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Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that one-third of the parliamentarians had been elected illegitimately; as a result, “the makeup of the entire chamber is illegal and, consequently, it does not legally stand.” The court dissolved the parliament entirely, dealing a major blow to the pro-Sharia forces in Egypt that had dominated it since elections last November.
Will the court’s action be enough to prevent Egypt from becoming an Islamic state? For that, it may be too late. Many see the upcoming runoff presidential election between Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi and secularist Ahmed Shafiq, a longtime friend and associate of Hosni Mubarak, as the great showdown that will determine whether Egypt will embrace Sharia and become an Islamic state, or whether it will continue on the relatively secular path it has been on for decades. But in reality, even if Shafiq is elected, it is unlikely that the Islamization of Egypt is going to be stymied in any significant way.
The transformation of Egypt from a Western-oriented state to one dominated by Islamic law has been proceeding for decades. The Muslim Brotherhood’s societal and cultural influence has long outstripped its direct political reach, and shows no sign of abating. One highly visible example of this influence is the fact that while in the 1960s women wearing hijabs were rare on the streets of Cairo, now it is rare to see a woman not wearing one.
Meanwhile, since the presidency of Gamel Abdel Nasser (1956-1970), the Egyptian government has practiced steam control with the Brotherhood, looking the other way as the group terrorized Coptic Christians and enforced Islamic strictures upon the Egyptian populace, but cracking down when the Brotherhood showed signs of growing powerful enough actually to seize power. Nasser’s successor Anwar Sadat (1970-1981) not only released all the Brotherhood political prisoners who had been languishing in Egyptian prisons, but also promised the Brotherhood that Sharia would be fully implemented in Egypt.
Sadat didn’t live long enough to fulfill that promise; he was murdered by members of another Islamic supremacist group that was enraged by his peace treaty with Israel. Sadat’s successor Hosni Mubarak didn’t keep that promise to the Brotherhood either, and so it remains unfulfilled to this day, and the Muslim Brothers still want to see Sharia in Egypt.
So do most Egyptians. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in Spring 2010, before the Arab Spring and the toppling of Mubarak, found that no fewer than eighty-five percent of Egyptians thought that Islam was a positive influence in politics. Fifty-nine percent said they identified with “Islamic fundamentalists” in their struggle against “groups who want to modernize the country,” who had the support of only twenty-seven percent of Egyptians. Only twenty percent were “very concerned” about “Islamic extremism” within Egypt.
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