American Muslim Group Says Egypt ’Backsliding’ on Reforms


CAIR: No ‘business as usual’ in dealing with undemocratic regimes

A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today criticized the Egyptian government for “backsliding” on democratic reforms.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also rebuked the Bush administration for seeming to return to a policy of appeasing autocratic rulers in the Muslim world.

On Monday, Egyptian voters were asked to cast their ballots in favor of constitutional amendments that will, along with other measures, end independent judicial oversight of elections, restrict the formation of political parties and give the government powers to arrest and spy on citizens without a court order.

The Egyptian government claimed 27 percent of voters turned out to cast their ballots, but human rights groups said the real turnout figure was 3 to 5 percent. There are also allegations of vote rigging and ballot stuffing. Opposition parties boycotted the vote.

SEE: Egypt’s Democrats Feeling Betrayed (Chicago Tribune),1,7295145.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

SEE ALSO: Egypt Judges Reject Referendum Results (AFP)

In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, CAIR Board Chairman Parvez Ahmed wrote in part:

“We wish to express our deep concern about the Egyptian government’s backsliding on promised democratic reforms and about our government’s tepid response to Egypt’s heavy-handed actions to further curtail human rights and political participation. Such actions are counterproductive to peace and stability in the region and are contrary to our stated policy objective of democratization in the Muslim world.

“The constitutional amendments offered in Monday’s apparently fraudulent referendum would freeze Egypt’s political system in an authoritarian and anti-democratic time warp. It would essentially lock out any meaningful political opposition and solidify one-party rule. The constitutional changes would also lock in so-called ‘emergency laws’ that have been used to violate the human rights of that nation’s citizens.

“Despite these dire developments, your response has been to term this tremendous setback to world democratization as merely ‘disappointing.’

“Because Egypt is one of the world’s top recipients of American taxpayer dollars and the most populous nation in the Arab-speaking world, the implementation of true democratic reforms in that nation could set a positive example for the entire region. Unfortunately, the example set by Monday’s ‘referendum’ is one of despotism and lack of respect for the will of the people.

“Blocking any parties from taking part in the political process is counterproductive and only serves to push people to the margins of society. We ask that you urge the Egyptian government to be open in dealing with political opposition groups. Inclusiveness in any democratic political system is a strength, not a weakness.

“I respectfully request that you communicate to the Egyptian government in no uncertain terms that the United States has not returned to ‘business as usual’ in dealing with undemocratic regimes. I also urge you to make U.S. aid to Egypt conditional on progress made toward meaningful democratization.”

CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.