Saturday, November 19, 2011

Egypt: Twixt Rock and Hard Place

The up-swell of Islamist protest in Egypt. Fascinating. It pits the military (read the monarchical impulse) against the Muslim Brotherhood. The modernists and liberals, meanwhile, watch with minority trepidations from the side-lines. The military as “defender of the constitution” brings memories of Turkey and of Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk, of course, was the modernizer. Above all he wished to free Turkey of religious dominance. But the hard place, ultimately, is democracy. Now we see the same pattern once again, and once more in a modernizing Muslim state. Democracy comes of age when the genuine elites are secular by deep conviction and the religious faith is shattered into numerous-enough little pieces so that no one can hope to dominate. That was the case in 1776 or thereabouts. Our Washingtons and Hamiltons, our Jeffersons and Franklins? Secular to their very enlightenment cores. And the religious character of the American population was a scatter of parts left by an explosion called the Reformation…

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