Morsi’s Tactical Retreat

But the Brotherhood won't give up Egypt so easily.

All the pundits whose credibility was on the line for their uncritical hailing of the “Arab Spring” uprisings can breathe a sigh of relief: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi has, according to Fox News, “agreed to rescind the near-absolute power he had granted himself.” Well, that’s a relief! Democracy in Egypt is saved! The “Arab Spring” really was about democracy and pluralism after all, and this proves it! All is well! Isn’t it?

Actually, no. As everyone knows except Barack Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James “Clueless” Clapper, The Muslim Brotherhood is dedicated to imposing the rule of Islamic law in Egypt and around the world. And as is evidenced by the fact that the two foremost Sharia states in the world today, Saudi Arabia and Iran, are both authoritarian regimes with dismal human rights records, Sharia is much more compatible with dictatorship than it is with republican, representative government.

That makes it likely that while Morsi has had to retreat for the moment, he has not given up his goal or changed his overall objective: to turn Egypt into a Sharia state in which one is not free to do anything but serve Allah.

The Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, however, the former face of the notorious (and failed) Ground Zero Mosque project, begs to differ. He wrote recently in The Daily Beast: “Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi rode to power at the head of the Muslim Brotherhood with the promise that he would create a government based on Sharia, the Islamic law. So it is ironic that by granting himself sweeping powers, including immunity for his decisions against judiciary appeal, he has violated one of the central principles of Sharia: no one is above the law.”

Rauf said that “for the past six years, I have been working with some of the leading Muslim scholars to create a Sharia Index to determine what an authentic, tradition-based Islamic state ought to look like.” The conclusion? “The majority of our scholars concluded that a representative democracy, which can determine the collective will of the people, is the best contemporary method of determining God’s will.”

In this, however, as so often in his case, Rauf was being less than honest. The primary evidence for this is historical: Rauf’s scholars supposedly concluded that “a representative democracy, which can determine the collective will of the people” was the best expression of Sharia government, and yet never in the history of Islam from its beginnings to the present day was a Sharia state ever a representative democracy. Turkey has since the end of World War I been the closest thing to a representative democracy that Muslim countries have, but it only became one when, under the rule of Kemal Ataturk, it decisively and explicitly rejected Sharia for a Western model of governance.

Has it just been bad luck, or some kind of coincidence, or some combination of malignant forces (Zionists!) that has prevented Muslim states from forming representative democracies? Or have they failed to do so because Sharia itself tends toward authoritarianism? Certainly Muhammad is said to have counseled what appears to be unconditional obedience to rulers: “You should listen to and obey your ruler even if he was an Ethiopian (black) slave whose head looks like a raisin” (Bukhari 9.89.256). Nor is he recorded as having set up any kind of voting system or representational government for the nascent Muslim community – and as he is the supreme model for emulation for Muslims (cf. Qur’an 33:21), that is a decisive point.

Rauf likewise doesn’t give any hint of the fact that Sharia, in a systematic and thoroughgoing manner, denies equality of rights to women and non-Muslims. Anything close to “representative democracy” that adhered to the classic tenets of Sharia would limit the voice of both groups in the government, and thereby undercut its claim to be a representative democracy in the first place. Muslim men may be accorded some consultative or even supervisory role in ensuring the ruler’s adherence to Sharia, but that in itself does not a representative democracy make.

Of course, the Imam Rauf has made a career out of deceiving audiences in the U.S. and Europe into thinking that Sharia is benign and completely compatible with Western principles of human rights and freedom. The tens of thousands who have been protesting against Morsi’s power grab in Egypt know better; they know that his attempt to destroy the last vestiges of representative government in Egypt went hand-in-hand with his adherence to Sharia, or, as the Muslim Brotherhood credo puts it, to Allah as his objective; the Qur’an as his law, the Prophet as his leader; Jihad as his way; and death for the sake of Allah as the highest of his aspirations.

And they also must know, even as Morsi and the Brotherhood attempt to cool things off in Egypt now, that he has not put away his authoritarian aspirations for good, and will claim dictatorial powers again at a time when he thinks he can get away with it. For him to do anything else would be to abandon his goal of imposing Islamic law over Egypt; and that is one thing that his opponents can be certain he is not going to do, even as he bows to current realities and tacitly acknowledges that it might take a bit longer to get there than originally planned.

But the Muslim Brotherhood has been waiting for this moment since 1928. They know how to be patient.

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