The Mirage of Liberty? (Part 1)
--Will the Value of Liberty Take Root in the Middle East?

Two Years have passed since the Arab Spring swept across North Africa and the Middle East.

Popular demonstrations removed Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, and Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi from power. The results of these movements gave an appearance of hope that they could usher in a new era for the free world and would ensure people’s civil liberties and political rights.

However, the democracies in this region are struggling to move forward. Syria has fallen into a sectarian struggle between the Shiites and Sunnis. Yemen and Iraq remain unstable and fractured. In Libya, a fragile central government is allowing militias to control rural areas of the country. In addition, terrorism continues to be a matter of great concern with al-Qaeda and its affiliates trying to fill the vacuum of power in Libya and Syria.

Meanwhile, Egypt has been playing a leading role in the mediations between the Hamas and Israel as demonstrated during last November’s armed confrontation.

The national referendum, which took place last month, served as a decisive assessment of whether or not Egypt had the ability to continue to play a leading role in the region.
Although the constitution was ratified through a referendum on Dec 25th, many including the opposition groups, the liberals, the human rights activists, and the Coptic Christians opposed the constitution as it does not fully guarantee the rights of women or the freedom of speech, expression, and religion.

Since only a short amount of time passed between the enactment of the constitution and the national referendum, little national debate occurred. Despite the speedy ratification, voter turnout remained as low as 32.9%. Some people were even afraid that they would be labeled as secularists, which would be on par with disloyalty.

During the Mubarak era, people were not allowed to organize in political associations. Therefore, the existing organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, could take advantage of the situation and win. Isn’t it ironic that the most conservative group came to acquire the fruit of the people’s movement for liberalization?

As for the rights of minority groups, the Coptic Christians are still “protected” protégés under Sharia law. They cannot hold any important positions in the new administration.

When offering his views on the Constition of Japan, Master Ryuho Okawa has already referred to the Copts in Egypt in his book named Manifesto of the Happiness Realization Party. Master Okawa teaches the importance of the protection of religious freedom as a basic human right. The following is an extract from his publication.

 

Article 19 of the Constitution of Japan stipulates that, “Freedom of thought and conscience shall not be violated,” this freedom of thought and conscience is actually another way of referring to freedom of innermost belief.

Although it is also one form of one’s right to spiritual freedom, freedom of innermost belief is really “the human right at the heart of all other human rights.” In short, it is tantamount to denying the dignity of a human person when that person’s freedom to think and feel and believe anything he or she so chooses in his or her heart and mind is prohibited.

This way of thinking is identical to that of the ancient Stoics, who held that the heart and mind were always free, irrespective of how the body is treated. “Even though I may be a slave,” they said, “my master is never lord of my mind.” Seneca and other Stoics were of this school of thought. Freedom of innermost belief proceeds from these ways of thinking.
[...]
At the level of state religion, religions with a smaller number of followers tend to be overwhelmed and oppressed by the official creed. Article 20 was added to the Constitution in order to prevent this and to protect minor religions; this article is also intended to keep new religions from being snuffed out immediately upon coming into existence, making such things as religious revolutions possible.
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The Mirage of Liberty? (Part 1)
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