Friday, February 4, 2011

Democracy vs Human Rights

As the Mubarek regime seems poised to topple in Egypt, reporters, pundits, and human rights workers are describing this as the moment human rights and democracy defeat dictatorship and oppression. Experienced analysts and historians know that the situation in Egypt is also likely to go horribly, horribly wrong.

To be sure, by many standards Mubarek is a serial violator of human rights. After he took power 35 years ago, he assumed "emergency powers" which he has never relinquished and which have allowed him to reign as virtual sovereign. Elections in Egypt are mostly a joke and political dissent is crushed using secret police and the courts, which function as an extension of Mubarek's power. Political speech, which is one of the only two types of speech that matter, is tightly controlled and the main opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, is outlawed.

On the other hand, free democracy is not as clear a path to human rights as one might assume. The problem is that democracy is a vehicle to protecting human rights when there is a consensus regarding the rights that must be protected. Egypt is over 80% Muslim. The Muslim consensus will govern Egypt in a democracy. The important question right now is this, "What is the Muslim consensus regarding human rights?"

Here are just a few of the items that will be part of the consensus, should a democracy take hold:

1) Muslims believe that people have less right to "blaspheme" Mahomet than to commit first degree murder. Blasphemy always includes any criticism of Mahomet or criticism of (or mistreatment of) the Koran. Muslims believe, as a group, that anyone who insults Mahomet deserves to die. The only variable is how urgently a particular Muslim feels about the death sentence. Ten thousand screaming Somalis took to the streets demanding the head of an English schoolteacher because her children named the class teddy bear "Mohammed."

2) Muslims believe that women are more sinful than men and their primary value is to gratify sexual desires, produce male offspring and carry the honor of the family. This is why women's testimony is worth half of a man's and why about 70% of "secular" Turks condone honor killing. Muslims will vote these things into existence because they are a majority and it's in their DNA to do so. Think about it. Incest is repugnant to a Judeo-Christian worldview. It has been forbidden long before any genetic arguments were made against it. We don't allow people to practice it because it's outside of our worldview. It doesn't matter if someone else protests that their morals permit it. Ours don't allow them to. That's how deeply held the Muslim view of women is.

3)Muslims believe, also at the DNA level, that anything belonging to Islam belongs to Islam forever. This applies to women, people (distinguishing the two) and land. This is why Muslim men can marry non-Christian women but Muslim women cannot marry a Muslim man. Apostasy carries the death penalty. Freedom of religion means freedom to convert to Islam. Israel creates a problem in the Middle East because it was once a Muslim land. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood are already calling for war with Israel.

Mubarek was able to suppress or curb many of these things, but only because he was an autocrat. But when the majority of people in Egypt hold the reigns of power, they will certainly begin to act on them. Does it sound like human rights are advancing?
Offending the religious and enraging the heathen

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