Freedom's Trials and Errors on the Road to Democracy

July 3, 2013

The following article was written by the late Dr. Maher Hathout in July 2013 on the topic of popular protests in Egypt regarding the negative aspects of a heavy-handed push to curtail religious freedoms in Egypt. It was written in the context of a rocky road to democratic transition, marked by initial success of deposing a dictatorship followed by a widely perceived tilt away from religious freedom and accommodation in Egypt. Given Dr. Hathout's lifelong and first-hand experience of these forces in Egypt, he wrote with great concern about the risk of the rights of religious minorities, women and others potentially being violated ostensibly in the name of Islam. In no way is this an endorsement or approval of the military coup in Egypt nor the illegitimate detention and prosecution of its democratically elected leaders by the military.

Examples of MPAC's statements that state its position on this subject include:

As we approach the 237th birthday of America, we are witnessing a surge in the desire to live in free and democratic societies around the world. From the Arab Spring to the recent elections in Pakistan, citizens are taking note of the popularity of a system of governance of, for and by the people.  

Currently, we are witnessing Egyptians live through the growing pains of democracy. They are learning that the will and power of the people, not authority, are the foundations of democracy. We have yet to see what the outcome will look like, or even how the Egyptian version of the experiment will play out, but one thing is for certain: the aspirations and will of the people will not be silenced.

We rejoice and celebrate the victory of the Egyptian people against the exploitation of religion to suppress the masses and rob them of their God-given freedom and dignity. Today is another reminder to our foreign policy makers that supporting the side of the people is both pragmatic and moral.

Much like the conversations our Founding Fathers had, Muslims around the world will have debates on the role of religion, the space for pluralism and the future of their countries. Those conversations won’t happen overnight and cannot be trumped by rulers who dismiss the aspirations of the people.

Democratic institutional building requires mistakes to be made for corrective measures to be realized. We will continue to see trials and errors in Muslim majority countries. But the will of the people is clear; they are yearning for freedom, justice and equality.

From 1776 to 2013, America has come a long way, the road wasn't always easy and we didn't always make the right choices. So, for this Fourth of July, read the Declaration of Independence and remember the growing pains we went through and continue to go through to preserve the land of the free. 

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