How is it going? Well, the run-up to the elections, during which the Egyptian army has ruled, did not inspire confidence. With the continuing violence, repression, arrests, attacks on Christians, and invasions of the offices of pro-democracy non-profits, Egypt did not look like it was on the verge of democracy.
However, the elections were held and it appeared that the atmosphere was generally free and non-violent. The result, on the other hand, leaves many questions. With the Muslim Brotherhood at almost half of the seats and the even more radical Salafists at nearly a quarter, the Islamists now have over two-thirds of the seats in the Parliament.
Elections alone do not make for a democracy. A free society before and after does. Dictatorships are often elected democratically. The question is whether that will be the last democratic election.
Despite the declarations by some in the Brotherhood that they intend to respect individual rights and pluralism, there is little in the Brotherhood's ideology and history that gives a ring of truth to those statements. Moreover, their brothers in the Salafist movement do not even pretend to have an intent to live by pluralistic, democratic principles.
The Obama Administration, along with many others, was apparently surprised by the ascendancy of Islamist parties in Egypt and elsewhere in the wake of the "Arab Spring." So it appears the Administration is now adopting the posture that the Brotherhood is not so immoderate after all.
The Administration appears to be betting on the hope that the Brotherhood is true to its word when it says it will be tolerant of diverse views and a democratic environment. There is no evidence to support any such moderation by the Brotherhood, but there is apparently an inexhaustive supply of Western hope and naivety.
Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood's progeny and the reigning power in the Gaza Strip, took partial control in democratic elections. They subsequently wrested complete control from their rival Fatah by extremely violent means, throwing Fatah members out of windows and shooting them in the legs. Torture and repression are now commonplace in Gaza.
Here is a January 20th report by Hugh Naylor, foreign correspondent for Abu Dhabi's National newspaper, illustrating the current state of democracy as practiced by Hamas:
'Hamas security forces - up to 100 policemen and masked men in civilian clothes - stormed an apartment building in Beit Lahiya in Gaza on Saturday where Shiite Muslims were gathered to commemorate the death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Mohammed's grandson. They dragging (sic) out 15 men, whom they then beat with truncheons and denounced as infidels. "The police showed everyone black Shiite headbands and were yelling to the crowds, 'Look at these kafirs [unbelievers]!'," said Yasser Ziada, 23. "It was like they were putting on a show for us, beating them in front of everyone."
'The main allies of Hamas - Iran and Hizbullah - are predominantly Shiite, or in the case of Syria's Alawites, an offshoot of Shiism. Saturday's crackdown on Shiites - occurring as Hamas dismantles its headquarters in Damascus - may be an indication that the tectonic political shifts underway since the Arab Spring may be affecting Gaza. Hamas is seen to be gravitating towards newly empowered Sunni Islamist groups in the Arab Spring countries of Egypt and Tunisia, opening opportunities for hard-line Hamas members to settle sectarian scores, said Hani Habib, a political analyst in Gaza.
'In a statement released after the assault, the Interior Ministry in Gaza admitted carrying out the operation. "Gaza and Palestine in general is a society that believes in Sunni Islam," adding that there were "no Shiites in Palestine." Mustafa Sawaf, an official at the Culture Ministry, noted, "We are a Sunni society, so Hamas felt like it had to take action against them." He added that Saturday's attack was "dramatized [by Hamas] to show people in Gaza that it does not tolerate Shiites."'
This from the Son of the Muslim Brotherhood. Inspiring. Hamas "had to take action" to show it is Sunni. So the appropriate action, according to the Ministry of Culture, is to beat the living daylights out of people with different beliefs. Very democratic. Is this an illustration of the "moderation" some see in the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas?
I don't think I will be booking my trip to democratic Egypt quite yet. I'd rather take my chances on a cruise.
The U.K.'s Financial Times reports that the Arab League has a six-month plan for the peaceful transition from Syrian President Assad's ruthless regime to a "democratically elected" government. How will that group recognize one?
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