Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Egypt as a Lens

Egypt is an interesting lens through which to view democracy. Yes, I know. I have a bit of a hang-up here. Egypt keeps recurring on this blog, in the current context especially here, here, and here earlier. The country is more than  97 percent Muslim; in the last parliamentary elections, the vote was 30 percent secular, 60 percent Muslim; Mohamed Morsi won his election by 51.7 percent of the vote. Not good enough, evidently.

The sentimentalized view of democracy as “rule of the people” is too simple. For it to work effectively, not only must the people be extraordinarily homogeneous in culture, they must also be predominantly secular in their convictions. Democracy is the governing institution of secular mercantile peoples. It is uncomfortable with genuinely held religious belief. And the surrounding environment is also important. Imagine the situation in Egypt if it were reversed. Suppose that 60 percent of the country was secular, that the demonstrators, agitators, and Tahrir-squarers were all Muslim fundamentalists and a minority, and the Army were siding with them. Would the U.S. government’s reactions then be muted and sort of hands off?

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