Yea, Egypt!

It is rare, indeed, to witness an important moment in world history: I’m old enough that I saw man’s first step on the moon, 63404977I saw the Berlin Wall fall (both on TV…thank you, TV), and today my old friend let me see an historic triumph of freedom and peaceful resistance to oppression in Egypt.   It’s an important reminder to us cynics to everyone about the power of ideas, and of the human spirit.  And like Gandhi and King and others taught, it shows that monumental change can be gained without resorting to violence.  How’s that taste, Al Qaeda?

I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but neither do the wingnuts who are certain that Muslim fundamentalists will soon be in power in Cairo.  Any assertion that Muslims, as a group, would rather live in a theocracy than a democracy is just flat wrong—as groups, Muslims and non-Muslims prefer democracy, and in virtually identical percentages.  Did hundreds of thousands of Muslims peacefully fill the streets of Cairo around the clock for the last three weeks to get out from under a secular dictator so they can submit to the whims of religious zealots?

Today the military is in charge in Egypt, and while on its surface “military assuming power from civilians” does seem to be the definition of “coup” this doesn’t feel that way.  It was the police that pushed back against the demonstrators in Cairo, but the army kept things from blowing up and seemed to be on the side of the people instead of the president.  The military leadership gives me the impression that even if they weren’t eager to see Mubarak go, they were smart enough to see that he couldn’t stay.  (And props to the protesters themselves for their patience and restraint after the disappointment of Mubarak’s Thursday speech when he said he wasn’t leaving; any other response might have forced the military to take another course.)

We shall see what comes next.  In the meantime, the old reliable Explainer at Slate has a very good list of answers to some nuts and bolts questions about what’s going on in Egypt.

10 thoughts on “Yea, Egypt!

  1. Pat, here’s some numbers for you from a Pew Research poll taken in Egypt last year.

    ~ 49% of Egyptians say Islam plays only a “small role” in public affairs under President Hosni Mubarak, while 95% prefer the religion play a “large role in politics.”

    ~ 84% favor the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim faith.

    ~ 82% support stoning adulterers.

    ~ 77% think thieves should have their hands cut off.

    ~ 54% support a law segregating women from men in the workplace.

    ~ 54% believe suicide bombings that kill civilians can be justified.

    ~ Nearly half support the terrorist group Hamas.

    ~ 30% have a favorable opinion of Hezbollah.

    ~ 20% maintain positive views of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.

    ~ 82% of Egyptians dislike the U.S. — the highest unfavorable rating among the 18 Muslim nations Pew surveyed.

    According to these numbers, the chances of a Democracy flourishing in Egypt after their September elections are two…slim and none. It would be nice to think that Egyptians wouldn’t want the same kind of government that is ruling Iran right now, but the numbers don’t lie. Most would like to see a theocracy take over. America’s allies in the Middle East are dropping like flies and the current administration is lackadaisical about it’s support for Israel. It’s not going to be a pretty sight.


    1. Our support for the right of self-determination cannot be contingent on how others may choose to exercise that right; as we support the right of free speech even for those whose speech we detest, we must support the right of self-determination even for those who might ultimately oppose us, and then play the cards we’re dealt.

      But I don’t concede that a new Egyptian government is likely to be an extremist Muslim theocracy.

      I accept the Pew Research Center as a reliable source, but my reading of the results of it’s Global Attitudes Project survey of Egyptians (and the publics in six other Muslim nations) in April and May of last year doesn’t jibe with yours:

      –59% of Egyptians said democracy was the preferable form of government, 16% said the form of government didn’t matter—a combined 75% not favoring a theocracy

      –85% said Islam has a positive influence on politics, even though only 48% say Islam plays a large role in national political life and 49% said it does not play a large role (I find no report on how many think it should, or should not, play a large role)

      –61% of Muslims in Egypt do not see any struggle between Muslim fundamentalists and those who wish to modernize their country

      –among the 31% of Egypt’s Muslim population who do see such a struggle, 59% of them—or only 18% of the total population—side with the fundamentalists

      –however, more than 60% of Egyptians are concerned about the rise of fundamentalism in their country

      I didn’t find any results in this survey about Egyptian attitudes toward the other issues we reference: hand-cutting-off, gender segregation, Al Qaeda, the United States or Israel.

