Democracy in Egypt Won't Insure a Just and Free Society
by Dan Ehrlich

Intolerance Ingrained in the Arab World
The developed world is calling for democracy in Egypt. But, it appears most demonstrators in Cairo first want President Mubarak’s scalp and then better wages, lower living cost and more jobs. Democracy is something that mainly concerns the enlightened few and may not address the most entrenched issue in the Arab world…Intolerance.

Democracy in itself doesn’t insure a just and free society. Any democracy is only good as the people in it and the rule of law built into its legal system. American democracy had worked because of our Constitution, moral code and a mass middle class enjoying an affluent lifestyle, something for which people lower down the pecking order have fought to reach.

But it’s possible to have a bad democracy, one that’s unjust and racist. The fledgling democracy of Serbia, formed from the disintegration of Yugoslavia, went to war with Bosnia, as land grabbing attempt, bolstered by the religious intolerance of its people towards Muslim Bosnia.

On the other hand, many Muslims are not happy with people of other faiths on their turf. That’s mainly at the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict. And, Egypt, as liberal as it attempts to portray itself, is a hotbed of intolerance towards Jews and its largest minority, the ancient Coptic Christians, who make-up 10 percent of the nations population.

While much of the world sees Murbarak’s fall as the rise of Egyptian democracy, the Copts are raising concerns that an even less friendly Islamist government could take his place.

This feeling comes on the heels of the January 1 bombing of a Coptic church in Cairo that killed 25 worshippers. Even in the best of times, being a Christian in Egypt is not easy or very safe. For while Mubarak has tried to run Egypt as a secular state, the street level life is quite a different story for non-Muslim minorities,

"You know, (Mubarak) was okay, not perfect. He was okay…. You don't know what's going on after. It's a mirage for us," says a Copt who grew up in Heliopolis, a Cairo suburb. "I wish we could let him stay forever until he died because we are very scared of these Muslim fanatic people," she says.

The key to developing a just democracy is proper education away from dogmatic religious schools…. education that combats intolerance. Whether in Atlanta or Cairo, kids and adults have to be taught that all people have worth and are not doomed or deemed second-class by their religions.

The Iranian revolution that installed a hard-line Islamist government has been a disaster for minority groups there. Most of the Persian Jewish community has fled the country and the remaining Baha’i worshippers live in fear of persecution and arrest. Even other non Shiite Muslims, such as the Sunni minority are subjected to persecution.

All eyes will be on whatever or whoever replaces Mubarak with regards to human rights and religious tolerance towards other faiths. This will reveal if the new Egypt will be a progressive democracy or just another sectarian theocracy that has kept much of the region locked in a medieval time warp.

Yet the Copts affection for Mubarak does bring up one question that can only be solved democratically. How much of the country is actually represented by the massive anti government demonstrations? In America during the height of the Vietnam War there were massive demonstrations in D.C. and all across the nation, yet they didn’t represent the majority American opinion. Do you think Richard Nixon would have won two elections if they did?

So, what do the majority of Egyptians feel about Hosni Mubarak? Only a referendum could answer this. But don’t hold your breath.

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