Was the ‘flame of freedom’ actually planted in Egypt?

February 15, 2011

Planting a flame for freedom must be applauded, for this is what was witnessed in Egypt on Friday, February 11.  After eighteen days of round-the-clock protests in Egypt’s Tahria Square, the military removed from office 82-year-old dictator and president Hosni Mubarak after three decades of rule. 

The good news is that there were not millions of protesters renouncing the U.S. and Israel.  The protesters were largely a secular, youthful movement demanding economic and political freedom.  Never did they number more than 800,000 out of a population of eighty-two million.

But has much changed with the removal of President Hosni Mubarak by the military?  Despite media reports trumpeting the occasion as a triumph of political reform toward a free and democratic country, the only change is the departure of  Hosni Mubarak. 

The military is still in charge and runs the country; 40% of the Islamist population earns less than $2.00 a day and will continue to experience poverty and dissatisfaction; a political party system must be established; and presently the Muslim Brotherhood is the only well-organized and well-funded anti-Mubarak group positioned for a possible ultimate takeover.

Why should the Muslim Brotherhood be feared?  Much has been reported about the Muslim Brotherhood as the Middle East’s oldest and most influential Islamist movement.  It has also been falsely portrayed as Freedom Fighters. 

Outlawed in Egypt since 1954 when attempts were made to assassinate President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Muslim Brotherhood still has a large membership inside Egypt.  Tolerated by the Mubarak government as long as there was no violence, the Muslim Brotherhood’s long-stated goals have not changed, that of creating an Islamist state, implementing Sharia law, and the destruction of Israel.  Candidates are fielded as “independents” in elections.

A Pew poll survey conducted in Egypt among adults in December, 2010, paints a disturbing picture of how premature it might be for the media to expect that “democracy” will flower from the Cairo rioting.  Findings in the poll include:  85% of adults want a larger role for Islam in government; 84% support the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion; 82% support stoning for adulterers; 77% support whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery; 61% see no struggle between those who want to modernize their country and Islamic fundamentalists; and 54% support making gender segregation in the workplace the law in their country.

Perhaps most disturbing is that 82% of Egyptians dislike the U.S., which makes the $1.5 billion this nation gives yearly to Egypt in foreign aid an extremely poor investment.

Given the results of the several month old Pew survey, it is fair to ask whether Egypt is ready or will ever be ready to create a western-style democracy?  Do Egyptians really desire a western-style democracy?   Were protesters really yearning for modernity and triumph of human rights over martial law when the Pew poll indicates a preference for Islamic theocracy?  

Only one thing is for certain.  This nation’s relationship with Egypt under new leadership will change, and it might not be what those in Tahria Square hoped for or the U.S.

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