We are on the verge of a democratic revolution in Egypt. This is the Egyptian equivalent of 1989, the “Arab Spring”.
If you believe the media, that is. And progressive politicians.
And most (neo)conservatives, for that matter, at least in the United States. For them the events in Egypt are a vindication of the policies of George W. Bush, who championed freedom as a universal right.
It’s a stirring sentiment, and one feels curmudgeonly arguing against it. But let’s pause to take a deep breath here, and then look more closely at what “freedom” means to a Muslim. Diana West, in reference to the Bush Doctrine, has this to say:
Such is “universalist” gospel. Universalists believe all peoples prefer freedom to its absence, which is probably true. But they also believe all peoples define “freedom” in the same way. Is that true?
The answer — and first concept — is no. The entry on freedom, or hurriyya, in the “Encyclopedia of Islam” describes a state of divine enthrallment that bears no resemblance to any Western understanding of freedom as predicated on the workings of the individual conscience. According to the encyclopedia, Islamic freedom is “the recognition of the essential relationship between God the master and His human slaves who are completely dependent on Him.” Ibn Arabi, a Sufi scholar of note, is cited for having defined freedom as “being perfect slavery” to Allah. To put it another way, Islamic-style “freedom” is freedom from unbelief.
And what about democracy? Are Egypt and the Arab world ready for democracy?
You betcha! But it may not be the kind of democracy that the revolution’s Western cheerleaders are thinking of. Democracy means the majority gets to vote for whatever kind of rules and institutions it likes. What do the majority of Muslims want?
For an outline of what ordinary Egyptians are ready to vote for, take a look at this summary from The Globe and Mail of a Pew Research poll conducted last year in Egypt:
Poll Shows Egyptians Favour Democracy and Stoning for Adultery
Egyptians reject radical Islamists, but want Islam to play a large role in politics and think democracy is the best political system, according to poll data collected in Muslim countries last year. The sample group of 1,000 was surveyed in face-to-face interviews in April and May of last year for the U.S.-based Pew Research Center. These results give an idea of Egyptian public opinion before the current protests there broke out.
Democracy 59%: Say democracy is preferable to any other form of government. 22%: Say a non-democratic system can be preferable in certain circumstances Islam in politics 95%: Say it’s good that Islam plays a large role in politics 85%: Say Islam’s influence on politics is good 48%: Say Islam currently play a large role in Egyptian politics Islamist extremism 80%: Think suicide bombings are never or rarely justified. 20%: Think suicide bombings are sometimes or often justified 70%: Are concerned or very concerned about Islamist extremism in the world 61%: Are concerned or very concerned about Islamist extremism in the Egypt Traditional Muslim practices 54%: Believe men and women should be segregated in the workplace 82%: Believe adulterers should be stoned 84%: Believe apostates from Islam should face the death penalty 77%: Believe thieves should be flogged or have their hands cut off
So that gives you an idea of what “freedom” and “democracy” mean to ordinary Egyptians. How well would this checklist have gone over in Philadelphia in 1787?
Sad to say, a year or two from now Hosni Mubarak will start looking pretty good.
Hat tip: TV.