Alaa Al Aswany says that Muslims from the Middle East will not respond to Barack Obama’s friendly overtures until they see him taking sides with Palestinian rebels against Israel.
I found a combination of glowing enthusiasm for Mr. Obama, a comparison between the democratic system in America and the tyranny in Egypt, the expectation of a fairer American policy in the Middle East, and then severe disappointment after Mr. Obama’s failure to intercede in Gaza. I thus concluded that no matter how many envoys, speeches or interviews Mr. Obama offers to us, he will not win the hearts and minds of Egyptians until he takes up the injustice in the Middle East. I imagine the same holds true for much of the greater Muslim world.
Al Aswany, who considers Israel’s recent action in Gaza “a massacre”, is duly impressed with the U.S.’s ability to overcome racial discord in electing our first black president and openly states that the Middle East would be a better place if Egypt and other countries in the region were led by representative government rather than by, as in Egypt, a “head of state who seized power through sham elections and keeps it by force”. But is that really the case?
Many would disagree. For instance, Robert Ellis wrote that increasing democracy in Turkey would radicalize that country’s political process and alter its stance decidedly toward a more Islamic, theocratic way of thinking and interacting with the world at large. He quotes Omer Dincer, Prime Minister Erdogan’s former undersecretary:
“I believe that the republican regime in Turkey should be replaced by a more participatory one, and the principle of secularism should be replaced with integration with Islam. Therefore I believe that it’s time, and absolutely necessary, to replace all the fundamental principles outlined at the start of the Turkish Republic, such as secularism, republicanism and nationalism, with a structure that is more participatory, more decentralized and more Muslim.”
We can reasonably assume similar feelings and outcomes in other Islamic nations should matters be put to the popular vote. Are we to believe Al Aswany’s assertion that what’s missing in Egypt is a fully democratic election system?
Hardly, since the one predictable outcome of such elections would be weak governments more under the sway of Muslim clerics and susceptible to the mad desires of radical fundamentalists.
Al Aswany’s view of the Israeli action in Gaza is indicative of the greater problem – the combined Muslim/Arab rejection of Israel as a nation. An important measure of the Middle East’s maturity will be taken when – and if - the general populace is finally able to reject pro-Palestinian agitators’ repeated calls for the annihilation of Israel and accept the Jewish state as a legitimate nation in its own right.
Until such time there’s little good that can come from unbridled democracy in the Middle East, all wishful thinking aside. Barack Obama presumedly knows this, explaining why his friendly overtures toward the Middle Eastern Muslims have been only oratorical to-date.
The truth is that Americans of all walks of life would like to be friendly with Muslims and Jews, Eqyptians, Iranians, and Israelis alike. But the process of getting from here to there will not be an easy one as it requires what President Obama called an unclenching of the fist. This is a rhetorical nicety that really means that Muslims need to de-radicalize before any lasting relationship can be formed.
Could that be achieved by democratizing Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran? Only in the sense that Turkey, with its precarious balance between government and military, and Iraq, with a similarly supported elected government, are democratic.
A level of social maturity is required before democracy can be considered a positive form of self-rule. Al Aswany is wrong if he thinks it has been reached, whether in Egypt or in Gaza, as the Fatah/Hamas civil war demonstrated beyond dispute.