Saturday, February 5, 2011

A miscellany on Egypt

I support the Egyptian freedom movement. Here's why.

The universal right to freedom for every person is rooted in human nature. As a Christian I believe that God has given us freedom as a means of realizing our moral growth as servants of God and our fellow humans. Abridgement of human freedom, as by a dictator, is a violation of human dignity and thwarts human potential. Equal freedom for all of God's children is a right that must be defended by everyone.

Political freedom is a necessary condition for human flourishing. If we are to experience moral growth and exercise our duty toward the society in which we live we must be allowed the right to political self-determination. At present, some form of democratic rule is the best way to achieve political freedom for all people.

The Egyptian people have come out in huge numbers to demand freedom and the end of the rule of the dictator Mubarak. Since they have no recourse to a political process to end his rule they have been protesting in the streets. As freedom loving people we must stand in solidarity with the Egyptian people.

There has been some worrying on the American political right about how this will turn out, what it means for America, etc. Of course, some of this is well-justified. As Americans, after all, we should be concerned about what world events mean for us.

What is not acceptable, however, is any questioning, on the basis of what it will mean for us, of whether the Egyptian people have a right to demand the end of Mubarak's rule. If freedom is rooted in human nature then we are obligated to support freedom movements. We must never side with rulers who oppress their people. If a freedom movement succeeds and creates a government that is not aligned with American interests then that is the right of those people. Americans cannot and must not interfere with human flourishing in the name of "security" or "stability".

Too many Americans suffer from an intractable, nationalistic conceit that we are the judge and jury of everyone else on the planet. They have forgotten the Golden Rule. As Americans we would not want any other nation interfering in our democratic process. We would be deeply offended by foreign commentators saying that we do not deserve our freedom because we might use it to elect leaders who will not attend to the interests of foreign governments. We react strongly to American stereotypes perpetuated by anti-Americans abroad. Yet so many of us do the exact same thing, especially when it comes to Arabs and/or Muslims.

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One of the concerns on the right is about the Muslim Brotherhood. Following are several links to articles written by experts that try to calm some of those fears. The essential points seem to be that the MB renounced violence many years ago and have experienced repression and torture under Mubarak (and, so, hopefully would not do the same thing to others). They do share roots with radical Islamist groups like al-Qaeda but those radical groups broke from them years ago. al-Qaeda, specifically, regards MB as sell-outs.

MB will, of course, have some part in the new government, since they represent a significant chunk of the Egyptian population. And they are indeed a conservative Muslim group. But to equate conservative Muslims with radical terrorists is pure Islamophobia. In short, we have no reason to believe that a government with MB backing will be, ipso facto, radical.

In fact, an article in today's NYT reports this:

Mohamed el-Beltagui, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed Islamist group that had been the major opposition in Egypt until the secular youth revolt, said that the organization would not run a candidate in any election to succeed Mr. Mubarak as president.

He said his members wanted to rebut Mr. Mubarak’s argument to the West that his iron-fisted rule was a crucial bulwark against Islamic extremism. “It is not a retreat,” he said in an interview at the group’s informal headquarters in the square. “It is to take away the scare tactics that Hosni Mubarak uses to deceive the people here and abroad that he should stay in power.”

Mr. Beltagui, who represents the Brotherhood on an opposition committee to negotiate a transitional government, said the group wanted a “civil state,” not a religious one. “We are standing for a real democracy, with general freedom and a real sense of social justice.”

Now here are those links I promised:

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Finally, a couple of the most moving images of the protests. I hope for more kissing and praying and less stone- and bomb-throwing - but that's easy for me to say as I sit here in peaceful, free Bedford.

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About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.