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Egyptian democracy breaks through the darkness
Saudi Gazette Sunday July 1, 2012
It’s not a blinding light, but democracy has lit a small match in the Middle East, a region of the world where tyranny, oppression and suffering spread like mold and mildew. And fires can grow quickly, if they are not smothered.
Egypt may be the first country in the Middle East to offer all of its citizens true democracy. Not even Israel can come close. Israel claims to be a democracy, but it is not. It uses the label like a thief who steals clothing and sews on fake brand names to pass off to unsuspecting consumers. In Israel’s case, the label of democracy is fake, and the real government is a tyranny that oppresses people based on religion. Egypt has lived under secular tyranny for centuries, if we only go back a few hundred years. The oppression there was often tolerated by its citizens because the country was more secular than other neighboring countries. The tyrants tolerated some freedoms as long as they didn’t disturb the snake in the dark hole of the government.
There was a great fear in Egypt, as exists in some other Arab countries, that poking the stick of freedom at the snake in the dark hole would result in much suffering. Ironically, when Egyptians poked the stick in the black abyss hoping for freedom but not knowing what to expect, freedom did jump out and the dictator, Hosni Mubarak, was quickly cast aside.
Today, the light of democracy is glowing in the form of Mohamed Mursi, backed by Egypt’s long oppressed Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is a complex political, social and religious organization and Mursi comes from its most benevolent side. The group has been involved in terrorism, including in the murder of Egyptian dictator Anwar Sadat, the man who single-handedly sold the Arab cause down the Nile River in exchange for accolades from the West.
Despite Sadat’s brutality, and poor leadership and decisions, his assassination was no different than any other violent move to grab control of a country. His assassins were members of the military and Islamic extremists, including a younger Ayman Al-Zawahiri who later became the cofounder of Al-Qaeda with Osama Bin Laden. Ironically, Sadat’s son later accused the military of being involved noting accurately that no one fired any shots at the assassins during the barrage of gunfire that not only killed Sadat but injured many others including foreign dignitaries, four American military advisers and Sadat’s successor, Mubarak.
The world needs to stop generalizing about Islamic movements being extremist or against secular government and democracy. Mursi clearly is not from that extremist line. One of his first acts after his election victory was to announce his intent to name a woman and a Christian as vice presidents, a significant gesture to the Coptic Christian community in Egypt. Coptic Christians in Egypt represent the largest concentration of surviving Christians in the Middle East.
They are being brutalized and expelled in Israel and in many Islamic countries. Ironically, it is the Islamic world that has shown the most concern for Arab world Christians, not the United States which is the de facto spokesman for Western Christians. Most Americans could care less about the fate of Arab Christians.
That failure of Western Christians to defend their own against purges in Israel and some Arab countries has given Muslims the opportunity to become their champions. This is why so many Christians have cheered Mursi’s declaration to name a Christian as a vice president in Egypt’s first-ever democratic government.
The Middle East is still a very dangerous place. Despite Mursi’s victory, the Egyptian military, which has controlled the country for centuries and was involved in the naming of every major president since the fall of King Farouk – Gamal Abdel Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak – has much power.
What will the Egyptian military do? Ironically, they survive on a $1.3 billion handout from the United States, a payment that keeps the Egyptian military in operation as Egypt’s largest employer. That money began right after Sadat sold out the Palestinian and Arab cause in the 1970s to sign a phony and empty peace accord with Israel.
Instead of bringing peace, the Israeli peace accord has undermined the Arab claim to Palestine and supported Israel, thanks to the generous backing of the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim United States Congress. Mursi must walk carefully. Democracy in Egypt is in its infancy. The forces of darkness lurk in every shadow around him. American interests in Israel. The Islamic extremists. Fanatics among the Orthodox Christians. Religious fanatics in other nearby Arab countries. Israel’s military. Any and all of them can strike at any time to disrupt Egypt’s nascent turn to freedom.
But we will enjoy this refreshing blast of freedom in a region of the world where the word “freedom” is thrown around like a worthless press release, and where life has little value, and people with weapons and extremist ideas continue to roam.
— Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and radio talk show host. Reach him at www.RadioChicagoland.com
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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