In Egypt: So many questions, so few answers — and so little time

10 Feb

I was working on a post that would ask a couple of questions that I haven’t seen addressed much, if at all, about the likely outcome of the drive for democracy in Egypt. Several commentators fear that Egypt 2011 will become another Iran 1979, which started out as a democratic movement but then metastasized into a hard-line theocracy.

I was wondering if (a) will it make a difference that Iran is mostly Shi’ite while Egypt, by far, is predominantly Sunni, and (b) will it make a difference that, compared to Iran, Egypt has been much more cosmopolitan, with closer ties to other nations (including the West), more tourism and more accessibility to international travel. Some friends who lived in Egypt for five years in the late 1990s think those cultural (and economic) differences are deeply rooted enough to keep a  post-Mubarak Egypt from becoming another Iran, even with Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in the mix.

I had some ideas about this, but today’s (Thursday’s) remarkable and disturbing events shelved them for now. I don’t have a clue where to begin. Today has raised other, more immediate questions, including urgent ones about the military: what will the army do?  Answers may start emerging tomorrow — or even by the time I publish this. Despite Mubarak’s best efforts to slow down the train, it’s still moving fast.

Even so, if you have ideas or good answers for either of those questions above, please share them in the comments section.

Postscript, Friday, Feb. 11: President Mubarak has stepped down and the Egyptian military council is reportedly taking over.

Coincidentally, on this date in 1979, the Iranian revolution won control of that country when prime minister went into hiding, effectively ceding power to Ayatollah Khomeini, who had returned to Iran from exile 10 days earlier.

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2 Responses to “In Egypt: So many questions, so few answers — and so little time”

  1. Natalia K. Suit February 11, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    Hey Jim,
    I thought of another factor that makes a difference between Egypt and Iran in terms of their future trajectories. It is the fact that sheikhs in Egypt are paid by the government while imams in Iran are independently wealthy, getting money from zakat (a Muslim religious tax) that is twice as much as the percentage required from the Sunni Muslims.

  2. Deb Payne February 11, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    On a Christian news program I heard that if the military do retaliate against the thousands in the square in Cairo, they will have to decide, are they willing to shoot and kill their own brothers and cousins, since all the men have to at one point in time serve in the military there. It is definitely a prayer concern and just one more sign of the Bible coming to life before our very eyes.

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