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Brave people put Egypt on path to freer society

We should all be Egyptians today. We should all be in solidarity with those thousands of courageous people who exercised fundamental rights to speech and assembly and moved a dictator to declare that he is finished.

The days and weeks ahead will be difficult for these custodians of a treasured world culture. There is a risk that the democratic tide will ebb and that extremists will seize power. There is grave risk that the government crackdown, now under way, will break the back of the movement. Journalists and human rights workers are being attacked, always a first step of cowards to stifle dissent.

The masses gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square ― the name means “liberation” ― have shown fortitude and courage. As heirs to the blessings of our own revolution, we owe them respect and admiration. Our government owes them unflagging support.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said he will not stand for election in September. Mubarak’s empty gesture is not enough for the protesters and shouldn’t be enough for the United States, which has for so long purchased stability at the expense of justice. Mubarak should go now.

President Barack Obama gave Mubarak a rhetorical shove when he said, “an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now.” Obama should keep pressure on Mubarak.

The administration must be concerned about what sort of government follows Mubarak. But Egypt is not Iran. The protests, by all accounts, are as much about nationalism as religion. The Muslim Brotherhood’s activities are a concern, but that organization does not seem to have broad support. What does have broad support is the idea of freedom.

One of the anti-government protesters told a reporter: “Washington has been very anxious about what’s happening here, but it shouldn’t be. It should be happy.”

Mohammed Fouad, 29, a software engineer, said: “This will reduce terrorism. When people have their voice, they don’t need to explode themselves.”

Securing the rights pried loose from the fist of a dictator will require steady nerves and steadfast American support. But the path to a freer society in Egypt has begun with brave people in Tahrir Square.

(The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 4)
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