Posted on Facebook on November 1, 2012
My opening words in “The New Arab Debates” hosted yesterday by Tim Sebastian and having as my opponent Mohamed Salmawy. The motion was: “This House believes democracy has had a disappointing start in Egypt”. Salmawy was for the motion, and I against.
Before the debate, 70% voted for the motion and 30% against. After the debate, 56.43% voted for the motion and 43.57% against. in other words, I managed to sway 13% to my position by the end of the debate.
Ours is not one of those colored revolutions that will be over in a few weeks.
Ours is a revolution with deep historical roots, one which will take many years to unfold.
Given these historical roots, I find the transition to democracy over the past 20 months truly remarkable.
What have we managed to accomplish over these months?
Well, we managed to get rid of Mubarak, and to prevent the transformation of Egypt into a hereditary republic.
We managed to go to the ballot boxes five times and to conduct free and fair elections.
We managed to enlarge significantly the area of public debate and to live to see millions get into politics for the first time.
We managed to shake the foundations of the old regime without bringing down the state and its institutions.
And we managed to do all of this in a non-violent way.
The peaceful transition to democracy is all the more remarkable if we take into account the dire straits of the economy; the power of the counter-revolutionary forces; our lack of political experience; and the deep fault lines that run through society.
Most importantly, we managed to tackle simultaneously two intractable questions, namely, what is the proper role of the military in politics and what is the proper role of religion in politics.
On August 8 the military state was dealt a severe blow, and there is little doubt that the army’s grip on politics has been significantly relaxed.
With regards religion and politics, for sixty years, our attempt to bar Islamists from the political arena has resulted in increased radicalization and militancy, and also in the complete paralysis of our political system.
Since their electoral victories, the Islamists’ record leaves much to be desired, it is true.
Still, having free and fair elections that reflect the true wishes of the Egyptian people can only be a good thing for our democratic transition.
While I personally believe that Islam should not be mixed with politics, I equally believe that Islamists should be mixed with politics. Only thus can we deny them the moral high ground they have been occupying by being persecuted, and only thus can we make clear that what they preach is not Islam but politics.
We still have a long way to go. But looking back at the peaceful way in which we shook the foundations of the regime and the manner in which we have dealt with the army and with political Islam, I say “Not bad. Not bad at all.”