  2. Well, I guess it would depend on the sampling of citizens used in the polls. I’m a Conservative, so I really don’t really follow either Dems or the GOP. I figure my vote on who I think is going to be for limited government and will follow the Constitution. Right now, there’s not too many on either side that meet those parameters. The thing about polls is the sampling they use when they make them. A pollster can skew the numbers just by the questions they ask or in the manner they ask them. They can also skew the numbers by who they ask the questions of. I’m not saying the poll you stated is wrong, just that it depends on who you ask.

    Regards, Mike

      1. My apologies. You’re right, all of the facts are there in the poll. What I should have said is that with all the numbers in the poll and all the categories, sometimes you or I can get lost in the numbers. All the numbers you posted are in the poll. The numbers I posted are also in the poll, but are at the end in a couple of paragraphs;

        # At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion. Majorities of Muslims in Jordan and Nigeria also favor these harsh punishments.
        # Eight-in-ten Muslims in Pakistan say suicide bombing and other acts of violence against civilian targets in order to defend Islam from its enemies are never justified; majorities in Turkey (77%), Indonesia (69%) and Jordan (54%) share this view. Support for suicide bombing has declined considerably over the years. For example, while 74% of Muslims in Lebanon said these violent acts were at least sometimes justified in 2002, just 39% say that is the case now; double-digit declines have also occurred in Jordan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia.


      2. I don’t want to parse Pew’s poll results, either (not at this hour); I do see some of what you’re citing in the poll reports, although I can’t help but notice that the second paragraph you quoted in your most recent comment (“Eight in ten Muslims in Pakistan…”) does not refer to Egyptian Muslims at all, and makes the case that Muslims’ support of suicide bombings as a justified tool to defend Islam is declining sharply in all the countries cited. Yea!

        As I said before, I don’t know what will happen next in Egypt—sure, there’s a chance it may turn into another Iran, but I don’t think it’s a very large chance. I saw a lot of people who looked very Westernized, speaking English, speaking in support of Western ideas of political independence and individual rights. They don’t seem like they’re the types to cheer an Ayatollah Khomeini or Osama bin Laden.

  3. There’s so much going on in Egypt right now that there’s no way to know how this will turn out, or what outside forces will have the most influence in the outcome. But I am encouraged, as you were, with the LACK of widespread violent riots Thursday night. That is reason for hope.

    I follow you on ExposeYourBlog.

  4. I just returned from a brief trip to Las Vegas for the United States Soccer Federation Annual General Meeting, and I cannot let Mike and Pat have all the fun on the events in Egypt.

    The synthesis from Mike’s comments and Pat’s comments is that there will be fundamentalist factions, democratic factions and factions which will defy any characterization. We have to watch for all of them to manifest themselves in words and action and not in polls.

    I do not have access to the Pew Poll. I suspect, however, that the persons participating in the polls may question how we translate the questions, the answers, and the import of both. There is an inherent problem with any translation of the text, let alone of the context, of the poll questions and answers.

    I hope we heed Mike’s concerns and that we do not ignore him, as the Trojans ignored Cassandra about that pesky horse outside the gates. I hope we heed Pat’s concerns not to to substitute labels for substance, as the Trojans did labeling the horse a gift rather than looking inside.

    Again, as in the firearm debate, there are strong points to consider. The key is not whether there are points to make, but rather how do we determine which point succeeds in a given circumstance. I ask Mike and Pat to explain — what is the test that we should use to determine whether Egypt is heading in a good direction or a bad direction and at what point in time do we apply the test?


    Pace e salute.


    1. I don’t know what test to use, or when to use it; I don’t know what is a “good” direction. I think it’s up to the people of Egypt to decide for themselves in which direction they wish to go, and that’s why I applauded the popular, peaceful revolution that led to the fall of Mubarak in the first place.

      Sure, I think a good direction would be one that didn’t include a military or religious dictator, because I believe in the “certain unalienable Rights” cited in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and I believe that those rights are enjoyed by all men and women, everywhere. I happen to believe the chances are pretty good that the people of Egypt want a secular democracy of one form or another, and that their belief in Islam–true Islam, not the perverted form of it that terrorists preach–is not inconsistent with a belief in democracy. (It’s not a question of the reliability of Pew poll results, although I would point out that Pew is a respected and reliable polling organization.) Whether Egyptians get that government or not, we will see.

      (And I believe that Mike is traveling, and may not rejoin this discussion right away.)

  5. When I asked Mike and Pat to define what constitutes a “good direction” or a “bad direction,” I purposefully did not specify the perspective. The perspective utilized in the answers will be a critical and insightful dimension to the answers. I welcome Mike’s comments whenever they arrive. If he is traveling, good travels.

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