Is Egypt ready for democracy? The question itself is insulting, and I’m not even Egyptian.
The main concern? If Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak leaves immediately, and elections are held within two months, the government will be too fragile and Islamists will overtake Parliament, much like what happened after the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979.
But, as Michael Rubin, a scholar from the American Enterprise Institute argues in his short article for the New York Times’ Room for Debate section, “the two situations are not analogous.”
The Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders agrees: “There’s zero chance of Egypt’s uprising turning into the 1979 Iranian revolution or the terrorist violence of Hamas,” he wrote in an article on Feb. 5, “there are no parties, and no Egyptian constituency of any size, seeking a theocracy.” They are two different situations, two unique uprisings of frustrated citizens.
The United States is moving much too slowly in the eyes of the millions that have gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square over the last two weeks, and in the eyes of many who are watching.
It’s hypocritical, really, to demand and forcibly try to institute democratic governments and reforms in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, but to not fully support a nation when it tries to do the same on its own.
The message sent is almost this: the West will only accept democracy as safe and viable in the Middle East if it is involved in implementing and approving the leader. But, the Arab world doesn’t need another Hamid Karzai, and the Egyptian people can organize elections, reforms and a sound, stable democratic government on their own.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is the West’s number one source of fear. Their views on women’s rights and Israel are a source of great anxiety to the U.S. in particular, and rightfully so, they are abhorrent. But, as Saunders argues “those views are far more dangerous if they’re kept outside and left to fester in the darkness.”
The party has a presence and following in Egypt and excluding it completely and exclusively from talks would be wrong and dangerous. It would have a negative impact not only on Egypt’s exciting democratic future, but on the safety and national security of Western countries that, try as they may to stay out of this, may be seen as the meddlesome fist that tried to crush the Brotherhood’s momentum.