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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Americans have duty to stand with Egypt

Just for a minute, imagine if the United States had a president who was so effective at stifling opposing points of view, intimidating voters and rigging elections that he was able to stay in power for 30 years. Don’t you think the American people would eventually rise up in mass opposition?

Picture what it would be like if the United States had barely developed since the 1980s, yet the president was able to use the perks of his office to amass a personal fortune as high as $70 billion. There’s no way the American people would allow that to happen, but this is the exact situation in Egypt, and the Egyptian people have finally risen up in protest.

The government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is not admired by many, but especially not by the Egyptian people. For example, throughout the entirety of Mubarak’s presidency, Egyptians have been subject to what is known as the emergency law. This law allows the police to arrest anyone indefinitely and without trial. It also limits speech and gatherings of more than five people. Mubarak’s regime is consistently considered to be corrupt, more concerned with holding power than actually advancing Egyptian society. He’s seen as a puppet of the United States, receiving billions of dollars in aid money and helping continue the Israeli blockade of the people of the Gaza Strip.

If America is to consider itself a champion of freedom around the world, it’s the duty of every American to back the Egyptian pro-democracy demonstrations. Who is to say that we can enjoy the freedom to express disapproval of our government, while the Egyptians must be condemned to lives under an oppressive ruler?  

So far, the protesters have been successful, as last week Mubarak announced that he would not seek re-election in the fall, but this doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods quite yet. After Mubarak’s announcement, the demonstrations turned violent, as pro-government demonstrators began attacking foreign journalists and anti-Mubarak protesters. The attackers are widely considered to be street thugs and criminals put in place by the Mubarak regime to quell the protest’s peaceful atmosphere. Clearly, Mubarak isn’t planning on making a quick, easy exit and the protesters still have a lot to deal with.

Unfortunately, many in the United States have chosen to focus on the possibility of an Egyptian democracy permitting Islamic extremists to come in to power. Egypt has a long history with the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political movement, and for the past week, commentators like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck have been claiming that if Mubarak leaves, they are likely to take power and threaten the United States.  

First of all, the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t likely to gain power. The Brotherhood may be a large opposition group, but certainly isn’t representative of the views of the majority of Egyptians. Even if they were to gain control of the government, the Muslim Brotherhood is not Al-Qaeda. There are many differences of opinion held throughout the organization, with some being more supportive of the use of violence and others taking a more moderate position. In fact, officially, the Brotherhood condemns all use of violence, having renounced it in the 1970s and taken a more moderate stance, at least in public statements.

Secondly, the Muslim Brotherhood should not be the focus right now. They are not nearly as scary as those on the right claim them to be, and any discussion surrounding them takes away from the big picture.  

Instead, we should concentrate on the thousands of protesters assembling throughout Egypt, demanding the basic civil liberties we, as Americans, take for granted. The Mubarak administration has done very little for the Egyptian people and finally the public is taking a stand. If we are ever to take ourselves seriously as the “”leaders of the free world,”” it’s essential that we stand behind the protesters and assist the country in its transition to democracy.

— Andrew Shepherd is a political science senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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