important part of the transformation which is the people's choice. I mean assuming that the transformation is a democratic one since elections are to be involved then one should not overlook that crucial element which is the opinion of the people, i.e. the silent majority.
So the question here is, will the Egyptian people allow/choose the Islamic brotherhood to rule the country?

Let's take Iraq as an example here for a "hasty" transformation and let's learn from the lessons that accompanied the transformation in Iraq; when Saddam was toppled there were no secular or liberal parties on the ground except for the Kurdish parties which are limited by ethnic and geographic barriers and parties like the INC of Chalabi or Allawi's party were outside Iraq and had no big enough public base in Iraq, not to mention that they didn't have well defined platforms. The most organized parties were the SCIRI and the Da'wa which are both religious She'at parties.
So these parties won in the 1st elections as expected and a similar win for the religious parties in Egypt is in the same way not unexpected.

But let's take a look at the situation now (from a political point of view and regardless of terrorism as we're discussing a people-parties relationship) the dominant parties realize that Share'at law cannot be applied in Iraq because people don't want such a system.

And more important is that secular and liberal parties (small ones in particular) have realized their weakness and they're now trying to form alliances in order to get a bigger role in the process and there are indications that such parties will be tougher competitors when the next round of elections come.
So what I want to say here is that liberal and secular Egyptian parties should learn from the experiment of their Iraqi counterparts to avoid falling in the same mistakes and I don't think that's very difficult to do.

One other fact that should be mentioned here is that there are nearly 10 million Christians living in Egypt and I guess that's a considerable percentage of the population and its effect must not be ignored.

Anyhow, my above perspective could be wrong as I don't live in Egypt and there are certainly some differences between Iraq and Egypt but there's one idea that I am completely sure of and it's that the road to democracy is never an easy one and that sacrifices have to be expected and no one should expect a perfect liberal, secular and human-rights preserving democracy from the first try.

One Arab poet had a verse that so eloquently describes the conflict in making such difficult choices, the translation of the verse goes like this:

Those who fear climbing mountains
Shall live forever in the holes

And I truly don't want our friends in Egypt to keep living in the holes.

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