After the Muslim Brotherhood gained 40 percent of the vote and the Salafis 25 percent in the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, Rana Abdelhai, a student, told New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof that while she would never vote for a Muslim Brotherhood or Salafi candidate, “This is democracy now. We have to respect who other people choose, even if they make the wrong choice.” A few days earlier, Dalia Zaida, a young activist, made a similar comment to an NPR reporter, saying, “I'm worried, but you know, as someone who really believes in democracy, I have to respect people's choice.” Many others seem to share this view. Kristof considered Abdelhai’s observation “wise.”
Such observations represent a very basic but surprisingly common misunderstanding about democracy, namely that it is the rule of the majority. According to this view, if a majority voted that boys can go to school but girls cannot, one must accept this ruling because it was determined in a legitimate way—and to contest it would be to undermine democracy. One may, of course, seek to convince the majority of voters to support equal rights for women or generally respect individual rights—but for now, whatever the majority enacts is to be considered legitimate.