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Rantings of a Sandmonkey

Be forewarned: The writer of this blog is an extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian, disgruntled sandmonkey. If this is your cup of tea, please enjoy your stay here. If not, please sod off

Monday, March 28, 2005

Cairo Protests

Driving in Cairo is usually a test of patience, personal tolerance and fast reflexes thanks to the high volume of traffic always present on its streets. The joke used to be that in Cairo there is no such thing as a Rush-hour, cause there is heavy traffic everyday from around 7 am till 11 pm. Some blame it on bad design and planning, others on the fact that no one follows the traffic laws, but it's probably a bit of both.You really don't wanna go through downtown Cairo unless you absoutely have to or unless someone else is driving. Otherwise you are just begging for your day to be ruined. But yesterday was different. Yesterday traffic was backed up worse then it usually is, which is something most people thought was impossible. Part of the reason, as GM mentioned here, was the protest carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood. It wasn't that the protest was very big, it's just that for "security purposes", the ratio of Riot Police per protesters avalible in such protests is usually around 5:1. Given that some estimate yesterday's protest to be around 3000 people, we are talking an additional 10-15 thousend riot policemen surrounding the protest. And that was just in one part of downtown cairo. Apparantly there was another protest going on at the same time, organized by the "Kifayah" (Enough) movement against Mubarak. Kifayah, unlike the MB, has no actual goals but to get rid of the current political stalemate and of Mubarak. Think of it as the egyptian equivelant of the "Anybody But Bush" movement and you will get the idea. Luckily for me i didn't get caught in traffic when this went down, but some of my co-workers did and now they are suddenly worried about Egypt. Some of them were actually mad at the protests for causing such a traffic jam, because "it's not gonna change anything anyway". I, personally, was excited about them, but no one else seemed to share my sentiment, and i think i figured out why. Egyptians value stability more then anything. They only hope for an enviroment in which they can live in peace and not worry about their kids' future. Some of them actually preferr dictatorship style rule because it's less then a headache this way for them. They don't have to be informed, they don't have to be involved, and thus they are never responsible if everything goes to shit. They like to complain but not do anything about it. It's easier this way for them apparently. This is precisely why i share GM's fear of the MB taking power, cause i seriously doubt they would ever relinquish it. America is the country it is today because its forefathers set the precedent of only serving one or two terms. They loved their country more then they loved power, which is a quality i am not sure the MB has. In fact, i truly believe that they probably love Islam more then they love Egypt, thus would do everything in their power to stop Egypt from ever being secular. It would be Pan-arabism all over again, Arabs concerns before Egyptian ones, only this time it will be Pan-Islamism and it will probably get us in more shit. I still hold my opinion that the only way the MB should be allowed to practice politics is if Egypt follows Turkey's suit and becomes a secular state. If that happens, then every idea presnted will be debated based on its merits and benefits, and not because it's an islamic rule. It's the only way in my opinion, cause otherwise you really can't argue against "Cause GOD said so". Just try to run against someone whose slogan is "Islam is the soloution" in an islamic country like Egypt and win. Just won't happen. I am still hopefull though. Just a litle scared, but still hopefull.

6 Comments:

At 3/28/2005 09:55:00 AM, Blogger Solomon2 said...

SM, I do not think religion has to be treated as some sort of disease. Indeed, some anti-religion secularists are so ardent, prejudiced, and single-minded that one can only consider them to be fanatics.

In the U.S., religion is a personal issue first. Most "disease" factors are checked because the values and morals a religious group seeks to impose upon others can only be done through a legal process that is limited in its power by the Constitution and Bill or Rights.

Freedom of Religion is a cornerstone America's foundations and a constitutional right. Freedom from religion is not. The generally accepted divide, I think, is that no one can be forced into any religious observance against his or her will.

 
At 3/28/2005 10:17:00 AM, Blogger Solomon2 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3/28/2005 11:00:00 AM, Blogger The Sandmonkey said...

