Fads and fiction


After years of being drowned in a deep sea of fads, Tunisia and Egypt have offered us the rare opportunity to call a spade a spade. The first fad that already found its end is the proposition that the Arabs, per culture and religion, do not want democracy and if they call for change, due to adverse economic and/or political realities such as corruption or Israel’s occupation of Palestine, they are calling for Islamism; another form of authoritarian regime.

The lie that any change in Egypt would bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power has been crushed. The Sunnis and Christians are not about to live the Iranian experience even if the top Mullah in Tehran has dreams. Never has there been an opportunity to measure the true size of the Islamists in Egypt’s street than the opportunity offered by the Egyptian uprising that is all about who is who’s size in the street, and the support they enjoy by the “silent majority.”

The mother of all brotherhoods who gave birth to every Islamist movement in the world today turned out to be a minority, so much so, that they are willing to accept the demand of not pitching a presidential candidate during next elections in Egypt. Why not? Their candidate, as it turns out, would never win.

Why, out of all political powers would they have to negotiate on this at this early stage of the revolt? Because the Islamists, like Hamas that used elections to get to power and a military coup to keep it, are not about democracy, liberty and freedom. On the contrary, as they promise to steal the people’s political freedoms they also kill their personal and social freedoms with an agenda that publicly calls for digression into the middle ages as a solution to the wows and pains of this modern day and age.

To achieve true democracy in Egypt, the constitution must be reformed to limit leadership tenure and ensure true representation of the people in parliament. This has already been achieved in principle by the declarations of President Mubarak and his appointed government. What remains is how to guarantee that the next elections will be fair unlike the previous ones.

No wonder many amongst Egypt’s political movements are calling for applying the Turkish model of democracy. In Turkey, the military “protects the constitution” and, therefore, ensures the state remains a democracy even when the Islamists make it to power. This can work out well in Egypt if the Egyptians elect this option because the Egyptian military is now proven to enjoy the respect of the masses and has declared that the popular demands of the street are legitimate.

The refusal of the military to conduct a coup and remove the Egyptian president by force to meet the street’s demands is also a powerful statement that the military has a responsible leadership that doesn’t believe in military coups to seize power; another fad that the Syrian experience would be relived, dead. Most importantly, this model offers the Muslim Brotherhood an opportunity to truly embrace democracy as a form of political life, rather than a means to reach power and steal the nation’s rights.

Which brings us to the mother of all fads that is circulating today by Westerners as well as others who declare that democracy is a western concept being adopted by the Muslim Arab masses. If democracy was developed in the West, so was dictatorship including the dictatorship of political parties as pushed today by the Islamists and which is in line with the concept of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party.

The Egyptian uprising proved that democracy is today’s chosen form of governance incorporating the majority’s modern-day values so much so that it should not be labeled “Western democracy” by academicians or politicians. Those who demand it come from every walk of life, internet-savvy young, wisdom-rich old, rich and poor, religious or secular and whatever the religion is from whatever part of this global village we live in. To say democracy is a set of Western values is to say education is a Western value and so is health!

Last but not the least, the question is clear to the “only democracy in the Middle East” that happens to be the only state of apartheid in the world: When the Middle East is soon democratic, what excuse will you have to win the minds and hearts of those who support you merely for the sake of that notion? Now that it is the time for truth, I bet your blue eyes alone will not save the day.

The writer is Senior Adviser on the Arab region to the The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the director of Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem.