February 7, 2011
The word “democracy” can mean different things to different people. For some, it is a ticket to oppression. Extreme ideologues use the vote to put themselves and their movement in power and then never hold another election. Think Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, who is headed in that direction; or the communists in Russia a century ago; or the Nazis. Now it may be Egypt’s turn. One hears calls for democracy from the demonstrators in Cairo, but several public opinion surveys show the underlying problem of projecting a western view of democracy on those who may not share it.
A Pew poll has found 84 percent of Egyptians believe in the death penalty for those who leave Islam. But in another survey Pew found 90 percent believe in freedom of religion. Asked to pick between modernization and fundamentalism, 59 percent chose fundamentalism. Fifty-four percent believe in segregating men and women in the workplace. Eighty-two percent believe in stoning adulterers.
Many political streams run through Egypt. One is democracy, but what kind would it be?
Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist based in Washington, D.C.