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In an earlier post about the Swiss Minaret ban, I mentioned the problems that actions like this ban pose to advocates of Democracy in the Arab world. I believed that oppressive regimes will turn to criticising the ideal of democracy that is often lectured to them by Europe et al.
Well, that didn’t take long. As reported by the AFP and commented about at The Arabist , the Egyptian foreign affairs minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, weighed in… literally asking Europe not to give any more lessons on democracy, and declaring that the human rights record of the Egyptian government is good. More direct words could not have been spoken by him. The quote, given below, is just too rich!
Egypt’s top diplomat said on Thursday that a Swiss vote to ban the construction of minarets was a “grave mistake” and Europe could no longer lecture his country on human rights.
“The Swiss people will some day come to realise what a grave mistake they have made,” Ahmed Abul Gheit told Egyptian television in comments carried by the official MENA news agency.
“The human rights situation in Egypt is good… Europe cannot talk to Egypt about its human rights record at a time when Switzerland is supporting a ban on minaret building,” Abul Gheit said.
“People who live in glass houses should not throw stones,” the minister said in the interview which focused on Egyptian-European relations.
On Sunday, more than 57 percent of Swiss voters approved a right-wing motion to ban minarets on mosques, a decision that was met with an international backlash and charges of intolerance.
Abul Gheit expressed “regret that there is an increasing fear of Muslims in (European) societies as a result of the acts of some groups,” in allusion to attacks committed in the name of Islam.
Undoubtedly the guy believes he struck a very big note and achieved a huge political point for the Egyptian government. Undoubtedly the voice of democracy and reform has been dealt a blow in this row and has been pushed a step back in its quest to counter the government plans. The president’s son is being groomed to replace him, amid more clampdown on the people of Egypt and more closing down of the political scene to make it almost impossible for any opponent to run. The government has reacted negatively to Ahmed AlBaradei’s initiative and has been trying with great effort to sabotage a possible candidacy by Amr Mousa and others.
So, again, thanks to the Swiss People’s Party, and thanks to any more xenophobic measures like this that may come in te next months/years!
Let me start off this blog by a somewhat unrelated post. I just couldn’t pass up the chance to demonstrate what I’d like democracy *not* to be. Somewhat unexpectedly, the swiss voted to amend the constitution to face the threat of four cone shaped structures and an application for two more. I am hard pressed to think of a worse way to waste time. Will this “face the threat of islamisation” in anyway? I can’t see how, setting aside the question that such a threat even exists. Does this open another front against the ordinary Muslims in Europe? Yes. The Maghreb Political Review and Laila Lalami’s excellent articles delved into the wrongness of this more than I’d like to here, but I’d just like to concentrate on another often forgotten effect of actions such as these.
Namely, that votes like this give more ammunition to democracy haters in the Arab World. The fine example of direct democracy in the world is using mob rule to code into law disallowing ordinary Muslim tax payers to build what they find delightful. And, unfortunately, due to the economic conditions, much of Europe is heading with sure steps towards a decade of right and far right politics. Is it a testament of human nature that people turn more xenophobic when under pressure?
The leader of the MSP, Mr Bouguerra Soltani has been embroiled recently in a controversy because a Swiss human rights organisation wanted him sued on Swiss soil for alleged torture. People in the Middle East and North Africa view such interference with endless suspicion, and what better way to further these fears than by votes such as these.
The leaders of the Swiss People’s Party ought to be ashamed of themselves for providing such a fine example of how democracy should not be.