By now, I’m guessing you’ve heard about the violence in Egypt during the past week. Unfortunately, it is still unclear where this situation is headed.
Could it be a full revolution, a la the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s? Not likely.
Will it be suppressed in the same manner as the Iranian election protests? Possibly.
Can these protesters spark enough drive to replace the regime and establish a transparent democracy capable of earning the respect of the Western world? Not a chance.
We must be wary that these demonstrations do not disrupt the foundation of the Egyptian state in a way that compromises its very important place in the Arab world.
Judging by the wave of protest sweeping Egypt at the moment, it might be fair to assume this Arab state is simply just another brutish dictatorship that mirrors many others in the Middle East. However, Egypt dwells in stark contrast to other states that are much more volatile. Most importantly, it is not a member of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), and it generally finds itself to be much more friendly with the West than with other Middle East states. Furthermore, Egypt has become a crucial mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian saga. In truth, Egypt can be considered an Arab anomaly insofar that it openly condemns terror in the name of Islam.
This is why the coming weeks will be so critical. How can a nation so unlike other states in the Middle East maintain its stature as an ally of the West while simultaneously undergoing a social uprising? The answer might be that too much change could be a disastrous thing.
Amid the growing pressure, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak named Omar Suleiman, head of the country’s CIA-equivalent EGID, to the previously vacant vice president position. This might seem to be a political maneuver to appease the rioting masses, but in reality, this man will most likely be the next president of Egypt.
Every Egyptian Head of State since 1954 has been a high-ranking military officer and Mr. Suleiman certainly fits that mold. Additionally, it would be foolish to suggest that the next president will be someone outside of the established regime that ruled for 30 years. Dictators always promote from within.
Unfortunately, the protesters might have no better option. Not only would an entirely new administration be likely to reverse Egypt’s stance on numerous issues, the same issues that set it apart from the rest of the Arab world, but it could possibly usher in a new age of radical Islam. I’m referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world’s most powerful political organization, a group deeply involved with underground Egyptian politics.
Currently, the Brotherhood is perceived as the most influential Islamic movement in the world and its founder, Hassan al-Banna, wrote in his book, “Jihad,” “Jihad is an obligation from Allah on every Muslim and cannot be ignored nor evaded.”
Certainly, I would hope that the protesters do not wish to instate these zealots as their new leaders. That is why a compromise must be made. The continuation of Mubarak’s regime or the appointment of Mr. Suleiman can be no worse than the false promises of radical Islam. Choosing the lesser of two evils would be a wise decision for the protesters. President Barack Obama also needs to show support for a new administration promptly. Without American support, it is likely the new regime will fall into the same autocratic spell that overtook President Mubarak.
Above all, the welfare of the Egyptian people is at stake. Voter turnout is marred in the single digits and 20 percent of the population lives on $1 per day, according to the United Nations World Food Programme website.
I hope the protesters can realize that gradual democratic change focusing on the welfare of the people is much more attainable and sustainable than a complete political revolution.