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Wednesday, April 06, 2005 

America's idea of Arab democracy: the Muslim Brotherhood

Yes you read right. The Muslim Brotherhood. Newly invigorated in their ability to challenge Arab autocrats, they've staged the largest anti-Government march in Cairo for decades. And they've also called on Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad to allow them to stand for election in Damascus.

In 1982 Syria brutally put down a Muslim Brotherhood rebellion across Syria. The city of Hama was almost razed - the old city remains as just a single street today. The group was exiled and the rest were imprisoned or executed. It was from this group that Al-Qaeda was created, and George W. Bush thanked Syria for the intelligence they were given post-9/11.

Under US pressure Bashar has already allowed some of the exiled group to return last year.

Last year the Muslim Brotherhood staged a rebellion in the Southern Jordanian city of Ma'an. In Saudi Arabia and Egypt they are considered as the unofficial opposition.

A necessary consequence of democracy and free speech: the expression of dangerous and unpopular ideas. The idea for combatting this is not suppression of speech, but rather, more speech on behalf of the opponents.

My recommendation: take the wind out of their sails--do not let them use freedom of expression and calls for democracy in order to gain popularity--the regime itself should push for these changes to bring over its supporters to its own side.

In a well maintained and designed democracy, dangerous and extremist ideas will be marginalized. There are neo-Nazis in America. They stage demonstrations. However, if they begin to incite violence, they can be stopped.

Free speech is a complicated issue in the United States, as far as when it can be limited and when it cannot be interfered with.

But, 200 years later, America is still here, isn't it? Where is Saddam's controlled regime?

I blogged something similar recently, it's good to see that others think the same..thanks for a great post !

America and Syria are quite different with regard to political culture, though. Recall that the freedoms of Weimar Germany allowed Adolph Hitler to rise to the position of chancellor.

I question the efficacy of analogizing Syria to America.

Free speech sounds simple, but rarely is.

What if someone uses that freedom to harm others, or to prevent others from speaking freely? By calling people traitors, or calling them racist, for example.

So they pass laws making it illegal to say certain things.

Those laws justifably restrict freedoms to protect our freedom! How ironic! But necessary.

So when America calls for 'freedom' in Syria what do they mean? Freedom to vote for a President? Or freedom to live without war? No, of course we can have both freedoms at the same time - but it sometimes seems as though Bush sees the freedom to vote as more important than any other freedom.

Iraqis are now free to vote, but their other freedoms have been restricted.

Where is the right to life? The right to a normal childhood? The right to food, water. The right to freedom from religious persecution.

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  • Written by sasa
  • From Damascus, Syria
  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
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