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Is real democracy an option in Egypt?

Egypt As cable news dishes out scenes of tear-gassings, burning buildings and tanks rolling through the streets of Cairo, I'm reminded of a story my father-in-law, who was born and raised in that city, used to tell. He was a young man in 1952 when army leaders deposed King Farouk in a coup d'etat and Egypt found itself suddenly ruled by Egyptians for the first time since the days of the pharoahs (the biblical pharoahs, that is; even Cleopatra was actually a Macedonian). He talked about pandemonium in the streets, a breakdown of law and order; when he shouted at an old man who was going the wrong way down a one-way street with a donkey cart, snarling traffic horribly, the man shouted back, "It's democracy! I do what I want!"

That experience seems to have permanently soured my father-in-law on the prospects of genuine democracy in the Arab world, which may explain why, when he moved to Los Angeles to attend USC film school, he never went back. Of course, what might have seemed like a democratic outbreak for a short time in 1952 turned out to be nothing of the sort. The generals put a convenient figurehead, Gen. Mohammed Neguib, in charge, but it wasn't long before the real leader of the coup, Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser, had taken over. He ruled as a dictator until his death in 1970.

My father-in-law suspected that most democratic movements in the Middle East would ultimately end either with the emergence of a strongman ruler or a Muslim theocracy (he was himself Greek Catholic -- about 10% of the population is Christian). Tunisians, Egyptians and even Yemenis will in the coming months demonstrate whether he was right. I'm less cynical than my father-in-law, who died in 2009. The last 60 years have brought profound changes to Egypt and other Arab countries; in the era of Facebook and Google, there's reason to think young Egyptians have a much more sophisticated notion of the meaning of democracy than they did in 1952. Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, who stands to gain politically from the protests, is no Muslim fundamentalist, and the Muslim Brotherhood is comparatively moderate as Islamic movements go.

Then again, today's protests are happening against the backdrop of horrifying attacks in recent weeks targeting Coptic Christians, with a bombing at an Alexandria church New Year's Day that killed 25 people followed by a shooting rampage by an off-duty policeman that killed a Christian train passenger and wounded five others. The government blamed the bombing on a foreign offshoot of Al Qaeda, but didn't present evidence to prove it. If Islamic extremists are flexing their muscles, it's a bad time for the ruling regime to be vulnerable.

We heard Friday morning from my wife's cousin, who is locked inside her apartment in central Cairo, listening to the shouts and bangs in the street below while history is being written outside her window. Like many middle-class Egyptians, she just wants it to be over so she can get on with her life. But it looks very much as if things are going to get worse before they get better.

RELATED:

Egyptian tanks roll as protesters defy curfew

Editorial: Cairo's restless streets

-- Dan Turner

Photo: Demonstrators in Cairo. Credit: Lefteris Pitarakis / Associated Press

 

Comments () | Archives (32)

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GordonSantaMonica

Egypt and the past Gaza Elections … Hamas control (2007–present)
Remember when we demanded a fair and free democratic election? Well we got it and didn’t like the results.
It doesn’t matter why we don’t like the results what matters is that the Republican edict of convert all of the Middle East to Democracies will be very interesting as these new Democracies are established. Will they be friend or foe?
That is the question of the future. Again the old Shakespearean quote from Hamlet “ To be or not to be that is the question” stands out boldly in our geopolitical world of today.
Many of our conservative friends are asking for a democracy in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is very strong and stands with our arch terrorist enemies. Be very careful conservatives we may regret what we ask for especially if the wrong side wins as in Gaza.
Following are some of the links that can clarify my concerns …
First the brotherhood …
http://www.google.com/search?q=islamic+brotherhood+of+egypt&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=&oe=
Second the Hamas victory …
http://www.google.com/search?q=Gaza+strip&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=&oe=
************************gaptidbits@yahoo.com****************************

targeting

Democracy? How's that workin' for ya, Americans? Why do the Egyptians have to have a democracy? Just get rid of that guy whose led a country with such huge poverty and hugely rich few number of friends of the president. Let the chips fall where they may and have the Egyptians not be oppressed by a tyrant for a while.

