how democratic fear can result in autocracy

A concise and accessible explanation of the answer to this question with Egypt as the explanatory example is given by Shadi Hamid in this wrap up commentary on the role of religion in Egyptian politics. He’s the writer of a recent book: Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East.

The question explored in this book is aptly described as follows by James Traub in his review of the book in the Wall Street Journal

whether the Arab world can have democracy and whether its form of democracy could be compatible with liberalism. This is the great, as-yet-unanswered question of the upheaval once hopefully known as the Arab Spring. Mr. Hamid observes that while the illiberal democrats of, say, Uganda or Nicaragua are simply power-hungry, Islamists are illiberal by ideological design. Even the most moderate among them, Rachid Ghannouchi, the founder of Tunisia’s Nahda party, has written, according to Mr. Hamid, that Islamic governance “is the dividing line between faith and disbelief.” 

I don’t think this is where Mr. Hamid, who urged U.S. policy makers to work with the Brotherhood government, wanted to come out. But he is to be commended for delivering complicated news to no one’s liking—not the Brothers, not their modestly hopeful fans in the West, and not their fire-breathing enemies either.

For all who don’t have time to sit for 80 minutes to understand the background of the Brotherhood – which is everyone I know – these six minutes won’t compensate but at least argue for that background being crucial to what is ongoing in Egypt.

It made me mentally revisit Shereen El Feki‘s main message that the political cannot be separated from the personal. Political revolution without a concomitant personal emancipation is not going good places.

Should a conclusion be that any place that doesn’t have room for diva performers like this one, also has no room for political freedom?

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