Thursday, August 15, 2013

The problem of Egypt

Egypt has no tradition of respecting individual liberty or secularism.

Nasser was widely admired, as he took over the Suez Canal and lost the war he was about to launch against Israel (and lost the Sinai Peninsula).

Anwar Sadat bravely made peace with Israel, gaining back the Sinai, and was assassinated for his efforts (and is largely forgotten).

Hosni Mubarak set up a massive military led corporatist state of rent-seeking self-aggrandisement, whilst simultaneously suppressing Iranian style Islamists.  The same Islamists who bombed hotels, tour buses and killed foreign tourists, until Mubarak's secret police authoritarian state put enough of them in prison.  Meanwhile he appeased a moderate form of Islamism, allowing for the occasional hassling of Christians and implementation of Shariah law.

So he gets overthrown, and elections are held. The world quietly condones it and lo and behold, a plurality of Egyptians choose theocracy, as the alternative is a patsy of Mubarak.

The USA, EU and the rest of the supposedly freedom loving West celebrated democracy, not individual freedom and rights.   Not separation of religion and state.

So how could any Western politician oppose a government led by the Muslim Brotherhood?  How could it oppose that elected government trying to change the constitution?  

Indeed.  Egyptians who supported Islamism were happy.  Egyptians who supported secularism, the small Christian minority and Muslims who keep their religion in the private sphere, were not.

Neither was the Army, which has a large network of businesses which keep many of the senior officers well fed and watered.   

So Egyptians who don't like Islamism, and Egyptians with a vested interest in the Army's own corporatist enterprises, protested.

The Islamists were less than happy as the Army overthrew their authoritarians, to reimpose their own.

Now the Army is killing those who resist it, but don't be fooled.  The Islamists would do the same, given their predilection to terrorism, their predilection to criminalising apostasy, to harassing those who are not of their faith, to censoring views, cultural expressions and humour they don't like, to constraining the role of women.   Then of course there is the widespread anti-semitism, which is far more widespread.

So whilst the philosophy, politics and the motives of the Islamists are thoroughly despicable and the anti-thesis of individual freedom and the secular liberal democracy that Western civilisation is supposed to be based on, the ends - the political defeat of Islamism - do not justify the means - opening fire on civilians.

Egypt needs rulers who will allow people to live ascetic Muslim lives, by choice, or not to.  It needs rulers who believe in freedom, and who believe in separation of religion from state.

However, it doesn't have a majority of citizens who share those values...

1 comment:

Mark Hubbard said...

Great to see you back Liberty.