Greg Maragos

You have to be either an optimist of the highest order or profoundly naive and ill-informed of traditional historical patterns of human behavior to believe that the present chaos will result in a sustained democracy.

Very little good will come form this violence. When all the dust settles, many innocent, dead bodies will lay strewn about the ground with the others, and things will be much as they have been.

Ome-Coatl

How about, "Is real democracy an option in America?"
We have ONE political party (The Capitalist Party with a Left Wing and a Right Wing). We have an oligarchy of the billionaires, with political candidates and laws up for the highest bidder.
Uncle Sam says "democracy" while he carpet bombs the Middle East. The only thing worse than a hypocrite is a murdering hypocrite.

johnvol4416

Name one country in the entire world where the population is predominately Muslim and there is true freedom of the human spirit.Islam is not compatible with democracy and never will be.

gregory stanley

the u. s. uses the rich owned media to dumb down the masses. many people think sara palin is intelligent . how can the u. s. have a free informed election, when dancing with the stars is in, education is out. fat dumb and unemployed. the new america, billions in tax dollars wasted, and i can't get my street repaved.

elizabeth de sosa

My family and I spent 18 months in Cairo. While out with Egyptian friends, we discussed the 2005 elections, in which the Muslim Brotherhood gained many seats in the Egyptian Parliament.
I asked my friends if they were concerned, that if the Muslim Brotherhood one day ruled Egypt, how would they feel about the imposition of Sharia Law?
My friends answered, "Oh, they (MB) don't really mean the things they say..."
It brought to mind what people said about the Nazis as they assumed power.
Further, I seriously doubt that the regime that emerges will be friendly to the United States.

Jack43

A democracy is just as tyranical as a dictatorship. The mob/majority can inflict its prejudices and authority just as well as any dictator. No, the real question is which law will prevail?

Fortunately, the citizens of the United States live under laws that conform to a Constitution that demands fairness and equity, basic freedoms and human rights. Muslim theocracies live under Sharia Law which is inherently authoritarian and divide people into classes, men and women, faithful and infidel, and sets one over the other, and if need be, one against the other.

Unfortunately, history shows that most governments that fall are replaced by others that are equally brutal and tyranical. Rarely does a revolution produce a shining monument such as the United States Constitution and a body of people who, although they fail to live up to its ideals, they are always trying and sometimes succeeding.

Laer Carroll

NO. Replace the top and a clone slides into place. Business remains as usual.

realist

Burn Baby Burn

havetocomment

Yes, in US we have Democracy, but it scaled with money you have in your pocket. More money gives you More Democracy. Problem with Egypt is a very thin middle class, and as consequence fight between rich and poor is more severe.

Robert NO longer in LA

Democracy DOESN'T WORK HERE....look at the goons running Congress, for personal power and profit......why, would the Egyptians want THIS????????

Verballistic

Both the radical Muslim Brotherhood and the Ahmadinejad regime of Iran are DELIGHTED by the prospects of "democracy", because that will mean Sharia Law across the Middle East.

Unfortunately, that will also mean the DEATH PENALTY for gays, adulterers, feminists and FORMER (aka "apostate") Muslims.

DEMOCRACY & SHARIA LAW ARE INCOMPATIBLE, BECAUSE THE RIGHTS OF MINORITIES ARE SQUASHED LIKE AN INSECT.

lipservice90

the corrupted regimes are both Shah Iran and Mubarak of Egypt!, supported by zonist US and Israel.
Mubarak’s planning exile to Tel Aviv. Fact speaks for itself. Therefore,
IRAN IS INDEED A ROLE MODEL OF DEMOCRACY IN MIDEAST. AFTER LEBANON AND TUNISIA, HERE COME EGYPT, JORDAN AND YEMEN TO FOLLOW SUIT.

IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE, YES WE CAN.

Recent Poll: Arab majority believes nuclear Iran helps Mideast

Israeli min. urges Egypt to use force


An Israeli minister says Egyptian government forces will have to exercise force to rein in public protests as the African country is teetering on the brink of a Tunisia-style revolution.

fccohen

Does anyone else think that even asking this question makes Turner a racist?

krvonl

If revolutions in the Arab world succeed, the result will most likely be a bunch of quasi-democratic countries that oppose the United States, just as Hamas won the elections in Gaza. They've been oppressed for so long that, and many of them blame the US for their problems. While the US is partly responsible for their misery, the largest portion of the blame should be assigned to the British and French, who colonized and divided the Middle East. But subtleties like that will lost on the angry mobs.

Gneissguy

According to the book The Looming Tower, 9/11 was born in the jails of Egypt. I greatly fear that, after all the blood and death, the Egyptians will be trading a secular dictatorship for a self-righteous Islamic dictatorship.

Verballistic

This stunning survey conducted by globally esteemed polling organization at the Pew Research Center demonstrates just WHY democracy will not work in a SHARIA-INFESTED country like Egypt:

http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/

% of Muslims who want DEATH PENALTY for those leaving Islam:

Egypt (84%)

Pakistan (76%)

----

% of Muslims endorsing STONING TO DEATH of adulterers (98% WOMEN):

Egypt (82%)

Pakistan (82%)

When a LARGE majority of ANY country believes in a Draconian, barbaric "legal" system like Sharia Law the RIGHTS of MINORITIES like gays, feminists & FORMER ("apostate") Muslims are CRUSHED like a bug.

Those doubting the accuracy of the PRC polling should check their well-documented research methods:

http://pewresearch.org/about/ethics/

"To ensure that the information we generate is of the greatest value, the Center is committed to conducting research in a manner that is impartial, open-minded and meets the highest standards of methodological integrity. We employ only those tools and methods of analysis that, in our professional judgment, are well suited to the research question at hand. We describe our findings and methods accurately and in sufficient detail to permit outsiders to evaluate the credibility of our results."

JoeSolo

Amazing to me that Americans really believe that a democracy requires highly educated and acculturated citizens to function properly. No one else is really qualified. Certainly not in a Muslim country.
After all, the calm, thoughtful debate, the absence of race- and religion-baiting, the birther movement, the references to blood libel, aren't code words. They are simply elements in a careful intellectual parsing. And certainly, if we arm up the Egyptian civilians to OUR level of self-defense capabilities, an assault rifle in every house, this will only more deeply enshrine civility.
The notion of Americans commenting on the readiness of others for democracy is truly the most fantastic concept I've heard lately. Akin to the belief that the 32 shot, semi-automatic pistol didn't kill and maim in Tuscon. Right. Good to go. I'm RELOADING.

mipak

From a country populated by Muslims? Get real! Will never happen. They don't understand freedom!

deepwater805

Be careful for what you wish for, because radical islam is waiting in the wings, and salivating for their chance to come in and subvert the freedom movement. If they are successful, then Egypt will only have the freedom to fear.

Zandar the space alien

Printed money going to markets of greed and fear, artificially driving up prices of food and commodities. Instead of going to people who ACTUALLY NEED it. Priorities are out of balance. Preoccupation with acquiring more money than than one will ever need is terminal. The more the few have, the less the many have. Then rioting in the streets. From 200 miles straight up. Earth needs help.

Tom

The Times: "Is real democracy an option in Egypt?"

It is not up to us. It is up to the Egyptians, a culture thousands of years old. We've only been a nation for a couple hundred years. Only Progressives want to run everyplace on earth with their ideals, not recognizing that there are other cultures, whether we believe in their way of life or not, it's not our place to tell them how to live.

