Fri 16 Aug 2013
Comments Off on The Tragedy that is Egypt today
Egypt is once again under military curfew. Mubarak is gone, but the military and security system that stabilized the Mubarak regime is undeniably in control, no matter what the rhetoric about restoring democracy. The brief flirtation with a seemingly democratic election has been an abject failure, no matter who you think is to blame. There are no winners in the recent protests and crackdown that left well over 500 people dead and several thousand wounded. At this point all Egyptians are on the losing side as violence escalates. The situation today is a tragedy and is bound to get more tragic in the days ahead. Egyptians are pitted against each other in sectarian clashes, Muslim against fellow Muslim and some Muslims targeting the Copts. As many as 20 Coptic churches may already have been torched. God forbid if Egypt still had a viable Jewish population.
Blame is being hurled against all sides with breakneck speed in blogs, commentaries and twitter. But blaming is part of the problem, since it further inflames the frustration that leads to violence. Coptic churches are being burned because the Copts are said to side with the military as though it is only about politics. But the ugly intolerance that many Salafis and Muslim Brothers have preached to their own transcends politics. The military is indeed ruthless and manipulating the media with propaganda, demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood. Enough Brothers are acting out their violence to lend some credence to the claims in the eyes of many Egyptians. There is also the atrocity of pushing for martyrdom, as leaders of the Brotherhood encourage those who are protesting Morsi’s ouster to engage the military in what can only be a losing and bloody battle. Both sides are acting like spoiled children; no one is promoting a peaceful mediation, if one is still possible.
Islamophobes are no doubt pleased with the recent events, assuring themselves that Islam is not compatible with democracy. But the Islam that is at play on the streets of Egypt today is political to the core. Note that all sides in this controversy are Muslim, just as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Muslims are killing fellow Muslims for political reasons, not over any aspect of Islamic doctrine. This is a replay of the sad internecine religious wars that plagued Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. We do not therefore assume that Christianity is incompatible with democracy because Catholics and Protestants were once at each others’ throats.
But then the question that needs to be asked is what kind of democracy? Ideally, democracy works when the individuals voting use their reason to freely choose between candidates. This is an ideal that hardly ever works in practice, which is why we have Red States vs. Blue States in the United States. Coercion is not democratic; neither is getting votes because of an unthinking allegiance to a dogmatic ideology. The only way that democracy can succeed is if diversity is tolerated. Otherwise what is called a democracy is in reality a dictatorship where one is penalized for being different. This is why the idea of a one-religion state is so problematic, especially when it promotes a particular sectarian view and prohibits or hinders opposition.
Today after the Friday prayers there is supposed to be more confrontation on the streets of Cairo. I can only wonder why no one seems to be praying for peace and so many seem only to be playing for revenge.