Last week I was invited to join a facebook “event” — A Virtual “March of Millions” in Solidarity with Egyptian Protestors. How exciting it looked, with its fanpage and impassioned wall posts! “Egypt, you are the family of all nations,” one supporter wrote, “and we stand by you in your struggle for freedom and democracy. As your children we recognise your need to enjoy the rights and privileges we all share – equality, liberty, fraternity and social justice! MARCH!!!” Like many Americans, I’ve been stirred by the many youthful faces on the news, by the rhetoric of freedom and bravery. But I hesitated to click that button and become the 707,210th facebook user to support the Egyptian cause online.
My initial feelings of trepidation stemmed from my observation that the protesters had no clear leader in mind to fill the power vacuum that would be left by their calls for Mubarak to step down. This is never a good situation. Political analysts here in the U.S. state that there is no need to fear that a charismatic leader of an Islamic opposition will arise. But I continue to experience disquietude over the several political groups which could come to power and diminish democracy and freedom rather than augment it. In the last few days there have been reports that current Vice-President Suleiman is being supported by the U.S. and other nations to replace Mubarak. But other figures do have support within Egypt and elsewhere in the world. For instance, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa is one of those who has expressed his willingness to lead the country.
Here in the West we seem to applaud this revolution for its dedication to democratic principle. But I fear the humanitarian track record of the groups behind the revolt leaves something to be desired. It bothered me that when Mubarak’s government urged all parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to engage in national dialogue, the Brotherhood flatly rejected the offer. The Jerusalem Post reported that a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt told the Iranian news network Al-Alam that he would like to see the Egyptian people prepare for war against Israel.
For many years Mubarak has supported a tenuous peace with Israel. Thus, the leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has characterized Mubarak as the “lackey of the Zionist regime [of Israel].” He also described the recent developments in North Africa as the result of the “Islamic awakening, which followed the great [Islamic] Revolution of the Iranian nation.” I wasn’t too thrilled about how that turned out, and I’m not anxious to see the establishment of Sharia law in Egypt.
Finally, one might well wonder how a new regime might affect religious liberty in Egypt. There are an estimated 10 million Christians in Egypt, including small groups of Mormons. These groups continue to experience religious discrimination and sectarian tension. Despite decrees issued by President Mubarak in 1998, 1999, and 2005 to facilitate approvals for repairing, renovating, expanding, and building churches, the efforts are often hindered by local security and governmental officials. I can’t imagine that the situation could improve with a more Islamic-leaning leader.
While I’m not aboard the Beck-train of doomsday prophecies and Islamic caliphates, I also can’t get too excited about coup d’etat in Egypt just now. How about you? Readers, are you figuratively marching with the revolutionaries in Egypt and their internet supporters, and if so, why? Can your arguments convince me to join the party? Or do you, too, have apprehensions that this movement may backfire?