Sunday, February 6, 2011

Egypt and Democracy and Religion.. Oh My!

Earlier this week, Glenn Beck was "educating" his listeners about the situation in Egypt and why it is all freedom-loving Americans should be terrified. For a marginally more tolerable rendition of this asinine drivel, you can view a discussion of it on Chris Matthews here. Essentially, Beck is "planting his flag" in the camp of UFO-landing, lunar landing hoaxing, government mind controlling conspiracy nuts. He believes a strategic avoidance of bombing in the region of Ancient Babylon will seat a great evil: an Islamic Caliphate.

The upheaval in Tunisia and Egypt has certainly altered a common perception of the situations in Islamic dictatorships. The people's desire for a fair and legitimate government is enough to bring about change by itself. The democratic spirit that is spreading throughout the nation like wildfire is unique as it is born out of an internal desire to change the status quo. These people are instigating their own revolution and fighting for a cause that is truly their own.

Beck's concerns are so very ludicrous on virtually every level of analysis, that addressing them specifically seems like an outright waste of time. Needless to say, there is a spreading fear throughout the American right regarding the outcome of the Egyptian revolution/crisis/event: the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood are responsible for producing Ayman al-Zawahiri as well as the writings of Sayyid Qutb which are hostile towards the West. As a significant force in Egypt, the fear is the possibility of a Brotherhood-operated government and what that could mean for the West.

As noted in The Economist, the Brotherhood must be allowed to compete for the right to govern. Exclusion of the Brotherhood in democratic elections undermines the very concept of democracy itself. The likelihood of the Brotherhood actually swinging a majority vote is a long shot at best, making the possible ramifications of their exclusion must greater than those of their inclusion. Finally, also mentioned in The Economist, Islamists are permitted to participate in democratic elections in Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia and this has yet to lead to the ominous Caliphate Mr. Beck implies.

The fundamental problem which I see with the perspective fearmongering conservatives like Glenn Beck are perpetuating is a basic flaw in democratic and regional understanding. First, the concept of democracy is not something that can be forced upon a nation. The commitment and passion required to sustain a functional democracy is nigh impossible without a personal relationship between its people and the government itself. There is a very real difference in the mindset of the populace between fighting for a voice in the government and being handed electoral privileges by outsiders after the bullets stop flying.

The Middle East is an interesting region. Throughout history, it has been passed around from empire to empire countless times. With such a frequent shift in governments and boundaries, the concept of nationality amongst the people is not an identity they hold as strongly as that of their religion. With Sharia Law the basis for most law in Islamic countries, the concepts of religion and government are rather intrinsically tied. The desire for Americans to minimize the influence of religion on potential Middle Eastern democracies is not only an inappropriate transplantation of American ideals, but demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the Middle East and its history.


  1. I think some of the strength of Islamist movements comes from the (real or perceived) interference and oppression from the "West." Once we stop supporting brutal dictators in contravention of our stated principles (who likes hypocrisy?) I think moderate voices will win out. Especially if we back them, or at least refrain from undermining them.

  2. Oh, I agree one hundred percent. America has had it's hands in Middle Eastern affairs (both overtly and covertly) for far too long. I would never condone the actions of jihadists, but when you look at their statements towards the West, it's impossible to deny the impact of perceived American actions on their lives. I think it shows a collective ignorance of the West to the cultural differences between the two.

  3. Is the "Insane Clown Posse" the name of Beck's fan club?

  4. Hmmm after spending a bunch of time there and continuing to travel there for the next few years I am not sure if the following statement mentioned by Jon is entirely accurate "I would never condone the actions of jihadists, but when you look at their statements towards the West, it's impossible to deny the impact of perceived American actions on their lives."

    When you take the 30-40FTO's (Foreign Terrorist Organizations)that deal with radical Islam (not the right term to begin with but so popularly used). You begin to peel back their layers and see their operations which is not easy for the average person to do. However you realize they are not really believers but rather criminals using the cover of freedom fighter. In fact the very few true jihadists the ones that truly believe are not the operational planners a lot of them tend to be the asset being handled thinking they are fighting for Islam when in fact they are fighting for the drug trade primarily but also the weapons and sex trades as well. If you took a true believer who truly follows the extent at which your suppose to protect Islam but yet also respect Christians and Jews because they are people of the book after all. Then you could not torture that person and gain information nope no way. A true believer of that form of Islam deserves a lot of respect for that. However They are so far and few between and that is proven buy the fact how many have been put into operations. In fact most "radical extremists" detest the term so I will just call them criminals are only out for themselves so when they given the carrot or stick form of interrogation it's amazing at how much they will talk. Now some of the higher ups who understand the full scope know not talking while unpleasant is better than being made an example of by their own group which is far worse that what we would do to them so sometimes we have to give the illusion that they should be more scared of us. Does that yield valuable information yes it does because it's all in the way you present the question.

    Anyways that was a bit of a tangent. The problem with the Muslim Brotherhood could be compared to and has been compared to Iran. However I am more one to compare it or say it has the potential to be more like Hamas in Palestine the people voted them in and I honestly don't see them being voted out even if the people wanted to vote them out now. There are so many dynamics going on in the Near East that have not made the media quite yet. Is it a Democratic spirit we are seeing over there from a portion I would say yes from another portion I would say it's like MRTA (terrorist group in Peru partially funding by us citizens thinking they were helping democracy) using it as a guise for something else. Covert action in the mideast is not exactly covert Brian you saw that clip from Fred Burton on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart where that came up. I will say this the next 5 years is going to be very different from what people over there expect.