Let’s hear it for democracy in the Middle East

US and EUSSR politicians are making bien-pensant noises along the lines of ‘Egypt’s future will be determined by Egyptian people.’ In other words, by a democratic process. A laudable idea, that. And it would be even more so if proponents of democracy über alles were to consider the substance of what they are proposing, not just the form. For what matters isn’t method of government but the kind of society it produces. So what kind of society is democracy likely to produce in Egypt (and elsewhere in the region)? We don’t know for sure. But do let’s listen to what the Egyptians are saying.

According to a recent Pew poll, 82% of Egyptians regard stoning adulterous women as just, 77% approve of chopping off thieves’ hands, 84% favour the death penalty for apostasy from Islam, 59% describe themselves as fundamentalists. A question arises: Following perfectly democratic elections in Egypt, how long before we develop nostalgia for Mubarak?

We can argue the pros and cons of democratic method till the fundamentalists come home. But it’s clear that at times, and in places, there is madness in it.



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