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Thursday, April 28, 2005

ragtag_the_3rd, an Egyptian, posted a very thought provoking and serious comment to my April 27 post. below is my feedback to what he told me:

Before giving you my feedback, I would like to state what I mean when I mention the words "liberal" and "Islamic or Islamist".

By liberal, I mean someone who believes in total freedom of speech, of expression, of movement, of becoming religious, of becoming a sinner, of changing his/her religion, etc. I simply don't know what other word to use when describing this person who believes in the above principles. In Egypt, we use the word "librally" and this is why I am using the word "liberal". I suspect you will agree with me that all decent countries (the US, Sweden, Norway, South Korea, New Zealand, Japan, etc, etc) around the world reached the conclusion that the above principles constitute the best values that a country should adopt. Countries that do not adopt those values are clearly "behind" those that do.

Now we turn to the word "Islamist". When I say "Islamist", I do not mean someone who is merely religious, but someone who thinks that his version of Islam (i.e religion) is the best way of life not just for himself and his family but for his neighbor as well. He is like the church in the past that forced its interpretation of Christianity on the people and ruled the people using this interpretation. To me, an Islamist is not compatible with the principles I listed above.

Now let us turn to your comment. You said:

Great Blog GM,I happen to disagree with much (not most) of what you say. One
being that you'd accept a democracy in egypt only if liberals are in power. More
like "my way or the highway". I also don't like you're support for Mubarak. I
surely didn't expect this from a liberal GM. It follows the age long rhetoric in
egypt "That whome you know is better than whome you don't know".The people we
know keep getting worse and worse. Mubarak is not a pharoh and he it's about
time he should go. Personally I think the egyptian people should be given a
chance to pick the form of government they see fit. Be it Islamic, Liberal or
whatever. This democracy thing is trial and error, no one gets it 100% right the
first time.If whatever government they picked doesn't (and it most possibly
wouldn't) work out the way it should, they'll have to take it down again and
start at square one. This is how democracies are built GM.


"One being that you'd accept a democracy in egypt only if liberals are in power. More like "my way or the highway".

You are treating "liberalism" as if it is a dogma, an ideology, or a creed. The principles above are the essence of life and the building blocks of any functioning state. You can believe in communism as the best economic way of life and still believe in the principles above and you can be a Muslim cleric and still believe in those principles. However, Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood do not believe in the above principles even if they are pretending to believe in them today. Once they become powerful, they will ban my writings after calling it "unislamic", they will bother me in the park because I am holding my girlfriend's hand, they might close my favorite pub because they consider alcohol consumption as "unislamic", they might arrest me if they didn't like how I behaved, anyway, the sky is the limit to what they might do.

"I also don't like you're support for Mubarak. I surely didn't expect this from a liberal GM."

Read my previous posts and you will find one common thought. I am against Mubarak's dictatorship and the corruption we are suffering from; however, I believe that Egypt today is not ready to rush towards a fair ballot box. All what I am hoping for is this: Mubarak gets his fifth term then he lifts his hands off liberals so that they appear on Egypt' political scene. We will then hold free fair elections once they appear and become strong enough to compete with the Islamists. If the Egyptian people (who are becoming alarmingly religious) chose a mixture of Islamists and liberals, then I could tolerate it. However, if the Islamist turned out to be invincible, then I will respect the people's choice and find myself another country to live in. I will only return when the Egyptian people discover that the Islamists do not follow the above principles and vote them out of office (provided that the Islamists would give them a chance to vote them out!!!!!!!!!) Currently, I unfortunately believe that, given the current state of the political arena of Egypt, only Mubarak is fit to rule Egypt. Democracy is like a medicine, you take it gradually. If you took it all at once, you die.

"Personally I think the egyptian people should be given a chance to pick the form of government they see fit. Be it Islamic, Liberal or whatever. This democracy thing is trial and error, no one gets it 100% right the first time."

You are putting the word "liberal" beside and word "islamist" as if they are too competing thoughts or ideologies. Again I say, you can be a Muslim cleric and still believe in the principles of liberalism. Two of my favorite liberal muslim clerics are Sheikh Iyad Jamal Al Deen of Iraq and Sheikh Hussein Khomenei (Ayatollah Khomenei's son!) of Iran. My favorite Egyptian Islamic think is the Jamal al Banna (the Muslim Brotherhood founder's brother!!) who faces immense persecution from the religious establishment here.

What you are saying above is what the "book" says. The "book" says "people should choose", period. I do not object to that, I long for the day when Egyptians get the chance to choose their own future; however, we need to look at realities on the ground. Egypt's dictatorship literally wiped all liberals out of the political scene; it would lead to an utter disaster if we simply kicked Mubarak out and allowed a free ballot box in such an unfair political arena.

"If whatever government they picked doesn't (and it most possibly wouldn't) work out the way it should, they'll have to take it down again and start at square one. This is how democracies are built GM."

What you are saying indicates that there will be a second chance. Can you guarantee that there will be this second chance? Was there a second chance in Iran? What if, and I mean if, the Egyptian population liked the system in which the Islamists are powerful (something I doubt really), will you succumb to the will of the people and live in this system? I will succumb and declare my respect for the people's choice, but I personally cannot continue living in the country. Something tells me that you too will accompany me abroad.

UPDATE: ragtag_the_3rd provides his feedback to what I wrote in his blog. I am really enjoying this discourse. I believe this is the type of civilized discourse we should be having here. Tomorrow I'll give my own feedback to what he had to say.

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