8 May 2011

Democracy in Egypt - The Bigger Picture

Will Egypt be forced to embrace secularism in light of their democratic uprising?

Is one of the inevitable results of a social liberal democracy, embracing freedom of citizens, democratic voting rights and transparency of government a move towards secularisation?

As Egypt, still a storming nation under millitary rule following citizens' successful uprising this year, dissolve into religious clashes, there is a wider context within which we can view social unrest, war and religion.

Christians and Muslims clashed in Cairo, over an issue which is still not clear but seems to be linked to interfaith marriage and religious conversion.

When viewing such clashes from a Western perspective, the drama is shocking, and the resulting deaths more so. I am liberal in that I consider people to be entitled to practice whatever religion they chose, but I have the luxury of choice.

In the West we see democracy as a founding principle of society, forgetting it is a extravagance we have shaped from a mere political foundation where citizens have equal say in governance, to liberal appreciation and understanding of wider democracy in socio-economic, cultural and religious practices.

When second Gulf war commenced, I commented on the imprudence of enforcing democracy on a nation governed by a religion that did not recognise equal rights for citizens. It struck me as being a retrospective mistake, rather like imposing Christianity through the British Empire on aboriginal countries, thereby creating confusion, clashes and potentially war over the principles in a socio-political climate in flux.

As democracy evolves, we now see a good example of how democracy is not merely a political ideology, but shapes an entire culture around rights, entitlement and liberty that have a subsequent impact on the cultural practices of a country.

An even wider picture is what the religious clashes may indicate in the Arab Spring Uprisings as a whole. Egypt was not the first to protest, but was the first leader to submit to the pressure.

With the inevitable removal of Gaddafi in Libya, and subsequent cycles in Yemen, Damascus, Bahraim and the Ivory Coast, are we in fact going to be exposed to more violence in these coutnries as they battle for a wider socio-political understanding of democracy across all strands?

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