…by condemning the 1978 UN Convention Against Gender Discrimination as “incompatible with the values of Islamic sharia.” Need we tell you that the political forces behind this tastefully timed pronouncement were those empowered by the so-called Arab Spring? As the AFP notes:
The Freedom and Justice Party, political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, says it does not endorse gender discrimination, although the Brotherhood argues women should not be allowed to rule the country.
The party is the dominant bloc in both houses of parliament after a sweeping victory in a multi-phase general election that began in November. Women hold just two percent of the seats in parliament.
Meanwhile, MSNBC reports on the brave women who are protesting against this return to medievalism under the ominous headline “An Egyptian Career Woman? Soon it Could Be Rare“:
It’s a sea change from the ousted regime of President Hosni Mubarak, when women were guaranteed 64 parliamentary seats. In the latest post-revolutionary elections, the quota was eliminated and women won only five seats. “The other seats went to the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists,” said El Soud, co-founder of the Revolutionary Women’s Coalition, which has 4,000 members on Facebook.
“We are going backward, backward and backward,” she added.
Indeed. Via Meadia can’t help but wonder: where all the fashionable pundits who rapturously heralded the Arab Spring as the flowering of peace, justice and democracy, now that its victors are enacting their decidedly less appealing agenda? Studiously looking the other way, it seems.
Via Meadia has no interest in telling the Arabs how to manage their revolutions. In the first place they wouldn’t listen, and in the second they shouldn’t: every people has to test and experiment as it struggles to balance its inherited religious views and cultural practices with the challenges of contemporary life. Secular reformers in the Islamic world like the Shah of Iran tried to run roughshod over the religion of the people, and the results haven’t been pretty.
The revolutions that are shaking the Middle East today are populist but not necessarily democratic, and they are rooted in the impact of modern social and economic pressures but they are not ideologically modernist. It may be inconvenient for democracy advocates in the west, but more democratic governance in some countries may lead to fewer rights for women, religious minorities, gays and westernization advocates than these groups enjoyed under past tyrants. In the same way in American history, there have been epochs when more populist government meant fewer rights for minorities: it was Andrew Jackson who sent the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears.
Our democracy advocates and NGO activists like to think of history as a nice linear progression towards the liberal promised land in which all good things work together, and “good” forces and “bad” forces can be clearly distinguished. This is strong hearted but weak brained. History is much deeper and more inscrutable than our PC humanitarians like to think.
Some Americans think that because history is such a mess and the good guys cannot be helped or in some cases even identified, the US should “stay out” of other countries’ politics and affairs. It’s a nice thought, and at least in theory it could save us some trouble, but it isn’t possible. The world is too linked up, American interests are too global, and the American government is too easily affected by the sentiments (misguided though they may sometimes be) of the American people to pursue a policy of principled nonintervention with any consistency or success.
So the Arabs will mush along with their unsatisfactory spring, and the Americans will mush along with our unsatisfactory foreign policy, and the international system will continue to disappoint those expecting a liberal utopia to suddenly appear and make all our problems go away.