Solomon,

I am not treating religion like a disease nor am i prejudiced against Islam, after all of my family is muslim. And i do recognize that there are anti-religion secularists who-as u said- are so ardent they might as well be fanatics. I know that man. That is not what i am or what i want. But what you have to understand is Egypt is not the USA when it comes to religious tolerence.

What the US has and what Egypt lacks is the concept of freedom of religion. And as my crazy liberal friend amanda would say, Freedom of religion also includes freedom from religion, i.e. not having to be consistently pressured by a religious group to follow them or have them enforce their laws on you. In the states you have that, here you don't.

In the company i work at, you have to pray together and people will badger you if you didn;t join in prayer. They will send you e-mails filled with "Hadiths" and Quranic verses, not to mention morlaity lessons from islamic lore, and you don;t even dare complain about that. Religion for many egyptians seems to have become a hobby and a focal point of daily discussions, and a huge majority don't even know what they are talking about half of the time. Can you imagine how you, as a christian, would feel if you had to deal with that everyday? A co-worker of mine came to work today really angry because he saw a Cross sticker on the back of a truck. It personally offenmded him that some egyptians were openly christian apparently. And that one is a moderate mind you. There are some who are a lot worse.

Look: I don't want islam vanquished from egyptian society nor do i wish for a country full of athiests. What i want is a place where people's religious beliefs are respected and treated equally. In a country that holds Islam as it's official religion and alot of the laws are based on Islamic Shariah, it must suck to be anything but muslim. Now imagine if the fanatical true believers took over with such a set-up layed out. Things could get really bad for women and minorities pretty damn quick, not to mention to daily life. I don't want people getting their hands cut off for stealing, or gays being thrown off cliffs, or christians having to pay Protection money "geziah" or women held back from power cause they are considerd mentally inferior to men because of PMS. Do you?

In a case like Egypt, having a secular state will not allow such practices, cause u will have to debate the merits of "throwing gays off clifs" for example. Women would get equal share in inhertiance as men, and not half as the islamic rules dictate. Religion would go back to being a personal choice and issue and in order for some religious values to be imposed, they would have to go- as you said- through a legal process that is limited by its power by a constiution that details people's rights. None of this is the case currently and it would never be if the MB takes over. Everyone knows this.
So in onclusion solomon, Islam is not, and shouldn't be treated as, a disease, neither should any other religion. If it's anything, it's more like a knife, in the wrong hands it could be used as a weapon. Hell, you and the whole world have seen for yourselves what happens when it actually is used as a weapon. What i propose is a way that would make it harmless to others. Is that such a bad thing?

 
At 3/28/2005 11:02:00 AM, Blogger The Sandmonkey said...

Solomon,

I am not treating religion like a disease nor am i prejudiced against Islam, after all of my family is muslim. And i do recognize that there are anti-religion secularists who-as u said- are so ardent they might as well be fanatics. I know that man. That is not what i am or what i want. But what you have to understand is Egypt is not the USA when it comes to religious tolerence.

What the US has and what Egypt lacks is the concept of freedom of religion. And as my crazy liberal friend amanda would say, Freedom of religion also includes freedom from religion, i.e. not having to be consistently pressured by a religious group to follow them or have them enforce their laws on you. In the states you have that, here you don't.

In the company i work at, you have to pray together and people will badger you if you didn;t join in prayer. They will send you e-mails filled with "Hadiths" and Quranic verses, not to mention morlaity lessons from islamic lore, and you don;t even dare complain about that. Religion for many egyptians seems to have become a hobby and a focal point of daily discussions, and a huge majority don't even know what they are talking about half of the time. Can you imagine how you, as a christian, would feel if you had to deal with that everyday? A co-worker of mine came to work today really angry because he saw a Cross sticker on the back of a truck. It personally offenmded him that some egyptians were openly christian apparently. And that one is a moderate mind you. There are some who are a lot worse.

