CNN Presents Classroom: Egypt: A Test Case for Democracy

CNN Presents Classroom: Egypt: A Test Case for Democracy

Wednesday, November 30, 2005; Posted: 8:29 p.m. EST (01:29 GMT)

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• Extra!(CNN Student News) — Set your VCR to record the CNN Presents Classroom Edition: Egypt: A Test Case for Democracy when it airs commercial-free on Monday, December 5, 2005, from 4:00 — 5:00 a.m. ET on CNN.

Program Overview
President Bush calls for democracy in the Middle East – and challenges one of America’s closest allies to take the lead. Can Egypt evolve into a peaceful, stable democratic state? Or will the first flush of freedom trigger an explosion in this nation on the Nile? Could “democracy” lead to Washington’s worst nightmare: Islamic extremists in power in Cairo, on the border with Israel? Jonathan Mann reports.

Warning to Educators: This report depicts scenes of violence and includes images that might be objectionable for your students. Please review before showing to students.

Grade Level: 10-12, College

Subject Areas: U.S. History, World History, Current Events, Political Science/Government, International Studies

Objectives: The CNN Presents Classroom Edition: Egypt: A Test Case for Democracy and its corresponding discussion questions and research activity challenge students to:

Identify the practices and principles of democracy;

Describe the political profile of Egypt;

Analyze Egypt’s political profile in the context of democratic indicators;

Evaluate the prospect for democracy in Egypt and in the Middle East.

Curriculum Connections
U.S. History Standards

Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)

STANDARD 2: How the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics. Standard 2B: The student understands United States foreign policy in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.

Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)

STANDARD 1: Recent developments in foreign policy and domestic politics. Standard 1C: The student understands major foreign policy initiatives. 9-12 Examine the U.S. role in political struggles in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

World History Standards

Era 9: The 20th Century Since 1945: Promises and Paradoxes

STANDARD 1: How post-World War II reconstruction occurred, new international power relations took shape, and colonial empires broke up.

Standard 1B: The student understands why global power shifts took place and the Cold War broke out in the aftermath of World War II. 9-12 Analyze how political, diplomatic, and economic conflict and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union affected developments in such countries as Egypt, Iran, the Congo, Vietnam, Chile, and Guatemala.

STANDARD 2: The search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world.

Standard 2C: The student understands how liberal democracy, market economies, and human rights movements have reshaped political and social life. 9-12 Assess the success of democratic reform movements in challenging authoritarian governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

STANDARD 3: Major global trends since World War II. Standard 3A: The student understands major global trends since World War II. 5-12 Assess the degree to which both human rights and democratic ideals and practices have been advanced in the world during the 20th century.

The National Standards for History ( ) are published by the National Center for History in the Schools ( ).

Discussion Questions
1. For how long has Hosni Mubarak been the president of Egypt? Why was this year’s presidential election in Egypt historically significant? What challenges did Egyptians face during the election? What was the outcome of the election? How did experts explain the 23% voter turnout?

2. Why do you think that the Bush administration might look to Egypt to set the example for democracy in the Middle East? According to the program, how do Egypt’s pro-democracy activists view the U.S. government? How might these views impact the future of democracy in Egypt and U.S. goals for democracy in the region? What role, if any, do you think that the U.S. should play in Egypt’s experiment with democracy?

3. What is How did eyewitnesses describe May 25, 2005, Referendum Day? Why did May 25 become known as “Black Wednesday” for thousands of Egyptians?

4. What is the Muslim Brotherhood? How does Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohammed Akef compare an Islamic state with a democracy? How does Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif explain the role of religion in the Egyptian constitution? Based on these descriptions, do you think that it is possible to have a government that is both an Islamic state and a democracy? Explain. According to the program, how might the successes of the Muslim Brotherhood movement impact the prognosis for democracy in Egypt?

5. What is Kifaya? What does George Ishaq, Kifaya’s leader, say are the goals of this movement? How does Ishaq characterize the Mubarak government?

6. What signs of democracy in Egypt did the program depict? How did those who were interviewed in the program evaluate the prospect for democracy in Egypt? Based on what you learned in the program, how would you rate the prospect for democracy in Egypt?

7. What do you think that American scholar John Esposito meant when he said, “When it comes to democracy, the irony is that Egypt is not a leader…in some ways, Egypt today is a kind of myth chasing a reality”? What challenges do Egypt’s leaders and its people face as they experiment with democracy? How do you think that the challenges facing Egypt might compare with those faced by other countries in the Middle East?

8. Based on what you learned in the program, what issues might the U.S. face in calling for democracy in Egypt and throughout the Middle East? How do you think that the U.S. should address those issues?

Research Activity
Ask students: What is a “democracy”? How does a democracy compare with other forms of government? The dictionary defines a “democracy” as “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”

In a direct democracy, all citizens participate in making public decisions, without the use of elected or appointed officials as intermediaries. Because this system can only be truly effective with small groups of people, democracies, in this strict interpretation of the word, rarely exist in modern society. Today, we more commonly have “representative democracies,” in which citizens elect or appoint officials to make political decisions for the common good. While there are differences among modern democratic republics around the world, there are some principles and practices that differentiate democracies from other forms of government. Using print and online resources, have students generate a list of democracy indicators (Note: One source of information is the U.S. State Department publication “What is Democracy?” (

Next, have students consider Egypt as a test case for democracy. Direct students to Web sites such as the CIA World Factbook, Jane’s Country Assessments or the U.S. State Department to collect information about Egypt’s political profile, including type of government, constitution, branches of government, legal system, voting rights, political parties, political pressure groups and civil society. Then, have students supplement their findings with information that they learned in the CNN Presents program. Have students juxtapose Egypt’s political profile with their list of democracy indicators, and have them rate the country’s progress towards democracy.

After students have presented their findings, pose the following questions for discussion:

What evidence of democracy is illustrated in the program?

What political, economic, social or religious factors might encourage or discourage progress towards democracy in Egypt?

What do you think are the prospects for a democratic society in Egypt? Explain.

To what extent might the lessons of Egypt’s experience with democracy be applied to other countries in the Middle East? To what extent might the success or failure of democracy to take root in Egypt impact the prospect of democracy for the rest of the Middle East?

To extend the activity, have students review expert commentaries on the prospect for democracy in Egypt and in the Middle East. Have students summarize the arguments supporting and refuting the potential for democracy in this region of the world. Based on their findings, challenge students to discuss what role, if any, the U.S. should play in helping nations in the region move towards democratic forms of government.

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