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Fareed Zakaria “But first, here’s my take.

The events in Egypt over the last week have been fascinating, but, also, a bit bewildering. Most of us don’t quite know what to make of them. Is what happened there a good thing or a bad thing?

So, let’s start with some basic facts. The government that was deposed in Egypt was an elected government. Mohamed Morsy’s Freedom and Justice Party won the presidential elections, the parliamentary elections and a referendum to approve a new Egyptian Constitution.

So, there’s no getting around it, this was the party that represented the wishes of the Egyptian people as expressed through the ballot box three times.

On the other hand, the government ruled in an arbitrary and high- handed manner and, in many, many cases, violated human rights and outlawed its political opponents.

President Morsy announced that his decrees were above judicial scrutiny. He banned members of the previous ruling party from participating in politics for 10 years. He did little about the attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority. The Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsy had been a lifelong member, had promised not even to seek the presidency or even a parliamentary majority and it reneged on both pledges creating this new Freedom and Justice Party as a facade.

In 1997, I wrote an essay describing the rise of what I called. “illiberal democracies,” elected governments that were abusing individual rights and freedoms. The Morsy government is a textbook example of such a regime.

But it is important to note that the post-Morsy in Egypt, the current government, does not look like one that is upholding liberty in any sense either.

Indeed, the more the arrests and the crackdowns continue, it looks like the old Mubarak military complex crowned once more over the ashes of democracy.

This has been Egypt’s and the Arab world’s tragedy. These lands are caught between repressive dictatorships on the one hand and illiberal democracies on the other. And from this vicious cycle, there does not seem much space for genuine liberty to break out.

So what should the United States do to help the cause of freedom and stability in Egypt? Well, a suspension of U.S. aid right now would plunge an already bankrupt country into deeper chaos.

But Washington should announce that it will continue its aid for a limited period, say two months, while it determines whether the new government is, in fact, moving to restore genuine democracy in Egypt.

Specifically, it should ask for three things. The end to arbitrary arrests of the Muslim Brotherhood or any groups or people for political opposition. Also, the end of the crackdown on the media in all forms.

The writing of a new constitution through a process that includes all major voices in Egyptian life, the scheduling of parliamentary and presidential elections in which everyone can participate, including and most especially the Muslim Brotherhood.

If these conditions are not met, than Washington will have no alternative than to recognize the reality that this is not the restoration of democracy nor a path to moderation and inclusion, this is a pretty old-fashioned military coup and it should be treated as such.

If you’d like to take a look at that 1997 essay, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy,” it’s up on our website, cnn.com/fareed. It still holds up pretty well.”

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1307/07/fzgps.01.html

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