Egypt; Between Dictatorships And Revolutions
Protesters chant outside the Egyptian Embassy in Ottawa on Friday, calling for the removal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)
Egypt’s rebellion has been lingering in the horizon for a very long time. The brutal life of the ordinary Egyptian was waiting for the right moment to explode. But instead of understanding what was surely coming, the 82-year-old Mubarak has wasted every opportunity to transfer power to another administration peacefully. He could have gone down in history as the first Arab leader to conduct a fair election and transfer power peacefully. But he kept ignoring the inevitable and, following the many sad examples in the region, kept re-electing himself for 30 years, grooming his son to take over. Now he will go down in history as just another tyrant in the long line of known and unknown ones in the dysfunctional history of the Muslim world.
Is this just a coincidence or is there something in Muslim culture that all too often perpetuates this vicious cycle? I believe the latter is true. Having been born and raised myself in the Muslim faith during the generation of the 1952 Nasser Egyptian revolution, which promised freedom, democracy, Arab Nationalism, socialism and self rule. My father held a prominent role in the Nasser revolutionary government of that time. A revolution that promised that the era of oppressive colonial rule was over. But what the revolution gave Egypt was more of the same and even worse conditions than the era before it; more poverty, illiteracy, tyrannical dictatorships and a police state.
Westerners often describe the current Egyptian government as secular when in reality it is not. It is true that Mubarak comes from a military background and neither he nor his wife wears Islamic clothes. But no Muslim leader can get away with or even survive one day in office if he is secular in the true sense of the word. It was during Mubarak’s rule in 1991 that Egypt signed the Cairo Declaration for Human Rights stating that Sharia Law supercedes any other law. So even though Sharia is not 100% applied in Egypt, it is officially the law of the land. Mubarak, like all Muslim leaders, must appease the Islamists to avoid their wrath. According to Sharia itself, a Muslim head of state must rule by Islamic law and preserve Islam in its original form or he must be removed from office. That law leaves no choice for any Muslim leader. Because of that law Muslim leaders must play a game of appearing Islamic and anti-West while trying to get along with the rest of the world. It’s a game with life and death consequences.
I am not optimistic that the current uprising in the Middle East will bring democracy. Many Egyptians believe they can combine democracy with Sharia Islamic law; that is the first unrealistic expectation. 60% of Egyptians want to live under Sharia law but do not understand the ramifications. Many chant “Allahu Akbar” and “Islam is the solution.” But the truth is, Islam or more accurately, Sharia, is the problem.
Perhaps the most dangerous law in Sharia that stands in the way of democracy is the one that states that “A Muslim head of State can hold office through seizure of power, meaning through force.” That law is the reason every Muslim leader must turn into a despotic tyrant to survive, literally. When a Muslim leader is removed from office by force, we often see the Islamic media and masses accept it and even cheer for the new leader who has just ousted or killed the former leader, who is often called a traitor to the Islamic cause. That was what happened to the Egyptian King Farouk in 1952. Sadat’s assassination followed many fatwas of death against him for having violated his Islamic obligations to make Israel an eternal enemy. He became an apostate in the eyes of the hard-liners and had to be killed or removed from office. This probably sounds incredible to the Western mind, but this is the reality of what Sharia has done and is still doing to the political chaos in the Muslim world.
The choice in Egypt is not between good and bad, it is between bad and worse. Many in the Muslim world lack the understanding of what is hindering them as well as a lack of a moral and legal foundation for forming a stable democratic political system. I fear that my brothers and sisters in Egypt will embrace extremism instead of true democracy and thus will continue to rise and fall, stumble from one revolution to another and living under one tyrant to another looking for the ideal Islamic state that never was. The 1400 year-old Islamic history of tyranny will continue unless Sharia Law is rejected as the basis of the legal and political systems in Muslim countries.