There is no predestination in human affairs, so it is impossible to predict what a post-Arab Spring Egypt will ultimately look like. It might well degenerate into a totalitarian theocracy more odious than the secular autocracy that the Egyptian people overthrew, as some neoconservative worrywarts warn. But the run-up to the presidential elections this week suggests that Egyptians are desperately looking for a system of checks and balances to keep authoritarians of every stripe at bay.
This itself is reason to be cautiously optimistic about Egypt’s future.
Commentators like Samuel Tadros of the neoconservative Hudson Institute have been saying “I told you so” ever since the Muslim Brotherhood and its more extreme Islamist Salafi cousins together won 65 percent of the seats in parliament last December. Egyptian liberals, who had actually led the rebellion against the Mubarak dictatorship, by contrast won only 15 percent.
As far as Tadros and his ideological bedfellows are concerned, this offers proof positive that elections and democracy won’t lead to an enlightened liberalism that protects the rights of women and minorities (after all, 80 percent of Egyptians allegedly support capital punishment for apostasy). Rather, they’ll simply legitimize a reactionary and retrograde form of sharia-based government that is hostile to Western values.
CONTINUED at Reason. Written by Shikha Dalmia.