Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is Egypt trying to be an Islamic State?

The current incidents taking over the country of Egypt have left its citizens more confused rather than optimistic about their country's fate.

Currently, the interim government is engaged heavily in foreign policy, namely that with Hamas and Fatah, yet the people of the country have not even been asked to counsel this involvement. The people's advise was not sought after regarding how the nation should proceed with this partnership nor were they asked about the amount of resources and personnel that should be invested into this deal. These decisions are usually made by an authority entrusted to do so, and while Egypt is very much in a transitional period, the government is not really in any position to take such initiatives. Field Marshal Tantawi et al have seemingly assumed the rank of authority as though they themselves were elected into office as a result of the ousting of their former leader who supposedly, in their eyes, paved the way for Martial Law.

Another grave concern is that which involved the violent clashes between the people and military outside the Israeli embassy on the Day of Nakba. It was almost as though Mubarak was still flowing through the veins of the soldiers who took it upon themselves to openly fire rubber bullets and throw tear gas at unarmed civilians. 353 people were injured on the first day with guns pointed at children forced to lie on their stomachs and smacked on the back of their head if any looked up while shots were fired into the air. These scenes frightfully mirrored those in the early days of Tahrir square.

Even more alarming however, is the growing tension of sectarian violence that has resumed as it was left off early January as though the revolution never really happened at all. The horrific Church burning incident in Imbaba and the Maspero thuggery suspected to be the work of the Salafis, begs the question, are these infiltrators trying to take advantage of the fragile situation to establish Egypt as an Islamic state especially when the interim government is preoccupied with their own policies and foreign affairs?

What would that entail for the future of Egypt if it were in fact to implement Shariah Law? The Coptic Orthodox have clearly expressed their grave concern about this possibility. Even Livni, the former Israeli Foreign Minister expressed her government's stance on strongly opposing a neighbouring Islamic state.

It is quite unfortunate that regardless of the countless centuries that Islam ruled the land and protected the "People of the Book" when they had called for aid against the barbaric rule of the Byzantine Empire, the native Coptic Egyptians have indeed forgotten what it was like to be ruled with protection rather than treated as lower-class citizens by the general exclusions of the higher class Greek-speaking occupiers from Constantinople in the early 7th century.

During the times of Islamic law, the ruling Muslim authority charged taxes to Egyptians in order to build schools, pave roads and even Churches to improve their way of live - a concept which was alien to them at the time because it drastically contrasted the tyrannical Byzantine rule. That very philosophy is in fact what shapes the modern world as we see it today. This system of rule caused a rippling effect in Europe with feudal systems subsequently being abolished because the people saw endless benefits in establishing a tax system whereby each citizen claimed their own portion of land rather than having the King claim ownership over all property, including their wives.

Unfortunately Coptic memories of burning Churches are fresher than those of Churches being built for their benefit, and what is worse is that their association with this "authoritative" religion has been narrowed down to a minority of extremist Salafis who don't seem to understand that their is no possible benefit in having a large rift from sectarian violence - especially when their ancestor's beliefs completely opposed this behaviour.

The seemingly more moderate, responsible and organised "modern-day" Muslim Brotherhood is more akin to the golden days gone by when respect was shown regardless of theological differences, especially because their party comprises of well educated intellectuals. Their maturity was evident when they did not try to hijack the protests, and moreover, their current reluctance to apply for candidacy in the September elections show they actually have genuine interests for a better Egypt without necessarily having an Egypt ruled by their specific law.

Considering these qualities for such a strong political party is now more important than ever because the revolution has opened up endless possibilities where one could very well be witness to an Egyptian rule by Islamic jurisprudence, if indeed the Muslim Brotherhood do choose to run for elections.

This does not necessarily mean that it will happen, but if it did, would it really be a horrible thing? Islamic law has shown for many centuries that it can successfully govern the country and help it flourish. This is in complete contrast to a potential extremist takeover, and the two should not be confused.

Putting this into context, and considering that Egypt is essentially a Muslim majority, if democracy prevails and the majority want an Islamic state, then the Egyptian people will have to warm up to that possibility.

However, the more probable scenario of course is that a secular government will be established for the simple reason that protests were carried out by the common people striving for freedom out on the streets: men, women, and children; Christians, Muslims and Atheists. There were no Islamic movements; just a people who wanted their freedom back.

Whoever gets chosen based on the people’s consensus will be the rightful leader of the country regardless of what faction they represent, and regardless of what policies external governments believe should be established.

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