Look: I don't want islam vanquished from egyptian society nor do i wish for a country full of athiests. What i want is a place where people's religious beliefs are respected and treated equally. In a country that holds Islam as it's official religion and alot of the laws are based on Islamic Shariah, it must suck to be anything but muslim. Now imagine if the fanatical true believers took over with such a set-up layed out. Things could get really bad for women and minorities pretty damn quick, not to mention to daily life. I don't want people getting their hands cut off for stealing, or gays being thrown off cliffs, or christians having to pay Protection money "geziah" or women held back from power cause they are considerd mentally inferior to men because of PMS. Do you?

In a case like Egypt, having a secular state will not allow such practices, cause u will have to debate the merits of "throwing gays off clifs" for example. Women would get equal share in inhertiance as men, and not half as the islamic rules dictate. Religion would go back to being a personal choice and issue and in order for some religious values to be imposed, they would have to go- as you said- through a legal process that is limited by its power by a constiution that details people's rights. None of this is the case currently and it would never be if the MB takes over. Everyone knows this.
So in onclusion solomon, Islam is not, and shouldn't be treated as, a disease, neither should any other religion. If it's anything, it's more like a knife, in the wrong hands it could be used as a weapon. Hell, you and the whole world have seen for yourselves what happens when it actually is used as a weapon. What i propose is a way that would make it harmless to others. Is that such a bad thing?

 
At 3/28/2005 09:00:00 PM, Blogger Solomon2 said...

Freedom of religion also includes freedom from religion, i.e. not having to be consistently pressured by a religious group to follow them or have them enforce their laws on you.

What I mean by "freedom from religion" is that you can't expect, while walking down the street, that any church or mosque or synagogue must be eliminated, just to enforce your desire to banish any or all religions. Your guy who gnashed his teeth at the cross sticker would also be out of luck. "[N]ot having to be consistently pressured by a religious group" I consider freedom of religion.

Our different perceptions of the language may have less to do with vagarities of English than the fact that I consider religion a personal affair, whereas you, SM, may think of it primarily as a group affiliation.

In the company i work at, you have to pray together and people will badger you if you didn;t join in prayer.

Early America was much the same: religion was enforced on a social level first, then through secular means. We escaped the hold of religion over political affairs because:

1) Colonies like Maryland and Rhode Island needed religious tolerance to survive as independent entities.
2) Religion-oriented colonists were eventually compelled to share power with secular authorities who gradually introduced varied practices (New England).
3) Liberal Christianity increased in the generations following settlement.
4) Most interestingly, the Great Awakening in religion that was an attempt to counter such laxity encouraged tolerance -- most of the lax wanted to remain lax, and the Awakened wished to pray their own way.

Can you imagine how you, as a christian, would feel if you had to deal with that everyday? Not really, because I'm Jewish.

In a country that holds Islam as it's official religion and alot of the laws are based on Islamic Shariah, it must suck to be anything but muslim.

I wonder if muslims who live in such countries find their relgion extremely shameful and embarassing. Haven't the authorities robbed the citizenry of the opportunity to profess their faith as a matter of their own free will? In effect, they are thus slaves to authority, not slaves to G-d. Yes, Mohammed converted by the force of his sword -- but he was also held to be the last of the prophets, so how can anyone justify following in such footsteps?

This is precisely why i share GM's fear of the MB taking power

At least if MB was in power, they would have the opportunity to be discredited. Of course, one would like some way of kicking them out then, short of violent action.

What i propose is a way that would make it [Islam] harmless to others.

I'm not sure the Turkey-style reforms you propose will have such an effect. Are they even within reach?

Just try to run against someone whose slogan is "Islam is the soloution" in an islamic country like Egypt and win. Just won't happen.

I'd ask that someone, "Hey, what Islam is that, the Islam dictated by men, so we are slaves to men like you, or the Islam of Mohammed, so we can be slaves to G-d? Since nobody can really know The Prophet and no further prophets will exist, isn't it better to allow freedom of worship? At least then, there is a chance somebody will actually be able to do as G-d intended."

 
At 3/30/2005 07:18:00 AM, Blogger The Sandmonkey said...

why can;t i blog? grrr

 

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