Sunday, March 20, 2011


If my math is right, it has been 36 days since I started my skeptical Countdown to Egyptian Democracy, and 15 days since I last posted an item.  The delay in posting was due to travel back to Sacramento and getting settled back in after three months in Jerusalem.  The skepticism and perhaps cynicism in the Countdown is the dismal record for democracy in the Arab world and, pardon the probable political incorrectness in this, the historical and cultural factors that do not give much hope for the prospects of Western-style democracy taking root in that part of the world. 

That is not to say that ruthless dictators must be the norm in Arab countries, as they have been for the last 30 or 40 years, or that the people cannot have a say in how they are governed and in plotting their future.  It is to say that there is little in the record to suggest that our style of democracy fits those societies, despite the somewhat naive pronouncements made repeatedly by Western leaders such as President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton that would make one think there is a credible chance of fair and free elections, an unfettered press, and religious tolerance sweeping across the Arab world in the foreseeable future. 

Depending on whether you are a glass is half full or a glass is half empty sort of person, you might see some positive signs in yesterday's approval of a new constitution by the Egyptian people.  Positive in that they conducted a relatively peaceful and fair election designed to rid the country of military rule and to institute new protections and reforms.  Negative in that this paves the way for new elections in a very short time-frame, giving the two most organized groups, Mubarak's old party and the Muslim Brotherhood, a big leg up on long-repressed groups that are just now getting their sea legs.

Also negative is the fact that the newly-adopted constitution retains a provision that Egypt shall be guided by Islam.  This provision might not be cause for much concern in a well-established democracy with ample protections for and respect of minority rights.  However,  in a region of the world where a brand of Islam is on the march to dominate and dictate, this sends some hairs upwards on the backs of some necks, many of them Coptic Christian necks. 

It is certainly no solace for these folks that the Muslim Brotherhood strongly backed approval of the new constitution with this Islamic guide provision.  Nor should it give anyone comfort that Mohamed El Baradei, who is no great friend of the West but who was opposed to the quick approval of the constitution, was stoned and "shoed" and chased away from the polls. 

There are 329 days left for my skepticsm to be alleviated, and I certainly hope that it is.  However, at this stage, count me strongly in the skeptics camp. 

Random thought:  are shoes really cheap in the Moslem world?  Some folks seem pretty quick to get rid of theirs in a hurry.  Having been involved in politics for 30 years, and at the prices of shoes in the U.S., I would think a few times before wasting shoes on one moment of happiness at targeting a politician.  Maybe a handkerchief or piece of toast, but not a good shoe.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the thoughtful commentary. I look forward to it.

    I want to firmly take a stand that I would have no problem making a political statement by getting rid of your shoe.