Egypt defied violence as a pre-condition of democracy
Posted on February 16th, 2011

By Philip Fernando, Former Deputy Editor Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka

 The most unforgettable headline from Egypt dazzled brightly: “ƒ”¹…”Democratic path ushered in sans violence.’ The dogma of invasions, wars or massacre of people as a pre-condition for inducting democracy fell by the wayside.

The youth of Cairo, armed with nothing but Facebook and the power of their convictions started laying the groundwork for change that they viewed as inevitable driven by a zealous belief in democratic ideals. The yearning for a better future was non violent. Mubarak’ exodus from Egypt was anti-climatic. Most analysts commented on the satisfying scene in Cairo as relatively young leaders emerged.

 Their posture of calmness as intelligent activists disgusted with promises being long unfulfilled and settling for nothing less than the departure of the old regime was heroic. The singularity of purpose that characterized the uprising seemed unprecedented in the annals off Egypt’s history. The parallel universe borne out of the bedrock issue of kicking Mubarak out and transferring power ended, opening a new page in Egypt’s history. That was theatre of unprecedented genre.

Punditry feared Muslims voting

Punditry in Western media repeated the Mubarak regime’s mantra that a democratic Egypt will turn into chaos or a religious state, abrogate the fragile peace with Israel and become hostile to the agenda inflicted on them from outside. But billions watched on TV the spectacle of the grandmothers in veils who had dared to share Tahrir Square with army tanks, and the disciplined young people who had risked their lives for their first taste of these new freedoms -were not so easily fooled-some were toddlers when Mubarak assumed power.

 Their resolve never diminished amidst Mubarak’s barefaced deceit trying to hang on obsessively to power that was no longer his to keep.

The much vaunted dogma spending billions and expending countless lives through bitter wars to plant democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan looked outrageous after the Egyptian experience.

 Westerners would soon know that Egypt represents the hope of a new era in which Arab society, Muslim culture and the Middle East should no longer be viewed through the lens of war and radicalism. Their contribution to the forward march of humanity, modernized by advanced science and technology, enriched by their diversity of art and culture and united by shared universal values must be recognized.

 Egyptians have nothing to fear but the shadow of a repressive past hurled at them with ruthless meticulousness.

Precept and practice

Egypt was the first Muslim State Obama visited after becoming President. He spoke of Egypt as an emerging power in the region. Obama’s slogan seemed “No one should be scared of Muslims voting.” The precept must now be followed by letting Egyptians determine their own destiny.

There has to be a departure from the institutionalized memory of taking the Muslim citizenry for granted while venerating the Middle East’s potentates. Many felt that Obama should take the Egypt situation seriously trusting his own persona of deliberative discourse and not shoot from the hip-something different from the George W Bush legacy.

 Yet defending the status quo ensued as positions were calibrated which Egyptians saw through and rejected. It is becoming clear that many in USA seemed to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood could be inspired by a democratic process to bring about secular governance.

 They were confident that a quick transition into elections may not bring any particular religious distinction to surface in Egypt- a predominantly Sunni majority state where the clerical hierarchy is less pronounced. The Muslin Brotherhood had attracted many intellectuals amenable to secular democracy.

Sustaining pro-democracy movement

The era of autocratic governance used to suppress and imprison dissenters is over. Egypt’s readiness for democracy as demonstrated by the youth must be sustained. There was growing concern on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere that the Westerners seemed to put stability ahead of democratic ideals. That proved to be inherently flawed.

 It is a fact that Egyptian uprising had been dominated by the working class-the average citizenry-demanding an end to mass unemployment, persistent poverty and monstrous social inequality that defined the core features of Mubarak’s Egypt.

 Mubarak’s fate has deeply shaken one of Washington’s most valued and long-standing clientele in the geo-strategically critical region of the Middle East. We watched the transfer of power from the undeserving to the rightful owners. That seemed to be contagious in the Middle East.

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