We Arabs know very little about democracy and understand even less

December 17, 2012 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

This is not a self hating statement made in frustration. It is simply the truth. The Arab World has never ever enjoyed a democracy as we understand it today in the Western World or as it was understood at the height of Athenian democratic rule.

First we had the “dark ages” followed by the enlightenment of Islam which brought us many great benefits including a great civilisation centred on the Caliphate of Baghdad and, later on, in Muslim Andalusia. But democracy has never been part of our society either at its best or in its recent and current decline.

We understand democracy as a one man one vote affair (women tag along quietly as expected by us chauvinists).

Look at Egypt today. And before anyone starts screaming that Egypt is not an Arabic country but only a victim of Arab occupation, I would like to remind them that Egypt was occupied hundreds of years before a nice Arawac family were interrupted during a quiet picnic to be told by Columbus that they have just been “discovered” and would they kindly prepare to disappear and make way to the superior Christian White man. Yet I hear nothing about America not being American.

So, let us look at Arab Egypt today. On Saturday 15th December, half of those eligible to vote on the new Constitution cast their vote under the watchful eye of Egypt’s hardly politically neutral army. The other half of those eligible to vote will not do so till next Saturday 22nd December.

Yet, based on a partial count of some of the votes cast, a preliminary result of 56% for the new Constitution was announced by the Egyptian Government this morning.

What a bizarre concept of democracy. A possible “win” is declared before half of those eligible to vote have voted. This is clearly aimed at influencing the result since human nature being as perverse as it is, this can only lead to voters mobilising next Saturday to make certain of that figure. Of course, the opposition may mobilise in order to make sure that this preliminary figure of 56% is reversed in its favour. That is precisely what I would do if I were Egyptian because human perversity is sweet and because, as an Arab, I understand democracy as an emotional construct calculated to irritate those that annoy me!

So democracy is only understood in its mechanics and not in its essence. As a result, we Arabs are in for a long hard road before we get there.

If we get there, that is. I fear the worse for a while. I also wonder if people have given up reading history books. In 1933, the Nazis were voted into power by a national mandate by getting the highest number of seats (though not votes). Old Paul Von Hindenburg was called upon to ask Herr Hitler to form a Government. He did so and proceeded to destroy the very democratic fabric that put his Nazi Party in power.

So, what next in Egypt? Only a fool would forecast the future. I am a fool.

President Morsi will get his Constitution and the ‘liberals’ will be silenced… The rest will become a history of trouble and strife – a history that no one will eventually read and so it will repeat itself again and again and again.


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This post was written by Faysal Mikdadi

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