Mitchell Young

fccohen --"Does anyone else think that even asking this question makes Turner a racist? "

I admit to a little bit of schadenfreude from seeing a member of the LAT editorial board accused of 'racism', or actually something worse, being a 'racist' -- an intrinsically evil person, beyond the pale in today's America.

My amusement, however, is not worth the price of continual use of accusations of 'racism' to squelch debate in this country on matters ranging from affirmative action, to education, to foreign policy, to immigration.

Of course it this context the accusation is totally ignorant -- what race are Egyptians -- some look like folks from the north side of the Mediterranean , others like sub-saharan Africans, most somewhere in between. Turner's question had nothing to do with biology and everything to do with Egyptian politics and culture.


gary

Is it an option in the USA?

ugg

Funny how so many don't understand the meaning between Democracy and Freedom, it's much funnier knowing Our Businesses and Government can't seem to get the true meaning of Democracy and Freedom understood. It's really a simple analogy. It goes something like this. You can swing your fist all you please, but your freedom stops where my nose begins, but just swinging your fist alone can escalate into putting your freedom at risk.

Guy Vidal

There can be no democracy without a middle class.

Joe Zink

I just want the United States government to stop providing aid of any kind that has to flow through or to the Egyptian government.

Let the Egyptians figure it all out by themselves without our interference.

Verballistic

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD SEEKS GLOBAL ISLAMIC CALIPHATE where Muslims AND NON-Muslims are ruled by the Draconian, BARBARIC "legal" system called SHARIA LAW.

This is a COMMON GOAL shared with terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Taliban & Hamas, the Brotherhood's ONLY diversion from Al Qaeda agenda is they USUALLY do it by POLITICAL methods (but SUPPORT violence against civilians by Palestinians).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_Brotherhood

"Osama bin Laden said he was influenced by the religious and political ideas of several professors with strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood including Sayyid Qutb. However, once Al Qaeda was fully organized, it denounced the Muslim Brotherhood's reform through nonviolence"

Hamas is the VIOLENT wing of the Brotherhood:

"The Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007 was the first time since the Sudanese coup of 1989 that brought Omar al-Bashir to power, that a Muslim Brotherhood group ruled a significant geographic territory."

The Muslim Brotherhood's GOAL in the US is simple:

"Their 'General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America' makes the objectives of the MB clear. Their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and DESTROYING WESTERN CIVILIAN FROM WITHIN so that Allah's religion is made victorious over all other religions."

Verballistic

There is a misconception this is strictly a "spontaneous", "popular" uprising going on in Egypt & elsewhere in the Arab/Islamic world, but while there is some measure of that, a growing number of observers are beginning to come to the conclusion that there is more than meets the eye going on here.

MANY Islamic MILITANTS have been broken out of prison recently:

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20110130/D9L2LKGG0.html

"Gangs of armed men attacked at least four jails across Egypt before dawn Sunday, helping to free hundreds of Muslim militants and thousands of other inmates as police vanished from the streets of Cairo and other cities."

Is it just a coincidence that both Iran & Hamas are BOTH very pleased with this?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/29/world/middleeast/29iran.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=IRAN%20SEES%20RISE%20OF%20HARD-LINERS&st=cse

"Hopeful that the protests sweeping Arab lands may create an opening for hard-line Islamic forces, conservatives in Iran are taking deep satisfaction in the events in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen."

http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/106617/20110129/muslim-brotherhood-and-hamas-seek-to-increase-role-in-egypt-stratfor.htm

"The Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are collaborating and seeking to increase their roles in Egypt."

Don Steele

What of my perception that our own democracy is weakened by allowance of large political campaign donations offered to gain favor?

Stuart Perkins

As I remember the history, before Mubarak's "Herrschaft", Nassar promoted Arabism, Nationalism, and Socialism--his three circles. Being Egyptian does not necessarily make one an Arab! The language seems artificial to many. Having read Sayyid Qutb, especially in re his visit to the United States, I can understand better why he believed what he did.



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