Can The Egyptians Aspire To Have A Pluralistic, Secular Democracy? Writer Ezzedine Choukri Fishere argues that only Westerners believe that Islamic rule is the best thing that Arabs can get

By Paolo von Schirach

August 21, 2013

WASHINGTON – The prevailing Western media narrative about the coup in Egypt is that the military killed the young democratic experiment. Morsi might have not been perfect, but he had been democratically elected. His  presidency was a genuine expression of popular will, and therefore it should have accepted as such. According to this reading, anything that will emerge from the current military rule will be flawed, as it will be based on the betrayal of a proper constitutional process. 

Democracy for Egypt?

Egyptian writer Ezzedine Choukri Fishere begs to differ. He argues convincingly in an interesting  FT op-ed piece (Egyptians will no longer put up with authoritarians, August 21, 2013) that there is a mix of ignorance and conceit in a Western position that somehow assumes that the Egyptians “deserve” Islamic government because they cannot really handle anything more modern. True enough, Morsi got elected. But in the first round the non Islamic candidates got 75% of the vote.

And very clearly many who had voted for Morsi became very quickly disenchanted. The massive anti-Morsi rallies of the Spring and Summer were not orchestrated by the military in order to create an excuse for a coup. The truth is, Fishere argues, that Morsi showed his authoritarian true colors shortly after he got elected.

Elections do not always mean democracy

Indeed the Western axiom whereby all outcomes of all reasonably free elections are by definition legitimate, because they represent the popular will, is not always accurate. Hugo Chavez got elected in Venezuela and then he proceeded to install a semi-dictatorship. Likewise, Hitler and Mussolini got into power in Germany and Italy following what seemed at the time a proper constitutional process. However, once they got into the command post, they proceeded to systematically dismantle the constitutional order that got them into power.

Morsi showed his authoritarian instincts

Fishere argues that this is what Morsi was up to. Now, we shall never know this for sure. However, it is undeniable that during his one year tenure Morsi tried to amass power beyond his constitutional prerogatives, while showing contempt for the opposition and especially for religious minorities such as the Coptic Christians who were systematically attacked by Islamic militants.

The Brotherhood has yet to embrace basic democratic principles

This is certainly not a good argument for slaughtering Muslim Brotherhood followers today. But it is a good argument for stating that the Brotherhood is not a party seriously committed to pluralism, tolerance and respect of minority rights, that is the corner stones of any democracy.

Unless you really believe that the somewhat backward Egyptians cannot aspire to anything more than an Islam-inspired semi-dictatorhip, there is legitimate ground for marginalizing an anti-democratic political force, whatever its popular following.  

No, I do not believe that all Muslim Brotherhood members are “terrorists”. But I do belive that most of them have yet to genuinely embrace democratic values and a genuine belief in the democratic process.

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