Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Can Morsi govern over a legitimate democracy in Egypt?

By all accounts, Egypt is the leader of the Arab world.  So, when the Arab awakening happened in Egypt, there was much reason for celebration.  They had overthrown a brutal dictator, Mubarak.  Other Arab nations were likely to follow.  Certainly Libya did follow, and Syria is trying, but it is more complicated there.

Next, Egypt held elections and have elected a new president.  The West had certainly hoped that the results would be a secular, pluralistic government.  But, the Arab world is very much Islamic.  So, I suppose it is not all that big a surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood won the election.  And it can be no surprise that Egypt and the Arab world will become more Islamic in the future.  

The question that Thomas Friedman wonders about is whether the new president, Morsi, will rule as a leader of the half of the country which is Islamic, or will he create safety and outreach to the other half of the country - secular, liberal, Salafist, and Christian.  

There was a reason to hope for the latter today, because Morsi appointed a woman and a Christian as his Vice Presidents, and these are apparently positions of actual power rather than just ceremonial.  He has declared that women have the same rights as men, even though he had earlier declared that women should be banned from the presidency, and had also said during the campaign that the Quran would be the Egyptian constitution.

So, if Egypt is creating a mold, perhaps this is the direction the Arab world is going, more Islamic (but not Islamist) and also sincere in its efforts to create a society that is inclusive of the large minorities that are not Muslim.

One can certainly hope.