The New Sharia Egypt

We have Barack Obama to thank.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt announced Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, that it was “committed to enshrining Islamic Shariah law as the main source of a new constitution, seeking to mollify ultraconservative Islamists who accuse the group of not advocating strongly enough for Islamic rule.” It is hard to see how anyone can accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of not acting quickly enough to bring Sharia to Egypt, but if the group was indeed hesitating in any way, it is no longer. And thus we shall soon come to the crowning end of Barack Obama’s “Arab Spring” foreign policy.

Obama, it must be recalled, applauded the “Arab Spring” from the beginning. He spoke with satisfaction in February 2011 about “the peaceful transition to democracy” that was taking place in Egypt, and said that he was pleased that “the change that is taking place across the region is being driven by the people of the region. This change doesn’t represent the work of the United States or any foreign power. It represents the aspirations of people who are seeking a better life.” He vowed that “throughout this time of transition, the United States will continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people.”

The one thing the President didn’t explain was his justification for believing that the Egyptian people actually cared as much as he assumed they did in principles and rights such as the freedom of speech and the dignity of all people, both of which are mitigated under Islamic law. Nor did Obama touch on why he assumed that they held an understanding of freedom and justice that was remotely comparable to that of the American constitutional system.

By now it is abundantly clear that they do not, to the dismay of Egypt’s embattled secularists. In mid-September, Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW), according to Egypt’s State Information Service, “expressed its profound dismay at statements made by some members of the Constituent Assembly in charge of writing Egypt’s new constitution on the possibility of sanctioning marriage of sexually mature girls even if they were at the age of nine. The NCW described such viewpoint as a setback to child rights and is only expressive of outdated traditions still prevailing in the Egyptian society.”

Those “outdated traditions,” of course, are firmly based in Islamic law and the example of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. “The Prophet,” according to an authoritative hadith, “wrote the (marriage contract) with ‘Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death)” (Bukhari 7.62.88). Muhammad being the supreme example of conduct for Muslims (cf. Qur’an 33:21), child marriage is sanctioned by his example. So it is no surprise that Muslim Brotherhood Egypt would be considering legalizing it.

Several days after the NCW lodged its complaint about the prospect of child marriage being enshrined in Egypt’s new constitution, the Cairo-based Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression held a press conference to protest against the arrest by Egyptian authorities of atheist activist Alber Saber.

Saber, according to Egypt Independent, “was originally arrested over claims that he published the anti-Islam film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ on Facebook, but when it emerged that there was no evidence to support the claim, he was later charged on the basis of an atheist video that he had made.” After Saber’s Muslim neighbors heard the claim that he had shared the video on Facebook, a mob stormed his house – whereupon police arrested not the rioters, but Saber himself. Saber’s mother, Kariman Meseha, explained: “Police forces told me that he would be taken to the police station to protect him from the angry mob, and that I could come by the police station the next day to receive him.” But when she did, she found that he was being held on charges of blasphemy.

Then early in October a disturbing scene unfolded in the Nile village of Bani Sweif, when two Christian children, Nabil Rizk, 10, and Mina al-Farag, 9, were seized from their homes and arrested after a Muslim adult accused them of desecrating the Qur’an. While Christians have long been abused in Pakistan by Muslims making charges like this against them, often on the flimsiest of evidence, such harassment has been less common in Egypt.

Plans to charge the pair with blasphemy were quickly dropped, but the whole incident was an unhappy sign of the direction in which Egypt is tending. According to a May 2012 poll, sixty percent of Egyptians want its laws to adhere to Qur’anic principles. The other forty percent don’t stand much of a chance of prevailing against the majority, especially in light of the fact that those who are impatient with the pace of the Brotherhood’s steps toward Sharia are prepared to do violence to impose Islamic law upon Egypt. Al-Masry al-Youm reported in mid-October that “Jama’a al-Islamiya leader Mohamed Salah is a member of the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reform, which is comprised of a number of Islamist figures, including Khairat al-Shater, deputy supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood. Salah said during a conference in the Ain Shams neighborhood that Egyptians should ‘support Islamic Sharia in the Egyptian constitution,’ and that ‘Jama’a al-Islamiya will fight for the application of God’s law, even if that requires bloodshed.’”

It probably won’t. The Brotherhood wants Sharia, the people want Sharia, and, if he is consistent with his public stance from the beginning of the “Arab Spring,” Barack Obama is most likely applauding Egypt’s move toward Islamic law. But after the debacle in Egypt and with the election just days away, he is probably doing so a bit more quietly than he has in the past, or, if re-elected, will in the future.

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