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Amir Taheri Still Flush with Spring Fever

November 7th, 2013 - 7:42 am

In 2011, soon after Mubarak fell, Egyptians conducted their first free election — a referendum on some constitutional amendments. If approved as the Brotherhood and the Salafists urged that they be, the amendments would allow free elections to go forward. The amendments preserved the old Sadat/Mubarak constitution’s sharia provisions. Democracy activists opposed the amendments: They wanted to write a new, more secular constitution from scratch. Furthermore, knowing they were a minority — despite the bravado of their rhetoric and the West’s wild inflation of their influence — they also wanted to avoid elections until they were in a stronger position to compete with the Islamic supremacists.

So there it was, all teed up: a test of strength in Egyptian society between Islamic supremacists and democratic reformers. In the referendum, barely covered in the West, the Islamic supremacists won by a whopping 78-to-22 percent. Subsequently, Islamic supremacists routed the democrats in the parliamentary elections by roughly the same margin. Later, Morsi was elected president.

Mind you, I am not suggesting that Morsi had nothing to do with the even more sharia-intensive constitution adopted during his aborted presidency. It would certainly be fair for Taheri to say that, with Morsi’s ardent support, the committee charged with writing a new constitution undertook to magnify its sharia-enforcement provisions. It would also be accurate to contend, as I contended at the time, that Morsi employed drastic, authoritarian measures to freeze out the courts that secular democrats were counting on to derail that committee’s work. It is simply wrong, however, to speak of a “Morsi constitution” as if he forced it on the country. Morsi submitted the sharia-enhanced constitution to a popular vote, and Egyptians overwhelmingly approved it.

The retention of sharia in the constitution cannot, as Taheri claims, be a much of a disappointment to Egypt’s democrats. They do not like it, of course, but it has been in the constitution for decades and it has very strong public support. Egyptians, though not monolithic, largely see themselves as sharia-adherent Muslims, not Western democrats. If something approximating Western democracy is ever to take root and thrive in Egypt, it will have to happen gradually and under benevolent military rule.

This is not to say the military is uniformly benevolent and pro-democracy. After all, it was Morsi who chose Egypt’s leading general, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to command the armed forces, and he did so because of Sisi’s well-deserved reputation for harboring Brotherhood sympathies. But because democrats are so outnumbered, their only hope is a military that stabilizes the country (which would revolt if sharia were stripped from the constitution) and keeps the Islamic supremacists in check. We must not let our hopes cloud our judgment. Democratization in Egypt is a very uphill proposition.

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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
1 year ago Link To Comment
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