Democracy starts with compromise, but are the Islamists ready to meet in the middle? Adam Mowafi argues that a separation of religion and state and the definition of the Egyptian identity must come first...
The first part of any Muslim Brotherhood campaign involves attempting to change the definition of an action; this tactic is actually very effective as definitions are where our logic and foundations of assumptions stem from, especially in a largely uneducated society. Their first campaign in this regard was attempting to distort the meaning of democracy into a zero-sum game where 51% majority equals totalitarian control and that democracy means the simple act of voting. This distortion allowed them to attempt to destroy the judiciary, police the state and control our morality because they could always go back to that word ‘legitimacy’ which is another word they redefined to suit their own aims.
Egyptians, without even knowing the importance of many of the facets of democracy and the required checks and balances, felt something was inherently wrong. As much as the Muslim Brotherhood tried to convince Egyptians that black was white and up was down, logic eventually prevailed. Right now, I would say a very large part of the Egyptian population base cannot see the logic in re-integrating the Muslim Brotherhood who, until this, day refuse to admit they made real mistakes and are unable to see the level of hatred against them. America is droning on, day after day, about reconciliation but I argue that such a feat is impossible until there is suitable reality check of what is actually being fought for here.
The words coming out of most politicians’ mouths are 100% correct for the phase Egypt will be at in three to five years but are nothing to do with what's happening now. Assuming that democracy is about compromise that reflects the peoples will, in any successful democracy such as the UK or the US, the compromise is set within pre-defined and largely accepted average norms in what is classified as the countries identity.
It is possible that within this narrow field of accepted norms for two polar opposites, in terms of policy, to exist because they are, in a broader sense, not actually that far apart from the core fundamentals to begin with. It has taken years to achieve this in most countries and in many cases violence was part of the course. Most countries’ wars are not fought to achieve just a ballot box but to define its identity.
What is being asked of Egypt and the Middle East in general is actually impossible. You cannot compromise between democracy and Islamist rule and you cannot compromise between fascism and pluralism; they are mutually exclusive. Religious ideology means there can be no democracy in the real sense. However hard the US fights for Egypt to pay lip service to democracy by hurrying up a vote, our own identity war will have to be fought first.
In my opinion, before compromise will ever occur and before democracy can take place, there must be a clear separation of religion and state. This is what is actually being fought for now. It is incorrectly labelled unbridled nationalism but the core of it is many Egyptians do not want to be led by an ideology. This is something the western world is largely ignoring; the fact is that 85% of those out on June 30th to oppose the Muslim Brotherhood were Muslims. You will find once there is a clear separation of religion and state or at least, at first, a specific minority role for religion which is clearly defined, the act of compromise will start to flourish.
There are consequences to not compromising with the MB and Salafists right now, in regards to the role of religion in the constitution, which might mean excluding them at this point and might be reflected in low level violence for years to come but this is our fight and winning it will mean an actual modern state where rights for all may exist. This last point is crucial. If religion is not involved in politics, it does not oppress a practicing Islamist from living his own life in accordance with the ideology he believes, in but if religion is imposed on Egyptians for the sake of early compromise, it will oppress many. If the goal of the revolution was freedom how will we ever be free if the law oppresses our freedom to choose our own faith, or more importantly, choose not to have a faith at all?
I would like to end with some comparisons, as US pundits seem to love that:
Palestinian model: Religious group called Hamas win elections, proceed to cancel future elections and impose conservative values. People less free.
Pakistani model: India splits with Pakistan over religious rule. India flourishes, Pakistan languishes.
Afghanistan model: Taliban kill girls who go to school.
Iranian model: Country becomes more conservative, there is lip service to democracy via a vote, all major decisions taken by unchosen religious leader.
History has shown us that there is no such thing as ruling moderate Islamists unless the constitution is secular in nature.