Democracy, Anarchy And The Fate Of Egypt’s Coptic Christians

Can Democracy Help To Reduce Ethnic Favoritism?
Ameet Morjaria discusses research data that indicates the impact democracy has on reducing ethnic favoritism, a situation in which one ethnic group is given preferential treatment over others.

Not only is ethnic favoritism morally detrimental, Morjaria says academic research also indicates it produces negative economic consequences, and, according to several accounts, “ethnic favouritism ultimately emerges because weak political institutions are unable to constrain governments from discriminating among citizens.”

Through extensive research, Morjaria and his colleagues found that “the re-emergence of multiparty democracy in the 1990s changed the nature of constraints on Kenyan leaders and altered the allocation of public resources. Multiparty democracy heralded an increase in mass political participation and lessened constraints on popular expression. There was a reduction in press censorship, and an explosion of private print and electronic media. These changes led to far greater scrutiny of the actions of executive authorities starting in the 1990s, which helps explain why ethnic favouritism dramatically reduced during periods of multiparty democracy.”

For more information, please read the entire 2013 research paper, “The Value of Democracy: Evidence from Road Building in Kenya.”

Why Is The World Plagued By Anarchy?
Robert Kaplan revisits an article he wrote in 1994 about the “coming anarchy” by addressing the roots he did not discuss in the original article. In the first piece published in The Atlantic Monthly, Kaplan correctly predicted the rise of political Islam, but failed to predict how the lack of established institutions would feed that anarchy in the Middle East.

“When the Soviet Union collapsed, societies in Central and Eastern Europe that had sizable middle classes and reasonable bureaucratic traditions prior to World War II were able to transform themselves into relatively stable democracies. But the Middle East and much of Africa lack such bourgeoisie traditions, and so the fall of strongmen has left a void. West African countries that fell into anarchy in the late 1990s — a few years after my article was published — like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast, still have not really recovered, but are wards of the international community through foreign peacekeeping forces or advisers, even as they struggle to develop a middle class and a manufacturing base. For, the development of efficient and responsive bureaucracies requires literate functionaries, which, in turn, requires a middle class,” he writes.

He also touches on the collapse in Russia and China of their authoritarian rule and the impact it would have.

“The real question marks are Russia and China. The possible weakening of authoritarian rule in those sprawling states may usher in less democracy than chronic instability and ethnic separatism that would dwarf in scale the current instability in the Middle East. Indeed, what follows Vladimir Putin could be worse, not better. The same holds true for a weakening of autocracy in China.”

The issue of what has caused the current chaos in the Middle East is touched on in an article by Michael Young in The National. Young disputes those the narrative that “the countries that emerged after the First World War Sykes-Picot agreement, which drew the borders of the modern Middle East, were destined to disintegrate, especially in the absence of a foreign power able to impose stability.”

In fact, he argues, that reality is more complicated.

“One cannot ignore two essential details: time has meant that the borders have taken on a legitimacy of their own; and Arab nationalistic aspirations after the First World War, often portrayed as more legitimate than those the Europeans imposed, would have created borders no less contentious and volatile than the ones today.

“The time argument cannot be underestimated. Nearly a century later, those seeking to alter Syria’s borders, or Lebanon’s, or Jordan’s, or even Iraq’s, face an uphill battle. These borders may not be ideal, in light of political developments since they were formed, but they have taken on a durable quality of their own. Moreover, there is a stigma in the Arab world that opponents of unity serve foreign agendas,” Young continues.

Who Is Stephen Walt? A Look At The Man Behind Obama’s Middle East Policy
Lee Smith profiles Harvard professor Stephen Walt, the White House advisor whose ideas have “emerged at the core of a major shift in U.S. Middle East policy.”

For more information on Professor Walt, including previously published research and commentary, visit his Harvard University webpage.

For Egypt’s Coptic Community, The Future Is Uncertain
In an excerpt from his book, Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity, Samuel Tadros describes the worsening conditions of life in Egypt for many Coptic Christians after the fall of Mubarak.

“Patterns of persecution continued after the revolution and were reinforced. The number and scope of the attacks swelled dramatically and they were no longer limited to obscure villages or shantytowns but spread to the streets of Cairo and in front of the official TV headquarters. Church buildings were attacked and burned, mob violence against Copts was on the rise, and the new horror of forced evacuations from villages was becoming more common. Copts in small villages were increasingly forced to adhere to the Islamists’ standards and vision enforced on the ground. Accusations of blasphemy and insulting religion rose with Copts as their primary targets,” testifies Tadros.

However, some analysts believe there may be hope for the Copts with the approval of a new constitution.

Under the old constitution and the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, Coptic Christians faced severe persecution and, as a result, opted to boycott the referendum on the previous Islamist constitution, which had passed with 63.8% of the vote when 17 million voted. The new constitution, however, was endorsed by Coptic Christians, partly because the new constitution would ban political parties based on religion and protect the status of minority Christians.

 

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