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something perhaps world-shaking
Today in Egypt

Today in Egypt

As most of my friends know, I rarely do editorials.  However, today in Egypt, something perhaps world-shaking is occurring; something which may well shape our world's destinies for the rest of this century.   We have all seen the gatherings in Tahrir Square, occurring since the beginning of this year.  However remarkable they were in the Arab world's largest nation, they were mostly by an educated middle class, and they were in Tahrir (Liberation) Square: we had no idea what was in the minds of the more than eighty million Egyptians outside Liberation: for the last half century they have learned to keep their real opinions to themselves.  They have grown well accustomed to demagogues, orchestrated demonstrations, and rigged elections; they have learned what may happen to people who are disobliging, and become adept in gauging who the questioner is, what s/he wants to hear, and finding words for it.

Today, despite circumstance from from ideal, despite active resistance to the military interests who have tuned the music for the last half century, they are participating massively in an election that appears to be more honest than anything they have known in all that time.  It isn't over; it will take place in stages as the various opinions coalesce one hopes into real parties, but it is happening.  They believe that this is a genuine choice before them, and are choosing.

The result is almost certain to swing heavily to religious interests.  That's normal: when people are confused and uncertain, they seek the security their faith allows, and Egyptians are believers.

The question we ponder about the great majority, who are Muslims, is "What kind of believers?"--

for Islam has many shapes and colors.  The major question is what they will find in their hearts: versions of  Islam that have grown organically since angels spoke to Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the 7th century of the Common Era, or innovations like those of the Wahhabis of the Arabian Peninsula, who appeared in the late 18th century?  Will they find faith in the Divine Reality that says "If We had wished, We would have made you only one people;" that so loved Humankind that it ordered even the angels to bow down to Adam, its first father? Or will something else 'whisper in their breasts'?

Will the Egyptians vote for an Islam that lives in the modern world without the insecurity that displays itself in coercion, Islam glorying in the richness and variety of the Creator?  Is modern Turkey a model for Egypt, or are the innovations of burqa, enslavement and repression?  We shall see.  And we will all be affected by what the Egyptians decide, because we all live in a world with Muslims who see Egypt as a pathfinder. 

--(john a. williams)  

 


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