Demonstrators on Army Truck in Tahrir Square, Cairo

Egypt, democracy, fundamentalism

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Those of us fortunate to be living in democratic countries loathe dictatorships and autocracies, and harbor little sympathy for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, even though compared to most other Arab leaders he would probably be deemed a progressive.

Thus, in the unlikely event that the upheavals in Egypt result in an enlightened secular democratic government, that would indeed be an extraordinary and welcome achievement. But alas, with Egyptians lacking any exposure to freedom, such an outcome seems highly improbable.

Genuine democracy is unquestionably the best of all political systems. But liberal democracy does not merely relate to elections. The Nazis were enthusiastically elected by the majority, and the masses initially adored Hitler.

Nor was democracy created overnight. It evolved over centuries in conjunction with the cultivation of a climate of liberalism and humanitarianism, as well as a free press and the rule of law.

In primitive and barbaric societies, the will of the majority may lead to a tyranny in which brutality and deprivation of human rights far exceed what prevailed in the autocratic or dictatorial regime it preceded. This was exemplified by the Bolshevik tyranny in Russia, which proved far worse than the awful tsarist autocracy, and the nightmarish regime of the ayatollahs which replaced the autocratic rule of Iran’s shah.

It is thus absurd to insist that the will of the majority must prevail, irrespective of the consequences. Common sense and decency demands that there be exceptions.

ADMITTEDLY, THERE may only be a fine line between the “will of the people” and the suppression of human rights. But ignoring a possible descent into barbarism cannot be justified on the grounds that it represents the will of the majority.

Only a demented person would endorse majority rule which would elect leaders committed to child sacrifice, for example. But should that not apply equally in relation to electing those who demand the decapitation of gays, adulterers or apostates? Or who support a society which sanctifies suicide bombings? Or who endorse the amputation of limbs of petty thieves? Or who promote genocide?

It is thus incomprehensible to observe campaigners for human rights demanding the ouster of an autocratic Mubarak and endorsing a “democratic revolution” which could lead to the election of a regime dominated by Islamic fundamentalists and committed to Shari’a law. Not merely because of the outrages that radical Islamic zealots would inflict on their own people, but also because of the aggression they intend to perpetrate against their neighbors and their proclaimed objective: to achieve world domination.

Therefore, liberals who applaud the revolt in Egypt should cease moralizing and deal with the real world.

Western political leaders should not underestimate the dangers if the Muslim Brotherhood – creator of Hamas – emerges as an influential force in a new Egyptian regime, even if it operates under the cover of duplicitous politicians like the pro-Iranian Mohamed ElBaradei or Amr Moussa.

The 30-year cold peace with Egypt would be abruptly terminated, and we could be confronting a powerful, potentially aggressive army which has long been the recipient of American largesse, including the most advanced military equipment.

The remaining Muslim “moderate” pro-Western states would be under pressure to unite under the rubric of Islamic fundamentalism. The one common denominator that would unite Sunnis and Shi’ites would be hatred of Israel and the West. The economic, political and military repercussions would be awesome.

The US bears the major responsibility for these tragic developments. It failed to pressure Arab rulers to curb their autocratic ways and initiate democratic reforms. Instead, most Muslim countries, including Mubarak’s Egypt, continued to divert attention from their internal repression and corruption by fanning popular anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism to serve as outlets for venting the rage and frustration of the masses.

Opinion polls of Egyptians depict chillingly barbaric attitudes. Eighty percent endorse stoning for adulterers, death for apostates and cutting off the limbs of petty thieves. In addition, a substantial minority admire al-Qaida, and many to this day remain convinced that the Twin Tower bombings were a CIA-Zionist plot engineered to discredit the Islamic world. Ninety-five percent express passionate animus against Jews.

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has exacerbated the situation by his shameful behavior. He appeased the Islamic extremists, even inviting members of the Muslim Brotherhood to attend his 2009 speech in Cairo. Indeed, until recently, he operated on the flawed supposition that by selectively pressuring Israel, he would succeed in influencing the jihadists.

He has now taken a dramatic step in further destroying American credibility by publicly betraying and humiliating his principal Muslim ally, Mubarak, during his time of need, and subsequently backpedaling and praising him only a few days later.

Obama’s actions were chillingly reminiscent of former US president Jimmy Carter, who helped pave the way for the ouster of the shah of Iran. Yet the same Obama was reticent to support the brutally suppressed protests by the Iranian people against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and literally prostrated himself in the presence of the Saudi king reigning over a regime renowned for denying human rights to its people on a vastly greater scale than Egypt.

Administration spokesmen have now even endorsed the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in a new “democratic” government. Obama has thus sent a clear message to the remaining pro-Western “moderate” Arab autocrats: “Don’t rely on me when the going gets tough.”

Some liberals conclude that Obama should now immediately impose a settlement to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

YET IF, despite Egypt’s powerful secret police and instruments of power, Mubarak’s regime collapses, survival prospects for the impotent and corrupt Mahmoud Abbas are surely dim. Hamas would receive a massive boost if the Muslim Brotherhood becomes an influential force in the new regime. It could even win a “democratic” election in the West Bank, as it did in Gaza. We certainly cannot ignore the implications of entering into a peace agreement with the PA if it is soon to be transformed into a Hamastan.

There are also other harsh lessons. It would surely be irresponsible for us to even remotely rely on an Obama-led US that simply dumps its closest allies when the going gets rough – especially as we could soon be surrounded by rejectionist states, as was the case in 1948.

While hoping that Omar Suleiman and the Egyptian military will prevent an Islamic fundamentalist takeover, we must gird ourselves for the worst. Unless we are self-reliant, strong and united, the US, the Europeans and other parties will seek to further appease the new jihadist forces by intensifying pressure on us to make further unilateral concessions.

If ever there were ominous parallels between our position and that of Czechoslovakia in 1938, it is in relation to the pressures we are likely to face should Egypt become transformed into an Islamic fundamentalist state and link up with Iran, Lebanon, an increasingly hostile Turkey and possibly even Jordan.

ileibler@netvision.net.il

This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post

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Added on Thursday, February 24, 2011

Further to this article, I draw your attention to an example below of the possible outcome of “instant democracy” in a country like Egypt where the tyranny of the majority can even lead to greater excesses than an autocracy.

2,000,000 Egyptians in Tahrir Square singing Free Palestine



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