Egypt Overdoses On Religion
Discipline Displayed By All
Stranger than fiction? A sophisticated, well-armed military stands by in support as a disgruntled and emotional crowd follows through peacefully with a process to rid their country of an intolerable leader.
This is nothing short of amazing given how military units have been known to respond in this kind of scenario, historically involving indiscriminate shots fired during a heavy-handed take-over with impunity. But this was not your ordinary coup as the Egyptian military did exactly what it was supposed to do in a Democratic society; it protected its people.
As for religious freedom, I believe anyone who wishes to should be allowed to practice their chosen religion without ridicule or persecution, as long as no harm to life or property occurs and all participants are there by choice. If moral beliefs that some may find questionable are involved, I would hope the practitioners have enough sense to maintain a low profile. Do Unto Others, simply put.
There is real communal value in living souls worshiping together with peers. These groups often foster a culture of solid support which benefits every member, especially during tough times. That said I believe just as strongly in the separation of church and state, or religion and government/politics, if you will. The Egyptian people have just been given an up-close-and-personal example of how dangerous that liaison can be; likely just short of disaster, in this case.
A year ago the Egyptians held their first elections as a new, Democratic society. It was peaceful, ideal, and a success. Since then their elected president has boldly reneged on campaign promises and opted to ignore his constituency, and the economy and the lifestyles of many have tanked which has rightfully angered them. The Egyptians may still be discovering it but they’ve got the right idea; Democracy works best when it works for the people.
Modern Egyptian History 101
While this situation could still develop into a bona fide coup, or even a civil war between religious and non-religious factions and the military, there are already affirmations here worthy of our attention. The silver lining is that onlookers everywhere have been blessed with a clear example involving the volatile and disappointing mix of politics and religion.
And I don’t buy any jive about how the only reason things didn’t work out this time is because the religion involved was that of a particular faction (Muslim Brotherhood professing Islam, in this case). Or that this particular religious element was somehow inferior to others and therefore less reliable or stable.
I believe that for every religion that has achieved any notoriety in the world there are fanatics and extremists who, along with an army of well-meaning do-gooders, helped raise it to its stature. Some of these extremist-fringe types are essentially self-centered but incredibly adept at hiding it. They charm others while quietly manipulating isolationist policies intended as a detriment to the formal recognition of theologies different from theirs. In other words, they don’t respect anyone who doesn’t believe as they do.
It is these people and not their religion or beliefs that do the damage. They are charismatic and are masters at winning over hearts and minds. That’s not necessarily a good thing; recall one Adolph Hitler. It ain’t what you got, it’s what you do with it.
We must maintain the existing separation between church and state so as to minimize any possibility of damage, done on purpose or accidentally, by elected and appointed officials. They are human and vulnerable to temptation. I’m sure I don’t need to list instances where we’ve discovered that a model citizen, seemingly above reproach, had betrayed our trust. Just open the newspaper or turn on the TV news sometime…
What's your impression of this event?
A New Desert Wind Blows
Certainly, foreign influences (and I’m not just talking the U.S.) are poised to take advantage here, perhaps even covertly, with possibly reckless abandon and probably dire consequences, initially. At the least, the West may face significant policy changes in its relations with Egypt, and more disruptive modifications may follow. The U.S. may eventually find it practical to forfeit its physical presence in Northern Africa, although that would be an extreme result given the amount of U.S. financial aid provided to Egypt and the strong bond between both countries militaries. But, who really knows?
It’s a dangerous place until the desert sands settle and our best hopes are with them in whatever ensues. But let’s not forget what we’ve witnessed so far:
- Proof that a disciplined military can react responsibly in support of a rebellious but peaceful populace
- A clear indication that marrying politics and religion is a really dumb idea
- The Democratic Process remains dynamic, and new, handy short-cuts could be welcome
America can’t appropriately influence Egypt’s future in any obvious manner, nor should we try. King Tut’s descendants, et al, are old enough to figure things out. But we must recognize the importance of the lessons imparted to us by the Egyptians as the world watched an incredible people accomplish an incredible thing.