Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Why I might leave this country if democracy came knocking at my door.
Please read it all.
Malaysia is a beautiful country. It’s political and economic situation is better than many Arab and Muslim countries. Malaysia still didn’t reach the freedom or the economic advancement of its South Korean neighbor, but we in Egypt tend to look up to it. Many Egyptian commentators praised its former prime minister when he willfully stepped down from power. Several opposition figures wish that President Mubarak would imitate him.
Nevertheless, something awful happened in Malaysia last January. The country’s government-sanctioned moral police, commonly known as “jawi”, raided a nightclub in Kuala Lumpur at midnight and ordered the clientele to separate into groups of Muslims and non-Muslims (Malaysia has a sizable non-Muslim minority). Aiming to “protect” their fellow Muslims and punish them for their “un-Islamic” behavior, the jawi arrested the Muslims and humiliated the females.
This incident sent shock waves throughout Malaysia’s political spectrum. Many denounced the raid and the prime minister said that the power of the jawi must curbed, not by banning it but by forcing it to seek permission from the police before launching raids to catch Muslims alleged to be committing immoral acts!! Liberal* Malaysians, both Muslim and non-Muslim, expressed their concern that their country would be threatened by Taliban-like mobs that have government authorization to correct people’s behavior.
It is not only liberal Malaysians who are shocked, it is me as well! I am shocked and damn scared for two reasons. One, Malaysia DOES actually have a “moral police” that can storm any pub, arrest any writer, and ruin the love scene of any young couple cuddling in a park. Two, from what I've read so far, many Malays if not the majority DO support the existence of this “religious police” department in the government even if they are against it adopting the harsh tactics of the Taliban (I hope that is the case!)
If Malaysia, a country that is more democratic and economically better than Egypt, can have a moral police then imagine what can happen in Egypt if full democracy and freedom were unleashed in my country. If many Malays were becoming more religious and do not oppose the existence of the government-sanctioned moral police, imagine what would happen if the majority of Egyptians got a free hand in determining their future and how “religious” they want Egypt to become. Again I repeat, I do not expect the majority of Egyptians to transform Egypt into another Iran, but I cannot rule out the fact that radicals would definitely be empowered as a result of the “Arab spring” that everyone wants Egypt to bask into. Just look what happened last month, the world was talking about the demonstrations in Cairo and how awesome they were, and me and my liberal friends were talking about how suddenly the Muslim Brotherhood found their voice and how threatened we are feeling right now.
I fully understand why the US wants Egypt to bask in the current “Arab spring”. I fully understand why Washington cannot maintain the status quo in Egypt and treat Mubarak according to pre-911 rules. However, I just have a word for Miss Rice: You continue pressuring Mubarak to open up and allow democracy, you continue your rhetoric that you are not afraid if Islamists ruled Egypt or at least got empowered, but please Miss, open up your state department because you will find me running towards you screaming “ASYLUM”. It is not a cool feeling when you get arrested from a nightclub, believe me Miss., it is not a cool feeling at all.
* By liberal I don’t mean Ted Kennedy or Hillary Clinton, but someone who believes in freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom to become a saint, freedom to sin, etc, etc. In other words, someone who believes in the stuff that all liberals and conservatives in America take for granted.