The word democracy is derived from two Greek words: “demos” meaning people and “kratos,” power or rule. The full meaning of democracy then is “the power of the people.” Since power emanates from the people, democracy is different from the rule of the individual or the power of the few. The word spread from Athens, which was its birthplace, around the globe and has been used in all the languages of the world.
We can safely say that democracy is the rule of the people, by the people and for the people. The democratic rule which depends mainly on the sovereignty of the people has become an integral part of modern constitutions.
The democratic theory was born out of the womb of totalitarian rule in ancient Athens which divided people into three categories, namely:
1. Athenians who were the city’s dwellers who had the right to participate in the political life of the city, such as meetings, attendance at conferences and political discussions in the assembly.
2. Foreigners who lived in various Greek cities and especially in Athens which was a center of trade. They were not entitled to obtain Greek nationality which was only granted on the basis of birth. Foreigners had no right to participate in the political life of the city.
3. Slaves who constituted about a third of the inhabitants of Athens. They were deprived of all political rights. The Greek philosopher Aristotle called for keeping slaves busy in manual work so that their masters could devote all of their time to politics and its duties and responsibilities.
It must be made clear that when democratic theory emerged at that time in Athens, the city was very biased against foreigners and slaves. We have to ask: “Where was democratic freedom when a third of the population was made up of slaves who were deprived of all of their rights?”
When democratic theory was applied in Athens, those who were allowed to come to the city center to vote or express their opinions amounted to no more than 400 people.
Legitimacy is to be found in the hands of the people not in election boxes.Hassan Tahsin
Democratic theory was applied in ancient Greek cities, and citizens only recognized the sovereignty of the law which was based on the opinion of the residents of the city. On the theory of democracy, Plato said: “The source of sovereignty is the united will of the city or the people”. Aristotle divided governments into three categories: royal, aristocratic and republican. By republican government, Aristotle meant the government in which matters remained in the hands of the public or at least of a large number of the people.
This is a short summary of the history of democracy. The West and the U.S. are quite aware of this history. Why then did they become angry when Egypt returned democracy to its original meaning and obtained its sovereignty from the people who went out in the streets in their millions expressing support for the government and the army? This is a strange attitude which is difficult to understand.
The peak of hypocrisy
How could Obama, Merkel and Erdogan allow themselves to interfere in the internal affairs of Egypt? Why are they not able to respect the will of 33 million Egyptian men and women who went out in the streets to authorize the armed forces to fight violence and terrorism. The demonstrations of the Egyptian people were in fact celebrations rather than protests. They asked the army to respond to the will of the people rather than the results expressed by ballot boxes which can easily be faked. Legitimacy is to be found in the hands of the people not in election boxes.
The West has reached the peak of hypocrisy. Westerners fear Islam and hate Muslims and yet support a political faction covering itself with the banner of Islam! This is not just an expression of dual attitudes but flagrant aggression against the people and their wishes. The support granted by the Egyptian people to the armed forces has foiled the Israeli-American rapprochement with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt is now rewriting history. Its first step to that end was on January 25, 2011 when it produced an uprising that dazzled the entire world. That uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak who had an iron grip on the country.
When they came to power, the Muslim Brotherhood did not believe that the Egyptian people would hold them accountable for their actions, and they were surprised by the revolution of June 30, 2013. Egyptians again renewed their support for the army through massive demonstrations on July 26. I always remember what former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said when he was asked to comment on incidents in Egypt. He said: “There is nothing new. As usual, Egypt is only rewriting history.”
This article was first published in The Saudi Gazette on August 1, 2013.
Hassan Tahsin is a veteran Egyptian writer and a regular contributor to pan-Arab newspapers, including the Saudi Gazette. His writing focuses on Middle East conflicts. Tahsin’s political analysis particularly centers on Arab-Israeli relations on a regional level, and Egypt’s domestic and foreign policies, including ties with the Western world. Tahsin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.