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Why Egypt Still Loses – My Thoughts on the Current Egyptian Protests

July 4, 2013

Waking up to the news of Egyptians president Mohammed Morsi being overthrown by his country’s military is another  fascination chapter unraveling in Egypt’s  historic turmoil. But will the protesters ultimately achieve what they set-out to achieve?

What grabs my attention from the continuing saga is the sheer amount of protesters that hit the Egyptian streets day after day letting their voices be heard; reports range into the millions.

All this push by the Egyptian people to enact change in their countryshould stir positive emotions in foreign observers. However as for myself I reserve cautious optimism in this sudden shedding of the old skin. I say this because all the jubilations to see Egypt as a possible rising star to step onto the platform of modernity gets severely tarnished when one looks at some of the data; on the views that the people of Egypt hold.

Beginning from the emerge of Arab Spring uprisings to the current disturbances, the news media have often painted the movements as the will of the Arab people to push for modernity and Liberal Democracy. It was as if, insert your favourite autocrat/monarch (in the case of Egypt, the former President Hosni Mubarak) was the only force that stood in the way of the country becoming a burgeoning Democracy that enjoys  free and fair elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, etc.

Apart from the tattered economy with high unemployment rate, the other gripe that the protestors have with Morsi’s government is his attempt to push Egypt into the direction of an Islamist state. With the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood he tweaked the country’s Constitution to make Sharia law more prominent & delivered an unexpected left-hook to the chin of freedom-of-expression by establishing some of those ‘my God is not strong enough to take care of himself’ blasphemy laws. Finally by giving himself more power he may have signed his downfall indefinitely.

But wait wasn’t Morsi democratically elected by the people of Egypt just months prior? Yep he received over 50% of the vote.  So what happened? I read reasons such as low turn-out from more progressive voices or that votes were distributed among more liberal candidates while Morsi received all the conservative votes. The second reason does seem plausible but low turn-out? After what has been one of the most significant events in the modern history of Egypt. The people only went half way and protested but didn’t bother to vote? How bizarre.

I reason together with the data collected by the Pew Research Centre, that Egypt has a significant underbelly of hard-line Islamists whose wishes are for Egypt to be ruled by the strict Sharia law and an even greater percentage of people who want Sharia law in some form or another. It is those people who came together last time and elected Morsi as their President.

Pew Research

The Pew Research Centre took the views of 38,000 Muslims in 39 countries to come up a lot of interesting data on the varied beliefs on a number of topics. See HERE. What struck me from the data is how Egypt regularly showed a relatively large percentage in views that favoured lack of human rights, sympathising with religious extremist, support of out-dated corporal punishment etc.

This graph shows the percentage of Muslims who favour Sharia law in their respective countries; Egypt has 74% support. The Pew paper does explain that the definition of Sharia is varied. A person may favour Sharia law only for Family law issues as an example.

Sharia law per countries

What is more disturbing is the support for severe corporal punishment in Egypt. From those who support Sharia law, the percentages of those who favour severe corporal punishment including stoning people to death as well as death for apostasy are 81% & 86% respectively.  This alone should put cold water on any idea that Egypt will become a blossoming modern state.

stoning as punishment per country

apostosy from Islam by country

If you didn’t think those graphs could be topped, how about justification for suicide bombers? Surely such grizzly acts can be unanimously condemned. Nope 30%  of those polled in Egypt find a way to justify them in defense of Islam.

SB justified

Oh ladies, how can we forget about you? There is a special poll for your freedoms.

Women Veil


Perhaps the places and demographics polled resulted in higher than the national average figures shown above. But the large polling numbers decrease the likelyhood of statistical error.

I do believe that the latest protests have a lot of reasonable thinking people. The younger generations are always more liberal in their thoughts than their more frozen minded older generation. But any way you look at it Egypt harbors a significant population that subscribe to medieval thought and action. Without a significant shift in the mindsets of the Egyptian people, Egypt will not reap the benefits it strives to attain in becoming a modern state no matter how many Presidents are toppled.

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