Reflections on a Wandering Life.....
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Think in China again last night. This was one of the best. The subject was Egypt and the election, and the speaker was a professor from Beida who really knew his subject. The lecture consisted of a mention of the history, as well as a run down of the key figures in current Egyptian politics. After the lecture began the Q and A period. I asked the professor how he thought democracy could be implemented in Egypt, and if not, what kind of government they could implement. I don't like to rehash old positions--I have said it enough times on this blog--but one of my criticisms of the Americans is their tendancy to think that if they can force other countries in the world to implement American style democracy, everything will be wonderful. George W. Bush pressured the Palestinians to hold an American style democratic election, with the result that Hamaas was elected in Gaza, and then Bush refused to recognize them, putting the Americans in a fundamentally hipocritical position. The professor said that the Egyptians would need to adopt some sort of uniquely Egyptian form of democracy just as China has "democratic socialism." Referring to what China has as "democratic socialism" is quite a stretch in my opinion, but the larger problem is that you can implement any sort of "unique form" of democracy you want, but after everthing is said and done, the bottom line is, do you believe in letting the people chose their own destiny, or do you not? The problem with most "democracies" in Africa is that the leaders use democracy to give themselves credibilty internationally, but they don't really believe in letting the people rule themselves. This was always Mubarek's problem. He held "democratic" elections, but somehow he always won, and those who challenged him seemed to end up spending a lot of time in a very small place. After my question, Ahmed from Kuwait rose to speak. He pointed out what he saw as contradictions in what the professor was saying about Egypt and what the Qur'an actually teaches. I know Ahmed quite well, because he and I have a weekly study together. I am teaching him the Bible, and he is teaching me the Qur'an. Ahmed's basic point is that unpleasant things Westerners associate with Islam (such as forcing women to wear the "scarf" as the professor referred to it) are the work of extremists. The professor responded by saying, "I wish every Muslim in Egypt was like you." That was a good answer. I talked with Ahmed afterwards. "Read history, Mr. Eric," he said. "Democracy doesn't work in Islamic countries." I couldn't argue, so I just said, "Then what do you do?" "Shari'a Law." I am not an expert in Shari'a Law, but the problem I see is that in order to convince the people in Egypt to accept Shari'a Law, you'd have to be able to persuade them that there was at least one country in the Arab world that was governed by Shari'a Law without the extremes that are often associated with it. The thing I have noticed is that modern Arab nations don't seem to like Shari'a Law. Kuwait, for example, where Ahmed is from, is not governed by Shari'a Law. So the bottom line is, is it possible to implement Shari'a Law in a way that allows for the kinds of freedoms that people who advocate democracy have become accustomed to?