Are freedom and democracy good things for the Middle East? What would John Stuart Mill, one of the most prominent proponents of liberty in the history of the world, have said about the “Arab Spring”? The answers to these questions may surprise you. In his landmark work “On Liberty,” Mill meticulously delineates his ideas about liberty. He writes that freedom is good because of its “utility” and its ability to enable a better life for the most people. He argues that people must have freedom of thought, opinion and expression, in order for society to prosper.
In his book, Mill discusses particular instances wherein the authorities can exert their will and control over an individual or society. For Mill, the individual is totally sovereign concerning his own body, and therefore, cannot be reprimanded for harming oneself. However, one’s liberty can be restricted in order to “prevent harm to others.” This is known as the harm principle.
Also, according to Mill, children should not have sovereign control over their own faculties, and thus can be coerced and controlled, for their own betterment. And finally, Mill explains the last circumstance under which an individual does not deserve freedom:
[For backward states, the] early difficulties in the way of spontaneous progress are so great, that there is seldom any choice of means for overcoming them…Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end. Liberty, as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion.
Is the Middle East comprised of backward states? Can Egypt be improved by free and equal discussion? Are Egypt and countries in the Middle East in the middle of revolutions really capable of practicing democracy, or are they better off under despotism of the variety Mill describes?
According to Rick Moran of The American Thinker:
[A 2010] Pew survey found wide streams of opinion in Egypt that seem at the very least inhospitable to democracy. When asked which side they would take in a struggle between “groups who want to modernize the country [and] Islamic fundamentalists,” 59 percent of Egyptians picked the fundamentalists, while 27 percent picked the modernizers. In a country in which the army will likely play a deciding role in selecting the next political leadership, just 32 percent believe in civilian control of the military. And a majority, 54 percent, support making segregation of men and women in the workplace the law throughout Egypt. There’s more. When asked whether suicide bombing can ever be justified, 54 percent said yes (although most believe such occasions are “rare”) Eighty-two percent supported stoning for those who commit adultery.
Does this seem like a country ready to elect its own representatives?
We have already witnessed the disaster of the Palestinians in their quest for Democracy; wherein Hamas was elected to power, and has been at war with Israel ever since.
The Hamas charter reads:
Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it…Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious.
Palestinian Television constantly airs anti-Semitic vitriol, wherein Jews have been compared to the AIDS virus.
In Lebanon, the terrorist organization Hezbollah has received significant support from the electorate in recent elections.
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