New dawn of democracy in Egypt or religious extremism?

Hosni Mubarak must plan and declare an exit strategy, no delays, no ifs, no ands, no buts.  This is a mass movement driven by the people who are tired of the oppressive regime and the cry is for democracy.  They are not shouting Islamic slogans but they are clearly asking Mubarak to step down so Egypt can form a government by the people, of the people, for the people.  How can the rest of the world speculate that Egypt will be less democratic and more Islamist, when millions of Egyptians who have lived under the oppressive, dictatorial leader are demanding free speech and a new government?  That is not to say, it will not be a messy process for them or it won’t slide them towards religious oppression.  These are the dangers of clamoring for a democracy and transition is never simple and never easy.  In fact, India is perhaps the only developing country that made a transition to a democracy and retained the democracy for all these years, after the colonial powers left.  But it has been an incredibly challenging and chaotic democracy.  No poor country in the world can suddenly transform itself into a model Democracy, with power sharing among various constituents, religions and classes.  It can’t be done.  A country has to go through a messy process of rediscovering itself, just like a teenager.  Of course, there is a real danger of its loosing its footing.  Should the world hold the implications of that danger in the face of their clamoring for change and not encourage, promote, and support the country to evolve itself into a true democracy?

United States and the President must stand behind, nay, stand besides the people of Egypt.  Let us first acknowledge that this is incredibly difficult for the US to do.  President Mubarak has been a great ally of the US, in this part of the world.  He helped maintain a moderate climate in the region, he helped in peace negotiations betweens Israelis and Palestinians, he battled Al Qaeda, he helped contain volatile Islamic Brotherhood, and he tried to moderate Hamas.  President Mubarak was a dream ally for the US and delivered in more ways than one.  It is understandable that both US and Israel should feel considerable worry regarding the future in the region.  In fact, Israel should really mourn the loss of a 30 year window when real peace treaty could have been achieved with their Palestine neighbor, a chance they squandered away.  The future however, may not be as bleak.  Over the period of 30 years, Islamic Brotherhood has become more moderate, Egypt has become more modern, technological revolution has united people, and transmission of communication has become instantaneous.  All of this creates conditions in favor of real democratic movement.

After having acknowledged that Mubark was a great ally to the US for last 30 years, the people in the US and the President of the US need to do their own soul searching.  What is the bigger picture and the motive behind not just our relationship with Egypt but with all of the world and its inhabitants?  If the vision is that the people in the rest of the world will also have freedom of speech and they too will be able to pursue happiness and enjoy the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, then US cannot balk.  After engaging in rhetoric in favor of democracy, US cannot turn its back on millions of people who are demanding democracy in their own country.  It is not our right alone.  It is time for the US to decide if it will stand in favor of moral principles and if it will stand with the people or when the time comes for actions, it will throw its weight behind dictators, and behind self serving conveniences and in favor of short sighted balancing act that comes with maintaining the status quo.  It is time for President Obama and Senator Clinton to express full and unequivocal support to the people of Egypt and ask clearly and firmly that President Mubarak declare his plan to step down immediately and discuss next steps for transition.

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