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a crisis of modernity?

February 26, 2011

I find it ironic people seem to be so worried about ‘Islamic’ groups taking power in the Middle East, but not about ‘Christian’ groups here. I have to wonder, is the Muslim Brotherhood really all that different from groups like the Fellowship (a.k.a., the Family)? Why should the Muslim Brotherhood be excluded from Egyptian politics? Or, conversely, why shouldn’t groups like the Fellowship be excluded from American politics? If our rhetoric about freedom of religion and speech is to remain consistent, it needs to recognize the right of self-determination for all.

In political theory, self-determination is defined as “the right of a nation or people to determine its own form of government without influence from outside.” In this case, we say that we support the people of Egypt in their fight for democracy against a dictator we actively supported with billions in military aid, and at the same time, we’re speaking out against the threat of Islamic political organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and trying to exclude them from taking part in the political process in Egypt. To be consistent with our rhetoric about freedom of religion and speech, we need to also recognize the right of self-determination for all, not just for those willing to support us.

If we’re serious about promoting democracy, then the people of Egypt need to be able to freely determine their own government without the threat of external interference for it to be a truly democratic movement. They must be the ones to decide what their country is going to look like and who’s going to be in charge of it. So I think it’s rather hypocritical for the US to say that it supports the people of Egypt in their fight for democracy, but at the same time, tries to exclude Islamic political organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood from taking part in the political process, especially when we have Christian political organizations active here.

I think this just goes to show how hollow all our rhetoric about democracy really is. We want whoever will best promote US interests in power (which in this case is access to the Suez Canal and support for Israel), not necessarily who the people choose. That’s one of the main reasons we supported an oppressive dictator like Mubarak for so long. We’re worried about groups like the Muslim Brotherhood precisely because they’re not very friendly towards Israel and are apparently willing to use the Suez Canal against us and them (most likely by disrupting trade and the distribution of Middle Eastern oil, as well as cutting off an important naval route).

Of course, none of this means that I support the Muslim Brotherhood or everything they stand for; I’m just trying to point out what I see to be the contradiction between our rhetoric and our actions when it comes to promoting democracy abroad. Basically, we’re either for democracy or imperialism in regard to foreign policy; and while our rhetoric is very much in favour of the former, our actions seem to be clearly leaning towards the latter. We’ve been meddling in the affairs of Middle Eastern states since WWII, and our fear of losing what little hegemony we have left in the region is palpable. It’s no wonder the Obama administration’s statements were so conflicting during the beginning of the Egyptian revolution.

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