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Interpreting a poll of Egyptians

Reader comment on item: Why Egypt Will Not Soon Become Democratic

Submitted by John in Michigan, USA (United States), Feb 4, 2011 at 15:12

A friend asked me about some poll results from http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1874/egypt-protests-democracy-islam-influence-politics-islamic-extremism

The quote was:

Asked whether there is a struggle in their nations between those who want to modernize their country and Islamic fundamentalists, a 61%-majority of Muslims in Egypt said they did not see a struggle. Just 31% of Egyptian Muslims saw a struggle between modernizers and fundamentialists in their country. Among the seven Muslim publics surveyed in 2010, only in Jordan (20%) did fewer say they saw such a struggle.

Here is my take:

One interpretation may be, of the large, monotheist religions, Islam is the newest. Therefore some of those 61% of Egyptians may consider that there is no conflict (Islam=the only legitimate form of modernity). Under this view, what Westerners define as modernity, Islamists define as not something new, but rather, as the oldest form of sin (e.g. materialism, which has existed at least as long, in their minds, as the world's oldest profession). This would be consistent with the traditionalist, conservative strain of Islam.

Another interpretation, perhaps more compatible with the Muslim Brotherhood's views, might be that Islam is timeless, and is already compatible with modernity, so there is no issue.

Yet another interpretation is from what one might call an Islamist 'reform' movement. A typical position of these 'reformers' might be that Jihad used to mean armed struggle, but in modern times Jihad means the internal struggle for self-improvement. I have met a number optimistic, excited (and almost certainly, naive) young Muslims who believe this and really, really, really want me to believe this. These reformers would acknowledge that Islam needs (needed?) to change, but that change has now been accomplished and therefore they would tell the pollsters there is no conflict (no longer any conflict?) between Islam and modernity. My sense is that the Muslim Brotherhood would tolerate these reformers only as long as they are useful.

Finally, some Egyptians may remember the (relatively?) cosmopolitan Egypt of the '70's, full of promise. But I suspect they would not poll in the 61%

Submitting....

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