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Amir Taheri Still Flush with Spring Fever

November 7th, 2013 - 7:42 am

My great respect for Amir Taheri notwithstanding, his hopes for democratic transformation of the Middle East cause him, yet again, to misinterpret the most recent developments in Egypt.

There, the initial draft of a new constitution is about to be published, the product of a committee overseen by the military, which has run Egypt’s government since Mohamed Morsi’s ouster. The new constitution will reportedly preserve sharia (Islam’s societal framework) as the country’s main source of law. It will also codify the “special status” of the armed forces as protectors of the state vested with supreme power in matters of national defense, foreign relations, and economic affairs — possibly including, the Washington Post reports, the discretion to try civilians (such as Muslim Brotherhood operatives) in military courts.

In a recent New York Post column, Taheri argues that the new constitution will thus be an insidious pact between the generals and the “Salafists” — Muslim supremacists who, like their Brotherhood political rivals, are determined to create a caliphate beholden to Islam’s repressive principles. It will betray hopes for real democracy that are shared, Taheri insists, by the vast majority of Egyptians.

Adopting the conveniently pliable passive voice, Taheri writes (the italics are mine):

The coup that returned the military to power after a year-long interval was presented as an attempt to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from imposing an Islamist dictatorship with a constitutional facade. Highlighted were two articles in the Morsi constitution that identified the Islamic sharia as the source of legislation in Egypt and gave Al-Azhar, the official seminary, a virtual veto on certain issues.

The crowds that for weeks filled Tahrir Square called on the army to intervene to save the nation from a burgeoning sharia-based dictatorship. Well, when the new draft constitution — written by a 50-man committee appointed by the military — is published, the Tahrir Square crowds are likely to be disappointed. The two controversial articles will still be there, albeit under different numbers and with slight changes in terminology.

This is rose-tinted revisionism. Yes, the coup “was presented” by democracy romantics as a rejection of Islamic totalitarianism. But that did not make it one. Egypt is a big, complex country, and there was no single rationale for Morsi’s ouster, which was supported by some important Salafist factions — groups that could not be more opposed to Western liberalism. The impetus for removing Morsi that came closest to a societal consensus was not the desire for real democracy; it was — as our colleague David Goldman has observed — that Egypt is an economic basket-case that Morsi and the Brothers were steering toward failed-state status.

And yes, Taheri and other democracy enthusiasts did “highlight” sharia elements in the constitution adopted during Morsi’s tenure as the purported spark for purported massive public opposition. But that was just spin — an effort to depict the democrats’ decidedly minority views as a groundswell, to portray as a pro-democracy movement what was actually an anti-Morsi, anti-Brotherhood rebellion.

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I think you're confusing liking an Islamic basis for law with liking being ruled by Islam.

We pride ourselves on our systems based on Judeo-Christian values; we do not want to be ruled by such a political party.

So, why wouldn't Egyptians like an Islamic basis for law? They're Muslims.

But NOT supporting a "Western-style democracy" is not the same thing as then supporting Iran-On-the-Nile. In fact neither is wished for by Egyptians, who, generally speaking, are conservative but not religiously so, except as those values intersect and derive from Islam itself, which would not be true in a Western-style Democracy. They don't want something that will lead to gay marriage and allowing illegal aliens and crazy ultra-feminists to swarm them like we have.

You're also leaving out the fact Morsi won a very narrow election - about 51.5% of the vote. Add to that the fact a vote for Morsi was often just as much a vote NOT for the other guy, who was seen as a holdover from Mubarak.

I think the vote for the MB - Presidential and Parliamentary - was as much a vote for men the electorate saw as righteous and trustworthy as religious. The Salafis who won were clearly a vote for religion, not so the MB.

When Morsi gave off signs of religion, he almost instantly lost much of the secular vote that put him in power, and that of the Al-Ahzar Sunni orthodox vote, which was at odds with the MB's peculiar views on Islam. Those views also of course shaved off the Salafis who were Morsi's nominal allies for a time.

After 6 months Morsi only had the support of perhaps 20 to 25% of the country. I do not think "it is a major analytical error to confound Egypt’s rejection of the Brotherhood with Egypt’s rejection of Islamic supremacism." The Egyptian people have no interest in being ruled by religion and Morsi was thrown down by the non-Salafi and secular sectors of Egypt. Sunnis do not want Al-Ahzar in the Presidential palace.

You're also leaving out the fact that the creation AND the referendum on the altered Sharia Constitution was boycotted by many in Egypt as a sham. That overwhelming vote was also a small overall percentage of those who might have voted. This in fact was never a test of strength between democratic reformers and Islamic Supremacists but between orthodox Islamic moderates and Islamic supremacists.

Egypt did NOT choose this supremacism. In fact when Morsi installed a governor in Luxor associated with the massacre of 58 tourists there, Egyptians were appalled; a line had been crossed, and it clearly showed Morsi on one side and Egypt on the other. Luxor was a symbolic rejection of the West by Morsi and Egypt knew that would be economic and social suicide. In that sense it's true however that did not then mean wanting the West among Egypt's institutions.

The problem here seems to be one of semantics. If "real" democracy is ours, Egypt doesn't want that. Egypt does want democracy, but their own version of one that preserves their Islamic values but without infringing on their individual freedoms, such as an ultra conservative Islamic state would do. They had enough of that under Mubarak. That plus economics is what threw down Mubarak and the same things threw down Morsi.

As for Salafis, simply remember Saudis and Salafis are both Wahabbis. "Nuff said on that. But although Islam draws it spiritual strength from S. Arabia, so does S. Arabia derive its orthodox law from Al-Ahzar. The MB was at odds with Al-Ahzar, the pedantic wording change to the Constitution notwithstanding, and so eventually with S. Arabia and the Salafis.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So, I guess it's the author's contention that the MB publically stated that their intent was to create an islamic state during the election? If so, then it can be argued the people chose it. But, if the politicians lie (thank goodness that could NEVER happen here) then the people have every right to take back power.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I find it strange the current U.S. Administration supports the Muslim brotherhood across the Caliphate, but does nothing to support the Coptic Christians. Perhaps, BLT Marxism does not enjoy Christianity.

American tax payer monies should not be sent to any county supporting the destruction of Israel like Egypt. When I see the news on Egypt, I sometimes see America Abrams tanks in the back ground. Is operation Pyramid a go?
1 year ago
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