Sunday, 24 June 2012

Mixed Feelings (or, my wish for Egypt)

So after days of supposed leaks, weeks of elections, months of uncertainty and a year after the Arab Spring hit Egypt and ousted Mubarak, elections are, for all intents and purposes, over in Egypt.  Today Mohamed Morsi won the presidential election in Egypt.  However, over the last week, as it was put on one news broadcast, the military has rendered the office of president impotent and disolved the parliament, leaving one with little power and the other with none at all.

I have mixed feelings about this.  I've already been asked why, and I'll try to explain.  Morsi is from the Muslim Brotherhood, and they've made a promise that they will represent all Egyptians, but from some of the ones that were in parliament before it was disolved, I have to wonder how true that will be.  They did not condemn (or at least did not condemn loudly) the burning of Coptic churches by Muslims after the original revolution.  People need to remember that these Christians are Egyptians too.  They deserve to have their rights remain in place.  The deserve not to live under Islamic shari'a law.  They are not Muslims.  And the Muslim Brotherhood need to remember that.  

The Muslim Brotherhood also needs to realize that they need to separate themselves from some of the people that have arrived in all of this from Saudi Arabia and have tried to force Saudi/Wahhabi/Salafi ways down Egyptians throats. Maybe some Egyptians want that, but there are also those that do not.  Those that have chosen to live in Egypt because they can be Muslim, but they also want to live in a country that is not ultra-conservative.  Women have already been dragged out of their shops and beaten (as was reported months ago in various media) because they chose not to wear hijab.  Because they dared to work.  Egypt is not an ultra-conservative country, nor should it be forced to be.  In otherwords, Saudi Arabia, the Wahhab and Salafi sheikhs, need to stay out of affairs that are not theirs.  

However (and this is the other side of my mixed feelings), to have elected Ahmed Shafik would have meant that everything would have been for nothing.  There would have been no point in all of this.  To have elected Shafik may have been a "safe" choice, a choice in which you knew what you were getting, but would anything have changed?  Probably not.  How much of Mubarak's regime would he have brought back in?  Maybe many, maybe a few, maybe none.  But it would not have been a change, and things needed to change.

My concern is for the women, the Christians and the minorities.  Islamist political parties have a long standing traditions of trampling on the rights of those groups.  As I stated before, the Muslim Brotherhood has already stood by almost silently while churches burned and Christians were killed inside their churches.  And look at Iran - they brought in an Islamist political party and in many ways have gone backwards since then, and have in many ways cut themselves off from the rest of the world.  

The Western world, in hearing the words "Islamist president" is immediately going to think of Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia - countries that have a long history of removing the rights of women and minorities.  So my wish for Egypt, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood is this: remember that there are people within your country, whose faith traditions have been there for centuries - for longer than Islam - and that respect is a two way street - if you want it from them, you must also give it to them.  Remember there are women who want to maintain their way of life.  Who don't want to loose their jobs, be forced to cover if they choose not to, who will loose the limited rights they already have to move them to the level of less than a second class citizen.  And remember that you are, for better or worse, the most powerful country in the Middle East because your country has a history of at least attempting a to create a shaky peace for the area -  maybe one you can extend.  Don't let the extremists and ultra-conservatives bully you into taking away the rights of others, into refusing to work towards peace, into being anything other than respectful of all Egyptians - Muslim or not.  

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