Byron York had the good idea of going back to the survey of attitudes in Muslim countries that Pew Research Center did last year, to see what it tells us about Egypt. The results of that review are perplexing yet highly relevant to the current crisis.
If the Pew data are correct, Egyptians have a striking ability to hold, simultaneously, seemingly incompatible beliefs. For example:
[A]mong other discoveries, the Pew researchers found that 84 percent of Egyptians favor the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion.
In another survey, Pew found that 90 percent of Egyptians say they believe in freedom of religion.
“Freedom of religion” seems to lose something in translation. More:
When asked which side they would take in a struggle between “groups who want to modernize the country [and] Islamic fundamentalists,” 59 percent of Egyptians picked the fundamentalists, while 27 percent picked the modernizers. …
And yet at the same time, says Richard Wike, associate director of Pew’s Global Attitudes Project, “We found support for some specific features of democracy — free media, civil liberties, an independent judiciary.” Indeed, 80 percent of Egyptians place a high value on free speech, 88 percent on an impartial judiciary and 75 percent on “media free from government censorship.”
And 82 percent of Egyptians have an unfavorable view of the United States. Think how bad it would be if it weren’t for the Obama administration’s “smart diplomacy.”
So there you have it. Whether enhanced democracy in Egypt turns out to be a good thing or a bad thing likely depends on which of these inconsistent strands of belief proves dominant.