EARLIER this week, two of my clients were granted political asylum.
Both Lebanese nationals, they came from families who strongly opposed Hezbollah, the political organization with massive influence in the Lebanese government. It's also known in State Department circles as a terrorist organization.
Unlike al Qaeda, Hezbollah operates in the light of day. Unlike Hamas, it has significant staying power. But there is something that Hezbollah shares with its Shiite brothers: a desire to destroy Israel, eradicate Christian minorities and eliminate U.S. influence in the region. It is universally believed to have orchestrated the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 soldiers.
It also has an annoying tendency to assassinate those who criticize its activities, like Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, killed in a car bombing in 2005.
Hezbollah has always been suspected of sponsoring the killing of the Sunni leader, and now a U.N. tribunal has handed down indictments that are expected to confirm that suspicion.
In response to those pending indictments (which haven't been made public for fear of what the Shiites will do), Hezbollah has caused havoc in Lebanon by withdrawing from a compromise coalition and pushing the country to the brink of another civil war.
And yet it continues to gain seats in parliament because a growing majority of Lebanese are drifting into the Islamist camp and turning what was once a haven for religious tolerance and diversity into a fundamentalist state.
Sometimes, democracy is a Trojan horse.
I hope the people who are supporting those marchers in the streets of Cairo understand that.
While it is true that President Hosni Mubarak has been nobody's idea of a democratic ruler (and no friend of Christians and dissidents, either), he's been able to keep Egypt's fundamentalist elements in line.
Despite high unemployment and serious repression, one thing Egyptians never feared was a car bombing in the street or a beheading in the public square.
Egyptian women are among the most educated in the world, and the gender distinctions are virtually nonexistent in what was, until recently, a wholly secular society. It mirrored the Lebanon of old where - before the civil war in the '70s and '80s - religion was a topic of conversation, not condemnation.
Now we're watching the birth of a new Egypt, emancipating itself from an old and resented patriarch. We hear all the flowery talk about freedom, the same type of rhetoric that accompanies all "people's revolutions."
Americans and Westerners have been brainwashed into believing that any popular uprising must be good if you see enough shots of people screaming for human and civil rights.
It looks really nice on the evening news, as do comments like this from our president: "Over the last few days, the passion and the dignity that has been demonstrated by the people of Egypt has been an inspiration to people around the world, including here in the United States, and to all those who believe in the inevitability of human freedom."
Well, I hope that we remember how passion and dignity can devolve into violence and dominion. The so-called peaceful protests in the streets of Cairo have become bloody as news has spread that Mubarak isn't going to disappear immediately.
And then there's the lurking threat that the Muslim Brotherhood, the only viable opposition to Mubarak in Egypt, will take advantage of the crisis to acquire significant influence in a reconstructed government. If the people want them, just as they wanted Hezbollah, they will be the beneficiaries of democratic change.
And then, just as likely, strangle the fledgling democracy in its fundamentalist grip.
It amazes me that people are so willing to ignore the threat posed by this Islamist group, the one that provided the philosophical fuel for Mohammed Atta's homicidal rage.
Is it possible that we are so enamored of this lovely "people's revolution" narrative that we are incapable of seeing the truth in the distance, the one that would shred the peace treaty with Israel, engender anger toward the United States and remake a secular nation using the template of Afghanistan?
Lebanon was once called the Switzerland of the Middle East, a place where the cross and the crescent were able to coexist and citizens weren't forced to seek refuge in a foreign country.
Then Hezbollah and its agents of terror captivated the public and threw its political future into turmoil. Let's hope the Egyptians keep the Brotherhood from doing the same thing to them in the name of freedom.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. E-mail